Monday, January 24, 2011

a fine start

A lot of what goes into this breakfast muesli depends on what I feel like at the time.  I first started making my own muesli with a recipe adapted from Bill Granger’s Open Kitchen. 

I then tried a microwave version.  Lately I’ve been messing around with the granola recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food.   I’m not sure what the difference is between muesli and granola but I still call it muesli. 

My version is usually 2 cups rolled oats, 1/3 cup whole almonds, about 12 brazil nuts, ¼ cup each of sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds.  My theory with the nuts is that there should be 4 almonds and 1 brazil nut in each serve!  If I feel like it, and sometimes I don't, I add 1/8 cup of thread coconut.  I prefer the look and texture of thread coconut to dessicated coconut.

All is then tossed together with 5 tbsp oil (Jamie used olive oil, Bill used vegetable oil, I use rice bran oil – I think olive oil would be too strong an oil for this) and 5 tbsp honey (the runny kind) or maple syrup.  I like to sneak in a teaspoon or two of the maple syrup as it would just be too decadent, not to mention costly, to use all 5 tbsp.  But it does give it a depth of flavour.  Place the mix on a baking tray in a preheated oven (160 degrees C) for about 30 minutes or until golden.  Stir every 10 minutes or so to toast evenly and break up lumps.  Dried fruit of choice can be added once the muesli has cooled.  My favourite of the moment is to drop dried cranberries into the muesli where they  “sparkle like little jewels”, as Nigella might say.   I have also used sultanas.   That would probably be all the dried fruit I would put in.  I dislike dried apricots in muesli.  Don’t ask me how many portions this makes.  As a rough guide, it may last about two weeks – but that’s only if there’s one of you. 

To serve, I add a dollop of greek yoghurt or vanilla flavoured yoghurt (I might add a little milk to thin it out), and whatever fruit I like.  It used to be halved tamarillos, topped with brown sugar and grilled.  Unfortunately the tamarillo trees are no longer.  It’s midsummer here now so perhaps blueberries, strawberries, raspberries or nectarines.  There’s always bananas and if there’s no fresh fruit then frozen blueberries or raspberries are a good substitute.   

I also love bircher muesli – but that’s another story…

Toasted Muesli
Microwave version

2 cups rolled oats
¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup sunflower seeds
approx. 40 raw almonds
approx. 15 raw brazil nuts
¼ cup canola or rice bran oil or similar (don’t use olive oil – too strong)
¼ cup runny honey

Mix the oats, seeds and nuts together.
Place the oil and honey into a small heatproof container and microwave for approx. 3 minutes.
Pour into the muesli and mix well, coating all the ingredients.
Microwave for approx. 3 minutes.
Stir the contents well.
Microwave for another 3-4 minutes, removing every minute or so to stir and check.
Muesli should be golden brown.  Don’t leave to sit in hot bowl as it will continue to brown.
Spread muesli over a Teflon mat or surface to cool.
When cool, add a handful of sultanas or cranberries or any other chopped dried fruit you wish.
Store in container and enjoy!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sticky Lemon Slice

I wanted to try this slice as I love its' sharp lemony taste in contrast to the sweetness (it's best to shut your eyes when you pour in the sugar).  

Sticky Lemon Slice
It's a good idea to be organised when you're using your friends as guinea pigs for baking.  Sorry, I forgot.  Instead of baking first thing, I left it rather late and we almost had to make do with tinned shortbread offerings.  It's funny to realize that if I had not served up home baked goods then somehow I would have felt it a small failure on my part. 

In the less than desirable state of moving swiftly through the recipe, I noticed that my baking tin was smaller than the stated 32 x 21cm and not thinking straight (even though I really knew better!), I used it anyway.  By now you will have realized that the slice, with all its' gooey lemon topping, didn't set in the recommended time.  After further cooking and testing, I took it out regardless as my guests had arrived.  Fortunately, it tasted good and the base was cooked through.  Just a little difficult to serve neatly.

My friend, Val, wondered why baking tin manufacturers could not print the size on the tin alongside the brand name, which seemed like a great idea.  It would save us searching for the tape measure or ruler every time.  So why not, guys?

There are many recipes for lemon slice.  Here's the one I used - Sticky Lemon Slice by Julie Biuso from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking (edited by Lauraine Jacobs).  It makes about 28 squares (if you use correct tin size!).

225g unsalted butter, softened
70g icing sugar
275g standard flour

400g granulated sugar
4 medium eggs, beaten
4 tbsp standard flour
1 tsp baking powder
grated zest of 2 lemons
90ml lemon juice, strained
icing sugar

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C.  Line base of non-stick 32 x 21cm Swiss roll tin with baking paper.

Base:  Put butter in food processor and process until whipped.  Add icing sugar and process until light in colour (creamed).  Add flour and process until mixture forms a ball.  Tip into tin and press flat.  If mixture is sticky, keep your fingers dusted with flour.  Bake 15 minutes, then remove from oven.  Leave oven on.  While base is cooling, make topping.

Topping: Tip sugar into the cleaned bowl of food processor and add eggs.  Process 1 minute.  Transfer mixture to a bowl, sprinkle flour and baking powder over top.  Add lemon zest and juice, mixing together with a large spoon.  Pour mixture on top of base (it will fill the tin).  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden and firmish to touch.  Cool in the tin, then dust with icing sugar and cut into squares.  Transfer to airtight container when cool.  Will keep for 3-5 days.

Monday, January 10, 2011

a bite to savour

I've waited a long time to do this, having been inspired by so many other food blogs.  I'll just call it procrastination, which I seem to be good at. 

So, my "bite to savour" is starting this blog and tasting my first homemade plum jam of the year heaped onto a "fresh out the oven" yoghurt & coconut loaf. 

An excess of plums from the tree in the garden sometimes makes me feel I am creating more work for myself - must make jam, chutney, cakes, tarts - must use up as many plums as I can.  For the last few years I have managed to make a small amount of jam and the odd cake or dessert.  The rest of the plums get given away or are left for the birds.  Each year, out comes the 10-minute plum jam recipe, which entails about the right amount of exertion.  I replaced some of the sugar with vanilla sugar (caster sugar which had been flavoured by a vanilla pod sitting in the jar for a few months) and decided on the spur of the moment to add a large splash of a 2004 late-harvest semillon dessert wine, which I happened to be drinking at the time, just not that fast.  I like to add different flavours to jams to make them a bit more out of the ordinary.

The loaf comes from Bake by Allyson Gofton which fast became one of my favourite baking cookbooks because of the reliability of the recipes.  The recipe called for 2 tbsp dark rum.  Not being a rum-and-coke girl, I substituted this with Malibu - a white rum and coconut liqueur - which I thought would enhance the coconut in the loaf, and it does.

I didn't intend decorating the loaf with plum jam.  There was a passionfruit icing to be made but with coffee to be drunk there was no waiting for icing and I remembered the jam had to be tasted.  A small taste of jam turned into quite large blobs of dark plum over the yoghurt & coconut loaf.  It tasted so good that I was picking up pieces of plum and devouring them on their own.  It looked so good too with the contrast of the plum colour and the golden yellow of the loaf.