Monday, April 28, 2014

Brussel Sprout Gratin with Horseradish and Parmesan

A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to experience a rare event called a Blood Moon.

We have read several different theories on the occurrence of the Blood Moon from an ancient biblical prophecy to the moon and sun being perfectly aligned and the reddish colour being dependant on the amount of dust in the Earth's atmosphere - either way the Blood Moon put on an impressive show and Mr B, Dad and I made sure we were in prime position to enjoy the show seeing as it was only viewable for a limited period. Poor Mum was in the kitchen cooking tea whilst we all abandoned ship and sat in the front yard taking photos of the moon..... was totally worth it and we showed her the photos afterwards which semi made up for our abandoning our posts helping with the dinner preparations....

Another rare event experienced recently was an absolute willingness on my behalf to eat brussel sprouts.

It's not quite up there with the whole Blood Moon thing but it's pretty close. When I saw this recipe for a Brussel Sprout Gratin with Horseradish and Parmesan I was completely sold - I love the combination of horseradish and parmesan and couldn't wait to try it in this dish.

The end result was a huge hit with all of us - the brussel sprouts were tender, the topping was golden and crunchy and the sauce was thick and creamy and packed a real flavour punch from the horseradish and parmesan. This is without a doubt my new favourite way to eat brussel sprouts - I'd even go as far as to say I actually enjoyed eating them as part of this dish!

Brussels Sprout Au Gratin with Horseradish and Parmesan Cheese - Serves 4 as a side 

400-500g brussel sprouts
250ml thickened cream
1-2 tbspns horseradish - depending on your taste preference (fresh if you can find it, if you use horseradish cream you may need to use a little extra)
Salt and Pepper to season
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbspn butter, melted

Pre-heat oven to 180C

Trim the ends off the brussel sprouts. If they are baby sprouts leave them whole but if they are big, cut them in half.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and cook the brussel sprouts for about 7 mins or until they are soft but still have a slight crunch. Drain and rinse briefly in cold water to refresh.

Roughly chop the brussel sprouts and transfer to a small 6-8 cup oven proof dish.

In a small bowl or jug combine the the cream, horseradish and 1/2 the parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the cream mixture over the brussel sprouts.

In a small bowl or jug combine the breadcrumbs, butter and remaining parmesan. Mix with a fork until the breadcrumbs are coated in the butter. Evenly scatter the breadcrumbs over the brussel sprouts and bake for 15-20 mins or until the top is golden and the sauce is bubbling.

We served ours with some mashed potato and a corn cob but you could just as easily serve it as a side to meat or fish.


Mrs B xx

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi

To start with I was a little nervous about the whole attempting to make gnocchi thing because traditional potato versions can be fairly filling plus Mr B hadn't tried gnocchi before and I may have talked it up a little bit but everything I read about ricotta gnocchi promised 'light fluffy ricotta clouds' and well seeing as I had the ricotta there ready to go, what did I have to lose?

This recipe was so easy to make, it literally took all of 30 mins start to finish and it tasted amazing. The gnocchi had a beautiful light texture and a delicate ricotta flavour that left Mr B and I completely gob-smacked - there was (and still is) a fair bit of 'can you believe we actually made that' going on.

There is a great deal of satisfaction in making a dish like this from scratch and I absolutely love all of the fresh home made flavours in it - it's one of those things you just have to try yourself at least once - you won't look back I promise!

Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi - Serves 2

2 cups full fat ricotta
2 egg yolks
50g fresh grated Parmesan
1 cup plain flour + extra for dusting
Parmesan, for garnish
3/4 - 1 cup pasta sauce (such as the Fresh Tomato, Basil, Garlic and Chilli Sauce mentioned below)

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.

In a bowl combine the ricotta, egg yolks, parmesan and season with salt and pepper.

Add the flour and mix together until a soft ball of dough forms, being careful not to overwork.

Cut the dough into four pieces and roll each into a long sausage roughly as round as your thumb. Cut the log into 2cm dumplings and place on a lightly floured baking tray.

Once your water is boiling, gently drop your gnocchi dumplings in - you can use a slotted spoon for this. The gnocchi will sink to the bottom. Once they have all risen to the surface then they are cooked. Remove from the water using a slotted spoon and top with your desired sauce. I would suggest something like the Fresh Tomato and Basil Sauce mentioned below topped with some shaved parmesan. I don't think these gnocchi need a lot of sauce so I would recommend no more than 1/3 - 1/2 cup per serve.

Fresh Tomato, Basil, Garlic and Chilli Sauce - Serves 2

4 ripe roma tomatoes
30ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tspn brown sugar
1 heaped tspn crushed garlic
1/2 tspn red wine vinegar
1/2 handful of roughly torn fresh basil leaves
1/3 tspn crushed chilli
Salt and pepper

In a non-stick pan over medium high heat, add the oil, garlic and the tomatoes and cook for 5-7 mins or until softened. Mix in the sugar, chilli and the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Allow the mixture to simmer for 7-10 mins. Just prior to serving, stir through the basil leaves.


Mrs B xx

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lamb Chops with Lemon Butter

Often as I'm flicking through recipe magazines or websites I find myself thinking 'Ohhh Mr B would like that' and more often than not I continue flicking because for one reason or another I wouldn't like it.

Occasionally, but very rarely, I get the urge to be a good wife and actually cook some of these dishes for Mr B. I should probably point out that these 'urges' usually coincide with me wanting to cook something for myself for dinner that I have zero chance of Mr B eating. Luckily Mr B has yet to make that connection......

One thing I loved about this particular recipe is how quick and easy it is plus all the vegetables cook in the one pot so less washing up!

Now even thought this recipe says it serves 2, I am not a lamb chop fan so I had my vegetables with some pasta and Mr B had all the chops to himself which funnily enough he did not complain about!

Lamb Chops with Lemon Butter - Serves 2

300g baby potatoes
1 carrot, peeled and sliced diagonally
400g tin of corn kernels
40g butter, softened
1 tspn english mustard
1 tspn lemon juice
4 lamb loin chops
Salt and Pepper

Combine the butter, lemon juice and mustard together. Season with salt and pepper. You may want to add a little bit more lemon juice depending on your preference. Set aside.

Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for 10 mins. Add the carrots and cook for a further 4 mins. Add the corn and cook for 2-3 mins or until vegetables are tender.

Add half the butter to the vegetables in the pan and toss carefully to coat. Cover to keep warm and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook lamb chops to your liking (Mr B did his on the BBQ grill for about 12-15 mins). Allow lamb chops to rest, covered with foil, for 5 mins.

Serve chops over vegetables drizzled with remaining butter.

And I had to include a photo of these gorgeous lisianthus from my Mum's garden. They smell fantastic and I really love the white with the hint of purple. So far my goal of having more fresh flowers in the house this year is going well but only because Mum keeps providing them!


Mrs B xx

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Bread Maker Hot Cross Buns - Version 2.0

Is there anything better at Easter time than sitting down with a Hot Cross Bun fresh out of the oven, totally smothered in butter and a hot cup of tea?!

Over the years I have posted several Hot Cross Bun recipes on this blog.

Every year I make a batch for Mr B and I and every year, whilst I do enjoy them, I can't help comparing them to their shop brought cousins and feeling somewhat disappointed in the end result due to either a lack of flavour or due to the buns being too dense.

Well this year I decided to try a new recipe and I am pleased to say I finally found one that ticks all the boxes. Big. Soft, Fruit Filled. Flavour Packed. Hot Cross Buns.

And the best part?

I used the bread maker for the dough which just made this whole process so very simple.

Hot Cross Buns - Makes 12

4 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups luke warm milk
15g dried yeast (I used 2x 7g sachets)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
60g butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup sultanas
1/2 cup plain flour (extra)
1/3 cup water
1 tbspn caster sugar (extra)
1 tbspn hot water
1 tspn gelatine

In the bowl of a bread maker, add the flour, salt, milk, yeast, sugar, mixed spice, cinnamon, butter and egg. Select the 'dough' cycle and let it do it's thing. Mine took about 90 mins all up but after 30 mins it beeps so you can add any extras like the sultanas.

Once the dough is done, remove to a bowl. Punch the dough down and knead lightly until smooth. Cut the dough into 12 pieces and knead each one into a round shape. Place onto a large greased tray with sides about 1 cm apart. (I use a 20cm x 30cm baking tin). Cover with a tea towel and stand in a warm spot for about 15 mins or until doubled in size. This may take a little longer depending on the temperature.

Pre-heat oven to 200C.

Mix the extra flour and water together for the crosses and place in a sandwich bag. Snip the corner off the bag and pipe crosses on the buns. Place in the oven for about 20 mins or until golden and cooked.

Mix the extra caster sugar, hot water and gelatine together for the glaze. Brush the glaze over the buns as soon as you get them out of the oven.

One of the issues with home made Hot Cross Buns can be that they don't stay fresh for very long so this year as soon as the buns had cooled down I wrapped each one individually in cling wrap and popped them in the freezer. We have been getting them out of the freezer for Mr B's lunches the night before and by the time he goes to have them for lunch they are just as fresh as they day they were baked.

I hope everyone has a fantastic day filled with all the good things Easter has to offer like plenty of family time, chocolate, relaxation and of course, hot cross buns!

Happy Easter everyone!!


Mrs B xx

Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Sugar Cookie Cups with Buttercream Frosting

Today Mr B and I headed over to Mum and Dad's for our traditional Good Friday brunch.

A few years ago we decided that rather than buy each other Easter Eggs just for the sake of it we would all take some time out and get together with Nan to catch up and indulge in plenty of hot cross buns, coffee and of course, chocolate!

As usual it was a lovely morning, Mum and Dad always do such a fantastic job on their 'spread' and we were all quite content sitting around the table, bellies full and cheeks sore from laughing.

After lunch Dad took Mr B and I out to the garage where he presented Mr B with a pretty specky gift. The pink helmet is my old bike helmet from when I was a child and has my name hand painted on the back and the little bike is a project for Dad and Mr B to work on together. I can see many late nights in the shed on this one coming up!

Recently I had been eyeing off a recipe for Sugar Cookie Cups and I thought they would be the perfect treat to take along to today's festivities. I was really impressed with how they came out actually, the sugar cookie was soft and chewy and the vanilla buttercream was light and fluffy, not to mention the fact that they were pretty damn cute! It's always a good sign when Dad, Mr B and Nan are all fighting over who gets to keep the leftovers!

Easter Sugar Cookie Cups with Buttercream Frosting - Makes 36

2 3/4 cups plain flour
1 tspn bicarb soda
1/2 tspn baking powder
225g butter, softened
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
1 egg
1 tspn vanilla extract
1 quantity of basic buttercream (recipe below)
36 mini easter eggs

Preheat oven to 190C and grease a mini muffin tin.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy.

Beat in the egg and vanilla.

Sift over the dry ingredients and mix to combine.

Roll the dough into walnut sized balls and place them in the muffin pan.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden.

Use the handle of a wooden spoon (or similar) to make an indent into each cookie. I placed mine back in the oven for 2 minutes at this stage as they were still abit under cooked, but you can judge for yourself if they need it.

Allow the cookie cups to cool before filling with buttercream and topping with an easter egg.

Basic Buttercream

125g butter, softened
1.5 cups icing sugar
1 tspn vanilla essence
1 tspn milk

Beat the butter using an electric mixer until pale and creamy.

Add the icing sugar, vanilla and milk and beat until light and fluffy. You may need to add 1 more tspn milk to get the correct consistency.

For these sugar cookie cups, I divided the frosting into 3 bowls and tinted each portion a different colour but if you are using little coloured speckled eggs they will look just as effective on white frosting.


Mrs B xx

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Vegetarian Country Stew

Don't you hate it when you go to buy one of your favourite products only to find it completely stripped from the shelves and nowhere to be found.

This happened to me a few months ago when I went to buy my beloved Country Hot Pot. Growing up in a vegetarian household, we used to have this Country Hot Pot, which was made by Sanitarium, for dinner quite a bit. To be honest, it was a tinned vegetarian stew that contained lots of cubed vegetables (most of which were unidentifiable) and a soy mince substitute but we all loved it and it was one of those meals that was part of my childhood.

So when I was unable to find it anywhere and our local stockist told me that it was actually no longer being produced, I was at a bit of a loss. I hadn't had the opportunity to stock up on 1000 tins of it or to savour one last plate of it and I was not having it.

The world of Google gave me no love in terms of the ingredients for the original version or any similar recipes so I decided to email the Sanitarium customer feedback section and ask them for the ingredients list from the tin. At this point I believe Mum and Dad thought I was starting to lose my marbles, but it was the memories associated with the dish that were so important to me in re-creating it.

The ingredients list I received from Sanitarium was useful in terms of finally identifying those mystery vegetables, but the simple term 'spices' was not so helpful when it came to the flavourings. Over the last few months I have pondered on this many times and eventually decided that I was over thinking it. It was a simple dish with simple flavours and I WAS going to re-create it.

I decided to use my Mum's Curried Sausages recipe as a starting point in order to get a nice thick sauce and once I had made that decision the whole thing just came together. I was so pleased with the end result, it tasted just how I remember it - but fresher and with visible, identifiable vegetables!

Vegetarian Country Stew - Serves 4

1 x onion diced
1 tbspn butter
2 tspns garlic
2-3 tbspns tomato paste
1 tspn thyme
2 tbspn plain flour
1 3/4 cups vegetable stock
300g baby potatoes (par-boiled)
2 x carrot, finely diced
400g tin Sanitarium Casserole Mince (this is a vegetarian mince substitute)
1 cup peas

In a fry pan over medium high heat, add the onion and butter and cook for 2-3 mins.

Add the garlic and cook for a further 1-2 mins.

Add the tomato paste and the thyme and stir to combine.

Sprinkle the flour over the top of the tomato mixture and stir well. Cook for 1-2 mins.

Add the stock, carrot, mince and potatoes to the pan. Bring the mixture to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for 20-25 mins or until your vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper. (During this time you may need to add some water. I added roughly 1/2 cup water every 10 mins and allowed the stew to simmer and thicken before adding any more.)

Once your potatoes are tender, stir through the peas.

In our family we have always served this stew over or on the side of chips but you could certainly just serve it on it's own or with some boiled rice.


Mrs B xx

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Jigglin' Jelly!

Let's talk dessert.

More specifically dead simple desserts that will take you right back to your childhood and just happen to involve two of my favourite things.....

.....Jelly and Ice Cream!

Both of these desserts were favourites of mine as a child and over the last few weeks Mum and Dad have been re-creating them when Mr B and I have been there for dinner. I have to admit that the first night the Frog in the Pond came out I did squeal a little and even though my belly was full to bursting point I demolished that giant freddo and enjoyed every mouthful!

Frog in a Pond - Serves 4

1 x pkt green or blue jelly
4 x Freddo Frogs
Ice-Cream and Cream to serve

Prepare jelly as per packet directions and divide between 4 x 1 cup capacity ramekins. Place in the fridge for 3-4 hours or overnight until set.

To serve top with a freddo frog and a scoop of ice cream.

I have so many fond memories of these Traffic Light Jellies.

Every time my Kinder or Prep had a party and we were expected to bring a plate or I had a birthday party, Mum always made a tray of Traffic Light Jellies and a plate of Fairy Cakes. Part of me wanted to keep them all for myself and part of me was so incredibly proud and just couldn't wait to show everyone what MY Mum had made.

When I was younger I remember peaking in the fridge all the time because I was just mesmerised by the layers in these jellies and it's fair to say that age has certainly not changed that!

Traffic Light Jelly - Serves 8-12

3 tbspns gelatine
3 x pkts jelly (1 x yellow, 1 x green and 1 x red)

Prepare each jelly according to packet directions but use half the amount of boiling water specified. Add 1 tbspn gelatine to each jelly mixture and stir until dissolved.

When the jellies have almost set, gently layer in a slice tin or pyrex dish. Allow to set completely in the fridge prior to cutting into slices.

Perfect sliced up and served on it's own at a kids party and absolutely delicious served for dessert with ice cream.


Mrs B xx


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