C is for cookies

We were having some friends over after dinner at ABC for Simon’s birthday, so I decided to make some cookies we could nibble on while we chatted and drank wine and tea. There’s always room for cookies right?

I’d seen a great article about classic biscuits in Jamie magazine. Initially I wanted to make Garibaldis as I hadn’t them for ages and remember them fondly from childhood. But they required a few too many steps, and I was feeling sort of lazy. Will try them one day though. Anyway, there was also a recipe for ginger nuts, so I decided to try them out.

It was pretty simple – just mix the dry ingredients together, add butter and mix by hand til it resembles breadcrumbs. Then add golden syrup, combine and roll out into balls. I had some crystallized ginger in the cupboard so I chopped that finely and added it in. They turned out really well. I think next time I might add a little less flour so they come out a bit thinner and harder, these were slightly cake like in the middle even though I pressed them quite thin.

Ginger nut dough, being rolled into balls

Ginger nuts ready to go in the oven

The final product!

I also decided to make some chocolate chip cookies, with the same recipe I always use. But I wanted to make them a bit different this time as everyone had tried them before, so added white chocolate chips, cranberries and oats to the mix. It took a couple of rounds to get them right – basically you need loads of oats before they really make a difference to the texture.

Cookies straight out of the oven

The finished dark and white chocolate, cranberry and oat cookies

At this point, I probably should have stopped as I was fast running out of boxes to put all these cookies in, but I wanted to make my fail proof recipe for chocolate brownie cookies, just in case the others weren’t good (I’m very paranoid about not having enough food when people come over).  They always turn out great and you can adjust them depending on whether you want something a bit more brownie like (add more flour and egg) or something richer and more chocolatey (add loads more chocolate and butter.) This time I went for the brownie-like version.

Chocolate brownie cookie dough with my new mini ice cream scoop from Shanghai Street!

Cookie dough ready to be baked. I add the chocolate chips on top rather than mix them in.

Chocolate brownie cookies fresh out of the oven

I love making cookies – maybe because they are so easy and allow you to be creative – plus you can quickly see if you need to adjust the recipe after you’ve baked a batch. Sadly I’ve now eaten my body weight in cookies this weekend so it’s going to be a while before I bake any more!

Ginger Nuts

Makes around 30.

  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 tspn baking powder
  • 1 tspn baking soda
  • 2 tspn ground ginger
  • 2 tspn nutmeg
  • 1 tspn cinnamon
  • 1 tspn ground cloves
  • pinch of salt
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 120g butter, cut into cubes
  • 5 tbspn golden syrup
  • crystallised ginger, chopped into small pieces
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with baking paper or grease it.
  3. Place dry ingredients into a bowl and mix together well.
  4. Add butter and mix with hands til the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
  5. Add golden syrup and use spoon to mix in.
  6. Add ginger (use as much as you like, I only used a couple of small pieces and cut them into small slivers)
  7. Roll into balls and press flat with palm of hand or bottom of a glass.
  8. Sprinkle a little granulated or raw sugar on top of each cookies
  9. Bake for 10 minutes.

Chocolate chip cookies

Makes 30 cookies

  • 120g butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tspn vanilla essence
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 tspn baking powder
  • 1/2 tspn baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • chocolate chips, cranberries – add as much as you like! can also add pecans or other nuts, or raisins.
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Mix together butter and sugar til well combined then add eggs and vanilla
  3. In another bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients except the oats.
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Add oats.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips / cranberries etc.
  6. Scoop out spoonfuls of the dough and roll into balls. Press down with a fork.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown but still soft.

Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Makes 24 cookies

  • 160 g dark chocolate chopped
  • 140 g butter chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Heat chocolate and butter in a pot over a low heat, stirring constantly until melted and smooth.
  3. Meanwhile, beat together eggs, sugar and vanilla essence until pale and fluffy. Fold chocolate mixture into egg mixture.
  4. Sift together flour, baking powder and cocoa then add to the mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Place spoonfuls of the mixture on a greased or lined baking tray and bake for about 10-12 minutes. Cookies should be soft in the middle so best to under cook rather than over bake them.
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Family food

I’ve been in New Zealand for exactly a week now and I’ve eaten what I’d probably eat in two back in Hong Kong. I’m visiting my relatives in Auckland – my mum’s three sisters and brother and my little cousin, who just turned 5 today. There’s a massive food obsession in my family, which my mum passed on to me. We love to plan our next meal, or snack, whilst eating and spend most of our time talking about food.

I’d only been in Auckland for about 10 minutes before I had my first ice cream. There’s a farm store on the way into the city that grows loads of fresh vegetables, as well as strawberries, and one of the sons of the owners decided it would be a good idea to invest in an ice cream machine several years back to make use of the slightly damaged or too ripe berries they had left over. Well it turned out to be hugely popular and there’s now four machines and a heap of picnic tables outside the large shed that were full of people happily licking away at their strawberry ice creams.

The farm shop

Vanilla ice cream and strawberries are blended together on the spot to create soft serve ice cream in a lovely fresh waffle cone. I ordered a regular size, laughing away suggestions of trying the smaller ‘kiddie’ size. Well, regular size is absolutely massive, I think I was very nearly sick by the time I got to the end of the cone, but it was well worth the struggle!

My huge strawberry ice cream

We were invited over for lunch today to celebrate my cousin, Amberley’s birthday. My aunts who I’m staying with, decided we had to make something to take along and decided on scones since we didn’t have much time. We don’t make traditional individual scones, but instead one large one that is chopped up into squares, which makes it really nice and easy to make.

We used dates and crystallised ginger in this batch, but you can use anything really – dried fruit, chocolate, cheese and tomato, and I’m pretty sure it would all be delicious.

It’s super simple – to make one batch you just need 1 cup self-raising flour, 1/2 cup milk, 1 tablespoon butter, plus the fruit or whatever you are using. Place the flour in a food processor, pulse for a couple of seconds just to get a bit of air in there, add the chopped up cold butter, pulse again til it looks like breadcrumbs. Turn out into a bowl, add the fruit and then gradually pour in the milk, mixing well. Place this on a floured baking tray and shape out a bit, then brush with a bit of milk and shake a little bit of sugar over it. There are loads of variations on this recipe but these are the basics. We baked them at 200ºC for about 12 minutes, checking if they were done by tapping them on the outside – if it sounds hollow they are ready! Serve with butter, jam, cream, whatever you like really!

The dough sitting on a floured baking sheet

Flattened out and shaped

Just out of the oven

The finished scones, all cut up

Baking and eggs

I found myself at franc franc one evening, trying to find some plates and props for our the next foodie shoot. The more issues we do, the harder it is to get find stuff that isn’t just white or indeed, horrible and flowery. franc franc is one of the few places that stock more unusual, modern dinnerware. That being said, it’s also pretty pricey, so when I saw they were on sale, I snapped up some ceramic cocotte pots that I immediately pictured myself baking eggs in.

The next day was Saturday (yes I spent my friday night shopping for discount dishes) and it turned out Ben and I were both home and up early that day, so we decided to make breakfast.

As always, I hadn’t really planned ahead so we just cooked what we had in the fridge – some free range eggs, mushrooms, feta, and two bunches of asparagus, green and white, that Lee at Graze had left over from a catering job.

I quickly sautéed the mushrooms with some garlic and butter, whilst Ben blanched some of the asparagus. I added this into a mixture of two whisked eggs, some milk, salt, pepper and Italian parsley. After pouring this into the cocotte pots, I placed some roughly cut up feta on top and then cracked a whole egg over each. We popped them into the oven and meanwhile stewed some tomatoes, red onions and rosemary together.

Egg, asparagus and mushroom mixture

With feta layer

And another egg on top

Tomatoes, onion and rosemary

The pots took about 10 minutes to cook through, and we served them up with white asparagus and buttery toast soliders.

They came out really well, though could probably have done with a minute or two less in the oven as the yolk wasn’t very runny. In the end, we turned them out, upside down and covered them with plenty of the tomato sauce.

The final dish

Turned out and upside down, with tomato sauce on top

Cut open

Tomato sauce

The cornbread experiment

I’ve never really thought much of cornbread. Mainly because when I eat sugar and wheat, I like it to be something really indulgent. Then I went to Magnolia for a friend’s birthday on the second day of a pre-cleanse and decided to just try a tiny bit since it seemed almost healthy. It was wonderful. Perhaps it was the fact that I’d cut out all sugar and wheat for a few months beforehand, but the sweet richness won me over straight away.

Fast forward a few weeks to my food-fuelled holiday in California where I tried it as an accompaniment to scrambled egg with truffles and asparagus. This particular version was about 3 inches thick, a lovely warm yellow colour, and made with large quantities of honey and butter.

A few days ago I decided to have a go at making a batch. It was quite a struggle to find cornmeal but ended up buying a bag at city’super that was stone ground and organic. I looked up several recipes and settled on one of the easier ones that literally involved chucking everything in a bowl and mixing it just a couple of times.

This didn’t work out so well. I had replaced the plain flour with wholemeal, so it was quite dry even though I added a little extra liquid, plus the cornmeal was incredibly hard, like eating something made from gravel. After braving a couple of mouthfuls, I decided to give it another go. Round 2 was a little bit better – I had bought some millet flour I wanted to try out so I used that instead of wheat flour, I ground up the cornmeal for a couple of minutes in the coffee bean grinder, and also substituted the sugar for agave nectar. It didn’t rise much obviously, but it was much lighter and much softer than the first attempt.

The first attempt, drizzled with agave nectar and topped with lots of butter

My baking techniques could obviously benefit from a more consistent methodology and perhaps my third attempt will be more successful (and less experimental). I think for now I’ll stick to trying other people’s cornbread.

The second attempt - doesn't look as good but tasted much better!

Just out of the oven

a 3-course breakfast at home

Simon and I woke up at about 5am this morning, so decided to sit on the balcony with a big pot of tea and watch the sun rise. We then realised we can’t see the sun rise from our balcony so I figured I’d go and make something to eat instead! Possibly the only good thing about jet lag is being able to get up early and have time to make a proper breakfast.

We hadn’t had dinner the night before so were starving, so I made a quick citrus salad from oranges and grapefruit. I added some chopped sweet basil and a little bit of brown sugar, put it all into a plastic container and shook it for about 30 seconds, so the juice was released a little and softened everything up.

Orange and grapefruit salad with crushed sweet basil

After this, this I got started on macerated strawberries and pluots with homemade granola and greek yoghurt – a dish inspired by our breakfast at Blue Bottle in San Francisco. I started by cutting up a whole box of organic strawberries  – around 10 or so, as well as a very ripe pluot I found in Threesixty the day before. I put all of this into a bowl filled with a mix of grapefruit and orange juice (squeezed from what I had left over from the citrus salad) and balsamic vinegar. Added a little bit of white sugar into this mix and let it sit for about an hour, though I think overnight would be ideal.

I served it all up with some organic greek yoghurt, organic muesli to which I added some olive oil and maple syrup and popped under the grill til it was really warm and crisp, and a grind of black pepper over the fruit – it was delicious and I’ll definitely be making this dish again!

Macerated strawberries and pluots with museli and greek yoghurt

At around 10 or so, Simon was hungry again. This time I thought I’d tried to recreate (well with a few changes) the egg dish we had at Farm:table – soft-boiled eggs with caramelised onions on pan-griddled bread, with fried cherry tomatoes and rocket. This is fantastic combination and with a big drizzle of truffle oil added just before serving, made a wonderful Sunday breakfast dish to share.

Eggs on caramelised onions with cherry tomatoes and rocket

Top view

Quick orange and grapefruit salad
Serves 2
1 whole large orange
1 whole grapefruit
3-4 sweet basil leaves, washed and cut finely
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Peel the orange and grapefruit and cut into bite sized chunks. Place in a large plastic container and add the chopped basil leaves (if you’re not a fan of basi, you could try mint instead) and sugar. Shake vigorously for about 30 seconds or until everything is all mixed together. Serve in small bowls.
Macerated strawberries and pluots with homemade granola and greek yoghurt
Serves 2
10 strawberries
1 pluot
1/2 cup grapefruit juice (can be 1/4 cup grapefruit, 1/4 cup orange juice)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (or less if you have an aged, heavy vinegar)
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 large tub greek yoghurt
1/2 cup muesli
Cut up the strawberries into slices and then cut in half, slice up pluot into thin slices. In a medium bowl, mix together the grapefruit juice, balsamic vinegar and white sugar. Add in the sliced fruit and make sure it’s coated in the mixture. Leave to sit for at least 2 hours.

To serve, place in bowl with toasted muesli and greek yoghurt with a drizzle of honey if you want some added sweetness.

Soft-boiled eggs with caramelised onions, cherry tomatoes and rocket on 5-grain bread
Serves 2
2 free range eggs
6-8 large cherry tomatoes
2 slices of 5-grain bread, cut in half
1 red onion
handful of rocket
olive oil
truffle oil
knob of butter
Bring eggs out in advance so they are room temperature or they may crack when placed in the water. Chop up onions into thin slices. Fry in pan til soft and translucent with olive oil and a knob of butter. Bring water to a rolling boil in a pot and add the eggs. Cook for 2 minutes then turn off heat and leave in pot for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat up a griddle pan and grease with olive oil. Fry tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Add bread and cook until warmed through and griddle marks appear on either side. Season rocket with a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Shell the eggs and cut in half.

Now assemble – place onion on bread and half egg on each slice. Scatter tomatoes and rocket around the dish and then drizzle plate with a little bit of truffle oil.