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I like to bake. It is a form of artistic expression, of precision, patience and most importantly of delicious crumbly and buttery pastry. I am lucky enough to have a washer uperer when I am too tired to finish what I start, but I never get tired of baking white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies or trying to perfect my lemon tarts.
A few months ago my sister Emily and I were baking a strawberry frangipane tart and I thought why not just make the jam that goes in it? Why should I use the stuff in the fridge when I have a punnet of fresh strawberries and all the tools to create something myself?
So I set about making my first strawberry jam. It was a surprisingly easy process and I was even more delighted when my tart came out of the oven and I knew that my hands created almost every part of it. There’s something thrilling and exciting about knowing that the lemon tart your friends are eating contains buttery flaky pastry that was hand kneaded. I’m certainly not anti an electric beater (I am after all an avid meringue maker and without my Kitchen Aid I would be in dire straits) but I love love love creaming butter and sugar by hand and being able to whip up pastry in a single bowl. I think it even tastes better- something about all the extra effort and love that inadvertently gets added I think.
Baking is the ultimate feel good experience and I’m so glad that I get to express my creativity and love of brown sugar whenever the mood strikes.
A recipe to enjoy with tea and flex your baking muscles.
Lemon Melting Moments
These are the newest addition to my baking repertoire and are absolutely yummo. I do suggest, however, that you eat them the day after baking them, as they are more buttery and melt in your mouth delicious!
250g butter, cubed
1/3 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
1 ¾ cups plain flour
1/3 cup cornflour
60g Butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
Finely grated rind of half a lemon
Juice of half a lemon
2/3 cup icing sugar, sifted
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius and line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
Beat butter and icing sugar in an electric mixer (or by hand if you’re in the mood!) until pale and creamy. Add the vanilla essence and mix through.
Sifter together the flour and cornflour and add to the butter mixture. You want to be using the beaters on a low speed at first so you don’t throw flour all over the kitchen. A quick tip on the sifting of the flours: if you don’t want to use an extra bowl, sift flours onto a sheet of baking paper- you can use the baking paper to line the tray after and you have no waste and no extra cleaning up!
When the mixture forms a soft dough it’s ready to be rolled. Lightly flour your hands, as the mixture can be quite sticky, and roll the mixture into small balls. You want them to be even in size, as you’ll be putting two cookies together so I suggest using a teaspoon measure or something similar to ensure even biscuit sizes.
Place on the prepared baking trays about 5cm apart. Use a fork that has been dipped in flour to flatten each ball to about 3cm across and 1 cm thick.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until cooked through, cool on a baking tray.
To make the filling, beat the butter, vanilla essence and lemon rind in a bowl with electric beaters (or again by hand if you need a good arm workout) until pale and creamy. Add a little bit of lemon juice until you get the right balance- the first time I made these I went too far with the lemon juice and split the mixture so be careful, it only needs a little bit just to get a nice tangy aftertaste.
Add the icing sugar and beat until combined. When the biscuits are cooled, spread one half with a teaspoon of filling and join to another biscuit. Repeat until all biscuits and filled. Enjoy your handy work with friends and family!!
“What was Right? What was Wrong? What distinguished Doing from Not Doing? If I were to have my time again, the old King thought, I would bury myself in a monastery for fear of a Doing which might lead to woe.”
T.H. White, The Once and Future King
I love this quote. I stumbled across it whilst reading another book a while back and at the time I had one of those ‘ah, so true!’ moments. If we knew in advance what the result of our choices and actions were would we do them anyway?
I find that such an interesting concept, because we crazy humans tend to do things that challenge and scare us and often times we fail. So if we knew what was ahead would we change anything? I know a lot of people would like to sit there and say no, but if you were faced with every humiliating moment, every nervous butterfly, every embarrassing, painful or stupid thing you were going to do in your life would you honestly want to go through it all?! I would really like to think that I wouldn’t change anything because without all the shitty bits we have no comparison for the wonderful bits. The excitement, pride, joy and sense of accomplishment wouldn’t be nearly as powerful without anticipation, nerves, stress and mistakes before you perform on stage, or jump out of a plane or even get your first driving lesson.
I think that knowing what’s ahead can create fear; fear of the unknown, the different, the same and changes. I find that a tricky one because I have a fear of what’s ahead because of CFS, I want to be inspired and excited about the future but I find myself worrying about what’s ahead, or what I might miss out on in the future. But I live life to the best of my abilities and enjoy what I can do when I can do it. It’s very difficult not to project yourself forward constantly but it ultimately teaches you a lot about living in the present and enjoying the moment. That it is why I couldn’t fathom a world where I know what’s around each corner! Having fears and nerves and anxiety and anger is all normal, but getting up and pushing though them all regardless of the outcome seems to be human nature and not knowing what’s ahead can be kind of exciting too.
Something delicious for when you just want to hide under the bed and never come out:
I could quite literally live on nothing else but a massive baked potato with all the trimmings. So here’s my favourite way of making it.
1 Ridiculously large potato
Pinch of sea salt
4 slices of bacon cut up into cubes
Couple of tablespoons of chives
Handful or 2 of grated cheddar cheese
Turn oven to about 160. Wash your potato and prick all over with a fork. Place on a baking tray, drizzle over a little olive oil and sprinkle both sides with sea salt. Bake for ages… my potatoes tend to take about an hour in the oven. It all depends on how big the tato is and how hot your oven is. I’m spectacularly bad at telling when a baked potato is done but if your fork can slide easily through and not meet any resistance in the centre then you’re good to go!
While the potato is cooking fry your bacon cubes up in a little bit of butter, chop your chives and grate some tasty cheese. Grab your potato when it’s done cooking cut open into as many bits as you want and liberally apply cheese, bacon bits, chives and dollops of sour cream. Sit down somewhere peaceful, close your eyes and quietly give thanks to the comfort food gods and DIG IN!
Hi there. My name is Elise… And I love the Real Housewives of Atlanta/New York City/Orange County and New Jersey. Don’t judge me, but I just can’t get enough of the crazy ladies and their often-loopy husbands that grace my television screen every week.
I have the unfortunate ability to like crap television. Or should I say the unfortunate ability to like SOME crap television. Believe it or not, regardless of my love for the real housewife ladies I do have good taste in television. I’ve watched the popular series: Dexter, True Blood and the Tudors. I also tuned into the fabulous little Australian gem that was Laid. I spent every Tuesday evening investing in the Rafter family and most importantly I enjoy a good informative documentary! I watch birthing shows, wedding shows, medical shows, shows about twins, about huge families (The Duggars in particular), about vaccinations, about history, about animals and I even once had the interesting event of watching a documentary about penises with my parents.
I love a fantasy escape and as most of my friends know have a slightly obsessive love of Xena: Warrior Princess- the theme tune has been my ringtone for about 4 years. I love a bit of blood and gore a la Spartacus Blood and Sand especially when it has a bit of nudity thrown in. I also have been a Home and Away watcher from the age of 8 and can’t seem to break the habit. Worse still, I accidently found myself watching the New Zealand soapie Shortland Street and have for some inexplicable reason become addicted (I think it’s the accents). I just really really like watching TV good AND bad. Which brings me back to my love of the Real Housewives. No matter how ridiculous it is, I just can’t look away. It’s the whole ‘watching this makes me feel ever so slightly better about my life’ thing I think. I couldn’t go a day without my foxtel, (I say my when I really technically should be calling it dad’s as he pays for it…) I don’t think I can move out of home until I have sufficient funds to have foxtel wherever I live. The thing is that not only do I love television; I also want to work in it. I want to produce the kind of television I love; I want to film a fantasy series in New Zealand, a murder mystery or a blood and sex filled historical drama. I can’t wait until I’m well enough to begin my endeavours into the television world. But in the meantime I spend my time watching it- it’s basically research! Speaking of, there is a particularly good episode of Boardwalk Empire sitting in my planner; I hate to love you and leave you but the TV is calling.
A quick and easy lunchtime soup
Capsicum and Tomato soup with Parmesan crisps
I love this capsicum and tomato soup because it is super easy and really quite delicious. I associate it with TV because for some reason, I almost always make it when I watch Real Housewives.
1 medium brown onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
5-10 fresh oregano leaves, chopped
3 teaspoons of caster sugar
2 teaspoons of horseradish (make sure you buy pure horseradish and not horseradish cream)
380g of roasted capsicum, chopped into smallish pieces. (The capsicum at the deli at my local supermarket is what I use. You can grill your own capsicums and skin them, but this is a lot easier to buy them and you often get a little more flavour as the capsicum from the supermarket is usually marinated)
2 cans of 400g diced tomatoes
3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
Handful of grated Parmesan cheese
- Heat a pot with a splash of olive oil on the stove.
- Throw the onions in and cook until soft and translucent, then add garlic. Fry for a few minutes then add sugar and horseradish followed by the capsicum. Cook this mix up for another minute or so then add the canned tomatoes and the chicken stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes. You can cook the soup for longer if you want but this soup tastes lovely with a shorter cooking time as well.
- While the soup is bubbling away, turn your grill on to 180 degrees Celsius. Get some baking paper out and put the Parmesan cheese on in a flat circle- you can make it as big or small as you like. Place under the grill and wait until melted and slightly golden- KEEP YOUR EYE ON THEM!! They can burn quite quickly if you aren’t paying attention. Get them out of the oven and let them cool.
- Take your soup off the heat and use a blender or a hand held soup whizzer (that is not even slightly the correct term but I hope you know what I mean!) and blend the soup until smooth. You should probably let the soup cool a little before you do this as hot soup isn’t all that nice splashed all over you. I’m usually too impatient to wait so just take extra care if you are blending it whilst still hot. Place back on the heat for a few minutes to warm it up then serve in a nice big bowl with your parmesan crisp broken up into the soup, a piece of crusty baguette goes extra nicely as well. Enjoy with favourite lunchtime TV show.