BAKED, SMASHED POTATOES

Photo courtesy Fine Cooking
Photo courtesy Fine Cooking

“What I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.” A.A. Milne

There’s nothing I like more than a simple recipe which with minimal effort gives me maximum deliciousness. The reason this recipe is one of my all time favourites is because it is so simple it’s silly, it would actually take effort to get it wrong and potatoes are yum. Smash a potato today and you’ll never see things the same way….

Number of people it’ll serve will depend on how many potatoes
Recipe and photo adapted from the Pioneer Woman

What you’ll need:

Small round potatoes (as many as you like)
Generous quantities of olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Herbs (of your choosing, I picked basil and oregano this time)

How to:

1. Boil potatoes in a container with water and lots of salt. Remove once tender, you should be able to stick a fork into the potato easily. Pop potatoes out.

2. Grease a baking dish with a generous helping of olive oil. Pour on a good layer so your potatoes don’t stick to the dish post-baking.

Note: For all greasing purposes I use a nice wide paint brush. Dip and paint in broad strokes. It works perfectly!

3. Preheat oven to 200 Celsius.

4. Drop your potatoes on the baking dish and squish them down with a potato masher or any other hard flat object you can lay your hands on. This is my favorite step!

5. Find your brush and brush on a good amount of olive oil on your smashed potato. Sprinkle salt (again don’t skimp because starch will SOAK salt), nice spicey freshly ground pepper and whichever chopped up herbs you’ve chosen.

6. Slide the potatoes in the oven and wait 20 -25 minutes till they’re nicely browned and crispy.

Foodnotes:

Whenever baking its best to use fresh herbs, the problem with baking a dried herb is that it will burn on the surface of the potato and not lend much flavor. Fresh rosemary, thyme or basil will bake in their moisture and season the potatoes well.

 

 

 

THAI PEANUT NOODLES

Thai Peanut Salad
“No man in the world has more courage than the man who can stop after eating one peanut.” -Channing Pollock
I’m a huge fan of Thai food but then who isn’t? While I’ve always thought Thai was the easiest thing to put together for a group, the usual curry and steamed rice combination is old now. These noodles look like a lot more effort than they really are and I’m a big fan of the honey, peanut flavour. To love this recipe as much as I do, I strongly recommend that you replace the options here with vegetables/ meat that suit your taste (or happen to be in the fridge). Bon appetit!
Serves 3-4
What you’ll need:
A pack of noodles (Udon or Lo Mein, if you can get it)
6 tablespoons oil (preferably sesame)
½ cup green onions
1 cup carrot (shredded as thin as you can)
½ cup broccoli florets
½ cup chopped up french beans
½ cup mushrooms
½ cup sliced capsicum
½ cup chopped onions
4 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
1 ½ tablespoon minced fresh ginger
½ cup honey
½ cup peanut butter
¼ cup soy sauce
4 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon chilli garlic sauce or 1 teaspoon chilli powder
How to: 

Get the Noodles done

1. Cook noodles in a large pot of salted water according to package directions till al-dente. Drain, rinse down with cold water and return to pot.

2. Add 3 tablespoons oil to the noodles and toss so the noodles are coated. Set aside.

Make the Sauce

1. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a heavy pot on medium heat and add ginger, garlic and onions.

2. Then add thecarrots, broccoli, beans and mushrooms. Stir till vegetables soften. Add the capsicum and spring onions towards the end – you don’t want to cook these as much because they’ll wilt.

3. In a bowl, mix the honey, peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar and chilli garlic sauce/chilli powder into a thick goopy paste. Pour paste on to vegetables. Simmer for a couple of minutes.

4. Once you’re sure the vegetables are done, taste the sauce to see if you need salt. Remember this is a sauce you’re going to pour over the noodles so you can add a little water if you need to reach a sauce like consistency.

Note: This is also a good time to check if you want to enhance any one particular flavor. I added more honey at this point because I really liked the honey peanut flavor coming through. Depending on your taste you may want to put in more peanut butter or soy sauce – see what works for you.

Top it Up:

1. Toss the noodles and sauce together well, so the noodles are evenly coated.

2. Garnish with crushed peanuts, lime wedges and thinly sliced cucumber. If you like, you can also bung on some spring onions but try to make sure that you have the cucumber and lime.

Foodnotes:
1. Depending on what you have in stock, you can change the vegetables in the sauce around. The original recipe I saw called for cabbage and bak choy but the combination here is one I prefer.

2. Because the sauce has so many vegetables in there, it may get thick and difficult to toss in with the noodles. Add some water into the sauce when cooking to thin it so it coats the noodles well. If adding water, keep in mind that you may need to add more seasoning to keep the flavor from becoming dilute.

3. If without peanut butter, just blending peanuts, some butter and salt together will work.

4. Watch carefully when sautéing the vegetables you need to make sure they don’t wilt so you have all that crunch and flavor in the sauce.

RICH CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE GANACHE

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache
Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache

“There are many temptations in this life, but cake is probably one of the biggest of them.” ― Alexander McCall Smith, In the Company of Cheerful Ladies

Baking has been a real struggle for me and this dense, satisfying chocolate cake was my first success after so many burnt and greasy blocks of batter I’ve forced down my family’s throat. It seemed appropriate that it should be the first recipe on my blog. Go ahead, bake your cake and eat it too…

Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson
Serves 6 – 8

What you’ll need:

1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups of chopped chocolate (sweetened)
½ cup powdered (caster) sugar
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 cups flour
¾ cup cocoa powder
1 ½ tablespoons baking soda
1 cup strong black coffee
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup cream
1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter

How to:

Bake the Cake

1. Preheat the oven to 185° Celsius.

2. Melt 1¼ cups of chocolate.

Note: Now there are 2 ways of doing this, ideally you should use a double broiler, placing a metal bowl over a saucepan of boiling water and melt the chopped chocolate in there.

If you’re lazy (and I am) and this seems too fussy, try popping the chocolate into the microwave (on high) for a couple of minutes. If you’re going the microwave way, make sure (i) that your chocolate pieces are chopped up evenly so they melt quickly, and (ii) you put a few tablespoons of milk or water in the container with the chocolate so that your chocolate doesn’t dry out in the microwave. Watch carefully because the price of your laziness could be ending up with a dried up, chalky slab of chocolate.

3. Whisk the melted chocolate, vegetable oil and sugar until smooth. Add one egg and whisk some more. When smooth again, add the other egg and keep whisking.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and cocoa powder, making sure there aren’t any clumps.

5. Combine half a cup of coffee, half a cup of buttermilk and half the dry ingredients to the egg mixture. Whisk till your batter is smooth and then repeat with what you have left.

6. Grease or line a baking pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Be careful not to over-bake this because the chocolate may dry up, if a tiny bit of cake comes out on your toothpick, that’s fine.

7. Cool the cake completely before popping it out of the baking pan, this should take about an hour.

Make the Ganache

1. Melt the rest of the chocolate. (You can add ½ a tablespoon of corn syrup if you happen to have some)

2. In another pan heat up the cream.

3. Combine the cream, chocolate and butter and pour on top of the cake.

Top it Up – I’ve used chopped up almonds to top the ganache but you could also use walnuts, strawberries or candy. This is a nice dense chocolate cake so all the usual accompaniments to chocolate will work as toppings.