Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Clemencello - Homemade Mandarin Liqueur


I started off making Limoncello, then some Arancello and was so happy with the results I decided to get creative. Following the same process, I made this delicious Mandarin Liqueur. I think it is my favourite out of the three.

makes about 1.3 litres

1 litre jar
500ml Polish Spirit*
peel of about 5 clementines/mandarins
350g white sugar
350ml water, plus another cup of water

Wash the mandarins and dry them. You're using the peel, so want it nice and clean. Peel the mandarins. Trim the white pith off the inside of the peel by slicing along the inside of the skin, so you have nice orange strips of the zest without too much white pith on them. Take your time with this as the pith will make your liqueur bitter.

Put the strips into the jar and pour in the spirit. Store the jar in a dark place and give it a shake every other day. Check after 7 days to see if it's ready. You will know that it's ready when the peels have gone hard and crispy and you can snap them in half. It takes 1 - 2 weeks.

Now make up the sugar syrup. Put the 350g sugar and 350ml water into a saucepan and put over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature.

While the mixture is cooling, put a sieve over a jug (at least 2 litres) and pour in the alcohol, straining out the peel. The peel can be stored in the freezer in a ziploc bag and chopped finely and put into cakes. Pour the sugar syrup in an give it a stir. The mixture should go all lovely and cloudy. Have a little taste and if you find it a bit too strong, add some more water until you're happy with the flavour. The flavour will mellow over time, so keep this in mind. I added about an extra cup of water to mine.

Bottle it up and put it into the freezer, ready to sip on a warm afternoon in the sun.

Polish spirit

*Polish Spirit is a very high alcohol content grain spirit. I made this with an 80% strength spirit. You could make this with vodka, but then it's not technically 'fruit-cello' and you would want to use sugar on its own, rather than sugar syrup, to produce the same strength result.

Friday, 26 August 2011


Spare room

It's nice to finally have our spare room back again. It's one more thing that's nice and orderly again in my life. Now that Roman is in his cot, we are no longer using the spare bed. We used to take shifts getting some sleep in there, while the other one would sleep in the bed with Roman.

I get a nice sense of calm walking past the room now that it is back to how it should be. I do think it needs a headboard though...an upcoming project I think!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Sticky Date Pudding

Sticky date pudding

Dates were going cheap at the supermarket, so I bought a box. A perfect excuse to make this! Sticky Date pudding is one of my favourite desserts. It's perfect for wintry nights.

Sticky Date Pudding
serves 8

200g fresh dates, pitted
300ml boiling water
1 tsp bi-carb soda
60g butter
140g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
170g self raising flour

For the toffee sauce:
125g butter
125g brown sugar
2/3 cup cream
1 vanilla bean, split (optional)

Mix dates and bi-carb soda. Pour over water and leave to stand. If you don't want pieces of date in your puddings, you can puree the mixture in a blender, food processor or with a stick blender.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease an 18cm square cake tin, or 8 jumbo cupcake holes with butter.
Cream together the butter, brown sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Fold in the flour and then stir in the date mixture.

Pour mixture into the pan/cupcake holes. For the square cake tin, bake for 30 - 40 minutes. For individual puddings, bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

While the pudding is cooking, make the toffee sauce. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. The sauce will bubble up when it boils. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean. The sauce will thicken when it cools and can be kept in the fridge if you make it ahead. Just reheat and it will thin out again.

Pour a little of the warm sauce over the hot pudding and put back in the oven for a few minutes until it soaks in.

Serve the pudding with the rest of the sauce and some vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Satay Turkey Burgers

Turkey Satay Burgers

I was recently asked to test out some turkey mince and make some burgers with it. I was sent a voucher to use and after picking up my pack of Ingham turkey mince I started to brain storm. We were having some friends around for a BBQ and I wanted to come up with something different and decided on satay burgers with satay mayonnaise.

These turned out really great and were lovely and juicy, given how lean the mince is. I couldn't quite pick that it was turkey mince, but it also didn't taste like beef or chicken or anyting else. I will definitely be using turkey mince again.

Satay Turkey Burgers
makes 6 large patties, or 10 sliders

For the patties:
500g (1 lb) turkey mince
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 egg
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp smooth peanut butter

Mix all ingredients together and shape into patties. Chill patties in the fridge until ready to cook.

Fry the patties on a bbq until cooked to your liking.

To serve the burgers I used:
Burger buns
Grated carrot
commercial satay sauce, I used Fountain Satay Sauce

To make the satay mayonnaise, mix together about 1/3 cup mayonnaise and 2 tbsp satay sauce.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Roman's Amazing Transformation - Sleep School

I can happily report that at this moment,  Roman is asleep in his cot, for the first time ever!

We just got home today from 4 nights at Sleep School. I suppose I should say Mother Baby Unit, as they do a lot more than just sleep issues, but we were there for sleep.

It was nothing short of amazing! The transformation is unbelievable! We arrived at North Park on Saturday morning after getting the call the day before. The nurses suggested that I get Roman down for a nap the way I usually do and then we'd start the revolution at his bedtime.

The nurses were fantastic and talked with me to come up with a strategy for getting him to bed and staying there. The big changes:

1. No more co-sleeping - This was fine with me as I was looking forward to having the bed back.

2. No more overnight feeding - Roman had been feeding every few hours all night every night, so again, I was quite happy to give this up.

3. No more feeding to sleep. I knew this was bad, but it had become the only way I could get him to sleep.

That's all that had to change really, so far so good. With a combination of singing (twinkle twinkle is burnt into my brain) and patting his little bum, we got him off to sleep. The nurses have a great no nonsense attitude and didn't put up with Roman's crap the way I do, and he was asleep in about 15 minutes. The most amazing thing was that he didn't wake up! I gave him a dream feed at 10:30 and he didn't make a peep again until 6am! It was incredible! He self settled and didn't get up for the day until 7:30. I was so proud of him!

The next night was a similar story. And the next night. The last night he got up 3 times, but in the morning we saw he had cut a tooth which explained it all. I'd been waiting for that tooth to come out for about a week.

You hear horror stories that the nurses make the babies cry it out and tell you it's for the best, but it wasn't like that at all. The nurses were just brilliant and would sing to him and pat him and reassure him until he was calm. Then we'd walk out and listen to him. Sometimes he'd go right off to sleep, sometimes he'd whinge a bit first and other times he'd start up again, so we'd just go back in and try again. I never felt pressured into letting him cry at any point.

I feel so relaxed and refreshed. I got a few nights sleep and the best bit is that all your meals and your babies meals are prepared, so there's nothing to do but relax. No cooking, no cleaning, no washing. It was the closest thing I've had to a holiday in a long time! I didn't realise how much Sleep School would help me too. Not just the relaxation, but talking with so many other mums in the same situation makes you realise it's not just you and that babies really are all very different.

If you think this is something you need to do, book in now, because the waiting lists are long. We waited for almost 6 weeks. We put it off for a long time thinking that Roman would just get better, or grow out of it, but he didn't.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Risotto Cakes for Roman

risotto cake

Geez...I seem to be making a lot of ugly food on this blog lately, first the pea and ham, now these. Regardless of how these look, they taste great, use up some leftovers and are perfect for babies.

Risotto Cakes
makes 6

about 2 cups leftover risotto (I used pea and spinach)
1 egg*
handful grated cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).

Mix all ingredients together and divide into 6 muffin forms. You could use a greased muffin tin, silicone muffin cups, or paper patty cases (although I think they'd need to be fairly strong). If you're really desperate, you could probably even put the mix into ovenproof bowls or mugs.

Put into oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until browned slightly on top. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

risotto cake montage
(Roman enjoying his Risotto Cake)

*Please make sure your baby can tolerate whole eggs first

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Peanut butter Ice Cream with Oreo chunks

Peanut butter Oreo ice cream

Living in the UK for a year and then holidaying in America meant we've eaten more than our fair share of Ben & Jerry's in the past year. Now that we're back in Australia, it is much harder to come by, costs way to much when you can find it and the flavour selection just isn't there. I understand it's not all that cost effective to ship ice cream to the other side of the world, but sometimes we crave some chunky ice cream.

To solve this problem, I recently bought Ben & Jerry's book. The hubby and I are a bit obsessed with peanut butter flavoured things, so naturally, that was the first recipe we decided to road test. I was trying to decide what chunks would work well with it and settled on Oreos. We were not disappointed! It's lovely and creamy without needing a heap of egg yolks and didn't freeze into a solid block the day after making it.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Oreo chunks
makes about 1 litre

2 eggs
2 cups cream
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 - 1 pack of Oreo's (I used the whole pack)

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Whisk in the sugar a little at a time. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to combine. The sugar won't entirely dissolve now, but will as the mixture chills later in the fridge.

Take 1 cup of the mixture and put into a separate bowl with the peanut butter. Mash with the whisk and stir to breakdown the peanut butter. Once evenly mixed in, pour back into cream mixture and whisk until well blended.

Chill in the fridge for a few hours. Give it a quick mix and then transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturers instructions. While the ice cream is freezing, break each Oreo into about 4 pieces (I tried smashing them in the bag with my pestle, but found that breaking them in my hands gave a better result).

When the ice cream is done, transfer it to a tub for the freezer and stir through the Oreo chunks. Put into the freezer to firm up for a few hours.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Taggie Cube Soft Toy - Tutorial


This quick little toy can be whipped up in under an hour with some scraps of fabric and ribbon. The only other thing you need is some hobbyfill (stuffing). I chose ribbon and fabric with different textures and patterns to make it more interesting to play with. It would also be cool to put a rattle or bell in the middle of this...next time!

(The product tester)

Taggie Toy

You'll need:
6 squares of fabric - I made my 13x13cm (this included 2cm for seams)
12 pieces of ribbon - at least 6cm long

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Deliciously Ugly - Pea and Ham Soup

pea and ham soup

Well it certainly isn't the prettiest looking thing, but I do love Pea and Ham Soup! It is such a hearty and filling meal and every now and then I just have to have some. The texture is lovely and velvety and the ham really makes it a meal in a bowl. I think it may be my favourite soup.

I made this once with an unsmoked hock and no garlic and it was not that great, so I think both items are essential!

Pea and Ham Soup
serves 4 - 6

1 smoked ham hock (about 1kg)
2 cups dried split peas (I like the green ones)
1 onion, diced
3 medium carrots, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 sticks celery, sliced (optional)
1 sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
2.5 litres water

Put everything into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn the heat down to low and put a lid on the pot, leaving it slightly ajar. Allow the soup to simmer away for about 2 hours, until all the veggies are nice and soft. Skim off any scum that comes to the surface and give it a stir every now and then to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.

Remove the ham hock, thyme sprig and bay leaf and puree the soup with a stick blender. Trim the fat and skin from the ham hock and take off the meat and dice it into small chunks. Put the chunks into the pureed soup and taste for seasoning. I like it nice and peppery and find that the hock is normally salty enough that it doesn't need any extra salt.

The soup can be reduced slowly if you like it thicker or watered down for a thinner soup.
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