Category Archives: Comfort food

THE BEST crusty and super amazingly soft and tasty bread 

Viva la Thermomix!

I’ve tried unsuccessfully for goodness knows how long to make bread at home. I have access to delicious German Volkhorn (wholegrain) bread from across the road at Baker & Cook, but the allure of the smell of freshly baked bread has kept me going back to try again and again. 

My bread always came out doughy and heavy. And while I like the concept of taking your aggression out on dough, I never seemed to have the muscles or stamina to knead it enough. 

Enter the Thermomix. 

There is a kneading function on it, that you could get from using your stand mixer with the dough attachment. 

This recipe doesn’t even use sugar. I don’t normally have an aversion to sugar, but bread in Singapore (unless you have access to specialty or artesian bakeries) has this slightly sickly sweetness to it. The second ingredient after flour in most of the commercial bread is sugar. Ugh. 

The few simple rules I found helped me get my bread crusty on the outside and super soft on the inside:

1) You need to keep the yeast and the salt separate. Easily done by adding the ingredients in a particular order. Water and yeast first, then a layer of flour before adding the salt. Salt apparently “kills” yeast, and you need yeast to do their amazing work and create those lovely bubbles of air in your bread (I love how yeast is this living thing!)

2) Knead. A lot. A lot of recipes for bread in the Thermomix call for just two minutes of kneading. I get that the blades are super powerful, but I honestly think bread kneading needs time. This recipe calls for six minutes. Be patient. It’s worth it.

3) More patience required: you can’t go “I fancy a freshly baked loaf of bread, and expect to do it in under 2 1/2 hours. Yeast (that lovely living thing) needs time to work it’s magic. And on to my next tip…

4) Prove (or second ferment) the bread in the fridge overnight, or for at least eight hours. The coolness of the fridge slows down the fermentation, giving the yeast more time to give bread a better flavour.

5) I’m still playing around with ratios of plain bread flour and wholemeal spelt flour. Every time I have previously tried to make things completely wholegrain, the bread felt a little too healthy. And I figure, you have to enjoy what you eat, right? Everything in moderation, so I think at most I’d try 50:50, but I haven’t gotten there yet. 

Finally (I know you’re thinking it) here is the recipe:

Ingredients makes one standard loaf

  1. 225g lukewarm water
  2. 1.5 teaspoons yeast
  3. 375g bakers flour
  4. 3-4 tablespoons of mixed seeds (I use flaxseed, sesame and poppy)
  5. 3/4 teaspoon of salt

Method

  1. Add the ingredients in this order: water, yeast, flour, seeds, salt.
  2. Blitz on speed 7 for 10 seconds to roughly combine.
  3. Knead for 6 mins.
  4. Remove dough and place into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and place into a warm spot. (In Singapore that’s anywhere that isn’t airconditioned)
  5. Leave this to rise for approximately an hour or until doubled.
  6. Remove dough from bowl, knock out the air by shaping your dough into a free form loaf, rolls or placing it in to the desired tin.
  7. Allow to rise overnight in the fridge overnight until almost doubled in size. Alternatively you can just let it rise in the same warm place for another 50-60 minutes. 
  8. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  9. Bake for approximately 30 minutes.

Thermomix Adventures – Pumpkin Soup

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After months and months of deliberation, I finally caved and bought a Thermomix. It means that I can streamline my kitchen from several appliances (Kitchenaid, blender, food processor) and I’m loving it so far.

Easiest way to tell you is with my pumpkin soup. Now, sure, you can make pumpkin soup the way I have always made it. But if you look at my earlier post, blending it with a immersion blender, purees, and if I wanted that incredibly silky texture you get in restaurants, you sieve it – if you can be bothered.

Or….you can make it all in the Thermomix. One bowl, that chops and sautees the onions, then cooks the pumpkin and then blends it to a smoothness that’s hard to describe. Well, I guess you can see from the photo. It’s really quite amazing. And the addition of raw cashews makes the soup rich and creamy without the addition of any dairy. From start to finish in 20 minutes.

I’m trying to keep all my favourite Thermomix recipes in one place so here goes:

Ingredients:

  1. 1 large onion, halved
  2. 1kg pumpkin, skin off and cut in to pieces
  3. enough stock (I used vegetable) to come up to roughly 5cm under the top of the pumpkin
  4. handful of raw cashews
  5. basil (to serve)

Method:

  1. Chop onions 5 seconds/speed 6
  2. Add 10ml olive oil and cook 2 minutes/varoma/speed stir
  3. Add pumpkin pieces and stock and cook 15 minutes/100C/speed stir
  4. Check pumpkin is cooked, add cashews and blend 1 minute/speed 5 increasing to 9
  5. Enjoy with a loaf of crusty bread !

Yorkshire pudding


My husband often catches me sitting in front of my oven as I watch my food bake. It’s certainly better than TV. Cookies brown, pork roast crackling goes crunchy, cakes rise. And Yorkshire puddings are one of the most satisfying rises of all, starting out bubbling around the edges, then blooming dramatically into wonderful bowls of crispy dough, the perfect vehicle for gravy.

I tested various recipes, with Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith’s recipes rendering suprisingly disappointing, heavy Yorkies. The recipe below follows Mary Berry’s. The batter is thin but this produces the lightest Yorkies, which work so well with the mandatory roast beef.

I also prefer to make one or two large Yorkshire puddings rather than trying to quickly and accurately pour equal amounts of batter in to 12 muffin tins.

Ingredients

Makes 12 muffin sized Yorkies or 1 greedy large one

  1. 3 eggs
  2. 115g/4oz flour
  3. 275ml/½ pint milk
  4. beef dripping or oil with a high smoking point
  5. salt

Quinoa bake with spinach and ricotta

As we head in to the festive season, I find that I need to balance out the indulgences of this time of year, with home cooked, healthy (at least semi-healthy) meals.

Packed full of goodness, and also gluten-free (for any of you who are gluten intolerant), this baked quinoa “pie” with spinach and feta is as comforting as it looks. Hot from the oven, the quinoa are almost pillowed amongst the ingredients, adding a lightness that you wouldn’t get if I omitted them. I only need to cook for two, so I made enough for four, split the mixture in to two small pie tins, and will freeze the other portion for a time when I need something easy, quick and delicious. All I have to do is warm up and eat.

This recipe is really versatile – adding in ham or bacon would work too.

Ingredients (for one large pie to feed four or two smaller pies)

  1. 1 cup quinoa
  2. 2 large handfuls of fresh spinach leaves
  3. 200g feta (you can also substitute ricotta or even cottage cheese)
  4. 4 large eggs
  5. Splash of milk
  6. 1 cup of grated parmesan, divided in to two portion
  7. salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180C/350F
  2. Cook the quinoa in 2 cups of water. Cover, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 12-15 minutes, until tender and the germ is visible
  3. Stir in the spinach leaves as you fluff the quinoa – the residual heat will wilt the leaves
  4. Crumble the feta in and mix
  5. In a bowl, whisk the eggs with a splash of milk and one portion of the parmesan
  6. Add a pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper – don’t over-salt as the cheeses will already add some savouriness to the dish
  7. Loosely spoon the quinoa mixture into your pie dish, pour over the egg mixture and combine the two in the dish
  8. Flatten the top and sprinkle the second portion of parmesan over the top
  9. Bake for 30-35 mins until the top is golden
  10. Allow to rest for 5 minutes and then enjoy hot !

Spiced roasted butternut pumpkin soup – two ways

I love soups. And it makes so much sense to make a giant pot of soup, have it as leftovers, or even freeze those that are suitable.

My problem is that I don’t always seem to want soup from the freezer, and often end up throwing it away. It’s very un-frugal of me and the waste upsets me.

Over the weekend I found a beautiful butternut squash – at $2 instead of the $10+ that I spend across the road for the same thing. Of course I just had to buy it.

I decided that I would do two types of soup with it, to try to give some variety, and hope to tickle my tastebuds enough to want to eat it again. And again.

The first way was to push a ladleful of it through a fine sieve, yielding the most silkily smooth soup that reminds me of the amouse-bouches that you sometimes get in fine restaurants. It’s such a treat and I don’t know why but the same soup seems to taste sweeter somehow ?

The second way was to keep it rustic (the sieving also takes time and any time saving is a good thing, right ?). This leftover I’ve frozen, but when I reheat it, I’ll add a dollop of cream and a glug of good olive oil to make it taste like the best pumpkin soup I’ve ever had.

Roasting the pumpkin intensifies the sugars and flavour and the spices just add an extra dimension to the soup.

Ingredients makes four bowls of soup

  1. 1 large onion, diced
  2. 1 medium sized butternut pumpkin
  3. salt and pepper
  4. ground tumeric
  5. ground cumin
  6. chicken stock
  7. thick cream
  8. good olive oil to serve

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 220CC/430F
  2. Remove skin and seeds from pumpkin and cut into chunks
  3. Coat with olive oil (doesn’t need to be the good stuff) and season with salt and pepper
  4. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes
  5. Sautee onion in some olive oil on low heat until translucent – about 5 minutes
  6. Add the tumeric and cumin and fry off the “rawness” of the spices for another 5 minutes
  7. Add the roasted pumpkin and add enough chicken stock to cover the pumpkin
  8. Simmer for 30 minutes
  9. Blend with an immersion blender until desired consistency (I like to keep it relatively smooth but still with some bits of pumpkin)
  10. Option 1: Take a ladleful and push through a fine sieve and serve with just a few drops of good olive oil
  11. Option 2: Serve hot, with a big dollop of cream, and a good glug of the good olive oil

 

 


Quiche Lorraine

I cheat and use store-bought shortcrust pastry with my quiches. If you have the time to wait for the dough to rest, and don’t mind clearing up the mess (which I always seem to make tons of whenever making pastry) go right ahead.

Quiche Lorraine reminds me of growing up in the suburbs in Sydney and having a slice of quiche with a salad on the side. You can’t really not like it – salty bacon and sweet sauteed onions enveloped in a warm eggy pillow – with pastry. It’s pretty easy, too – just make sure you blind bake your base properly, or it will end up soggy instead of crispy and short, giving you good contrasting textures with each bite.

Ingredients

  1. 1 -2 sheets ready made shortcrust pastry
  2. 1 large onion, diced
  3. 6 rashers (or more if you want) bacon, diced
  4. 200ml heavy cream
  5. 3 eggs
  6. 1 cup grated gruyere or cheddar cheese
  7. salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C/390F
  2. Line the base and sides of a loose-bottomed tart tin with the pastry
  3. Prick the base, line with baking paper and add pie weights/rice/beans before blind baking in the oven for 15 minutes
  4. Remove the baking paper and pie weights and put back in the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes until cooked through and lightly browned
  5. While the base is baking, make your filling
  6. Sautee the bacon on medium-high heat until brown and crispy and remove from frying pan to cool
  7. Reduce the heat to low and cook onions until soft and translucent
  8. Mix cream, eggs, cheese together in a jug.
  9. Season with salt and pepper – remember not to oversalt as the bacon and cheese will provide additional seasoning
  10. Once the base is ready, sprinkle your bacon and onion on the base, and pour in the eggy/cheese mix over
  11. Reduce the oven temperature to 160C/320F and bake quiche for 30 minutes or the middle is just wobbly (it will continue to cook a little more once out of the oven)
  12. Remove from oven, let sit for 5 minutes before removing quiche from the tin
  13. Enjoy hot or cold as leftovers the next day 😉

 

 


Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork

Easy peasy recipe. Massage the rub into your pork, pop in to your slow cooker, and ten hours later, amazingly tender pulled pork magically comes out ! OK there’s just one or two more steps, but honestly, it’s quick to prepare (obviously it takes a long time to actually cook, but the slow cooker does all the work for you), and delicious to eat.

Ingredients

  1. Pork butt (pork shoulder) – I had 1kg but I’d recommend as much pork as you can fit in your slow cooker, as this freezes really well. Obviously adjust the ingredients below accordingly.

For the rub:

  1. 1 tbls garlic powder
  2. 1 tbls onion powder
  3. 1 tbls sea salt
  4. black pepper (as much as you can be bothered to grind)
  5. pinch chilli flakes
  6. pinch cayenne pepper
  7. 2 tbls red wine vinegar
  8. glug of olive oil
  9. 2-3 tbls honey

Additional ingredients:

  1. 1/4 cup brown sauce (I used HP)
  2. squirt of tomato sauce

Method

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients for the rub together, add the wet ingredients, to make a paste
  2. Get your hands dirty and massage that paste all over your pork
  3. Pop into your slow cooker for an hour on high
  4. Reduce the setting to low and let the slow cooker do its magic for the next 8 hours
  5. Carefully take the pork out, removing any large pieces of fat, and shred
  6. Add back to the slow cooker with the brown sauce and tomato sauce for an hour
  7. Serve on something that can withstand and soak up the juicy pork – like a burger bun (I had a wrap), with something crunchy and fresh like a good coleslaw 

 

 

 


A Simple Snack

Sometimes the simplest things are often the best

I’d run out of the night before’s roast beef to make beef fajitas, and with just a single wrap and a few slices of Monterey Jack cheese, I decided to go simple.

I think the ratio of cheese to wrap was possibly swaying towards the cheese, and it made a molten mess as it melted and oozed out the edges and into the frying in the pan.

The cheese, which I think has a wonderful texture suited to fajitas, but not too much taste when in the fajita, somehow becomes very intensely…cheesy…for want of a better word, when it fries. It also gets all crispy, giving each mouthful an extra satisfying crunch.

Any suggestions on why the change in flavour is so great ? Or am I just late to the game in realising everything does indeed taste better when fried ?

 


Cauliflower Soup

Warming and simple, I whipped this soup up in less than 15 minutes. Don’t be fooled though, into thinking simple isn’t delicious. Blending the soup gives it a wonderfully thick and creamy consistency.

Ingredients – serves 4

  1. 1 onion, diced
  2. 1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  3. 3-4 cups chicken stock

Method

  1. Sweat onions in a little olive oil over medium heat in a heavy based saucepan
  2. Add the cauliflower and enough stock to just cover the cauliflower
  3. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5-7 minutes, until the cauliflower is just tender
  4. Blend thoroughly
  5. Season to taste with salt
  6. Serve hot with a good drizzle of good olive oil and freshly cracked black pepper

Roasted potato salad with bacon and spinach

A delicious salad that would make a great lunch or as a lighter side to a juicy steak or roast, rather than the usual roasted vegetables.

Fun fact: I think potatoes have had a bit of a bad rap with their high GI. However, if you dry cook potatoes (ie roasted vs boiled) and also allow them to cool, their GI actually lowers. It has to do with the effort your body has to expend to digest foods and increasing their resistant starch. I won’t go into the details – you can do more research if you want, here is a nice quick reference if you’re interested.

Keep the potato skins on for added nutrition. The skins have B vitamins, vitamin C, iron, calcium, potassium and also provides lots of fibre. Be sure to wash the potato well and remove any obvious blemishes before cooking.

Ingredients serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side

  1. 750 g new potatoes or if using larger ones, select a waxy variety, like the red potato, so they “hold together” when you mix them
  2. *optional – rosemary
  3. 4 rashers of streaky bacon
  4. 1 bunch of spinach leaves
  5. 1 clove garlic – skin on
  6. 2 tbls red wine vinegar
  7. 1 tbls dijon mustard
  8. 3 tbls olive oil (see note below)
  9. *optional – squirt of mayonnaise
  10. Good handful of grated fresh parmesan cheese
  11. salt and pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C/400F
  2. Place the potatoes in a baking tray
  3. Drizzle olive oil and season with salt and pepper and rosemary if you have it
  4. Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes
  5. Pop your clove of garlic in with the potatoes 10 minutes before they have to come out
  6. COOL YOUR POTATOES TO ROOM TEMPERATURE
  7. Blanch the spinach leaves until wilted, drain and squeeze out as much liquid as you can – you don’t want a soggy salad !
  8. Pan-fry or microwave the bacon till their nice and crispy
  9. Make your dressing
  10. Remove the skin from the garlic and either mince/mash into a jar with a tight fitting lid
  11. Add the red wine vinegar, mustard, oil, mayonnaise (the mayonnaise makes the dressing a teeny bit creamier – use as much or as little as you like but add that in a little at a time until you get the desired consistency
  12. Pop the lid on and shake well to mix
  13. Add the cooled potatoes, spinach, crumbled bacon to a large bowl
  14. Dress lightly – you want the dressing to just coat the potatoes, not be gluggy
  15. Top with grated parmesan and mix again
  16. Season with salt and pepper to taste

NOTE: I think anchovies are one of the best things in the world, and always have a big jar of marinated anchovies in my fridge. When cooked they don’t smell too fishy, they melt into the sauce and add a complex savoury note to whatever dish you are making. With this dish, instead of using plain olive oil, I used the anchovy oil. You’ll need to make sure you taste the final dressing and dish before you season with salt so it’s not too salty.