Carrot cake: the cake of carrots (that isn’t gross)

Whilst the fundamental concept of carrot cake is, well, a little weird, it’s actually a delicious cake. And a home made one even more so. It doesn’t taste like carrots. You can’t even see the carrots. It’s not a carrot surprise (thanks for that one, Dad). It’s just nutmeggy, sort of sweet, non-dry and altogether delicious.

For one super fantastic cake (I made mine in a loaf tin, but I think you could get around 12 muffins out of this, too) you will need:
– 1/2 cup of butter, softened
– 2 eggs
– 1 cup-worth of finely shredded carrot (I used 2 big-ish carrots)
– 1/2 cup walnuts (toasted in a dry pan) (optional!)
– 1/2 cup sultanas (optional!)
– 1/2 cup brown sugar
– 1 cup self-raising flour
– 1/2 teaspoon bi-carb
– pinch of salt
– nutmeg
– cinnamon

For the super epic cream cheese frosting, you will need:
– 180g cream cheese
– 4 tablespoons icing sugar
– about 1 tablespoon of butter, softened
– 2-3 of tablespoons of lemon juice

Step 1 – it’s cake time: heat your oven up to 180 degrees celsius. In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and airy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. At this point, add your other cake-related ingredients. I’m quite bullish on nutmeg and cinnamon so I literally added about 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and half a fresh nutmeg; add less if you’re less of a fan (and therefore less awesome). Pour into a greased pan and bake for about 40-50 mins (if it’s in a cake tin), prob about half that time if they are muffins.

Step 2 – filla: mix together all of the frosting ingredients in a beating-fashion. When the cake is cool, cut it in half and spread the frosting in between the two halves. Bloody good.

Carrot cake. A cake of carrots.

Carrot cake. A cake of carrots.

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Death by chocolate (tart)

It wouldn’t be the worst way I could think of, to go by chocolate tart; being engulfed so thoroughly by this thick, dark, oozing, slightly bitter lava. If they found me, my face covered with dark remnants, the odd pastry crumb, a fork clawing helplessly at the…last…bite. They’d know I’d bit off more than I could chew…

I’m partial to a sliver of chocolate tart, as you can tell. It has to be dark, it cannot be sweet – well, not too sweet anyway. The sort of richness that makes you feel like you really could not eat anymore at all. That sort of tart is the one I love.

I came across a number of recipes, whilst perusing many sources for this tart. My conclusions: you need chocolate, cream and butter. In really any quantities. Beyond that, it’s pretty hard to stuff up. I made a couple of little tarts and a couple of chocolate pots with mine, but this would yield enough for a 23cm tart shell.

You will need:
– 300g chocolate. I would say get dark aka semi sweet chocolate. I couldn’t find any. I used a mix of 70% and milk, half a half. Though a 70% tart would have been pretty good too. The mix was sufficiently dark that it wasn’t too sweet, but still reminded everyone it was a delicious dessert-y chocolate tart.
– 2 egg yolks and 1 whole egg (use the egg whites for a bomb alaska! see picture at end)
– 300mL thickened cream
– 2 tbsp butter
– 1 tart shell. I used the standard shortcrust from my pecan pie a few blogs ago – I like the ever so slightly salty contrasting shell to my filling. Otherwise you could go for a sweeter tart shell, perhaps a chocolate version

Step 1 – shellshock: make your tart shell as per the pecan pie recipe. Blind bake with rice, and then bake for a further 10 mins or so without the rice. Cool.

Step 2 – get tarted up: to make your filling, break your chocolate into pieces and place in a bowl along with the butter. Bring the cream to the boil and then pour over the chocolate. Let it hang out for a few minutes and then stir to combine. Yes, the chocolate will melt. Pour this mixture into your cooled tart shell/s. Bake at 160 degrees for around about 25 minutes, or until you can just see the centre of the tart slightly wobbling. If you want to make it look ever so slightly fancy, either sieve some cocoa powder over the top, or alternatively combine a little melted chocolate with cream to a liquidy consistency and spread over the top. Simples.

You old tart

You old tart

 

Oh – bonus shot. Bombe alaska!

The nice sort of bomb(e)

The nice sort of bomb(e)

Various fruitlicious crumble

The crumble. No one I have ever met has ever turned away a hot bowl of crunchy, crumbly, apple-y crumble. This time, having desperately needed a dessert hit, and not having managed to venture past the fruit bowl and to the shops, I decided to take the beggars-can’t-be-choosers option and go with what I had. Various fruits.

You will need:
– various fruits. I went with a jumbled concoction of an apple, a couple of plums and a couple of nectarines
– zest and juice of one lemon
– 120g caster sugar
– 120g plain flour
– 100g ground almonds
– 150g butter (chopped)
– a couple of handfuls of chopped / slivered almonds
– nutmeg and cinnamon

Step 1 – Fry-day: this sounds kinda weird but you want to fry the fruits for a bit to get a bit of char on. Melt a tablespoon or so of butter (along with a teensy bit of olive oil) on quite a high heat so they don’t soften heaps (you’ll be baking it later), but go goldy on the outside. During the frying process, add about a teaspoon each of nutmeg and cinnamon and a quarter of the sugar and also the lemon juice.

All fried up

All fried up

Step 2 – The world crumbles: Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celcius. In a bowl, mix your flour, remaining sugar, ground almonds and the butter. Rub together until the mixture turns all crumbly (doesn’t have to be too fine like breadcrumbs).

Eat me

Eat me

Step 3 – Assembly of Fools: place your fruits in a baking dish, toss in the lemon zest and scatter the crumble mixture over the top. On top of that, sprinkle the almonds. Bake for around about 40 mins or until the crumble is golden (and the fruit is tender).

IMG_0861

Christmas delights – rum balls and cherry & walnut shortbread

I reckon I’ve well and truly missed the boat on this article being useful for Christmas festivities this year, what with my delay in blogging being caused by the grand and outrageous excitements of celebrating the holiday with my retirement-aged parents and all (hi guys!).

Nevertheless, in the interests of next Christmas, Australia day, Easter – hell, do you really need an excuse to eat something delicious? What’s with rum balls being restricted to Christmas anyway? I say Easter has as much right to be fueled by rum as that drunkard Saint Nick.

But, as always, I digress. Onwards and upwards to the main point of this article: two deliciously festive treats that are sure to please the crowds – rummy rum balls and an old favourite from my youth, cherry and walnut shortbread.

Rum balls
I may have just been plain gratuitous with the amount of rum used in these. I always appreciate a good chug of the stuff so feel free to use less if you’re less of a raging alcoholic! You can double the recipe (as I did) in order to bribe / suck up to family, friends and various in-laws. When I doubled the recipe, I think I probably got about 70-80 rum balls.

You will need (for the original quantity…which would probably yield you around about 30-40):
– 250g plain sweet biscuits. For those playing in Australia, I used those arrowroot biscuits
– 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder
– 2/3 a cup of dessicated coconut (plus extra for dusting)
– 1 can of sweetened condensed milk. Nestle makes a can that’s around about 400grams? 395 to be anal retentively precise
– rum. Here is the part where you use as much as you like. I used around about 6 tablespoons
– 3/4 cup of sultanas

Step 1 – juicy lucy: The sultanas are optional, but I think they add a nice juiciness to the rum balls. I started off by putting my rum balls in a little bowl and filling with rum up to the top of the sultanas. I left them overnight (but I don’t think it’s really that critical – leaving them for a while just means that they get all rummy and soaky and juicy and altogether delicious). If you don’t want to add sultanas, then just add the rum at step 2.

Step 2 – grinders: place your biscuits in a blender and grind ‘er up. Grind into a fairly fine powder. If you don’t have a blender, or if you are having frustration issues, you can just put the biscuits in a bag and bash the sh*t out of them! Pour into a bowl and add the cocoa powder, the 2/3 cup of dessicated coconut, the condensed milk and the rummy sultanas. Like a true alcoholic, I actually added another glug of rum at this point. But, again, that’s just gratuitous. Mix the lot together – don’t be shy, really get your hands in there.

Step 3 – roly poly: now comes the fun part – formation. You can make these rum balls as big or small as you like. I went for about a tablespoon for each, so it’s a nice mouthful-of-a-bite. A good tip is just to wet your hands a little, so that the mixture doesn’t stick to them and get all gluggy. Form into a ball and then roll in extra dessicated coconut if you like. Refrigerate to firm up and enjoy!

Eat up!

Eat up!

Shortbread
There’s this major bakery in Australia called Brumby’s. They’ve been around for years and as a kid, once or twice a year, I was treated to a cherry and walnut shortbread biscuit. It was basically the time of my life, every six months, when I would bite into this delicious morsel. I now realise that Brumby’s makes pretty average shortbread, but back then, it was awesome. In a moment of nostalgia, I decided to recreate these little morsels…but with a (hopefully) more delicious and buttery shortbread. Here goes…

Again, I doubled the recipe for the bribery reasons above and yielded a mountain of about 50 biscuits, but the below will give you around about 25-30.

You will need:
– 250g unsalted butter, softened
– 3/4 cup icing mixture (in this case, the combination of icing sugar and corn flour is a good thing!)
– 2 cups of flour
– a pinch of salt
– 2/3 cup of walnuts, dry toasted in a pan. I chopped my walnut pieces in smaller bits (like, 1 square cm)
– 2/3 cup glace cherries (with the cherries and walnuts, add as much or as little as you like)

Step 1 – just beat it: Beat your butter and icing mixture until paler and creamier-looking. This might be a choice time to crack out that electronic mixer, unless you’re building up your biceps. Then mix in the flour and salt – it’s a good idea to turn it out onto a board and give it a light knead. Once this is all combined, relatively gently fold in the walnuts and cherries so they don’t smoosh about too much. Roll your mixture into a log shape, with the diameter being however big you want your cookies – I went for about 5cm across. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate until firm.

Step 2 – cookie cutter: Preheat your oven to about 150 degrees celcius fan forced. Unwrap your shortbread log and slice at the thickness of however thick you want your cookies. I went for about 1cm thick. Bake for about 15-20 minutes. You want them to not be coloured golden, and be relatively firm (but know that they’ll firm up some more when cooling). Let cool and enjoy!

Your ticket to heart attack station

Your ticket to heart attack station

Two for the price of one – baked lamb meatballs and baked eggplant extravaganza

We recently had a (relatively) bloody cold day in Sydney, even though getting into summer the temperature should be hovering around the high twenties. Realising this was probably my last chance to eat warming, scrummy comfort food before the onslaught of what is an Australian summer hits, I took the opportunity to cook up a storm – baked lamb meatballs, and also what I would like to call a baked eggplant extravaganza. I give you good deal – two for the price of one.

I actually only took a picture of the lamb meatballs as both dishes looked approximately exactly the same – various delicious goods baked in a hearty tomato sauce and topped with stretchy, gooey mozzarella look the same – whaddaya know.

First up – the lamb.

You will need:
– Lamb! I baked enough for about 3 or 4 people and used about 500 grams of minced lamb
– 1 onion, diced (I used half in the meatballs and half in the tomato sauce)
– 4 cloves of garlic, chopped (because everyone should get more bullish about garlic) – half for the meatballs, half for the sauce
– salt and pepper to taste
– a nice handful of basil
– 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
– a couple of those little baby eggplant (or half a big eggplant), cut into small (say, 1cm) chunks (optional)
– tomato paste
– 1 nice, hot red chilli (optional)
– mozzarella (however cheesey you like your food) – I used about 4 of those bocconcini (the smaller mozzarella) balls

Step 1 – mary had a little lamb: in a bowl, mix your lamb, half the onion, half the garlic, salt and pepper and half the basil. Get your hands in there and really give it a good mix. Roll these into little spheres – however big you like (I went for golf-ball sized) and, if you like, stuff a tiny cube of mozzarella into each ball. Make sure you seal the meat around the cheese well!

Gettin’ friendly

Step 2 – if at first you don’t succeed, then fry, fry again: heat some olive oil in a saucepan on a med-high heat and place your beautiful meatballs in to fry, turning as each side becomes golden.

Lamby goodness

Step 3 – mamma mia: once your meatballs are golden (don’t be too worried if they’re not cooked through at this stage), add your eggplants (if using) and fry off for a couple of minutes. Tip in a can of diced tomatoes, the remaining basil, some tomato paste and chilli, if you want a little heat. Let these simmer away for a few minutes until some of the liquid evaporates.

Simmer away, my little lamby friends

Step 4 – wakey bakey: you could stop at step 3 and have a delicious dish – a really great pasta sauce, even – but in the words of some wanky chef, somewhere, I’m going to take this one to the next level (I got this). Tip your meaty lamby mixture into a casserole dish, top with carelessly torn mozzarella, strewn at random, and bake at about 200 degrees celcius until the mozza is melty and slightly goldy.

Baked lamb droolballs

Second up… for those Sunday nights when the depression of the coming work week hits its hardest, you’ve come off the back of a busy, fun filled weekend of running around, hanging out in the sun and having a brewski or two…and all you want is dinner on a plate, in front of your, not in an hour… now.

You will need:
– the rest of that pack of baby eggplant you bought for the lamb meatballs recipe… (I used about 5 or so)
– bacon! I used about 5 rashers, chopped
– half an onion, chopped
– 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
– the rest of the mozzarella (if you like getting cheesey)
– a tin of diced tomatoes
– basil, a nice handful

Step 1 – there’s really only one step: heat a saucepan – you don’t really need oil, some will come from the bacon fat (yes, gross, but delicious). Chuck in your bacon and onion and fry until the onion is translucent and the bacon with nice little golden bits on it (oh, and until any bacon fat renders). Add your garlic at this point, and also the eggplants, halved. Fry your eggplants until they’re nice and golden and gettin’ squishy. Tip in your tomatoes and basil. Simmer until some of the water has evaporated. Then, if you like, tip into a baking dish, top with mozzarella and bake at 200 degrees until it all looks nicely golden and melty. That’s it! That’s all.