Banana Sticky Date Pudding with Maple-Caramel Sauce

For the past month of so I’ve been getting a weekly delivery of fruit and vegetables from local farmers. This has left me with an abundance of both banana’s and carrots which prompted me to think up some recipes to use these ingredients. I wanted to do some kind of variation on a sticky date pudding and so here we are with a banana sticky date pudding! I’m going to attempt a carrot version later this week to be used at a work morning tea.

I added in maple syrup for a bit of a twist. It makes the pudding sweet, but that means you only need a small slice to feel satisfied.

The sides and bottom were slightly too brown for my liking to next time I’ll line them with more baking paper but there was no bitter burnt taste at all.

I never knew a creamy caramel sauce was this easy! I’m probably going to be sorry that I now know though since I’ll want to make it to put on everything! Will power be my friend!

Serves 8

Pudding
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 1/2 cups pitted dates
1 tsp bicarb soda
60g butter, slightly softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup self-raising flour
2 very ripe bananas

Sauce
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup cream
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
150g butter, chopped

Pudding
Grease and line the base with baking paper of whichever tin you’d like to use. You could use either a 20cm round tin or a rectangle loaf tin.

Combine water and maple syrup in small pan and bring to the boil. Add the dates, bring back to the boil, then immediately remove pan from the heat.

Stir in the bicarb soda and leave to stand for 5 minutes.

In a food processor pour in the date mixture and blend with the butter and sugar until almost smooth. Add the eggs, flour and banana and process using the pulse button until just combined.

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake at 180C for 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. After 20 minutes I covered my pudding in alfoil to stop the top from browning too much.

Once cooked, cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then gently take it out of the tin and cool it on a wire rack.

Sauce

Combine sugar, cream, maple syrup and butter in a small saucepan, bring to the boil and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Watch it, as it may boil over. You can then either pour the sauce over the whole pudding, or like me, cut a slice and pour a few spoonfuls over each slice.

Serve with ice-cream.

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Apple Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

This is one of my all time favourite cake favours. I found this recipe at Smitten Kitchen and have made this recipe into the cake form a few times and have now tried them as cupcakes. I have to say I prefer the cupcakes as the cream cheese frosting to cake ratio is much more to my liking!

The mix of spices with the applesauce is delicious without being overpowering, and who doesn’t love cream cheese frosting. I have to admit to saving a few spoonfuls after frosting the cupcakes to myself.

The batter will seem a bit curdled, but it’s okay, it’s what it is supposed to look like! They will bake into lovely mounds of cupcake!

Makes 18

Cupcakes

250g flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
115g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (195g) packed light brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (365 g) canned/jarred applesauce (unsweetened)

Cream Cheese Frosting

300g cream cheese, softened
90g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups soft icing sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 175°C with a rack in the middle of the oven. Line 18 cupcakes pans with cupcake liners.

Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, around 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the applesauce. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined with a wooden spoon. Like I said above, the batter will look curdled.

Fill each cupcake liner around 3/4 full and bake for 15 minutes (I always check at 12 minutes) until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes and then place cupcakes on a rack to cool completely.

Frosting

Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy. Sift confectioners sugar and cinnamon over cream cheese mixture, then beat at medium speed until incorporated. Spread or pipe decoratively onto each cupcake generously.

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Chocolate Cupcakes Surprise

Is there anything tastier than a chocolate cupcake? I love cupcakes. The icing/frosting to cake ratio seems so much more than on a large cake and who doesn’t love lots and lots of icing/frosting?

I used to be one to use cake or cupcake mixes all the time, but after a few tries they just don’t taste the same as from scratch cup cakes. Those in a mix always taste somewhat artificial. I do still love frosting in a can, but I think that’s because I haven’t yet found the perfect recipe.

What is the surprise? Lindt balls!! And caramel! In the middle of the cupcake! You’ll notice once baked they sink a little, but the icing the sprinkles cover it nicely.

Makes 12

Cupcakes

150g butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup buttermilk
6 Lindt balls
6 teaspoons caramel (I used Nestle Top ‘n’ Fill Caramel)

Icing

1 1/2 cups icing sugar mixture
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 to 3 tablespoons milk, warmed
sprinkles

Preheat oven to 180C. Line 12 cupcake cases into a cupcake tin.

Use an electric hand mixer to beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour, cocoa powder and buttermilk until smooth.

Spoon two-thirds of the mixture evenly among the cupcake cases.

Use a teaspoon to make a small indent in the centre of each cupcake. Place either a Lindt ball or spoon 1 teaspoon of the caramel into the centre of each case. Top with the remaining cupcake mixture and smooth the surface.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centres comes out clean. Keep in mind the centre has a melted Lindt ball or Caramel in the middle so go in at an angle.

Set the cupcakes aside in the pans for 5 minutes to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Spread the icing over the cupcakes and dip into a plate covered in sprinkles.

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Chocolate Mousse and Caramel Tart with Praline

This has got to be one of the most delicious things I’ve made yet! And also one of the most technically difficult. This isn’t a recipe for the faint-hearted but the length of time it takes to make is worth it. With this recipe I made 3 things I had never made before: caramel, chocolate mousse and praline. You know a tart is going to be decadent when you need to make 3 separate sugar syrups/caramels. The great thing about this recipe is that it gives you plenty of time between each stage to take your time and get it right. Each stage needs time in the fridge to set (at least an hour) so plenty of time to get the next bit of the recipe done.

Warning: Lots of photos to come!

First, the pastry:

Next, the caramel layer:

Then the chocolate mousse:

And finally, the praline:

Serves 8 to 12 depending on how greedy your guests are.

Pastry

250g plain flour
2 tbs almond meal
55g icing sugar
150g cold unsalted butter, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
pinch of salt

Caramel  Filling

110g caster sugar
100ml water
2 tbs double cream
40g butter, softened, chopped

Chocolate Mousse

300ml thickened/pouring cream
200g dark chocolate, chopped
3 egg yolks
1 egg
110g caster sugar
100ml water

Praline

45g slivered almonds
110g caster sugar
60ml water

Pastry

Process the flour, almond meal, icing sugar, a pinch of salt, and chopped butter (make sure it is really cold, I chopped mine and then put it in the freezer for another 5 minutes) in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and process until the mixture just comes together. Shape with your hands into a disc, making sure to get every bit into the disc, and wrap up in plastic. Put the pastry into the fridge for 2 hours.

Once chilled, preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Roll out the pastry between two sheets of baking paper until 3mm thick, making sure it fits into a 24cm (3 cm deep) tart pan with removable base. Place the pastry inside using any extra pastry to patch up any holes.

Freeze for 20 minutes.

Line the tart shell with baking paper and fill with either rice, dried beans, or specialty pastry weights. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the sides are just brown (I let mine get too dark). Remove the weights, and bake for a further 10 minutes or until the base is a light brown. Because my sides were already quite brown I covered them with foil for the rest of the baking.

Cool the tart completely.

Caramel

Place sugar and water in a small heavy-based saucepan and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to high and boil, without stirring, until a golden caramel colour. This took around 15 minutes for me, but you really need to watch it closely as when it starts going brown it doesn’t take long for it to go too far.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately add the cream, stirring with a whisk, then add in the butter, still whisking. Add in a pinch of sea salt. Let it cool for around 5 minutes and then pour into the tart shell making sure it covers the whole base. Put it in the fridge for an hour to set.

Mousse

Beat 200ml cream using either a whisk (for an arm workout), hand-held electric mixer, or large electric mixer until soft peaks are formed, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Put the chocolate and the rest of the cream (100ml) into a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure that the bowl doesn’t touch the water, and stir using a spatula until melted, smooth and combined. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and set aside to cool.

Using the electic mixer (hand-held, or large) beat the egg yolks and egg in a bowl until thick, pale and a bit foamy.

To make a sugar syrup place the sugar and 100ml of water into a heavy based saucepan (the one used above for the caramel – cleaned of course) on a low heat until the sugar dissolves. You might need to give it a swirl or two. Increase the heat to high and once it starts bubbling use a sugar thermometer to measure when it reaches 121 degrees Celsius. If you don’t have a thermometer, this should take around 6 minutes. You don’t want it to start to get colour though.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and with the mixer on low  slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg mixture. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the mixture is thick and at room temperature (the sugar syrup would have raised the temperature).

Using a large metal or plastic spoon (not wood as it holds moisture), fold in one-third of the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture to loosen, then gentle fold in the remaining egg mixture until combined. Fold in one-third of the whipped cream into the chocolate/egg mixture to loosen, and then gently fold in the remaining cream mixture.

Spoon the mousse over the caramel layer, making sure to smooth the top with an offset spatula or knife. Stick it in the fridge for an hour to set.

Praline

Bake the almonds in an oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 8 minutes or until golden. Watch them closely as when they start going golden they can get to burnt very quickly.

Place sugar and 60ml of water in the same saucepan as above (cleaned of course) on a low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat to high and let it bubble away until a golden caramel.

Pour over the almonds and let it set until cool. Break it up into shards and give it a whiz in a food processor.

Scatter over the mousse layer. Refrigerate the whole thing for another hour and then serve with cream or ice cream.

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Salsa Verde (Italian Green Sauce)

This recipe is not about the salmon but what is on top of the salmon. This is also the recipe I used to go with the Fresh Chicken Tacos. I’ve made this a couple of times now and always wonder why I don’t make it often. It is easy and tastes good on just about anything. The great thing about this base recipe is that it can doubled or quadrupled if needed.

I first came across this recipe in Jamie Oliver’s “30 minute meals” cookbook. I love it because no chopping is required. All that needs doing is putting all the ingredients into either a mini food processor (I found my large food processor was too large for the amount I was making) or using a handheld bar mix to blitz it up into all its greeny goodness.

Serves 2

1/2 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 bunch fresh mint
1 clove garlic
1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbs red wine vinegar
1 heaped tsp capers
2 cornichons (mini gherkins)
1 tbs olive oil
a grind of salt and a grind of pepper

Pick off the parsley and mint leaves and add this to either a food processor or container if using a bar mix.

Mix.

Serve with any meat or vegetables.

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Fresh Chicken Tacos

Who doesn’t love a taco? With the boom of Burrito Bars that seem to be overtaking my town of Brisbane I wanted to have a go at making my own Mexican food at home. I wanted to do everything from scratch. The tortilla, the spice mix for the chicken and a tasty salsa. I dug around in my recipe books, and poked around on-line until I came across a recipe from Donna Hay for Chicken Tacos.

I didn’t like the fussiness of her tortilla recipe though. Rubbing butter into flour? There’s got to be an easier way. And so my search continued. I finally came across The Homesick Texan website and her Flour Tortilla recipe. Much easier, and who better to take tortilla making advice from than a Texan!

I kept to Donna’s recipe for the spice mix that would cover the chicken except for the onion salt which I didn’t have. Next time I’ll kick up the chili factor as my “Mexican Ground Chili” mix was not spicy enough. As all things chili though you should really just add however much you want.

Makes 8 Tacos

For the taco insides:

4x200g chicken thighs, skinless and boneless
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chili powder (next time I’d bump this up to 1 tsp)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
vegetable oil (I used avocado oil)
Various accompaniments: salsa verde, shredded cheese, avocado, sour cream, or whatever else you’d like.

The Tortilla’s

2 cups flour (plus extra for dusting)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
3/4 – 1 cup warm milk

First make the tortilla dough as it needs time to rest.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and oil with a fork until well combined. To this mixture slowly add in the warm milk until a sticky ball is formed. The original recipe called for 3/4 cup of milk but I used almost a cup.

Dust some flour over a surface (I used my kitchen bench, but you could use a chopping board) and knead the dough for 2 minutes. Once needed the dough should feel firm and soft.

Put the dough into a bowl and cover it with a damp tea towel for 20 minutes. Once the dough as rested, divide it into 8 equal portions, rolling them into balls in your hands. Put them on a plate and cover them with a damp cloth, this time for 10 minutes.

Once completely rested, take one ball at a time and on a sheet of baking paper press it down flat into a 10cm circle. Then, use a rolling-pin to roll it out as thin as you can. Don’t worry about making them a perfect circle as it makes them all the more charming. Continue to roll out the rest of the dough and cover with a damp cloth until ready to cook.

To cook, heat up a heavy based or cast iron skillet (I used my normal heavy based fry pan with spray oil to keep them from sticking) and cook the tortilla’s for 30 seconds on each side. The first side should be like the photo above, and should also puff up a bit. Don’t worry if once flipped the other side doesn’t look the same. Mine didn’t look evenly browned on the other side, instead having lonesome brown blotches, but they still tasted as they should.

Once cooked you can keep them wrapped up in a dry tea towel under ready to assemble and eat.

While the tortilla’s are resting, get the chicken spice mixture ready and let the chicken marinate in it for around 10 minutes. Once the tortilla’s are resting for the second 10 minutes put the chicken on a medium heat to start cooking. They should around 5 minutes each side, but if you’re not sure they are cooked slice into the thickest part of the thigh to check.

Once cooked, let the chicken rest on a chopping board for 5 minutes covered in foil (and in the meantime start cooking up the tortilla’s) and then slice up ready to stick onto the tortilla’s.

Assemble with your favourite condiments and gulp down!

The verdict from Richard was pretty adamant. His first remark was, “Awesome dude food”, followed by spilling half of it on his shirt, and then a smile of contentment and a verdict of “best taco ever”. You can’t really get a better endorsement than that!

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Chicken in Garlic Sauce – Pollo En Salsa De Ajo

It was hard to take a super appetising photo of this dish but I promise you it tastes delicious. This was served with a wedge of the Tortilla. Again, it’s just a few ingredients tossed together but which has tasty results.

When doing a tour of Southern Spain we went to a Sherry distillery where I bought a 2 small bottles of sherry. I gave one to my Mum to use in her trifle at Christmas and kept the other for myself. I wasn’t really sure what to do with it (leaving the trifle making to Mum) until I found this recipe. Of course, it you can’t get to Spain to pick up a bottle, any other sherry should work just as well.

I think next time I make this I’ll add in a few more cloves of garlic as I think my cloves were too small and my belief is there can never be too much garlic.

Serves 4

1kg chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
1 tbs sweet paprika
2 tbs olive oil
8-10 garlic cloves (for me, this was a whole head of garlic, but next time I will use more)
60ml (1/4 cup) sherry
125ml chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 tbs chopped flat-leaf fresh parsley

Trim any excess fat from the chicken thighs and cut the thighs into thirds. Combine the chicken with the paprika, as well as some salt and pepper in a bowl and toss to make sure every bit of chicken is covered in paprika.

Heat half the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat and cook the garlic cloves for a few minutes each side until tan in colour (not too dark) and then remove them from the pan. Heat the remaining oil and cook the chicken in batches (I did three) until browned on each side. Return all the chicken to the pan, add the sherry and boil for 1 minutes. Add in the chicken stock and the bay leaves. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

While the chicken is simmering, squeeze the garlic pulp from the skins, and in a pestle and mortar, or in a bowl with a spoon, mixed the parsley and garlic together to form a paste. Stir this into the chicken and cook, uncovered on medium for another 10 minutes.

I like my sauce a bit thicker, so after this 10 minutes I removed the chicken and reduced the sauce for a further 5 minutes before spooning it back over the chicken.

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Spanish Tortilla (Potato Omelette)

I first tried tortilla in a tapas bar in Granada when I did a tour of Southern Spain a few years ago when living in London, UK. I’ve wanted to try cooking it ever since. My first attempt was a few months ago when I hosted a BBQ and needed a yummy filling vegetarian option for my friend, Justine. This is my second attempt at it, and it was just as easy and yummy as the first time.

Please ignore my dirty stove top above! This dish involves a bit of chopping, and then putting everything into the one pan to cook together and for such few ingredients it is so so tasty!

Make sure to use a non-stick frying pan as it’s easier to then slide out onto a plate once cooked. This also stayed nice and warm in the pan, covered with aluminum foil for 30 minutes.

Serves 8

500g potatoes, slice thinly (no need to peel them, I just cut off the unattractive bits)
60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
1/2 large brown onion, sliced thinly
4 garlic cloves, finely diced
2 tbs fresh parsley, finely chopped
6 eggs

Put the sliced potatoes into a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil on a high heat and boil for 5 minutes. Drain them and set aside.

In a deep-sided non-stick fry pan heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent and the garlic no longer has its raw garlic smell, around 8 minutes).

Add the potatoes and parsley to the pan the stir the ingredients to combine, being careful not to break up the potato too much. Press the potato into a layer in the pan.

Whisk the egg with some salt and pepper and pour evenly over the potatoes. Cover with either a lid or aluminum foil and cook over a low-medium heat for 20 minutes. By this time the eggs should be set. You can then either leave this in its pan covered or serve straight away.

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One Bowl Chocolate Cake

Whenever there are birthdays in my team at work I always bring in the birthday cake, or whatever that person would like for their birthday morning tea. This time the request was for a chocolate cake. This is a super easy chocolate cake that only uses ONE bowl!

So I now think I’ve found my perfect vanilla cake recipe and now my perfect chocolate cake recipe. I’ll get the final verdict tomorrow for taste at the morning tea. I tasted some off-cuts though and they were tasty!

Serves 10

Cake
115g  unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Icing

125g unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tbs milk
1 tbs cocoa powder

Pre heat the oven to 160C. Place a piece of baking paper in the bottom of a loaf pan and spray the sides with oil spray.

In a large bowl cream the butter until smooth with a hand mixer. Add the brown and caster sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat well, then the buttermilk and vanilla. The batter will look a bit lumpy but that’s okay.

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt together into the wet ingredients. Stir together with a spoon until well-blended but not over-mixed. Scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. The tip here is to use a wooden skewer and not something metal, as even if the loaf is undercooked the metal skewer could still come out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for about 10 to 15 minutes, then remove it and place it back on the rack to cool completely.

For the icing, using a hand-mixer on high whip the butter until completely smooth and fluffy (around 1 minute). Sift in half the icing sugar 1 tbs of the milk and mix. Then add in the rest of the icing sugar and milk. At this stage I took some of the icing out (around 2 tbs) for the writing. For the remaining icing I added a tbs of cocoa and mixed that in. For the writing icing I added in a few drops of green food colouring before piping.

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Chicken Coconut Curry

I’m always looking to find new lunch ideas for work and needed a yummy curry recipe. I didn’t want anything spicy and I just so happened to have all the ingredients I needed to make this curry.

I ended up with a yummy creamy coconutty curry which only involved chopping up the chicken and onions and then throwing in a few spices and cracking open some cans and letting it all simmer in one pot.

Serves 6

1.3kg chicken (I used thighs because that’s what I had in the freezer)
1 tbs mustard seeds
2 tbs ground coriander
1 tbs ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
60ml olive oil
1 tbs coconut oil
2 tbs grated ginger
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 large onion, finely diced
400g can chopped or diced tomato
500ml coconut milk
1 lemon, juiced

Heat the coconut oil in a heavy-based pot or pan over a medium heat. Brown the chicken in batches and place on a plate.

Add the olive oil to the pan and once heated add in the mustard seeds. Once they start popping add in the chopped onions and cook for 5 minutes or until softened. Add in the ginger and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes before adding in all the spices (coriander, cumin, paprika and turmeric) and cooking for another few minutes.

Pour in the tomatoes into the pot and simmer until it reduces to a thick sauce and add back in the chicken. Pour in 250ml water in and simmer for 20 minutes and then add in the coconut milk and simmer for another 20 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice and serve with basmati rice.

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