Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Actually Banana Banana Bread

Sorry, didn't take a photo of the bread itself
While the oven was hot from baking the pasty for the Kangaroo and Stout Pie on the weekend I took the opportunity to bake some banana bread using a bunch of very ripe bananas we had lying around.

The big problem I had was that none of the recipes I had used enough bananas, and I've been disappointed recently with café banana breads that have had almost no flavour. So I scoured the Internet to find the recipe that used the most bananas. Some use only two, some only one! So here it is, a recipe by John Barrowman from bbc.co.uk, the four-banana bread!

  • 285g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 110g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 85ml buttermilk (or normal milk mixed with 1½ tsp lemon juice or vinegar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC
  2. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk and vanilla extract to the butter and sugar mixture and mix well. Fold in (mix, but don't overmix) the flour mixture.
  5. The recipe says to use a 20cm x 12.5cm loaf tin but I used two shallower 20cm tins and I think the lower loaves result in more ... reasonable serving portions (also the baking is much simpler.) Grease the tin(s) if they're not non-stick and pour in the batter.
  6. Transfer to the oven and bake for about an hour, or until well-risen and golden-brown.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.
Having recently heard about flour-less banana pancakes I can't help but wonder how far the banana quantity could be pushed...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Kangaroo and Stout Pie

It's Australia Day here. I thought for a while about what I should cook. Initially I was going to cook individual beef pies - a very Aussie snack - but in the end I settled on a single larger Kangaroo pie because it'd let me consolidate my larger pie making a little. This recipe is adapted from sbs.com.au with my own variation - double pastry or a full case (or "pot pie" as Americans call it - something I just learned.) I've adapted the shortcrust pastry recipe from the Lemon Meringue Pie by removing the sugar and lowering the butter content just a little.

I was going to make it a Kangaroo and Emu pie, but I was overruled.

  • 500g kangaroo fillets
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stick, diced
  • 375ml bottle Coopers stout
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 200g button mushrooms, stalks removed and halved
  • 4 tbsps plain flour
  • Olive oil
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 225g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour
  • 110g unsalted butter, chilled, chopped
  • iced water (enough for 2-4 tbsp)
For Construction
  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 23cm pie dish
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten for wash
  1. Chop kangaroo fillets and dust in flour. Heat 2 tbsps of olive oil in the pan. Brown the meat in batches and set aside.
  2. Finely dice the onions, carrot, and celery. Add more olive oil to the pan. Cook for around 10 minutes until soft and add sliced garlic.
  3. Add meat and vegetables to a pot and add the stout. Top up with beef stock and a splash of Worcestershire sauce. Reduce and simmer for an hour and a half until meat softens. Leave the lid off for about half an hour so the gravy reduces. If necessary add a little more flour to thicken it more. Add mushrooms about 15 minutes before cooking time is up.
  4. While that's going, make the pastry case. This uses the same method as the pastry from the Lemon Meringue Pie. That should take about an hour.
  5. Once the filling's simmering is done, add a teaspoon of tomato paste and thyme leaves. Add more tomato paste if you like it a bit sweeter. Then transfer mixture to the pie dish.
  6. Increase oven to 200°C. Cover with the puff pastry, trim, cut some vent holes in the pastry and brush egg wash over the top. Bake the pie in the oven for 20 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
  7. Serve with garlic mashed potatoes.
With an appropriate cooking pot you could do all of steps 1-3 in the same pot. I had to work with two. Also, while making this I realised I didn't have any tomato paste, so ended up cooking it with none and the recipe was fine. I think it would've been nicer with the tomato paste though, so I've left it in the ingredients.

It was pretty delicious and the roo was nice and soft after the long cook.

I also baked some really yummy banana bread along the way since the oven was already hot :-) Maybe I'll post that recipe some time too...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tarte Tatin (Apple Tart)

This week I wanted to make an apple pie. One with a full case - shortcrust pastry around the bottom and puff pastry on the top (rough puff preferably.) When I started poking around my cook books though I found I didn't have a recipe that even came close. Searching the Internets came up pretty unsatisfactory too - the recipes were either overly complex or used the wrong sort of pastry.

Tarte Tatin
Tarte Tatin
After venting my frustration (OK, mentioning in passing that I was having no luck) Rachel suggested that I just make a Tarte Tatin instead. I've previously made the one from the Phaidon text The Art of French Baking but was disappointed in the result (as with so many recipes I've made from that book) so I went back the Internet again. Fortunately the Taste website very quickly presented me with a pretty promising recipe. So, here it is, adapted from taste.com.au.

  • 5 large granny smith apples
  • 75g unsalted butter, chopped
  • 165g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
Shortcrust pastry
  • 225g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour
  • 2 tbs caster sugar
  • 125g unsalted butter, chilled, chopped
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • iced water (enough for 2-4 tsp)
  1. To make pastry, combine flour and sugar in a bowl. Add butter and rub into flour and sugar using your fingertips until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre and add egg and 2 tsp iced water. Using a dinner knife, combine until a rough dough forms, then, using your hands, bring together until it forms a ball. If it's still crumbly add another 1-2 tsp water. Shape into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Don't overwork pastry or add too much water otherwise it will toughen and shrink when cooking.
  2. Meanwhile, peel each apple and cut in half, then cut each half into 3 wedges and cut out the core.
  3. Melt butter in cast-iron frying pan over low–medium heat. Stir in the sugar to mix. Cook, swirling pan occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the mixture is bubbling (don’t worry if the sugar looks crystallised in the pan.) Remove from heat and place apple wedges in 2 neat, concentric, tight-fitting circles over base of pan. It's important to tightly pack apples into the base of the pan, even if you have a few overlapping. The apples will reduce in size when cooked. Return pan to medium heat so the liquid bubbles and cook for 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat and cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 180C. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface so it's round and about 4-5mm thick. Cut into a neat circle about 1-2cm wider than your pan's base. Place pastry over cooled apples and push gently down with a wooden spoon around the edge of pan. That extra bit forms a wall around the tart when it's inverted. Bake for 40 minutes or until pastry is deep golden.
  5. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a large plate. Allow to cool further so the liquid sets a little. Serve warm or at room temperature with creme fraiche or vanilla ice-cream or just as it is.
Note that in my photo above you might be able to see that the pastry was cut too large and ran back up the sides of the pan. In hindsight I should have trimmed it further once it was in the pan and I could see it was too big.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Chicken Pie

I decided to go savoury this week. I spent a bunch of time trying to figure out which savoury filling I wanted and eventually settled on a chicken pie.

Chicken Pie
Chicken Pie
I couldn't find a recipe that matched what I had in my head so I cobbled together some bits and pieces from a number of sources. The pastry recipe is adapted with my own notes from Stephanie Alexander's "the cook's companion."

Crust pastry (rough puff)
  • 180g unsalted butter (remove from fridge 30 minutes before using)
  • 240g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 400g chicken mince
  • brown onion
  • carrots, zucchini, whatever else you'd like but not too much
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • plain flour
For construction
  • 23cm pie dish
  • Buy some puff pastry. You need one sheet.
  • 1 egg, separated
Pastry Method
  1. Sift flour onto bench. Chop butter into little pieces over flour. Mix around lightly.
  2. Make a well in the center for the water. Mix water with the flour with a pastry scraper until combined but still rough and lumpy.
  3. Smear the dough away from you across the bench with the palm of your hand. You want chunks of butter spread out in the dough so don't mix too well.
  4. Gather it back together into a ball, flatten into a disk and cover with plastic.
  5. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or more.
  6. Preheat oven to 200ºC
  7. When it's time to use the dough, roll it out with flour sprinkled over it (generously if necessary) until it's a roundish shape bigger than your pie dish. You're aiming for about 4mm thickness. Place in pie dish, gently press into corners and trim off excess. The pastry will shrink a little during baking.
  8. Prick the base of the pie shell, cover with baking paper and weigh down with baking weights (or rice or whatever you have.)
  9. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the weights and bake an additional 15 minutes.
Pie method
  1. Brown the onion, add the mince and brown, add the vegetables and stock and simmer for a while - 15 minutes should be plenty. Season with salt and pepper. Tinker with spices and herbs. Experiment :-)
  2. Sprinkle some flour over the top of the mixture and stir through. Keep doing this until the liquid turns into a thick gravy.
  3. Paint the pie base with the egg white (leaving some) and pour in the filling. Fill up to below the side of the case - you don't want it at the top or it'll make a horrible bubbly leaky mess. The leftover goes nicely in toasties.
  4. Paint the edge of the case with more egg white. Place the puff pastry over the top. Press down to seal and trim off the excess.
  5. Paint the top of the pie with the egg yolk.
  6. Pierce the middle of the pie top with a knife to allow steam to escape.
  7. If you have some of the case pastry left over you can use it to make decorations for the pie top.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Lemon Meringue Pie

My first pie for the year! This one was somewhat dictated to me as we were invited to a post-Christmas lunch and were asked to supply "fruit or cake or something." So I decided to double up and make a fruity pie. We had a bunch of lemons on the tree just waiting for something to be done with them, and I'd just experimented making meringues with some leftover egg whites from Rachel and Abbey's recent ice-cream endeavours...
Lemon Meringue Pie, served
Lemon Meringue Pie, served

Also, it's been ages since I've had a lemon meringue pie.

Adapted from taste.com.au.

  • 225g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour
  • 2 tbs icing sugar mixture
  • 125g butter, chilled, coarsely chopped
  • 2 1/2 tbs iced water
Lemon filling
  • 50g (1/3 cup) cornflour
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) water
  • 250ml (1 cup) fresh lemon juice
  • 430g (2 cups) caster sugar
  • 60g butter, coarsely chopped
  • 5 eggs, separated
  1. Sift the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the water and use a round-bladed knife to stir until a dough forms. Use your hands to bring the dough together in the bowl. Turn onto a sheet of non-stick baking paper and roll out to a 5mm-thick disc. Use the pastry to line a 23cm (base measurement) pie dish. Trim excess pastry. Cover the pastry with baking paper. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
  3. Preheat oven to 180°C. Fill the lined dish with pastry weights or rice. Bake in oven for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and pastry weights or rice. Bake for a further 15-20 minutes or until crisp and golden. Set aside to cool completely.
  4. Meanwhile, to make the lemon filling, combine the cornflour, water, lemon juice and half the sugar in a saucepan. Use a balloon whisk to stir over medium heat for 4 minutes or until the mixture boils and thickens. The mixture needs to heat to 85ºC otherwise it will not set. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, for a further 1 minute. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter and egg yolks. Transfer to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 3 hours or until cooled completely.
  5. Preheat oven to 190°C. Remove filling from fridge to allow to warm slightly. Use an electric beater to beat the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 tablespoonful at a time until the mixture is thick and glossy.
  6. Spread the filling over the base of the pastry case. Spoon over the meringue mixture and spread to the edge of the pastry. Use the back of a spoon to create peaks. Bake in oven for 5 minutes or until the meringue peaks are light golden. Set aside to cool completely.
I had trouble with the lemon custard leaking liquid when cooled. I'd like a solution :-)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Hi there!

I've not cooked pies, but I've recently discovered that I like baking. So when I was watching episode 5, season 3 of the Great British Bake-Off and Rachel turned to me and said that 2013 should be Year Of The Pie I quickly agreed.

This blog is going to be a little record of the pies I make this year. We'll see how I go :-)