28 Aug 2016

cannellini cannelloni

As a Grown Up, I don’t need clever ways to hide vegies in a meal. Instead, I need new ways to make those vegies on my plate more interesting.

But this cannellini cannelloni (I love saying that!) does disguise the vegies, should you need to do that. It replaces half the ricotta in the stuffing with whizzed-up cannellini or white beans and a good handful of cauliflower florets. Just think of all that extra vegie fibre and protein and flavour! They even make this filling even creamier and lighter somehow, so it’s like a hearty plate of winter stodge — but not. I also added some shredded and cooked Brussels sprouts, and a delicious shake of warming nutmeg. Yum!

To top off all this vegie-packed goodness, I made an instant sauce from a tray of my summer tomatoes from the freezer. As I’d roasted them with herbs and garlic before freezing, all I needed to do was thaw the block and whiz it in my food processor, to make a thick, richly coloured and flavoured puree.

Then I topped this off with some walnut and pepita chunks. That’s right — no breadcrumbs or parmesan. Just waxy-toasty-crunchy goodness (yes, this is a dish full of goodness). Even when softened by reheating in the microwave for my week-day working lunches, the nuts complimented those hidden nutmeg flavours so well, and still retained enough texture to contrast with the creaminess of the cannellini filling.

So yes, this winter winner (and it's still winterish here in Hobart) does hide the vegies — and it also made them even more delicious and fabulous, too.

Cannellini cannelloni

My scribbles say I got this recipe from Donna Hay june/july 2012. If you have leftover cooked vegies like the cauliflower and Brussels sprouts (or broccoli or cabbage or silverbeet), this dish is really speedy to make. If you have a ready-made sauce like I did — even better; you’re barely cooking at all!

If you need to make a sauce, my notes from the recipe simply say 'combine 365 ml passata, 125 ml stock, S&P'. Presumably you'd heat and reduce the lot together to a saucy consistency. Sorry.

  • Put about a third of your sauce in the bottom of your baking dish, saving the rest for the topping.
  • Preheat your oven to 180.
  • In a food processor, whiz up a drained/rinsed 400 gms can of cannellini beans.
  • Add in 300 gms of ricotta (the thicker block stuff bought from the deli).
  • Add about a cupful each of cooked cauliflower florets and shredded Brussels sprouts, plus a generous shake of nutmeg.
  • Take a packet of fresh lasagne sheets (there were 12 in my packet). Place a couple of spoonfuls on each sheet and roll up, then pack the tubes into your baking dish on top of the sauce. This is where it all gets a bit imprecise. I had to cut the tubes in half to fit them in; use a second, smaller dish to hold them all; but then I didn’t need one of the lasagne sheets (I put it in the freezer for next time)!
  • Once you’re done with all this juggling and jiggling, top with the remaining sauce.
  • Roughly chop some walnuts and pepitas; enough to give a covering you’re happy with. Drizzle with a little olive oil; cover with foil; then place in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until the filling is hot. Then uncover, and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the nuts are toasty.

21 Aug 2016

chocolate hazelnut brownie



It’s good to have working, reliable scales in my kitchen again! Because, as soon as you don’t, every recipe you’re tempted by measures ingredients out by grams, not cups. Is this volume or mass or something else? I don’t know, but until recently, I couldn’t do it!

A few months ago I knocked my kitchen scales off the kitchen counter, and that was that; the spring mechanism was absolutely bung. Like a wonky clock, the little arm that dialled around was immovably set. Gah!

I actually prefer to scoop out my sugar, flour and cocoa (or spoon it into the cups to avoid incorrect compaction). I have a sweet pastel set, shaped like miniature mixing bowls. They even have a little pouring lip — so small it’s ineffective — but their soft pretty colours make me very happy.

But, scales are called for. I tried to get by — once I phoned mum and asked her to weigh out some dry ingredient then transfer it to cups, so I would know what to use. Not ideal.

Have you tried to buy new scales recently? They are all digital.

Which presents a real problem to me, because I’m allergic to digital scales. Or they’re allergic to me. They do not work for me. I must have some magnetic force field that disrupts their digital-ness. They give crazy, improbably readings, or simply blink off (I could never wear a digital watch as a kid either, now that I think of it). I’ve gone through countless batteries, and two, maybe three actual scales; either returning them to the shop or giving them to mum.

Finally, after much ringing and googling around, I found a non-digital replacement for my scales, online. I wanted the finer ones that went up in 5 grams increments — and they really were hard to track down. So I bought two, one for spare, and the one I’m using is being stored and used very carefully.

Chocolate hazelnut brownie
Adapted from a delicious recipe for a ‘sheet cookie’. But made smaller, in a brownie tin, so moister and … a brownie.

  • Preheat your oven to 180 and line a 20 cm brownie tin or small slice tin (as seen in here. Okay, I've made it twice in two different tins! But I'm still calling it a brownie)
  • Melt 50 gms 70% dark cooking chocolate.
  • Cream 100 gms butter with ½ cup brown sugar. Beat in 1 egg, then the melted chocolate.
  • Sift in ½ cup hazelnut meal, ½ cup spelt flour, 1 tbspn cocoa, and ¼ tspn bicarb soda.
  • Fold in 75 gms of milk cooking chocolate that you’ve chopped roughly (you want some chunks to remain for texture).
  • Put in the tin – as I said, I’ve made this twice, and once it was super hard to spread, and the second time not a problem. I’m blaming the change in weather on that.
  • Now scatter over 1/3 cup hazelnuts that you’ve roughly chopped up and press in lightly.
  • Bake for 20 minutes before checking; like a brownie, this should stay moist.
  • Remove from oven and try very hard not to eat it all at once.

7 Aug 2016

mum’s orange and sultana cupcakes

I’m thinking of turning Dig In over to my mum (actually she suggested it first). Or, baking cakes only after mum has successfully, deliciously, tried the recipe first.

Mum’s orange and sultana cupcakes
Adapted from ‘Better Baking’. Originally a small loaf cake, I made the recipe as cupcakes to use up some baking papers. Either way, it goes nicely with an afternoon cup of tea.
  • Preheat your oven to 160 and prep your muffin tins.
  • Cream 90 gms soft butter with ¾ cup sugar and the zest of 1 orange.
  • Beat in 2 eggs.
  • Sift in 1½ cups SR flour.
  • Fold in ½ cup sour cream and ½ cup sultanas.
  • Add mixture to tin and bake until done; cupcakes will only take about 25 minutes.

31 Jul 2016

half and half risotto


I get pretty excited when I find a new lunch or dinner recipe that’s easy to make, delicious, and healthy. I don’t ask for much, do I? If it can be flexible enough to suit whatever’s in season — or in my fridge — it ticks even more boxes, and might just be a recipe that I’ll add to my list of regulars.

I’ll admit I’ve only made this half and half risotto once, but I know I’ll make it again. Easy? Yes, because risotto is just add one thing after the other and give it a stir (at least it is with me). Delicious? The dark outer leaves of the new-season savoy cabbage had a pleasing bitterness, the leeks were sweet, and the lemon added a nice tang. And healthy? With peas and mushrooms and cabbage, there’s a good serve of veg in every bowlful.

The half and half mix of traditional arborio rice and trendy quinoa makes for a nutritious blend I’m sure, and a lovely light and creamy texture. I’ve made risotto with all rice of course, and risotto with all-quinoa, but never thought to combine the two (even though I do all the time in my rice cooker). It works! I’d have to say it’s the best of both worlds.  

A good risotto recipe must be infinitely adaptable for all kind of ingredients and flavours — a good base to work from. And I can see this one will be — maybe I’ll try pumpkin next time, or silverbeet and peas, or zucchini in the summertime, or asparagus…

So hurrah to having a new favourite!

Half and half risotto
Adapted from ‘Superlegumes’ by Chrissy Freer.
  • First some prep. Thaw out a cup of frozen peas, slice up the white of a leek (and a little bit of the lighter green part), roughly chop 200 gms mushrooms and a few garlic cloves (to your taste). Shred a few leaves of dark savoy cabbage (sorry I’m not very precise here — but you’ll know how much cabbage you like).
  • Weigh out 150 gms arborio and 100 gms white quinoa, and rinse it well.
  • Set 1 litre of liquid to simmer — I used a combination of water, homemade and bought vegie stock. Boil the kettle too, as you’ll probably need to add more liquid as you cook (risotto can be so imprecise, and thirsty).
  • Okay, let’s get cooking! In a deep casserole pot, sauté the leeks in oil until soft. Add the garlic and the leaves from a few sprigs of lemon thyme.
  • Add the rice and quinoa and stir till well coated with the oil.
  • Add 80mls white wine and simmer for a few minutes.
  • Now add the simmering stock. Be lazy like me and add it all in one hit. Stir well and after about 20 minutes, test the grains (you want them soft) and watch the liquid levels. You may need to add more from that boiled kettle to ensure the risotto doesn’t stick, has enough liquid to cook the grains, and is your preferred ‘wetness’. I like my risotto a little sloppy.
  • When the rice is about 5 minutes away from being done, add in the mushrooms, cabbage and peas to cook.
  • When those veg are just done, add the fine zest of one lemon — and why not, add the juice of half of it as well. Enjoy!

24 Jul 2016

individual bread + butter puddings

Since we’re all about putting your own spin on things chez Dig In, here’s a neat twist to an old favourite: individual B&B puddings. I would say guaranteed portion control, but as I ate two hot out of the oven and two later than night, fridge-cold and creamy, that’s not really valid.

I got the idea from a library book; one of those London bakery–café books that are very popular (or at least plentiful on my library’s shelves). I remember thinking ‘individual puddings — how cute!’. I probably also thought ‘portion control!’ but that, as I said, has been massively disproven.

I didn’t copy out the recipe because I have my own that’s my ‘go-to’. This time I used torn-up panettone sploshed liberally with sherry, then I poked in some chunks of rich medjool dates, and to the custard I added the zest of an orange. It was a fine combination of flavours, hot or cold.
And cute — very. As I tucked into my first one, I thought that these were definitely brunch-style café offerings. I imagined them served on a shiny white plate with an artful dollop of greek yoghurt and maybe a swirl of blueberry compote around the plate — and a hefty trendy-café price tag. I’m getting carried away, because these are not pretentious at all! They were just a very good spin on a traditional pudding.

So I’m not going to give you a recipe — as I said, I used my go-to and I’m sure you also have a family favourite. The point therefore of this post is perhaps to inspire you to play around with your favourite too.
Individual bread + butter puddings

Instead of cooking these in a bain marie, which is standard B&B pudd practice, I simply lowered the temperature to 160. I made 8, and they took about 30 minutes to cook.

A note to self: use papers to line the tins next time. Perhaps those café style muffin papers that are like a plain piece of parchment pushed in to the tin, all folded and pointy. That would make them easier to remove and make the tin easier to clean!

17 Jul 2016

vanilla + thyme roasted pears


Cooking day. Lentilaise again, this time with my own roasted tomatoes, frozen at the peak of their summer richness. A handful of dried lentils.
 

And blitzing all the base veg (including some broccoli stalks — extra greens!) in the food processor first. An even better version.



Trays of roast veg: dad’s pumpkin, spiked with lemon zest and Moroccan spices. Kipfler potatoes, just salt and rosemary — so good. I kept gobbling them, hot from the baking tray, even though they were meant for weeknight dinners.




Then roasted pears. The week before I’d roasted the pears with harissa and lemon zest, alongside parsnips and pumpkin. But this time I followed a tip off from Lizzy and enjoyed a gorgeous after-dinner treat — and a perfect send-off for the last of dad’s beurre bosc pears. Honeyed, herby and meltingly tender fruit soaking in a rich speckled syrup. I may have to buy some pears to make this again.

Vanilla + thyme roasted pears
Adapted from Liliana’s Kitchen.
  • Preheat oven to 180.
  • Halve and core 4 beurre bosc pears and add them to a baking dish so they are one snug layer, cut side up.
  • In a heatproof jug, combine ¼ cup honey, ½ cup boiled water, the juice of ½ a lemon, and ½ tspn speckly vanilla paste.
  • Pour this over the pears (scraping out those speckles) and sprinkle over some fresh lemon thyme leaves from a few sprigs. Place a small dot of butter in each pear’s hollow.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Then remove the foil, baste the pears in the juices (you can even turn the pears over if you wish) before returning to oven, uncovered, and cooking for another 20 minutes or so, until fruit is tender.

18 Jun 2016

mid-winter hiatus

Life is topsy-turvy at the moment. My brain is fizzed; I have no creative energy nor time to travel around to everyone else's wonderful blogs. So Dig In is having a small hibernation; hopefully only 3 or 4 weeks. Please don't forget me, please check back soon; and please keep warm and dry over winter - or enjoy a lovely northern summer.
e

12 Jun 2016

garden ramble: frost and rain

As I write this, it is raining gently, it is damp and muggy, and everything is a bit soggy. The weather has been wild everywhere, and while my patch of the world is getting off lightly … can it stop now?

This week has been warm (for Hobart, for this time of year) with days of rain and cloudy skies and low light (and no light). Rain tanks and gauges are full. The last autumn leaves lay abandoned in puddles, and my candy-floss-pink camellia is now a sad, sodden mess.

But all this came after a week of dry, severe frosts and desperately low temperatures. Each day, I would email mum and dad a report: ‘frost bigger than yesterday!’. I love the stark silence of a big frost, just as I love snow-on-the-mountain — as long as I’m not out in it.

So measures were needed for those of us who were outside. Every morning I broke through the ice on my bird baths: sometimes a thin crystalline layer; once, thick and nearly solid. And every day after work, sometimes in bone-chilling dark, I draped my still-tender passionfruit vines in old paint sheets; each morning, I unpegged the sheets that once or twice were stiff and crunchy. Ah, the things we do for our fruit and veg.

But in other parts of the garden, there are promises of warmer, brighter days: the spring bulbs are sending up their green shoots. I even have one small tantalising clump of jonquil buds:

Mum already has snowdrops (or snowflakes?) on show, and a neighbour of hers has fully bloomed jonquils! Poor confused bulbs — but what a joyous sight they must be on these bleak, damp days.

I hope you and your plants are safe, no matter what that crazy, contrary woman Mother Nature is throwing at you.
A delicate winter blossom