Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

To me, Christmas is all about family and for my family that means, it's all about food.

For as long as I can remember, Christmas morning has been spent in the kitchen. After opening our Christmas presents (of course!)

Our extended family then gathers for lunch, the cooks: my mother, my aunt, my cousin and me always, always! cook way too much food. Every year we try to limit the amount of food we make. But it is not unusual to see a couple of boxes of food coming into the house from each person. I doubt this year will be any different.

In the spirit of my Nana, we cook. We cook to feed our loved ones, to nourish them, to show our love for them and to feed our own souls. For that is who we are. That was who my Nana was.

Things may be quiet around here for a while, but my kitchen will be filled with noise - clattering and chattering. Much food will be shared over the next few weeks as family and friends come and go from our home. When I get a chance, I will come and share a recipe or two. But until then...

Merry Christmas

I wish you and your families a happy and safe holiday season. Happy cooking and happy eating.

(the ultimate Christmas feast - the painting above is a favourite of mine. It is Carl Larsson's 'Christmas Eve')

Thursday, December 22, 2011

No more cookies

Note to self: do not make any promises to anyone for anything a week before Christmas.

I haven't had a chance to do to much biscuit baking since last week. I did make another batch of speculaas and some honey cookies yesterday. I share the honey cookie recipe with you today. I think that that will be the last of my biscuit baking for this year, with just three more sleeps, there is still so much other cooking to do.

Here is my 'christmas cooking to do' list:


fruit mince pies

more rum balls

cherry ripe slice

sri lankan love cake

chicken liver pate

potted pork with apple and raisin marmalade


classic english trifle

white chocolate and sour cherry cheesecake

onion and currant marmalade

red onion marmalade

spiced macadamia nuts

chocolate truffles

The Sri Lankan Love Cake is in the oven now, but I still need to shop for some my other cooking. Oh and have I mentioned that Christmas is at my house..... This means I also need to clean!

Here is the honey cookie recipe that I cooked yesterday. I first made these many years ago to take along to a end of year picnic with friends. I really like these cookies, however the jury in this house of taste testers is still out. I'm posting it anyway, like I said, I really like them. However, I think that the quest for the perfect honey cookie is not over. My husbands suggestion was that they need more spice. Last night, quite by accident, I came across a 'spiced' honey cookie recipe while looking for something else.

There is always next year.

The dough for these cookies was really crumbly, but by picking up a teaspoon size of the mixture and tossing it between both hands a few times, the dough became a workable dough that I could roll into a ball.

Ukrainian Honey Cookies

makes 20 - 25 biscuits

• 125 grams unsalted butter (melted and cooled)

• 3 tablespoons honey
• 120 grams sugar
• 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda

• 1 egg yolk
• 325 grams plain flour

• raw sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Prepare baking trays. In a large bowl, mix together the butter, honey, sugar, bicarbonate soda and egg yolk. Mix well. Gradually sift in the flour to the mixture, stirring to combine. The dough should be firm enough to be rolled into a soft ball. Roll into teaspoon size balls and dip into the raw sugar, place the dough balls 1 inch apart on the baking trays. Bake for 10-15 minutes until just golden. Leave on the tray to cool for a few minutes before removing to a rack to cool.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dutch Speculaas Biscuits

I first fell in love with these Dutch biscuits when I moved to Brisbane and worked next door to an amazing continental delicatessen. There were so many unknown treats to be discovered under it's roof.

We ate them often.

It was only a few years ago that I baked speculaas for myself. Where we live now, they are not so readily available. After baking them at home, it is impossible to go back to the store bought variety. I usually make them only for Christmas. I have always used this flower cookie cutter for some reason, but next year I might invest in one of these gorgeous windmill molds.

Out of the four batches of different biscuits I cooked the other day, these were the most satisfying. The dough formed well and was very easy to work with, we had these made in no time. Not to mention, they are delicious.

makes 20 - 30 biscuits

• 125 grams unsalted butter (softened)
• 3/4 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)

• 1 1/2 tablespoons rum
• 1 1/2 cups plain flour

• 2 teaspoons baking powder

• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon ground aniseed

• 1/4 teaspoon salt

• 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

• 1 egg white (lightly beaten)

• 2 tablespoons slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees. Grease and prepare baking trays. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the rum and mix well. Gradually sift in the flour, baking powder and all of the spices, stirring until well combined. Bring the dough into a ball and then transfer to a well floured bench to knead for a couple of minutes. Roll the dough out to a thickness of 5mm. Cut out your shapes with a cookie cutter (dutch windmills are traditional) or even into rectangles with a sharp knife. Brush the biscuits with egg white and sprinkle with almonds. Bake for 12 minutes or until they are golden brown and firm. Allow to cool on the trays.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Cookies

(speculaas and danish butter cookies)

Opps! I had completely forgotten that I had promised recipes for the next seven days....

Yesterday I was baking. Four batches of Christmas cookies and a Christmas cake. I was also battling (yes battling) with very tired children and we had my husband's Christmas party to attend. A Christmas party, I had also completely forgotten about!

To make it up to you I am posting two recipes today. Danish butter biscuits and ginger cookies.

I first made these butter cookies years ago. In fact the recipe (since adjusted) had been ripped out of a Cosmopolitan Magazine. (I have not bought that since I was 16!) I made these cookies as part of a mixed tin of Christmas cookies that I gave as gifts one year. This was the one cookie that everyone wanted the recipe for.

I have made two batches of these this year, one last week and again yesterday. I needed to add more butter to my mixture than listed in the original recipe. The recipe below has been adjusted to how I made them. The dough was a bit crumbly and I really needed to shape my dough into logs rather than roll them. However the outcome on both occasions has been successful looking and yummy tasting butter cookies.

If you make these, I would love to know how you went with your mixture. Maybe it's my flour?

Danish Butter Cookies


makes about 40 cookies

• 255 grams butter - the best you can afford (softened)

• 175 grams caster sugar

• 350 grams plain flour

• 1 teaspoon baking powder

• a pinch of salt

• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

• icing sugar

Put all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon. Turn onto the bench and knead for about 5 minutes until a soft workable cookie dough forms. The mixture will probably be very crumbly at first. Divide the dough in half and roll each piece into a log shape, about 4 cm in diameter. Wrap the dough logs in baking paper and chill for 1 hour or until required.

Preheat oven to 190 degrees. Grease 2 large baking trays. Cut the dough into 6 mm slices and lay onto the baking trays, 5 cm apart. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool on the trays until crisp. Transfer to a wire rack and sprinkle with icing sugar.

I have just realised that there is no icing sugar on the cookies in the photo at the start of this recipe. That is because they have been and made to be frozen and I will sprinkle them with icing sugar when I am going to serve them.

Ginger cookies. We love ginger everything in this house. So these are often cooked throughout the year. This is a soft biscuit, which I don't usually bake, but I like this recipe for a few different reasons.

First and most importantly, especially at this time of year: these are easy. Made in minutes with no rest time and just 10 minutes in the oven. Extra quick if you can find little helpers to help you roll them into balls. They are perfect for a last minute Christmas gift or to make when friends and family 'pop in' during the holiday season. I really love the spicy ginger kick to them.

Ginger Cookies

makes 40 - 50

• 125 grams unsalted butter (softened)
• 3/4 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)

• 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda

• 1/4 cup ground ginger

• 2 cups plain flour

• 2 tablespoons golden syrup (mixed with 1/4 cup hot water)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Prepare baking trays. In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the soda, ginger and flour with a wooden spoon. Once mixed stir in the syrup mixture, not all at once, you don't want the mixture to get to wet. Mix to form a soft dough. Roll the mixture into teaspoon size balls and place 5 cm apart on the baking trays. Lightly flatten with a fork. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool on the trays.

My speculaas recipe tomorrow - I promise!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

'On Line Biccie/Cookie Exchange'

The lovely Kimmie has asked me to be part of her 'On Line Biccie/Cookie Exchange'. However I don't really bake any biscuits that fall into her two categories:

Let us all share our favourite biccie/cookie recipes. It can fall into one of two categories.

1. A favourite biccie/cookie recipe that has been handed down through the generations in your family.


2. A favourite biccie/cookie recipe that has become a holiday tradition in your families home. You know the one, it's not quite Christmas without it.

I would love to say that a biscuit recipe I cook had been passed down from generation to generation, but it hasn't. I don't remember my Nana or Granny ever baking cookies and my working mother never did (correct me if I'm wrong Mum) Nope, during my seventies childhood it was all store bought Arnotts biscuits for me - except when I went to the neighbours place for afternoon tea.

As for a traditional Christmas recipe? Our Christmases would never be the same without Cherry Ripe Slice and Rum Balls. But they are not biscuits.


As luck would have it, this years Christmas cooking is all about the cookies!!

I am wanting to make Christmas cookies a tradition for my own family. So with a collection of favourites that I have baked for gifts over the years, this week I will be cooking them again and therefore creating our own Christmas favourites.

Each day for the next seven days I will (hopefully) post a new Christmas cookie recipe. Maybe one of them will become your favourite too.

Today I will leave you with the new recipe I tried last Christmas for the first time, Sticky Date and Orange Cookies - yummo! The picture above is of Danish Butter Biscuits, I will post this recipe tomorrow.

If you have a family Christmas cookie recipe you want to share or are just after some cookie inspiration, pop over to Serendipity Cafe.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Silverbeet and Cheese Pie

We are trying to eat less meat in our house. I know that my children would live on sausages alone if they could.

Here are a few reasons why:

1) I would rather spend money on good quality, locally sourced meat. It costs more so it makes sense to eat less. I would rather do that than eat cheap meat everyday.

2) It is a less expensive way to feed our family

3) It's better for your body and better for the environment

I grew up in a meat and three veg. family, we never ate a vegetarian meal for dinner. It never would have been considered. But serving a meal without meat has never bothered me.

I think that years living in London when I was younger helped shaped how I eat today. In England, I (a budget traveller) could not afford to buy meat. I was lucky that I worked in the food industry and we ate at work - very well! But at home we always cooked vegetarian, sometimes chicken. I did cook a lamb roast, only once, that was to celebrate a friend coming out of a 2 month stay in hospital.

I made this silverbeet and cheese pie on the weekend for dinner. It is similar to Spanakopita - very yummy. This is the very last piece in the photo. It disappeared so quickly I think I will be making it again soon.

I do need to mention that my children only ate the salad. The following night we cooked sausages for dinner.

Silverbeet and Cheese Pie

serves 6-8

for the pastry

• 10 sheets filo pastry

• 200 grams butter (melted)

for the filling

• 1 bunch silverbeet (roughly chopped and wilted)

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 1 onion (diced)

• 4 cloves garlic (crushed)

• 1 cup yoghurt

• 1 cup cottage cheese

• 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

• 4 eggs (lightly beaten)
• juice of 2 lemons

• 1 teaspoon nutmeg

• a pinch cayenne pepper

• salt and black pepper

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Grease a 25cm pie dish. (I used a 30 x 18cm baking dish) Heat the oil in a small frying pan and gently sauté the onion and garlic until soft. In a large bowl combine all of the filling ingredients, add the onion and garlic and mix well.

Line the pie dish with the sheets of filo pastry, brushing each sheet with melted butter.
Pour in the filling and bake for 40 - 50 minutes or until lightly brown and set.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Chinese Spare Ribs

My mother used to cook these pork spare ribs when I was growing up. I always loved them. I think that this is a slight variation to her original recipe, but this is the recipe I have been cooking for a long time now.

They can be cooked either in the oven or on the barbecue. Mum always oven baked hers and so did I; that was until we cooked them for a family barbecue one day. Everybody loved them, so now we cook them on the barbecue most of the time. One friend always requests them if she is coming for lunch.

Maybe your guests will too.

Be warned: the honey makes for a lot on smoke on the barbecue!

Chinese Spare Ribs

serves 4-6

• 1 kilogram pork spare ribs

the marinade

• 3 tablespoon soy sauce

• 2 tablespoon dry sherry
• 5 tablespoon hoisin sauce
• 1/4 teaspoon five spice powder

• 2 tablespoon honey

Mix all ingredients together and marinate overnight. Barbecue or oven bake.
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