Starting the New Year with creme brulee

Welcome to my shiny new kitchen!

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I decided that the first thing I made in my lovely new apartment must be REVOLUTIONARY, given that the first thing I made in my last flat was a dessert which has since become my favourite. So, I dug out my brand new fancy pastry book (thaaank you, Kathy) and picked the easiest (HA!) recipe.

INGREDIENTS:

– 600ml cream

– 1 vanilla pod

– 6 egg yolks

– 1/2 cup of sugar

– more sugar and icing sugar for crunchy top

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After my experience with the curdled caramel custard I was a little wary about boiling cream. So, I put it on the lowest possible heat to boil. Split the vanilla bean (I think I did it right – chopped it up the middle with a pair of scissors) and chucked that in too.

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I was a little concerned I wouldn’t have enough time to get the rest of it done before the cream boiled. Turns out I needn’t have worried.

Separated the eggs from the yolks without an egg separator for the first time. Got overly cocky and screwed up the third one.

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And the fourth. And the fifth. Decided not to photograph it.

Meanwhile, the cream was doing squat.

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Put the sugar in with the egg yolks and whisked for about ten minutes (with breaks for snacks). “Light and fluffy” did not happen. “Pale and sort of sloopy” happened.

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By that point, I realised I should probably be preheating the oven. Set it to 150*C.

So what do you think’s happening with the cream by now?

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Another ten minutes later and I sent out a distress call. Was instructed to turn the heat up. I did.

Some more nothing happened.

Turned it up just a little more, and redialled. I was informed that the little foamy bubbles around the edge means that it’s bordering on boiled, and I should probably take it off now.

Ok.

Poured the cream into the egg mixture while frantically whisking and desperately trying to stop the bowl from falling off the edge of the bench. This is where having a couple of cushions growing on your chest kinda comes in handy…

Poured the mixture into my brand new ramekins.

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Filled the tray with water to about halfway up the ramekins, and popped it into the oven.

They were supposed to take 40-45 minutes, but when the hell has anything I’ve cooked ever been done on time? After 45 minutes, they were still very wobbly when jiggled gently. After nearly an hour, they seemed to be about right, although I still think I could have stood to leave them in a little longer.

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Left them on the bench to cool right down, then put them in the fridge until my New Flatmate got home from work.

Sprinkled 1/2 tablespoon of sugar on top, with a thin layer of icing sugar (which apparently makes in shine) over that, then grilled them in the oven, due to my not owning a kitchen blowtorch.

I tried caster sugar the first time, with the grill on high and the dishes low in the oven, and the sugar burnt. The second time around, I used normal sugar, placed them high in the oven, and turned it to about three quarters. They burnt. Thus, the experimenting goes on.

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Have to say, though, burnt or not – they made a hell of a crack!

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Say hello to my new favourite dessert :3

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Maltexo! (Nostalgia time)

The other day, Flatmate #1 and I rediscovered Maltexo. Happy childhood memories :3

Discovered you can also use it in baking, as opposed to just stealing it out of the cupboard and eating it by the spoonful.

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Hooray for oysters!

INGREDIENTS (http://www.maltexo.co.nz/recipes/33-cinnamon-oysters)

– 2 x eggs

– 85g sugar

– 1 heaped Tbsp Maltexo

– 85g plain flour

– 1 tsp ground cinnamon

– 1 tsp baking powder

– Pinch of salt

– ½ tsp ground ginger

– whipped cream (for serving – whole cream with a tsp of icing sugar and few drops of vanilla)

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Beat the sugar and eggs together with a fork until fluffy.

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Added Maltexo and beat until completely incorporated (took a while, but got there in the end!).

Sifted in the dry ingredients. Had another tsp/tbsp fiasco (this time with dsp – which Flatmate #2 helpfully informed me was a dessertspoon. Yeah, because I totally have a measuring spoon for that. Tbsp it is.).

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Finally got the weirdest-looking, frothy mixture I have ever seen. Lined cupcake pans with patty tins. Stood back and spent a few moments panicking.

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How is only “spoonfuls” of this mixture dropped in the bottom of each one going to get me biscuits? What happens if I have mixture left over? Did I screw it up? ARRRGGH.

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Gritted my teeth and stuck two tablespoons(ish) of goopy liquid into each tin. Turns out it fit perfectly. Stuck them in the oven for 10 minutes.

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Oops. Might have used too much mixture. Got cinnamon cupcakes instead of cinnamon oysters.

It was at this point Flatmate #3 walked in and asked what I was doing. Managed to convince him that yes, cinnamon oysters were totally oysters cooked in cinnamon, and yes, this cupcake-looking result is actually what oysters look like when you mix them with flour and cinnamon.

He got all blustery and defensive when he was told by an ever-helpful Flatmate #2 that no, they were in fact not made from oysters, they just look like them when they’re done. I sneakily didn’t let on that I never actually realised the reason they were called ‘oysters’ until she said it.

Time for whipped cream.

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I trust nobody needs instruction for this. If so, tough titties.

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Took the ‘oysters’ out when they were cooled. Debated cutting them open and filling them with cream, like you were supposed to. Decided not to, as the texture of them was too sticky, and I didn’t want to risk cutting them. Compromised.

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Very sticky, but wow.

Still like spoonfuls of Maltexo better, though.

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Expensive home-made lunch for no particular reason

For as long as I can remember, I have been finding new ways to eat cheese. I am the cheese queen. When I was about thirteen or fourteen, I touched upon the brilliant idea of pan-frying tasty cheese. Daddy Dearest assisted me in my quest to pan-fry a hunk of cheese, but we never quite made it past the melted gooey stage. Melted gooey was good enough for the time being, but then I discovered HALOUMI.

We were at a fancy restaurant for like the first time ever (or as fancy as restaurants get in the backwaters of the Coromandel Peninsula) and I found an entree with portobello mushrooms and haloumi. (Incidentally, my computer is trying to correct ‘portobello’ to ‘Campbellsport’. Huh?)

“Uh, Dad, what’s haloumi?”

“Oh, it’s a kind of pan-fried cheese.”

I think I just about melted him with my eyes. He still hasn’t worked out why.

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INGREDIENTS:

– 250g block of haloumi

– butter for frying

– 4 x large-ish portobello mushrooms

– 25g (‘two tablespoons’ – sod off!) butter

– 1 tsp minced garlic (one clove)

– 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or, if you’re poor enough that the halloumi has eated up your weekly food budget – like me – 1/2 tsp dried thyme)

– oil

– Bread of some description

– lemon juice (from lemons, maybe? Or from a bottle)

http://www.thedailyspud.com/2008/12/02/states-of-cheese/

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Preheated the oven to 200*C. Wiped the caps clean and brushed them with rice bran oil, then put them upside down in a tray.

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Had to put my tray away and get a bigger one. Hmph.

Melted the butter (not specified on the website, but was particularly helpful), and mixed with garlic and thyme.

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Brushed the gills of the mushrooms with the garlic mixture, and put them in the oven to roast for 15 minutes.

Put the haloumi on to fry in butter for five minutes aside (which I did NOT believe was going to take that long).

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Enlisted Flatmate #2 (“What can I do? Can I do anything? Are you sure?”) to push the button on the toaster with our lovely fresh (cheese) bread in it.

Layered everything together and sprinkled lemon juice on top. Yay for pan-fried cheese!

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Note to self: buy smaller mushrooms next time.

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Fancy “coffee” cake

Upon finding a coffee cake recipe (http://www.christinamarsigliese.com/2011/12/spiced-apple-cream-cheese-cake.html) and begging Gran for a spot on the Christmas table, I decided to give this a dry run before the big day. I was intrigued by the premise of this cake – coffee/cream cheese cake layered with spiced apple.

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Upon reading the ingredients list I discovered something odd – coffee (in any form) was not listed.

?

Oh well. Must mix flavours together until you get coffee. I hope.

INGREDIENTS:

Spiced apple:

– 2 Tbsp butter

– 3 x whole cloves

– 4 x Granny Smith apples cored, peeled and chopped into 1/2 cm cubes

– 2 Tbsp granulated sugar

– ½ tsp ground cinnamon

– 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

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Preheated the oven to 180*C. Double checked on Google that I had translated Fahrenheit correctly. Turned it down 160*C.

Greased and lined our cake tin (which still doesn’t belong to anyone in our flat).

Started to add things to a bowl, stopped, realised I was doing it wrong, and threw the whole thing out. There is a special place in hell for people who don’t capitalize the ‘T’ in ‘tablespoons’.

Added the apples, sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon to a bowl and folded them in together until evenly coated (HA!).

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Heated the butter and whole cloves in a fry pan until I got sick of waiting for the foam to subside like it was supposed to. Put in the apples and tossed for the duration of ‘I Love Rock and Roll’. Chucked them into a bowl and spent the next two songs finding the cloves and digging them out of the mixture without burning myself. I succeeded. Yay!

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Set aside to cool while I made the rest of the cake.

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Cheese cake:

– 250 g cream cheese (softened)

– ¼ cup sugar

– ½ tsp vanilla essence (if you’re too poor to afford ‘pure vanilla extract’ like someone who actually earns money)

– ¼ tsp ground cinnamon

– 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

– 1/8 tsp ground cloves

– 1 egg yolk

– 1 tsp plain flour

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Tried to beat the room temperature cream cheese in a bowl with my NEW electric beater. Nearly broke my new electric beater. Put cream cheese in microwave. Beat cream cheese with my new electric beater.

Added sugar and vanilla and beat until sugar was mostly dissolved (30 seconds?). Beat in the cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves (which were NOT easy to find. They got lost in the Bottomless Pit of Spices) until they were as combined as anything I make ever is.

Added egg yolk (Heh. Oops.)

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and flour and beat again. Set alongside the apple mixture.

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“Coffee” cake:

– 1 ¼ cups plain flour

– 1 tsp baking powder

– ½ tsp baking soda

– 1 tsp ground cinnamon

– ½ tsp ground cardamom

– ¼ tsp salt

– 85g room temperature unsalted butter

– 1/3 cup granulated sugar

– 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

– 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

– 1 egg

– ½ cup evaporated milk

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Sifted together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt. Took a bit of the baking powder and soda out (along with bits of other things) because I’d misread the stupid tsp/tbsp thing again. CAPITALISE. CAPITALISE.

Beat 85 grams (because WHO in the HELL thinks it’s okay to measure butter in tablespoons – honestly) of butter with both kinds of sugar in a separate bowl until light and fluffy (three minutes, my ass). Beat in the vanilla (which I probably could have done beforehand) and then the egg.

Added 1/3 of the powder mixture and beat on low speed. Added half of the evaporated milk and did it again. Then another 1/3 of the powder. Then the rest of the milk. Then almost screwed the whole thing up by beating in the last of the flour. Caught myself at the last second. Folded it in instead.

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Put the cake mixture evenly into the cake pan and topped with the cream cheese mixture.

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Had fun making swirly shapes that no one was going to see anyway.

Spooned the apple mixture over.

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Baked until the cake wobbled in the middle (as per instructions). Pulled cake out. Stuck knife in. Cake back in until not really wobbly in the middle anymore at all, but at least it was finally cooked. About 50 minutes in the oven, with about ten minutes of messing around in between.

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Cooled completely while still in the cake pan.

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Forgot to dust with icing sugar.

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Took a piece per family member around to landlords as thanks for egg beater.

Finally ate a piece myself. CHAI cake. This stupid thing is CHAI CAKE.

Woe to any idiot who thinks that chai tea and coffee are the same thing.

*grump*

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Flatmate #2’s birthday: the tale of how I scored a free egg beater

A while back (like before exams) it was Flatmate #2’s 20th birthday – finally an excuse to make a cake!! (screw you, Flatmate #1 with your store-bought Bailey’s chocolate cake).

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I was originally going to make a red velvet cake, but upon arriving at New World I discovered there were no velvet cake mixtures. After much debilitating over what would the other 5 people would like (two of whom I had just met that day) and what I would like (given that I – shockingly – actually don’t like cake all that much anyway), I decided on a Betty Crocker strawberry cake, thinking it would clash nicely with the planned green icing.

I enlisted Flatmate #1 for some origami and began to plan the cake (while I should have been studying).

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So here we are; everything’s set up, and I’m all ready for mixing. Of course now is the moment I actually read that back and realise that I’m supposed to beat this with an electric beater. Guess what essential kitchen utensil we don’t have?

Plopped myself down in the lounge with our hand beater, a beer, and a hatful of determination.

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Ten minutes later, and I was just about crying. It wasn’t even slightly mixing.

I had a momentary burst of inspiration, and sprinted barefoot down the street in the rain to our landlord’s house. Five minutes of gibbering explanation and panting later, our wonderful landlord showed up at the door with a new egg beater, still wrapped up in bubble wrap and a box, and told me to keep it, as it was a centimetre too short for her favourite mixing bowl.

Guess what I own now? 😀

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Cue the next day, and Flatmate #1 is sitting on her bed in a little ball of frustration as she tries to make origami roses. *sigh*

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It took us a while, but we found a tutorial that looked like it would work. Only problem was, we needed a glue gun. One frantic trip to New World later, and we were back on track. I iced the cake (see carrot cake icing recipe at the bottom of the post) and we ended up decorating it with candles and edible silver balls posted down by Flatmate #2’s mother. Why she thought we would be making a cake without any candles is beyond me, but seeing as we actually didn’t have any candles, I wasn’t complaining.

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Carrot cake icing:

– 1/2 cup unsweetened greek yogurt

– 1 packet (250g) cream cheese

– 1/2 cup icing sugar

Mix everything together (soften the cream cheese first), and spread!

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Noodles and unidentified mouldy objects (or; Things You Find In a Student Kitchen)

While flipping through my various recipe books I thought maybe I could try making an Asian-style dish that consists of more than just chicken, rice, and teriyaki sauce. Thus was born the wonder that is slow-cooked chicken laksa.

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Incidentally, while perusing New World for various vegetables not usually found in my kitchen I discovered something new.

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After reading the back and carefully critiquing the picture on the front, I concluded that it was mango & pear flavoured. So it’s kind of like tropical that took a right turn instead of a left and ended up lost somewhere in the middle of a miscellaneous European country. Where, apparently, they can’t spell ‘some’.

It was pretty good.

Decided to give the poor kitchen a proper scrub this time. Discovered several things I thought we’d lost (purple vivid, vanilla essence) and several things I didn’t know we had (a lid for the salt shaker, a fourth chopping board).

Also discovered this gem:

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Flatmate #1 doesn’t have bread any more. The Mould Monster ate it.

 

INGREDIENTS:

Oil

2 x medium onions

2 tsp crushed garlic (or 2 cloves garlic, chopped)

2 tsp crushed ginger

1 Tbsp curry powder (I used mild, because Flatmate #2 is a wuss who buys mild curry powder)

750g diced chicken

2 heaped Tbsp peanut butter

1 x 400ml can lite coconut cream

4 cups chicken stock

1 medium carrot

1/2 red pepper

2 stalks lemongrass (or 2 1/2 tsp of lemongrass paste)

3 kaffir lime leaves

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp brown sugar

1 Tbsp fish sauce

500g fresh egg noodles (good luck)

2 cups green beans

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Finally an excuse to use my fish sauce again. Not to mention my kaffir lime leaves, which I’m supposed to use 2-3 of every time I make a dish – there’s at least 200 in there!

First, I did what I always do now, and got all my various bits in place.

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Heated the oil in my wok and added the quartered and sliced onion, garlic, and ginger. Pushed it around for a while. It looked soft, so I stuck the curry powder in. Cooked for another 2 minutes. In went the chicken bits.

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Cooked the chicken ’til it wasn’t pink any more and transferred it to the slow cooker. Added the coconut cream (yay for our new can opener!) and peanut butter and stirred to combine. Peanut butter didn’t combine, so stirred again. Peanut butter still not combined. Gave up.

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Added the carrot, pepper, stock, lime leaves, soy sauce, brown sugar, and fish sauce. Also added the lemongrass. Had a momentary panic earlier when I went over to New World and discovered that they had no lemongrass.

Thoughts that ran through my head:

a) What do you replace it with?

b) Can you leave it out?

c) What the hell is lemongrass?

d) Does it smell like lemons?

e) Can you replace it with lemons?

f) Can you replace it with grass?

g) Why is the restocker giving me funny looks?

h) Where the hell are the lemons?

Well, guess what I found tucked in a corner while I frantically spun around in circles in the vege section. I’ll give you a hint – it wasn’t grass. Or lemons, for that matter.

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LEMONGRASS PASTE. Awesome.

Covered slow cooker and cooked on low for 6 1/2 hours. Took lid off, plopped in beans and noodles, and cooked on high for another half hour.

Incidentally, fresh egg noodles? Don’t exist. Not to my knowledge, anyway. Bought fresh udon noodles. Crossed fingers that the lack of powdered egg wasn’t going to make a difference.

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Served up laksa for Flatmate #2 (and Flatmate #1, who didn’t eat it. When I found it in the fridge three days later I chucked it out. Grumpily.) and myself.

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Discovered the horror that is chopsticks and udon noodles. Now I know why Alison “my pumpkin recipes suck” Holst pictured her soup with a spoon.

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The newest addition to my bedroom

I live in a sleepout. In order to bring visitors out to the wilderness in which I reside I have set up the following, using gourmet Jelly Belly jellybeans. Cocktail flavoured jellybeans FTW!

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I rule.

(Incidentally, pictured are Yorick, and from left to right; Errol, Hedwig and Hermes.)

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Well. It’s been an uneventful couple of weeks.

In the last few weeks, I have found myself making nothing more than a smoothie

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and an apple cream pie.

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Sorry.

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What can go wrong when making a caramel slice? Let me count the ways…

Yesterday I ‘borrowed’ a recipe from work (http://www.ombrellos.co.nz – I have a job!!) and made Downton Shabby a caramel slice for a treat.

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The slice turned out OK. Nothing else did.

INGREDIENTS:

Base:

1 1/2 cup plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup brown sugar

125g melted butter

Filling:

2 x can condensed milk

6 Tbsp golden syrup

100g diced butter

Topping:

2 cups chopped cooking chocolate

1/4 cup cream

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Before starting to bake I cleaned the kitchen, and in the process, stepped on a fly. I blame this tiny event as the catalyst of the subsequent avalanche of mishaps. Don’t step on flies – they WILL haunt you for the next 24 hours.

[Please note: I have made this slice before plenty of times with no problems. I have never, however, made it in my own kitchen, and never with the angry spirit of a wronged fly on my shoulder.]

I preheated the oven to 180*C and combined the dry ingredients in a bowl. So far, so good.

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I added the melted butter and mixed it in, then pressed it into our only baking tray.

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The second sheet of baking paper is a trick I learned from work; it helps spread the crumble mixture evenly.

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If it looks a little funny, that’s because it is. I popped it into the oven for ten or so minutes, and at that point discovered Mishap #1 – forgot the baking powder.

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My stomach started rumbling then, so I decided to make lunch, instead of bringing out the base and starting again. How much different could it be without a half teaspoon of baking powder?

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That there is my lunch. It’s honey soy mince patties (chopped into quarters, because I cannot for the life of me work out how to cook them whole without burning the outside and still leaving the inside raw). Incidentally, I have tried putting them on the lowest heat possible, with a lid over top to keep the steam in, and I still have burnt/raw patties. I solved the problem by chopping them up into little bits.

While waiting for both my lunch and my base to cook, I chopped up the butter and put the condensed milk, golden syrup, and butter into a pot. I lost count of my tablespoons of golden syrup to the point where I didn’t know if I was on 3 or 5 (Mishap #2), so I guessed. I will never know if I guessed right. I like to think I did, because it makes me feel better.

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Knocked over a can of condensed milk (Mishap #3), which wouldn’t have been a problem, except the rubber spatula happened to be in that one, and now there was condensed milk on the floor. Anyone who has tried to clean up condensed milk knows the annoyance in getting it off the floor, and anyone who hasn’t is extraordinarily lucky (unless you have never seen, and therefore tasted, condensed milk in your life; in which case you are extraordinarily unlucky).

Mopped it up with a teatowel (out of paper towels AGAIN) and cleaning spray.

While all this was going on, my lunch burnt on one side (Mishap #4).

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Yes, I eat my patties with chopsticks. It makes me feel posh.

On the bright side, I got my base out of the oven, nicely browned and surprisingly risen.

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On the dark side, I steam-burnt my hands by using a wet teatowel to grasp the tray, and after running them under the cold tap dried them off on the sticky teatowel used to clean up the condensed milk. Mishaps #5 & 6.

Melted the condensed milk mixture in a pot and dropped the fork in.

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That’s #7. *sigh*.

Melted the mixture and poured it over the base.

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Popped it back in the oven for another 10 minutes. At this point, I discovered the biggest disaster of my entire day.

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There was a piece of lettuce sticking out of my patty piece (kinda hard to see in the picture, but it’s top right).

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t like finding lettuce in things that are not supposed to have lettuce in them. I’m looking at you, Thames McDonald’s, and your “one shred of lettuce in every double cheeseburger” policy.

Mishap #8.

Broke my “Nessle” cooking chocolate bar into chunks by stabbing it with a knife. Very therapeutic. Discovered I didn’t have enough chocolate. Put it in a double boiler, or bain marie, anyway, and set it up ready to go.

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Got the base/filling out of the oven all nicely cooked.

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Melted the chocolate, and burnt myself again by grabbing the metal bowl without a teatowel. Mishap #… ?

Lost count.

I’m now burnt twice.

F%^!&#@)^!&#*.

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Poured chocolate over the slice and chucked the stupid thing in the fridge before it could bite me or something.

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Cleaned up, and rewarded myself with an episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show and the remainders of my condensed milk.

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Got back to my room and discovered a hitchhiker.

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God only knows where I picked that up. I don’t recall standing on any Meadowfresh products recently. Or going near one, full stop. Maybe it’s a sign. My next mission is to ‘cool our schools’. I’m thinking industrial-sized fans.

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Base was so crunchy it was more like eating a biscuit that a slice (now I know why you use baking powder), but the rest of it was absolutely amazing. Drool.

On a side note; R.I.P. miscellaneous fly. You will not be missed.

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Hasselback kumara

The other day I made sweet sweet potatoes (kumara) for dinner.

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Recipe found here:

http://www.myrecessionkitchen.com/2011/11/hasselback-sweet-potatoes.html?m=1

INGREDIENTS:

2-3 large sausage-shaped kumara (orange/Beauregarde works best)

2 Tbsp butter finely diced

2 Tbsp apple sauce (or not, if you’re as lazy and forgetful as I am)

2 Tbsp maple syrup

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup peeled and sliced apple (half moon shapes)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Salt

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I managed to talk Flatmate #2 out of her diet (wasn’t hard) for a night, in order to share this funny looking meal with someone. I thought perhaps only two kumara would not be enough for a whole meal each, so I made a third and chopped it in half. Actually, it fell apart, and I told Flatmate #2 I had chopped it in half so I didn’t look like an incompetent chef.

First I peeled the kumara two thirds of the way around, so there was a strip of skin for each to sit on. Then I chopped it into small slices almost all of the way through, using chopsticks as a guide. Chopsticks are not a very good guide.

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It was at this point that I read through the recipe again and realised that I had no apple sauce. I was thoroughly annoyed, but did not have enough money or motivation to rectify the problem, so I left it out.

Peeled the apples in one go. Very proud.

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I was going to dice the apples like the recipe said, but when I realised I was going to have to stuff it into the minuscule cracks in the kumara I chickened out. Finished slicing them and left it at that.

Turns out finely slice apples fit nicely into kumara slices.

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At this point I realised I was going to have a big problem with my kumara – they simply would not stand up straight. I ended up propping them up with extra apple slices.

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Combined the rest of the ingredients and piled them on top, then drizzled some extra maple syrup over for the hell of it.

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Covered the dish with tin foil and cooked for 40 minutes at 180*C, then took the cover off and cooked for a further 10. The ‘chopped’ one fell over, but all in all it was kind of a success.

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Flatmate #2 approved, at any rate (not that that’s any indication).

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