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July 2014

Friday Food: Mixed Fruit & Spice Slice

You may think it strange, but often I can't think what to cook. This week I gave MrsDrWho some of my magazines and she circled things and turned down the corners of pages. It makes my life so much easier. Ergo, today's Mixed Fruit & Spice Slice from the July 2014 Recipes+.

Spicy slice

I didn't realise just what a quick and easy recipe it was until I checked the ingredients. I didn't even need to leave the house. I had absolutely everything.

I am not a fan of the prepared dried fruit with pretend cherries, and so I used some currants and sultanas. Any combination of dried fruit would work well, you could even add nuts. 

And yes, there is no egg. I trusted the recipe and it was fine. My oven is fan-forced, but at the temperature they recommended I had to cook the slice for 30 minutes, so bear that in mind.

NB, I forgot to put the mixed dried fruit in the ingredients. Thanks Onyi!!

Mixed Fruit & Spice Slice   makes 16 pieces

  • 125g softened butter
  • 165g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 1 tspn bicarbonate of soda
  • 250ml (1 cup) milk
  • 225g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour
  • 1 cup mixed dried fruit
  • 2 tspn mixed spice or spice combination you like best
  • 30 g softened butter extra
  • 2 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 20-40ml boiling water

Preheat oven to 180*C/160*C fan-forced and grease and line a slice tin, approximately 20 x 16cm.

Cream the butter and sugar until it is light and pale.

Cream the butter and sugar

When the butter and sugar is creamed, add the flour, spices and fruit and gently fold to coat the fruit.

Flour, fruit, spice

Dissolve the bicarb soda in the milk. Add the milk mixture and mix well. My batter looked a little curdled, but I just ignored that.

Adding the milk

Pour into the tin, smooth the top and bake for 20-30 minutes. A skewer inserted into the centre of the slice should come out clean. Stand in the tin to cool for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Baking, icing

Make the icing by combining the extra butter, icing sugar and water. Ice the cooled slice. I used a spoon dipped in boiling water to spread and smooth the icing.

Icing

It is best to cut the slice when it is completely cool, but regardless of my wonky slicing, it tastes deliciously spicy and moist.

Spicy fruit slice


Miley Virus

Well, that was an unexpected blogging sabbatical. First I caught a horrid virus of the sleeping, headache and not eating kind, from which I am still recovering. Then Peri caught the virus in town especially for dogs. She was poorly, unhappy and then shook all night when she slept. Needless to say, neither Gilly or I slept either. Thankfully it was only a twenty-four hour thing and she was bright as a button by the next evening, but it certainly took a toll on me.

Happy peri feels well

It is a jolly good thing that I can actually take to my bed for days on end. I was worried I was poorly with my illness again, but although I am pale, I have decided it is virus paleness, and anyway I have an appointment with the doctor tomorrow.

Peri and Lorelai Gilmore love meeting their friends and last week Gilly thought she might even go for a ride in Rafa's car*. Peri was rather concerned, but Gilly decided there was no place like home after all.

Rafa's car adventure

There are certain things that happen no matter how poorly I am: walks for The Labradors and feeding them. Gilly eats from her special green slow-me-down plate every day, but Peri has a grown up sensible bowl. I have had to start adding a tad more food to Gilly's plate because Peri has decided it is worth hurrying to eat her own food, as Gilly's forbidden food tastes sweeter. The Labradors never growl at each other where food is concerned, well where anything is concerned. They are happy to share and no-one minds. They are such lovely girls.

Dinner dogs

It was MrsDrWho's birthday last week and lots of friends went out to dinner. I had the most delicious local scallops and a perfectly wonderful glass of sparkling Moscato. Yum. I knitted MrsDrWho her very own Ood and Eeven Cowl, a red eyed angry Ood.

Ood and eeven 2014

I sewed a collection of shopping bags for her too. I am pleased to have found such cute kitten material and the TARDIS panel is a swatch from Spoonflower.

Bags for fun

And we have a mouse. I can hear it under the house. It must be a lovely environment in Winter, but my neighbours and I think the NBNCo are disturbing them with all the digging up of the footpath and roads of late. Our house has hidden sliding doors between the dining and lounge room, and if you push the doors back too far into the cavity there is a gap that opens straight to the underneath of the house. Sigh.

The weather is turning chilly, there was a lazy wind this morning that made our walk quite icy, but I wore a dress and cardi and bare legs when I went out this afternoon. It was sunny and warm-ish. I did wear a pashmina kind of scarf that Judy-May gave me as a sop to Winter. We've had the shortest day and we're on the way out of Winter now. I am very sad as it means Summer is closer, and we all detest the heat. Peri and Lorelai Gilmore are so happy and run about smiling when they walk in the freezing weather.

Oh, last night we went to MrsReno's house and sewed new quilt blocks, Windmill blocks. They are delightful, and easy, which was a bonus as teachers are writing reports or staying back every evening for Parent Teacher meetings.

Windmill bom

We're thinking things will be back to normal soon, and Friday Food will magically appear tomorrow. I have to actually bake something first, but I have high hopes......

*Technically it is Rafa's Dad's car I suppose, but I do believe all the dogs think the cars belong to them.


Friday Food: Lemon Curd

Curd in a jarEasy lemon curd. For quite a while curd had me flummoxed. I misinterpreted what recipes meant when they said the mixture should thicken. I thought it should be quite thick like custard, but it actually goes just a little bit thicker like very runny cream. Now I feel very curd confident!!!

My stove plates have 6 heat settings and I cooked my curd on #2 and #3 and then #2 again, when I worried it might be too hot. It only took about 5 minutes once the butter was melted, and the trick really is to whisk all the time: not necessarily fast, but just all the time. If the curd looks as if it will boil, take it off the heat and whisk a tad furiously to cool it.

When it is slightly thickened you can test to see if it is ready. Dip the back of a spoon into the curd. It should coat the spoon thickly, and then draw a line through the curd with your finger. The curd should not run at all, the line should stay clear and clean. Then your curd is ready. It needs to be sieved through a fine metal sieve to strain out any stray bits of cooked egg and zest.

The curd can be kept for about a week in the refrigerator. I keep mine in a jar, or an airtight container. It sets amazingly well, but does soften up at room temperature. It can also be frozen for a longer period of time.

I made half the recipe with 4 egg yolks, and I saved the egg whites to make some Flourless Chocolate Nut Biscuits. A batch of these uses 4 egg whites, so it is a match made in baking heaven.

 

Lemon Curd    makes about 1 cup

  • 8 egg yolks
  • 220g ordinary white sugar  (1 cup)
  • 1 tbspn lemon zest
  • 165ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (2/3 cup)
  • 150g butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 tspn coarse salt

Place all the ingredients into a pan and gently whisk over a medium to low heat until the butter melts.

Melting and whisking

Turn heat up to medium, medium/high and whisk until it thickens. It should take about 5 minutes and tiny bubbles may start to form around the edge of the mixture.

Test with a spoon to see if it is ready.

Ready and sieve

Remove from the heat and strain through a fine metal sieve. Discard the zest and other things in the sieve. I have circled a tiny piece of the cooked yolk amongst the zest, you don't want that in your curd.

To stop a skin forming, press clingfilm or baking paper straight onto the top of the curd. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until it is set.

Cover and refrigerate

You can use curd in so many ways, I like it swirled through cream with pavlova, in little tarts or cupcakes. I made a quick batch of scones and we are having very late supper. Any citrus fruit will make a delicious curd, as will passionfruit and apparently raspberries too.

Scone lemon curd cream


It's A Long Long Way From Mayall To December.

Well, there was an outing/commitment splurge last week, and I ended up having a day in bed on Friday. It did the trick too. It is ironic that when the weather cools and I feel the happiest and healthiest, I end up doing too many things and have to rest up. Still, Peri and Lorelai Gilmore are trained to nap and they slept on the end of the bed all day. They are good and faithful animal companions.

The weather has been so wonderful: it was so warm and sunny on Thursday afternoon that Peri had to lie in the shade as she was too hot. Gilly sat next to me, in the Sun, and I read a book. Very civilised. The mornings are cold, frosty and foggy. We don't mind. I rug up and The Labradors revel in the icy grass when it cracks under the paws. How they can bear the chill I don't know, especially when they have to be under their quilts, warm and snuggly, every night.

Peri loves to roll, and she's pretty choosy about where she rolls. I agree with her choices, she's as clean as a whistle.

Peri is such a roller

Gilly? Not so much. She watched Peri roll, and then chose the yuckiest place and rolled in something horrid.

Gilly is a roller in something horrid

Peri was feeling eminently superior. She was also being dominant, just to put Gilly in her place, when she heard me being cross.

Peri clean, Gilly not

Peri is the bravest and most adventurous of the Dogs That Walk at The Dam. The workmen had left and so she ran up the steps to the Look Out and found a lot of water to play in. Gilly was down the bottom of the steps, missing her.

Look out peri

Last week we made what I like to call The Film Strip block for our 2014 quilts. I cut mine to the pattern's requirement, but it was fiddly and as MrsDrWho and MrsReno were in the midst of report writing, I modified it a little. I think my iPad photos are just a LOT wonky!! It was a nice easy block to sew.

Our next bom block

Knitting has continued, though not apace. I am making another of these, but using red so it is an angry Ood. I was blithely knitting away when I realised I had joined in the round after the dark grey rib, and I hadn't made the split in the cream. Bah humbug. So I just continued on, finished the red and cream border and then picked up the row of stitches before the grey and cut the bottom off. I just knitted downwards and cast off after the grey rib. Worked like a charm, thank goodness.

Another ood thing

I made some delicious lemon curd. Onyi gave me some lemons and I used this recipe. I only made half the amount, but I paid careful attention to when the curd coated the back of the spoon, and it wasn't terribly thick when that happened. It set beautifully in the fridge, and was creamy and so tasty. I made a three-egg sponge and served it with the lemon curd and cream. I really appreciate the gift of the lemons, they are $1 each and I so love using them in all my cooking, savoury and sweet.

We have nothing planned for tomorrow or Friday, so I think more rest is required. I should organise my iPad so I can leave comments on all blog posts. I am so spoiled to be able to lie on the couch, or in bed, and not have to sit at the computer desk.

I was sad to learn of Rik Mayall's death. I was living in a small mining town with lots of people from other countires and someone's friend sent them videos of The Young Ones recorded from TV in the UK. We saw it before it was screened here. It was not The Goons, or Bless This House or Some Mothers Do 'Ave Em. It was something completely different. I am not sure if this is an apocryphal anecdote or not, but I read that Rik and Ade Edmonson wanted to call their show 'Bottom', 'My Bottom", so that every morning after the show was on TV people would ask each other "Did you see My Bottom on TV last night?". 


Friday Food: Raspberry Chocolate Brownie

OnYum raspberry chocolate browniee bowl, or saucepan: that's all you need. Best recipe ever!! I've made this a few times now, very successfully, and I have promised this brownie to Wee Jock and Bessie's Mum and Dad.

I made a few changes, as per usual. I didn't sprinkle extra chocolate and raspberries over the top of the uncooked brownie. I combined some lovely dark brown muscovado with the caster sugar, as I think it gives a fudgier taste and texture.

I melted the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over a low heat, but you could use a bowl and your microwave. Either way works well. Do sift the flour and cocoa into the batter and if you use frozen raspberries, take them out before you start, so they thaw a little. They can make the warm brownie batter seize if you add them straight from the freezer.

This is a moist and fudgy brownie, which is quick to make and takes less than an hour to bake. This brownie also freezes well.

 

Raspberry Chocolate Brownie   makes 24 pieces

  • 200g good dark chocolate, chopped roughly
  • 200g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 220g sugar or 1 cup, I used 1/3 brown and 2/3 caster
  • 1 cup plain flour, sifted
  • 1/3 cup Dutch cocoa, also sifted
  • 200g frozen raspberries

Grease and line a slice tin, 16 x 26 cm. Mine was 20 x 30 and it worked perfectly well. Set the raspberries aside to thaw a little, and preheat the oven to 170*C or 150* C fan-forced.

Melting gently

Heat the chocolate and butter gently, and when it is about 3/4 melted take it off the heat and stir till smooth. Cool until it is just warm

Adding to the chocolate and butter

Add the 3 eggs and whisk. Add the sugar(s) and whisk till smooth. Add the sifted flour and cocoa.

Red raspberries

When that is combined fold, in the raspberries. It is ready when all the raspberries are coated with the brownie batter.

Spoon into the tin and spread evenly, smoothing the top.

Ready to bake

Bake for 50 minutes, turn the tin half way through. It should be cooked on top, firm but not wobbly. This brownie is moist and squooshy.

Cool in the tin

Cool in the tin and then cut with a hot, finely serrated knife.

Serve with cream, or ice-cream, or dusted with sifted icing sugar or drinking chocolate. Maybe a raspberry sauce?? Yum!!

Raspberry chocolate brownie


And The Sky: I'm In The Hazy Shade Of Winter

Wow, the weather has been extremely extreme. It is so warm that we made the National ABC News. It's Winter and I am still wearing my favourite Summer dress with my thin mesh cardigan. True, there was frost on the ground on Saturday and I wore jeans for the second time this year on Sunday, but it was 16*C here today and 19 on one of the islands.

Ice

I made some absolutely delicious treats for The Labradors and their friends: I roasted half a butternut pumpkin till it was soft and gave them the seeds and skin in their dinner. Then I beat the pumpkin with two eggs, a tablespoon full of Leatherwood honey, oats and enough plain flour to stop it being sticky. I pressed it into a tray and baked it for an hour until it was cooked. I cut it into teeny tiny squares. When we are walking at the dam, and I put my hand in my packet, this happens:

Any treats

And this,

Any treats at all

And then when no delicious pumpkin treats appear, off they go at breakneck speed.

No treats so off we go

MrsDrWho's Outdoor Cat Entertainment Area is taking shape. We had a cat netting cutting day. We all went to the, what I like to call, village green and stretched out the netting. My job was to interpret the diagrams and check that all the pieces were correctly measured and cut out for the 100m2 piece. There has been a lot of progress and once the cat door is in the laminated glass window, it will be all cats outside!!!

Outdoor cat entertainment area

MrsDrWho, MissSkipping and I went out for dinner. MissSkipping had been to an international wedding and so we looked at all the pictures on her Ipad. How times have changed, no paper photos being passed around. We ate delicious food: I had steak with yummy greens and chips, MrsDrWho had chicken with Malibu prawns and MissSkipping had lemon fish, garlic chats and salad.

Dinner

MrsDrWho and all my teaching friends are writing reports. Kiss biscuits ameliorate the process and I baked some for all the doctors and nurses at The Vet too.

Kiss kiss

Many, many years ago I taught twins in Grade 3/4. Now, many, many years later their mum is The Lovely Librarian and when I saw her last week she said she had spotted some sock wool and it was perfect for me. Today I went to The Library for a chat and a visit and lo! what beautiful sock wool it is. I love it so much and, what a surprise, it matched my dress and cardi perfectly. Such a kind and thoughtful gift. The Lovely Librarian has saved my Book bacon when I am overwhelmed and poorly. I really appreciate that too!!

Sock wool gift

I wanted to take her a gift to say thanks and so I made a reversible Japanese Knot bag using this tutorial. I love the zany bird fabric, and so did she.

A Japanese Knot bag

There has been knitting. The Jayne Cobb set is on its way to completion. It is MrsDrWho's birthday this month, so I need to get a wriggle on.

Jayne Cobb set

My Ravelry Queue has just clicked over the 1000 mark. I shall never knit all the patterns, but I prefer to queue rather than favourite. (NB 'favourite' has now become a verb)

This week I read Trudi Canavan's new book, Thief's Magic. It is not part of her previous series. Well I don't think so. In fact, the two protagonists never meet. Their stories are told turn and turn about as the book progresses. Of course now it is finished and I am aching for the next book to be published.

I've just started reading The Smartest Kids In The World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley. I love learning and it is so sad and frustrating to know that many children are not excited by learning. Most don't like, or enjoy, Maths. I love Maths, I do Maths in my head quite a lot of the time to amuse myself. I am not a Mathematician, but I am fascinated by numbers and the way they can be manipulated. I enjoy the theoretical as well as the concrete, and I love playing with mental maths tricks. The nuns taught us how to cast out nines to prove our equations and I still do that today. I prefer to calculate with a pen and paper, though I do use a calculator for giant numbers. When I was in B Class (Grade 10 now) we used Log books, I expect I missed slide rules by a hair's breadth and we never saw a calculator at all.

This week I am making some cute and easy custard tarts for Morning Tea,  our Sewing group is making a new patchwork block, and I have a meeting at the Cancer Council Wellness Centre, where I am the Consumer representative. I feel useful and worthwhile, and I must carefully read the agenda and documents before I do. On Friday I plan to sleep!!

The new hardware superstore opened last week,and there was a huge fireworks display. I came home in the middle of the noisy explosions. Peri and Gilly were alert, but not alarmed. We all went out to the verandah, because the store is directly across the river from our house. I took poor photos. Much as I appreciate their beauty and go 'wow' along with everyone else, I do think fireworks are a waste of money. Perhaps they could have donated the money to a local charity?? Oh, maybe I am a wowser??

Fireworks over the river