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afghan biscuits

20 Jan 2020



Today is my first working day for 2020. To sweeten my return to work I decided to make some biscuits. I used to make Afghan biscuits when I was still in primary school, in fact I think I won third prize at my school fete with a batch.  I don't have that recipe any more so I turned to the internet for help. 



Most recipes for this biscuit, which is a kiwi classic, seem adapted from the one in the Edmonds Cookery Book. The afghan is a simple chocolate biscuit studded with cornflakes. I played around with the sugars and added a touch of vanilla but otherwise it's much the same as the Edmonds cookery book recipe. The icing came from a Gourmet Traveller recipe whilst the walnut praline came from the Cook and Baker.



Here's the recipe for you which makes 18 biscuits. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. I use unsalted butter; all eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional gas oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.



Afghan biscuits – inspired by a Gourmet Traveller recipe
Ingredients
200 gm unsalted butter, softened
50g brown sugar
50g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
185 gm plain flour (1¼ cup)
25 gm Dutch-process cocoa (¼ cup)
Pinch salt
60 gm corn flakes

Walnut praline
1 cup (140g) walnut pieces
1 cup caster sugar
40mls water

Chocolate icing
240 gm icing sugar, sifted (1½ cup)
1½ tbsp Dutch-process cocoa
25 gm butter, melted
½ tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tbs boiling water

Biscuits
Preheat oven to 180ºC and line 2 oven trays with baking paper. Beat together butter, sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Sieve flour, cocoa and salt over butter mixture and beat to combine. Add corn flakes and stir to combine. Place heaped tablespoonfuls of dough on prepared trays, press lightly to flatten and bake, swapping trays halfway, until edges are just firm (10-12 minutes). Cool completely on trays.

Walnut praline
Line a baking tray with baking paper. Evenly spread the walnut pieces over the tray. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar has dissolved, stop stirring. Cook until the mixture turns a golden brown then working quickly pour the toffee over the walnut pieces, shaking the tray a little to distribute the toffee. Remember the toffee is hot. Allow the toffee to completely cool before breaking into smaller pieces. Store in a baking paper lined airtight container for up to 2 weeks. This will make more praline than you need.

Chocolate Icing
Combine icing sugar and cocoa in a bowl. Add the melted butter, vanilla and water and stir until smooth, adding a little extra water until mixture is thick but just spreadable. Spread thickly over biscuits and top with some of the walnut praline. 

Afghans are best eaten the day they’re made, but will keep for 2 days in an airtight container.



I hope you had a great weekend. If I survive the first working week of the year, then I'll be back again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,

Jillian



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hobart - part II

15 Jan 2020



Welcome to part 2 of my mini break in Hobart.  I wanted to visit Mt. Wellington during my visit and found the only way to get there was to hike or book onto a tour bus. In the end I hired a car for the day and drove there.



It was a bit of a grey day which I thought might obscure the views of Hobart but in the end I think it added some atmosphere.



I drove back down Mt. Wellington and returned to Salamanca Place via the famous Cascade Brewery. It's such an iconic building.



I'm not a beer drinker so I wandered around the gardens instead of doing a brewery tour.



The next day dawned bright and sunny so I went for a wander around the Botanical Gardens.



The gardens were filled with colour and bird life.


As well as revisiting some favourite parts of the gardens I visited some new to me places, like the Tasmanian Community Food Garden.



Artichokes and bramley apples, any-one?



The beautiful lily pond.







I think this was my first visit to the Japanese garden.



Japanese garden design is always so serene.



Once the car was safely returned I made my way back to the hotel via Pigeon Whole Bakers where I bought this danish. I was on holidays, so no judging please. I call this research.



Revived by the pastry I continued to explore Hobart on foot.



The austere facade of St John's Presbyterian Church.



The beautiful Treasury buildings.



The Theatre Royal dwarfed by the new Royal Hobart Hospital building.



The Synagogue, the oldest in Australia.



The stately Hobart Town Hall.



From down-town Hobart it's a short walk to the waterfront and the Elizabeth Street Pier. 



This seagull was happy to pose for a photo.



The old steam engine at Victoria Dock.



Dock still life.



Life imitating art.



That's all for now from my trip to Hobart. I did take my film camera with me but the roll isn't finished yet so I'll share those images some time in the future.

See you all again next with some baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,

Jillian
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hobart - part I

13 Jan 2020



I know it's been a while since I last blogged but I've been away for the past 3 weeks and have just returned to Sydney. On Sunday I went back into my kitchen for the first time in ages. I made a pot of berry jam to take advantage of all the berries in the fruit shop and will start baking later in the week. I promise that my food posts will return next week. In the meantime I have some photos to share with you of Hobart, where I spent a few days last week. It's no secret that I love Tasmania and one day hope to buy a place down there. 



Flying down to Hobart was a last minute decision. I stayed for a few days at the Moss Hotel at Salamanca Place, a new hotel tucked into an old warehouse. 




I took quite a few photos of the hotel, which is decked out in shades of mossy green, one of my favourite colours.



I stayed in a Grove Room which overlooked Sullivan's Cove. The bed was so comfortable I would have been happy to curl up there all day with a good book but I had things to do and places to see.



The glamorous bathroom.



Once I'd settled in I walked up Kelly's Steps to Battery Point, passing by this art installation.



I stayed in Battery Point during my second visit to Hobart about 20 years ago and fell in love with the place then. If money was no object I'd love to buy one of the beautiful places I walked past.



I roamed the streets doing a self guided walk.



The flowers were in bloom.



I walked past mansions and cottages down to the waterfront.



You can take a sculpture walk around Battery Point.



The next day I collected a hire car and drove south to Huon Valley, an apple growing region.



Tasmania is not called the Apple Isle for no reason.



I stopped by the side of the road to take a few photos of these apple trees at Lucaston Park Orchards.



I have plenty more photos to share, so I'll be back later in the week with Part II of my trip to Hobart.

See you all again soon.

Bye for now,

Jillian


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summer pudding - xmas week 2019

23 Dec 2019



Welcome to the final post for Xmas week 2019. I had my first taste of summer pudding many moons ago, whilst in London. My sister and I had dinner at a local french restaurant and we ordered the set menu. One of the dessert choices was summer pudding which I ordered and I've been a fan ever since.



If you're not a fan of Christmas pudding this sets the tone for Christmas and you can enjoy all the summer berries available in the shops. In some ways, we're pretty lucky that Christmas falls in summer.



I wouldn't call making a summer pudding 'cooking' as its more an assemblage. You need to plan ahead though as the pudding needs to be put together the day before serving. The end result depends on the quality of the ingredients used - a sturdy loaf of white bread and the freshest berries you can find. You can certainly use some frozen berries, but you mainly need fresh berries or else the pudding will be so mushy you won't be able to cut a neat slice. I used 100g frozen raspberries and 60g of frozen blackberries in the mixture, saving the fresh berries for the topping. 



Here’s the recipe for you which needs to be made the day before serving. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. You will need a pudding basin or large bowl to make this recipe or you could use a loaf tin.



Summer pudding
250g strawberries
125g blueberries
125g blackberries
250g raspberries
125g redcurrants (if unavailable make up with another berry)
1 vanilla bean
½ -⅔ cup caster sugar 
1-2 tbs water
1 day old white loaf, crusts removed, cut into 1 cm slices. You’ll need about 8 slices.
Butter for greasing
To decorate - mixed berries
To serve - 200 gm double cream

Method
Hull the strawberries and halve or quarter if large. If using red currants remove the currants from their stems by using the tines of a fork.  Rinse the berries in cold water, removing any damaged berries.

Put the berries into a large saucepan with ½ cup sugar, vanilla bean and water then place over a medium heat for about 3-4 minutes to allow the sugar to dissolve and the juices to run a little from the berries. Remove the pan from the heat. It’s important not to cook the berries too much or they will become too mushy. Allow the mixture to cool; discard the vanilla bean then strain the mixture through a fine sieve to separate the fruit from the berry juices. Test the berries for sweetness and add a little more sugar to taste. 

Lightly grease a pudding basin and line the bowl with 2 large pieces of cling film allowing some overhang. From one bread slice, cut out a round large enough to fit pudding bowl base and place in the bowl. Cut 4 bread slices in half diagonally to form triangles and cut 4 slices in half vertically to form rectangles. Lay the sliced bread around the sides overlapping a little, press the bread into the sides of the bowl with your hands so you really make a seal. Patch any gaps with pieces of bread.

Once the mould is lined with bread, spoon the cooled berries into centre and press gently down to level, then spoon half the berry liquid over, reserving the remaining liquid. You can trim any excess bread with a pair of kitchen scissors at this stage. Completely cover the top of the pudding with more pieces of bread, then fold the plastic wrap over to seal the pudding and rest a plate that fits directly on the bread (inside the bowl) and place a weight on top to compress the pudding. Place in the fridge for about twenty-four hours. 




When ready to serve, uncover the top of the pudding then turn the pudding out onto a serving plate, removing the cling film. Use a pastry brush to soak any bits of bread that still look white with some of the reserved juice. Top with the extra berries and some of the reserved syrup. Cut the pudding into slices and serve with the cream. I had some left over crème madame from the fruit mince Paris-Brest and served it with my slice of pudding and it was so delicious.

Well that was the last post for Xmas Week 2019 and my last post for the year. I'm taking 4 weeks leave so I'm not sure when I'll be posting again. Until I do, wishing you the happiest of holidays and see you all again in 2020.

Bye for now,

Jillian

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