Caramel Slice

I was staying at Hill House, a dairy farm in County Durham in my early teens when I learnt to make this recipe. They called it Triple Decker Slice and everyone loved it. There are heaps of versions online, often called Millionaire’s Shortbread, but this is my version. I’ve added the salt flakes, which weren’t in the original recipe, but appeal to anyone who likes salted caramel.

This slice is high in sugar and calories, so I don’t make it often, but when I do it always puts a smile on Matthew’s face.

If you can find dulce de leche or Nestle Top n Fill, make Filling (1). If not then make Filling (2).

Shortbread:
125g butter at room temp
½ cup soft brown sugar
1 cup plain flour
½ cup cornflour
Filling (1):
250g dulce de leche or Nestle Top ‘n Fill
125g butter
½ cup soft brown sugar
Filling (2):
1 can condensed milk
2 Tbs golden syrup
125g butter
½ cup soft brown sugar
Topping:
250g dark chocolate
2 Tbs Copha or butter
To finish:
Maldon sea salt flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 170°C. Mix butter and sugar in food processor. Add flour and cornflour and process till mixture sticks together into a ball. Press into a greased shallow rectangular baking tin measuring about 25x30cm, lined with greased baking paper. You don’t need to roll it out, just drop lumps evenly over the tin, then press with your fingers till you have a more or less even thickness. Bake 15-20 mins. It should be very lightly coloured, not brown.

Heat filling ingredients (1 or 2) and when bubbling cook gently for 2-3 mins, stirring. If using Filling (2) you will need to cook it a bit longer, say 5-7 minutes, to achieve the caramel colour. Pour over the shortbread and spread evenly. When caramel has cooled, melt chocolate with Copha or butter, pour over and spread evenly. If liked sprinkle with salt. Cut into squares when cold.

Makes about 20

Nigella’s Meatloaf

This meatloaf recipe, which she calls Ed’s Mother’s Meatloaf, comes from Nigella Lawson. Eldest son James sent me the link which caught his eye because the onions are cooked in duck fat and the meatloaf is covered in bacon. What’s not to like about that?

When he and his family came for dinner to celebrate a family birthday, for the first time since coronavirus lockdown, I happened to have some duck fat in the fridge. Nigella’s Meatloaf seemed a good choice as the main course, accompanied by potatoes roasted in duck fat and salad.

I made two changes to Nigella’s recipe which resulted in a bigger loaf measuring about 12″ x 5″ (30cm x 15cm):

  • used 5 hard boiled eggs instead of 3
  • cooked 250g chopped mushrooms in a little butter and used them as a layer around the eggs. So it was mince, mushrooms, hard boiled eggs, mushrooms, mince.

The bacon slices weren’t long enough to go over the top and tuck under on both sides, so I used two slices for each row and had them overlapping in the middle. A few small metal skewers kept them in place during cooking.

For the method go to Nigella’s link above. Easy to  make ahead and have ready in the fridge just to pop in the oven. I served it with a sauce made with sour cream and finely chopped gherkins, spring onions and parsley.

Ready to go into the oven. Skewers to help keep the bacon in place.

Roast Cauliflower with Cashew Hummus and Harissa Sauce

This recipe was inspired by a recent Master Chef programme. The contestant, Courtney Roulston, used cauliflower steaks or thick slices and the method was quite long. I’ve adapted it to use cauliflower florets and taken a few short cuts with the method. Despite these adjustments it’s still a somewhat long-winded recipe, compared with the ones I usually put on this blog. But it’s worth it and most of the elements can be made ahead of time.

Courtney called the sauce Cashew Tarator, but it’s really just Hummus made with cashew nuts and a slice of bread, instead of chickpeas. She used raw cashews. I only had salted ones, but the salt washes off when you soak them.

The chickpeas were rolled in flour, deep fried until crunchy and used a garnish. Mine didn’t go crunchy, so when I made the recipe a second time I roasted them with the cauliflower.

To speed things up you could use bought Hummus instead of the Cashew Hummus, a bought sun dried tomato dip instead of the Harissa sauce (add some chilli sauce to perk it up a bit) and Dukkah instead of the Spiced Seeds.

Any leftover cashew hummus and harissa sauce make a delicious dip, either separately or together. Just dollop them into a bowl and swirl them together a bit. Serve with corn chips, pita bread or veggie sticks.

Cauliflower:
1 large cauliflower, cut into 3cm florets
2-3 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp cumin powder
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1-2 tsp salt
2 Tbs lemon juice
Cashew Hummus:
1 cup cashew nuts
1 slice sourdough bread, crusts removed
1 heaped Tbs Tahini
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 tsp maple syrup
1 clove garlic
½ tsp cumin powder
1/3 cup cold water
Salt to taste
Harissa Sauce: 
1 large red capsicum
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes
3 long red chillies, seeded and chopped
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds (I substituted fennel)
1 Tbs tomato paste
2 tsp maple syrup
2 tsp vinegar
Salt to taste
Spiced seeds:
2 tsp pistachios
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp sunflower kernels
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp sumac
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Garnish:
Pomegranate seeds (optional)

Cauliflower: Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a shallow baking sheet with baking paper. Place cauliflower in a bowl with remaining ingredients except lemon juice. Mix well then spread out on the tray in a single layer. Roast for 20-30 mins, turning halfway through, or until cauliflower is cooked and slightly browned. Remove from the oven, arrange on 4 serving plates (or one large one) and drizzle with the lemon juice.

Hummus: cover cashew nuts with warm water in a small bowl and bread with cold water in another bowl. Leave the bread for about 10 mins, then squeeze out water. Leave the nuts for 20-30 mins then drain. Place nuts and bread in food processor with remaining ingredients and mix till smooth. Add a touch more water if it’s too stiff. Can be made ahead and kept refrigerated for 3-4 days.

Harissa Sauce: Roast the capsicum over a gas flame or BBQ until blackened, then place in a plastic bag and leave until cool when it should be easy to peel, remove seeds and chop. Cover tomato with boiling water, drain after a minute, run under cold water and peel. Place cumin and caraway or fennel seeds in a frying pan and stir over medium heat for a minute or two, until fragrant. Add oil, capsicum, tomato and chillies. Cook, stirring, for 3-5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, cook for a couple of minutes, then cool a bit before pureeing in food processor. Can be made ahead and kept refrigerated for 3-4 days.

Spiced Seeds: place pistachios and seeds in a small frying pan over moderate heat and toast, stirring for 2-3 minutes or until the sesame seeds start to colour. Place in a mortar and pestle, add sumac, salt and pepper and grind a bit, leaving the pistachios quite chunky. Can be made ahead and kept refrigerated for a week or two.

Place a dollop of Cashew Hummus on top of each serving of cauliflower, dollop some of the Harissa Sauce around, sprinkle with Spiced Seeds and pomegranate kernels, if using. Drizzle with a little Extra Virgin olive oil.

Serves 4 as a light meal or 6-8 as a starter

 

 

 

Hummus

Hummus is available in every supermarket, but when I first learnt to make it, while we were living in Israel in the late 1970s, that wasn’t the case.

This recipe is quick and easy and, like anything homemade, much cheaper than the bought variety. With tahini and canned chickpeas in the pantry you can whip up a batch any time, as the other ingredients such as lemon juice, garlic and olive oil are part of most people’s everyday supplies. I’ve been using canned chickpeas for quite some time. They’re so convenient but, if preferred, by all means soak and cook some dried ones.

While hummus makes a delicious dip to serve with drinks, it’s also good as a spread in sandwiches, instead of butter, or as a component in several of the recipes on this blog, such as Roasted Veggies with Hummus or Baked Eggplant with Hummus Lentils and Pine Nuts.

Hummus keeps in the fridge for up to a week, but if preferred why not make half the recipe first time.

2 cans chickpeas, drained
1 tsp salt
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2/3 cup tahini paste, stirred
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
Garnish: (optional)
Chopped parsley
Toasted pine nuts
Extra virgin olive oil
Paprika

Place chickpeas in food processor with remaining ingredients. Process, adding enough water to give the consistency of a dip. Keep in the fridge, covered, until needed.

To serve, add a little water if Hummus has become too stiff, then spread in a swirl onto a shallow dish and decorate with chopped parsley, toasted pine nuts, paprika and a drizzle of olive oil. The garnish is optional, but it looks and tastes great. Serve at room temperature with pita bread, crackers or raw vegetables such as carrots, cucumber and cauliflower.

 

Makes about 3 cups

Chili con Carne

Chili con Carne (pronounced Carnay) means Chili with Meat and was invented by working class Mexicans living in southern Texas. Often referred to simply as Chili this dish has lots of variations, a bit like Spag Bol which we’re all familiar with.

In this version, the sun-dried tomatoes give extra tomato flavour to the sauce. If preferred use tomato paste instead, or some of each. This recipe is enough to serve a big family, or a smaller family with some leftovers, which go down well for lunch on toast or in a wrap.

500g minced beef
2 medium onions
1 clove garlic
1 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp chilli powder or flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
200g sun-dried tomatoes, drained (or 4 Tbs tomato paste)
1 fresh red chilli, seeded & finely chopped (more if you like it hot!)
2 tins tomatoes
2 cups water and more as required
2 tins red kidney beans, drained (or white beans or a mix)
Stick cinnamon or 1 tsp of powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 beef stock cube
3 tsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To serve:
Sour cream (or thick Greek yoghurt)
2 finely sliced spring onions or 1 small red onion, chopped
Grated cheese
Corn chips or corn tortillas
Shredded iceberg lettuce
1 ripe avocado, roughly mashed and seasoned (optional)

Chop onions and garlic and fry in olive oil in a large deep frying pan until softened. Add the chilli powder and cumin with the meat and cook, stirring, until browned. Place the sun dried tomatoes, water and the chilli in a food processor and blend to form a paste. Add to the beef with the tomatoes, cinnamon, sugar, stock cubes and another cup of water.

Bring to the boil, cover then turn the heat down to simmer and cook for 1½ hours. Stir often and add more water as necessary. Add the red kidney beans 30 minutes before the end of cooking time. Check for seasoning. This meat sauce will keep for several days in the fridge and can be frozen. When reheating add a little water.

Serve with corn chips or tortillas, shredded lettuce, grated cheese and sour cream mixed with spring onions. Put all the elements in individual bowls and let everyone help themselves.

Serves 8

Low Carb Variation: use whole iceberg lettuce leaves to wrap instead of corn Tortillas.

Plum Cake

I’ve been making this cake for nearly 30 years from a recipe published by Stephanie Alexander, which she calls Mieze’s Plum Cake after the friend who gave it to her. I have slightly adapted the method but the end result is the same.

The best plums to use are blood plums which have dark purple skins and flesh, but unfortunately they’re only in season for a very brief period. The recipe works well with any plums you can get, or peaches, apricots or, as you can see in the photo, with nectarines.  You could also try making it with canned fruit if you’re housebound and that’s all you have.

I make this cake in a 22 cm (9 inch) square tin, so each serving has half a piece of fruit on top. This involves increasing all the ingredients in the original cake mix (but not the topping) to make a bigger cake which serves 16. For a smaller cake use the original recipe (see above link). I like to grind the nuts in a food processor and leave them slightly chunky, rather than buying ground nuts which are more like flour.

Serve with a cup of tea or as a dessert with a dollop of cream.

250g butter at room temp
250g sugar
200g plain flour
200g self-raising flour
pinch salt
3 eggs
½ cup milk
1 cup ground almonds or walnuts
8 blood plums, halved and stoned (or use apricots, peaches or nectarines)
Topping:
½ cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
60g butter
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 170°C. Process nuts coarsely in food processor then tip out. Process butter and sugar till fluffy, add eggs one at a time, sifted flours, salt, the nuts and then the milk, stopping to scrape down the mixture halfway through.

Spread into 9″ (22cm) square cake pan, greased and lined with paper. Arrange the plums, cut side up, over the cake and push them in a bit. The 16 halves should fit exactly. No need to wash the food processor before using it to mix all the topping ingredients. Pour topping evenly over the fruit. Bake in the centre of the oven for an hour, or until a skewer inserted in the middle (cake not fruit) comes out clean. If outsides are getting too brown, turn oven down a bit, but don’t overcook or the cake will be dry.

Variation: Use peeled and halved juicy pears instead of plums and add a tablespoon of fresh ginger to the topping.

Serves 12-16

Stir Crazy Chocolate Cake

Since the start of the coronavirus lockdown I participated in an online recipe exchange from which you are supposed to receive lots of recipes. I only received two and this is one of them, from another Linda who lives in Chile. Appropriately named for when you’re going stir crazy while in isolation.

This quick and easy chocolate cake surprisingly doesn’t contain any eggs. Delicious on its own or with a dollop of sour cream, as shown in the photo.

3 cups plain flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
½ cup cocoa powder
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 Tbs vinegar
2 cups cold water
Chocolate Icing:
250g cream cheese at room temp
¼ cup cocoa powder
1½ cups icing sugar
Chocolate buttons to decorate (optional)

Preheat oven to 175°C. You can either mix this cake in a bowl or in a food processor. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl or food processor and mix. Add remaining ingredients and mix till smooth, stopping to scrape down any mixture stuck to the sides. Spread into a cake pan. I used a 22 cm (9 inch) square silicone pan so I didn’t need to grease and line it with baking paper. You know your pan and whether or not cakes stick. Bake for 30-40 mins or until firm to touch in the middle.

Ice with your favourite icing or this one which uses cream cheese. Place cream cheese in a bowl and mix till smooth, gradually adding the sifted cocoa and then the sifted icing sugar.  You might find one cup of icing sugar is enough. If liked decorate with chocolate buttons. Cut into 16 squares.

Serves 16

Preserving Olives

It’s olive time in Canberra.

The olive tree in our garden is more than 30 years old and each year it produces a good crop, although some years are better than others. Olives vary quite a bit – ours are large, round and turn a purplish black when ripe.

I’ve tried preserving them, using a number of different, supposedly foolproof recipes, with no success. The olives were either too soft, too hard, too salty, too bitter, or they fermented and went off before we could eat them. Every time I had a disaster someone would give me their special recipe, guaranteed to work, which I would try the following year. None of them worked for me.

A few years ago I managed to persuade Jeff, the owner of a local olive oil company, to take our olives and give us some oil in exchange, for a small fee. So that’s what we’ve done a couple of times. We ended up with several litres of bright green extra virgin olive oil which tastes amazing on salads, or just on bread. It’s cool to be able to tell guests it’s our own oil, although Jeff no doubt mixed our olives with a lot of his. As he explained, he needs 500kg to turn on the machine.

Last year the parrots ate most of our olives before we could pick them. I spoke to Jeff and he said he was having the same problem and had bought a boom machine from Bunnings to scare the birds away. He said you have to use it each morning, because the parrots’ memory only lasts 24 hours. Unfortunately this advice came too late for our olives, so we picked the few that were left – a kilo or two – and decided to have one last try at preserving them.

I found this recipe online and could hardly believe how quick and easy it was. Most recipes involve weeks of preparation. The resulting olives were so good I couldn’t stop eating them. They were slightly chewy and almost sweet, with no trace of bitterness. Unfortunately last year I only made one large jar, which we kept in the kitchen near the hotplates. They made the perfect snack while I was preparing dinner. I don’t know if this recipe works with small green olives – I think it’s best for fat, black juicy ones like ours – but you could give it a try.

There are heaps of recipes for preserving olives, but this is the one I’m sticking with. The instruction which appears at the end of this easy peasy recipe “keep for a month before eating” is the hard part. Ours don’t last that long I’m afraid.

Black olives
Salt
Olive oil
Dried garlic
Dried herbs (optional)
Dried chillies (optional)

Choose sound black olives. Rinse and drain, then put in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water and leave for 10 minutes, then drain thoroughly.

Arrange on cake cooling racks over shallow trays and place in the oven at 80C for several hours or overnight.

When ready the olives will be dry and wrinkled and about half their original size. You want them chewy, not hard, so taste one. Any smaller olives may be ready first so remove them and put the rest back in the oven.

Pack the olives into sterilised jars with a good pinch of salt, some dried garlic and a few tablespoons of oil. Best not to add fresh garlic as it can go off as I learnt the hard way. Add herbs or chilli if liked. Close jar then shake to distribute the oil.

Keep for a month before eating, shaking the oil around from time to time.

 

 

Rhubarb Tart

With everyone in coronavirus lockdown, some of us are finding more time to cook. And eat.

I highly recommend you find a sunny corner in the garden to plant some rhubarb. It doesn’t take up much room and keeps on fruiting for most of the year. Ours only dies down a bit for 2-3 months in the coldest part of winter. When there’s virtually nothing else in the veggie garden, there’s usually some rhubarb.

This pastry recipe from chez Panisse via Rick Stein is deliciously buttery, reminiscent of a Parisian croissant, fresh from the oven. The oven needs to be nice and hot to get that lovely French glaze. Serve the tart as it is or with some whipped cream or sour cream, which is my preference.

Pastry:
225g plain flour
Good pinch of salt
170g butter, cold from the fridge
About 4 Tbs cold water
Filling:
500-600g rhubarb
½ cup sugar, or more, to taste
2 Tbs fortified wine such as port, but any will do
Grated rind of an orange or lemon
To finish:
Extra sugar
About 2 Tbs butter
Apricot Jam (optional)
To serve:
Whipped cream, sour cream or creme fraiche

To make the pastry, place flour and salt in food processor. Add butter cut into large chunks. Process carefully, preferably using the pulse button, until the butter is in small pieces. You don’t want it to be completely fine like breadcrumbs. Slowly add the water through the feed chute, processing briefly with the pulse button, until just combined. You don’t want it to be too wet, but it needs to start sticking together. Tip out, form into a flat disc using floured hands, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for half an  hour or up to 2 days. It can also be frozen.

Preheat oven to 220°C. On a floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll out the pastry thinly and line a tart tin, preferably metal. Mine is rectangular, but any will do. Wash and trim the rhubarb. I had plenty, so used only the red ends. All the trimmings and greener ends were made into a compote which is great for breakfast with yoghurt or as the base of a fruit crumble. I cut the rhubarb into the exact width of the tin and lined them up in the uncooked pastry case, so I knew exactly how many I needed. If you want more fruit in the tart you could cut up all the green bits and put them in first, then arrange the bigger pieces on top.

Place rhubarb in a bowl and mix with the sugar, port and citrus zest, then arrange in the tart shell. Drizzle over any remaining sugary juice. Sprinkle with the extra sugar, then dot all over with small pieces of butter.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until pastry is golden and rhubarb is starting to blacken in places – see photo. If liked, brush the surface of the tart with some apricot jam (just the non-chunky part) when it comes out of the oven.

Serve warm or at room temperature with cream, sour cream or creme fraiche.

Serves 10

Variations: use peaches, plums, nectarines or apricots instead of rhubarb.

Sweet Potato and Zucchini Slice

Every year we grow zucchini (courgettes) in our vegetable garden. Despite our best efforts, some of them get away and end up looking more like marrows. Large zucchini are great for making into fritters or a savoury slice like this one. If zucchini are large remove the seeds and some of the skin.

It’s worth investing in a 0.5cm grating attachment for your food processor. The grating attachment which came with my Magimix is too fine for things like carrot, zucchini and beetroot so I ordered the larger one online. It makes grating vegetables a cinch and has become the attachment I use most.

1 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large sweet potato (about 500g), peeled and coarsely grated
500g zucchini, peeled and coarsely grated
1 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
¼ cup plain flour
5 eggs
2 Tbs chopped chives or basil
2 Tbs chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cherry tomatoes to garnish

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line a rectangular slice tin. I used a 22cm round cake tin instead.

Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Add onion and garlic and cook gently until soft but not browned. Mix with remaining ingredients, then scrape into cake pan and smooth the top. Bake for 40-70 minutes. Time will vary according to the cake pan you choose. If you use a rectangular slice pan it will be thinner and take around 40 mins. The one in the photo took about 70 mins. Any size/shape will do. When cooked it will be golden all over and firm to the touch in the middle.

Serve cold or at room temperature, garnished with the cherry tomatoes. We preferred it cold.

Serves 10

Variation: Fry 3-4 rashers of chopped bacon with the onion and garlic