Sunday, 27 November 2011

Yummy banana coconut cupcakes with lime and coconut icing

I was in the mood for cupcakes this weekend just past.  My freezer was piling up with over-ripe bananas, so it was a perfect excuse to do some baking.
These banana coconut cupcakes are very simple to make and utterly delicious.  The bananas and rolled oats provide moisture, while the shredded coconut provides beautiful chewy texture.  The fresh lime juice makes for a magically sweet and tangy icing to set them off, while the toasted coconut on top adds a wonderful nutty taste. 
These little babies are not too naughty either, which is a good thing seeing as I ate so many J.

Makes 12 cupcakes

Banana coconut cupcakes
½ cup rolled oats
2/3 cup milk
11/2 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¾ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/3 cup shredded coconut
Pinch of salt
1 cup mashed banana (from around 3 medium- sized very ripe bananas)
2 eggs
100 ml canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Lime and coconut icing
Juice of 1 lime
11/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/3 cup shredded coconut

1.        Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and set out 12 paper cupcake cases on a baking tray
2.       Combine the rolled oats and milk in a small bowl and set aside to soak.
3.       Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar, coconut and salt in large bowl and stir until evenly combined.
4.       Whisk the banana, eggs, oil and vanilla together in a medium bowl using a fork, then mix in the rolled oats mixture.
5.       Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and fold together with a spoon until just combined.
6.       Spoon the mixture into the cases.  Bake for 25 minutes or until golden and skewer into the centre of a cupcake comes out clean.
7.       Once cooked, allow the cupcakes to cool on the tray.
8.       For the icing, mix the icing sugar into the lime juice until it forms a smooth paste.
9.       Cook the shredded coconut in a frypan without oil until golden brown.
10.   Spoon the icing onto the cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with the coconut, ready for serving.

Note: Un-iced cupcakes will freeze beautifully.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Heavenly Meringues

I’ve always been a bit wary about making meringues.  They seem so soft and delicate and, well...mysterious.  A little bit of fear of the unknown has held me back.  Crazy, I know, given how easy they are (as I recently discovered).

I was inspired by the latest issue of Donna Hay Magazine (the 10th anniversary issue), which had an amazingly simple yet brilliant recipe for meringues, including a variation for chocolate ones.

So I whipped these little beauties up, and they were absolutely delicious.  They had a lovely thin, cracking crust on the outside, with a soft and fluffy and wonderfully chewy centre.  I was a little surprised that the plain ones didn't stay snowy white, developing a beautiful light golden colour instread. Mr D. and I greedily devoured them with fresh strawberries and cream.

After experiencing these heavenly little delights, I will never buy those tough supermarket ones again!

Here’s the recipe.  Enjoy!

(adapted from Donna Hay Magazine, Issue 59)
Makes 12

4 eggwhites
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1.       Preheat oven to 120 degrees C.
2.       Place the eggwhites in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk until soft peaks form.
3.       Gradually add the sugar and vinegar and whisk until the mixture is thick and glossy.
4.       Place spoonfuls of the mixture on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and bake for 25 minutes.
5.       Turn the oven off and allow meringues to cool in the oven for 1 hour.
6.       Serve with fresh strawberries and cream.

For chocolate meringues, after Step 3 gently fold 100g melted good quality dark chocolate through the mixture to create a swirl, then continue with the recipe.  The chocolate meringues won’t be quite as big and fluffy as the plain ones, and a little more crumbly.

So tell me, is there a food that you were once hesitant to cook, only to realise it was actually really simple?

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Herbalicious Sage Burnt Butter Spaghetti

Now is the time of year when all my herb pots start coming to life again.  Having been neglected over winter, my little sage pot in particular just keeps coming back again and again.  The fresh sage leaves have now resprouted like little pieces of soft felt.  A beautiful muted green colour, they smell like menthol when I pick them.

Sage is an ancient herb, apparently with lots of medicinal properties including being good for memory (here's an interesting web page).
It took me a while to give sage burnt butter with pasta a try, mainly because I wasn’t sure I would like the richness of all the butter.  However, the process of cooking the butter until it turns a nutty brown gives it a beautiful depth of flavour.  I like to use just a little bit of butter mixed with extra virgin olive oil to cut the richness.  The fresh sage leaves cooked in it have a delicious, slightly crunchy texture and delicate flavour which also cut the richness beautifully.  I like sage burnt butter sauce best with thin spaghetti, as I find the dish can be a bit stodgy with thicker pasta or gnocchi.

This classic dish has become one of my quick and easy favourites, especially when I can use the fresh sage from my garden.   
The only thing is, this dish on its own doesn’t have the freshness of vegetables which I sometimes crave.  So the last time I made it, I served it with a simple but lovely salad - cherry tomatoes, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper, dressed with some red wine vinegar and more extra virgin olive oil.  
Here is my recipe.
Serves 2
150g thin spaghetti pasta
½ cup fresh sage leaves, loosely packed
25g butter
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated

1.       Place the spaghetti in a large pot of salted boiling water and cook until al dente (about 10 minutes).
2.       While the spaghetti is cooking, place the olive oil and butter in a small saucepan.  Once the butter is melted, add the sage leaves.  Keep cooking until the butter just turns brown (watch it carefully and be careful not to overcook it).
3.       By this time, the spaghetti should be cooked.  Drain it and place it back in the pot to keep warm.  Add the sage burnt butter sauce and mix through the cooked spaghetti.
4.       Serve the spaghetti into two bowls, and scatter with the grated parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately.
5.       Accompany with a simple salad of fresh tomatoes or greens if desired.
So tell me, do you like to grow your own herbs?  And what’s your favourite recipe using them?

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Girl's night in - Three tasty little morsels for when you're home alone

I’m one of those people who loves their own company.  When Mr D. is out, this usually means making dinner for myself and luxuriating on the couch watching my favourite cooking shows on TV (the ones that bore Mr D. to tears J).  I have to confess I’m quite lazy sometimes on these occasions.  I have been known to dig into a bowl of cereal or two-minute noodles to avoid having to cook for myself  - terrible, I know.  So in an effort for redemption, here’s some ideas for a few little dishes that are quick and easy, with minimum shopping, minimum fuss and minimum washing up.  You can whip them up in around 10-15 minutes and have them all to yourself! 
Eggs on toast
Split and toast an English muffin, top with a couple of slices of premium leg ham and two softly poached eggs (ones that are runny in the middle still), squirt with barbecue sauce (or tomato or whatever) and scatter with baby spinach leaves.

Haloumi with salad
Take slices of haloumi and lightly fry until golden brown, sprinkle with heaps of freshly squeezed lemon juice.  Serve with a quick salad of rocket/baby spinach leaves, cherry tomatoes and pumpkin seeds (pepitas), dressed with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Add some toasted bread and hommus if you feel like it.

Crepes with blueberries
Take some frozen French crepes heated in the microwave (these are one of my favourite convenience products), add some thick natural yoghurt, scatter with fresh blueberries and drizzle with real maple syrup.

So tell me, what’s your favourite thing to cook for yourself?