Saturday, July 26, 2008

One pan chocolate cake

Hello everyone, I am baking a cake tomorrow to take to work on Monday for the birthday of someone in the office. I thought it would be a good one to share with you as you can never have too many chocolate cake recipes and this one is so easy, plus its yummy. I think of it as my stand by chocolate cake as it's so reliable. Every time I have made it people ask for the recipe. I think its because it's so chocolatey and very moist. It comes from one of my favourite cook book writers, Belinda Jeffery, from her first book called Belinda Jeffery’s Tried-And-True Recipes. I really recommend this book, I have cooked nearly every recipe in it and never been disappointed.

I hope you have the opportunity for a yummy morning tea some time this week too!

Love from Jane xx

One pan chocolate cake

Serves 8-10

What you need:

· 1/3 cup cocoa powder (preferably Dutch processed)
· 75g cultured unsalted butter
· 1/3 cup light olive or vegetable oil
· 2/3 cup cool water
· 90g good quality chocolate (dark or milk), finely chopped
· 250g castor sugar
· 1 large egg
· 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
· 1 ¼ cups plain flour
· 2 teaspoons baking powder
· 1/3 cup buttermilk (or you could substitute yoghurt or sour cream)

What you do:

1. Preheat the oven to 150°C.
2. Butter a 24cm round cake tin. Line the base with buttered baking paper then dust the tin with flour. Shake out the excess flour and put it aside.
3. Put the cocoa, butter, oil and water into a fairly large saucepan.
4. Bring the mixture to the boil over a medium heat, stirring regularly until it’s smooth, then take it off the heat.
5. Add the chocolate and sugar and whisk them in until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Leave it to cool.
6. Once it has cooled, add the egg and vanilla and whisk them in thoroughly.
7. Now sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture and stir them in until they’re just combined.
8. Whisk in the buttermilk.
9. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and give it a gentle shake to even it out.
10. Bake the cake for 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the tin on a rack for 5 minutes. Then invert the cake onto the rack, remove the paper and leave it to cool completely.

When you’re ready to serve the cake, transfer it to a serving dish. You can ice it with chocolate ganache, or fresh cream and grated chocolate or berries or crushed praline.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Gruyere custards

Hello everyone, we have had a very exciting week in Sydney with World Youth Day coming to town. There have been pilgrims everywhere and they all look so happy and excited. Their presence has brought some cheer to the cold winter days, and we have been blessed with beautiful clear blue skies and loads of sunshine this week for our visitors. Having said that the nights and early mornings are freezing, so I'm glad I'm not joining the pilgrims to sleep out at Randwick Racecourse tonight. It will be bitterly cold there by about 3.00 tomorrow morning!

This morning I met a friend for a late breakfast at Balmoral, which again, with the clear blue sky and the sparkling water, was the perfect setting. Afterwards I went up to one of my favourite delis in Mosman to buy an Italian cheese for a risotto I'm making tonight. They had the cheese I was after, cut into wedges. All of the wedges were two or three times bigger than I wanted and consequently two or three times more than I wanted to pay. When I asked them if they could cut me a slice of the quantity I wanted I was told that wasn't possible as the cheese is too soft. This is not the first time I have had this experience at this deli. So I went straight across the road to a speciality cheese shop who had the same cheese and happily cut the quantity I was after. Really and truly.

So, all this cheese buying put me in mind of these gruyere custards which are not difficult at all - you really just mix and then cook in a warm bath in the oven. They are perfect for winter, whether as an entree or a light something at night if you have had a big lunch. They are from another of my favourite books, the Autumn/Winter edition of the Short Order + Seasonal book produced by Vogue Entertaining several years ago.

Have a great week, love from Jane xxx

Gruyere custards

  1. Mix together 600ml full cream milk, 80ml cream and 185g grated gruyere in a saucepan.
  2. Cook over a low heat just until the cheese melts.
  3. Mix in 6 lightly beaten eggs and season.
  4. Pour into buttered ramekins.
  5. Place the ramekins in a baking dish and pour boiling water around the ramekins, about half way up their sides. This makes a nice bath for the custards in which to cook.
  6. Bake in a 180C oven for 15 minutes until set.
  7. If you are feeling extravagant, serve with slices of baked pear drizzled with honey.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pasta in a creamy tomato sauce with lemon

Hello everyone, I had some fun earlier today shopping for a soup I am planning to make tomorrow afternoon. I am making pea and ham soup, which I have never done before. It seems like such an old fashioned (in a good sense) thing to make. Both my Nana and my Mum used to make pea and ham soup every winter and finally I am doing so too. So because it is a first, I was a little uncertain of some of the ingredients I was purchasing, namely the peas and the ham. I needed to buy 500g of split green peas, and although I have a good sense of what 500g looks like, I had a mental image of struggling home with a sack bursting with split peas. Of course it was quite a modest sized packet I found. I then went to the butcher to inquire about ham hocks, having no idea at all what I would be buying. The butcher brought out an enormous bone with lots of ham on it, so big he suggested chopping it in two for me. He assured me it would give the soup a lovely flavour. So I did struggle home with the great big ham hock, but am very much looking forward to having some lovely warming soup for dinner tomorrow night.

This week's recipe is what I think of as a slightly unusual combination of flavours, but it works well and I have marked it in my cook book as "very nice". Regular readers will know that I love the flavour of lemon, and I also love creamy sauces, which is probably why I like this one so much. It is yet another recipe from one of my favourite books, Trattoria Pasta by Loukie Werle.

It will be interesting to see how this week unfolds in Sydney with the long anticipated World Youth Day upon us. Have a great week yourself. Love from Jane xx

Pasta in a creamy tomato sauce with lemon

Serves four

What you need:
  • 1/2 cup thick cream
  • Peel of one lemon, preferably in one piece if you can
  • 3 ripe, medium sized tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 500g pasta
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

What you do:
  1. Combine the cream and lemon peel in a large pan.
  2. Slowly bring to a boil, then add the tomatoes.
  3. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the sauce starts to reduce and thicken, which will take about five minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water.
  5. Remove the lemon peel from the sauce.
  6. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce, stirring well to coat all of the pasta.
  7. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Chicken breasts stuffed with cheese

Hello everyone, in the office where I work I sit with four men who all love food and really appreciate any cooking I bring in. I made some chocolate brownies for one of them this week for his birthday and just glowed when they all exclaimed about my cooking! It is so nice to have an appreciative audience; it makes me want to bring in something freshly baked every day. Of course I would have to be up at 4.00 am to fit in all this baking, so it's not really something I'm going to do. Still, it does make me feel good!

This week's recipe is something I made during the week for dinner and it was scrumptious! It is from a beautiful book that I have cited before called "Heart Of The Home". The book is really American and I was puzzled about the instruction to use "jack cheese" - I asked a few of my American friends what this was and none of them could tell me, so I just used a cheese that melts well and it was fine. I'm usually not big on big pieces of chicken type dishes, but the blend of flavours in this one was so yummy that I loved it.

Have a wonderful week - hopefully for us in Sydney there will be a return to blue skies during the week! Love from Jane xx

Chicken breasts stuffed with cheese

Serves six

What you need:
  • 3 double chicken breasts, halved
  • 500g of a cheese that you like that will melt
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon

What you do:
  1. Preheat the oven to 190.
  2. Carefully cut a slit in the side of each single chicken breast with a sharp knife.
  3. Fill with as many slices of cheese as you can fit. Fasten tightly with toothpicks to stop the cheese oozing out while cooking.
  4. Mix together the eggs, Parmesan cheese and parsley.
  5. Dip the chicken pieces in the flour, coating well, then the egg mix.
  6. Heat the oil in a large pan over a moderately high heat.
  7. Add the chicken pieces to the pan (you might have to do a few at a time - don't overcrowd the pan) and pour the rest of the egg mix over the chicken pieces. Fry very lightly to just brown the coating.
  8. Place the chicken pieces in an oiled baking dish and if you have any cheese left, layer it on top of the chicken.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes or until cooked through.
  10. Remove the toothpicks, squeeze over the lemon juice, sprinkle on a little more chopped parsley and serve.