Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Hot Sauce

 So a couple of weeks ago (when might I add we were in the middle of a heatwave) our Nonna decided to make sauce. Now sauce making isn't a one man (or one Nonna) job, especially in an Italian household- it's a family affair and one which our Grandparents take very seriously.

So despite it being a 40° day we gathered around in Nonna's patio to make sauce. Ever since we were little our grandparents would allocate everyone a job. The adults of course had the more 'responsible' and 'serious' tasks, while the grandkids would be allocated  random odd jobs like fetching water for parched relatives, or keeping the dogs occupied with way too many snacks. If we were lucky enough though, we would have the 'grown up' job of putting a small sprig of basil in the top of each bottle once it had been filled with sauce. We felt so responsible.

This year though the younger grandkids were at school and the all important basil garnish job was scraped. That got me thinking, was that job truly crucial, or was it just a lesson in responsibility? My younger self held hope that it was the former until Nonna informed me that the basil wasn't all that important! I was initially crushed until I realised that the small task of garnishing the sauce was important. It was a way for us to be involved and included in family traditions and for that I am grateful.

Bottles waiting to be filled.

Filling the bottles with sauce.
Tomatoes ready to be placed in the machine.

The rejected tomato skins.

So what was my job this year? I had the task of putting the bottle tops on the filled sauce bottles and fetching water for parched relatives. Not completely grown up, but getting there.


Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Four Berry Cheesecake

Recently, I made a glorious berry cheesecake for no reason.  Now that I come to think of it baking for no reason is the perfect reason to bake.  I had cream cheese in the fridge which I was meant to make a carrot cake with and I accidentally bought a mix of four berries when I turned away and reached into the freezers at Woolworths to avoid immediate frostbite to the face region.  I was aiming for the blueberries.

Nonetheless, often the unplanned ones are the best. Baking stuff, that is.

Four Berry Cheesecake


300 grams of digestives or Graham crackers
150g of butter, melted


375g of cream cheese
1/2 cup of icing/confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 cup of whipping or thickened cream
3 teaspoons of gelatine (dissolved in 1/4 cup of boiling water)
Zest of one lime


100g frozen berries - whichever you prefer
1/4 cup of water
Zest of one lime
2 tablespoons of lime juice

Place the biscuits you're using in the base into a food process and blitz into a fine crumb.  Mix in the melted butter, either by hand or in the food processer.  Press the mixture into the base of a springform tin.  I pressed it up the sides as well but next time I'm definitely going for the more traditional cheesecake approach and leaving it just on the base.  Refrigerate for 20 minutes to half an hour while you're preparing the filling and the berry topping!

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla until it reaches a smooth consistency.  Make sure there are no lumps of cream cheese and that it's all really well incorporated.  You don't want to be enjoying a cheesecake and coming across a solidified blob of cream cheese that was sneaky and didn't want to be a part of a nice thing.

Once you've everything is perfectly combined, beat the cream into the cream cheese mixture on low speed.  

Mix in the lime zest and then add your gelatine mixture.  Pour the filling over the biscuit base.

For the topping, place all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook on medium heat until it boils.  Carefully place spoonfuls of the berry mix on top of the filling and then, using a skewer, gently swirl the berry mixture through the filling.

Cover and refrigerate until set, either for 3-4 hours or even overnight.

Finely grate some extra lime zest over the top of the cheesecake to serve! 

Monday, 11 February 2013

Sweet Valentine

As we all know, singles' awareness day is fast approaching. Though amongst those of you with a significant other, you'll be more familiar with the day's more well-known name: Valentine's Day.  If you're looking to make a sweet little treat for your Valentine, this is perfect for you! And did we tell you it's easy? Yanno why? Because all you'll need is a box of cake mix, dark cooking chocolate (the good quality kind. No vomiting on Valentine's Day!), and a sliver of vegetable shortening and some pretty things for decoration!

Let's get started.

First, shamefully purchase a box of red velvet cake from your nearest grocery store. Try to ignore the sound of your pride dying whilst doing this.  

Red Velvet and Dark Chocolate cake balls

1 box of red velvet cake mix with frosting included
1 block of good quality dark cooking chocolate
15g of vegetable shortening (Copha)
Candies to decorate - we also made some red royal icing for cute little embellishments

Prepare the cake according to the instructions on the box. Once the cake is cooled, rest it for 10 minutes and then crumble it up using your clean hands until it is the consistency of fine breadcrumbs.  Once the crumbs have cooled entirely, prepare the frosting according to the instructions on the box and add it to the crumbs.  

Add the frosting to the crumbs and mix until well combined.  Test if the mixture is ready by rolling it into balls.  If it holds its shape, then you've achieved the right texture.  If too dry, add cream cheese or buttercream.

Take 1/2 a tablespoon of mixture and roll it into a ball.  Once all the mixture is rolled, place in the fridge for 15 minutes while you prepare the chocolate coating.

Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler, or in the microwave.  Once partially melted add the shortening and stir until completely melted.

Gently roll the cake balls in the chocolate, making sure the chocolate coats the entire surface of the cake ball.  Using a fork, gently scoop them out of the chocolate, allowing the excess chocolate to drip off the ball into the chocolate.  Set the coated ball down on baking paper and allow to set.

When the chocolate is half set decorate the cake balls with your favourite Valentine's candies.  This is so when it sets, the candy will be set to the cake ball.  If you let the chocolate set completely, a spot of royal icing will stick any candy firmly to the cake ball.

Place in miniature red or pink cupcake cases and enjoy!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Watermelon and strawberry slushie

Today we feel like an egg left out on the pavement to cook. Broken and abandoned... Just kidding.  Temperatures here have decided to skyrocket again and so we're going to be living in 40 degree days for a bit. On the brink of heat-induced insanity, we needed to find a source of hydration and fast. Our salvation came in the form of my father knocking on the door with arms full of groceries.  Much like I mentioned in our banana and chocolate muffin recipe post, the fact that my dad can't pass up fruit on special still stands, because he walked through the door with two huge watermelons, and of course, his beloved bananas.  The conversation that occurred went a little like this:

Alexia: Hey Tash, guess what? 
Natasha: What?
Alexia: My dad just walked in the door with watermelon. He intends to eat it himself but I fully intend to sabotage his plans by turning it into a dessert of some sort.
Natasha: Bags being taste-tester.

So off we went into the kitchen to make nice things.

This, however, is why we cannot have nice things:

Cameras should come with a warning: "Objects viewed through camera are closer than they appear," to stop things like this happening.  Or maybe Alexia should just be more coordinated.  Neither of these things seem likely to happen in the near future.

Regardless of fails, this slushie is so easy, you are only three or four ingredients away from a refreshing and cooling healthy slushie thing.

Watermelon and strawberry slushie:

To every 2 parts of watermelon you use, add 1 part of strawberries and add one and half cups of ice. Whizz it all up in a blender and serve.  If you want to, you can add a sprig of fresh mint for an even fresher summer hit. Serve and enjoy!