Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Third Time Lucky Tea Cake

Tea cake II, with apples

I first made this tea cake on Sunday for a work do the Archivist was having on Monday, choosing apple tea cake to use up some small Fuji apples. I woke up at 6 am to bake this cake again for a friend from works' birthday morning tea - but thanks to a delivery mess-up I couldn't attend to try it, so I made it again this afternoon to have with friends tonight! The third time I made the cake I had finished all the apples and had to make it with Packham pears - yum.

I grabbed a recipe from the internet Sunday night, using the internet recipes has bitten me on the arse on several occasions, the tea cake recipe that I used for the base of my recipe is from the head chef at Fifteen in Melbourne - Tobbie Puttock. -I seriously doubt that the recipe was tested as written since the cooking time is completely wrong (fan-forced vs. conventional electric can't explain the 30 extra minutes it takes to bake this cake - not that the recipe specifies an oven type anyway!) and the batter over-leavened so the fruit disappeared beneath the surface of the baked cake. I've had three attempts to perfect my version, and my changes produce a lovely cake with golden caramelised fruit.

Tea Cake
Makes 8-10 serves
Based on Tobie Puttock's apple and cinnamon tea cake

95 g softened unsalted butter
125 g cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
175 g cups self raising flour
150 ml milk
2-3 small apples or pears
3 tsp cinnamon sugar or 2 tsp sugar and 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
30 g unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 200°C; grease and line a 20cm (8 inch) round baking tin with baking paper. Cream the softened butter and sugar in a large bowl, add the vanilla and the egg. Alternately add the flour and milk to the mix and beat until smooth. Spread the thick mix to evenly cover the base of the pan.

Peel, quarter, and core the apples and then slice the quarters into thin wedges and place over lapping slices in a wheel pattern on the top of the cake, sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the apples. If using pears leave the peel on, but otherwise the preparation is the same.

Place into the middle of the oven and bake for 55-60 minutes (check the cake 10 minutes sooner for a fan-forced oven). Check to see if the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer, if it's cooked it should come out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool in the baking tin for a further 10 minutes, melt the remaining 30 grams of butter and brush over the top of the cake. Then turn the cake out of the pan to cool apple side up. This cake is nice warm, and is best eaten on the day of baking.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Spicy Lentil Soup

The Archivist had to get a wisdom tooth removed; the procedure wasn't especially traumatic by his account, but the dentist recommended soft foods be eaten on the following day. I love soups and braises, and the weather here had turned unseasonally mild. For lunch I made a soup inspired by one my mum used to like to make - using a can of Sanitarium Savoury Lentils and a can of tomato soup with some fresh vegetables added; my version uses some short cuts but is far more satisfying. I used half green and half Australian puy lentils, the puy held up well to the long cooking time and and green started to disintegrate making the tomatoey broth rich and hearty.

Spicy Lentil Soup
Makes 6 serves

1 tbsp olive oil
2 small brown onions, diced
3 small carrots, cut in half length ways and into half-moons
1 cup of celery, cut into crescents
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp Spanish smoked paprika
1.5 liters chicken or vegetable stock or water
300 g lentils
3 small potatoes, diced into 2 cm cubes
600 ml tomato passata
1 zucchini, cut in half and into half-moons

Sweat the onion, carrot and celery in olive oil in a saucepan of about 3 liter capacity over a low heat, the onions should turn translucent and the vegetables should soften - if the vegetables stick or brown the pan is too hot. Grind the cumin, coriander and black pepper, add these spices and the paprika to the pan. When the spices are fragrant add the stock, lentils, potatoes and passata and let simmer over a low heat for about an hour and a half. Add the zucchini about 10 minutes before serving, other delicate green vegetables like broccoli or baby peas could also be added at this point. Add salt to taste.

This soup reheats well, but you may need to add some water on the second day. It also freezes well.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sunday Pizza

The Archivist and I both enjoy pizza, so about once a month we make some from scratch. I've been using an easy dough recipe I tore from a magazine, possibly Australian Gourmet Traveller, in the late 1990s which always works beautifully - but I think I will try Peter Reinhart's Napoletana Pizza Dough next time. November's pizza featured my home-made pizza sauce, mozzarella, Italian sausage, and green olives; October was an Australian favourite - ham and fresh pineapple and September was prosciutto, parmesan and rocket.

If you happen to be in Canberra, lovely peppery Italian sausage is available at the Go Troppo Fruit Market in the Jamison Centre, Macquarie.

Tomato Sauce for Pizza

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, red or brown
3 cloves of garlic
A pinch of chilli flakes
1 400g tin of tomatoes
1 tbsp fresh herbs (parsley, oregano, marjoram)

Dice the onion, crush and dice the garlic and finely chop the herbs. Pour the oil into a small saucepan and place over a low heat. Add the onion, garlic and chilli and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Crush the tomatoes and add to the pan with the chopped herbs, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Leave the sauce to simmer gently for about 20-25 minutes stirring occasionally. The tomatoes will reduce to a paste like consistency - perfect for spreading on pizza.

This amount of sauce is ideal for the amount of pizza base yielded by the following recipe.

Roman-style Pizza Base
Makes three 28 cm pizzas

3 cups/500 g of bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white sugar
2 tsp of instant dried yeast or 15 g fresh compressed yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
2 tbsp olive oil

Mix the dry ingredients (if using fresh yeast dissolve in the water) in a large bowl, make a well in the centre, add the water and oil and mix. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board or bench and knead until it is smooth and elastic, usually about 5 minutes. Put the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth and leave it in a warm spot until it has doubled.

Preheat the oven to 230 to 250 degrees Celsius. Punch down the risen dough and divide into three portions, and shape using your hands or a rolling pin- each portion will make a 28 cm round pizza. Spread over tomato sauce and leave to rise again for 10 to 15 minutes on a oiled baking tray or in a cast iron fry pan - which is my preferred method. Add toppings and bake in the very hot oven until the crust is golden brown; or bake the base and assemble after removing from the oven for a combination like prosciutto, parmesan and rocket.