Friday, August 24, 2007

Steamed ginger pudding

After realising how close spring is, I had a sudden craving to make the most of winter food before the last thing I feel like is a plate of stew or a bowl of thick soup. I wanted a steamed pudding, smothered in thick, hot custard, and the obvious choice was my great-aunt's recipe for steamed ginger pudding. Although steamed puddings take an hour or two to cook, they are a cinch to whip up and, provided you don't let the water boil dry, can pretty much be left to themselves to cook once you've put them in the saucepan to steam.

Steamed puddings were always served for dessert at winter lunches at my great-aunt's house. My dad is extremely partial to plum pudding, so that was the usual fare, but she would occasionally serve up this steamed ginger pudding. It's a lovely soft pudding with a gentle gingery spice that just begs for seconds and this is one of my all-time favourite desserts. It must be served with thick custard - it's a match made in heaven. Cream and ice-cream are nice accompaniments but the sweetness of the custard marries beautifully with the gingery tang of the pudding.

Steamed ginger pudding

250g plain flour
125g butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons treacle
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons bicarb soda
1/2 cup milk

Cream the butter and sugar. Mix in the warmed treacle. Dissolve the soda in the milk and stir in. Sift the flour and ginger and mix in. Put into a greased pudding tin and steam for two hours.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hay Hay, It's Donna Day #14 - gnocchi

Donna Hay has been a cooking inspiration to me for many years, since I first started reading her in marie claire magazine. I bought all her cookbooks, collected her recipes in The Age's Epicure section and the Sunday Herald Sun magazine, and eagerly awaited the first copy of her magazine when it was launched in January 2002. So quickly did I subscribe to her magazine that I received an Alessi cheese grater for being one of the first 100 people to subscribe. Since then I've never missed an issue and I love Donna's simple, stylish approach to cooking.

So when I discovered the Hay Hay, It's Donna Day blog event, I knew I would have to take part. It's taken me a while to organise myself but here, finally, is my first entry. Thanks to Lynn at Cafe Lynnlu for hosting this event, and to Barbara at winosandfoodies for creating the event.

Lynn was the winner of HHDD#13 and her challenge for this event was gnocchi. Her rules were that it should be homemade; could be a main, salad, side or dessert; and the recipe could use any ingredient, such as cheese, potato or any other vegetable or fruit.

I love gnocchi but it's a dish I tend to eat out rather than at home. The few times I've bought supermarket gnocchi, I've been disappointed - it's been rubbery or chewy or tasteless. I've long planned to try my hand at my own gnocchi, so this event was a great way to turn the plan into reality. I found this recipe for green olive gnocchi in my bulging recipe files. I don't know where I got it from (probably a chef's recipe published in Epicure) but I've had it marked 'to try' for ages.

I don't own a potato ricer or food mill, which the recipe says is the best way to spread the potato evenly over the flour, so I mashed the potatoes and spread them over as evenly as I could with a spoon. It seemed to work OK, as the gnocchi cooked into plump, silky little pillows that soaked up the creamy, olive sauce.

The recipe might look long but it's quite easy. In fact, I found making gnocchi to be an easy and fun process. It just took quite a bit of time but the end result is well worth it. I'll definitely be on the lookout for more gnocchi recipes in the future and look forward to getting inspiration from the other entries in HHDD#14.


1 large onion, peeled
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
175ml reduced chicken stock
100ml cream
100g green olives
2 tablespoons parsley

unsalted butter
200g unbleached plain flour
100g green olives
500g waxy potatoes
sea salt and black pepper

To make the sauce, finely chop the onion and garlic and sweat in the olive oil till softened. Add the cream and the stock and cook gently until reduced to your preferred thickness. Set aside. Slice the flesh away from each olive in four pieces; discard the stones. Set aside.

To make the gnocchi, preheat the oven to 100 degrees and butter a serving dish. Spread flour into a rectangle on bench. Slice the flesh away from each olive in four pieces; discard the stones. (Note: I sliced the olive pieces in half, as they seemed too big for the gnocchi). Peel the potatoes and steam until cooked through. While still hot, pass through a potato ricer or food mill so that the potato falls evenly over the flour. (Note: I mashed the potatoes and spread in a layer over the flour with a spoon). Sprinkle sea salt and the sliced olives over the potato.

Melt 50g butter and drizzle evenly over the potato. Work flour into potato little by little, using a pastry scraper, until you have a firm dough. Knead dough gently for five minutes. Divide into quarters and roll each piece to make a long, thin sausage, about 1cm in diameter. Cut each sausage into 2.5cm lengths.

Put the serving dish in the oven to warm through. Gently warm the sauce and add the olives. Bring water to boil in a large saucepan and add salt. Slip in the gnocchi and cook for one minute after they've risen to the surface. Skim out, put into the warm serving dish and season. Stir the parsley into the sauce, toss with the gnocchi, grind over pepper and serve immediately.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

An apple a day...

Melbourne has given us some chilly mornings this week, just to remind us that it's still winter. Despite the single-digit early morning temperatures, the days are getting longer and all the fashion stores are unveiling their spring/summer ranges. It's a reminder that warmer weather is almost here and my cooking focus will soon shift from hearty stews and comforting puddings to lighter meals.

I'm looking forward to the warmer days but I feel like I haven't made as many winter dishes as I'd planned. The next few weeks will no doubt see a flurry of baking to fulfil my cravings before the temperature rises.

Good old apple pie with sweet pastry and a dollop of thick cream is always a favourite. For a faster and different version, I decided to try a recipe for bourdelot, or Normandy apple pies, by Jill Dupleix. According to Jill, these apples pies are rarely seen outside of the Normandy region in France. A cored whole apple is stuffed with jam, wrapped in a blanket of puff pastry and baked, with the apple steaming to tenderness in the same time that the pastry cooks to a golden crisp. It is a simple but delicious dessert. Next time I might sprinkle in some sultanas or chopped nuts for extra interest.


500g puff pastry (or use sheets of ready-rolled puff pastry)
1 apple for each person
lemon juice
good jam or marmalade
egg glaze (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk)
caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees. Peel and core the apples and sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent them from browning. Roll out the pastry and cut into 15x15cm squares (or cut a sheet of ready-rolled pastry into half).

Place an apple in the centre of each pastry square. Stuff the cavity with jam and put a dob of butter on the top. Dip your finger into water and run along the edges of the pastry. Bring the four corners up to the top and pinch the edges firmly. Cut off any protruding corners and pinch the seams together to follow the shape of the apple.

Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes. Brush the apples with egg glaze (or just with milk, if you don't want to mix up an egg glaze), sprinkle with caster sugar and bake for 30 minutes (or until golden).

Crack open the pastry and top with thick cream, creme fraiche or a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Browniebabe of the month

Foodbloggers are a generous and inspiring bunch. There's always plenty of new recipes featured on blogs to try and people are quick and generous with their tips and advice on how to fix recipes that didn't work, how to source hard-to-find ingredients and how to use up excess ingredients.

Another fun aspect is the number of baking events people host. There's both regular and one-off events for people to contribute to. I always intend to enter these events but somehow the time gets away and I miss the closing date.

This time I'm more organised and am entering the Browniebabe of the Month event, hosted by Once Upon A Tart. What could be more inspiring than a collection of brownie recipes, hopefully crammed full of chocolate and nuts?

My mother-in-law was recently experimenting in the kitchen and came up with these nut brownies. She gave us a plate to take home and we almost said no, foolishly thinking we should be cutting down on sweet food. Luckily she pressed us, so we took home the plate and tried them the next day. We were hooked and scoffed the whole lot. These brownies are wickedly rich and densely chocolatey, with a thick chocolate icing, and a nice crunch of nuts throughout. They're also great heated and served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Make these brownies when you're in a decadent mood.


200g (7 oz) dark chocolate, chopped
175g (6 oz) unsalted butter
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs
230g (i cup) soft brown sugar
1/3 cup plain flour
1/2 cup slivered almonds
100g extra dark chocolate, chopped
200g dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup icing sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Lightly grease a 20cm square tin and line with baking paper (overlap the sides). Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk the eggs and sugar for five minutes, until pale and thick. Fold in cooled chocolate and butter, then the sifted flour and cocoa. Fold in the nuts and extra chocolate. Pour into the tin and smooth the top. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until firm. Cool.

To make the icing, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and then cool slightly. Add the sour cream and sifted icing sugar. Mix well. Spread over the brownie, smooth the top and sprinkle over some slivered almonds. Leave to set, then cut into squares. Store in an airtight container.