Life would be dull with out cake

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Life would be dull with out cake. I try to eat it only on occasion, and some times I manage, other times I can’t help myself. I need cake in my life. It makes me happy.

A good recipe should be shared and this one already has been. I learnt this recipe from a chef I worked with, at Zinc cafe, many years ago. She was a great baker and engaging mentor and helped set me on the path to understanding the science of baking.  This cake has also featured in the magazine I write recipes for because it’s too good to keep to myself.  I’ve baked this coconut lime and ginger cake so many times now I’ve lost count. That’s a good thing.

 

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Baking is a learnt skill and one that needs to be practised. When I first started my chef apprenticeship I was terrible at baking.  I knew  the bare essentials. My cakes often flopped and my pastry always shrunk. There wasn’t the opportunity, in a busy kitchen, to learn on the job. I had to teach myself. I studied Stephanie Alexanders “The cooks companion” in my early days of learning how to bake. Her encyclopaedic book contains many excellent recipes. And over time with some disasters came successes.  I discovered the joy of pulling a well-risen cake from the oven and of making pastry that was flaky and buttery and didn’t shrink. So for those out there who don’t bake, have perseverance, it’s a worthy skill to master.

 

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I love the large chunks of ginger, on this cake, they give a burst of pepper flavoured zing. You could grate the ginger instead of slicing it, so it’s finer and less punchy. Thanks to the ginger and lime syrup, the cake keeps moist for several days. I keep it in the fridge and on day two and three give it a quick zap in the microwave to soften it up again. Double cream is optional but not necessary.

 

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Coconut lime and ginger syrup cake

Ingredients

For the cake

190g butter, softened

280g (1 ¼ cups) caster sugar

1 lime zested

4 eggs

3 cups desiccated coconut

150g (1 cup) self raising flour, sifted

1/2 cup sour cream

For the syrup

2 limes, zested and juiced

50g ginger, peeled and sliced thinly

1/2 cup caster sugar

1/4  cup  water

 

Pre heat oven to 170C or 150C fan forced. Line a 23cm spring form cake tin with baking paper.

 

Cream butter, sugar and zest of 1 lime till pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time beating between additions; scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl during additions of egg.

 

Add coconut, flour and sour cream; beat till combined. Spoon cake mix into lined tin and smooth the surface to flatten and level cake. Bake in the oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven and set aside whilst making syrup.

 

Place all ingredients for syrup in a small saucepan, bring to the boil and cook for 1 minute. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Whilst syrup and cake are still warm, spoon the syrup evenly over the top of entire cake. Allow syrup to soak into cake, and cake to cool before slicing.

Chermoula Roasted Chicken

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I first tasted the delicious flavours of chermoula in a sea side town in Morocco. The restaurant I dined in served a fish tagine that was laden with the zesty, herb flavoured marinade.  I loved it.

When I returned home, I was obsessed with making chermoula. I began preserving my own lemons and whizzing up a batch of this North African marinade each time guests were coming for dinner.

Back then, I often cooked vegetables with chermoula . I’d combine root vegetables – swede, carrot, turnip – with capsicum and chickpeas and toss the whole lot with chermoula. They would then simmer gently in a tagine with a little vegetable stock.

But this is the story of chicken… And how to roast a Moroccan flavoured chicken. So for the chermoula…

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The all-important ingredient for chermoula is preserved lemons. They are dead simple to preserve yourself, click HERE for the recipe.

You can buy preserved lemons, and for some that might be preferred. But they tend to be expensive for a meagre amount. The jar I stuffed with lemons and set aside to preserve a few weeks back are ready to use.

Once you have your preserved lemons, the paste is straight forward – garlic, chilli, parsley, coriander stem, cumin, smoked paprika, saffron, and oil. I like to use a mortar and pestle to make my paste, i find it therapeutic,  but for the time-poor, a food processor is quick and easy.

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I use the Portuguese technique for roasting my chicken – cut it down the back bone and roast it flat. A sharp pair of kitchen scissors will do the job, yet if this sounds too hard, ask your butcher to do it for you.

Cooking the chicken this way keeps the breast moist and succulent.

Once the chicken is coated with chermoula, under the skin and on top, the marinade needs time to work its magic. I recommend marinating over night, but if you really can’t wait, or have left the menu planning to the last minute, 4 hours marinating will be sufficient.

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The juices from the tray make an excellent sauce, and a bowl of couscous is the perfect accompaniment.

Chermoula roasted chicken

Ingredients

1 x free range chicken

1 x fresh lemon, sliced into rounds

For the chermoula

pinch of saffron threads

1 preserved lemon

½ cup roughly chopped parsley, plus extra for garnishing

¼ cup chopped coriander stems

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large red chilli, de seeded and chopped

2 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp hot smoked paprika

1 tsp sea salt

large pinch cracked black pepper

50ml grape seed oil, or pure olive oil

Place saffron in a small bowl with 1 tbsp boiling water, set aside to soak for 5 minutes.

Cut the preserved lemon in quarters; use a sharp knife to cut away the pulp and white pith, discard. Slice the rind into a rough dice.

Place all ingredients for chermoula except saffron and oil into a mortar and pestle, pound and grind till mix resembles a paste (about 5 minutes) – there will still be some chunks of preserved lemon.  If using a food processor blitz till well combined. Add saffron soaked water and oil, and stir till combined.

Cut the chicken down the back bone using a sharp pair of kitchen scissors and press firmly on the back to flatten the chook, or ask your butcher to do this.  Lay the cut rounds of fresh lemon in a baking tray and place the chicken, skin side up, on top of the lemons.

Place your fingers under the skin of the chicken taking care not to rip the skin.  Create a pocket between the flesh and the skin by gently separating the skin from the flesh.  Do this on the leg pieces as well. Take half the marinade and rub it under the skin, smoother as much of the flesh with the marinade as you can. Take the remaining marinade and rub the out side of the chicken. Marinate overnight, or if you’re in a hurry for at least 4 hours.

 

Remove chicken from refrigerator half an hour before cooking.  Sprinkle chicken generously with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Pre heat oven to 200C,  or 180C fan forced. Roast chicken for 1 hour, baste with juices half way through. Remove from oven and set aside for 10 minutes before cutting chicken into pieces. Skim the fat off the juices left in the cooking pan and spoon the juices over chicken. Serve with couscous and chopped fresh parsley.

 

Fast couscous – serves 4

Ingredients

1 cup couscous

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 cup boiling vegetable stock

Sea salt and cracked black pepper

Place cous cous in a medium bowl, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover with boiling stock, stir, and stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

 

Ten tips for the perfect omelette

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Here’ ten tips to consider when attempting the perfect omelette –  

  • Use fresh free range eggs (or next best, cage free) 
  • Whisk the eggs till just combined (don’t over whisk)
  • Use cream or water – not milk as it burns
  • Season the eggs with salt right before cooking (not earlier as the salt breaks down the proteins)
  • Use half olive oil and half butter to cook the omelette 
  • Pour egg mix into a hot pan
  • Use a wooden spoon to slowly drag the egg from one side of the pan to the other, allow the raw egg to fill the empty space then stop stirring. 
  • Fold the omelette to one corner of the pan and tip straight from the fry pan to the plate
  • Keep the ingredients simple and limit it to 2-3 ingredients 
  • Don’t over cook the it. 

 

 

The good egg awards and the omelette cook off

 

I was surprised, and rather flattered, when I received a call from Kate, from the RSPCA (Australia’s leading animal welfare charity), asking if I’d donate my time to compete in an omelette cook off.

Kate was organising the award ceremony for the Good egg awards, an initiative to encourage businesses to use eggs that come from cage-free-chickens. When she told me, that in Australia alone, there’s still 11 million chickens being kept in cages for egg laying, and that big businesses were still using these eggs in so many different products on the market, I knew I wanted to support the cause and encourage others to use cage free eggs. 

She wanted the cook off to be fun. We’d be using cage-free-eggs and cooking an omelette of our choice. 

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The contestants were introduced. There were giggles and hand shakes. Omelette making techniques were discussed, but secrets not shared. 

The judges, Dan and Steph from MKR (a popular reality cooking show) were there to taste our omelettes and possibly make us feel slightly nervous. Who me? 

Eggs were gathered, ingredients hoarded, the timer was ticking…

I wanted the ingredients to be simple. It had to be healthy. Spinach…feta… and herbs, that’s it!

Whew, times up. Spatulas down! Time to taste test. Yum!

 

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Spinach and feta omelette

 

Ingredients

2 free range eggs

1 tbsp thickened cream

Sea salt and cracked black pepper

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp butter

4 English spinach leaves, picked,washed and sliced thinly

A small piece of feta, crumbled

Snip of chives or parsley, chopped

 

Place eggs, cream, salt and pepper in a small bowl, whisk briefly till just combined.

Heat a medium fry pan with oil, once hot add butter, swirl pan till butter froths. Immediately add egg mixture. Use a wooden spoon to slowly drag the egg from one side of the pan to the other, allow the raw egg to fill the empty space. Repeat this process one more time from the opposite side of the pan. At this point turn the heat down. Scatter omelette with spinach and crumbled feta.

Fold one side of the omelette to the centre, then fold the other side to the centre. Use a spatula to flip omelette, keeping it rolled in it’s cylinder shape. Cook a further 30 seconds. Take the handle of the pan in your left hand and flip the omelette straight on to a plate. Sprinkle with chopped chives and cracked pepper. Eat immediately.