Best-ever blondies

Blondies are one of my go-to baked goods. They are always received well and I’m often asked for the recipe.

They’re moist and not too rich, and you can add whatever you like to them – nuts, fruit, more chocolate – much like these cookies or brownies, you can make them whichever ‘flavour’ you like.

My favourite combination is cherry and almond.

blondies

Ingredients:

  • 400g white chocolate
  • 150g butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 250g brown sugar
  • 200g almond meal
  • 90g plain flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 200-300gm of nuts, chocolate or fruit

 

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180.
  2. Line a baking pan (rectangular).
  3. Melt chocolate and butter.
  4. Set aside to cool.
  5. Stir vanilla into the butter/chocolate mixture.
  6. In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar together until thick.
  7. Add butter/chocolate mixture to the eggs and sugar.
  8. Fold in sifted almond meal and flour.
  9. Fold in your extra bits.
  10. Pour into the lined baking pan.
  11. Bake for 40 minutes.
  12. They are best left in the fridge overnight before cutting them up.

 

The combination I made for this post was cherry and Bounty, so a little bit like Cherry Ripe. The Bounty didn’t quite work as expected, but you could definitely get the coconut and cherry.

PS. They make a pretty good gift!

Please follow and like us:

Not all gingers are soulless – The Ginger People products

Getting more ginger into your life

A few months ago, The Ginger People got in touch to see if we wanted to give their products a go. As someone who isn’t keen on ginger and as I’m currently living in Bristol, I asked Mel if she was keen to try them. Her immediate response was something about a bear in the woods.

The lovely team at The Ginger People sent over their organic ginger syrup, organic crystallised ginger, organic ginger juice and organic pickled ginger. Mel was in heaven and proceeded to go on a ginger binge, essentially gingerising (just invented a new word!) all her food. Since that time, Mel has moved on from But first, we eat!, but I interviewed her last week for her feedback.

Mel is a huge ginger fan. I remember a shopping trip to Sunnybank to buy ingredients for our Chinese New Year celebration. We needed a small amount of ginger and she had used all of hers. Instead of buying a small piece (like I would do), she brought a one kilo bag! I told her she was crazy and she just said I was “missing out”. So, her being in heaven was an understatement when she received a package full of ginger goodies.

Ginger has a lot of uses, including the all important flavouring of food, and it’s well known for coming to the rescue when your stomach is upset. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find good fresh ginger unless you know where to look and not all ginger products have a good flavour and texture or they’re full of chemicals. These particular products, in the Mel’s words “actually taste like ginger”. Given creative license, Mel has come up with a few very easy ways to incorporate more ginger into your life:

Organic ginger juice

Mel said she was actually pleasantly surprised when ginger made a difference in the muscle ache she gets from triathlon training. Turns out, when she got home from training in the morning, she had been putting ginger juice in her water to mix things up a bit and her muscle aches weren’t as bad as the mornings she didn’t. She also said it’s brilliant in ice cold sparkling water (and I gather it would work really well in cocktails)! Since receiving the initial bottle of ginger juice, she’s bought two more because she uses it so often.

Organic ginger syrup

When she needs a quick treat, Mel loves the ginger syrup on ice cream and pancakes. When she needs something a little extra on her breakfast, she’ll pour a little over her yogurt and muesli.

Organic crystallised ginger

You may remember your grandmother always having easy access to crystallised ginger because it’s supposed to aid in digestion and it’s great for an upset stomach. Mel also used hers in baking. She whipped up some delicious ginger nuts with ginger chunks and I’ll post the recipe up soon, so keep your eyes peeled.

Organic pickled ginger

Not just for sushi, Mel loves to top her stirfries with a little pickled ginger for a fresh zing (if she isn’t already using the ginger juice). She may or may not eat it straight from the jar on occasion too.

Mel really enjoyed testing these products and wholeheartedly recommends anything from The Ginger People. She has a couple of recipes to share from her testing of these products, so make sure you check back.

If you’d like to buy The Ginger People products, take a look at their website. I think it’s pretty cool that the same people who started the business 30 years ago are still running it. They source their ginger sustainably and don’t use any nasties!

Important note: While Mel received these products for free, she only provided me with honest feedback.

Please follow and like us:

Vietnamese cooking class

As I always do before a trip, I scoured the internet for things to do while traveling. Of course, it just wouldn’t be a holiday for me if it didn’t involve cooking and eating. Luckily, I came across HCM Cooking Class for our time in Vietnam. They offer a full day cooking class (and a few other options) that included a look at their farm and involved cooking nine different dishes for $100USD – talk about bargain! Sounded like heaven to me. I convinced husband that it sounded great. He was a bit grumbly about the whole thing because he doesn’t enjoy cooking as much as I do (though, he does enjoy eating what I make). Once he agreed, I told him we were cooking nine different dishes. He felt like I’d left out a key element in my description of the class. As always when I choose activities he’s dubious about, by the end of the day, he was really enjoying himself and the delicious food.

When I booked, I received an email from Mr Tan to confirm and in closing he said we should ensure we arrive with ‘an empty belly’.

I gave Chef Tan the list of dishes we wanted to cook:

  • Beef wrap with Betel leaves (bo la lot)
  • Special pork spring rolls (cha gio)
  • Banh Mi Thit Nuong
  • Mango Salad with wth BBQ pork (goi xoai)
  • Crispy duck with tamarind sauce
  • Calamari with salt and pepper sauce
  • Stir fry chicken with chilli and lemongrass in special HCM dressing sauce on fresh rice noodle (bun ga)
  • Banana spring rolls with coconut ice cream (cha gio chuoi voi kem dua)

I picked a range of dishes that sounded interesting, but also dishes I knew I’d want to make at home.

We were picked up early in the morning and driven about one hour out of town – for those of you who have been to Ho Chi Minh, it was quite close to the Cu Chi Tunnels. We were shown around part of the farm (unfortunately it had been raining quite a bit so it was too messy and dangerous to visit the animals) and given loads of information about the fragrant herbs and other plants they were growing. We were then instructed to pick the herbs and plants we would later use for our dishes. It was really nice to be part of the process of getting the food from the garden to the plate. The freshness of so many of the ingredients is probably the main thing I love about Vietnamese cuisine. The more herbs the better!

Then we met the fascinating, and perhaps a little larger than life, Chef Tan. We found out over the course of the day that he qualified as a Doctor, then studied accounting and then became a chef, later buying the farm to start a cooking school. He also owns a restaurant in Melbourne called Love Pho. A man of many skills and many jokes.

First up, Chef Tan took us through the basics of making dressings, marinades, dipping sauces and stir-fry sauces. Surprisingly, the methods are really easy and can be applied to so many dishes! Then chopped, fried, rolled and ate the day away. Half way through the day we had a break and they provided hammocks for students to use. I didn’t use one but husband enjoyed a little kip.

The most surprising dish for me was the calamari dish, which actually turned out to be oyster mushrooms – the texture was so similar and for someone who doesn’t much like the taste, smell or texture of mushrooms, I was converted…for this dish only, anyway.

Here are the dishes we cooked (in some cases, husband did a way better job than I did, so I used his dishes for photos haha):

Vietnam
Time in the garden picking fresh herbs

 

Vietnam
Spring rolls before and after cooking

 

Vietnam
Growing oyster mushrooms

 

Vietnam
Bo la lot before and after cooking

 

Vietnam
Green mango salad with chicken

 

Vietnam
Banana spring rolls during preparation and once cooked

 

Vietnam
Tamarind stir fry sauce and finished stir fry with duck

 

Vietnam
Banh mi and preparing pickles for the banh mi

 

Vietnam
Calamari (mushrooms) and clay pot chicken

 

10
Bun during preparation and in the bowl

 

12

 

I really enjoyed this class and I’d recommend to anyone, regardless of their skill level.

Karis Sign Off-01-01

 

 

 

Details:
HCM Cooking Class
Web: hochiminhcookingclass.com

Please follow and like us:

Christmas sausage rolls

We had a Christmas in July feast last month – because getting married the following weekend wasn’t challenging enough!

We decided to try and keep it fairly traditional, but because I’ve never really experienced a winter Christmas in a traditional English-style setting before, I had to do a lot of Googling to find some dishes that we felt would be traditional enough.

I noticed during my search that a lot of websites had sausage rolls in their list of traditional Christmas fare. I was quite surprised, because obviously sausage rolls here in Australia are pretty casual and are usually served with a couple of beers (or at children’s parties!).

We decided that sausage rolls would be fairly easy to make and cook, so they went on the list. Later, when searching for good recipes, I couldn’t find anything particularly ‘Christmassy’, so I came up with my own – turkey, Camembert and cranberry. I sort of forgot to get more photos than I did, sorry!

Sausage roll mix and testing

Ingredients

  • 1kg turkey mince
  • 1 large onion, finely diced (I buzzed mine up actually)
  • Half a small jar of cranberry jelly
  • 1 Camembert, chopped up
  • 6 sheets of puff pastry
  • Liberal sprinkling of garlic powder (I think about half a teaspoon)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

Method

  1. Pull your puff pastry out of the freezer.
  2. Put everything in a bowl, but keep half the cranberry jelly to the side.
  3. Give everything a good mix.
  4. Add the other half of the jelly, but don’t mix it in completely, you’re after little ‘chunks’ throughout the mixture.
  5. By this point, your pastry should be pliable enough that it won’t break. Divide up the mixture into six.
  6. Put one sixth of the mixture on the pastry in a sausage shape and roll it up. I use the plastic that the pastry comes on to assist with this process (bit like a sushi mat). I use a little water on the edge of the pastry to seal it.
  7. Repeat 5 more times. I should say at this point that if you want to make smaller sausage rolls, just put less mixture in the pastry.
  8. Wrap up the rolls and pop them in the freezer until you need them. This will help keep the shape of the rolls when you cut them later.
  9. When you plan on using them, pull the rolls out of the freezer about 20-30 minutes prior to cooking. Don’t let it defrost too much or they will be a pain to cut.
  10. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.
  11. Using a sharp knife, cut the sausage rolls  into 8-6 slices (just keep in mind that the narrower they are, the more likely they will fall during the cooking process).
  12. At this point you can put a bit of eggwash on the top and sprinkle some herbs or seeds on top for decorative purposes.
  13. Pop them in the oven and cook until the pastry is golden.

Note: I like to test the mixture before committing to pastry, so I cook a little patty after I’ve mixed all the ingredients together.

I think they were well-received because there weren’t any left over at the end (though, I may have eaten a few myself). I’ll be making these again!

What’s your favourite sausage roll recipe?

Karis Sign Off-01-01

Please follow and like us:

End of an era…a very short one

So, Mel and I no longer work in the same office!

While it’s great to go on to other things, it’s still sad that we can’t do lunch during the week or make random tarte tatins in our lunch breaks…or have bake-offs!

But, that won’t stop us from talking food. In fact, just this morning we had a whole conversation via text about future cooking endeavours and sticky date pudding (and how much I wanted some). It’s like we’re still sort of in the same building.

We caught up for brunch at Seven South in Yeronga and we’re busy planning a potential Christmas in July….before I get married, cause I love a challenge.

Speaking of challenges,  I have other news to share (because not everyone knows yet) – I’m heading to the UK in September…to live. It could be one year, it could be two. I think James’ mum would be upset if I said it was any more than that, but you just can’t ever tell where the universe will send you.

That doesn’t mean this blog disappears, it just adds a whole new dimension. Living so close to so many countries means I’ll get to travel more and try more food. I mean, last time I checked it was $200AUD to travel from the UK to Italy. Leaving from here is significantly more, even with a good flight deal. I’m really excited and scared at the same time – living outside your comfort zone is a challenge and I think it just has to be done. Not to mention, the UK is just going from strength to strength in the food scene. Plus, I am totally going to River Cottage!!

Mel isn’t missing out though, she has her own travel plans and I’ve told her she needs to come and visit, so we can eat up a storm!

 

Where have we been?

Now, if you’ve been wondering why a blog that started up less than a year ago has already dropped off in terms of content, it’s because we’re both all over the shop! I work fulltime, I manage and do the marketing for an event that’s coming up next week actually (History Alive), I’m planning a wedding that’s coming up at the end of July, doing a few other things for various people and I’m trying to get some sleep. Mel also has her hands full, she started a uni degree this year on top of her fulltime job. We’re crazy because we knew all of this was coming up when we started this blog. It’s not going to disappear anytime soon though!

Please don’t give up on us, we’re still here!

Karis Sign Off-01-01

 

 

Pictured above: White chocolate mud cake, fresh raspberry buttercream layers, sourcream and whitechocolate ganache, topped with sourcream and milk/dark chocolate ganache, fresh raspberries and chocolated coated strawberries; condensed milk and raspberry brownies; cherry and chai tartlet.

Please follow and like us:

Yassou! A Greek feast!

Have you ever been so full that you’re really uncomfortable, no matter how you’re sitting/standing/laying, but you just want to keep eating?

That was us a couple of weeks back. (Side note: Honestly, I started writing this post the day after we cooked up a huge Greek feast to celebrate Greek Orthodox Easter. Life has gotten in the way since and I’m just getting to this now.)

We’d been planning our Greek feast for a few weeks (in fact, I was using it as a procrastination source when I should have been doing other things – at home, not at work, don’t worry Caroline!). Mel is a Greek food fiend and after we’d done the Chinese New Year feast a while back, she decided we had to do a Greek Easter feast.

2

We wanted to do the usual things – pita and dips, slow-cooked lamb, Greek salad (actually called a ‘village salad’ in Greece for obvious reasons), lemon potatoes and Mel’s all time favourite, Kourabiethes (you know those crescent shaped, icing sugar covered shortbread biscuits). We also wanted to do a few things we’d never made/eaten before, so aside from what I’ve already mentioned, we made Flaounes (Easter cheese pies), Kolokythokeftedes (zucchini and feta patties), rice-stuffed tomatoes, Galaktoboureko (a semolina custard ‘slice’) and Tsoureki (Easter bread).

Our colleague Maria lent us a cook book that was written by an Orthodox church group, in the eighties I would say. We had a couple of issues with correct amounts – on more than one occaison the amount of flour they suggested was either too much or WAY too little. Our top notch troubleshooting skills definitely came into play.

We made most things from scratch and some didn’t turn out quite the way I hoped they would. Actually thinking back on it, my projects were the ones that didn’t work out the most. I tried to make a Greek Easter bread (the Tsoureki). It was an odd way to make a bread for me, and I think I managed to kill the yeast in the process, which resulted in the dough not rising at all. Was pretty disappointing, but there was so much food no one noticed.

We did a team effort on the Galaktoboureko, but we left it until last. That was a terrible idea, because there just wasn’t enough time for it to set. It tasted great, but it looked like it hit a lot of branches on the ugly tree when he dished it up.

The zucchini and feta patties were delicious, but there wasn’t really much of a binding agent and unless the pan was hot enough the patties didn’t really stick together. There was a lot of really tasty zucchini and feta mush left over. Thankfully, I managed to make enough good looking ones for people to eat and assume I’d actually done a great job ;).

1

We did three dips, tzatziki (of course), tirokaferi (a feta dip with a bit of chilli) and a skordalia (think garlic mashed potato). All three turned out very well and were eaten with homemade pita (made by Mel, not me!).

Of all the things we made, the Flaounes were the most surprising! I’ve never made anything like them and if I was choosing something to make from a Greek cook book, I’d probably have overlooked them.  They were essentially a bread square with a savoury filling – a kilo of haloumi mixed with sultanas, parmesan, semolina, sugar, fresh yeast, eggs and a few more things. Given neither of had had these before, it was really just the blind leading the blind. The recipe produced a absolutely ginormous batch and we made people go home with the many that didn’t get eaten (because there was so much other food). Maria said we did a pretty good job, but I did wonder if she was just being nice (haha)…

4

Overall, we had a great night and we hope our guests did too! Thanks to Maria for her cook books and emotional support!

We’re thinking about a Spanish Feast next, any dish recommendations?

Karis Sign Off-01-01

Please follow and like us:

April cook book club – Moorish

As I write, I’m still full from lunch!

This month, we all cooked recipes (in some cases, each of us cooked more than one) from Moorish by Greg and Lucy Malouf. And what a feast we had:

  • Green split-pea dip with black olives and goat’s cheese with fresh homemade pita
  • Chicken tagine with green herb couscous
  • Chicken roasted with forty cloves of garlic and merguez sausages
  • Tabbouleh with roasted walnuts
  • Rabbit paella with chorizo and Hungarian peppers
  • French onion pizza with Turkish sausage
  • Shredded carrot salad
  • Medjool date ice cream
  • Alaju (honey slice)
  • Orange cardamom sour cream cake
  • Middle Eastern tiramisu
  • Chocolate macaroons

cook book - chicken tagine and haloumi

Because the cook book covers everything from North Africa, Spain, the eastern Mediterranean, and the Middle East, there are a huge range of flavours and plenty of meaty and non-meaty dishes to choose from. Actually, there were so many choices it was hard to choose a dish to cook in the first place!

cook book club - french onion and chorizo pizza + rabbit and chorizo paella

We also had a range of sauces, including hilbeh (spiced fenugreek dip), harissa and tahini-yoghurt, and a homemade haloumi all thanks to my friend David de Groot (a top notch cook, photographer and so much more!).

cook book club - tabouli + chicken cooked with 40 cloves of galic and merguez

I cooked the green split-pea dip with black olives and goat’s cheese and decided late last night to make some pita bread too. I also cooked the chicken roasted with forty cloves of garlic and merguez – it brought back a lot of memories because I’ve been eating merguez since I was a small child and the potatoes from the dish reminded me of potatoes my grandmother makes.

cook book club - chocolate macarons + orange and cardamom sour cream cake

It was an amazing spread of food and it was so hard to pick stand out dishes, because they were all so damn good! The recipes are a mix of beginner and upwards, so there is something in there for all levels of skill. However, some of the ingredients were a bit difficult to come by (Turkish sausage and proper orange blossom water for example), but that’s ok, it’s always the case with food not part of our everyday diets.

cook book club - middle easter tiramisu + medjool date ice cream

We’re now thinking of the next book to cook from, so if you have any ideas and want to come along next time please let us know!

Karis Sign Off-01-01

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:

Monkeying around – a Lunar New Year feast!

Does anyone else feel like they should just start 2016 in February? I’ve spoken to a couple of people who feel that way. Luckily, there’s Chinese Lunar New Year.

Lunar New Year wontons

Since Chinese Lunar New Year is all about good food, we figured it’s the best way to bring in the New Year, and celebrate in style.

Lunar New Year - chicken wings and xo beef and brocoli

Before Mel dashed off to Europe, But first, we eat! put together our first Chinese feast and invited a bunch of friends to enjoy it with us. In preparation, we searched for the best recipes to share with friends to welcome in the Year of the Monkey.

Lunar New Year steamed dumplings

We decided on our recipes, then spent half a day at Market Square in Sunnybank (one of my favourite places to eat – I may have a goal of trying every food outlet there and I may already be half way there) shopping for ingredients. Then it was time to get our cook on!

Lunar New Year spring rolls and garlic chips

We will go into a bit more detail about the cooking process in an article specifically about making dumplings because we made a few. But, as a whole out feast consisted of:

We also bought some steamed buns (because we weren’t ready to try making them) and some garlic tapioca chips (cause they were super cute!).

Lunar New Year mango pudding

We cooked non-stop from 1pm until 7pm and it was totally worth it. The food was stunning and we’ve now got some go-to Chinese recipes we can cook up in future.

 

Did you make or do anything for Lunar New Year?

Karis Sign Off-01-01

 

Please follow and like us:

A good ol’ comforting family favourite

You know those meals you have that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? The ones that, even though you may make it a thousand times, still tastes better when someone else makes it? Well, insert my Dads chips’n’chops.

To be completely honest (sorry Dad), its actually my late Grandmother’s recipe, which has gone down through the generations. It’s one of those dishes everyone loves, and there is almost never any leftovers. It’s so warm and hearty that I’ve never met anyone that doesn’t love it!

You may think its a bit of a strange combination of sauces, but don’t knock it until you try it! I was lucky enough to have this the other night, as one of the first dishes my dad cooked for us in his new house.

Ingredients

  • 6 Lamb fore-quarter chops
  • 1 onion roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup Soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup Barbeque sauce
  • 1 packet of frozen chips (Healthy Choice is my favourite to use)


Method

  1. Put lamb chops in a large baking dish in a single layer.
  2. Add all sauces, and cover with water.
  3. Bake in a moderate oven for approximately 2.5 hours, turning occasionally.
  4. For the last 30 minutes, top with frozen chips and bake until cooked through. The sauce will thicken up and the chips will soak up half the sauce, while still being crunchy on top.

Note: If you prefer crunchier chips, cook them separately and serve together. If you want thicker gravy, add a tablespoon of cornflour mixed with enough water and add to the sauce when adding the chips!

Serves six (or three hungry men).

Enjoy!

Mel Sign Off-01-01

 

 

Please follow and like us:

Pesto scrolls

One of the easiest things you could make for a party are these super tasty pesto scrolls.

While I was at uni, I worked at the Casino in Brisbane. In my first two weeks there, I accidentally said yes to a shift in the fine dining restaurant, even though I’d never done fine dining before. I wasn’t very good at anything they got me to do, so I ended up polishing cutlery all night. It wasn’t so bad, repetitious things can be calming. There’s a reason for this story, I promise.

When guests were seated at the tables, instead of bread rolls, I noticed the waiters delivering scrolls from a hotbox and I spent the entire night wondering what they were. I worked up the courage to ask one of the waiters and she mumbled “pesto scrolls” before running off. Because I didn’t get a good look at the scrolls I was so curious about, I went home thinking about them.

A couple of weeks later I went to a party and had to take something with me. I had a moment of (what I like to call) genius and decided I was going to make pesto scrolls. I bought some frozen puff pastry, pesto and grated Parmesan (fresh, not long-life) and experimented. Well, I say experimented, but really the first thing I tried worked so well I didn’t try anything else.

The recipe below makes about 30 small scrolls, but each sheet of pastry you use will make between 16 and 20 scrolls depending how thin you cut them.

Ingredients

  • 2 sheets of frozen puff pastry
  • 4 heaped tablespoons of pesto
  • 2 small handfuls of grated Parmesan cheese

Method

  1. Pull the pastry sheets out of the freezer and let them thaw a bit. Don’t let them thaw completely or it will be hard to roll.
  2. Slather two heaped tablespoons of pesto the sheet, leaving about three centimetres free on one side of the square.
  3. Sprinkle the cheese as evenly as you can on the pesto.

BFWE - pesto Step-1and2

  • Roll the pastry up, starting the opposite side to the one you left a gap. Much like a sushi roll, you can use the plastic the sheet came on like a sushi mat.
  • When you get close to the end, brush a little water on the pastry to help it stay closed.
  • Wrap the roll in the plastic the pastry sheet came on.
  • Repeat.

BFWE - pesto Step-3and4

  • Wrap the two rolls of filled pastry in cling wrap so the ends of the rolls don’t burn in the freezer and freeze.
  • When you’re ready to cook the scrolls, pull the rolls out of the freezer and let them thaw slightly – just enough so you can cut through the pastry without shattering it (if they shatter, they won’t look very nice when cooked).
  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  • Line baking trays with grease proof paper.

BFWE - pesto Step-5

  • Using a sharp knife, cut the roll up in to even slices.
  • Lay the slices out on the trays with plenty of space between them (because they do expand as they cook).
  • Put them in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Keep an eye on these the first time you cook them because every oven is different.

You can serve these warm or, let them cool and serve cold and crunchy!

These are so easy you can prepare a few rolls in advance and pull them out whenever you need them.

You can make changes to suit you!

  • Add grated mozzarella cheese to bulk them up a bit.
  • Use some of those delicious chunky dips instead of pesto.
  • Sweet versions are good too! Recently, I made nutella and white chocolate scrolls. Yum!

Nutella-scrolls

Let me know how you go!

Karis Sign Off-01-01

Please follow and like us: