Monday, March 23, 2009

Best Banana Bread

This recipe comes from C. Thiel of North Albury, New South Wales. I clipped it from a New Idea or a Women's Weekly in the 90s; it's one of the three banana bread recipes I use, each has different textural properties. This loaf is full of bits of fruit and nuts and is a little bit spicy and not too sweet; the dried fruits and nuts can easily modified to use up bits and pieces from the pantry. If it doesn't all get eaten during the week leftovers can be frozen.

Best Banana Bread
Adapted from a recipe by C. Thiel

140 g of raw sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
125 g mashed banana
1/2 tsp mixed spice or a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice
120 g chopped walnuts
2 tbsp shredded coconut
3/4 cup sultanas or raisins
190 g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp of milk

Grease a 15 x 25 cm loaf pan then line with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Mash the banana in a large bowl, add the sugar, egg, spices, nuts, coconut and sultanas and mix to incorporate. Add the dry ingredients and milk in two stages.

Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared pan, bake for 45 minutes or until cooked when tested. Let the loaf stand for five minutes in the tin, then turn on to a wire rack to cool.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cookbook Shopping

I have a bad case of procrastinators diligence; instead of devoting my time to career making activities, I am compulsively planning and pricing additions to my cookbook library for the next 5 years in exhaustive detail. Memories of a Cuban Kitchen by Mary Urrutia Randelman, Bengali Cooking by Chitrita Banerji and Quick and Easy Tsukemono by Ikuko Hisamatsu and many others have become items of great importance.

Recently launched Australian price comparison site Booko has been a great aid to my compulsive searching and list compilation. You search the site by title, author or ISBN and it retrieves prices and the cost of shipping from an impressive list of book sellers. You can compile a cart of books that gives you a running total of your bill and also accounts for things like free shipping after x dollars offered by some retailers.

For cookbooks, the UK based Book Depository (offers free international shipping), the charitable American retailer Better World Books (cheap carbon neutral shipping) and Australia's Fishpond usually come out cheapest; I even managed to score a copy of the lauded Australian reference The Cook's Companion for less that $60 from Fishpond (it's back to around $110 now). In my experience books will take longer to get to you from Fishpond than the other two.

Booko, bookmark it and don't buy books online without it.

Monday, March 16, 2009


My unofficial new years resolution for 2009 was to try new foods. This week's find was a bunch of just-picked of sorrel from the local Sunday markets. I used it in a simple breakfast, I removed the stalks and cut the leaved into ribbons and folded though an omelette until the leaved were just wilted. I served the omelette over a small pile of home fries. The tartness of the leaves really complemented the eggs and fried potatoes beautifully.

I will buy it again. Or I might try and forage for some as this vegetable is a common weed in most of eastern Australia. This video shows how to identify it in the wild.

Inspiration for our next meeting:
*Salmon with Sorrel Sauce
*Sorrel Tart

Sunday, March 15, 2009

For the Zucchini Sceptic

I couldn't resist a big bag of late-summer zucchini from the market this morning. With a weekly lunch box gap to fill, I went back to my feed reader for inspiration. I've further modified a recipe for zucchini loaf that started in this months delicious magazine and made it to me via the Canberra Cook. I further reduced the sugar as she suggested, used a walnut and canola oil mixture and added some drak chocolate and it came out with moorish loaf with a hint of sweetness that even swayed the zucchini sceptic in the house.

Zucchini Loaf
Serves 10-12
Adapted from the Canberra Cook and delicious magazine March 2009

400 g self-raising flour
200 ml vegetable/nut oil
1 heaped tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
115 g white sugar
115 g brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
500 g zucchini, grated
90 g walnuts
40 g dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 150°C; line a large bread tin (mine is 29 x 10 x 13 cm) with baking paper.

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients except the flour and oil. Add the oil and mix well, then fold in the flour gently.

Pour into the loaf tin, and bake for 90 minutes, or until a testing skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

One From Nigel and One From Gordon

Foccacia topped with a paste of sun- dried tomaotes, garlic and oregano; Persian-style Onion Soup and Rocket salad

It's a cool evening, a storm has just passed over leaving the ground barely damp. I'm finishing off last weeks vegetables, cooking a pot of potatoes to make home fries for breakfast tomorrow and a big pot of lamb bones, carrots and aromatics are simmering into lovely stock for a soup next week. Dinner tonight is foccacia, a rocket salad and a bowl of warmly spiced onion soup from Gordon Ramsay recipe. The Accountant bought a Ramsay cookbook last year, the only recipes that interested me were the soups, I've got to say that he does make a fine soup.

Serves at least 6
Adapted from Nigel Salter via Blake at the Paupered Chef

450g bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp fast-acting yeast
400ml warm water
3 tbsp olive oil

Put the flour and salt and yeast into a large bowl, mix well then pour in the water to make a sticky dough. Mix well with a wooden spoon then knead in the bowl using a silicone pastry scraper to fold the mixture and make a smooth dough, this takes about 5 minutes. Alternatively use a stand mixer. Foccacia is a particularly wet dough and you don't want to be adding a lot of flour to make it possible to knead by hand. Once the dough has been kneaded, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp clean tea towel and leave it until it has doubled in size, which may take up to 1 hour.

Prepare a baking tin (30 x 20 cm rectangle; 30 cm diameter circle) by coating with olive oil and applying a thin layer of cornmeal. Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Remove the dough from its bowl, then push it into the baking tin. Trying to cover the base of the tin. Cover with plastic wrap then let the dough rise for another 30 minutes.

Create a seasoning mixture from garlic, fresh herbs, salt, with olives, sun-dried tomatoes or caramelised onions. You will need about 3 tablespoons of a seasoning mix to cover the loaf of focaccia. When the dough has risen for the second time push several holes deep into the dough with your index finger, then spread the seasoning mixture over the dough.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until the top is golden. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and let the loaf rest for 5 minutes, then remove from the tin and serve while warm.

Persian-style Onion Soup
Serves 4
Adapted from Healthy Appetite by Gordon Ramsay

3 tbsp olive oil
800 g onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 tsp fresh mint or 1/2 tsp dried
2 tbsp plain flour
1 L vegetable or chicken stock
1 cinnamon stick
Juice of 1 lemon or some preserved lemon
1 tsp raw sugar
A few flat-leaf parsley sprigs, chopped

Place a heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add the olive oil, the onions and 1/2 tsp salt. Cover and sweat for 12-15 min until the onions are soft, lifting the lid and stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and increase the heat slightly. Add the spices and mint, then stir in the flour. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 min.

Gradually pour in the stock, whisking as you do so to prevent any lumps forming. When it has all been added, drop in the cinnamon stick and simmer over a low heat, for 30-40 min.

Stir in the lemon juice and sugar, if using preserved lemon dice the peel of half a lemon and add to the soup with the sugar, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Discard the cinnamon stick and serve with parsley.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lebanese BBQ

An impromptu BBQ for Archivists, partners and me on a long weekend. Forequarter lamb was on special so I decided to get the BBQ out and try some more Lebanese recipes from New Flavours of the Lebanese Table by Nada Saleh. The menu for dinner:

Pumpkin Dip, latkin m'tabal bi-thini
Thyme Flat bread, mankoushi bi-zaatar
Cheats BBQ Shawarma and Spiced Roast Potatoes

Pumpkin Dip
Adapted from New Flavours of the Lebanese Table by Nada Saleh

650 g peeled de-seeded pumpkin
1 garlic clove
3 tbsp tahini
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp walnut oil
Salt to taste
Crushed walnuts and parsley to serve

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cut the pumpkin into 2.5 cm wide chunks and place on a greased baking tray. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until soft and beginning to caramelise. Remove from the oven when done and allow it to cool.

Place the cooked pumpkin, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and walnut oil in a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and add salt, then move the dip to a covered bowl. When you're ready to serve chop some parsley with some walnuts and sprinkle over the surface.

Cheats BBQ Shawarma and Spiced Roast Potatoes
Serves 8

1.6 kg lamb diced 1.5-2 cm
1 tsp whole allspice
1 tsp whole black pepper
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp whole fenugreek
1 tsp whole nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp Spanish paprika
2 tsp salt
Canola oil

1.5 kg chat potatoes
3 tsp rock salt
Canola oil

Soak 18 bamboo skewers for 30 minutes to prevent them burning on the BBQ. Peel and par-boil the potatoes. Prepare the BBQ for cooking with indirect heat then light it.

Using a mortar and pestle crush the allspice, black pepper, cloves and fenugreek then grate nutmeg into the mortar, add the ground ginger, cinnamon then mix; this mix is known as Sabea Bharat in Lebanon. Place the lamb in a bowl, then mix though the spice mix, paprika and salt. Tread the meat onto the bamboo skewers leaving space at either end for easy turning, this amount of meat should make at least 18 skewers. Drizzle some oil over the meat to prevent sticking to the grill and leave the meat to marinate.

Quarter the cooked potatoes the spread them out in foil trays. Crush the rock salt in the mortar and pestle, mixing the leftover spice mix with the salt. Sprinkle the spiced salt over the potatoes and toss with the oil. Cook with the lid on and vents open until the potatoes are crispy.

Once the potatoes have been cooking for 30 minutes, close the lid vent on the BBQ and add the meat. Cook the skewers for 25-30 minutes.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lunchbox Muffins

My criteria for a good lunchbox muffin are (1) the muffins aren't too sweet, (2) they contain a good portion of fibre, (3) they include ingredients that I normally have in the pantry. Muffins made with vegetables and wholegrains meet all my requirements, I've modified this carrot and coconut recipe to my preferences and I have a pumpkin one that I'm still working on for next time. I use my Benriner to finely shred the carrot for this recipe, the resulting grated carrot is consistently whispy and is easily distributed though the muffins.

Carrot and Coconut Muffins
Make 12 muffins
Adapted from Comfort: Real Simple Food by Michele Cranston, Mikkel Vang, and Christine Rudolph

280 g wholemeal plain flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
150g sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
200 ml vegetable oil (canola, sunflower, grapeseed)
200 g grated carrot
100 g shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease or place paper muffin cups into a 12-hole muffin tray.

Put the flour, baking powder, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl and mix. Add the eggs, zest and lemon juice and oil and stir until smooth. Then mix in the carrot and coconut through.

Spoon mixture into muffin tray and Bake for 25-30 minutes, until muffins have risen and are golden brown. Allow to sit for 5 minutes after removing from the oven before turning the muffins out onto a cooling rack. Pack the muffins into a storage container when they are completely cold.