Chelsea & Me: Sticky Date Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Chelsea Winter. Winner of Masterchef NZ in 2012, author of two (nearly three, eeeeeek!) cookbooks, and my go-to gal when I’m in a recipe funk. At My Table and Everyday Delicious are the most-used and most-recommended cookbooks in my kitchen, so I’m making it my mission to try every recipe.

Chelsea & MeWe don’t eat a lot of desserts or puddings; my boys have always been more than happy with fruit and sometimes yoghurt as their afters. Sometimes, however, the mood strikes me and I decide it’s time we finished our meal with something sweetly delicious.

To be honest, I didn’t think my boys were going to like these wee puds. To be even more honest, I didn’t think I was going to like them either.

Four virtually empty bowls proved me wrong.

These sticky date puds were incredibly simple to make, and took hardly any time to cook – I had them in the oven while we ate our dinner, then whisked up the caramel sauce while my boys were having a quick play. The hint of cinnamon in the pudding is perfect, and the dates were little hits of melty, gooey goodness.

sticky date puddingI think my husband was the only one who finished his pudding (the boys went halves) as it is a very sweet combination; a cool scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side provided a nice balance and cut through the sweetness.

If you are a Sticky Date Pudding fan, or have never given it a go, this is definitely a recipe you should try.

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Fun with Food: Almond and Orange Syrup Cake

Because I’m not a big fan of baklava, I also made an almond and orange syrup cake when we went to an Eastern Mediterranean dinner party at a friend’s place. It went down almost as well as the baklava, which was slightly disappointing, as I’d hoped to have more leftover to take home!!

This cake is so easy, and incredibly tasty. It is dense and sweet, zesty and quite fresh, and is best served with a big dollop of Greek yoghurt on the side.

IMG_3106Almond and Orange Syrup Cake – makes a 20cm round cake

1c slightly stale breadcrumbs (I used packet crumbs)
1c caster sugar
100g ground almonds
1.5t baking powder
200ml oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)
4 eggs
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange

Syrup
100ml water
juice of 1/2 a lemon
juice of 1 orange
4T sugar
3 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
Line the base of a 20cm cake tin.

Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add oil and eggs; beat well. Stir in the zests and pour the batter into the tin.

Put into a COLD oven and set heat to 190degC.

Bake for 40-50mins until the cake is cooked through and a rich brown colour. Cool in the tin for 5mins then turn out onto a plate.

Pierce with holes (using a skewer or a fork) and pour over the syrup while both are still warm. Continue to spoon the sauce over the cake as it cools.

To make the syrup, bring all the ingredients to a boil, then simmer for 3mins.

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Fun with Food: making Baklava

We have a group of friends who get together over the winter months for potluck, MKR-type dinners (without the competition). This past weekend, the theme was Eastern Mediterranean, and immediately, Tall and I started discussing baklava.

Our local Turkish takeaway does amazing meals, and Tall thinks their baklava is especially tasty. I don’t like baklava (it’s the honey), but naturally, I was up for the challenge.

IMG_3098This is a dessert that looks much more complicated than it actually is. The fiddliest bit is brushing each sheet of filo pastry with melted butter without tearing it; once you get into the swing of the layering, it takes no time at all. It isn’t a cheap dish to make in New Zealand, given the price of pistachios (I paid $3.79/70g on special, which is why I used a combination – the walnuts were about half that!)

This recipe is my interpretation of a few recipes found online, and from the amount left (or not left!), I’d say it was pretty successful.

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Baklava – makes 25-30 pieces

375g filo pastry
100g butter, melted
380g nuts – I used around 250g pistachios, 130g walnuts, but you can use any combination you like
2-3t cinnamon

Syrup
1c water
1c sugar
1t vanilla essence
1/2c liquid honey
coarsely chopped zest of 1 orange & 1 lemon

Chop the nuts in a food processor until they reach a breadcrumb-like consistency. Combine with cinnamon and set aside.

Preheat oven to 170degC. Grease a 23cm x 33cm baking dish.

Cut the filo sheets to fit the size of your dish – the packet I used simply needed to be cut in half.

Take one sheet and brush with melted butter; place another sheet of pastry on top and brush with butter again. Repeat until you have layered 8 sheets of pastry, ensuring you have buttered the top of the eighth sheet.

Place the stack into the dish and sprinkle evenly with around 3T of the nut mixture.

Top with 2 sheets of layered and buttered pastry, and repeat until you have used the last of the nut mixture. Top with a stack of 6-8 sheets of pastry (as for the bottom).

Using a sharp knife, cut the baklava into quarters, vertically, before cutting on the diagonal to form distinct baklava “diamonds”.

Bake for 50 minutes, until golden brown.

Meanwhile, stir the syrup ingredients together over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, until reduced to a thick syrup.

Pour over the baklava as soon as it comes out of the oven; leave to cool in the dish. Don’t cover it, otherwise it will go soggy.

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Fun with Food: Apple and Pear Pie

We don’t often have dessert, but as the weather starts to get cooler, sometimes we feel like a little bit extra to fill our bellies.

Nothing says “Autumn” to me more than apple pie, and with the added touch of pear, this was one delicious pud!

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Apple and Pear Pie – serves 4-6

3 medium apples, peeled and diced
1 pear, peeled and diced
2T brown sugar
2t cinnamon
400-500g sweet shortcrust pastry

Preheat oven to 180degC. If you don’t have a loose bottomed pie dish (like me), line the bottom of a dish with baking paper.

Line the tin with pastry; trim the edges and do some patch-ups if necessary.

Bake the pastry blind for 10 minutes; remove baking beans/rice/whatever and bake a further five minutes to allow the pastry to dry out a little.

Combine fruit with sugar and cinnamon. Tip into cooked pastry shell, discarding any juice that has leeched out.

Top with pastry and seal well; poke a few holes in the top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until pastry is golden and fruit is cooked.

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Fun with Food
Fun with Food is a way for you to share your foodie (mis)adventures with other people. You don’t have to be a superb cook, or produce Masterchef-quality plates of food; this will be a place to share new and favourite recipes, meal plans, cooking on a budget, lunchbox ideas, new products, kitchen successes and disasters (because we all have those!) and maybe some handy tips for getting fussy kids to eat their dinner!

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Fun with Food: Sticky Lemon Loaf

I like chocolate as much as the next person, but if you give me a choice between a chocolatey dessert and a lemon dessert, I would more-than-likely choose both the lemon option.

The combination of tangy lemon and sweet, sweet sugar is a match made in heaven, as far as my tastebuds are concerned. Lemon meringue pie, lemon cheesecake, lemon posset, lemon tart, lemon-and-sugar crepes…yum.

I’m also rather partial to a lemon cupcake and a crunchy lemon muffin, and this lemon loaf also fits the bill. It didn’t last long here, with Tall cutting increasingly larger slices each time. He also enjoyed it warm, served with ice cream…

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I omit the walnuts that are in the original, as I don’t like the texture of them here, but if you want to add them in, use 1/4 c chopped. I like to poke a few holes in the top of the loaf to allow some of the glaze to seep into the loaf, resulting in surprise bursts of sticky flavour.

This loaf is quick to mix, quick to enjoy, quick to be gone.

Sticky Lemon Loaf – makes one 22cm loaf

125g butter, softened
3/4 c sugar
1 t grated lemon rind
2 eggs
2 c self-raising flour
1/4 t salt
1/2 c milk

Preheat oven to 180degC. Line a 22cm loaf tin with baking paper, ensuring it goes well up each side and end.

Cream butter, sugar and lemon rind until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat well.

Sift flour and salt; stir into creamed mixture alternately with milk.

Plop into prepared loaf tin. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until cooked through (test with inserting a skewer, or press lightly and see if it springs back).

Poke a few random holes in the top of the loaf, and pour over the glaze below. Leave loaf to cool completely in the tin.

IMG_2431Glaze: in a small pan, stir together 1/4 c lemon juice and 1/4 c sugar. Stir over a low heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil then remove from the heat and leave to cool.

~~~~~ Recipe amended slightly from Edmonds Cookery Book

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Fun with Food
Fun with Food is a way for you to share your foodie (mis)adventures with other people. You don’t have to be a superb cook, or produce Masterchef-quality plates of food; this will be a place to share new and favourite recipes, meal plans, cooking on a budget, lunchbox ideas, new products, kitchen successes and disasters (because we all have those!) and maybe some handy tips for getting fussy kids to eat their dinner!

The linky will open on a Tuesday and stay open for a week, so I hope you’ll share your kitchen adventures, and be inspired by what other people are doing in the heart of their homes.

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Fun with Food: Rebekah’s Chocolate Brownie

For some time, I have been lamenting the fact that I can not make brownie. There was the Tana Ramsay brownie incident, followed by many further attempts with further recipes. Even the “perfect brownie recipe” I pinned on Pinterest was a failure. I was beginning to think that a chocolate brownie was my baking nemesis; I was ready to give up.

But then – THEN! My friend Rebekah and I were discussing what we were going to bake for The Sisterhood’s Ninja Cookie Drop, and she mentioned she had a fail-safe brownie recipe. I begged for the recipe, and when it arrived in my Facebook inbox, I printed it out straight away and set to baking.

And on that day, I am proud to say that I conquered the brownie.

IMG_1892I believe I may have shouted from the rooftop. I definitely let a few people know who were aware of my…weakness; they demanded proof, and they got it.

Since then, I’ve been baking this brownie every few weeks. It’s my go-to “Gah! We’ve got people coming round and there’s nothing in the tins!” sweet treat, and I’ve been bravely trying different combinations. And it still works, by some miracle.

IMG_1895You can replace the chocolate chips with white chocolate pieces, or toasted nuts if you prefer. My favourite variation has been a milk chocolate and pistachio brownie, so once you’ve perfected the original, have fun with creating your own!

IMG_1904

Rebekah’s Chocolate Brownie

175g butter, coarsely chopped
175g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 c caster sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c plain flour
2 T cocoa powder
1/2 c chocolate chips
Icing sugar, to dust

Preheat oven to fan bake 160degC. Line a 17cm x 27cm baking dish with baking paper.

Melt butter and chocolate together, either in 30-second bursts in the microwave, or in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until smooth, then stir in sugar and eggs.

Sift flour and cocoa powder together, then stir into the chocolate mixture; add the chocolate chips.

Pour into the prepared dish and bake for one hour, or until an inserted skewer comes out moist but clean.

Cool the brownie in the tin, then remove and cut into squares. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

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Recipe: from my friend Rebekah; original source unknown

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Fun with Food

Fun with Food is a way for you to share your foodie (mis)adventures with other people. You don’t have to be a superb cook, or produce Masterchef-quality plates of food; this will be a place to share new and favourite recipes, meal plans, cooking on a budget, lunchbox ideas, new products, kitchen successes and disasters (because we all have those!) and maybe some handy tips for getting fussy kids to eat their dinner!

The linky will open on a Tuesday and stay open for a week, so I hope you’ll share your kitchen adventures, and be inspired by what other people are doing in the heart of their homes.

(By clicking on the button below, you’ll be taken to an external page, where you can enter your link and see who else is linking up. Please take the time to visit them, too!)

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‘P’ is for Pinterest Puddings

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter ‘P’. ‘P’ for pudding, and ‘P’ for Pinterest.

I’ve been waiting what seems like forever for our rhubarb crop to be big enough to try this Caramel Crusted Rhubarb Pudding, and when my lovely husband came inside bearing a few handfuls of ruby-red stalks over the weekend, I was elated.

This is a nice twist on an ordinary rhubarb crumble, although it is rather sweet. We enjoyed it more on the second day; the rhubarb was more stewed and the sweetness had dispersed through it, rather than just sitting on top.

I also found the 30 minutes cooking time not enough; some of the rhubarb was still hard, and the crumble topping a bit soggy. However, a further 20 minutes in the oven the following day, and it was perfect. This problem could be avoided by using a larger dish (something that you’d cook a family-size lasagna in), and therefore decreasing the depth of both the rhubarb and the crumble topping.

Rhubarb – Crumble – Sugar – Caramel

We also have some apples awaiting their fate as these Apple Ice Creams with Caramel Sauce. I liked another reader’s suggestion of baking the apples with cinnamon and sugar, so will be dusting the hollowed-out fruit with a liberal coating of such a mixture.

And the discarded flesh will be useful in making these delicious Apple Cinnamon Muffins with Crumble Topping, or for stewing in preparation for the time we start solids (even though we’ll be doing baby-led weaning again, a bit of stewed fruit won’t get wasted!). There’s something rather fulfilling in knowing that I’ll be using the whole fruit instead of binning it.

(Can you tell that I’m starting to add a bit of dairy back into my diet?? So far, the small amounts I’ve tried haven’t bothered Pickle, so I’m hoping to continue with a little bit here and there from now on.)

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Annie’s Baked Vanilla Cheesecake

This recipe comes from one of Tall’s lovely work colleagues, Annie. Many of the people at his work are major foodies, and after being entered into their inaugural Bake Off Challenge, this cheesecake has been made and shared at many a morning tea and pot luck dinner. The recipe has also been shared, and it has lovingly become known as “Annie’s Cheesecake”.

I was in the throes of morning sickness the first time I tried it (from Tall’s plate, no less), and even though my tastebuds had been doing strange things for some time, I fell in love with its smooth, velvety creaminess, and the amazing depth of flavour I often find is missing in a baked cheesecake.

This is not a recipe for the faint-hearted. Or those on a diet, or probably those with diabetes, and those who try to steer clear of mildly unhealthy desserts.

Annie’s Baked Vanilla Cheesecake – serves 10 (or 4 plus 1 pregnant lady)

120g unsalted butter, plus a little extra for greasing
250g digestive biscuits
800g full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
200g caster sugar
1t vanilla extract (or the seeds from 1 vanilla pod)
2T plain flour
150g sour cream, plus an extra 150g for the topping, if desired
4 medium eggs

Preheat oven to 180degC.

Grease the bottom and sides of a 23cm round spring-form cake tin. Line the bottom of the tin with a circle of baking paper, cut to size.

Melt the remaining butter in a small pan or in the microwave.

Break the digestive biscuits into the bowl of a food processor; blitz to a fine crumb.

With the motor running, drizzle the melted butter into the biscuit crumbs until it forms a damp, sandy-looking mix.

Tip the buttery crumbs into the prepared tin. Smooth them out with the back of a spoon (or your hand), pressing them down firmly in an even layer.

Put the tin onto a baking tray, then bake for 15 minutes, until the base is a dark golden brown.

Put the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, flour and sour cream into a large bowl. Using an electric beater, beat until creamy and smooth.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, until smooth.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and smooth the top with a spatula. Tap the tin once on the bench to bring any bubbles to the surface.

Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 140degC and cook for a further 40 minutes. The cheesecake should be set, with a slight wobble in the centre.

Turn off the oven, then leave the door ajar and leave the cheesecake to cool on the shelf. As it cools, cracks may appear across the middle, but the topping will hide these!

When the cheesecake is cool, chill for at least 4 hours, or ideally overnight.

To serve, run a knife around the sides of the cake tin, unclip the sides and ease the cheesecake off the base and onto a plate.

Spread the remaining sour cream over the top if desired; slice and serve with fresh or stewed fruit.

I served this with syrupy, stewed rhubarb:

Chop approximately 400g of rhubarb into 4cm lengths. Place in a medium pan with approximately 100g caster sugar (use more or less depending on your personal tartness/sweetness preference) and 2T water.

Heat gently for about 5 minutes, until the rhubarb begins to break down and the sugar has dissolved.

Use a slotted spoon to scoop the rhubarb into a bowl, then turn up the heat under the pan and boil the juices for 2 minutes, or until slightly thickened and syrupy. Pour the sauce over the fruit and leave to cool completely.

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Recipe: from Annie 🙂