Kitchen Therapy


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Flour’s Famous Banana Cake – Recipe Review

Flour bakery banana bread

School is back for 2016!
Routines are slowly taking shape and the craziness of summer holidays is beginning to settle.
Each day now, I walk my son to school and as he heads off to class with his teacher, I, along with many other parents head straight to the little coffee shop tucked in amongst a few local shops across the road. The coffee is fantastic and I always order it to go, however most of the time I end up sitting at a table catching up with a friend.
It’s a routine I enjoy.
Today, after dropping off my son, I met my friends, we bought our coffees to go and this time we did take them away with us. We decided to walk them back to my place and enjoy the banana bread I made the previous night.

When my children smell banana bread baking they feel comforted.
They love the smell that fills the house.
However… they are also very clear that after trying many version of banana bread over the years their favourite recipe is for the Banana Espresso Choc Chip Muffins from the Baked cookbook (see photo below).
(I usually leave out the espresso but don’t tell them that, it makes them feel grown up!)

IMG_5096

Yesterday however, I had to break it to them that I would be trying a new recipe from Joanne Chang’s Flour book.
The recipe is from her first cookbook, pictured below on the left.
I bought it a while back however after falling ill I couldn’t do much more than stare it for a long time.
There are SO many recipes I want to try however yesterday I had the bananas on hand.  Being unwell has taught me to grab opportunities that come up, no matter how small they may seem and to not over think things. This may sound simple, however my nature has always been to deliberate painfully over what to cook for so long that I end up making nothing. So with my new philosophy guiding me, I decided to make Flour’s Famous Banana Bread.

books

It felt good to be making something, even if it was “just another banana bread recipe” 🙂
The recipe can be found all over the internet, here is one link for this recipe from the food network.

Coming together over banana bread is not something new however there is a reason a lot of us do it. It is comforting and nourishing to the soul and it tastes so damn good!
The grown ups really enjoyed this recipe, however the kids can’t go past the choc chips in their favourite banana muffins. I get it, who doesn’t want chocolate thrown into an already awesome tasting treat?!

I didn’t add the walnuts to the recipe (there are too many nut allergies in our house) and I think it still tasted really good. I liked the moist topping that developed on the cake and the inside was surprisingly light. I would definitely make this again, it was easy to make and well worth the effort.

 


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Tardis Rainbow Birthday Cake and Dalek Cupcakes

In 1979 we left Yugoslavia and boarded a Qantas flight to begin our new life in Sydney, Australia.
My mum’s sister greeted us at the airport, she had immigrated many years earlier and we stayed with her family for a couple of months until we got on our feet.
I was 7 years old and I have two very distinct memories of this time.
1. I remember wondering how people could eat Kentucky Fried Chicken with Coleslaw! I thought it was the strangest and most unpleasant tasting thing I had ever tried (strangely enough, it didn’t take long to develop a taste for this food phenomenon!)
2. My 10 & 6 year old cousins had a small tv in the play room at the back of the house where they would go and watch Dr Who episodes every night after dinner. This is the Dr I was introduced to…

                                                                                        The Fourth Dr Who

I have to tell you, we were terrified watching some of the episodes! I remember many times hiding under sheets while we waited for the scary bits to be over! But as soon as the show was finished our bravado returned. I remember wrapping my younger cousin from head to food in toilet paper trying to re-create one of the show’s creatures!

I’m not sure where Dr Who and I parted ways? I’d like to say it was the long hours spent studying as I got older and had less and less time for tv. This is true (seriously!) But if I’m to be totally honest, I have to acknowledge that along with this was an ever growing interest in boys and spending any free time I did have, going out with friends.

However,  in the last few months the Dr entered my life again, thanks to my now 12 year old son and his friends!
I listened to their in depth conversations about the latest episodes as they dissected each event and argued about their absolute favourite episode!

We had some sleepless nights when they discovered the weeping angels and thought it was funny to replay the scary bits of the episode again and again on You Tube! It was okay doing that when they were all together at someone’s house and in a big group, but they soon learnt it wasn’t that great when they had to come home and get ready for bed! At night! By themselves. All alone in their room!
Thankfully the more they watched the scary bits on You Tube, the more immune they became!

(Can you believe every photo I have of my son’t 12th birthday is blurry! How to make them stand still long enough to take a decent photo is beyond me!)

So with his 12th Birthday approaching I told the boys I would make a Tardis birthday cake!
To be honest I was all talk.
But they told everyone and got so excited I realised at some point my credibility was at stake!
Once I stopped fighting the idea, I relaxed and had a lot of fun.

I decided I would take this opportunity to incorporate a number of recipes I’ve been wanting to try for a long time and to be honest, without accountability and a looming deadline they would probably have been on my “one day” list for years to come.

I’ve been wanting to try Marshmallow Fondant.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE MARSHMALLOWS!
I found a recipe one of the prettiest blogs I have ever come across! Bakingdom .
If you click here it will take you straight to Darla’s marshmallow fondant recipe!

Now I’ve never made, let alone used marshmallow fondant before. So I was pretty happy with the results…


My other “one day” recipe was from a blog I stumbled upon recently that is indescribably stunning Sweetapolita.

I saw Rosie’s Rainbow Doodle Birthday Cake and it’s been on my mind ever since.
So I decided, since I was expected to produce a Tardis birthday cake, I was going to go all the way!

We sang happy birthday (which included strange word additions and a lot of wresting) but eventually my son cut into his birthday cake…

To say the boys were blown away would be an understatement!

I followed Rosie’s recipe for the Rainbow Cake with Lemony Swiss Meringue Buttercream and made as many layers as I thought a Tardis would need in height. I spread her lemony swiss meringue buttercream between each layer and finished it off with a crumb coat before covering the whole thing with the coloured Marshmallow Fondant.

The dalek cupcakes were simply chocolate cupcakes.
I made a dozen regular sized cupcakes and topped them each with mini cupcake.
I then made and tinted buttercream in the colours of the newest dalek models and covered the cupcakes.
From what I can gather, the different coloured daleks have different qualities, so the boys put quite a bit of thought into which dalek they wanted to eat!

Then back to their skateboards… on their stomachs…as you do…
I guess riding upright got boring?!?


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Gingerbread Christmas Cookie Tree

I remember someone telling me that the purpose of meditation was to give us a break from our daily lives. While meditating we are focused on other things, our breath, our body, the present moment. Anything but what has been consuming us and occupying our thoughts. At the end of our meditation time we step back into our lives. But we do so refreshed. We’ve had a break from all our worries, duties and roles. And now we return recharged and the time away has, hopefully, given us a new perspective. A more detached and objective way to see our lives, and with fresh eyes, we can tackle our concerns with new ideas that were hidden from us while we were caught up in the story that was our life! I honestly cannot remember where I picked up this broad definition of meditation, but it’s stuck with me.

That’s what I love about cooking and in particular, baking. My way of being in the world can be very much in my mind and not much happening in the body! My mind can be a hive of activity, sometimes it feels like it’s home to a loud, chaotic, formula 1 race track. You’d never know what’s going in there by watching me, my body goes through the day doing it’s thing and not getting in the mind’s way. Actually it’s learnt to stay out of the mind’s way! And that’s where baking and cooking come into play.

Doing something that is physical and new requires me to focus fully on the activity at hand. My mind tries to gloss over instructions so it can get back to solving the latest drama, but I’ve learnt the more active my mind, the more complex the recipe I need to pick needs to be. I have to concentrate on what I am doing and force myself to take a break from the tapes playing in my head. And when the business and dramas are big, like at Christmas time, doing anything complex is the last thing I want to do! That’s how I new it was time to undertake a challenge. I have been wanting to make a Gingerbread House, but I have been sick with the latest bug the boys brought home and when I saw Gingerbread Christmas Trees I was sold! They looked amazing and somehow not as daunting as the houses, to me.

I made the dough using the recipe below from Gourmet Traveller. I also had five 11-year old boys in the house having a sleepover, friends dropping in and still feeling weak from the bug. The combination wasn’t great. After many hiccups, I took my first batch out of the oven and then dropped them!
At this point my 14-year old decided to step in. My goal was to spend some mother daughter time while the boys were destroying the house. She was reluctant to begin with, but I stepped back fully and other than making the dough and destroying the first batch of stars, she did everything. 

She is also an “in her head” sort of person. 
So it was great to sit back and watch the meditative process of baking in action.
She was in “flow”.
She had purpose and an incredible sense of achievement at the end of it all.
And while she took pics of her creation to post on facebook and tumblr, I took pics of her to post here.

Remember to take a break from the busy-ness of the season, whatever form your ‘meditation’ takes, take time to do it and you will be rewarded with a renewed sense of perspective, love and joy!

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

Gingerbread Recipe (as it appears in Gourmet Traveller for their gingerbread house recipe)

700g plain flour
190g each light brown sugar and dark muscovado sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
220g cold butter, cubed
180g golden syrup
2 eggs

1. Process half of each of the flour, sugars, baking powder and spices in a food processor to combine well. Add half the butter, process to combine, then add half the golden syrup and 1 egg and process until mixture comes together (3-4 minutes). Turn onto a work surface, knead until mixture comes together, wrap in plastic wrap and repeat with remaining ingredients. Refrigerate to rest for at least 1 hour.

2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Roll our each piece of gingerbread on a lightly floured surface to 3mm thick. Cut decorative shapes out and place on trays lined with baking paper and bake in batches until darkened around the edges. About 10 minutes. Cool on trays for 5 minutes then cool on wire racks.

Royal Icing Recipe (as it appears in Gourmet Traveller for their gingerbread house recipe)

2 egg whites
450g pure icing sugar

Whisk egg-whites in a bowl, gradually adding icing sugar to the mixture until it is smooth holds a stiff peak. Leave white or colour what ever shade your desire the spoon into piping bags fitted with desired piping tubes.

To assemble:
Pipe icing onto each star in whatever pattern you fancy and we dabbed icing in the middle of each star to stick the tree together.


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An English Street Party!

It’s an English, royal wedding, street party at Forever Nigella and this month’s challege is hosted by Mardi at EatLiveTravelWrite!

I bought a new toy and I wanted to use it!

I have never used an icing/decorating/whatever it’s called gun.
I was excited!
I pulled out my favourite Nigella book,
‘How To Be a Domestic Goddess – Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking’.
Just holding this book in my hands fills my stomach with butterflies of anticipation!

I chose Nigella’s basic cupcake recipe and trimmed the peaks ready for icing…


I ate every one of those gorgeous, sweet, crusty tips.

Then I made Nigella’s recipe for butter icing I found further into the book.
The kids and I had so much fun colouring the frosting.
We were going for the red, white and blue of the English flag!

My 3 year old and 10 year old boys decorated these cupcakes with me!
They were excited we were using a ‘gun’ and who cares if it shoots frosting!
We had a blast!

We ate a lot of frosting as we worked!

 And we were pretty impressed with our artwork!
We decided we would be proud to take our final product to any street party!
And I just want to add, that the cupcake and the icing on their own were great to eat.
However when the two were combined it was THE BEST!


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Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

Anytime I ask anyone in my family, “what do you feel like for dinner?”
I can guarantee you, the answer will be “can you make that cannelloni?”
It is so easy to make and so incredibly tasty and satisfying.
And the best bit… the kids love having the cannelloni for their school lunches the next day!

I process 3 slices of stale bread for breadcrumbs…

I add hot water to the spinach until it wilts, then run cold water over it before chopping…

I place the breadcrumbs, spinach and a cup of grated parmesan in a bowl…

I add the ricotta and season with salt and pepper…

And use my hands to squish it all together!

I open a jar of tomato sauce and cover the base of baking dish
(I prefer 650ml jar of Five Brothers ‘Grilled Summer Vegetables’)

I stuff and layer the cannelloni over the sauce.

Open another jar of sauce and spread it over the top of the cannelloni.
Then sprinkle a good dose of cheese!

Bake for about 30 mins and you’re done!

Ingredients

2 x 650ml Jars of readymade tomato pasta sauce
1 Box Cannelloni Tubes
2 Bunches Spinach (I use two bags of washed baby spinach leaves)
750-800g Fresh Low Fat Ricotta
1 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 Cup Fresh Breadcrumbs (about 3 slices of bread processed)
Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper
2 Cups Grated Cheese (I use Pizza Mix)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Blanch the spinach by dropping into a saucepan of boiling water for 5 seconds.
3. Put under cold water, then drain and squeeze out any excess moisture, chop.
4. Combine the spinach, ricotta, parmesan, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper.
5. Spread one jar of tomato sauce over the base of a baking dish.
6. Stuff cannelloni tubes with filling and layer over sauce.
7. Pour remaining jar of sauce over the cannelloni, sprinkle grated cheese over the top.
8. Bake for 25-30 mins.


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Ham, Cheese & Chive Muffins and Bread

I decided to make a kid friendly version of this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe!

Actually, I made the bread to start with and was a little hesitant about the cheese. I used Gruyere and Emmenthal.
The smell that greeted me when I opened the packets was… well… bad!
But I’m glad I persevered.
Once the bread was in the oven, the smell changed and it really surprised me that something that started off so stinky could change so much!
I really did think that there was no saving this baby and had written it off, but suddenly, as the new smell filled the kitchen I felt hope!
I couldn’t wait to taste it and see if it was as good as it smelled.

And you know what? It was really, really good…
I swapped Dorie’s chives and walnuts for ham and shallots in an attempt to make it more tempting to the kids.
But I was enough of a realist to know that while the kids were encouraging, they would like it way more with a good dose of cheddar cheese.
So back to the kitchen and this time I dumped the Gruyere and Emmenthal for a packet of “4 cheese blend”! (It’s a mix of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses).
I know what you’re thinking… Classy!
Hey, it worked! The kids loved them!

If you want to see many more exciting and varied versions of this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe click here!

 


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Salmon Fishcakes with Pancetta Green Beans

The green beans were amazing!
I honestly thought most of them were going to go to waste so figured I’d better make a kid friendly main and planned to force them to at least try the beans, but I didn’t have to do that at all!
I made a huge serving and they were all gone! My 10 year old son was incredibly pleased that pancetta tasted “almost as good as bacon!”

 

I ‘get off’ on seeing the colours, textures and flavours of  vegetables that have been blanched!
Awesome!

And don’t get me started on the colours and flavours of anything ‘bacony’ being fried up!
The smell was driving the neighbours crazy! (Especially their dog, I could hear him scraping at the fence trying to get over!)

On their own, the beans and the bacon were already looking great, but when they were brought together for one last saute, it was like watching the coming together of two gorgeous people and forming a… a Brangelina! (Too much?)

I was thinking of something fancy to accompany these beans and match their elegance, but let’s face it, with kids in the house (3 of them) I couldn’t face fighting them to eat the green beans and the main! I decided to practice self love and went with Salmon Fishcakes! (And surprisingly, they went really well with the beans!)

While the potatoes were cooking, I poached the salmon in milk with some lemon slices and a handful of peppercorns.

I then mashed the potatoes and mixed them with the flaked, poached salmon and shallots (I luv shallots!)
I took scoops of the mixture and formed patties the size of my palm.

These were then dipped in flour, eggs and fresh breadcrumbs before being placed in the fridge to chill for 20 mins.

Then cook for 20 minutes, turning the patties at half time at 200 degrees celsius!

 

Salmon Fishcakes

(Adapted from MasterChef Australia)

5oog potatoes (I prefer dutch cream)

500g salmon fillets

2-3 cups milk (to cover fillets depends on size of frying pan)

4 lemon slices

handful of peppercorns

1/2 cup sliced shallots

1/2 cup of flour

3 eggs beaten together

150g fresh breadcrumbs (about 6 slices of bread, crusts removed, in a food processor)

 

Steps:

1. The potatoes – peel, dice and boil until tender. Then drain the potatoes and mash until smooth. Set aside.

2. Salmon – place salmon in frying pan with lemon slices and peppercorns and cover with milk. Place over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer. When the liquid bubbles, turn heat to low and poach for another 7 minutes.

3. Combine the mashed potatoes, salmon and shallots in a bowl then season with salt and pepper.

4. Take scoops of the mixture and shape balls the size of your palm into fishcake patties.

5. Place the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs into separate bowls and dip each fishcake first into the flour, then the eggs and finally coat in breadcrumbs.

6. Place the completed fishcakes on a tray or plate and chill in the fridge for 20 mins.

7. Lightly grease an oven tray and bake for 10 minutes on each side or until fishcakes are light and golden.

 

The Pancetta Green Beans came from Dorie Greenspan’s latest book, Around My French Table and were this week’s recipe from French Friday’s With Dorie, click to see a whole variety of takes on this recipe!