Having a (sausage) roll of a time

Life’s been so hectic since July that I’ve been just been cooking by rote and not thinking so much about it. But things are starting to settle down so I will try to post more!
Here’s our current fave to get back into the swing of things
party party party sausage rolls

You will need:
250 g beef mince
250 g pork or sausage mince
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 small zucchini, grated
Breadcrumbs made from two pieces of stale bread
1 egg
1/4 c tomato sauce
1 tbsp BBQ sauce
3 sheets puff pastry, slightly thawed
1 egg, extra, beaten

1. Preheat oven to 190C. Grease a baking tray
2. In a bowl, mix together all ingredients except the pastry and extra egg. It works best if you use your hands!
3. Cut each piece of pastry in half long ways so you have 6 pieces of pastry
4. In the middle, parallel to the long side of the pastry, place your mince mixture, shaped as a log.
5. Roll pastry up. The edges must overlap, so you get a long thin sausage roll. Cut into 6 or 8 pieces and place on baking tray. Repeat til everything is used up.
6. Brush the tops of your mini sausage rolls with the beaten egg. Place in oven for 20-25 mins or until golden.

Nb. Low fat pastry doesn’t cook as nicely as regular pastry, and also falls apart a bit, as my photo shows!

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Experimentation: banana, date and maple syrup loaf

As you may have surmised, I’m being tempted by the ‘sweet poison’ movement. Not totally swayed, but intrigued. Personally, I think that everything in moderation is good. But having said that, I am a total sweet tooth and so, in an attempt not to replicate that in my children and also as an attempt to not develop diabetes, I have been taking active steps to cut down on my processed sugar consumption.

At first, I thought the whole no sugar movement was unfathomable. Nothing sweet ever again? No way. But then I flicked through Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar’ cookbook at my friend’s place and realised that it’s not about eliminating everything sweet from your life, but rather about replacing the high fructose, processed sugars with stuff that… um… is not (processed, that is).

So with that in mind, I share with you my latest creation. Someone else may have designed this recipe elsewhere, but I haven’t seen it. I say this because I recently read an outraged food blogger talking about how their recipes had been ‘stolen’ (posted without credit) by other bloggers. (You’ll notice that I tend to attribute my inspiration and sources, must be the academic coming out). My friend Resa was telling me the other day about a ‘life loaf’, which is basically a type of seedy, fruity, nutty bread filled with lots of good stuff and no bad stuff. I really like the idea of it but, when I looked in my cupboard, realised that I wasn’t in a position to attempt it. However, we did have a big box of medjool dates and some very ripe bananas, so I went from there. Apologies in advance but I can’t post pictures right now, but things should be good shortly…

Banana, date and maple loaf

You will need:

1 overflowing cup of dates, chopped coarsely

1 cup water

90 g butter, margarine or (probably but I haven’t tried it) coconut oil

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 eggs

1 3/4 cups self-raising flour, sifted (as usual, I used gluten-free flour)

2 ripe bananas, mashed

1. Preheat your oven to 180C. Line a loaf tin (I never bother with greasing it, cos I love that baking paper stuff)

2. In a medium saucepan, put dates and water. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring regularly, until they go thick and jam-like. I like to leave it at about the thickness of thick yoghurt (not too runny, but not toooo thick).

3. Stir in the butter. The dates are nice and hot, so it should melt pretty quickly. Stir it well. Let it cool for a little while.

4. Working quickly, add the maple syrup. Then add the eggs and beat them in. If you go too slowly, they’ll start to cook. Not such a big bad deal but if you can make sure that they are spread through the date mix before that happens.

5. Stir in the flour and mashed bananas. The mix should be pretty thick by now, but not so the spoon will stand up in the mix. If it does, add about 1/4 cup of milk, or enough to make the mix like a fairly stiff cake batter. When I post my photos, you should get a sense of how you want it to look.

6. Pour it into the prepared tin and place in oven. Bake for about 60-70 minutes or until it’s lovely and brown. Please note that if you stick a skewer in to test the cake, it won’t come out perfectly clean; this is a pretty dense cake.

7. Eat it! It’s especially nice when it’s hot but if you cut it into fairly small pieces, it’s delicious when cold too.

As an aside, I thought my kids would turn their noses up at this – but they, and our neighbour’s kids, couldn’t get enough of it. I guess it was sweet enough!

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When your world’s a-crazed, try spaghetti bolognese

Things have been a bit silent here at Imprecision Kitchen as we have been in Spain! Italy! England! which has been great fun but not so productive in the kitchen. While we were away however, I got some really great ideas about things to try – and which I will share here in the next few weeks. But first, I thought I would go back to basics here and share with you my first ‘returning home’ recipe – spaghetti bolognese. Everyone has their own comfort food, and this is one of my boys’ favourites, especially after three weeks of trying new things. We have this sauce with spaghetti, spirals, gnocchi, ravioli, baked potatoes… it’s pretty versatile. It’s also perfect to adapt to meet your own tastes!

Rel’s spaghetti bolognese

You will need:

500 g minced beef (although it also works pretty well with other meats, or a combination)

1 small onion, diced finely

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 stick celery, chopped finely

1/2 (or 1 small) zucchini, chopped finely or grated

1 carrot, chopped finely or grated

a few mushrooms (optional), chopped

1x 440g can tomato soup (you can instead choose to use crushed tomatoes, but I find that this makes it a bit richer – mum style!)

1 x 700g jar of tomato passata

1 bay leaf

1 tbsp mixed dried herbs

water

olive oil

1. In a pan with a little olive oil, add garlic, onion and celery. Cook over medium heat until brown. Add the mince and stir until brown.

2. Add all other ingredients; if it looks a bit dry, add some water. Let it simmer together for 30 minutes or more (the longer the better).

3. Serve over pasta, rice, potato or whatever.

Pretty simple, hey? Enjoy!

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Fruit stew cookie slice: no cane sugar play time food

My eldest son, H, is really into stew. This doesn’t necessarily translate to eating stew (although he is a bit partial to a goulash-style beef casserole) but he is right into the idea of it. He used to like helping me with the baking, but no longer, not unless it involves stew. I think this is because baking really just involves measuring and stirring (for his part), with the occasional egg-cracking. But in his mind, the wonder that is stew involves peeling, chopping, slicing, grating, all of the tough stuff that involves knives and which only big kids can do. Therefore, it is an irresistible proposition for him.

Usually I try to do some sort of cooking activity with H after I put the Bubaloo down for his nap; this gives us about 1.5 hours to do something fun. But lately H has been disinterested in baking with me – I lose out to the iPad (nap time means there is no competition for him). This week, the sound of a knife chopping vegetables was irresistible and it called him to the kitchen. I was preparing ingredients for pea and ham soup (I’ll post that recipe in a separate post, as it’s still on the stove – again, there is a back story), and H came in ‘Mummy, can I make something?’ ‘Sure, what do you want to make?’ ‘Stew!’ ‘Ok. What shall we start with?’ ‘Bananas’… So, it was never going to be an ordinary or traditional type of stew…

Three ripe bananas went into a bowl, then he got out the potato masher to give them a good squash. This kind of worked, but then he decided that stew needed more than one ingredient. ‘Muuummm! It needs apple. I want to squash some apple.’ After explaining that raw apple doesn’t really mash well, we decided to do some peeling and grating. After having an (aborted) attempt at peeling, then instructing me through the grating, followed by stirring the apple and banana together, it was decided that this was too onerous and playing with Lego was a better option. So off he went…

This left me with a quandary: what to do with the apple/banana ‘stew’? And so I decided to try and turn it into something. I just thought I’d experiment with different textures and flavours, with the aim of making something for afternoon tea. About halfway through, I asked H what he felt like: cookies or slice. And so ‘cookie slice’ was born.

I hope you like it. I think it was super delicious when it was warm from the oven, but then my partner came home and scoffed a ton of it after work (when it was cool) so I think it’s good either way. Oh, and the best part? There’s no added sugar!

Fruit stew cookie slice

You will need:

3 ripe bananas, mashed

1 apple, grated (I used a large granny smith)

1 c. rolled oats

1 3/4 c. plain flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 c currants (any dried fruit would do)

1/2 c coconut (I used shaved because that’s all I had)

1/2 c chocolate melts (I used white chocolate; optional or replaceable with dates)

60 g butter

2 tbsp rice malt or maple syrup

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tbsp boiling water

1. Preheat your oven to 180C

2. Put all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and stir in apple and banana. Mix as well as you can – it will probably look a bit clumpy.

3. In a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat together with the rice malt syrup. When it’s melted, in a small cup, put bicarb soda then pour over the water. It’ll bubble a bit. Stir it into the butter mix; it will go quite frothy.

4. Stir into the dry ingredients until well combined. If it’s too wet, add a touch more flour.

5. Spoon into a lined slice tray. Smooth over the top.

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6. Bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes or until it’s brown on top. The inside will stay quite moist because of the high fruit content.

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7. Serve warm or cool.

New babies, tricky toddlers, and hungry adults: Yummy scrummy muesli cookies…

A few weeks ago, I was visiting my parents in the ‘country’. I say ‘country’ and not country because they aren’t really anywhere really rural, but rather they live in a small town on the beach – but it’s hours (and hours… and hours, if you ask my kids) of driving away. Because it’s so far away, we only get down there a few times a year (it is hard to deal with seven hours of ‘how many minutes til we are at Nan’s?’ ‘I’m bored/tired/my legs are sore’ or general ‘waaaaaahhhhh’. This means that when we are there, I try to catch up with lots of people – even though I moved out of home over 20 years ago (gulp!), I still have friends in my home town; my siblings also all live nearby. This last visit, I was lucky to meet a brand new baby; he was actually 2 or 3 weeks old, but had been born a few weeks early, so it was near enough to brand new in my estimation. Of course, the Bubaloo doesn’t like me even touching other babies, so I just got to admire from afar, but the new one was delicious anyway. My youngest sister, TK, got a group of our friends with little ones together for a play (toddlers and preschoolers) and chitty chat (mums and dads) over morning tea.

One of the things with brand new babies is that they don’t sleep much – or at least, they don’t sleep much when they are meant to (like in the night) but then sleep lots when you want them awake. So mummies and daddies end up pretty tired, and therefore a pick-me-up is in order. If you’re breastfeeding, like TK, the new mum and I, the challenge is finding something that’s going to do the trick and give you a little energy boost, without being terribly bad for you or the baby. While coke or coffee might help with the energy spurt for mum, the same energy boost isn’t great for baby. I’m not sure about other breastfeeding mums but I have found that, when I’m nursing, I have a ridiculous sweet tooth, even more than at other times. As sugar isn’t really that great for you, I try to find other ways to satisfy the sugar craving without having a ton of the white stuff. That’s where these cookies come in.

This recipe is a true adaptation of one in a Woman’s Weekly cookbook. Many things have been substituted – I’ve included the original ingredients in parentheses in case you prefer that – as I was trying to ensure that it was low sugar, nut free, and that they would use everyday ingredients that I could find in my mum’s pantry. Since we got home, I’ve made them about once a week; they never last very long. As soon as my partner sees them, his eyes light up and he chomps down about six of them without drawing breath. I hope you find them as good as he does!

Yum Scrum Muesli Cookies

You will need:

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup gluten-free plain flour (you can use any sort of flour you have)

1/3 cup caster sugar (the original recipe uses 1 cup)

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 cup sultanas or mixed dried fruit (or dried cranberries)

2/3 cup shredded coconut (I used this in place of most of the sugar)

1/3 cup finely chopped dried apricots

1/2 cup pepitas / pumpkin seeds (or slivered almonds)

125g butter

2 tbsp pure maple syrup (or golden syrup)

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tbsp boiling water

1. Preheat oven to 150C. Line oven trays with baking paper.

2. Combine oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, dried fruit, coconut and pepitas in a large bowl.

3. Melt butter with maple syrup over low heat. In a small cup, combine bicarb soda and boiling water, then add to the butter mix. It will go a little bubbly. Next stir this into the dry ingredients (it should still be warm).

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4. Roll tablespoons of mixture into balls (don’t be too fussy about making them perfect), place on trays about 5 cm apart and flatten slightly with your fingers.

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5. Bake for about 20 minutes. Let cool on trays before you eat them – if you try to eat them while they are warm, they’ll just fall apart in your hands (trust me on this!)

Then let Mr Kookaburra watch you all gobble them up 😉Image

Seasonal pizza topping: fig and caramelised onion

Sometimes it’s nice to do things a bit differently! This weekend, I used the last of the figs and put them on a pizza. The result? Sweet bursts of flavour! An experimental success. To make them, I used the pizza bases from my January post and topped it as follows:

1 large onion, sliced finely and fried slowly until it became caramelised
5 (or more) figs, trimmed and cut into quarters
Sprig of rosemary
A good handful of mozzarella, grated

Note: this is for a half batch of pizza. You may need to double the quantities here if you are using a full batch of pizza dough

First, you make the pizza base and roll it out
Next, spread the onion out over the base
Place the fig pieces all over the base, then sprinkle with the rosemary (leaves removed from stem)
Lastly, sprinkle cheese over the top.
Cook in a hot oven (~220c) for 15-20 mins or until browned

Enjoy!

PS. You’ll notice that I did a half-half pizza. Good way to keep everyone smiling!

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