Salted caramel and pecan blondies

flour, chocolate, sugarsThe tin and traybake cookbook: 100 delicious sweet and savoury recipes, 228pp.
by Sam Gates
Robinson, London, 2018
Cooking on page 32

Sam Gates got the idea for this cookbook when she was moving back to the UK and trying to reduce her mountain of kitchen paraphernalia. She found tins especially worth hanging on to, so the book utilises the six most popular shapes—square, round, traybake, roasting, loaf and muffin.

The recipes were tested by an ‘army’ of willing volunteers, using their favourite baking tins. They cooked in the tin shape stated in the recipe, but rather than worry about a particular size, they used whatever was in the kitchen cupboard.

salted caramel and pecan blondiesSalted caramel and pecan blondies

120g salted butter, roughly chopped
230g light brown soft sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
180g plain flour
50g white chocolate, chopped
50g dark chocolate, chopped
40g pecans, chopped

butter, crème fraîche
, salt caramel sauce and chocolatesFor the salted caramel sauce
100g caster sugar
50g butter, chopped into cubes
75ml crème fraîche
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes

First, make the sauce. Tip the sugar into a small saucepan and add 4 tablespoons of water, swirling it around to cover the sugar. Bring to the boil very slowly until the sugar has dissolved, and let it bubble for 8–10 minutes until it turns golden.

Take the pan off the heat and add the butter a cube at a time, whisking as you go. When all the butter has been absorbed, whisk in the crème fraîche and salt and leave to cool. Taste to see if it needs any more salt, then pour into a hot, sterilised jam jar and store in the fridge. If you want to serve the sauce warm, stir in a little milk or cream.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Grease and line a square baking tin with greaseproof paper or a greaseproof liner.

sugar and water boiling blondies in panIn a small saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until it has dissolved.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour and mix in thoroughly. Add all of the chocolate and half of the chopped pecans. Stir once, then pour the mixture into the tin and sprinkle with the remaining pecans. Bake for 25 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin before cutting into squares.

To serve, warm 3 tablespoons of salted caramel sauce and drizzle in diagonal lines over the top.

How it played out
As instructed, I made the sauce first. I followed the recipe and have one bit of advice. Don’t make the butter cubes (mentioned in the second paragraph of the method) too small. I did and found that the sauce was hardening too quickly, so I had to put it over heat to finish stirring in the butter.
Otherwise I followed everything else. I used a 9-inch square tin. 

Tin and Traybake CookbookConfession: I’ve made this twice now, using the original batch of caramel sauce. That part of the recipe makes a lot, so I reckon you could use it for three or four batches of blondies. Just refrigerate or freeze the leftover sauce and warm in the microwave (20 seconds) when you need it.

I am horrified by the huge amount of brown sugar—230 grams defies my imagination—but these blondies are sensational. Seriously, seriously divine.

Go on, make them. You know you want to. They’ll make a wonderful treat for Christmas.

salted caramel and pecan blondies

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Parsleyed carrots

simmering carrotsKaribu: welcome to the cooking of Kenya, 234pp.
by Ann Gardner
Kenway Publications, Nairobi, 1992
Cooking on page 132

‘Hodi’ in Swahili, the national language of Kenya, means ‘May I come in?’ The reply is ‘Karibu’ meaning ‘Yes, you are welcome.’

Kenya is a melting pot of cultures. This cookbook is a welcome into the kitchens of the country’s fisherman, housewives, city business people, villagers, up-country farmers, European settlers, Arab and Africa traders, and Indian merchants.

The recipes have been contributed by 20 different cooks, who come from places as far apart as America and Pakistan. Each chapter features a cook’s history, along with a selection of their national dishes. Page 132’s recipe is from Englishwoman, Philippa Corse, who was born and reared in the farming district of western Kenya. She shared 13 recipes that were prepared for a Christmas dinner on safari.

parsleyed carrots

Parsleyed carrots

2 pounds carrots, scraped and sliced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Karibu cookbook

Karibu cookbook

Cover the carrots with salted water and add the brown sugar. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. Before serving, drain the carrots, add the parsley and melted butter, toss, and coat the carrots well. Serves 10 to 12.

How it played out
There were four of us for dinner so I made half a batch, using 500 grams (1 pound) of carrots. I started with cold water, so it did take almost 20 minutes for the carrots to be tender. I started checking for tenderness after 12 minutes because of the smaller quantities. Even though there was a lot of sugar in the recipe, I liked the fact the sugary water was drained off before serving. 

A lovely simple recipe for carrots and likely to appear on our Christmas table. That said, I’m glad page 132 didn’t have Corse’s much more drawn-out recipes for stuffed roast turkey, sugar-coated boiled ham or Christmas pudding. But I tempted by her brandy butter on page 136.

P.S. I’m so glad I bought this book in Nairobi in 2009 when we spent almost a year travelling in Africa. We were back in Africa for three months this year and you are most welcome to check out my travel blog. Join me on a village walk in Senegal.
Karibu cookbook and carrots


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Cold sesame noodles

Soy, tahini, sesame oil Sliced cucumbersAmerica: the cookbook, 768pp.
by Gabrielle Langholtz
Phaidon Press, London, 2017
Cooking on page 32

This book has answered a lot of questions for me. Every time I go back to the USA, I’m intrigued by a whole range of dishes I never knew when I was growing up in Nebraska. Where did they come from? Now I have an idea.

Many recipes seem to be novelties—fried mozzarella sticks. Many others are region-specific and have now spread across the country. I still remember the first times I saw menus featuring buffalo wings (from New York), biscuits and gravy (from the South) and Philly cheesecake (Pennsylvania), to name a few.

Gabrielle Langholtz travelled the country collecting typical (and not so typical) recipes from all 50 states, as well as stories and essays from guest contributors. I was amazed to find a Nebraska recipe (page 248) for Sudanese greens cooked with peanut butter. It was great to learn that my home state has welcomed a refugee community of South Sudanese who brought their culinary skills with them.

Page 32 is from New York. A recipe for buffalo wings is on the same page. And I’ll take this opportunity to wish Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the USA.

Cold sesame noodles

Cold sesame noodles

1 lb (455 g) cucumbers, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) tahini
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 oz (340 g) fresh Chinese egg noodles, cooked and chilled
1/2 cup (50 g) chopped scallions (spring onions)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Lime, sambal oeleck and gingerMethod
In a large colander, toss the cucumbers and salt to combine. Let stand for 15 minutes. Press well to drain and squeeze dry with paper towels.

In a large bowl, whisk together the tahini, soy sauce, sesame oil, lime juice, Sriracha, ginger, sugar and pepper. Thin the sauce with hot water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it is easy to whisk and similar in consistency to crêpe batter. Gently stir in the noodles, then the cucumbers until well combined. Serve garnished with scallions (spring onions) and sesame seeds.

America, cookbookHow it played out
This is such a simple recipe that I followed the instructions and quantities—I often make half a batch. My tahini was fairly runny, so I didn’t need to add many tablespoons of water to thin the sauce. But to be honest, I forgot to write down how many spoons I used.

My noodles were the kind that you can pour boiling water over and leave for 5 minutes before draining and chilling. Served with lamb chops and green beans.

This really works as a cold dish. It helps that I am a sucker for sesame flavours. I think of this as a noodle salad. In future, I’d add an extra tablespoon of lime juice, but then I’m also a sucker for sour.

Cold sesame noodles

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Chicken and peanut Panang curry

peanuts, lime, onion, cucumberThe complete chicken cookbook, 256pp.
edited by Jane Price
Bay Books, Sydney, 2003
Cooking on page 232

This is the third or fourth recipe from Jane Price that I have featured on the blog. I bought this book years ago to keep at the beach house. It’s loaded with easy to make chicken recipes and good for inspiration.

Chapters cover soups, snacks, starters, salads, stir-fries, roasts, casseroles, curries, pasta, rice, marinades and more.

I could have cooked from pages 32 or 132, but I was keen to use my kaffir lime leaves. It is the only edible plant we have growing at the beach.

Wonder why I haven’t included a pic of the cookbook cover? Years ago, we went out and I left the cookbook on the floor at the beach house. One or both dogs ate the cover. I suspect the smaller one. He liked to chew.

Chicken and peanut Panang curry

Chicken and peanut Panang curry

1 tablespoon oil
1 large red onion, chopped
1–2 tablespoons Panang curry paste
1 cup (250 ml/4 fl oz) coconut milk
500 g (1 lb) chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite-size pieces
4 kaffir lime leaves
1/4 cup (60 g/2 fl oz) coconut cream
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons soft brown sugar
1/2 cup (80 g/2 3/4 oz) roasted peanuts, chopped
1/2 cup (15 g/1/2 oz) Thai basil leaves
1/2 cup (80 g/2 3/4 oz) chopped fresh pineapple
1 Lebanese cucumber, sliced
chilli sauce, to serve

curry ingredientsMethod
Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan. Add the onion and curry paste to the wok and stir over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk and bring to the boil.

Add the chicken and kaffir lime leaves to the wok, then reduce the heat and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the chicken with a wire mesh strainer or slotted spoon. Simmer the sauce for 5 minutes, or until it is reduced and quite thick.

Return the chicken to the wok. Add the coconut cream, fish sauce, lime juice and brown sugar. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the peanuts, basil and pineapple. Serve with the cucumber on the side, some chilli sauce, as well as steamed rice. Serves 4.

sliced cucumbersHow it played out
Made a special trip to the Batemans Bay to buy Panang curry paste and Thai basil. The paste was easy enough to find, but the basil eluded me. I wasn’t all that surprised because Asian herbs aren’t always available in small beach communities. The only reason I had kaffir lime leaves was because I grow them at the beach house.

I followed the method, using almost 3 tablespoons of the curry paste and ordinary basil. I skipped the pineapple. It just doesn’t work for me in savoury dishes.

The recipe was super easy to make and the cooking times were perfect. Served with steamed rice and two salads—one with mango and the other with pear, rocket (arugula), walnuts and blue cheese.

Friend and neighbour, Lyn, joined us for dinner. The main pic isn’t very flattering, but we thoroughly enjoyed the curry, which was mild heat-wise, yet full of flavour. In fact, the flavours from all the dishes came together beautifully. The peanuts gave a wonderful crunch and we didn’t miss the pineapple.

Chicken and peanut Panang curry

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Potato cakes

Potato cakesLove your leftovers: recipes for the resourceful cook, 336pp.
by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Bloomsbury Publishing, London, 2015
Cooking on page 132–33

Okay, I’ll confess. I love leftovers. After I moved away from home, I often returned to visit (don’t all kids?). About a minute after I walked in the door, my mother would say something like ‘there’s leftover mashed potatoes in the fridge’. I was in heaven.

So when I saw this book on offer for $5 at a going-out-of-business sale, I had to check out page 32, which had no recipe, and then 132. The required leftovers were mashed potatoes. I bought it.

Potato cake

Potato cakes

300–500g mashed potatoes or well-crushed roast potatoes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1–2 tablespoons plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1–2 tablespoons whole milk
rapeseed or sunflower oil, for frying
salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl, mix together the potatoes, egg, flour and milk—the amount of milk you should add will depend on the amount of mash. It needs to be a fairly thick dough, so you may not need any milk at all, especially if the mash is quite soft to start with.

Potato cake mixture Frying potato cakesSeason the mixture well with salt and pepper and stir in any extra ingredients that you would like to add (see tips and swaps, below).

Using lightly floured hands, form the mixture into potato cakes, about 2cm thick and 7cm in diameter.

You’ll need to cook the potato cakes in batches to avoid crowding the pan. Heat a thin film of oil in a large frying pan over a medium–high heat. Add 3 or 4 cakes and fry for 3–5 minutes each side, until crisp and golden brown.

Drain the potato cakes on kitchen paper and keep them warm in a low oven while you cook the rest.

Delicious with bacon and indeed any—or all—of your favourite breakfast components.

Tips and swaps
Add any of the following to the potato mix for extra flavour:
Herbs, such as chopped parsley, chives, soft thyme, lovage or chervil.
Sliced spring onions, finely diced shallots, or sautéed chopped onions and/or leeks.
A little finely chopped garlic.
Good pinch of English mustard powder.
Handful of grated cheese.
Some crumbled leftover cooked bacon, or even sausage, haggis or black pudding.
Or try a few bits of shredded ham.

Love your leftovers cookbookHow it played out
It pays to read the instructions before you start tossing in ingredients. The recipe clearly states that you might not need any milk. I’d already added it to 500 grams of mash when I realised that the dough was going to be on the runny side.

Never mind, I pressed on and added a lot of fresh herbs to the mix. I couldn’t really hand shape the cakes, so just scooped them into a large frying pan. It made three potato cakes that I served with green beans and chicken piccata.

I love potatoes in all forms and these did not disappoint. I think I’ll regularly make extra mash so I have some to do these cakes. I’ll think twice before I add milk, but I’ll be sure to add even more of items suggested in the tips and swaps. Let me know if you try them.

We’ve encountered a lot of potatoes on our travels. Here’s a post that shows a new variety of potato we saw in the Amazon.

Potato cake

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Broccoli and stilton soup

Leek, potato, broccoliEveryday gourmet: family feast, 202pp.
by Justine Schofield
CMMA Digital and Print, Rozelle NSW, 2014
Cooking on page 32

This magazine is a spin-off from the popular Australian cooking show, Everyday Gourmet, hosted by Justine Schofield.

In the introduction, Schofield says the 90-plus recipes in the magazine have been handpicked by the team that delivers the show. They had a lot to choose from. The show is in its ninth season and has aired 700 episodes.

broccoli and stilton soup

Broccoli and stilton soup

350g broccoli florets
2 tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 small potato, diced
600ml chicken stock
300ml milk
3 tbsp double cream
115g stilton cheese, rind removed, crumbled
salt and ground black pepper

Discard any tough stems from the broccoli florets. Set aside two small florets for the garnish.

Melt butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and leek and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5–8 minutes, until softened but not coloured.

Stilton and stock Stilton and broccoli soup

Add the broccoli and potato and pour in the hot stock. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15–20 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Leave the soup to cool slightly, then ladle it into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Strain through a sieve back into the rinsed-out pan.

Add the milk and cream, season to taste with salt and pepper and reheat gently. When the soup is hot, stir in the cheese until it just melts, then remove the pan from the heat. Do not let it boil.

Meanwhile, blanch the reserved broccoli florets in lightly salted boiling water for 1–2 minutes, then drain and cut them vertically into thin slices.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and garnish each with the sliced broccoli florets and a generous grinding of black pepper. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Broccoli and stilton soupHow it played out
Yesterday I bought a lovely stilton cheese that was on special (half price) at the market. It weighed just over 90 grams (3 ounces) so I scaled the most of the recipe back a bit. As a guide, I used 300g of broccoli, a small onion, a small leek, half of a larger potato, 500ml of chicken stock, 250ml of milk and 2 1/2 tablespoons of double cream.

I followed the instructions as written, although I puréed the soup with a stick blender.

These ingredients go great together. They make a delicious soup that reminds me of a funny story.

Everyday Gourmet magazineYears ago and on a Saturday morning, I made an almost identical soup. Back then, we had a Finnish exchange student living with us. Just before lunch, Eemeli asked if it was okay to have some soup. I said yes. I heard him ladle it up and heat a bowlful in the microwave. It suddenly dawned on me that a teenager might not like broccoli and stilton soup.

‘Eemeli, did you taste that before you heated it up?’ I asked. ‘Oh yes,’ he said, ‘I had some yesterday after school.’ Hang on. I made the broccoli and stilton soup today.

So I had to tell Eemeli that he was eating homemade dog food. I told him it was made with good ingredients—meat, vegetables and barley—but without seasoning. So he added some salt and pepper, and ate it. The dog wasn’t all that happy about sharing his ‘recipe’.

Let me know if you want the dog food recipe.

Student and dog

Eemeli and Aggie discuss food ownership


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Porridge: mum’s version

Pepitas and coconut flakesMr and Mrs Wilkinson’s how it is at home: a cookbook for every family, 256pp.
by Matt Wilkinson and Sharlee Gibb
Hardie Grant Books, Melbourne, 2017
Cooking on page 32

This is the second time I have made a page-32 recipe from a Matt Wilkinson cookbook. The first was for delicious baked beetroot. That book and recipe were published seven years ago, but I wrote about them earlier this year.

Today’s recipe is from his wife, Sharlee Gibb. His recipe for porridge is on page 33, and he confesses that their children prefer mum’s recipe. Here goes.

Porridge with fruit

Porridge: mum’s version

100 g (3 1/2 oz/1 cup) rolled (porridge) oats
pinch of salt flakes
25 g (1 oz) sultanas (golden raisins)
1 tablespoon pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 tablespoon coconut flakes
1 banana, peeled and thinly sliced
100 ml (3 1/2 fl oz) milk (whatever type you prefer)
honey, to serve (optional)

Oats and sultanasMethod
Add the oats, 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) water and salt to a small saucepan over a medium–low heat and cook for 7–8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the oats are just starting to turn creamy. Stir through the sultanas, adding a splash of water from the kettle if the porridge starts to stick to the bottom of the pot, then remove from the heat and spoon into bowls.

To serve, sprinkle over the pepitas and coconut flakes, top with the banana slices and pour over your choice of milk., drizzling over a little honey if you like things sweeter. Tuck in.

Serves 1–2.

Mr and Mrs Wilkinson's cookbookHow it played out
Poor John gets up hours before me—well maybe an hour—so I made half a batch for just me. Because it was half a batch, it cooked within 6 minutes. My sultanas were a bit dried out so I added them a few minutes into the cooking. That worked well. Didn’t have any bananas on hand so used blueberries and sliced strawberries.

We often make porridge on our truck travels (see my travel blog). It’s a dish that is quick and easy to make, and very filling.

I was glad I made half a batch today. I reckon a full recipe would easily feed three people. I also wish I’d added cinnamon. That said, the blueberries and strawberries were great replacements for banana slices. Loved the pepitas and coconut additions.

If you love porridge, try this recipe.

Porridge with fruit


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