Cheesy Corn Bread

I often talk about having a crusty bread as an accompaniment to soup or a stew as it not only fills the belly really well but it is a great way to soak up all the delicious gravy that you would otherwise have to lick, but good manners tend to prevail and sticking one’s head into one’s bowl isn’t really the done thing.

Cheesy Corn Bread

I’ve lost count of how many friends have asked for this recipe. It has to be one of the easiest breads to make and I would actually go so far as to say it is fail-safe. The recipe is also easily adaptable to suit fridge or pantry ingredients so enjoy experimenting. Apologies to my gluten-intolerant friends, but as I don’t have that problem, I have very few gluten-free recipes on Chocolate Goose, but feel free to experiment with gluten-free flour. I would be very interested  in your feedback.

This is also one of my standard Summer braai/BBQ accompaniments. And that’s because it can be whipped together in a flash and sit baking in the oven while guests are chatting round the fire. Served fresh from the oven with a smearing of butter, there is seldom any left over.

ingredients:
500 g self-raising flour
1 410 g can whole corn kernels, drained
5 ml salt
1 egg
500 ml buttermilk
250 ml cheddar cheese, grated

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients, corn and cheese, reserving a little for the top.
  3. Add the buttermilk and egg. Mix to a sticky dough.
  4. Spoon evenly into a lightly greased and floured 23 x 8 x 8 cm loaf tin.
  5. Smooth the top and sprinkle with the cheese.
  6. Bake for 1 hour.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to stand in the tin for about 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack or board.
  8. If serving fresh, take care when slicing so it doesn’t fall apart – thicker slices work really well.

Enjoy!

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Oven-baked Falafel with a difference

Now I do understand that this looks a little strange, intriguing perhaps, some might even say a Dog’s Breakfast…! But I promise you, if you like falafel, you will really enjoy this. Over the summer months I buy or make falafel mix and then form it into little balls/discs and include them in salads, wraps or pitas. I even love falafel patties, but vegetarian burgers aren’t too popular in my house.

Falafel with a difference

Wikipedia describes falafel mixture as traditionally Middle Eastern and is made from ground chickpeas, fava beans or both. You may be wondering why or how I ended up with this mish-mash in a pyrex dish, but as luck would have it, at the time I realised I needed to use up the falafel mix and had neither salad nor wraps/pitas in the pantry. You know that time of the week or month, depending on how often you do your grocery shopping, when you have a few mismatched ingredients and have to get creative to produce something edible.

So an excursion onto Google produced some unexpected surprises and the one that tempted me the most was Baked Falafel Parmesan by Sarcastic Cooking (www.sarcasticcooking.com)…and so that’s what this is. In this instance she made her falafel mix from scratch, but lucky for me, I had it ready made in the fridge. What she had that I didn’t have was ready-made Marinara sauce, but then I don’t keep ready-made sauces and normally make them from scratch. Again, lucky for me, I had those ingredients on hand.

Marinara sauce is said to have originated in Naples, Italy, but there are numerous variations including various veggies, herbs and spices. Each apparently hales from a different region in Italy. I tend to stick with a very basic one and let the meat, or in this case, falafel, lead the flavour line-up.

Inexpensive and meat-free.

Ingredients:
300 / 500 g falafel mix (depends on how many you’re feeding)
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 – 2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 – 2 tins crushed tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a handful fresh basil leaves or 1 Tbsp dried basil
½ or ¾ cup grated fresh Parmesan Cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Form the falafel mix into flat patties, approximately 6 cm across and place into a greased casserole dish. Bake for 15 minutes until golden.
  3. Remove from the oven and set aside until the Marinara sauce is ready.
  4. While the falafel is in the oven, prepare the sauce by lightly frying the chopped onion in the Olive Oil until translucent and soft.
  5. Add the garlic (and dried herbs if using) and fry for a couple of minutes.
  6. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and season with the salt and pepper.
  7. Add half the fresh basil leaves (unless you’ve already added the dry herbs) and stir through.
  8. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down and simmer for about 20 minutes. The longer you simmer it for, the more the flavour develops, so it pays to make larger batches of this sauce when you have the time to let it cook gently over a low heat for a few hours. Then either bottle or freeze it into portions.
  9. Pour the Marinara sauce over the cooked falafel patties in the baking dish and cover generously with the grated Parmesan cheese. Bake for another 3 – 5 minutes until the cheese melts. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the rest of the fresh basil leaves. Serve as is or over prepared couscous or rice.

Enjoy!

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Rosemary Lamb Meatballs with Butternut Sauce

This is one of those dishes that just happened, the peas were separate on the plate, but when I packed the leftovers away I mixed them together and it looked so colourful I decided to take a photo and share the recipe with you.

Lamb Meatballs with butternut

New Zealand is well known for the quality of lamb produced here and we probably eat it at least once a week. Packed with flavour, naturally “grown” in some of the most beautiful and scenic countryside you can ever imagine, we are truly blessed to have such an abundance of good food on our very doorstep.

The other day I took some lamb mince out of the freezer and stood staring at it, hoping for some inspiration as it had been one of those days; well, weeks actually, and I haven’t been as good at my meal planning as I normally am. “Meatballs” popped into my mind and I have to admit, I was pretty darn pleased. Not only are they easy to make, but the entire process of preparing, cooking and dishing up can be done in under 40 minutes. Or if you buy the mince in bulk, prepare a few different flavoured meatballs before packing the uncooked little balls in rows into freezer bags and into the freezer. Don’t forget to label each bag with the flavours used so you can create a few different meals from a single purchase, very economical too. Meatballs are also great when you need a little to go a long way. Adding breadcrumbs bulks them up without affecting the flavour and the options truly are endless.

These particular ones were flavoured with a herb mixture I buy from the South African shop, as I haven’t seen a similar one in New Zealand. It combines dried rosemary with olives and a few other things, but rosemary complements lamb extremely well, so even without the olive ingredients, they will still be full of flavour.

One thing I don’t compromise on when buying mince, and this goes for beef mince as well, I always buy the best quality I can afford. Premium grade has less fat. Prime is still OK, but lesser qualities really do affect the outcome of the dish.

Ingredients:
For the meatballs:
400 g lamb mince
½ cup fresh bread crumbs (or Panko work really well too)
1 small onion (or ½ a big one), finely chopped
1 Tbsp Rosemary and Olive herb mixture (or plain Rosemary)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg

For the gravy/sauce:
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
½ an onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
250 ml lamb stock (beef or chicken can also be used)
1 cup butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp tomato paste

To prepare the meatballs:

  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C. Finely chop the onion and add to the crumbled mince. Add the bread crumbs if using and sprinkle with the herb mixture, salt and freshly ground pepper.
  2. Using your hands, ensure that everything is well combined – and I have to include that it is a great stress reliever too, squelching the mixture is quite mesmerizing!
  3. Add the beaten egg and squelch some more. Roll the mixture into balls, I prefer smaller rather than larger and place them onto a greased or lined oven tray.
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally so they are evenly browned. Remove from the oven and add to the pan of simmering sauce.

To prepare the sauce:

  1. While the meatballs are in the oven, gently fry the chopped onion in the olive oil until translucent and soft. Add any herbs (more rosemary and olive so as not to confuse the flavours).
  2. Add the garlic and diced butternut and cook for a couple of minutes.
  3. Pour in the stock and stir through the tomato paste. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and allow the mixture to simmer gently while the butternut softens.
  4. Add the browned meatballs, spreading them around the pan and coat them with the sauce. Simmer for a further 5 minutes until they are cooked through the centre.
  5. Serve over pasta, rice or fresh crusty bread (great for soaking up the juices!).

Enjoy.

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Buttermilk Banana Bread

I absolutely love this bread! I recently had a few bananas that were begging to be made into banana bread and a little left over buttermilk in the fridge and wondered how the two would work together. Having never tried making a banana bread with buttermilk before I spent some time with my old friend Google, and found a few recipes that inspired me. As always, I tend to tweak quantities so depending on the size of your eggs and bananas, you may want to add another ¼ cup of flour to the mixture if it is a little too wet.

Buttermilk Banana Bread

It didn’t rise very much at all, so if you prefer using a self-raising flour, then leave out the baking powder, or simply use plain/all-purpose flour and increase to a full teaspoon (5 ml) of baking powder. I was quite happy with this size as it is a loaf, not a cake after all, and smeared with a little butter (or a lot!) a slice of warm bread straight out of the oven is heavenly. The texture is light and moist with the gentle fragrance and flavour of bananas.

Once cooled, this loaf can be wrapped in tin foil and frozen whole, or cut into slices before being wrapped up and frozen. That way you can remove a few slices at a time if guests arrive or if you’re like me and like to include a couple of slices sandwiched together with a smearing of butter into a lunchbox as a treat. By morning tea they will have defrosted and be just as fresh, tasty and enjoyable as if the loaf was baked that morning. Next I might try adding a sprinkling of lemon zest to give a  little extra sparkle.

ingredients:
½ cup softened unsalted butter
1 cup castor sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas (2 large bananas)
¼ cup buttermilk
½ tsp vanilla extract
1½ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
½ tsp baking soda

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease and line (or flour-dust) a loaf tin. Mine is 22 cm long x 11 cm wide so a standard size. You might like to make muffins from this recipe or use a 22 cm round cake tin if you prefer it as a cake.
  2. Begin by creaming the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk and vanilla extract. Beat together only until the batter is combined – do not overbeat the mixture.
  3. Add the dry ingredients and mix together. Pour into your chosen prepared tins and bake for approximately 50 minutes. Test the loaf with a toothpick or skewer which should come out clean.
  4. Cool the loaf in the tin on a wire rack for about 15 minutes before turning it out onto the wire rack. Be gentle with the loaf as freshly baked bread can fall apart if manhandled while still very hot.
  5. When you can no longer wait, carefully cut off a slice and smear with softened butter before popping into your mouth.

Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com

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Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

I was complaining to a friend the other day that I seem to have hit a brick wall regarding inspiration for food preparation – I think that can happen when life gets in the way, but without even thinking about it, she instantly replied with “lunch box ideas”. So besides that being a great idea, it also made me realise that as mothers, bakers, home chefs, etc. we all face the same battle of trying to come up with new ideas for healthy, wholesome food for our families every single day! I’m going to introduce a new category called Lunch-box Ideas which will include baking, sandwiches, fruit treats, etc.

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

These muffins are just another way of adding fruit to the diet and they are moist and naturally sweet. I sprinkle a mixture of cinnamon and sugar over the top just before baking so they smell heavenly too.

They only take about 20 minutes to make from start to finish, so are easy enough to whip up a batch in the morning and add fresh muffins to lunch boxes. I’ve used fresh chopped apple as well as tinned apple and I have to admit that the tinned fruit is more to my liking, but you can always peel and stew your own apples and use them instead, although that will take much longer. For a change, why not use the basic recipe and mix up the fruit a little, using either fresh or frozen berries or mashed banana.

This recipe makes about 12 standard size muffins or you could use mini muffin tins and freeze the leftovers. A standard size muffin can be a bit big for a small tummy so the small ones work really well in lunch boxes.

ingredients:
1 egg
¼ cup oil
½ cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 cups plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chopped fresh apple (skin removed) or 1 x 410g can stewed apples, liquid removed
½ tsp extra cinnamon
1 tsp brown sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and grease or line standard size muffin tins.
  2. Beat the egg, oil, sugar and milk together in a bowl.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients into the egg mixture.
  4. Add the fruit and mix lightly until just combined – don’t over mix.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the greased/lined muffin tins and sprinkle with a combination of the extra cinnamon and brown sugar.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes or until just cooked.

Enjoy!

 

Chocolate and salted caramel mousse cake

This is certainly one of the most flavoursome chocolate cakes I have come across – and I tend to experiment with quite a few. It is neither overly sweet nor bland. Not only does simply looking at it get your taste buds working overtime, but it is one of those rare cakes that is just perfect. Perhaps a strange way to describe one of my all-time favourites but using over-the-top adjectives would not do this cake any justice. It doesn’t need big words to describe it – just make it and you’ll see what I mean.

Chocolate and salted caramel mousse cakeThe cake recipe itself is simple enough to throw together in minutes, but having a look at the list of ingredients you will see that it is by no means plain. Absolutely nothing fancy or fiddly here. The instant coffee adds a darkness to each bite that is not overwhelming at all and balances out the chocolate and sugar. To me it makes all the difference to this being not just another run-of-the-mill chocolate cake. The buttermilk and bicarb work perfectly together to create balance while the vegetable oil means that the texture of the cake post baking remains moist for days. The fact that the end masterpiece has 6 layers is neither here nor there, but I suppose it makes it a little bit more fancy than a standard 3 layer cake, but what it does do is give more opportunity to spread the mousse and salted caramel layers throughout every mouthful. I’ll stick with the 6 layers, as it also makes a beautifully tall cake which always makes a grand impression, but I need to invest in a cake cutter – one of those contraptions that allows you to cut each layer into perfectly smooth equal parts. My tower is a little rough around the edges but once you begin tucking in, you forget about looking for straight lines.

And so we get to the Salted Caramel – now here’s where the fun begins; or frustration if you haven’t worked with sugar before. Try it a few times if you need to. It takes practice to make sure that the sugar granules have dissolved completely before turning up the heat. A tip I’ve garnered from some in the know – as you must not stir the sugar syrup – is to use a food brush dipped in a little water and rub that around the edges of the pan to remove any sugar crystal build-up. Once fully dissolved, you turn up the heat and watch as the transparent liquid turns a beautiful amber shade. See Salted or Sweet Caramel Sauce for the ingredients and details on how to go about making this sauce.

Ganache is glorious on any given day and it is extremely versatile as it can be poured, smeared, whipped into a mousse or served set hard (think of truffles). It is definitely one “dish” I think all home bakers would want to master. And this particular combination of ingredients isn’t your standard straight forward ganache! I love the fact it can be made using milk, white or dark chocolate depending on your guests and can be used in so many different ways. This recipe calls for a single pot of ganache to be made, but then you divide it into two bowls. One is then whipped into a voluptuous mousse while the other has butter added to it which gives the smooth texture and beautiful glaze.

ingredients:
Cake:
1 cup boiling water
75 g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
2 tsp instant coffee granules
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/3 cup buttermilk
pinch of salt
3 cups plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder
3 eggs
2 cups firmly packed soft brown sugar
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract

Salted caramel: see recipe here

Ganache:
1½ cups thick cream
¼ cup light soft brown sugar
2 Tbsp golden syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
600 g dark chocolate, very finely chopped (yes, that did say 600 g!)
40 g unsalted butter, cubed

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (not fan-forced). Grease and line the bases and sides of three 20cm cake tins with non-stick baking paper (I only line the bases).
  2. To make the cakes, pour the just boiled water over the chopped chocolate in a medium size saucepan and leave to melt for a couple of minutes. Move the saucepan onto the stove over a low-medium heat and stir for 1 – 2 minutes until melted and smooth. Then stir in the coffee, cocoa, buttermilk and a pinch of salt.
  3. Sift the flour, bicarb and baking powder together in a large bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla extract together until thick and light. Whisk in the flour mixture, followed by the chocolate mixture. The batter will be quite thin. Divide this between the prepared tins and bake for about 40 minutes (my oven does it in 35, so check before full-time). The cakes should be well risen and springy to the touch. Remove them from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for a few minutes. Then turn them gently out onto wire racks to cool further.
  5. Make the salted caramel, see recipe here.
  6. To make the ganache: Bring 1¼ cups of the cream to the boil in a large pan with the sugar and golden syrup. As soon as the mixture boils remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla and chocolate, stirring quickly to melt the chocolate. Immediately scrape about half the mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the butter to the remaining mixture in the pan and stir gently until it has melted. Set aside to cool and firm up at room temperature.
  7. To make the chocolate mousse: Use an electric whisk to beat the remaining ganache in the mixing bowl. After about a minute, gradually trickle in the remaining ¼ cup cream. Keep whisking for 3 – 5 minutes until the mousse becomes paler and thick.
  8. Halve the three cakes horizontally as evenly as you can and place one half on a serving plate/stand.
    TIP: It is a good idea to cut 4 x strips of baking paper and place each under the edge of the cake to protect the plate from the icing – each piece gets pulled out once the icing has set and your plate is still clean!
  9. Spread a thin layer of the salted caramel and a thicker layer of the mousse onto the base and then cover with the next cake layer. Repeat until the final cake is placed on the top. Don’t put caramel or mousse on this layer. Make sure that the sides of the cake are straight and in line and pour or spread the entire cake with the shiny ganache. Start by piling it on top and using a palette knife to spread it over the edges and down the sides. Work quickly. You decide if you want a smooth finish or swirls.
  10. Leave the cake to sit for an hour or so before serving as the ganache will set beautifully. You can refrigerate the cake, but the ganache may lose it’s shine.

Enjoy!

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Salted or Sweet Caramel Sauce – you decide!

I’ve been wanting to make this sauce for ages now and I finally got round to it, although I’ve discovered it is a little fiddly and you have to watch it ALL THE TIME so don’t even attempt to do this if you aren’t guaranteed a good half hour of uninterrupted concentration.

Caramel SauceIt’s super delicious on vanilla ice cream, or spread between the layers of a cake, cupcakes, cheese cakes or even bottled and given to friends as a thoughtful homemade gift. And probably another 100 uses I have yet to think of.

Take note that it can solidify when cold, so don’t be alarmed if you do decide to bottle it and then have a moment of panic as you wonder how you’re going to get it out of the bottle! Yes, I did that! But placing the bottle into a bowl of very hot/just boiled water soon has the gorgeous gooey amber coloured liquid flowing again. Or put it into a jar with a screw on lid for easier access and spoon it over or into whatever you’re making. Apparently whether it solidifies or not is determined by the temperature the liquid was allowed to get to…but that’s way too much chemistry for me!

I even added some ground sea salt flakes to it to make it the very trendy Salted Caramel, but you can leave that out and stick with the original if you prefer.

Working with sugar is always tricky and you begin this sauce by melting/dissolving the sugar. Some people add a little water to help. I’ve read that this is because sugar boils at a much higher temperature than water, so the water is there to “get things going”. It also allows the sugar to come to temperature without burning. I admit I used water. I wasn’t brave enough to try it without the liquid assistance and imagined burnt caramel sticking like glue to my saucepan. This recipe yields about 1 cup and lasts in the fridge for up to two weeks. Having cream as a major ingredient would make me nervous keeping it longer than that.

It’s best to remove the pan from the heat before adding the cream as the mixture can bubble upwards rapidly.  Make sure that your saucepan is large enough so it doesn’t boil over. I prefer to remove it and be sure to avoid splashes as the syrup mixture is hot!

ingredients:
¾ cup caster sugar
2 Tbsp water
½ cup thick/heavy cream
½ tsp good quality sea salt flakes (optional)
120 g unsalted butter, cubed

  1. Place the sugar and water into a heavy-based saucepan and heat gently over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Turn the heat up to medium-high and let the syrup come to the boil – DO NOT stir the syrup, no matter how concerned you are about it burning. You are allowed to gently swirl the pan occasionally as it simmers, until the caramel turns a rich amber colour.Stages of sugar syrup
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and add slowly add in the cream and salt. Then add the cubes of butter and stir until melted and combined.
  4. Set sauce aside to cool completely.

Tip: If you are making a sweet sauce and omit the salt, you may want to add a dash of vanilla extract.

Enjoy!

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