Roast Sweet Potatoes, Pears and Chick Peas with Prosciutto

Regular Café Cat readers will know that I’m a great fan of roast vegetables and love trying new combinations. This dish using sweet potatoes and pears, combined with chick peas and topped with crispy prosciutto is a real winner.

Roast Sweet Potatoes, Pears and Chick Peas with Prosciutto

1 large or two smaller sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large thick wedges
3 large pears, unpeeled and cut into six or eight, lengthwise then cored
1 can chick peas, rinsed and drained
About ¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper
100g thinly sliced prosciutto (I used Aldi Black Forest Ham)

Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Place all ingredients except prosciutto in a large bowl and mix well. Line a large shallow baking tray with baking paper then spread the vegetables over the tray in one layer. The paper is to make washing up easier but is optional. Bake vegetables for about half an hour or until cooked and starting to brown around the edges. Re-arrange them halfway through cooking time, so they cook more evenly.

In a non-stick frying pan put a tiny bit of oil then cook the prosciutto until crispy. Serve on top of the vegetables.

Serves 3-4

Variations: use pumpkin instead of sweet potato, apples instead of pears, thinly sliced bacon instead of Prosciutto. To make the dish more substantial serve it on a bed of lightly dressed rocket and scatter some crumbled feta or goat’s cheese over the top. Vegetarians can just leave out the prosciutto.

Rice Pudding

Rice pudding made a regular appearance on the dessert menu when I was growing up in England. My mother served it with jam or baked until it formed a golden brown skin on top. Either way it was delicious. Sadly most of the desserts I grew up with have gone out of fashion. Indeed there are probably a lot of readers who have never tried a home-made rice pudding, let alone made one.

A few years at boarding school in the UK put Matthew off all the traditional British milky desserts – rice pudding, tapioca, semolina pudding and custard. He was scarred for life and won’t touch them with a barge pole.

The weather was cold and miserable last week and I was feeling the need for some comfort food. So I made rice pudding and as Matthew doesn’t like it I ate the lot – for breakfast, for dessert or as a snack.

Rice pudding is such a flexible dish. Make it on the stove top, in the oven, in the microwave or in a rice cooker. Serve it hot or cold with jam, stewed fruit such as rhubarb or apples, or fresh fruit such as banana, blueberries or mango. Sweeten it with sugar, honey or maple syrup. If using sugar then add it when you cook the rice. If using honey or maple syrup, drizzle it on top when serving.

I usually zap a bowl full in the microwave and eat it with a drizzle of cold cream on top. Heaven, if you like that sort of thing.

Rice Pudding

1 cup short grain or medium grain rice
25g unsalted butter (optional, but it does make it richer)
4 cups (1 litre) milk
1/3 cup brown or white sugar (I use slightly less)
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped (or 1 tsp vanilla essence)
½ cup cream or canned evaporated milk
To serve:
Jam such as raspberry, strawberry or rhubarb (preferably home-made)
Or stewed fruit such as apples, peaches, rhubarb
Or fresh fruit such as banana, blueberries or mango

Place all ingredients except the cream in a saucepan, Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring from time to time, for 20-25 mins or until rice is al dente. Stir in the cream or evaporated milk and serve immediately while it’s hot, or chill and serve later, hot or cold. If preferred you can drizzle the cream or evaporated milk on top at serving time.

I prefer it hot, but it’s easy to zap a serving in the microwave.  Serve with jam, fruit compote or fresh fruit.

Serves 4

Rice Pudding made in a Rice Cooker
Place all ingredients except the cream or evaporated milk in a rice cooker and cook for one cycle, leaving it on the “keep warm” setting for 15 mins or so after it’s cooked. Add cream or evaporated milk and serve. Depending on the size of your rice cooker you may need to reduce the quantities so it doesn’t boil over. Mine is quite small so I have to reduce the rice to ¾ cup and the milk to 3 cups. Also I need to stir it a couple of times while it’s cooking, so it doesn’t stick.

Rice Pudding made in the Microwave
A really good way to use up leftover plain cooked rice. While rice puddings are usually made with short or medium grain rice, because they are stickier, any kind will do. Place cooked rice in a large bowl, so it won’t boil over. Add enough milk to not quite cover the rice and sugar to taste. Cover then microwave on High for 2-3 mins. Add cream or evaporated milk and serve. Or you can microwave it in individual servings.

Rice Pudding made in the Oven
Make rice pudding either in a saucepan (according to the basic recipe) or in a rice cooker or microwave. If made in the microwave you will need to use about 4 cups of leftover rice. Butter a shallow 6 cup baking dish, add the rice pudding and spread it out. If it seems a bit thick add a little milk and stir through. Dot with a little butter (about 30g cut into small pieces) and sprinkle with a little brown or white sugar. If liked a sprinkling of coconut flakes is nice. Bake in a hot oven for 25-30 mins or until browned on top and serve with a drizzle of cream.

Nutella Tart

Some of the grandkids like Nutella. I’m not a fan, but usually have it in the pantry for visiting Nutella eaters.

This recipe makes a quick dessert and was a good way to use up a jar which had been sitting there for a month or two since the last visit. To save time you can use bought shortcrust pastry, but this home-made chocolate crust is very quick to make in a food processor.

Nutella Tart

Pastry:
3 heaped Tbs plain flour
1 heaped Tbs cocoa
1 level Tbs caster sugar
55g butter
3-4 Tbs water
Filling:
300g (about one heaped cup) Nutella or other chocolate spread
2 eggs
¾ cup cream
To serve:
Whipped cream
Optional: Toasted hazelnuts, walnuts or pecans

For pastry place first four ingredients in food processor and whiz until it forms crumbs. Slowly add water through the feed chute, with motor running. Stop as soon as mixture forms a ball. Remove and press into a ball, then roll out thinly and use to line a 20cm (8″) metal tart tin. Refrigerate for up to an hour. If in a hurry stick it in the freezer for a few minutes.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line tart with foil and fill with dried beans or corn to stop it rising. Bake for about 8 minutes, then remove foil and beans (which can be kept to use again and again) and put back in the oven for 5-10 mins or until set. Remove from the oven and turn it down to 150°C.

Meanwhile for the filling, place eggs in a bowl and beat with a hand whisk. Whisk in Nutella and cream and when smooth pour into the tart case. It should come almost level with the top of the pastry. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until set, but still wobbly in the middle. Don’t overcook.

Cool then refrigerate till serving time. Serve with whipped cream and toasted nuts.

Serves 8

 

ANZAC Apple and Rhubarb Crumble

Each year on the 25th of April, Australians and New Zealanders remember those who lost their lives fighting for their country.

Over the ANZAC Day long weekend we had a house full, so I decided to make a fruit crumble because everyone loves them. The latest edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller featured a recipe called Apple ANZAC Pie which used the same ingredients you use to make ANZAC Biscuits, so I adapted it slightly to make an ANZAC Crumble.

ANZAC biscuits were sent by Australian and New Zealand wives to soldiers who were fighting abroad. They were popular because they kept well during naval transportation.

Rhubarb grows like a weed in our garden so I often mix it with apples. If preferred just leave it out and increase the number of apples by 2 or 3. The fresh ginger was a great addition to the fruit layer, but some of the smaller kids didn’t like it. If preferred just leave it out. And if you’re concerned that it will be too sweet, leave out the brown sugar.

The verdict on this recipe was that it’s the best crumble ever. Actually the topping isn’t very crumbly, it’s more like a fruit cobbler. Sorry it wasn’t published in time for ANZAC day, but I’m confident it will go down well any time of year.

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Fruit layer:
5 large Granny Smith apples or cooking apples
About 10 sticks of rhubarb, washed and cut into 2-3cm lengths
¼ cup sugar
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger (optional)
6 Tbs water
Topping:
185g butter
¼ cup each treacle and golden syrup
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 cups plain flour
1 cup rolled oats
¼ cup brown sugar
1 cup desiccated coconut (preferably coarse flakes)
To serve:
Vanilla ice cream or cream

Peel and slice apples and place in a saucepan with the rhubarb, sugar, ginger and water. Cook for 8-10 minutes until slightly softened then spread into a greased 25cm pie dish.

In a large bowl melt butter, treacle and golden syrup in the microwave then mix in the bicarbonate of soda, flour, oats, sugar and coconut. Spoon all over the apple and rhubarb mixture, using a fork to cover any gaps. Refrigerate until serving time.

Pre-heat oven to 180°C then bake the crumble for 25-30 mins or until crisp and golden. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or cream.

Serves 12

Notes: if you don’t have any treacle, double the amount of golden syrup. If you don’t have either use honey or maple syrup instead.

Beef Casserole with Spring Onion Mash

A good beef casserole accompanied by mashed potatoes to mop up the gravy is the sort of comfort food we all crave at times, especially as the weather gets cooler. These old-fashioned dishes take us back to our childhood and Mum’s cooking.

This casserole doesn’t contain any tomatoes or herbs, allowing the flavour from the mushrooms and the sherry to shine through. It can be made in the oven or in a slow cooker.

Beef Casserole with Spring Onion Mash

2 Tbs oil
1 kg lean stewing beef such as chuck steak
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
150g speck or bacon cut into chunky pieces (lardons)
2 onions, peeled and chopped
3 carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
250g mushrooms, wiped and thickly sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups water (only 1 cup for Slow Cooker)
1 beef stock cube
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
½ cup dry sherry or red wine
Spring Onion Mash:
1 kg potatoes, peeled and cut into even-sized pieces
25g butter
¼ cup milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-4 spring onions, thinly sliced (optional)
To serve:

Chopped fresh parsley

Trim beef and cut into 3cm cubes. Season. Heat 1 Tbs oil in a large frying pan and brown half the meat all over until nicely caramelised. Put beef into a heavy Le Creuset-type casserole with a lid or into a Slow Cooker. Repeat with remaining oil and beef. Add the lardons to the pan and cook, stirring until light brown. Add onions and cook for 3-4 mins stirring regularly, until starting to soften. Add carrots, mushrooms, garlic and a touch more oil if necessary and continue to cook for 3-4 mins. Tip vegetables into the casserole with the beef.

Add water, stock cube, Worcestershire sauce and sherry or wine. If using a casserole dish cover and cook at 150°C for two hours or until meat is tender and sauce has thickened up. If using a Slow Cooker use only one cup of water, cover and cook for 3-4 hours on High or until meat is tender and sauce has thickened.

Casserole will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days or you can eat half and freeze the rest. Reheat, check seasoning and serve garnished with chopped parsley and accompanied by Spring Onion Mash to mop up all the gravy.

Spring Onion Mash: cook potatoes in boiling salted water for 20 mins or until tender. Drain thoroughly then mash with a potato masher, adding the butter and milk. When smooth and creamy season with salt and pepper and fold in the spring onions if liked.

Serves 4-6

Gluten-Free Lasagne

When I told No. 2 son I was making a lasagne without pasta he was skeptical. You’ll be trying to get rid of the leftovers all week, he said. But it was a great success. Different to a traditional lasagne, but still delicious.

It comes from a new book called Simplicious which is all about using things up. It uses rice paper sheets instead of lasagne sheets and the sauce is thickened with cauliflower instead of flour, making it gluten-free and low in carbohydrates. But if you don’t have any rice paper sheets use any kind of pasta you have in your pantry – cooked in boiling water, unless it’s instant lasagne.

I’m not gluten intolerant, but you don’t need to be gluten intolerant to enjoy this recipe. It simply caught my eye because I had some rice paper sheets and nori (seaweed) sheets which had been sitting in the pantry forever and needed using up! I added cumin and sugar to the sauce and used mushrooms instead of grated pumpkin. Below I’ve offered a few other suggestions for varying the recipe to suit what you have on hand. It’s that kind of recipe – very adaptable!

Gluten-Free LasagneMeat Sauce:
1 Tbs oil
1 onion, finely chopped
500g minced beef or lamb
2 cups chopped mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp cayenne pepper or chilli powder
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 can diced tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp sugar (optional)
1 cup water
Cheese and Cauliflower Sauce:
1 cauliflower cut into florets
40g butter
½ cup milk
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
To assemble:
9 rice paper sheets
2 nori (seaweed) sheets, torn into pieces
2 cups baby spinach leaves
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large frying pan and cook onion, mince, mushrooms and garlic for 5-7 mins, stirring often and breaking up the mince. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 15-20 mins until thickened.

Meanwhile pre-heat oven to 180°C. Cook cauliflower in boiling salted water until tender then place in food processor with butter, milk and Parmesan. Whiz till smooth.

Grease a 22cm springform cake pan and line the bottom with baking paper. Spread a third of the meat sauce over the bottom, then 3 rice paper sheets, then a third of the cauliflower sauce. Next goes half the spinach leaves and half the nori. Repeat this again then finish with remaining meat sauce, rice papers and cauliflower sauce. Top with grated Parmesan. Bake 40 mins or until browned. Stand 10 mins then remove sides of pan. Serve with a mixed salad.

Serves 6

Variations and Substitutions:

  • Use a baking dish instead of a springform pan,
  • Use grated cheddar instead of Parmesan.
  • The original recipe uses 2 cups of grated pumpkin – I used mushrooms instead – you could also substitute grated carrot or zucchini (courgette).
  • To make a vegetarian version use 500g eggplants (aubergines) cut into small cubes instead of the mince.
  • If you don’t have any nori (seaweed) sheets just leave them out.

Glazed Cinnamon Rolls

This delicious recipe is adapted from one which appeared recently on the New York Times Cooking site.

The original version used two cups of brown sugar and one cup of icing sugar which seemed an awful lot, so I’ve cut it down to one cup of brown sugar and a quarter of a cup of icing sugar. The result is sweet enough for most people’s tastes, but if you have a sweet tooth make double the amount of glaze.

I left the bourbon whisky out of the glaze and made 12 slightly larger rolls instead of 18. If you like, add a tablespoonful of any whisky to the glaze. I made the dough in a food processor rather than a mixmaster because I do pretty much everything in my Magimix.

Glazed Cinnamon Rolls

1 cup milk
75g butter
3 cus plain flour
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp ground cardamom (or cinnamon)
1 egg
Filling:
50g butter
½ cup brown sugar
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Glaze:
¼ cup brown sugar
2 Tbs water
25g butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
¼ cup icing sugar, sifted

Heat milk for a minute in the microwave then add the butter and allow to melt. Place flour, sugar, yeast, salt and cardamom or cinnamon in a food processor. Process for a minute then gradually add the warm milk and butter and the egg through the feed chute with the motor running. When mixture forms a sticky ball stop the motor and tip dough onto a floured surface and knead for 3-4 minutes until smooth. Form into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 2-3 hours.

Meanwhile for the filling, heat butter in a small saucepan, swirling the pan from time to time, until it turns nut brown. Watch carefully as it won’t take long. Cool. Mix the brown sugar with the spices.

When dough has doubled in size tip onto a floured surface and roll into a 30×40 cm rectangle with a rolling pin. Brush with the brown butter leaving about a centimetre all round. Drizzle with any remaining butter, so you use it all. Sprinkle sugar and spice mixture all over then roll up from the long side. Cut into 12 even slices. Arrange slices evenly in a buttered 20x30cm rectangular roasting pan or baking tray – 3 one way and 4 the other – they will expand to fill the gaps. Leave to stand for 45 mins or until doubled in size.

Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Bake rolls for 20-25 mins then remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 mins. Meanwhile for the glaze heat brown sugar, water and butter in a small saucepan for 2-3 mins, or until thickening. Add vanilla and icing sugar and continue to cook, stirring, until you have a nice thickish icing. Leave to cool until rolls are ready.

Drizzle glaze all over the rolls, then cool a bit so the icing firms up. Serve warm. Any leftover buns can be frozen or refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat in the oven before serving.

Makes 12 rolls

Fried Egg in a Bagel

This recipe from a website called Food52 is so simple you hardly need a recipe. But it’s such a novel idea and so delicious I had to tell you about it.

You simply fry an egg in the hole in half a bagel.  Serve for breakfast or lunch, accompanied by bacon, ham, smoked salmon or on its own. The recipe makes two servings, but you may decide to eat them both! They go very well with leftover ham from Christmas.

Fried Egg in a Bagel

1 bagel split in two horizontally
1 Tbs butter
2 eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the holes in the two halves a bit bigger using a serrated knife or a small scone cutter. Heat butter in a non-stick frying pan and swirl around. Place bagel  halves in the pan, cut side down, break an egg into each and season with salt and pepper. It doesn’t matter if it spills out a bit.

Cover and cook until the eggs are just set. Serve alone or with crispy bacon, ham or smoked salmon. If serving with bacon cook it in the pan first, then remove and cook the bagel so it gets a nice bacon flavour.

Serves 2

Quick Chicken Satay

Everyone loves chicken satay and this recipe can be made in no time with ingredients you probably have in the pantry. It’s easy to halve for two or three people.

The first time I made this the washer upper complained that the frying pan was very difficult to clean, because of the honey. A week or so later I was chatting to a friend about the virtues of using non-stick baking paper to line an oven tray when you’re baking salmon or chicken, so there’s nothing to wash up. My friend said this trick also works when you’re cooking something in a frying pan.

So I tried it and it works. Just cut a circle of non-stick baking paper to fit the base of the pan and cook the satays on top. It doesn’t affect how they brown and the pan is so much easier to clean. No complaints from the washer upper this time.

DSCF11481 kg lean chicken thigh meat
Marinade:
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs oil
2 tsp turmeric
1 Tbs honey
½ tsp salt
Sauce:
¼ cup peanut butter
¼ cup Thai sweet chilli sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
1/3 cup tinned coconut milk (shake can first)
To serve:
Steamed rice
Lime or lemon wedges
Sliced red or white onion and cucumber

Cut chicken thigh into cubes. Mix marinade ingredients and add chicken. Leave to marinate for at least half an hour. Meanwhile, soak 16-20 short wooden bamboo skewers in warm water.

Thread chicken cubes onto skewers. Heat a large non-stick frying pan or griddle pan and cook satays for a minute or two on all four sides, until cooked through and browned.

Meanwhile mix all ingredients for sauce. Serve satays with the sauce, steamed rice, sliced onion, cucumber and lemon wedges.

Serves 6

No-Bake Raspberry Cheesecake

We were staying with Catherine in Newcastle for a few days when she said “Oh by the way, we’re invited to a BBQ lunch tomorrow and we’re taking a dessert. What shall we make?”

We found cream cheese, cream and 2 punnets of raspberries in the fridge and a few other ingredients in the pantry. The result was this delicious no-bake cheesecake which was popular with the adults and kids alike.

Make this the day before serving.

IMG_0695300g white chocolate
500g Philadelphia-style cream cheese (at room temp)
300ml thick cream
3 Tbs caster sugar
1 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) raspberries
½ cup red jam (preferably raspberry)
About 12 sweet biscuits or sponge fingers
To serve:
1-2 cups fresh raspberries
Honey to drizzle

Melt chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. In another bowl, with electric beaters, beat cream cheese, cream and sugar until smooth. Add melted chocolate and mix well.

Line a loaf tin with plastic wrap, leaving a generous overhang. With a fork, mash 1 cup raspberries with the jam on a plate. Spread half the cream cheese mixture in the loaf tin. Spread the berry mixture over the top. Then spread the rest of the cream cheese mixture over the jam mixture. Arrange a single layer of biscuits or sponge fingers over the surface, pushing them in slightly – this will be the base. Rectangular or square ones are easier than round ones. Bring excess plastic wrap over the top to cover, then refrigerate overnight.

No-Bake Raspberry Cheesecake

To serve, tip cheesecake onto serving plate and remove plastic. Arrange raspberries over the top and drizzle with honey.

Serves 12

Variation: use strawberries instead of raspberries