Sunday 18 May 2014

Figgy cakes and free stuff

Don't you love it when someone gives you a bag of free stuff, especially when that bag contains a squillon, fat, juicy, fresh figs. Well, not exactly a squillion but I was pretty excited about receiving them just the same.
I was told fresh figs ripen very quickly so thought it best to freeze half and eat the remaining ones nice and fresh. They freeze well.
Most of my life has been spent in Christchurch and the Canterbury region. Our home garden, while full of a variety of fruit trees and berry bushes, it didn't contain anything as exotic as a fig tree. I am not sure why, possibly because they didn't like very cold winters. (Having said that my good friend Deb has a huge one in her garden). I guess it is more likely Mum and Dad didn't know much about fig trees in those days and the soil was a bit on the sandy side on our side of town.
I know my Mum was a huge fan of dried figs, a treat I'm rather fond of as well! In the past I've cooked the odd Middle Eastern dish with dried figs but never with fresh figs. So it was a bit of a nice adventure hunting out a recipe using fresh figs, made easier of course, with my new 'Eat my Books' library.
I happened upon this recipe from 'Savour Italy' by Annabel Langbein. A lovely moist cake, it was perfect to serve when I hosted my book group. It makes two cakes, and being suitable to freeze, the extra one was stored away for another time. Use other fruit like plums, apricots or grapes when they are in season.
(Tips - Line the bottom of your tin, my cake stuck to the bottom and while in the oven, put tin foil on the rack - the cake drips syrup while cooking!)
Harvest Fig Cake
10 - 12 fresh figs or other seasonal fruit
3 tbsp sugar
300g (11oz) butter
1½  cups sugar
3 eggs
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla essence
3/4 c milk
2 c plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 c ground toasted almonds (my almonds were not blanched and gave a nice wholemeal look to the cake)
Optional: icing sugar to dust
Cut figs in half and sprinkle first measure of sugar. Put to one side
Heat oven to 180C. Beat together butter and second measure of sugar until creamy.
Add eggs, lemon rind, and vanilla essence.
Gently stir in milk, flour, BP and almonds to form smooth batter.
Divide batter between two greased springform tins, 20-23cm (8-9ins) diameter. (Best to line the bottom, my cake stuck to the bottom and while in the oven, put tin foil on the rack - the cake drips syrup while cooking!)
Arrange figs or other fruit cut side up, on top. Sprinkle with sugar.
Bake at 180C for 30 mins., reduce heat to 160C and cook a further 25-30 mins or until
tested. Leave to cool before turning out.
Dust with icing sugar and serve warm, with whipped cream (or yoghurt).
The figs are prepared beforehand
Ready for the oven
Dust with icing sugar and serve with yoghurt or whipped cream


Friday 9 May 2014

Spinach and Zucchini Ricotta cake with tomato and eggplant side dish

This is such great a vegetarian option for a meal. I spotted it in the latest Cuisine magazine (Issue 164). It hasn't appeared on their website yet, but I would highly recommend it.
Yes, I am being a bit lazy today and not jotting down the recipe, but you should soon be able to retrieve from the Cuisine website - or you could just buy the magazine.
I made it for a luncheon a couple of weeks ago and it went down a treat. And it was just as lovely warmed through the next day for our dinner.
The recipe is very similar to another post, the Zucchini Loaf, but with the addition of spinach and/or silver beet, more egg yolks and lots of fresh parsley.
Last week I went to make it again and tried to buy Ricotta at one of our very large (and usually fabulous)  local supermarkets. Apparently all brands of ricotta were sold out and they couldn't get more stock in the foreseeable future. It crossed my mind that this recipe was so popular - it emptied the shelves of ricotta in my area!!
Really only kidding.....but something is not quite right is it? Given that we have so many dairy cows and billions of litres of milk production in this country. Makes you wonder what the heck is going on.....
Anyway, back to the recipe. It is perfect for vegetarian dinner party or for that different, healthy and handy substantial lunch dish to transport to a family gathering. Which is exactly what I plan to do next week.
The recipe includes a lovely Eggplant and Tomato side dish which complements it beautifully.
Today's newsflash! ricotta is back on the shelves...
And by the way.... I am busy spreading the word about Eat my Books. For me, it is the best discovery this year!
makes a large round 'cake',  love the crispy bits of Parmesan on top

all those healthy vegetables inside!

with a tomato and eggplant side

Saturday 3 May 2014

Eat my Books, discovery of a great website

I have discovered a wonderful new website. One of my friends from my food appreciation club told us about it. It is called Eat My Books
It was designed by two British sisters, (one based here in N.Z., with the other sister in Boston). It is a godsend for people (like me) who have scores of recipe books and who seems to spend hours looking for the right recipe or one to use a particular ingredient on hand.
How it works.... it allows you to create an online library of all your recipes from books, magazines and favourite blogs. Which means no more searching for a recipe when you want to use up that kilo of fresh figs or a bucket of lemons! 
You can search and add your books from their extensive list. They suggest buying a bar coder to scan the books IBN number, which is certainly a quicker way if you use that option. But I just made a list of my favourite books and it didn't take long to add them into my library.
After logging your books, it indexes all the recipes from said books. Once set up, all you do then is search with your key word, it lists all your options and where to find the recipe. You then look it up in your book listed and viola! the recipe quickly found. Some listings also include the full recipe, especially when it is linked to another publication. It's so easy.
As I said, It will also link to your favourite blogs and magazines - I have yet to complete that part. But it will mean I can put some of my 14 years of the Cuisine magazine to more effective use!
There are three options for subscription. I took the monthly one at US$2.50, I thought that was pretty reasonable, but you can take out a yearly subscription if you so desire. I wanted to check it out before committing to a year.
Take a look and see if you agree with me - it is brilliant!.....

And just because I felt like it and I had to clear my freezer to make space for more stock, I made this little bowl of decadence in a blink of an eye.
Take some frozen strawberries from last summer, throw them into a pot, bring it to a fast boil, add sugar and boil until it is thick and jammy. Test on a cold saucer. And hey presto, a fresh easy topping on plain buttered scones or pikelets. Delicious.... and reminds me of warmer, sunnier days!