biscuits

When the baking mood hits you, a batch of biscuits is not only quick and easy to whip up, but extremely satisfying.

These old fashioned recipes can be made by hand, as my mother and grandmother did, or whipped up using an electric mixer or food processor.

For the baking novice, there are a few rules to follow.

Start with the ingredients at room temperature. If your butter is cold, use a grater to break up into small pieces. Otherwise, microwave in short bursts to soften.

To bring eggs to room temperature, take them out of the fridge 30 minutes before you plan to use them. Alternatively, you can warm them up very quickly by placing them in a bowl of warm water for 5-10 minutes.

Sifting flour and other dry ingredients together helps to integrate and aerate the mixture. Sift onto a piece of baking paper to make it easier to add to the mixing bowl.

When using cup and spoon measures, check that they are Australian Standard Metric measures. An Australian metric tablespoon is 20ml and a cup is 250ml. Many kitchenware shops sell cup and spoon measures that have been designed overseas, where the measurements are different. This can lead to disaster when baking.

When measuring flour using a cup, first stir the flour in its container to aerate and lift it. Then scoop out the required amount, heaping it slightly in the cup. Level it off with the back of a knife. Don’t be tempted to tap or shake the cup, as the flour shouldn’t be packed in.

A more failsafe approach is to weigh all ingredients. Digital scales are a good investment as your measurements will be accurate.

The following recipes are for old fashioned, filled biscuits. So find an excuse to get baking. And may these recipes become some of your family favourites.

 

 

melting moments with passionfruit icing

 

melting moments photo Marina Oliphant

 

Delicate, melt-in-your-mouth treats with a fresh passionfruit filling.

 

1 cup (150g) self raising flour

1 cup (150g) cornflour

250g butter at room temperature

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

4 tbsp icing sugar, sifted

 

icing:

60g butter at room temperature

150g icing sugar

pulp 1/2 passionfruit

 

Preheat oven to 160C.

Sift flour and cornflour.

Cream butter, vanilla seeds and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Add flour and mix thoroughly.

Place small spoonfuls on a lined oven tray or use a piping bag with a 1cm star nozzle to pipe small swirls.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Cool on wire racks.

To make passionfruit icing, cream butter, icing sugar and passionfruit until light and fluffy.

Spread a small amount of icing onto the flat side of one biscuit, then top with a matching side and press down gently with a little twist to spread the icing evenly.

 

makes 20 filled biscuits.

 

Monte carlos

 

monte carlos photo Marina Oliphant

 

A classic combination of coconut biscuit sandwiched with raspberry jam and a creamy vanilla icing.

 

190g butter at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla essence

125g brown sugar

1 large egg

150g self raising flour

100g plain flour

¼ (quarter) tsp bicarb soda

75g (three quarter cup) fine dessicated coconut

½ (half) cup raspberry jam

cream filling:

75g butter

½ (half) tsp vanilla essence

2 tsp milk

190g icing sugar

 

Preheat oven to 180C.

Beat butter, vanilla and sugar with an electric mixer until just combined. Add egg and beat to combine.

Sift flours with bicarb soda and add to butter mixture in two batches, alternating with coconut. Mix well.

Roll 2 tsp of mixture into ovals, place on lined oven trays and flatten slightly with the back of a fork. Allow room for spreading.

Bake for 7-10 minutes.

Remove and cool on trays for a few minutes to firm up, then lift onto wire racks to cool completely.

To make the filling, beat butter, vanilla, milk and icing sugar in a small bowl until fluffy.

Place a small amount of raspberry jam on the flat side of one biscuit and spread some icing on the flat side of a similar size biscuit. Sandwich both biscuits together. Repeat with remaining biscuits.

 

Makes 28 filled biscuits.

 

 

ginger nuts with butterscotch cream

 

ginger nuts photo Marina Oliphant

 

The butterscotch cream is rich and decadent. These biscuits are also delicious unfilled or try the vanilla icing from the monte carlo recipe.

 

300g (2 cups) plain flour

1 ½ (one and a half) tsp bicarb soda

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp ginger

1 tsp allspice

125g unsalted butter, room temp

220g (1 cup) caster sugar

1 large egg

60ml (quarter cup) treacle

110g (half cup) raw sugar

 

butterscotch cream:

300g caster sugar

150ml thickened cream (35% fat)

200g unsalted butter, at room temperature

 

Preheat oven to 180C.

Sift flour, bicarb soda and spices together.

Cream butter and caster sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Add egg and treacle and mix well.

Add flour mixture and mix well to combine.

Roll into small balls and roll in raw sugar.

Place on lined oven trays and flatten slightly. Allow room to spread.

Bake for 10 minutes, until crisp.

Remove from oven and cool on trays for a few minutes before lifting onto wire racks to cool.

To make the butterscotch cream filling, melt sugar in large heavy based frypan, stirring with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, add cream and stir until combined. Set aside to cool.

Place butter in an electric mixer with a whisk attachment and whisk until light and fluffy. Add cooled caramel and continue to whisk until combined.

Sandwich biscuits together with butterscotch cream.

 

Makes 20 large filled biscuits.

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Indian

For thousands of years, people have been adding spices to food. Once considered an exotic and mysterious luxury, good quality spices are now readily available.

Spices commonly used in Indian cooking include coriander seed, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, fenugreek, ginger, pepper, chilli, cloves, cardamom and saffron.

Any combination of these will add a distinct Indian flavour to your everyday cooking.

In the simple fish curry recipe below, I have used turmeric, cumin, coriander and chilli. Add some fresh curry leaves, if you can find them. Any leftover leaves can easily be frozen.

For the samosas, mustard and cumin seeds, chilli, garlic, ginger and curry powder combine for a tasty snack.

Add more of these spices to turn tomato chutney into a spicy kasoundi.

When buying spices, it is better to buy small quantities from specialty shops with high turnover. The spices are more likely to be fresh and have better flavour.

Keep whole spices in airtight containers in a cool dry place for up to 4 years, and 2-3 years for ground spices. (Super-organised cooks can label the bottom of the jars with a purchase date).

Toasting whole spices intensifies their flavour. Place in a heavy based frying pan over medium heat until they crackle and become aromatic, shaking the pan to prevent burning. Toasted spices need to be used straight away as they lose their flavour quickly.

Don’t be daunted by complicated recipes, just add a little spice to your cooking with these three simple recipes.

 

 

Simple fish curry

 

simple fish curry photo Marina Oliphant

Curries don’t need to be complicated. This recipe is inspired by Atul Kotchhar’s “Fish Indian Style” cookbook. I was lucky to see him at The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival earlier this year.

 

4 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 onions, thinly sliced

6 fresh curry leaves, optional

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp ground coriander

½ (half) tsp chilli powder

4 tomatoes, finely chopped

1 ½ (one and a half) cups water

1 kg blue eye fillet, cut into 3cm large pieces

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves

lemon wedges to serve

Heat 2 tbsp oil over high heat, add cumin seeds and cook until they pop. Reduce heat to medium, add onion and cook for 5 minutes until onions are softened and slightly caramelised.

Add the rest of the spices and cook for 1 minute, then add tomatoes and cook for a few minutes until they soften and start to break up.

Add water and stir to combine. Continue cooking to allow the sauce to thicken.

Heat remaining oil in a separate pan and cook fish for 2 minutes each side, then add to the curry sauce.

Cook over low heat until the fish is just cooked through.

Sprinkle over coriander leaves and serve with lemon wedges.

serves 4-6.

Vegetable samosas

 

vegetable samosas photo Marina Oliphant

 

 

2 tsp ghee

½ (half) tsp mustard seeds

½ (half) tsp cumin seeds

½ (half) small onion, peeled and finely diced

1 birdseye chilli, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

½ (half) cup frozen baby peas

1 potato, peeled and finely diced

200g cauliflower (approx ¼), broken into small florets

½ (half) carrot, peeled and finely diced

2 tsp curry powder

½ (half) cup water

½ (half) tbs lemon juice

1 tsp salt

1 x 250g pack frozen spring roll pastry, thawed

 

Heat ghee in pan and gently fry mustard and cumin seeds.

Add onion and fry until softened. Add chilli, garlic and ginger and cook for a few minutes. Add vegetables and stir well to incorporate. Add curry powder and water and lemon juice. Season with salt.

Cook over low heat until vegetables are cooked.

Remove from heat.

Cut spring roll pastry sheets equally into three lengths. Use a double sheet for each samosa.

Place 2 teaspoons of mixture at the end of one sheet. Fold over the double layer to make a triangle shape. Continue folding over the triangle until you have used up the length of pastry. Seal with a little water.

Repeat until all filling and pastry has been used up.

Heat a deep fryer to 180C.

Fry the samosas in batches until golden brown. Drain.

Serve hot.

Makes approx. 30 small samosas.

tomato kasoundi

 

tomato kasoundi photo Marina Oliphant

This kasoundi recipe has been at countless primary school fairs. I have made it more times than I can remember. It’s super easy to make. A heavy duty food processor will mince the garlic and ginger, or simply buy it ready minced in jars.

Make sure to use a heavy based pot, so the kasoundi doesn’t stick to the bottom.

 

250ml olive oil

90g black mustard seeds

30g turmeric powder

90g ground cumin

40g chilli powder

125g minced garlic

250g minced ginger

6 fresh green chillies, seeds removed and finely chopped

2 kg ripe tomatoes, chopped, skin on

60g salt

500ml malt vinegar

250g brown sugar

Heat oil in large heavy based stockpot over medium heat, then add mustard, turmeric, cumin and chilli powder. Stir and cook for 3-4 minutes, being careful not to let the spices burn. Add minced garlic, ginger, green chilli and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt, vinegar and sugar, reduce heat to low and simmer for 60-90 minutes, stirring once in a while until the sauce thickens and the oil comes to the top.

Remove from heat and pour into sterilised jars.

Store in a cool, dry pantry for up to 12 months. Once open, refrigerate.

makes approx 3litres (12 x 250ml jars).

cakes

Old fashioned favourites

Recipes for cakes are always in demand. My recipe folder is literally bulging with them. According to Nigella, in “How to be a domestic goddess”, the rewards of baking are exponentially higher than the effort required. The satisfaction derived from this simple task provides welcome relief from our busy lives. It is entirely separate from everyday cooking, although that’s not to say that you can’t bake everyday.

The following cakes have been in my recipe folder for many years and I’m happy to share them with you. Tap into your own domestic god/goddess, whip up one of these treats, sit back and bask in the warmth of this simple pleasure.

Lumberjack cake

 

lumberjack cake photo Marina Oliphant

 

With a quirky name, this delicious cake will become a favourite. It’s filled with apples and dates, then topped with crunchy caramelised coconut.

2 medium granny smith apples

185g dates

1 tsp bicarb soda

1 cup boiling water

125g butter, plus extra for greasing cake tin

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 ½ (one and ahalf) cups plain flour

½ (half) tsp salt

topping:

½ (half) cup brown sugar

60g butter

1/3 (one third) cup milk

60g shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 180C.

Butter and line a loaf tin (14cm x 24cm).

Peel, core and cut apples into small pieces.

Chop dates and mix with the apples and bicarb soda. Pour the boiling water over the top and leave to cool until luke warm.

Cream butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat well.

Sift flour into the creamed mixture alternately with the apple mixture.

Pour into tin and bake for 1 hour or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

To make the topping, mix sugar with butter, milk and coconut in a small saucepan over a low heat.

Spread over the cooked cake.

Return cake to oven and bake for another 15 minutes until topping is golden brown and crunchy.

Lemon poppy seed cake

 

lemon poppyseed cake photo Marina Oliphant

 

A light lemony cake with the delightful crunch of poppy seeds.

 

125g butter, plus extra for greasing cake tin

1 ¼ (one and a quarter) cup caster sugar

2 tbsp poppy seeds

grated rind 1 lemon

3 tbsp lemon juice

2 eggs, beaten

1 ¼ (one and a quarter) cup plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/3 (one third) cup milk

icing:

zest and juice of 1 lemon

225g icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180C.

Butter and line a 17cm round cake tin.

Cream butter with sugar in an electric mixer until it is light and fluffy.

Add poppy seeds, lemon rind and juice and mix well.

Add eggs and mix well.

Sift flour and baking powder and add, alternately with the milk.

Pour mixture into tin and smooth the top.

Bake for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 170C and cook for a further 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Remove and cool on cake rack.

To make icing, mix lemon juice and zest with icing sugar until smooth. Drizzle over cooled cake.

Hummingbird cake

 

hummingbird cake photo Marina Oliphant

I have made this cake in a large brioche tin, but you can just as easily use a round, square or loaf tin. You will need to adjust the cooking times, as they will be slightly different according to tin shapes.

 

1 ½  (one and a half) cups plain flour

½ (half) tsp bicarb soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 cup sugar

½ (half) cup canola oil

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla essence

½ (half) cup tinned crushed pineapple in juice (undrained)

2 medium mashed or sliced banana

½ (half) cup roughly chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

icing:

250g cream cheese

125g butter

300g icing sugar

2 passionfruit

Preheat oven to 180C.

Butter and line a 17cm round cake tin (or 2 x 16cm fluted brioche tins).

Sift flour, bicarb soda and cinnamon in a large bowl, add sugar and stir.

Whisk eggs with oil and vanilla, then add to flour mixture and gently mix.

Add banana, pineapple, nuts and fold through.

Pour into cake tin, place in oven and bake for approximately 70 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

To make icing, beat cream cheese, butter and icing sugar until creamy and smooth. Scoop out the pulp of the passionfruit and fold through the icing.

Spread over cooled cake.

Eggs

what came first, the chicken or the egg?

 

Eggs are a kitchen staple. With an egg or two, you can whip up anything from breakfast to dessert. Pop into a pot of boiling water for 2-3 minutes for a simple soft boiled egg and serve with hot buttered toast soldiers.  Crack into a pan for fried eggs sunny side up or flip for over easy. Or make an omelet. For a fancy version, try my eggnet omelet recipe below. The lacy ‘net’ is made by drizzling the egg mixture all over the pan, Jackson Pollock style. And the list goes on. Try baked eggs in a spicy tomato based sauce and you can serve these anytime of the day, really.

Nutritionally, eggs are a great source of protein. And it’s the protein that makes eggs so versatile in the kitchen, too. Whisk an egg white to observe the protein bonds strengthen and trap the air within to create stable foams, meringues, mousses and soufflés. Heat also causes the proteins to bond. The meringue recipe below uses both heating and whisking the egg whites for perfect meringues.

When buying eggs, the variety on offer is endless. I always look for free range and the best quality I can afford.

To store eggs, place in the fridge for up to one month in their original carton. The pointed end should face downward. To test for freshness, place an egg in a bowl of water. A fresh egg will sink. A stale egg will have a larger air cell, which causes it to float. A few final tips for cooking eggs –use cold eggs straight from the fridge when making hardboiled eggs, as they’re easier to peel. And when poaching eggs, first break the egg into a ramekin, then add a few tablespoons of white vinegar and wait for 30 seconds, before placing in a deep pot of just simmering water. Now your eggs should be perfect.

 

Eggnet omelet with asian style duck

 

eggnet omelette photo Marina Oliphant

 

It may look fancy, but to make an eggnet omelet is actually quite easy.

Peking duck is available ready cooked at asian restaurants or prepacked from Poultry suppliers and select supermarkets. Look for the Luv a Duck brand.

 

4 large eggs

2 Peking duck breasts, warmed in the oven

1-2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp hoisin sauce

squeeze of lemon juice

salad:

¼ (quarter) small wombok cabbage finely sliced length ways

2 handfuls of bean shoots

2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

2 tbsp soy sauce

½ (half) tbsp caster sugar

1 tbsp mirin

2 spring onions, finely sliced on an angle

1 lebanese cucumber, finely sliced on the mandolin

½ (half) long red chilli, finely sliced

handful fresh coriander and basil

Beat the eggs and strain through a sieve for a few hours or overnight, refrigerated.

Mix all salad ingredients together and sit for a couple minutes while you cook the omelet.

Heat a non-stick fry pan over medium heat, add a little oil and drizzle in the egg mix using your fingers to make a lacy eggnet. When cooked, remove gently and set aside. Repeat with remaining egg to make 4 omelets.

Shred the warmed duck and combine with the salad.

Mix the hoisin with a squeeze of lemon juice to lighten.

Place the filling in the omelets, drizzle over the hoisin and serve.

Serves 4.

Baked eggs with eggplant, chorizo and tomato

 

baked eggs photo Marina Oliphant

A hearty breakfast, delicious lunch or light dinner, these baked eggs are so versatile you can enjoy them anytime of the day.

3-4 tbs olive oil

2 Japanese eggplant, halved lengthways and sliced

2 mild chorizo sausage, sliced

400ml tomato passata

1 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp harissa (optional)

½  (half) cup marinated red pepper strips

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

4 free range eggs

½ (half) cup pitted green olives

chopped italian parsley to serve

Preheat oven to 200C.

Heat a frypan over medium heat, add olive oil and cook eggplant for a few minutes until softened. Add chorizo and continue to cook for a few minutes. Add tomato passata, sugar, harissa, and red peppers.  Bring to the boil, lower heat & allow sauce to gently simmer for approx. 10 minutes.

Divide sauce equally between four individual oven proof ramekins.

Make a small well in the sauce in each ramekin and crack eggs into these, sprinkle with olives & cover with foil. Place in oven and allow eggs to cook for 10-15 minutes or until whites are firm, but the yolks are still runny.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve with lots of crusty bread.

Serves 4.

 

Brown sugar n’ spice meringues

 

sugar n spice meringues photo Marina Oliphant

 

Based on the beauties in the Ottolenghi cook book, these meringues are made using the swiss method. Heat the eggwhites and sugar over a double boiler before whipping them for a more stable mixture. The results are spectacular.

 

6 large eggwhites

140g brown sugar

250g caster sugar

1 star anise

¼ (quarter) tsp ground cinnamon

pinch freshly grated nutmeg

dutch cocoa, for dusting

Preheat oven to 110C.

Place a medium saucepan of water over gentle heat and bring to a simmer.

Place eggwhites, brown and caster sugar in a heatproof bowl over the saucepan, ensuring that the bowl doesn’t come in contact with the water. Add star anise and stir to break up the eggwhites and mix in the sugar.

Heat for approximately 5 minutes, until a digital thermometer reaches 40C.

Remove from heat and discard star anise. Place in a bowl of a freestanding electric mixer and whisk on high speed for around 8 minutes, until the mixture has cooled.

Gently fold in cinnamon and nutmeg.

Place large spoonfuls of mix on lined baking trays, allowing room for the meringues to expand. Sprinkle over cocoa with a fine sieve.

Place in oven and bake for 1 ¼ hours. When they are ready, they will be dry underneath, but still soft in the centre.

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Makes 10 large meringues.

hot puddings

Hot puddings

 

These nostalgic winter puddings are guaranteed to warm you up. Plus, they don’t require any fancy ingredients. In fact, when it’s too cold to go out, you could probably rustle something up by simply looking through your pantry. The golden syrup dumplings are from my childhood, still a great favourite of my brother. They may not look pretty, but are a taste sensation. Warm, soft dumpling pillows are permeated by the hot sweet golden syrup that they are cooked in. Gooey, sticky and sweet, yet light in texture, they are simply perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for that hot/cold wintry dessert experience.

Warming to this theme, you really can’t go past a good sticky date pudding. Another simple recipe, this one makes a large quantity, so you have enough for leftovers. Which is just as well, because it reheats easily and the butterscotch sauce is good on just about anything.

Finally, creamed rice just got better. Use short grain risotto rice and the grains swell and absorb the flavours for an impossibly creamy result. Balance with the tartness of stewed rhubarb (or whatever other fruit you have at hand) and it’s bliss.

 

 

Mum’s golden syrup dumplings

 

golden syrup dumplings photo Marina Oliphant

 

This is my Mum’s recipe. It just goes to show how simple ingredients can be combined to make a really delicious pudding. Best eaten immediately, although I’d be surprised if there were any left over.

 

batter:

2 cups Self raising flour

2 tbsp butter

2 large eggs

½ (half) cup milk

syrup:

3 cups water

1 cup sugar

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp golden syrup

2 tsp lemon juice

To make the batter, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the remaining ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon.

Place the syrup ingredients in a large frypan and bring to the boil over medium heat.

Place large spoonfuls of batter into the pan, allowing room for spreading. Cover with a lid or foil, reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes.

Serve warm with ice cream.

Makes 12 dumplings.

Sticky date pudding

 

sticky date pudding photo Marina Oliphant

 

Everyone should have a sticky date pudding recipe. This makes a large quantity, but could easily be made in individual ramekins, too. Keeps well and reheats easily. Store the butterscotch sauce in a screw top jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

 

500g pitted dates

750ml water

25g bicarbonate soda

150g butter

150g brown sugar

125g caster sugar

5 eggs

420g plain flour

butterscotch sauce:

100g butter

150g soft brown sugar

100g white sugar

650g golden syrup

200ml thickened cream

 

Preheat oven to 160C fan forced.

Combine water and dates in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Add bicarbonate soda and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add butter and both sugars and cook for 2-3 minutes on low heat until sugar dissolves. Blend mixture with a stick blender and allow to cool slightly. Add eggs and flour and mix thoroughly.

Place in greased and lined 25cm square cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes.

To make butterscotch sauce, melt butter in a medium saucepan with the sugar and golden syrup. Stir slowly and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside for a few minutes. Stir in cream and continue to stir for 4-5 minutes to ensure the sauce is smooth. Remove from heat and serve with pudding.

serves 10.

Creamed rice with stewed rhubarb

 

rice pudding photo Marina Oliphant

 

Creamed rice is my go-to dessert when there’s nothing in the house and it’s too cold to venture out.

 

½ (half) cup risotto rice

3 cups full cream milk

200ml thickened cream

50g caster sugar

1 vanilla bean, split

1 bunch rhubarb

1 cup sugar

Place rice in medium saucepan with 2 ½ cups water and bring to the boil. Remove from heat, drain and rinse rice under cold water.

Return rice to clean saucepan, add milk, cream, caster sugar and vanilla bean. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour until rice is tender and liquid is thick.

Whilst the rice is cooking, place remaining cup of sugar in a saucepan with 2 cups of water and heat gently until sugar has dissolved. Add rhubarb and cook gently for a few minutes until tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

Ladle the creamed rice into serving bowls with the stewed rhubarb.

Serves 4.