Saturday 28 June 2014

Brandy balls and cake stalls

I love cake stalls, and I love 'working' on them. You meet nice friendly people who are really happy to part with their money for a good cause. This week I baked for Bellyful. The tables were laden with wonderful homemade baking and sweets. They looked a treat. And not surprisingly, everything flew off the table!
Wonderful cup cakes - this baker is so clever!
I enjoy volunteering for Bellyful. The women are fun, enthusiastic and best of all, have a great community spirit. They are always willing to give their time to help Mums and families with newborns and/or sick children, every week cooking and delivering meals for them. Let's face it, most of us have experienced similar exhausting times and remember wondering..... can we get through this! A little bit of help is a godsend.
Items ready for sale

For the cake stall I offered to make a fruit loaf, a carrot cake, and some Brandy Balls. I thought Brandy Balls might be something a little different. I had made them a few weeks earlier (for the adults at a children's party), and they all went in seconds!!
When I went down to help at the stall, I noted only one bag of my Brandy Balls were left. It made me smile, thinking that my baking might not be appreciated (recall my earlier post about lamingtons).
The last bag of Brandy balls
I recalled the story my lovely husband told me not long after I had met him. When he was a young boy, for a Scout 'do', his Uncle Jack kindly made date sandwiches (with lovely wholemeal bread). Everyone else bought pies, cream cakes, sausage rolls etc (you get the picture) and it became clear to him that his sandwiches were not at all popular with the other scouts.
He went on to tell me he only got a meat pie about once a year, and while he would have preferred to chomp into one of the many 'unhealthy' items on offer, he felt he had to eat as many of his sandwiches as he could... to show his appreciation for Uncle Jacks efforts. Like M's mother, he was also a vegetarian.... they were somewhat few and far between in the 50's.
Both times I have made my Brandy balls, I've been so focused on the task, no photo was taken, so my apologies for the copy from the Edmonds Cookery Book. I can assure you mine looked (almost) identical. They are really easy to put together - but allow a bit of time - rolling the balls and dipping into chocolate hail can be a little time consuming.
They are wonderful with coffee, and lovely to give as a little thank you gift. And as one lady who bought them from the cake stall said, 'they will be perfect for my mid winter dinner tonight'.
Brandy balls – Edmonds Cookery book (Pub. 1998)
250g pkt Vanilla wine biscuits – crushed
2 tbsp currants – finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped walnuts
1 egg
¼ c castor sugar
1tbsp cocoa
1 ½ tbsp brandy or sherry - you could use pure essence but the real thing is better!
125g butter, melted
Coconut or chocolate hail
Place crumbs in bowl, add currants and walnuts
Stir to combine
In another bowl beat egg with a fork, add sugar and cocoa, stirring until thoroughly mixed.
Add brandy, pour this mixture into crumb mixture.
Add melted butter, stirring until well combined.
Measure tablespoons of mixture and shape into balls.
Roll in coconut or chocolate hail.
Chill until firm.
Makes about 20.
(I made a single mix the first time and the balls were perfect. I doubled the mixture for the cake stall but made the mistake of adding extra currants. The mixture needs to be quite sticky in order to cover with chocolate hail easily, the extra currants made the balls a little less sticky.)
Copied from Edmonds Cookery book

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Vegetarian Risotto Sausages

May was a very busy month and it looks like June will be as well. There has been lots happening around here! We've also attended many gatherings with friends and family, both here in Welly and in Christchurch. All involving good times, sharing meals, the odd bottle of wine (or two) and catching up with the very special people in my life. I always feel very blessed when I am with them.
Over Queens birthday weekend, I attended an interesting session at Handmade called  "Planning an edible summer garden". Our group was small but big on ideas. And I picked up some great tips from Rachel (of The Kitchen Garden). In fact the very next day (with renewed enthusiasm) I dug out the remaining compost, put my vegetable garden to bed by laying down pea straw and ordered a stack of stuff from Kings Seeds. The winter months will give me plenty of time to really plan the summer garden. There are a number of things I won't be growing anymore, and a few I will give a bit of a go.
Last week we had a team of arborists on the property. Their work has made a huge difference to our garden (and our view), and all the trimming and lopping produced a huge pile of gorgeous mulch which (thanks to the hubby and a guest) is now spread over the other parts of our garden, quietly doing its magic over the winter months.
The same said guest gifted me a copy of  'Mackenzie Muster, "A century of favourites". Published in 1984, it's a great little recipe book, with some very weird and wacky recipes, not likely to be cooked here but interesting to read about them just the same. The recipe for Liver patties or Lamb in a Hollow Log springs to mind.... But I might try the Turkish Pilaf, it sounds a bit exotic for its time!
The book is interspersed with local prose and pen drawings and amazingly it was in the Eat my Books library. I'd love to know how many were printed. So thank you for your present Paula, I will treasure it.
On Sunday I found myself sorting out a cupboard and came across a folder of old Next magazine recipes. I spotted a recipe for Vegetarian Sausages. With not a bit of offal or meat in sight, they are really simple to make, very tasty and a total hit in our household! We not only liked the flavour, we also liked the chewy texture.
Please excuse my photo, my sausages look more like torpedos and they did not photo well in the early evening. I will take more care next time. We cooked a few for Monday's dinner and popped the remainder (uncooked ones) in the fridge for the following night. This worked really well, they held their shape.
The recipe could easily be adapted by using gluten free breadcrumbs.
My effort, a humble but tasty sausage
Vegetarian Risotto sausages (Next magazine) Serves 4 - but it served more like 8 large sausages
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp oil
25g butter
2 cups Arborio rice
4 cups vegetable stock
2-3 eggs beaten
6-8 halves sundried tomatoes – chopped
250g mozzarella, cut into 1 cm cubes
½ c freshly chopped basil
1 ½ c fresh white breadcrumbs (I will try Panko bread crumbs next time)
Clarified butter or oil to fry (I used canola)

In a large heavy-based saucepan, gently cook the onion in the oil and butter for 10 minutes
until soft but not brown.
Stir in the rice, and cook for a minute so the grains are glossy and white.
Add ½ cup stock, stirring constantly over a moderate heat until the rice is absorbed all the stock. Add the remaining stock, ½ cup at a time, stirring continuously. Allow to cool.
Combine the eggs, tomatoes, cheese and basil and fold into cooled rice.
Shape into sausages, roll in breadcrumbs and pan-fry in the butter or oil until crisp and hot.
Serve with salad greens.

From the magazine photo - what they should look like!