Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spinach dip in a cobb loaf

I don't know whether this has anything to do with my own creeping state of motherhood, but lately I've been fantasising about some of the kitsch, 80s dinner party fare that meant in my childhood that shit was getting fancy.  I'm talking about little tuna and cheese pastry parcels (we called them tuna savouries), chocolate-peppermint cheesecake, and anything that could be prepared in a microwave.

So when I was invited to a pot luck dinner tonight, where considerations like wanting to cater to vegetarians in case there were any, and wanting to bring something that was easy to prepare and easy to share, I knew instantly that I would make spinach dip in a cobb loaf.

As a child, I thought that this was the poshest thing that could possibly be done with food.  The bread is the bowl, you guys! In seeking out recipes, I've also realised that ingredients-wise, this is true to form retro Australian cuisine.  I didn't want to vary the original intent of the dish too greatly, but I did make a couple of tweaks, particularly in the form of nutmeg, which frankly should be paired with spinach whenever and wherever possible.  It also takes about 10 minutes to make.  I am keenly anticipate a mixture of delight and mirth when I rock up with this tonight.

Here it is in all its glory.

  • 1 cobb loaf 
  • 1 packet frozen spinach
  • handful of spring onions
  • 1 tub of sour cream (approx 250ml)
  • 1 tub of cream cheese (approx 250ml) 
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of mayo
  • 1 packet spring vegetable soup (or some other innocuous flavour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • cracked pepper

Okay, so you can make this dip in four simple steps:

1. Chop the spring onions
2.Thaw the spinach and squeeze all the water out of it

3. Put everything in a big bowl

4. Mix

Once you've got your dip prepared, prepare your bread bowl.  First slice the top of the loaf, about one third down.  Then hollow out the centre.

Fill the emptied belly of the cobb with the dip. Then replace the lid.  'Whala', as A Wild Young Under Whimsy would say.  You have dip in a bread bowl! To an unsuspecting person, it just looks like bread. Ingenious, huh.

Warm the whole lot in a slow oven (approx 150 degrees C) for about 30 minutes.  Finally, break the extra bits of bread for the centre and place them around the loaf to serve.

Mmmmm.  Tastes just like 1983.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Peach and yoghurt muffins with spicy crumble tops

So my wonderful BF has requested that I refrain from baking entire cakes given that we're a household of two,  he works from home, and has something of a mad sweet tooth.  But similarly, in light of said sweet tooth, he does look awfully sad when I bake things and then take them to work and he doesn't get any.  So in receiving a bag of fresh peaches from his Mum's tree, I had a dilemma.  I dilemma I solved with muffins.

I don't care what illusion about muffins being healthy anyone tries to delude themselves with: muffins are tiny cakes.  Incredible tiny cakes.  I also do not endorse those giant cafe sized muffins that are the size of a baby's head.  They are just bigger cakes.  I like muffins to be a bit wholesome, full of fruit, sweet, moist and just big enough to stave of the urge to eat lunch at 11am.  They also allow me to leave a few at home for Leith, and still supply baked goods for the Monday WIP, thus earning double kudos.

The other wonderful thing about this recipe is that peaches can be interchanged for pretty much any other kind of fruit you have to hand.  Banana would be excellent. Pineapple would be amazing.  Berries, apple, pear.  You name it, you nom it.

In baking these muffins, one must invoke several of my fundamental rules of baking.  This is a good thing.  Namely:
  1. Bake with yoghurt wherever possible.
  2. Use your hands.
  3. No matter how much spice a recipe recommends, always use more. I don't know why so many recipes are spice shy but I call bullshit on it.  If you're anything like me, use, like, three times as much, probably.*
  4. Lick your fingers.
  5. Don't measure any ingredients in crumble topping.  If in doubt, add more sugar.

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 cup oats
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons allspice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 heaped cup yoghurt
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 5 peaches
Crumble topping:
  • Butter
  • Flour
  • Brown sugar
  • Oats
  • Finely chopped walnuts
  • All spice

Preheat the oven to 200 C, and grease a 12 cup muffin tray well. 

Mix the flour, oats, baking powder, sugar and spices in a bowl.  In a second bowl, whisk your wet ingredients.

Peel and dice your peaches and stir them through your wet ingredients.  Stir in the dry ingredients.

Spoon into your muffin pan.  Don't overfill them because you are going to add crumble topping to that business!

Rub your crumble topping together with your fingers.  Don't bother measure anything, just use roughly equal proportions of all the dry ingredients (except the allspice) and mix.  If it's too dry,  add butter. If too wet, add more flour and sugar.  Sprinkle generously over the muffins and gently press in. 

Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then on a wire rack.

Take to work in a cane basket lined with a gingham teatowel.  For real.

*Unless your using one of my recipes, in which case I have already amped up the spices hugely.  Then again, go harder than me.  I will only respect you.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Zucchini flowers with goats curd

We've been getting to the Farmer's Market a more frequently.  I'm not sure whether it's nesting, budgeting, or just better organisation, but it's been brilliant to have an abundance of gorgeous fruit in the house.  And last week we came home with zucchini flowers! Delicate, baby zucchini flowers.

And here's the thing.  When you're pregnant there's this endless list of stuff you're not supposed to eat.  Like soft cheeses.  SOFT CHEESE I TELLS YA! Unless, that is, they're cooked.  So being a resourceful woman, one starts concocting all kinds of reasons for heating up cheese.  Reasons like zucchini flowers...

We got ourselves some Meredith goat's curd (and can I just say: Holy Crapballs is THAT stuff good!).  And we already have a supply of black truffle salt.  Yeah, you heard. And then we fried.

I'd never cooked these before so had no idea really what I was doing, and it didn't matter because it turns out that it was pretty simple.  The baby zucchinis are sweet and succulent, and all the batter fried cheese is goes 'pouffe' in your mouth in a way that is so seriously good that you'll wolf them all before you know what's happened.

So next time you need to impress guests or pregnant ladies, look no further than this recipe. For real.

  • 4 Baby zucchini flowers
  • 4 teaspoons goat's curd
  • Truffle salt (or regular salt, for the prols)
  • Canola or vegetable oil for frying
 For the batter:
  • 3/4 cup of flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup water

Start by preparing your batter.  Whisk together the ingredients to form a loose paste, adding more flour or water as needed.

Gently rinse and pat dry the zucchini flowers, and split open the tops to about two thirds of the way down.  Then it all gets a bit Sapphic, as you need to pinch the stamen inside and gently twist to remove it, without disturbing the surrounding petals.  Rest the flowers on a tea towel.

Mix a pinch of truffle salt into the goats curd and spoon a small amount into each zucchini flower, using your finger to push it down inside.  Then pinch together the petals to seal the flower.  Heat your oil.

Dip the flowers in batter and fry until golden brown, then drain on paper towel.

If you have left over goats curd that you simply HAVE to cook, then roll it into balls, roll in bread crumbs and then dunk in the batter and fry in the oil until they form crunchy, cheesy nobbins of amazingness.  Drain these along side your zucchini flowers and drizzle with Tobasco or some other spicy sauce.

Eat the lot with a fresh, tangy heirloom tomato and basil salad.