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Friday, September 27, 2013

Strawberry shortcake cookie cake

Strawberries are in season, the sun is shining, it's out with the winter-warmer puds and in with fruity freshness. I love pavlovas and I love meringue but I wanted to try something new and fun. 'Cookie cakes' are a massive, new trend in the patisserie world and I came up with a really quick and easy way to make a cookie cake using Sasko Quick Treats Cookie mix, I'm calling it a 'Strawberry shortcake cookie cake'.

What's great about it is that, unlike a pavlova, you can make it a few hours before eating and even the day before if you like - just store it in an airtight container in the fridge and, if making the day before, brush the strawberries with some melted jam so they don't dry out.

Strawberry shortcake cookie cake

1 500g Packet Sasko Quick Treats Cookie Mix
140g butter (at room temp)
1 extra large egg (at room temp)
500ml cream
1 vanilla pod
2 tbsp icing sugar
200g cream cheese (at room temp)
600g Strawberries

Preheat oven to 180*C.
Line and grease 2 baking trays.
Pour the Sasko Cookie mix into a mixing bowl and rub the butter/margarine into the mix by hand.
Whisk the egg before adding to the cookie mix and combine with a wooden spoon – making use of your hands to ensure that all ingredients are combined to form a dough.
Divide the dough into 2 equally-sized balls.
Using your hands, shape the balls into large biscuit disks that are 15cm wide, with a thickness of 1cm. Carefully transfer them to the separate baking trays, making sure there is space on all sides of the cookie for it to expand as it bakes, and bake for 14-16 minutes until golden brown around the edges.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream until soft peaks form.
Scrape the seeds from a vanilla pod and add to the cream with the sugar and cream cheese. Beat until well combined and stiff peaks form.
Wash, pat dry and slice strawberries.

To assemble:
Place the first biscuit disk on a cake platter/plate. Spread with half the cream topping and top with half of the cut strawberries.
Gently place the second biscuit disk on top of the strawberries and finish with the remaining cream topping and strawberries.
Dust with icing sugar if desired.

Tip 1: If the biscuit disks stick to your work surface as you are shaping them, use a sharp knife to slice under them and lift them off.
Tip 2:  Be careful not to overwork your dough, overworked dough will result in tough cookies, this is why we suggest rubbing the butter into the cookie mix with your hands rather than using a food processor.
Tip 3: It generally takes 10-15 minutes to preheat your oven, never put any baked good into an oven that has not reached the correct temperature, as it will affect the end result.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Chickpea, courgette and mint salad

And the healthiness continues with another tasty salad, again, sans the lettuce:

2 of my dearest friends rate salads on the ratio between lettuce and the other ingredients - the ratio needing to be heavier on the 'other ingredients' side. For the most part I have to agree, lettuce can be very overrated and is most often used as a filler instead of actually adding anything of substance to the dish - having said that a classic Ceasar salad that uses tasty cos perfectly paired with creamy dressing and croutons is another story altogether. My point is: we should see lettuce as we do any other ingredient in a salad, and, if you don't think it will mix well with the others, well then leave it out.

So with that, why not have a go at my:

Chickpea, courgette and mint salad

400g courgettes
olive oil and salt and pepper
400g chickpeas
hand full fresh mint
200g feta

1 tbsp cumin seeds
3 tbsp lemon juice
pinch salt
5 tbsp olive oil

Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan until just beginning to brown, then remove and set aside.
Using a peeler, slice the courgettes into ribbons, then fry in batches with a little olive oil and salt and pepper until browned and softened. Set aside to cool.
Once the courgettes have cooled, place them in a bowl with the chickpeas and mint.
To make the dressing, simply whisk the dressing ingredients together until emulsified.
Pour over chickpeas and courgettes and stir well to combine.
Lastly, crumble in feta and stir through once more.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Beetroot tarte tatin

A little bit of a cheeky something that I am sure the traditionalists would frown upon, but it was delicious so I don't care. I adore beetroot and it works marvelously as the basis for this tarte, add to that some gorgeously creamy mascarpone and peppery microherbs and I say you have the perfect lunch!

Beetroot tarte tatin

1kg beetroot (peeled, washed and halved)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
50g butter
a few sprigs of thyme
1 roll puff pastry
200g mascarpone/cream cheese
microherbs and rocket to serve

(You will need to use a 23cm cake tin that can be placed on a hot stove or an oven-proof frying pan)
Either boil or steam the beetroot until just tender, then drain and set aside to cool slightly.
Preheat your oven to 200*C.
Roll the pastry out and cut it into a circle just a little larger than the cake tin/frying pan you are using.
Place the cake tin/frying pan on high heat, pour in the sugar and swirl the pan every now and then as the sugar begins to dissolve, turn the heat down slightly and continue swirling until the sugar caramelises and turns a golden brown. Take the caramel slightly further to a 'caramel' colour (haha) and then (it is best to put on an oven glove for this part) carefully pour in the balsamic and add the butter, it might splash a little so do be careful, and continue to swirl until it has all come together.
Remove from the heat and carefully place the beetroot halves into the pan, flat-side-up, in a circular pattern.
Top with thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper and then carefully lay the pastry over the beets, tucking in the edges like a blanket.
Poke the top of the pastry and bake for 30 minutes.
Allow the tart to cool in the pan/tin for 5 minutes, then, being very careful once again, and wearing oven gloves again, slide a knife around the edges to loosen the tart, place a large plate over the pan/tin and, holding the two very tightly together, flip them over so that the tart falls into the plate.
Allow to cool before topping with spoonfuls of mascarpone and scatterings of microherbs.
If you like, drizzle with a little olive oil before serving.