Friday, 24 August 2012

Roasted Chickpeas

I have been starting to think about healthy snacks recently. I eat a huge amount when feeding a baby, and it seems to be difficult to find healthy things to reach for at short notice. Lara recently put a comment up on Last Night about roasted chickpeas, and then my Mum sent me a link about the same thing, so I decided it was time to get some in to my cupboards. I was also hopeful that Reuben would enjoy them, and perhaps even Esther, who is munching on all kinds of exciting foods nowadays.

The first time I tried this I found the chickpeas a bit too overdone and crunchy for my liking - I wanted them to retain some of their softness on the inside with crunch on the outside. So I turned the oven down a little and shaved off some time, but you may like to experiment a bit to get the level of crunch that you prefer. I went for healthy options for seasoning too, so as not to ruin my original intentions, but I can see that adding something salty would be tempting. Plenty of herbs is a very satisfying alternative though. I also realised once they were cooked that a 10 month old is far better snacking on un-roasted, well rinsed chickpeas straight from the can, but she'll catch up with us before long.

Roasted Chickpeas

1 can (390g) Chickpeas
1 tablespoon oil
drizzle of lemon juice
shake of oregano and thyme
(try also garlic salt, chilli powder, cayenne pepper, moroccan spices, rosemary...)

Wash the chickpeas and dry well with a teatowel.
Toss them in the oil and seasonings.
Bake at 200 degrees for 25 minutes (or longer and hotter for more crunch).

Monday, 13 August 2012

Dana's Chocolate Cake

It's been a chocolate cakey week. A friend of mine hosted a mini-gathering to test out chocolate cake recipes for an upcoming event, and a few of us were happy to do the research for her and provide our opinions. Her original online plea for "best chocolate cake recommendations" resulted in an absolute stampede. It seems there are some great recipes out there, or at least some strong opinions.

It's a topic I have been thinking about a bit lately - the idea of finding the best recipe for some favourite foods, and chocolate cake is not surprisingly on the list. But I am realising this could be more complicated than I originally thought, and have struggled to put this idea together. How exactly do you define chocolate cake? It's a very subjective topic, who decides what tastes best (well, me. And you can see if you agree...)? But, most awkwardly of all, a friend pointed out the other day that even when you hit on a really good recipe (which she and I believe we have) if you have it too many times (which perhaps she and I have) it can start to get a bit boring.

But I want to plough on anyway. Most importantly, I think this "best recipe" idea will have to never be definitive, it will be a moving feast, if you will. Your submissions will be welcome, requested even, and even when I think I have come across the best I can find, I look forward to you topping it with something better (recipes are good, samples in my letter box are encouraged).

So, chocolate cake. The samples I tried on my friend's sunny back deck were outstanding. One of them I have made myself, and I was eager to see it again. The other got better and better the more I ate (always a problem). And not only because my friend hand-ground all the hazelnuts herself! But I'm not sure if they quite fit the definition that I need to put in place. Mainly I think because they don't have flour, and once you leave the standard cake ingredients behind, you can go a long way off course and where does it end? So I will leave you with some photos and references (click on the links) to these great cakes from my friend's sunny back deck, and then suggest to you what I believe to be the best basic chocolate cake recipe around at the moment: Dana's Chocolate Cake. The recipe is found in Sophie Gray's Destitute Gourmet Stunning Food from Small Change, and the sample below was made earlier this week to celebrate the third birthday of the best little guy around.

So this is best chocolate cake recipe part one. I think there may be more.

Dana's Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
100 grams melted butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Put all ingredients in to a food processor and mix.
Grease and line a 20cm cake loose-bottom cake tin (it's quite a liquid mix and you don't want it leak in to the bottom of the oven).
Bake for 50 mins at 180 degrees.

Nigella's Nutella Cake

Chocolate Cloud Cake

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Apple Fruit Bar

Reuben is a fan of those fruit bars that you can buy at the supermarket, and we have got them for him occasionally. But I do like homemade snacks for him, and thought I would like to have a go at making him something similar. I came across a recipe for Berry Shortcake Slice in the NZ Gardener magazine, and it was just what I needed to get me started. But I had a hankering to try it with apple rather than berries - perhaps because that is the flavour we have usually bought, and perhaps because apples are always available in our house when berries are not. I played around with the recipe a bit (including reducing the sugar) and think the results are way beyond a child's basic snack. This would do very well warmed with cream for pudding, you just might like to think of a more stylish name for for it.

I highly recommend that you don't make it late morning when both children need your attention and everyone is needing lunch. Believe me.

The mixture looked a bit dry so I played around with the butter to try and get it right. You may need to do the same but it will be really quite crumbly, so try this first. If you don't have mixed spice just increase the cinnamon a little.

Apple Fruit Bar

180g butter, softened
1 cup sugar (caster if possible)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
2 apples

Soften the butter and beat in a mixer with sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy. 
Sift in the flour and beat until the mixture becomes a crumbly dough. Add spices.
Set aside 1 cup of the mixture, and pour the rest in to a lined slice tin. Press down firmly, then grate 2 apples and pile on to the top. Crumble the remainder of the mixture over the apple.
Bake 40-45 mins at 180 degrees.

Update: I have tried this recipe again with apricots - one tin apricots + a handful of chopped dried apricots. I liked it more than the apple. Make sure you drain and pat dry the tinned apricots so the slice doesn't get too soggy.

This Fruit Bar recipe is my (first ever!) entry in to the Sweet New Zealand Monthly Blogging Event. This month it's being hosted by Plum Kitchen and you read can all about it here.