Friday, September 30, 2011

A Raspberry Shortcake by any other name

I do love a good biscuit.
It's also kind of disgusting but true that, sometimes for breakfast, I have two Delta Cream biscuits with my cup of English breakfast. It shows great restraint that I only have two...

The biscuit thing is only on weekdays at work, though, and only if the work biscuit jar has been stocked with 'nice' bikkies, like Delta Creams and Shortbread Creams. On the weekend, it's a piece of toast (with various spreads such as Vegemite or jam) and a soft-boiled egg. Nothing better than a nice hot cuppa while nibbling on some toast and reading the weekend papers. Tabitha cat has recently gotten into the act, stealing my chair and eyeing the toast...

Back to the biscuits - another of my favourites are Raspberry Shortcakes. Having one (or two) of these with a cup of T2 China Jasmine is an after-dinner ritual that I won't be giving up any time soon. I recently spied a recipe for 'Anglesey Cakes' that are just like Raspberry Shortcakes, and this British take on the bikkies is a winner (recipe is from the versatile and useful Baked and Delicious mag). I added a bit more salt than the recipe stated, and this gave a pleasing not-quite-sweet, not-quite-salty flavour that goes well with the sweet raspberry jam.

Raspberry Shortcakes | Anglesey Cakes
makes about 20 filled biscuits

225g (8oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g (4oz) caster sugar
350g (12oz) self-raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup raspberry jam
2 tblsp icing sugar

1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy and light in colour. Beat in the flour and salt and mix to combine.
2. Bring the dough together to firm a ball. If the dough is very soft, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before continuing. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to a thickness og 6mm (1/4inch). Use a 5cm (2inch) cookie cutter to cut out 40 circles. Re-roll any dough offcuts if necessary. Use a smaller cutter, or the end of a piping nozzle, to cut a small circle out of half the circles.
3. Arrange the biscuits on baking trays lined with baking paper, allow some room for the dough to spread. Bake for about 10 minutes until risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack.
4. Before serving, spread raspberry jam on one half of a biscuit and sandwich it together with another biscuit (with a hole). Sprinkle with icing sugar.

recipe adapted from Baked and Delicious

Ingredients, including caster sugar, butter, self-raising flour (I used gluten-free flour) and raspberry jam

This is quite a soft dough (and it was a warmish day), so I found it easiest to roll out only small portions of the dough at a time before cutting.

Lovely unbaked hearts, all in a row

Sandwich the halves together with raspberry jam, or try apricot jam instead.

A dusting of icing sugar completes this tasty biscuit.

That's an Arnott's Raspberry Shortcake ('raspberry flavoured fun') on the left.
Both are good, but homemade is usually better!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fish cakes, pickled cucumber, birthday wishes

Do you have lots of kitchen appliances and gadgets? A tool for every occasion?

My birthday is coming up, and, as usual, I was thinking of asking the birthday fairy for an electric mixer (eg. white KitchenAid).  This thought has gone through my mind for, oh, the past 4 years or so. But the feeling soon passes - until Christmas. But then Santa doesn't hear my plea and I forget about it till the next year.

This time, as a backup plan, I'm also thinking about an ice cream maker (Cuisinart 1.5litre) and/or a food processor. The latter is a recent thing because my current processor is just a stick blender with a small bowl attachment, and after making these fish cakes, the lid has developed a hairline crack and some water has leaked into it and now it makes a sloshing sound when you shake it.

But then I think of my small, neat, open kitchen with limited bench and cupboard space and push the thought out of my mind. The birthday fairy is safe from having to leave appliances under my pillow for another year.

Fish Cakes with Pickled Cucumber
serves 2

400g firm, white-fleshed fish fillets
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, seeded, finely chopped
2 spring (green) onions, finely chopped
1 Lebanese cucumber, halved lengthways
Juice of 1 small lime
1 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs vegetable oil
Steamed rice and lime wedges, to serve

1. Process fish in a food processor until a coarse paste forms. Transfer to a large bowl. Add garlic, half the chopped chilli and spring onion, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Shape heaped tablespoonfuls of mixture into 'cakes'.

2. Using a teaspoon, remove seeds from cucumbers. Discard seeds then slice cucumbers thinly on the diagonal. Place cucumbers, remaining chilli, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Cook fish cakes, in batches, for 2 minutes each side or until golden and cooked through. Drain on paper towels. Serve with pickled cucumber, steamed rice and lime wedges.

recipe adapted from

Ingredients, including white fish (I used basa fillets), spring onion, fish sauce, cucumber, chilli, lime juice and brown sugar

Scrape the seeds from the cucumber to make the sweetly refreshing pickle.
The fishcakes are fairly sticky, so use a spoon (rather than your hands) to scoop them into the pan. Let them brown on one side first, then flip them and flatten with a spatula to cook the other side.

Serve the fishcakes with the drained cucumbers and some rice.

Yum, these fishcakes have a firm texture and excellent flavour, only slightly spicy from the chilli.
Some ice cream would finish off the meal nicely. If only I had an ice cream maker....

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Apricot apple fruit loaf and a Cat's Decision

It must be the gradual change in the weather, but with the coming of Spring, I’ve been buzzing around like a busy bee. Flitting from task to task, home to work then back again, daydreaming of holidays on deserted islands. Multi-tasking to the max!

As a result, there hasn’t been much time to prepare photo-worthy meals for this blog (apologies). I mean, shoving a couple of frozen fish fillets and a tray of beer-battered potato fries into the oven after a day at the office doesn’t really make for riveting browsing, does it? Or does it????

Don’t worry, though. There is an hour free on weekends that allows for baking of sweet treats, so be prepared for a couple of recipes (max. two) featuring biscuits and bread.

And here’s the bread recipe, cos I like to keep my promises. It's a loaf that's full of fruit and yet gluten-free, thanks to the gluten-free flour that I received from the nice people at Vitarium. Speaking of which, I have to mention the Great Vitarium Bake Off (details here) - lots of recipes and great prizes for cooking with their product, and it's all gluten-free.

Apricot and Apple Fruit Loaf
serves 10

1 cup dried apricots, halved
1 cup dried apple slices, roughly chopped
½ cup dried cranberries (Craisins)
½ cup caster sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups gluten-free self-raising flour
1 ¾ cups milk
½ cup flaked almonds
butter, to serve

1. Combine apricots, apple, cranberries, sugar, cinnamon and flour in a bowl. Add 1 ½ cups milk. Stir to combine. Cover. Refrigerate overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 190°C/170°C fan-forced. Grease a 6cm-deep, 10cm x 20cm (base) loaf pan. Stand apricot mixture at room temperature for 10 minutes. Stir in remaining milk. Add half the almonds. Stir until just combined.

3. Spoon mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle with remaining almonds. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Stand in pan for 5 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Serve toasted with butter.

recipe adapted from

Delicious dried fruits: apple, apricots and cranberries
These are soaked overnight with flour and milk, so you should start this recipe the day before.

The gluten-free SF flour has a very fine texture and produces a light-textured loaf with a crisp crust.

Look at how luscious that fruit is.
All the bread needs is a light toasting and lots of butter.


A Cat's Decision:

Tabitha cat thinks: "Should I try the loaf on the left or the warm buttered slice on the right?"
"Or right?"

Tabitha: "The cats of Australia have made their choice.
  Buttered fruit loaf, here I come...".

Bel (in the background): "Eeek! I'd better stop taking photos and move my toast...!"


Don't forget that you could win  a Subscription to Baked and Delicious magazine which includes 60 issues of Baked and Delicious (with silicone bakeware) and 4 exclusive (subscriber only) gifts, the total worth being $1,105.00.

Hurry, entries close 26th September 2011!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Apple Almond Teacake for lo-cal tea

Love a good teacake for afternoon tea?
Yes, please!

Teacakes are ideal for whipping up in a hurry because there's no fancy skills required, just a desire for some warm-from-the-oven sweetness to have with a cup of tea. Also, teacakes are meant to be eaten straight away, so they can be made smaller so they cook more quickly, too.

This delcious cake was made at the last minute, using ingredients lying around the kitchen. The apple and almond on top add some texture to the moist cake, and instead of sugar, I used a natural sweetener, Natvia. I must say that I like using this sweetener when baking cakes - it doesn't taste artificial (because it's not), it seems sweeter than sugar (so you can use less), and best of all, it has 95% fewer calories than sugar (and that's v. good for this little dumpling). I also added some to my cuppa tea, so it was (almost) a low-cal afternoon tea. Which is why I had, um, 'more than one' slice of cake. It all balances out. Doesn't it? 

Apple and Almond Teacake
Serves 8

125g butter
½ cup Natvia or sugar
2 eggs
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup buttermilk (or normal milk)
1 small apple, grated
¼ cup flaked almonds

1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Grease and line a 20cm round springform pan; grease the paper as well.
2. Cream butter and Natvia/sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat until combined.
3. Stir in half the sifted flour and baking powder with half the buttermilk, then add the remaining flour and milk. Stir well to combine.
4. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with grated apple and almonds. Bake in preheated oven for 40-45 minutes. Stand for 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve warm.

Ingredients, including, flour, buttermilk, apple, eggs, butter and almonds.
Thanks to Flujo for the sample of Natvia (more info here)

Sprinkling apple and almonds on the cake before baking

A lovely, moist teacake

One slice or two?
Er, don't mind if I do!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Xanthi rocks the shops

So. Saturday = shopping + eating out.
This is the equation I've been following lately, and it's a winner.

Working from first principles, this Saturday started with a visit to Westfield Bondi Junction to look for a cat bowl. This was brought about because I accidentally broke Tabitha cat's previous bowl. I hadn't visited WBJ for a while, and was disappointed to find that one of its two pet stores had since closed. Fortunately found a reasonable-looking cat bowl at the backup pet store. Tabitha is pleased. 

Fast forward to the 'eating out', please? OK. Trained it back to Westfield Sydney for a late lunch at Xanthi. Not having had the delight of eating at its previous incarnation (Perama at Petersham), and having salivatingly read about other bloggers' visits there, this was something I was looking forward to.

Xanthi is open all day (from 8am) and it's the perfect place for a civilised coffee, snack or full meal after the exhaustion of looking for pet supplies. We arrived just after 3pm, and there was plenty of room, so we chose a table at one of the booths - seats are covered in colourful woven coverings.

Onto the food - we chose several Ouzomezedakia (small shared plates, like tapas), and a well-known main.

Light Greek beer - Craft Red Pale Ale ($10) - wonderfully light accompaniment to the food.
Tarama dip ($7) - best tarama ever. Normally, I don't like it, but this runs several rings around the supermarket stuff. Light and tangy, comes with seed-encrusted crunchy toast.
Vine dolmathes ($9) - served warm, filled with vegetable rice. Gorgeous.

 Herbed skordalia croquettes ($7.50) - scented with mint and dill, with a tasty mayo dressing. These have to be some of the lightest croquettes around.

Fried school prawns ($9) - these tasted sweet due to the honey (and fish sauce!) in the dressing. You have to be careful when chewing these because you eat the prawns whole, and there can be some sharp bits from the head and shells. It's not hard to polish off a bowl of these, though, especially with a beer on the side.

Pork belly baklava ($18) - this is an interpretation of the famous dish from Perama. The hand-rolled filo pastry would be fantastic on its own, but here it's rolled around shredded pork belly and dates and pistachios. The pork was a little dry but helped by the mastic sauce; also, my bit of pork crackling was too chewy (though the other piece was okay).

To finish, coffee ($3 each).
Dessert was Garden of Aphrodite ($15) - sheep's milk pudding beautifully decorated with sugared rose petals, yellow beetroot, mandarin, dark chocolate, ouzo meringue (just like pop rocks!) with raspberry and beetroot puree. So pretty. The pudding tasted pretty amazing, too, very creamy. 

The remnants of a great lunch. 
Chef prepares our pork belly baklava in the open kitchen.
Ouzo trolley.
When the curtains are drawn back, the restaurant is open to the levels downstairs.

Entrance to Xanthi. There are windows into the kitchen area, so you can see what's going on. There's also a coffee servery outside, with Greek coffee preparation paraphernalia.
Chef David Tsirekas takes a breather before the evening rush.

Greek restaurants in Sydney are a rarity, so I'm ecstatic that Xanthi has opened in a central place (to us, at least) for everyone to enjoy.  I love the idea of small sharing plates as well as having the option of a 3-course meal.  Xanthi has the new Chat Thai and Spiedo as next-door neighbours, as well as early tenant, Sky Phoenix, so level 6 of Westfield is shaping up to be a cut above the admittedly decent foodcourt on level 5.
Oh, and JB HiFi is also on this level, so when you roll out of the resto after your fabulous meal, you can drop into JB and caress the flat-screen TVs, PCs and cameras. That's what I did! 

Xanthi is on Level 6, Westfield Sydney, Pitt St, Sydney
ph:  9232 8535

Xanthi Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Haloumi Pea Fritters and cheese reminiscences

Are you a cheese fiend? Love a bit of Gruyere, Cheddar, Brie or mild Blue?
Join the club, me too!

It wasn't always like this because cheese wasn't prevalent in our household  when I was growing up. Except for those sticks of processed soft cheese or the foil-wrapped wedges of (processed) soft cheese.
Then, when I was a teenager, our sophisticated (to me) neighbours invited us over for a dinner party and they served this cheese that had layers of walnuts embedded in it. Oh, the style and elegance of a little wheel of walnut cheese on a platter. They had other cheeses as well, but I only remember the walnut one. It was the start of my love of cheese, and I would bug my mother to buy walnut cheese at every opportunity, until I got sick of it. Do they still make walnut-layered cheese? I must keep an eye out for it, for old time's sake.

Here is a recipe using another favourite cheese, the squeaky, salty, versatile haloumi.

Haloumi and Pea Fritters
Serves 4

½ cup plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 egg
¼ cup buttermilk
¼ cup chopped dill
1 tblsp finely grated lemon rind
2 cups fresh or frozen peas
1 cup (120g) grated haloumi
Salt and pepper
1 tblsp olive oil
2 Lebanese cucumbers, thinly sliced with a vegetable peeler
Smoked chicken or smoked trout, to serve
Tzatziki and lemon wedges, to serve

1. Place the flour, baking powder, egg, buttermilk, dill, lemon rind, peas, haloumi, and salt and pepper to taste, in a bowl and stir well until combined.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Cook 2 tablespoonfuls of the batter at a time, in batches, for 2-3 minutes each side or until golden and cooked through.
3. Place the fritters on a plate and top with the cucumber and smoked chicken/trout. Serve with tzatziki and lemon to squeeze over.

Recipe adapted from donna hay magazine.

Ingredients, including buttermilk, baking powder, egg, haloumi, frozen peas, lemon and cucumber.

Smoked chicken was my choice to accompany these fritters, but you could also use smoked trout or hot-smoked salmon.
The fritters are quite delicate, so be careful when putting them in the frypan. Push any wayward bits back into the fritter while they are cooking and they should stick.

Serve the golden brown fritters with a cooling tzatziki and strips of cucumber.

Didn't Monty Python have a cheese chart? Must look it up to see if walnut cheese is on it.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lemon delicious IS delicious

Have you ever ordered a dish at a restaurant and not expected too much of it, but then you taste it and the fireworks go off on your tastebuds?

This happened to me when I tried the Lemon Delicious at Felix bistro last year (drool over the dish here). I’d always imagined lemon delicious to be a rather old-fashioned granny dish, but it’s not; it’s deceptively light and tangy and zingy and, yes, maybe just a bit reminiscent of another era.

I was pretty happy, then, to find a recipe that produced that same ka-boom! effect as the dessert at Felix. I’ve reduced the sugar in this version to highlight the sharp lemony goodness and the result is a dessert that’s not too sweet and will have you coming back for more (if there's any left).

Lemon delicious pudding
makes 4 serves

40g butter
½ cup caster sugar
Grated rind of 1 lemon, plus 70ml lemon juice
2 eggs, separated
40g plain flour
¾ cup milk
Icing sugar, to dust

1. Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan-forced). Grease 4x1 ½ cup soufflé dishes or ramekins OR one 6-cup capacity baking dish.
2. Place butter, sugar and lemon rind in a food processor and mix until pale and creamy. Add lemon juice, egg yolks, flour and then the milk one at a time, processing well after addition of each ingredient, until a smooth batter forms.
3. Using electric beaters, beat eggwhites until soft peaks form. Lightly fold in the lemon batter.
4. Pour mixture into prepared dishes and place in a large baking pan. Pour enough hot water into the baking pan to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake for 25-30 minutes (or for 35-40 minutes if using a large dish), until top is lightly browned and set, with a creamy lemon curd underneath. Remove dishes from the pan. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

recipe adapted from BBC Australian Good Food

Ingredients: Flour, milk, eggs, sugar, lemon, butter

Place the prepared batter into small ramekins then place in a water bath before baking. The puddings do not rise very much, so there is no need to grease the ramekins all the way to the top like I did.

Golden goodness... but just wait until you dig in...

Light, fluffy sponge cake with warm lemon curd at the bottom

A dessert that lives up to its name, this really IS delicious