Morning tea

Everyone knows I'm a big fan of afternoon tea - especially if there are scones involved. Morning tea seems a bit more difficult, but this morning, after a text advising that a friend was coming to visit in 45 minutes, I managed to get my act together.

So what to make when you've only got a small window of opportunity and a small person to get sorted out? I checked the pantry, saw a bag of dried apricots, and decided to experiment with them in a cake.

Apricot and coconut cake


1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tspn coconut essence
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups SR flour

Method


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a 20 cm ring tin or 18 cm sandwich pan. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well. Add the coconut essence and fruit and mix to combine. Add the flout and milk alternately, one third at a time. Place the batter in the prepared cake tin and bake for around 35 - 40 minutes until golden on top. Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes before turning out.

We ate the cake while it was still warm. I think it would make an excellent steamed pudding, served with creme anglaise.

Fusion dessert



My first attempt at dessert wontons was a massive fail involving chocolate ganache. They tasted pretty good, but I ended up with a deep fryer full of burnt chocolate. I've got some ideas about how to achieve chocolate wonton nirvana, but in the meantime decided to try out apple. All in all, it was an excellent decision.

Fried apple wontons


2 green apples, peeled and cored
1 tspn ground cloves
16 wonton wrappers
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
oil for frying
icing sugar for dusting

Method

Mix the sugar and water to together. Microwave on high for 30 seconds and stir. Microwave a further 30 seconds and stir again to dissolve remaining sugar. Microwave on high for one minute to form a clear syrup. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, chop the apple into small pieces and sprinkle with cloves. Add a small amount of water and cook until softened. To assemble the wontons, brush the edges of the wrapper with a little sugar syrup. Place a small spoonful of apple in the middle of the wrapper and fold up edges. Squeeze the edges together to make sure none of the apple escapes. Heat the oil in a deep fryer or heavy-based saucepan. To test if the oil is the right temperature, drop a piece of wonton wrapper in. It should be golden and puffed within 30 seconds. Fry the wontons in small batches until golden brown. Drain well. Keep warm in a pre-heatd oven while completing the batches. Dust with icing sugar and serve with cream or ice cream.

Tagines

Tagines have to be one of the easiest ways to cook. Just whack all the ingredients in the tagine and stick the lot in the oven until it's done. Precisely what you want when you don't have loads of time to look after a meal.



The name tagine refers to both the pot and the style of dish. There are plenty of recipes out there for meat tagines, but I haven't come across that many vegetarian ones that I like. This is my favourite way of using my tagine.

If you don't have a tagine, the recipe will work just as nicely in a French oven or casserole dish.

Chickpea and lentil tagine


1 onion, sliced
800 g canned crushed tomatoes
1 capsicum, seeded and sliced
420g chickpeas
1 cup red or yellow lentils
1/2 preserved lemon
1/2 cup pitted olives
1 tbspn turmeric
1 tspn cumin
1/2 tspn paprika

Method


Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Layer the ingredients in the tagine base. Place the lid on top, and put in oven for around two hours. Remove from the oven and check the lentils have softened. If they are still dry, stir and return to the oven for up to another two hours. Serve with cous cous.

Rustic goodness

When you want something hearty and filling, you can't go past vegherd's pie. Plus it fills a gap in the comfort food list that appears when you become vegetarian or even start eating less meat. Why vegherd's pie? It's essentially a shepherd's pie only for vegie keepers instead of sheep keepers.




Vegherd's Pie


1 olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic
1 tspn curry powder
1 packet vegetarian mince
410g can crushed tomatoes
2 carrots, chopped
1 cup peas
6 tspns gravy powder
1 cup water
5 large potatoes
2 tbspn cream or butter
1 cup cheddar, grated

Method


Heat oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Saute the onion and garlic until translucent. Add the curry powder and stir. Add the mince and tomatoes. Break up the mince, then add the peas, carrot, gravy powder and water. Simmer until the mixture thickens. Meanwhile peel and chop the potatoes roughly. Boil until tender - around 15 minutes. Remove from heat and strain. Add the cream and mash. Place the mince mix in a casserole and top with potato. Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake until cheese has melted and is golden brown.
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