If I say “slow-cooker”, it most likely conjures up images of deliciously hearty stews, curries or soups, in other words, winter fare. But slow-cookers can be used for so much more. A friend and I were discussing how she uses her slow-cooker the other day and it reminded me of one of my favourite recipes. I recently discovered that my beautiful Russell Hobbs slow-cooker has a crack in it and I was sharing my distress as winter is just around the corner and won’t be the same without this wonderful piece of equipment.
This is one of those “any-time” recipes, meaning it’s perfect for a summer day when you know you’re going to be out and about all day and want to come home to something delicious yet easy to throw together; or a great way to feed the masses on an Autum or Winter evening when the gang are together watching the game on TV.
The secret to the perfect slow-cooked meal, in my experience, is to brown the meat and soften the onions prior to adding them to the slow-cooker. This does add a little time to the preparation, but the browning/sealing/caramelisation of the meat is where a lot of the flavour comes from. This recipe makes 12 – 14 servings, but the cooked meat can either be frozen for later use (freeze the meat and sauce separately) or reduce the quantities to suit your needs.
1.5 kg blade, gravy or flank steak
¼ cup flour to coat
1 can/pot tomato paste, about 130 g
½ cup tomato sauce
2 Tbsp balsamic or wine vinegar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp molasses or 2 tsp dark soy sauce (I prefer the soy sauce)
about 1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
fresh bread rolls
thinly sliced red onions
gherkins or pickled cucumber slices
- Turn the slow-cooker on to HIGH and coat with non-stick spray. Put the flour in a large plastic bag. Pat the meat dry and shake in the bag of flour to coat. Discard the remaining flour and brown the steak size meat portions in a little oil in a heavy pan and fry over a high heat to brown.
- Put the browned meat in the slow-cooker with ½ cup hot water. Put on the lid and cook on HIGH for 1 hour.
- In the meantime, measure the sauce ingredients into a small bowl and set aside. (The molasses gives a brown colour as well as extra sweetness to the sauce so it depends how sweet you like your meal. If you opt for soy sauce, reduce the salt in the sauce to a ½ tsp. Taste the sauce and add the remaining salt only if necessary.)
- After an hour, turn the heat down to LOW, then cook for 5 – 6 hours more (reduce this time accordingly if you’ve used less meat), until the meat is so well cooked that it can be easily shredded with two forks. Tip the cooking liquid out of the slow-cooker and set aside. Put the shredded meat back into the slow-cooker with as much of the sauce as you need to give the meat a good flavour. If you are pre-preparing this dish, refrigerate the beef, sauce and reserved cooking liquid separately until needed.
- If you’ve refrigerated the cooked meat, etc., about two hours before serving, reheat the beef and sauce in the slow cooker on HIGH. When hot enough, taste, add extra sauce if necessary and more of the cooking liquid if you like. Turn to LOW or KEEP WARM, until required.
- To serve, spoon the hot meat into a warmed, split bun, with slices of red onion and gherkins.
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A friend recently had these ingredients on her kitchen bench-top and being the inquisitive me that I am, I asked what she could be making with a packet of malt biscuits, Eskimo lollies (sweets), condensed milk, butter and coconut. To her horror, I had to admit that I had never heard of, nor had I tried one of New Zealand’s iconic traditional kid’s slices – Lolly Cake. Quite aptly named, I might add, as the Eskimos are the lollies, and can be replaced with other types should you so choose. Wikipedia describes Eskimo lollies as “firm but soft and chewy marshmallows”. I’ll add that they are flavoured too so each colour adds a different taste.
In all my years in New Zealand, to be quite honest, I’d seen these slices sitting in bakeries and cafés, but had never felt drawn to them sufficiently to investigate further. They just didn’t look that appetising, but that’s probably because they look a lot sweeter than they are and I’m not 5 years old. Even once I’d combined all ingredients into my mixing bowl and gazed down upon them, I definitely recall thinking that the mixture is so unappealing that I would probably never make them again…but then after a few hours you get to taste it and, well, it is worth it. Definitely more of a kid’s slice for parties, treats or cake stalls at school fairs, but a very easy non-bake slice which Kiwi kids absolutely love. And I have noticed that the adults become rather nostalgic too. No idea how the lollies came about, are so named, or why they are in the shape of little people in traditional Eskimo dress and I certainly don’t want to get into that type of discussion here, but apparently they’ve been around for 54 years or thereabouts and are a very popular Kiwi confectionary.
120 g unsalted butter
½ tin condensed milk
1 packet malt biscuits (200 – 250 g), crushed
1 packet Eskimo lollies (about 180 g) (or marshmallows, liquorice allsorts, etc.), chopped
- Melt butter over a low heat, do not boil.
- Add condensed milk and stir until combined – about 10 minutes. Be careful to watch the mixture and have it on a low heat as it could catch on the bottom of the pan and spoil everything.
- Crush the biscuits. There are a number of ways to do this: a food processor if you want a very fine crumb; in a plastic bag that seals well. Remove all air from the bag and bash with a rolling pin; or use the back of a glass in a big mixing bowl. Whichever way you choose, I like to have a mixture of crumb sizes to give the slice real texture, so a few bigger pieces of biscuit are good.
- Chop each lolly into about 4 pieces. Combine with the biscuit crumbs in a large mixing bowl.
- Allow the condensed milk and butter mixture to cool a little and pour over the crumbs and lollies. If the butter is still too hot, it may melt the lollies.
- Combine all ingredients and then using your hands, shape into a log/roll.
- Spread the coconut out on a platter or board and roll the log in the coconut. You may prefer to have two smaller rolls – whatever works for you.
- Place the coconut covered roll into the fridge for a few hours or overnight and once set, slice and serve.
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I saw this recipe in a magazine a while ago and earmarked it for further investigation, but life got in the way and I promptly forgot about it. Then the other day while in our local fruit and vege shop, I noticed that Passionfruit were on sale. For those who have no idea what Passionfruit is, it is also known as a Granadilla. In South Africa we always referred to it as Granadilla, but when I called it that here in New Zealand, no-one knew what I was talking about – but regardless – it is the same sweetly tart fruity pulp filled with black seeds and is excellent on cheesecakes, in butter icing, smoothies, drizzled over ice cream or as I can now also confirm – in Passionfruit Kisses.
Local news reports have been full of weather warnings this past week with Cyclone Lusi heading our way, expected to begin lashing the north island some time tonight. High winds, lots of rain and very high tides are expected with the possibility of electricity outages also expected. This morning I checked out water storage; battery, candle and food supplies and we seem good to go. I decided the final item on my list was to get a bit of baking done while I could and am looking forward to snuggling up inside our warm home this weekend with a supply of these delightful cookies on hand. The biscuit texture is very similar to shortbread, except a lighter consistency while the deliciously tart icing will have you reaching for another cookie before you’ve finished the one in your mouth.
(makes about 40 halves, so 20 cookies in total)
125 g unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup icing sugar, sifted
½ tsp vanilla essence
¾ cup flour
¼ cup cornflour (also known as mazena)
¼ tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1½ – 2 Tbsp passionfruit syrup (fresh is always better, but you can buy it bottled from most large supermarkets)
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
- Preheat the oven to 160°C. Line two oven trays with baking paper (spray them lightly with oil so the paper sticks to the tray).
- Cream the butter and icing sugar with an electric beater until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Add the vanilla essence.
- Sift in the flour, cornflour and baking powder. Use a spatula to fold gently together to form a soft dough.
- Using floured hands, form small balls of mixture. Place the balls on the prepared oven trays or pipe small rounds about 2cm in diameter – I used a piping bag and a nozzle with a 1cm round opening.
- Place the unbaked kisses in the fridge for about 15 minutes before baking. They seem to hold their shape better this way.
- Bake the balls for about 20 minutes, or until they are just starting to colour and set them aside on the trays to cool.
- To make the icing, mix all the ingredients together until they reach a smooth, spreadable consistency (not runny). I added a little more pulp as my mixture was too thick and not easy to spread – if this happens, the cookies will crumble when you try to ice them. DON’T add too much liquid.
- Sandwich the kisses together with a little icing and leave to set.
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It’s been a busy week with lots of decisions to make, but I’m pleased to say that they’re made and my dilemma has passed and I’m excitedly looking forward to the future. Although busy, I’ve been able to catch up with a few girlfriends before I start my new job and it’s been a real treat. Some were in lovely telephone conversations while others were face to face over a cuppa. As the week draws to a close and I look to the new week, I feel blessed to know so many lovely women and to hear their stories. Each one of them is facing their own challenges – jobs, family, personal or health. As mothers and wives we carry a lot of emotion and responsibility and feel we need to make things right for our families; running our homes, supporting our husbands while loving, nurturing and taking care of our young.
To each of these friends, I salute you. You are all strong and blessed to have beautiful families and we live in a wonderful free country where we can work, our children can get a good education, our husbands are supportive and kind. In this day and age where so many couples have split and families are broken and forced to begin again under different and often difficult circumstances, I note that all these women work hard at making their relationships work. Many of their marriages are into the double figures and they understand that commitment isn’t about putting up with something until something better comes along. It is about learning when to compromise, when to take a stand, when to be gentle and kind and when to use that inner strength and roar. Great friends are hard to come by and I’m very grateful for mine.
I shared a photo of this delicious tart on Facebook the other day and one special friend posted that she hoped it would be up on Chocolate Goose soon, so here goes. Hopefully you can make it and get to enjoy it with a few of your very closest and dearest girlfriends. For those that aren’t sure what Frangipane is, it is a combination of ingredients that usually include ground almonds. It gives the texture a delicious crumbliness and softly enhances the flavour. This recipe can be made using store bought frozen pastry, or make your own. Also feel free to replace the pear with apple or use hazelnut meal instead of the almond meal. This is definitely NOT something you can serve to people with nut allergies. If you can’t find almond meal in the store, buy a bag of raw unsalted almonds and process them in your food processor until you have a fine flour, but note that it will be crumbly – it will not be as fine as other flours.
1 sheet frozen shortcrust pastry, thawed (or make your own – it’s one of the easiest pastries to make)
125 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup plain flour
1 cup almond meal
1 medium just-ripe pear, peeled, cut into thin wedges
vanilla ice-cream or a dollop of freshly whipped cream to serve
- Preheat the oven to 200ºC/180ºC fan forced.
- Lightly grease a 24cm (base diameter) round fluted tart pan with removable base (if you don’t have one of these, don’t stress, it’s just easier to remove the tart).
- Roll out the pastry if using home made, or simply line the pan with the thawed pastry. Trim the edges and place on a baking tray. Line pastry with baking paper and fill with baking weights, dried beans or rice. Bake for 5 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and remove the weights and paper. Return to the oven for 2 – 3 minutes more, I found that it wasn’t ready so left it in for 5 minutes, but it will depend on your oven so watch carefully as you don’t want the shell to brown too much…you want it to be a beautiful golden colour.
- Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 180ºC/160ºC fan forced.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a small bowl until light and creamy.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Stir in the flour and almond meal. Spread the combined mixture evenly into the pastry shell.
- Arrange the sliced pear over the mixture and bake for 15 – 18 minutes or until firm. I baked for around 20 minutes, so again, pay close attention.
- Serve with ice-cream or cream.
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