Friday, 30 November 2007

First Post at The Daily Tiffin

I have posted my first 'article' entitled The Joy of Christmas over at The Daily Tiffin. It's a writeup about Christmas and some ideas on how to get the kids involved at Christmas time as well as what to cook for Christmas Dinner. I also talk a little about the Christmas Traditions in my family over the years and now.

There's also a recipe for Chicken Pie and some pics of the other food ideas for Christmas. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Thursday, 29 November 2007

10,000 and counting!

Woo Hoo!!
This blog has reached 10,000 hits. Who would have thought?
Okay, so 10,000 is really not such a big number if you compare it to the Amazon.com and Martha Stewart or other famous websites/blogs.

But that's exaclty the point. I'm not famous and to me, 10,000 hits in just under a year is pretty special. So I hope you keep coming to visit, and I hope I can sustain your interest as well!

So thank you to everybody for your support thus far!!

Happy Birthday to Me!


Yes Indeed! It's my 40th Birthday today, the 29th of November 2007. I think it's kind of incredible to be turning 40 because in no way do I feel 40. Okay, Okay, so I've got some grey hairs and my stomach is getting bigger and I've got aches and pains here and there...which I suppose are signs of being 40!

But really, I don't feel 40 - at least not mentally! I kind of wonder where all the time has gone, but there is no denying it. I'm 40 and its great to be 40!

They say that life begins at 40 but I don't know about that. What I do know is that to coincide with my 40th Birthday, I have a few changes happening to my blogging life.

Firstly, you would have noticed the new "Read More...(Expand this post)" text in red. And if you are reading this, you would have figured out that I can now expand and collapse my posts so that I can fit more posts on the screen. And No, I'm not an IT genius. You too can get this widget for blogspot at hackosphere.blogspot.com.

Secondly, it gives me great pleasure to 'announce' that I have been asked to contribute to The Daily Tiffin as a co-administrator for the blog. The Daily Tiffin is the Brainchild of the dynamic Meeta K who is the founder of this blog. Its a blog about family life, food and fun as well as other issues relating to kids and families in general. At last count, there are 13 people that co-administer this blog with around 6 other regular contributors. So that puts me in the company of 18 women!! Now isn't that something special!! :) My very first post on The Daily Tiffin will be out on the 30th November, so please check it out.

Well, nothing major really, just some improvements and new things to write about. I'm quite excited about these changes just like I'm quite excited about turning 40 and hoping to see more improvements in my own life.

So Happy Birthday to me!


Monday, 26 November 2007

Tender Potato Bread


Welcome back folks to another exciting edition of the Daring Bakers....!

Having conquered my fear of yeast and bread, I was actually quite excited by this month's challenge hosted by the great Tanna from My Kitchen in Half Cups. She chose to challenge us with Tender Potato Bread, a recipe from Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour & Tradition Around the World by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Now November was a particularly busy month for me. Very, very busy in fact that I ALMOST considered giving this months challenge a miss. Then, just this weekend I thought I'd give it a whirl and see if I could rise to the challenge.

We had all been warned that working with this dough was going to be different. First of all, it used potatoes. Now I've heard of potato bread that is sweet but the specific instructions here were that this recipe HAD to be savoury. I'd never used potato to make bread before so that was the first concern.

The second concern was that we were told that the amount of potato used could greatly affect the texture. We were told to use 8 ounces (for amateurs) and not more than 16 ounces (for experienced bread makers). I decided to go with 12 ounces but after washing and paring the potatoes, I weighed them again and they had lost 2 ounces. Now if only that would work for me, I could give up doing this Daring Baker stuff and open a Weight Loss Centre. First customer of course - ME!

Third concern, this dough was a soft dough and very, very sticky. Again, NO experience with soft, sticky dough. I would need to wing it. See, I always knew I should have gone to Flight school. So many things in life I seem to wing. Since I seem to wing thing so well, I should have just made it into a career. I blame my father for not letting me go to Flight school. I could be a professional Wing Man today....

And he digresses yet again!! Yes, Ladies and Gentleman, the man has a disease. He cannot stay on topic and true to form, he digresses....!

Anyway, Oh dear, I've actually lost track of what I wanted to say. Oh yes, 3 concerns and lastly, time. So much to do, so little time.

So, I washed the potatoes, peeled them, cut them, boiled them till very soft and everything looked like it was going well.

Then I mashed the potatoes, added in the potato water, let it rest added in the flour and yeast, let it rest, added in the butter and the whole wheat flour and another two cups of flour. Alls Quiet on the Western Front.

But I had forgotten that I was in the East and not the West. So perhaps all was NOT so quiet. The enemy was lurking just beyong the trenches.....

You see this is EXACTLY the point where I had to start to wing things. The recipe said "At this point you have used 4 cups of the possible 8 ½ cups suggested by the recipe." and I was supposed to "incorporae flour as needed to prevent sticking". But we had been told that the final dough was going to be sticky. So how? How now brown cow?

And so I kneaded and added flour and kneaded and added more flour and kneaded some more. It all started to come together and I thought it was all good. I had forgotten to measure how much flour I had incorporated but by the way I was adding flour, I put it at a total of about 7 cups.

Now it was time to proof it and I left it to sit while I went about my other business. After about 1.5 hours, it had more than doubled and I turned it out to knead again. The flour was extremely sticky and also rather moist. Very moist in fact. My fingers were sticky and gooey and so I decided to just plop 2/3 of the dough into a large pan and shape it into a Focaccia.

Then I tried to roll the remaining dough into rolls but the dough was just too darned sticky. This is where I started using expletives. Beep. Beeping Hell and Beep, Beep, Beep! I was Beeping so much I could have been the Beeping Roadrunner! I added more flour but it was still too Beeping sticky to roll. Beep. Beep. Beep!

Then a light bulb went off in my head! And I was no longer the Roadrunner but Wile E.Coyote (remember how he used to get an idea and a lightbulb would light up over his head? You dont remember? Am I than old???!) Anyway, the idea was to drop the dough on to the pan like drop biscuits. Very clever I thought to myself. Well done Agent 99.

So I left everything to proof again and went to clean up and found that my sink was clogged. Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!!! Beep. Beep! Beep!! BEEEEP!!!!

But that's another story and I don't think any of you are really interested in my clogged sink. Such uncaring people.... humph. That's another reason for the lack of in-progress photos. No silly. Not because you don't care about my sink but precisely Because of the clogged sink! I wasn't going to risk getting dough on my precious Digital SLR.

After half an hour, the dough had risen beautifully. I popped the Focaccia in the oven after seasoning it with oregano and seasoned salt. After baking it, it had risen very nicely and I popped it out and let it cool while I baked the rolls.

So! Daring Baker Challenge completed. Well almost, because the proof of the pudding is in the eating and in this case, the proof of the potato bread is in the eating. Pardon the pun about proofing there..... Yes, yes, I'm really in a funny mood tonight. Absolutely Bloody Hilarious!

The Focaccia was tasty. Very tasty indeed although I thought it may have been a little undercooked. However, it tasted a darn site better the next morning.


The rolls were nicer though. Very soft and with a nice crumb. Only problem though, the rolls tasted a little bland and this is where I realised I had forgotten the second tablespoon of salt. Actually, I added in another TEAspoon of salt rather than TABLEspoon. I.D.i.O.T. The small 'i' in the centre is just to emphasise how small I felt at my lack of cleverness. I always tell my children not to say 'stupid', so
just in case they read this in years to come.....



There was a LOT of bread so the next morning, which is this morning (at time of writing that is) unless you believe strongly in the Theory of Quantum Physics in which case Time can be manipulated but only if you really understand it and you cant really understand it if you claim to do so and I really dont know what I'm talking about so maybe I didnt even eat the potato bread this morning......or understand Quantum Physics for that matter. Which I dont. And never claimed to do.

So! Another succesful Daring Bakers Challenge. Well sort off, as I think I needed more flour and I should have added that tablespoon of salt. Nonetheless, I took the Focaccia to my parents house where they, along with my aunts who were there, were rather astounded at the Tender Potato Focaccia. My father asked if I had bought a breadmaker and I proudly puffed out my chest, sucked my stomach in and declared - "The only breadmaker I have are these hands."

Thanks Tanna for a great challenge although I seriously, seriously doubt I will ever make this again. But the thing is, now I know I CAN make it and that's all because of you...and of course, that in essence, is one of the reasons why I AM a Daring Baker!!!!

Check out the rest of the fabulous team at the Daring Bakers Blogroll

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Fruit Tarts



One of my son's favourites is Fruit Tarts. So when he asked for fruit tarts for his birthday, we couldn't well refuse could we?

The Fruit Tarts are basically a shortcrust shell filled with custard and then topped with sliced fruits before being covered in a thin apricot jam glaze.

Fruit Tarts are really a team effort in my home. I dont have the patience to make tart shells but The Lovely Wife does. She makes the dough herself and then patiently presses the dough into the moulds. I dont mind helping with this, just as long as I don't have to do too many! She however, doesnt quite have the confidence to make custard, even the Birds Custard Powder variety - so that is my department. This time, even Sarah jumped on the bandwagon and helped to make the tart shells!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Stuffed Lumaconi



Michael's birthday this year fell on a Thursday and the previous night we had a conversation that went something like this.

Mike: "Dads, can we go out for dinner tomorrow?"
"Sure! Where would you like to go?"
Mike: "I don't know. I don't know all the names of the places"
"Well, what would you like to eat?"
Mike: "..errr.... Can we have pasta?"
"Tell you what Mike. Instead of going out for Pasta, why don't I make you some pasta instead?"
Mike: "Can you? I like Daddy's pasta better!"
"Sure boy, I'll try and get home a little early and I'll make you dinner. What kind of pasta would you like?"
Mike: "I think I like Daddy's creamy pasta..oh! no, no.. I think the tomatoey pasta is better."
"Why don't I make you a special pasta. Something you've never had before?"
Mike: "Like what Dads?"
"Like a pasta tube filled with meat, spinach and cheese all covered in tomato sauce"
Mike: "Mmmmmm! That sounds yummy" (as he rubbed his tummy)

And so I planned to make my son a Cannelloni dish although I've never made Cannelloni before. The plan was to make the filling out of beef with some spinach thrown in and then some cheese sauce mixed in. I would then bake the whole thing in a tomato based sauce infused with loads of mushrooms.

Since the Lovely Wife had taken the day off from work, I asked her to get me the pasta and the ingredients I would need. Unfortunately, she couldn't find Cannelloni anywhere and so she bought some large shells, otherwise known as Lumaconi. I'd never seen nor used Lumaconi before so a quick Internet search revealed that Lumaconi are also known as Snail Shell pasta. That would make absolute sense since aside from looking very much like snail shells, Lumaca actually means snails.



You'd have gathered by now that I don't have specific recipes for anything and it's all just a smidgen of this and a dash of that but I'll try and reproduce it as accurately as possible! This is quite a large recipe and I managed to get two and a half baking trays worth of Stuffed Lumaconi!

Ingredients:
For the meat filling:
500g Minced Beef
1 large onion
5 cloves garlic
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
250 g chopped spinach (I use fresh spinach that is blanched and then chopped)
200 g cheddar cheese
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
300 g milk
Salt

For the tomato sauce
3 cloves garlic
400 g button mushrooms
3 bay leaves
4 large tomatoes
1 can stewed tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
Black Pepper
Salt


Method:
Fry the garlic and onions till soft. Add in the ground beef and cook well. Add in the cooked chopped spinach. Mix well. Set aside. Make the cheese sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan. Add in the flour cook till smooth. Add in the milk. Bring mixture to the boil. Sauce will thicken. Add in cheese and season with salt. Add cheese sauce into the beef. Set aside.



Slice mushrooms thinly. Sautee garlic and bay leaves till fragrant. Add in mushrooms and cook till juices come out. Add in fresh tomatoes and cook till soft. Add in stewed tomatoes and tomato paste. Simmer till sauce thickens.

Cook the Lumaconi till al dente. Rinse with cool water and drain. Place meat mixture into a piping bag or other piping device and pipe into the cooked shells.



Place a thin layer of sauce on a baking dish and arrange the shells in the dish. Cover the shells with remaining sauce and bake in a preheated 180C oven for about 30 minutes. I covered the dish with some foil as I felt there wasn't enough sauce to completely cover the Lumaconi and I was afraid the pasta would be crusty.



The Lumaconi turned out fantastic. It was very tasty albeit a little bit rich. The combination of flavours was just right and after eating 5 shells, I was stuffed! My mother joined us for dinner that night and she enjoyed the Stuffed Lumaconi too.


As for the birthday boy, he thoroughly enjoyed this 'new pasta'. He managed to finish 6 shells all by himself! A rather mean feat considering how filling this dish was.



I worry sometimes that I might be spoiling the kids as far as food goes coz I never had any 'gourmet' pasta for my sixth birthday! Then again, there's nothing wrong with being exposed to good food at a young age and developing a 'refined palate'....!


I've also submitted this as an entry to Presto Pasta Nights hosted by my lovely friend Ruth over at Onceuponafeast.blogpsot.com. It's my EIGHTH entry Ruth!!

Note: Incidentally, for all you English and grammar purists out there (I'm normally one of them!) my kids call me Dads (Yes. with an 's') intentionally. Sometimes even Mum or Mummy becomes Mums. Don't ask me why - but it's kinda cute, so I let it be!

Monday, 19 November 2007

Pirate Ship Birthday Cake



My son Michael turned 6 on the 15th of November. We had decided that we weren't going to have a birthday party this year for Michael but that didn't mean that he wouldn't get a Birthday Cake to cut!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I made brownies for him to take to Kindergarten on Tuesday 13 November for a Fancy Dress party the school was hosting. Then on his actual birthday, Thursday 15 November I made a chocolate cake to cut at school. On Saturday, 17 November, I made the cake for him to cut as his 'official' Birthday Cake. So regardless of having a party or not, he still had a fancy cake to cut.

In any case, with his cousins, uncles and aunts, granparents and godparents visiting, there were still enough people to make up a party. It was a lot easier having a much smaller crowd though and we didn't have to cook a whole lot of food.

But as usual, I digress. This is about his Birthday Cake - Not his birthday party, or lack of one!

Unlike previous years, Michael didn't really know what cake he wanted this time around. He left the decision to me and so I decided on a Pirate Cake. He is into Pirates (among a whole slew of other things) at the moment and he even dressed up as a pirate for the abovementioned Fancy Dress party.

The cake really wasn't all that difficult to make. What I did was to make two round chocolate cakes. I'm going to try and explain this with the aid of some graphics too so that it becomes clearer to everyone. No one seemed to understand my verbal description of how I assembled the cake!!

First, bake two round cakes. I used a 10" springform pan. After the cakes are baked and cooled, stack both rounds on top of each other. This is simply to make it easier to cut and also to ensure symmetry.



Cut the cakes in half horizontally and also the top ends as the above dots show.



You will be left with a trapezoidal-like shape as above. The top ends are cut to enable the cake to stand vertically on the board. The next step is to stack each trapezoidal together, shorter end on the botton. Use some drinking straws passed through all 4 'slices' of cake to secure it. The top flat part now forms the deck of your cake. Using 2 of the 4 remaining arcs, position them to form the bow or front of the ship, as below.


Then fill the empty part with the remaining cake. You now have your ship! If you want to be a bit more creative (I thought of this AFTER making the cake) cut out a 'valley' or depression in the middle of the cake, something like this \_________/ so that you have a raised bow and stern (front and back of ship).

Next step is to ice the cake. I used a light colour for the top of the cake as the deck and darker chocolate icing all around the whole cake. I then used a triangle icing comb to create grooves all around the iced cake.

Now for the masts and the Bowsprit (this is the long piece in front that sticks out of the boat) I printed out red stripes on to white paper and used that for the sails. I cut them out into different sizes for the main sail, main top sail and foresail. This would be a good time to teach your child about what the parts of the ship are called too!!

Wooden skewers acted as the mast for the sails. Simply poke the skewers through the tops of the paper and curve the paper slightly in the shape of sails. Then secure the sails to the skeweres with some sticky tape. This is simply to ensure that the sails don't slip down. Then poke the skewers into the cake. For the Bowsprit, I simply taped together a bunch of skewers with masking tape and then poked it into the front of the cake. There you have it - a lovely sailing ship.

I finished off the cake by attaching a printed out Jolly Roger to a straw and placing the straw over the Mainmast skewer. I intentionally let the pirate flag hang in a sloping manner as pirates are supposed to be untidy and reckless. Then I tied some twine to each mast as a form of rigging.

Finally, I used some of Michael's toy cannons and treasure chest to place on the cake. I even added some Kit Kat Bites as cannon balls!



But.... when it was time to cut the cake, I realised there was no place to put the candles!!! I couldn't very well put them on top for fear of the sails catching fire.

What I did was to place the candles horizontally on the side of the ship, a little like mini cannons!!


Yes! Another succesful project and another very happy Birthday Boy. Aaaarrrhhggg! Avast ye mateys!!

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Knee Deep in Cakes.....

Yeah, this past week has been cakes, cakes cooking and more cakes!
After finishing my grandmother's cake on Saturday, I made Brownies for my son to take to kindy on Tuesday for a fancy dress party they held. Then his Birthday was yesterday, 15 November and I made him a Chocolate Cake to take to kindergarten to cut and share with his friends and teachers.

Last night, I made him a Pasta dish and then this evening I baked his 'fancy-smancy' Birthday cake to cut tomorrow at his 'party'. I haven't finished decorating it yet though but I'm going to leave that till tomorrow. So I really feel like I'm knee deep in cakes.

I guess I should also explain why I say "party in inverted commas". Well, this is simply because we had decided that we were NOT going to throw him a party this year. I would make a nice cake for him to cut and we would just cut it among ourselves. However, dear old Michael insisted that his grandparents come along as well. Then he asked if his cousins could come. To cut along story short, we are having quite a few people over BUT we are not throwing a party and we are NOT cooking loads and loads of food like we normally do.

There is his cake of course, and the lovely wife is making fruit tarts. More like the shells coz the custard part is my job. We've also ordered some fried noodles while the lovely wife and I are planning on making currypuffs as well. There's really no telling what else we may decide to cook tomorrow, but tomorrow is another day, so I'm going to get a good nights sleep and think about the cake and everything else tomorrow.........

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Pomelo Salad

Pomelo's are widely available in Malaysia, and are particularly famous in Ipoh, Tapah and Bidor. On a recent (end Oct) work related trip to Ipoh, I was instructed by not only my wife but my son and daughter as well - "Make sure you buy some Pomelo's on the way back."

I've learnt that safest thing to do is to do as I am told. Especially as far as my children are concerned!

I'm not a big fan of the Pomelo but the lovely wife and kids love it. For those that don't know what a Pomelo is, it's like a large lime. Perhaps a better way to describe it would be like an Asian Grapefruit? The peel is thick while the flesh inside is sweetish with a slide bitter aftertaste.



The picture above doesn't quite give an idea of how large a Pomelo is. The picture could simply be a magnification of a lime for all you know. So... compare the Pomelo to the head of an almost 4 year old. Yes, this is a pomelo next to the head of my 4 year old (going on 52!!) daughter, Sarah.



The lovely wife and kids polished off one whole pomelo at one sitting and then on the weekend my wife decided to make a pomelo salad. Basically, its the flesh of the pomelo placed in a bowl.



Then seasoned with some fish sauce, lemon juice, chopped shallots, chopped chillis and some peanuts.



Easy Peasy! Lovely on its' own or as a side dish.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

100th Birthday Cake

the 100th Birthday Cake

How many of us are fortunate to know someone that is a 100 years old? How many of us that have kids still have our grandparents around? I'm fortunate enough to have a Grandmother that is a 100 years old!

Yes! I kid you not. My dear Grandma celebrates her 100th birthday TODAY. This very day, the 11th of November 2007, my grandmother Ruth Gwendoline Maude Ponnama Navaratnam turns 100. Happy Birthday Grandma!!

A thanksgiving service was held in Church this morning and tonight, there is a dinner party for friends and relatives. I was given the task to bake the cake. Task is not the right word surely - I was given the Honour of making the cake. Yes, it was truly an honour to make the 'official' birthday cake for my Grandma.

I'm not terribly experienced at decorating cakes. Sure, I've done a few for my kids birthdays, but thats really the extent of my decorating skills. And with making your own kids birthday cakes, you know that however good or bad it turns out, the kids will still love it. This was going to be a little bit more difficult as there would be a lot of people at the dinner party. That also meant a Huge Cake!

The picture doesnt quite reflect the size of the cake so let me give you an idea. The cake board had to be specially ordered to accomodate the cake. The board measures 2ft square. The cake itself was about 22 x 18 (inches) and in total weightwise (including the icing) about 7 kilos! Indeed, I had quite a time baking, decorating and icing the cake.

I wanted the cake to be original, simple yet classy. So this is what I decided to do. Firstly, I decided I would create a Monogram to go on the cake. Since my Grandma's first name is Ruth and since everyone knows her as Aunty Ruthie, a Monogram 'R' seeemed the logical choice.

Then I decided on a large '100' in the centre of the cake. That I figured I could do quite easily. For some ideas, I spent one morning at the local Wilton shop and ended up buying stencils for borders and corners. I also bought a lettering stencil because heaven knows I cant write neatly let alone pipe neatly using freehand! I also found some nice sugarpaste flowers at the local baking goods store.
So I had the plan all worked out in my head and I had the supplies. It was time to make the cake.

I started two days earlier with the Monogram 'R'. It's made out of chocolate, slowly piped layer upon layer to make it thick. Once I knew it would set and hold firm, I chucked it in the freezer.

Early Saturday morning (yesterday) I woke up early to bake the cakes. I made two large butter cakes and joined them together. I let the cakes cool and then later covered the entire cake with buttercream icing. I had printed out a large '100' from my PC and I used this as a stencil, marking out the outline with a toothpick on to the firmed up icing. With the '100' done it was now time to rest a while and I also had been invited to my Boss' Hari Raya Open house together with the family.

Later at night, it was time to ice the borders. I used the stencil I bought from Wilton to make indentations on the icing and then piped in the pattern. Then I piped stars all around the top of the cake and shells along the bottom of the cake.

the 100th Birthday Cake

Next, I fished out the chocolate Monogram 'R' and piped a layer of white buttercream on top to give it contrast.
the 100th Birthday Cake

The monogram was placed in the centre of the cake and then the Orange flowers at the side. I realised at that point that the letter stencils I had were a bit too large and there wouldn't be enough space to spell out Happy Birthday.

I had a plan though. I would get some ready made sugarpaste letters after the church service from the Wilton shop. Alas, it was Sunday and the shop was closed. But of course, the lovely wife had another idea. Why not get a cake shop (bakery) to just pipe out some icing on marzipan and stick in on the cake. I knew there was a reason I married the lovely wife!!! :)

We managed to get one shop to pipe out Happy Birthday on to a strip of white chocolate and we placed that on the cake.

the 100th Birthday Cake

The following is to be said in a Yoda like voice. For those too young to
appreciate this, my apologies....


"Hmmmm.... Complete now that cake is. Deliver it we must...."

And so the cake was delivered to my grandmother's house and my aunts, uncles and other relatives that were there thought it was a lovely looking cake. My Grandmother insisted on seeing the cake too and she was delighted.

I hope it is just as warmly received at tonight's dinner party and I hope it tastes as good as it looks!!
the 100th Birthday Cake

But it doesnt quite matter how good it tastes or how well it is received. Not many people get the chance to bake a Birthday Cake for their Grandmother let alone the chance to bake the 100th Birthday Cake for their Grandmother. That in itself is something very, very special!

Happy Birthday Grandma!

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Nutella Madness and a homemade recipe


One of the many foods that I have had a long love affair with is Nutella. As a kid, I used to eat Nutella by the bottles. In those days, Nutella was sold in tall patterned glass tumblers. In fact, once washed, these tumblers became nice glasses. Everyone used to wonder where we bought our drinking glasses from!

Nutella, these days, doesn't come in those nice tumblers anymore, otherwise I would have a nice collection of glasses! However, my parents still have a large stock of these tumblers that always brings back fond memories of my younger days gobbling up Nutella.

Now one thing I've learnt is that this world can be a rather fascinating place. Who would have thought that my food blogging would one day lead me to find a fellow foodie and web friend who has links to the makers of Nutella?

Yes! It's true! I now have a friend who has a connection (albeit unproven but yet highly likely) to the Ferrero family who are the makers of Nutella as well as Ferrero Rocher. How cool is that! How did this happen? Well, said friend, Dolores, used to leave comments on my blog and one day I noticed her surname - Ferrero. I jokingly asked her if she was related to the chocolate spread makers and the answer was 'most probably' and she gave me this link to her blog Culinary Curiosity to read up on which I reproduce for you.

That was rather exciting. I also learnt that tic-tacs are made by Ferrero too. Never knew that. Bet you didn't either. Now you do. And so do I!

Anyway, since I ove Nutella so much, I decided to troll the web and look for a homemade recipe for Nutella. Did I mention that I was going to buy this HUGE manufacturing plant, modify it and retrofit it so that it can manufacture Nutella and put Ferrero out of business?

Yeah, Yeah I jest. But it would be a fun thing to do!

Anyway, ignoring my little aside, I found that there were a number of different recipes available ranging from using butter to cream but the one that seemed most 'genuine' was this recipe below.

Strangely enough there are two people that claim credit to it and since the recipes are so remarkably similar, I credit them both.
Stephanie Gallagher of healthycooking.suite101 and
Jessica Su of Sugoodsweets.com

Homemade Nutella Recipe
2 cups chopped hazelnuts
3/4 cup to 1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
1/8 to 1/4 cup canola oil
Place hazelnuts in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until nuts start to clump together in a ball. This will take some time (about five minutes), so be patient. Add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder and process again for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture turns dark and the ingredients are well combined. Now, slowly drizzle in enough oil to make a spread.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 weeks.


I halved the recipe and I roasted the hazelnuts in the oven first and peeled off the skins. Then I processed the nuts till the oils started to come out. I must admit that my food processor is a little old and so the nuts didn't grind up as fine as I would have liked. No matter. I added in the sugar and the cocoa as per the recipe but found that more sugar and cocoa was required to get it more like the authentic Nutella taste.

Original Nutella and Home made

I couldn't wait to try it and neither could my daughter. She loves Nutella too. So we both slathered it on thick on to slices of bread and munched away.


It was good. Vey good! Aside from the spread being a little grainy
due to the nuts not being ground well enough, the taste was definitely Nutella!! Yes, yes, definitely not as good as the original but a darn good home recipe nonetheless. I also realised that its cheaper to buy Nutella than to make the homemade version simply because Hazelnuts are expensive over here and I could buy a jar of Nutella for the same price as just the hazelnuts.

It was fun being able to make my own Nutella though and I'm going to keep this recipe just in case I end up some place where I cant get my supply of Nutella.

Now I wonder what I can make in that new manufacturing plant of mine......(One can dream right?!!)

Friday, 2 November 2007

Lamingtons



Cricket, Midnight Oil, Aussie Rules and barracking for the Roos, Cold Chisel, Vic Bitter, Meat Pies n a can o'coke, Salt and Vinegar chips.......

These are some of the things I experienced and that now form extremely fond memories from the time I was a student in Australia. Yeah, in many ways, I was a True Blue Dinky-Di Aussie!

Something else that I used to thoroughly enjoy were Lamingtons. You could say that this is something typically and uniquely Aussie as I have never found it anywhere else. Some even go so far as to claim the Lamington as Australia's National Cake.

A Lamington is basically a small cube of white sponge that is coated in chocolate icing and then covered in dessicated coconut. Some versions are filled with cream or strawberry jam. In my uni days, I always loved Lamingtons and used to frequently pop down to the nearby Milk Bar (local mini grocery store) to pick up a lamington or two to stuff my face with.




Recently, a relation brought some lamingtons down from Oz and my son declared that he liked them - a lot! So..... I decided I would try to make them. After all, not only do the two of us like Lamingtons, the lovely wife likes them as well.

I used the lamington recipe from The Australian Women's Weekly Old Fashioned Favourites. It goes like this

Ingredients:
6 eggs
2/3 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup cornflour
1/2 cup plain flour
1/3 cup self raising flour

4 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
15 g butter, melted
1 cup milk
2 cups dessicated coconut.

Method:
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease 20cm x30cm Lamington pan. Line with baking paper, extending paper 5 cm over long sides.
Beat eggs with electric mixer for about 10 minutes till thick and creamy. Beat in the sugar, dissoliving between additions. Fold in triple sifted flours.
Spread mixture evenly into pan. Bake for about 35 mintues. Turn cake immediately ontoa baking paper covered wire rack to cool.
Meanwhile make icing. Sift icing sugar and cocoainto medium heatproof bowl. Stir in melted butter and milk. Set bowl over medium saucepan of simmering water. Stir until icing is of coating consistency.
Cut cake into 16 pieaces. Dip each square in icing. Drain off excess. Toss the squares in coconut. Place lamingtons on wire rack to set.


The cake turned out fairly well although I felt it was a little bit too airy. The lamingtons I am used to have a firmer, less airy texture. Perhaps I didn't fold the flour in quick and smoothly enough.

The icing was also a little runny and it was kind of hard to coat the cake pieces with it. However, it seemed to set up nicely and looked fine once the coconut covered the cake.

It tasted pretty yummy though! I still think I prefer the lamingtons I used to get at the milk bar but for a first attempt, this was pretty darn good! Michael liked it too so all in all, I consider this a success.



.....I loved my time Down Under, but one thing I never, ever liked was Vegemite - and that's Fair Dinkum mate!

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