Our latest feast

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Chocolate Fruit Cake

We made this cake at Christmas and while the decoration isn't as traditional as I would have done normally it definately stole the show sitting on my kitchen bench.
We came accross this recipe watching an episode of Nigella Lawson's Christmas Special and from the minute she started preparing the ingredients Noel and I knew that it would be a hit in our house, especially with all the fruitcake loving relatives we have.
This cake is so much easier than the normally pain-stakingly slow boiled fruit cake and the flavours just burst in your mouth beginning with the first mouthful. A very moist texture with a strong but subtle chocolate after taste.
I couldn't save this recipe until the next festive season as it will be definately one I will be cooking throughout the year.

Chocolate Fruitcake
Recipe from Nigella Lawson
Serves: 12
350g/12¼oz dried soft prunes, chopped
250g/8¾oz raisins
125g/4½oz currants
175g/6¼oz unsalted butter, softened
175g/6¼oz dark muscovado sugar or soft brown sugar
175ml/6¼fl oz honey
125ml/4½fl oz coffee liqueur (Tia Maria)
2 oranges, juice and zest only
1 tsp mixed spice
2 tbsp good quality cocoa
3 free-range eggs, beaten
150g/5¼oz plain flour
75g/2½oz ground almonds
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
For decoration (optional)
25g/1oz dark chocolate-covered coffee beans or chocolate-covered sultanas
edible glitter gold mini balls
about 10 edible gold stars
Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2.
Line the sides and bottom of a 20cm/8in, 9cm/3½in deep, round loose-bottomed cake tin with a layer of baking paper. When lining the tin with the paper, cut the material into strips that are twice as high as the tin itself (it is easier to use two shorter strips of parchment, than one long strip); the height of the strips protects the cake from catching on the outside of the cake tin.
Place the fruit, butter, sugar, honey, coffee liqueur, orange juice and zest, mixed spice and cocoa into a large wide saucepan. Heat the mixture until it reaches a gentle boil, stirring the mixture as the butter melts. Let the mixture simmer for ten minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, the mixture will have cooled a little. Add the eggs, flour, ground almonds, baking powder and bicarbonate soda, and mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula until the ingredients have combined.
Carefully pour the fruitcake mixture into the lined cake tin. Transfer the cake tin to the oven and bake for 1¾-2 hours, or until the top of the cake is firm but will has a shiny and sticky look. At this point, if you insert a sharp knife into the middle of the cake, the cake should still be a little uncooked in the middle.
Place the cake in it's tin on a cooling rack. Once the cake has cooled, remove it from the tin.
To decorate, place the chocolate-covered coffee beans/sultanas in the centre of the cake and arrange the gold stars around the perimeter of the top of the cake. Then sprinkle some gold mini-balls over the whole of the cake. Sprinkle the edible glitter over the top of the cake.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cajun Beef Salad

There is something wonderful about adding warm meat to a cold salad and topping it off with a really tasty dressing.
This is a quick prepare, favourite dish of both Noel and mine. I have only ever used beef but I would presume that any meat could be substituted and still taste great. The dressing in this recipe actually suits other salads so don't be afraid to use it by itself.

Cajun Beef Salad

Serves: 4
Points per serve: 3
400g porterhouse steak, fat removed
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
cooking spray
200g mixed salad leaves, rinsed and drained
6 roma tomatoes, quartered
1 lebanese cucumber, sliced diagonally or diced
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

To make dressing, combine olive oil, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, white sugar in a jug or a screwtop jar. Mix or shake to combine. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Set aside.
Coat porterhouse steaks in Cajun Seasoning. Heat a large non-stick frying pan and coat with cooking spray. Cook steaks for 3 - 4 minutes each side or to your liking. Remove from pan and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, arrange salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, onion and grated carrot onto either a large serving plate or individual plates.
After the steak has rested, slice into thin strips cutting accross the grain. Top salad with the beef strips and serve.
You could drizzle with dressing prior to serving if serving immediately. However I prefer to let everyone help themselves to the dressing.

French Onion Soup

I have a passion for soups especially when they not only excite the tastebuds but when they are really easy to make. This brings me to my new found love of French Onion Soup. To be honest I cannot eat enough of this and have been having it for lunch or a quick snack.

French Onion Soup
Serves: 4
Points per serve: 0

2 onions, thinly sliced
cooking spray
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
4 cups of water
2 tablespoons chicken stock powder
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Worchestershire Sauce
freshly ground black pepper to taste
salt to taste
Over a low heat coat a saucepan with cooking spray, add onions and cook covered for 10 - 15 minutes or until onions are very soft and golden in colour.
Combine water and stock powder together, mixing well.
Add liquid stock, garlic, soy sauce and Worchestershire sauce to saucepan. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 15 minutes.
Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
This soup tastes absolutely wonderful with a buttered fresh crusty roll. YUM!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lemonade Pancakes

A favourite at our house for breakfast is Lemonade Pancakes. An easy recipe to whip up to feed the hungry hoards first thing in the morning - so easy that my kids actually mix it up themselves.
Lemonade Pancakes

Serves: 8
ProPoints per serve: 4
Old Points per serve: 2
(not including toppings)

2 cups plain flour
2 eggs
lemonade (we use Diet Lemonade)
cooking spray
Sift flour into a large bowl or jug. Make a well in the centre and crack both eggs into the flour. Mix with a whisk gently drawing flour in from the sides.

When mixture begins to become a ball add lemonade a little at a time, stirring constantly. Continue to add enough lemonade to make a thick yet runny batter.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan and spray with cooking oil. Pour a small amount of mixture into the pan, swirl to ensure mixture is even across the bottom of the pan (size of the pancakes is up to the individual). When small bubbles form in the top of the mixture flip over to cook the other side. When the second side is cooked remove to a plate and keep warm. Continue with remainder of mixture.

Toppings for pancakes are endless... lemon, caster sugar, butter, strawberry jam, honey, nutella, golden syrup and of course we cannot forget the maple syrup!

Meat Pies

On Saturday, we babysat our friend's two of their three children while they busily moved house. Noel helped with the move and I did what I thought would be helpful and picked up their children along with my children at lunchtime as I worked in the morning. Needless to say with four children out of the house things should have been a lot easier. Well one would hope so anyways.

Saturday night was "Homemade Pie" night which the kids enjoyed as they got to invent their own fillings. I made a basic beef mince gravy filling and then they added to it. I have a Sunbeam Pie Maker so the actual making/cooking of the pies is quite easy.

Basic Meat Pie Filling

fills approx 8 pies

cooking spray
500g lean mince beef
1 onion chopped
2 tbs gravy powder
1 tbs beef stock powder
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste

Coat a large frying pan with cooking spray and cook mince and onions until mince is browned and onions soft.

In a large jug combine gravy powder, beef stock powder and water mixing well. Add to frying pan and stir until all combined and slightly thickened (if mixture is too thick add a little more water but not too much as you don't want the pie filling to be too watery.)

Simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes. Use as desired.

Making the pies is very simple especially with the pie maker - I use frozen sheets of shortcrust pastry for the bottom and frozen sheets of puff pastry for the tops.

So with four children having their own ideas on "ACE" pies, it made for an interesting night. Some of the pies created were:
  • mexican - adding 1/2 teaspoon taco seasoning and diced capsicum
  • meat and vegetable - adding steamed diced carrots and peas
  • curry - adding 1/2 teaspoon of mild curry powder and a few sultanas
  • mushroom - adding a few fried mushrooms (fried in a small pan with cooking spray)
  • italian - adding 1/2 teapsoon of dried oregano, some diced tomato, capsicum and a layer of cheese underneath the pastry.
To top of the meal these pies were not only smothered with tomato sauce but they were served with Homemade Wedges and lots of soft drink!

Talk about serving up a feast to suit any child (not too mention big kids too).

As you can see by the photos the "kid friendly" dinner went down well!

Homemade Wedges

Homemade Wedges

Serves: 6

Points per serve: 2

1 kg potatoes, cleaned but not peeled

cooking spray

2 tbs oregano

1 tbs sweet paprika

Preheat oven to 200 deg C, 400 deg F.

Cut potatoes into wedges (normally 8 wedges per potato).

Parboil in a saucepan of water for 10 minutes or microwave for approx 5 minutes in a small amount of water. The potatoes should be soft but not cooked through. Drain well.

Line a baking tray with foil and generously coat with cooking spray. Place potatoes on baking tray, coat with cooking spray and sprinkle with the oregano and the paprika, tossing to coat and then lay in a single layer on the tray.

Cook for 20 - 30 minutes or until golden. Turn once during cooking.

Hint - you can actually use any herbs and spices that you wish depending on the flavour... taco seasoning is also a good sprinkle.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pasta Carbonara

I have to say that this would have to be one of my kid's favourite pasta dishes - mine too! They love the flavour. I love the quickness not to mention how easy it is to make.

So while Noel and I had decided on having Fettucine with Creamy Spinach, Pinenuts and Sultanas for dinner Alex requested Pasta Carbonara. Now we don't normally cook two seperate dinners unless of course we are planning on having something too hot and spicy for their little tastebuds but as I said their request was an easy one so I gave in plus they helped too.
Pasta Carbonara
Serves: 4 Large
6 Regular
Points per serve: Large 8.5
Regular 5.5
250g spaghetti (or pasta of your choice)
3 rashers of bacon, fat trimmed and sliced
2 shallots, sliced
1 tsp crushed garlic
2 eggs, lightly beaten
30g parmesan, finely grated
3/4 cup light cream
salt and pepper to taste
Boil a large saucepan of water and add pasta. Cook until just al dente (do not overcook). Drain, rinse and return to pan. Boil a kettle full of water and pour over pasta allowing it to sit - do not put it back on to cook.
In a bowl mix eggs, parmesan and cream together. Season with salt and pepper.
Coat a large non-stick frying pan with cooking spray and add bacon, garlic and shallots. Cook until bacon is brown and crispy.
Drain pasta and add to bacon mixture. Toss in pan to mix with bacon mixture and evaporate any excess water.
Turn off stove and add egg mixture to pan. Stir through to mix and ensure properly combined. The heat off the pasta will cook the sauce.
Serve immediately.
Please do not use the processed parmesan powder in a can as it will not help the flavour of this dish at all. We always keep a wedge of parmesan in the fridge and to be honest, we don't even buy the canned cheese powder. Oliver is actually grating some parmesan onto his meal. You don't need to have a fancy hand grater like we have, shavings work well too and can be achieved just by using a vegetable peeler.
As you can see the diners were very happy and enjoyed their meals.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Chow Murray

Okay so we didn't end up shopping last night as planned. So there was a need for a really quick dinner and it was also a good chance to use up some of the vegetables hiding at the bottom of my fridge and make room for some fresh ones.

So with quick, easy and use lots of vegetables on the action plan this is what we came up with... I guess it's a take on Chow Mein and have decided to call it Chow Murray!! (corny I know - sorry!)

Chow Murray

Serves: 6
Points per serve: 4.5

1 x 200g packet noodles (I used Mr Changs Egg Noodles)
500g lean mince pork
1 onion, sliced
2 teaspoons grated ginger
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1/2 cabbage, finely sliced
2 carrots grated
1 red capsicum, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons Madras Curry Paste
1/2 cup water
2 tbs chicken stock powder.
1 cup bean sprouts
2 tablespoons chopped coriander (optional)

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil, add noodles and cook for 3 - 4 minutes or until just tender. Drain and set aside.
Coat a large wok or frying pan with cooking spray and fry pork, ginger, garlic and onion until brown and cooked through. Add cabbage, carrots and capsicum, stirfry for 2 - 3 minutes.
Add curry paste and combined water and stock powder. Stirfry for another 2 minutes.

Toss in bean sprouts until mixed through and warmed.
Garnish with chopped coriander (optional).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Crispy Potatoes

Crispy Potatoes

Serves: 6
Points per serve: 2pts
1kg washed potatoes
(ensure they are clean if leaving unpeeled)
cooking spray
salt crystals

Preheat oven to 220 deg celcius.

(It is your choice whether to peel or not peel the potatoes - I prefer them unpeeled but it's up to the individual)

Dice potatoes into medium size pieces. If using chats/small potatoes cutting in half is great. Par boil or microwave for 5 - 6 minutes. Drain well.

Generously coat a baking tray with cooking spray, spread out the potatoes and spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle salt crystals over pototoes.

Bake in the oven for 30 - 40 minutes or until potatoes are crispy and golden, turning once.

Tip: For a different flavour you could sprinkle with dried herbs prior to cooking. For example - rosemary, oregano, mixed herbs etc.

Sticky Pork Chops

Tonight we had these yummy Sticky Pork Chops with Crispy Potatoes and steamed vegetables.

Sticky Pork Chops
Recipe from Symply To Good To Be True 4

Serves: 4
Points per serve: 4 pts

1/3 cup plum sauce (in a jar)
2 teaspoons sweet chilli sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
cooking spray
4 x 175g lean mid loin pork chops
1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed ginger
1/8 teapsoon Chinese Five spice

Combine plum sauce, sweet chilli sauce, soy sauce and honey in a small bowl and set aside.

Coat a large non-stick pan with cooking spray, fry pork chops until cooked to your liking. Remove chops to a plate and set aside.

Respray frying pan with cooking spray and saute garlic, ginger, sauce mixture and Chinese Five spice, mixing well. Once boiled, simmer for 2 minutes.
Return chops to the pan to reheat and coat with sauce.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Quick Spicy Beef with Steamed Rice

As you have probably gathered our children are not eating with us in the evenings. In fact they are staying at their grandparents due to the school holidays and us working, so it gives us a chance to indulge in our favourite food -spicy hot food.

I must say however that both of our children are actually fantastic eaters and have been since they were born. I never once not gave them what we were eating to try and thankfully they do enjoy curries, mexican food and other exotic flavours but their taste buds are still coping with milder versions of each dish.

Tonights dinner could be as tame or as fiery as you like but it is a quick dish, one well suited to a midweek or busy weekend dinner. Also another dish that having all the ingredients ready to use is a must.

Quick Spicy Beef with Steamed Rice

Serves: 4
Points per serve: 6.5

cooking spray
500g extra lean minced beef
1 red onion sliced
2 teaspoons grated/crushed ginger
250g snow peas trimmed and cut diagonally in half
2 teaspoons chilli paste (or to taste)
8 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup bean sprouts
3 cups cooked rice
chopped coriander to garnish
birdseye chilli, sliced, to garnish (optional)

Spray a non stick wok or frying pan with cooking spray. Add mince, onion and ginger tossing over a medium heat for 5 minutes or until brown and cooked through.

Add snow peas, soy sauce and chilli paste, mix thouroughly. After 1 - 2 minutes toss through the bean sprouts until combined and heated through.

Serve with steamed rice.

HINT: To make this dish milder substitute the chilli paste with sweet chilli sauce and do not use the birdseye chilli.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Chicken Laksa

Tonight was the first time I have cooked this recipe which I admit to finding in Symply To Good To Be True Cookbook number 3 (these are brilliant set of books, 5 in total) but of course made a few changes although nothing major. Noel and I often enjoy a noodle soup from the food court, normally a seafood tom yum, when we go shopping but I have never cooked one at home. Let me tell you we enjoyed it and will definitely be cooking it again.

However I would advise that you have all your ingredients ready to go when cooking this dish so you don't overcook the ingredients and also because this dish does come together quite quickly.

Chicken Laksa
Adapted from Symply To Good To Be True 3

Serves: 4
Points per serve: 4.5

cooking spray
400g skinless chicken breast fillet diced or sliced
1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon crushed ginger
1/2 cup carrot cut into thin strips
1/2 cup capsicum cut into thin strips
1 1/2 cup bean sprouts
4 shallots sliced diagonally
2 tablespoons fresh coriander chopped
1 teaspoon of lemongrass (I used from a jar)
3 teaspoons of Massaman Curry Paste or Laska Curry Paste
1 teaspoon of turmeric
2 teaspoons chicken stock powder
250ml prepackaged liquid chicken stock
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups fresh thin hokkein noodles (or whatever suits ie singapore, chowmein etc)
1 can evaporated low fat milk coconut flavour (or 1 can evaporated low fat milk
and 1 teaspoon of coconut essence)
1 tbs cornflour
1 - 2 tomatoes chopped largely
1 birdseye chilli sliced for garnish (optional)

Coat a large wok or non stick frypan with cooking spray. Stir fry chicken, garlic and ginger together for 4 - 5 minutes or until completely sealed and almost cooked. Add the carrots and capsicum and continue to stirfry for another 2 minutes.

Add all the remaining ingredients (reserving a small amount of shallots, coriander and bean sprouts for garnish) except for the evaporated milk, the cornflour and the tomatoes. Mix all ingredients well.

In a jug/small bowl combine evaporated milk and cornflour and mix well. Add this to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring continually.

Place raw tomatoes in serving bowls and top with the hot soup. Garnish with remaining shallots, coriander and bean sprouts. You could also garnish with sliced red chilli, if preferred.

Serve immediately.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Nasi Goreng

Nasi Goreng
Source: Weight Watchers Australia Magazine July/Aug 2006

Serves 6
Points per serve: 4

(Note you will need to cook ¾ cup long grain rice for this recipe.)

1 brown onion thinly sliced
1 (140g) single chicken breast (without skin) thinly sliced
1 carrot finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
100g cabbage shredded
140g medium uncooked prawns, peeled
1 red birdseye chilli, sliced (optional)
2 tsp sambal oelek (chilli paste)
2 tsp kecap manis
100g bean sprouts
2 ½ cups COLD cooked long grain rice
6 eggs
3 green shallots, trimmed and thinly sliced

Heat wok over a medium-high heat. Spray with oil. Add onion and stir fry for 2 minutes or until brown. Add chicken, carrot and garlic. Stir-fry for 4 minutes.

Add cabbage and prawns. Stir fry for 1 minute or until prawns change colour.

Add sambal oelek, kecap manis, chilli if using and sprouts. Gently toss until combined.

Stir in rice and gently toss until hot.

Meanwhile spray a large non stick frypan with oil. Crack eggs into pan and cook for 2 minutes or until set with egg yolk still soft. Remove from heat.

Serve rice with eggs on top and sprinkle with shallots. You can serve into individual bowls but I platter mine up - however way it's yummy and really easy to make!! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.