Sunday, 28 October 2012

Cranberry and coconut biscuits (or cookies)

Cranberry and coconut biscuits

One sunny Saturday afternoon, I decided it was time to turn my hand to something sweet that did not come in the form of cupcakes or cake. I was almost stumped at what to do, but the trusty Women's Weekly cookbook came to my rescue by providing a very easy to make vanilla biscuit recipe.  As this seemed far too boring, I turned to their 'variations' list and found this recipe for cranberry and coconut biscuits.  Much more exciting. I had just bought some dried cranberries to go in my (soon to be started) Christmas fruit cakes, and thought I could warm them up first in some biscuits.
Start with 200 grams of butter. If it's straight from the fridge, place it in the microwave for 10 seconds to soften it up, but not melt it!
 1 cup of icing sugar. If it's not from a newly bought and opened packet, you will probably need to sift it.  Beating it on its own in a kitchen mixer will also do the same job (slowly so it doesn't become a layer of dust in your kitchen!) 
Beat the butter into the icing sugar.
The recipe calls for half a teaspoon of vanilla essence, but I reduced this to 1/4 of a teaspoon so as not to drown out the coconut taste. Add this and an egg. 
Beat it for a few minutes until it's really light and creamy.  You'll know when it's done as the butter will turn a shade or two lighter. 
 voila! lighter in colour after 5 minutes. Add half a cup of dried desiccated coconut, and half a cup of cranberries. This didn't look like enough. Change that to 2/3 of a cup of each!
 And the cranberries are in. Beat until they're just mixed in.
 Now for the flour. Add one cup of plain flour
and half a teaspoon of bi-carb soda. 
Beat in very slowly until just mixed.   
Then add another 3/4 cup plain flour. Mix in again. 
And you're done! How easy was that? 
This is now the perfect time for a friend to drop in for afternoon tea, as putting teaspoon-sized balls of dough on a sheet is much quicker and more fun with some help. If you want to make big cookies rather than tea-sized biscuits, use a tablespoon of dough instead, and bake a few minutes longer.
 Space them out on a baking-paper lined tray, and into the oven for 15 minutes at 160 degrees (not fan forced).
 Just make sure they're not over-cooked! They don't have to be brown on top, but they should spring back if you lightly touch one. 
 Slide them onto a cooling tray
 Break open and enjoy with tea and friends!

Cranberry and coconut biscuits       (or cookies)

200g butter, softened (not melted)
1 cup icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 egg
2/3 cup desiccated coconut
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1 3/4 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bi-carb soda

1. Beat butter and sugar in kitchen mixer until combined
2. Add vanilla essence and egg.  Beat well for 5 minutes or until mixture is lighter in colour and texture
3. Mix in coconut and cranberries
4. Fold in 1 cup of flour, along with the bi-carb soda
5. Fold in the other 3/4 cup flour until just combined
6. Line a baking tray with baking paper, place teaspoon sized balls of dough onto the tray, with at least 2cm in between them as they expand in the oven.
7. Bake for 15 minutes at 160 degrees c.
8. Cool them and eat or take them to friends.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Spaghetti and meatballs with roast capsicum sauce

Spaghetti and Meatballs with roast capsicum sauce

Now this might take a little longer than the usual dinner to prepare, but the time and love put into this dish was definitely worth it! I managed to find some very cheap red capsicums (peppers for those in the northern hemisphere) and could think of nothing better than roasting them up (how they go from $12 a kilo to $3.50 a kilo in a week I do not know). 
I have also been wanting to make meatballs for a long time now.  My granny used to make a great meatballs dish, with the main ingredient being tomato sauce and barbeque sauce... I wanted to do something with the same flavour but a little healthier. Put these together and we have meatballs with roast capsicum sauce!

Start with two large red capsicum, slice the sides off into big chunks, and throw them in a baking tray with some olive oil.

... and three cloves of garlic, with the skin on! Tastes so much better later when you get to squeeze the garlic out. And place them in a hot 200 degree celsius over for 30 minutes.
Now find a large onion, and grate it (or 2 small ones). You might want to shut your eyes for this one, or squint while grating. 
You'll probably need to chop up the outside layer of the onion once you've finished as it is rather difficult to grate without also grating you fingers!

Now grab a big handful of the grated onion, and squeeze most of the juice out of it (stops your meatballs from becoming soggy)
Now get your kilo of mince, and mix the grated onion in.
Add some tasty spices- I have 1tsp each of cumin and ground coriander seeds, half a teaspoon of paprika, some salt and pepper.
Pour in about half a cup of breadcrumbs and a quarter of a cup of plain flour. 
 2 eggs to stick it all together, and for some flavour, a good dash (or 3) of worcestershire sauce
Now there is always a fun part of the recipe... although this particular recipe does have two.  
Oh wait- almost forgot the parsley!
Now roll the mince mixture out into lots small little balls. My kilo of mince made 35 of them
Look good??
Pull the roast capsicum from the oven. The skin should have blistered up by now. Place a sheet of foil over the tray to let them sweat it out for 5 minutes, which makes pulling the skin off easier.
Then place your nice tray of meatballs in the oven for 20 minutes, at about 180 degrees.
Now comes fun part #2.  Peeling the skin off the capsicum! It can be tricky, and don't worry too much if you don't get all of it, but it does make the sauce much smoother at the other end. 
 Time to start making your sauce. Dice an onion up really fine, and fry it up with some olive oil.
Shred all that nice capsicum in after a minute or two (yes a knife probably would have worked better with this task) 

Now peel those cloves of garlic, and squeeze out all the gooey garlicy goodness and into the pan.

Thanks Alex for taking this photo for me while my hands were rather tied up!

After 20 minutes it's time to turn the meatballs over. My meatballs seem to have had all the fat drain out of them- so I'm taking them out and cleaning the tray before putting them back in, turned over to brown the other side, for 15 minutes.

Back to the sauce now the capsicum and onion have had a few minutes to stew! Put in a splash of red wine vinegar.
Two tins of diced tomatoes... 
half a teaspoon of vegetable stock much chilli as you like! We used one teaspoon. And then added more later. 
15 minutes later the meatballs should be ready 
to add to the sauce! Now if I made this recipe again, I would have blended the sauce up at this time, so since you haven't made it yet, feel free to! It's still pretty good as is though. 
Fold the meatballs into the sauce 
And let it simmer on low heat while the spaghetti cooks.
(look at all that fat left behind on the baking tray... who knew meatballs could be so healthy!) 
 And serve! 
And add some cheese. Always need cheese in the Wilkins House! 

Spaghetti and Meatballs with roast capsicum sauce

2 large red capsicums
3 cloves garlic
1 kilo lean beef mince
2 large onions
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup plain flour
2 eggs
3 sprigs parsley, diced
1 tbsp red wine vinegar (or red wine)
2 400g tins diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp powdered vegetable stock
1 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 packet spaghetti
olive oil
Grated cheese to serve.

1. Slice up capsicum into large chunks, and place on an oiled oven tray, with 3 unpeeled cloves of garlic.  Bake for 30 minutes at 200 degrees c.
2. Grate one onion up, mix well in a bowl with the mince.
3. Add cumin, coriander, half the paprika, worcestershire sauce, breadcrumbs, flour, salt/pepper, parsley and eggs to the mince and mix really well.
4. Roll the mince into small balls (about an inch wide) and place onto an oiled baking tray.
5. Take capsicum out of oven, cover with foil, reduce the oven to 180 degrees c, and place the tray of meatballs in the oven for 20 minutes.
6. In a saucepan, dice the second onion up, and fry in some olive oil. Take the blistered skin off the capsicum and throw away, shred the capsicum into the saucepan. Squeeze the roast garlic in (throw away the skin) and let it simmer for a few minutes.
7. Turn the meatballs over and cook for another 10-15 minutes.  You may need to clean the roasting pan if the juices and fat of the meatballs have built up in this time.
10. Add two tins of tomatoes, red wine vinegar, vegetable stock, and chilli to the capsicum dish. Let this simmer until the meatballs are ready. You could blend the sauce at this time.
11. Fold the meatballs into the sauce and put spaghetti on to cook (we use whole wheat spaghetti).
12. Assemble, throw some cheese on top and serve!