La Mayonnaise à Dédé

Well it’s been a while…again.  Actually it’s been a long while.  Like three months.  That might not sound like much to some but to me considering everything that’s been going on in my neck of the woods feels more like this…

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Life has been cray cray in Clem Town.  Work picked up quite a bit, and while it gave me opportunities to traffic and develop professional, I quite literally for a few months had zero time or energy for much else.  Any time that I did have to myself was spent sleeping or catching up on the usual adult things you do in life.  Laundry, house cleaning and more laundry.  What I was doing was extremely important to the company, and I wanted to prove to myself and to the stakeholders involved that someone without an actual degree in the industry or training could manage the project.  I’m happy to say the campaign was a success and hopefully results from a few months from now we can see the actually statistical effect it had.

I also happened to squeeze in a trip to France to visit family.  I surprised my mum at the family reunion in Brittany.  The rest of the family was in on it and so the surprise went without a hitch.  I swear she looked at me for a good minute before realising it was her daughter standing in front of her.

As with any family reunion, there’s heaps of laughter, bits of drama, and a few tears.  This one was no exception.  It was the first time four of us cousins were in the same place together.  Seeing that two of us live here in Australia, one in France and one in Switzerland, you can understand the difficulty in getting the family together.  There were three other cousins unable to attend, and I doubt we’ll ever all be in the same room together at any point in our lives.  Stories of my mum’s childhood came out, slideshows of the family holidays as well, showing glimpses into the past which us young people never thought we would ever see.

After about a week in Brittany, I headed south to see my mum’s dad, my grand-père.  My fondest childhood memories are of my grand parents in the south of France.  I can still smell the giant lavender bush they had that laid it’s scent on the laundry that floated in the hot breeze. It was a flash back into time stepping into the now cream yellow stucco house.  My grandmother and grand father were always kind to me, wanting my visits with them to be full of joy, sunshine and chocolate mousse.

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The visit though was also bittersweet.  My grandfather is getting up in age, and knows that his years are numbered.  He walks slower, his memory at times fails him, he is out of breath after walking up a flight of stairs, and to me it was a bit of a shock.  Within minutes of seeing him it really hit me that this would more than likely be the last time I saw him.  I needed to take advantage of the four short days I had with him.

I learned as much as I could from him about the family, hearing stories of my origins dating all the way back to the French Revolution.  The streets I had walked through in Dinan and St. Malo the week before were the same that my great-grandparents, and even great great great great grandparents had meandered through during their lifetime.  I listened to my grandfather talk about when the Germans invaded Dinan, and when the Americans came through to liberate the town a few years later.  I heard how he met my grandmother, and saw photos from their wedding and photographs of family members dating back to the 1850s.

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Most of all though I wanted to learn about his food.  His mayonnaise and coq au vin are what I remember most from my childhood and visits when I was in university.  They are both foods I would have for my last meal if I were on death row.  He doesn’t cook much anymore, but when I asked him to show me how to make both of these dishes, he was more than happy to oblige.  He also showed me his “Poulet a L’estragon”, or Tarragon Chicken, which was as you can imagine absolutely divine.  I’ll certainly post up that recipe soon.

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But today’s post is about the simple pleasures of a made from scratch mayonnaise.  It’s incredibly simple and you won’t want to buy store bought mayonnaise after trying this one.  I guess you could add herbs, spices or even some fresh grated garlic to it to jazz it up, but for me it’s always the good ole plain mayonnaise à Dédé.

La Mayonnaise à Dédé

  • One egg yolk
  • Good heaping teaspoon of dijon mustard
  • Generous dash of salt and pepper
  • Sunflower oil (you can use olive oil, but the taste will be quite different.  Try the recipe out with each oil and you’ll see what I mean)
  1. Whisk together the yolk, salt and pepper, and mustard until well blended.
  2. Then drizzle just a tiny bit of oil to incorporate into your yolk mixture.
  3. Once mixed in, drizzle a touch more and whisk until combined.
  4. Continue this process and you’ll see you mayonnaise begin to form.  It’s ready when it starts to pull from the sides of the bowl.  Keep adding oil if you need a large amount of mayonnaise.
  5. Serve immediately or chill.  I recommend eating it with cold chicken or potatoes, or ham.

Couple of handy tips for making mayonnaise:

  • Use a bowl with a nice large base so you can whisk everything well.
  • Sunflower oil is mild in flavour, which is why my grand father uses it.  You can use olive oil, but because it has a strong flavour on its own, this will reflect in your mayonnaise.
  • Add a few extra bits to make your own unique condiment, like grated garlic (which turns this recipe into aioli), grated horseradish, or chopped herbs.

 

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Dairy Free and Egg Free Morning Glory Muffins – Recipe Review

It has been an absolutely manic couple of weeks.  Between a few video shoots and travel for work, I haven’t had the energy or willpower to get into my kitchen to test any recipes (hello Menulog).  But hey, life happens right?  Time to get back on the band wagon!

One of my bad habits, which mind you I am trying to break, is not eating enough fruits and veggies (I mean…wine counts as fruit juice right?).  It’s always more convenient to grab a a chicken roll from the barbecue chicken shop or nuke some marinara sauce that you have tucked away in the freezer.

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So when I saw the large bag of carrots in the fridge I figure I should take advantage and use them up plus other ingredients I had lying around in the pantry. That’s when I found Baker by Nature’s Morning Glory muffin recipe on my Pinterest board.

Watch my video on this recipe!

Here’s Baker by Nature’s recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 apple, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups grated carrot (about 3 medium)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Instructions

  1. Line a muffin tin with paper liners and set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F) [200 degrees C].
  2. In large bowl add the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt; whisk well to combine. Add in the applesauce, oil, apple and vanilla; whisk just until combined. Fold in the carrot, raisins, coconut and walnuts; stir until ingredients are combined. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups.
  3. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees (180 degrees C) and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (or with just a few crumbs attached). Cool muffins in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

The Good, the Bad, the Inedible

If you watch my video, this recipe proves why I do two tests for each recipe.  In the first test, the dough is really dry and the finished product is almost doesn’t resemble a muffin.  The second test came out much better than the first.

Overall, these muffins aren’t too bad.  They’re incredibly moist and there’s a lot of different textures with the carrot, coconut and little bursts of sweetness from the raisins (or sultanas, whatever you want to call them).

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The one thing that might deter you from using this recipe is the amount of spices.  You get this wash of cinnamon and ginger at the very end that can be pretty over powering for some, which is why I tried these bad boys out with only half the spice and it really made all the difference.  All in all, I would give this recipe 4 out of 5 muffin tops.

So if you like cinnamony things, this recipe is a keeper.  If you’re not a huge fan, try my amended version below.  It’s just as tasty!

Morning Glory Muffins – Amended Version

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 apple, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups grated carrot (about 3 medium)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Instructions

  1. Line a muffin tin with paper liners and set aside. Preheat oven to 400F degrees, or 200C degrees.
  2. In large bowl add the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt; whisk well to combine. Add in the applesauce, oil, apple and vanilla; whisk just until combined. Fold in the carrot, raisins, coconut and walnuts; stir until ingredients are combined. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups.
  3. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350F degrees, or 180C degrees and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (or with just a few crumbs attached). Cool muffins in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack. 

 

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Ina Garten’s Curried Chicken Salad

If  Julia Child is the amazing queen of home cooks, then Ina Garten is our fairy god mother. The one who always has a fantastic, elegant recipe for parties, lunches, and family dinners.

I’ve been a huge Ina Garten fan for quite a while.  I binge when I can on her shows on The Food Network.  Her recipes are pretty simple, yet the end product at times looks too elegant to eat.

I lied.  Usually I stuff my face as soon as I can with Ina’s recipes!

One of her most popular recipes is her Curried Chicken Salad.  It’s a staple at her delicatessen shop, The Barefoot Contessa, which also just so happens to be the main title of several of her cookbooks.  This recipe in particular is in her Family Style cookbook.  I’ve got this book and her Barefoot in Paris book, and I could certainly make any excuse to get a few more!

While this is one her most popular recipes, I’ll admit it that I’ve never actually made it.  But hey, there’s first for everything!

Here’s my YouTube video of this test.  I’m trying out a shorter version of these.  Let me know what you think!  Follow my channel to get notified when I upload another video.

 

Ina Garten’s Curried Chicken Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups good mayonnaise (recommended: Hellman’s)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup chutney (recommended: Major Grey’s)
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 cup medium-diced celery (2 large stalks)
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions (AKA shallots) , white and green parts (2 scallions)
  • 1/4 cup raisins (AKA sultanas)
  • 1 cup whole roasted, salted cashews

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and dice the chicken into large bite-size pieces.
  3. For the dressing, combine the mayonnaise, wine, chutney, curry powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until smooth.
  4. Combine the chicken with enough dressing to moisten well. Add the celery, scallions, and raisins, and mix well. Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Add the cashews and serve at room temperature.

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The good, the bad, the inedible

You know how Nigella Lawson always had a closing shot on her show where she’s having a midnight snack with whatever she cooked? Yeah.  That was me with Ina’s chicken salad once amended.  It’s freaking addictive.  Perfect crunch with the celery and cashews, just enough sweetness with the sultanas and nice spicy depth of flavour with the curry.

Just a couple of downsides though.

First of all, I don’t exactly have the time to roast 3 whole chicken breasts.  Plus, those type of bird boobs would cost about $15, maybe even over $20 if you’re going free range or at a specialty butcher.  Coles Supermarkets here making a really decent roast chook (Aussie speak for chicken), and it’s only $8 a pop. BOOM. Money and time saved!

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The other downside is this is actually pretty salty.  You’re more than likely going to buy pre-roasted and salted cashews, am I right? They’re already pretty salty, and if you add 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt in your dressing, it’s incredibly salty.  I ended up cutting the salt by half and that seemed to make a world of difference.

This recipe would be, as Ina usually says, “fabulous” for school or office lunches.  Even make it a ritzy twist as finger sandwiches for high tea or a lunch party, or make cups using endive leaves.

So, below is my only slightly improved version.  Enjoy!  And please let me know what you think of the recipe in the comments.

Curried Chicken Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 roasted chickens, meat shredded (4-4/12 cups)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups good mayonnaise (recommended: Hellman’s)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup chutney (recommended: Major Grey’s)
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 cup medium-diced celery (2 large stalks)
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions (AKA shallots) , white and green parts (2 scallions)
  • 1/4 cup raisins (AKA sultanas)
  • 1 cup whole roasted, salted cashews

Directions

  1. For the dressing, combine the mayonnaise, wine, chutney, curry powder, and 3/4  teaspoons salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until smooth.-
  2. Combine the chicken with enough dressing to moisten well. Add the celery, scallions, and raisins, and mix well. Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Add the cashews and serve at room temperature

Handy Tip: keep some dressing in the fridge and redress the salad if you have some leftover in a day or two.  Like any salad, it dries out just a tad after a couple of days.  Adding a bit more dressing give it an added moisture boost.

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Vegan and sugar free Banoffee Coconut Chia Pudding

If you haven’t figured it out already, I’ve got a pretty big sweet tooth.  I bloody love chocolate, cakes, slices, pies…you name it, I probably like it.  So when my friend and CRR supporter Anna found a vegan and sugar free dessert recipe, I wasn’t exactly all gung-ho about the idea.  It’s not a dessert unless there’s something sweet and not all too healthy for you.  But hey, I’m open to trying things out, and just maybe this dessert will change my mind about anything sugar-free.

This dessert would be perfect for Valentine’s Day, as it’s served in individual cups, it has chocolate, and well…it’s a dessert!

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This recipe is from Taste.com.au, and as you might know if you’ve been following the blog, that website is a bit hit or miss. There’s been on more than one occassion where I’ve found steps missing, ingredients not listed in instructions, or the recipe itself leads to a lacklustre end product.  So already before starting I was on the fence about this already.

But anyway, here we go!

Check out the review video here.

 

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Here’s the original recipe:

  • 54g (1/4 cup) black chia seeds
  •  270ml can light coconut milk
  •  2 1/2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  •  2 tablespoons water
  •  60ml (1/4 cup) rice malt syrup
  •  1 teaspoon coconut oil
  •  1 large banana, sliced
  •  Pinch sea salt flakes
  •  Roasted coconut chips, to serve
  •  Raw cacao nibs, to serve (optional)
  1. Place chia seeds, coconut milk, cacao powder, water and 2 tablespoons of the rice malt syrup in a blender. Blend until almost smooth. Divide among four 125ml (1/2 cup) glasses. Place in the fridge for 2 hours to chill.
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the banana, turning carefully, for 30-60 seconds each side or until golden and caramelised. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with sea salt. Drizzle with remaining rice malt syrup. Cool for 2 minutes.
  3. Top the puddings with banana and drizzle with pan juices. Sprinkle with the coconut chips, and cacao nibs, if using.

The Good, the bad, the inedible

Let’s talk dollars.  This recipe is fucking expensive.  Not just expensive.  Fucking expensive.  I spent nearly $40 on the ingredients.  Now I don’t know about you, but I could spend $40 on food easily.  But $40 usually lasts me a week in groceries.  So quite frankly if you’re living on a budget, don’t do this recipe.  It’s ridiculous to think that health and organic food can be significantly more pricey than economical (and let’s face it) unhealthier food.  It’s sad, and pathetic.

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Okay, rant over!

Worth adding here also that this recipe is not technically 100% sugar free.  Rice malt syrup happens to contain different forms of glucose, but not fructose, which is the refined sugar that is oh so bad for us.  So this recipe can’t actually be called sugar free.  Thanks to a commentator called SudsEats for pointing this out.

I was a bit surprised by this recipe.  It’s incredibly easy to make.  There was just one problem (okay, it’s technically a second problem if you count the whole price thing).  This pudding is called “Banoffee Coconut Chia pudding”. However, you can’t taste the coconut at all in the recipe.

No I’m serious. It doesn’t take like coconut at all.

You would think that if there’s a food within the name that the food product would actually taste like it.  I was expecting this to almost taste similar to a Bounty.  It was so far from it.  Instead it really just tasted like chocolate, so perhaps this should be called Banoffee Chocolate Chia Puddings.

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But for those of you out there who love the taste of coconut, there’s still hope! I tried a few different alternatives to adding water and the winning combination was….drum roll…..coconut extract and time! Coconut liquor added some coconut flavour, but not enough to really taste a difference with the original recipe.  Coconut extract plus leaving the puddings in the fridge for as long as possible (try overnight) however added the perfect amount of coconutty goodness.  It was delish!

Just a word of caution, if you want to ensure this dessert remains sugar free, double check your extract doesn’t contain any added sugar. Most extracts I found don’t but worth confirming.  You never know!

So if you love chocolaty goodness, keep the recipe the same.  Otherwise, here’s the improved, significantly more coconutty recipe!

Banoffee Coconut Chia Puddings

  • 54g (1/4 cup) black chia seeds
  •  270ml can light coconut milk
  •  2 1/2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  •  2 tablespoons coconut extract
  •  60ml (1/4 cup) rice malt syrup
  •  1 teaspoon coconut oil
  •  1 large banana, sliced
  •  Pinch sea salt flakes
  •  Roasted coconut chips, to serve
  •  Raw cacao nibs, to serve (optional)
  1. Place chia seeds, coconut milk, cacao powder, extract and 2 tablespoons of the rice malt syrup in a blender. Blend until almost smooth. Divide among four 125ml (1/2 cup) glasses. Place in the fridge for 2 hours to overnight to chill. If leaving the puddings overnight, cover the pudding in plastic wrap to prevent the puddings from drying.
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the banana, turning carefully, for 30-60 seconds each side or until golden and caramelised. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with sea salt. Drizzle with remaining rice malt syrup. Cool for 2 minutes.
  3. Top the puddings with banana and drizzle with pan juices. Sprinkle with the coconut chips, and cacao nibs, if using.

 

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Easy Bread recipe – A Review

Last week I posted about my Spinach Dip Cob test that quite a few of my work friends are now keen to try themselves with the upcoming Australia Day long weekend.  For everyone that’s not an Aussie, Australia Day is the public holiday to celebrate the landing of the first fleet, kind of like Columbus Day in the US.  In the last few years it’s been a hot topic of debate as some want to change the date of Australia Day for one reason or another.  Most people I know actually don’t quite care.  To us it’s a great excuse to get together with friends, have a barbecue and a few laughs together, and celebrate what a great place we live in.

Anyway, back to the point of this post…bread!  My work boo Tess had a great suggestion the other day.  I’ve tested the dip, why not test making the bread bowl?  That only makes total sense right?  So off I went to start finding a bread recipe worth testing.

I think everyone can relate to the fact that we all have our preference with bread.  Some of us like a soft white sandwich while others prefer a dark, solid multigrain loaf.  Me, I’m a hard crunchy crusty type with a soft airy centre.  That’s quite likely my French side coming out.

As this is the first time I’ve ever tried to make bread from scratch, I thought it wise to try an easy bread recipe over a complicated one.  I figured some of my readers and viewers might be in the same position as me, wanting to master bread making but didn’t want to easy and then progress to a more complicated process.  Julia Child, your bread recipe will have to wait. That’s when I stumbled upon Life as a Strawberry’s Easy Crusty French Bread.  The name said it all.  It was to be easy, and the images on the page looked like a crusty bread to me.

Check out my video on this recipe test on my YouTube channel:

Let’s dive in to bread making shall we? Here’s Life as a Strawberry’s recipe:

INGREDIENTS

  • 2.25 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1.25 cups warm water (about 100 degrees F should do)
  • 1.5 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2.5 cups All-Purpose Flour, plus extra for dusting

Spinach Dip Cob: the retro party food that just won’t Die

Is it too late to say Happy New Year?

Nah. Screw it. Happy New Year! I hope you smash all of your 2018 goals out of the park.

New year, new you.  Right?  Maybe not.  At least it gives you an excuse to start of fresh. I’m not the type to make resolutions or anything, but after stepping out of my comfort zone and starting my YouTube channel (Go on, take a peak and subscribe to my channel.  You know you want to!), I think it’s time to set a few goals for myself that I think are easily attainable.  So here are my goals for 2018:

  • Get serious about Clem’s Recipe Reviews, and be consistent in posting. You guys seem to enjoy the reviews, confirming the reason why I started this blog.  I’m not the only one who has tried a recipe only to have it fail miserably! Plus my recipe collection is only getting bigger. #recipeaddict
  • Go on an adventure at least once a month, whether that be an art exhibit, new restaurant, or an area I haven’t explored yet.

I reckon two goals are pretty realistic, and challenging enough that I’ll definitely feel like I’ve achieved a lot if I complete them.  Now on to what this blog is all about…a recipe review!

This post I decided to do something slightly retro,  something that our mums and grandmums have been bringing to barbecues and parties for decades –  seafood mousse.

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Haha no I’m kidding.  I couldn’t put you through that!  What I’m reviewing is a Spinach Dip Cob, a retro recipe that just seems to never die.  And for good reason!  Here in Australia there’s never been a barbecue that I’ve been to that didn’t have a cob loaf of some description.  This party dish is so popular there’s a town that has a cob festival in Wellington, NSW and competition to crown the “world’s best cob”.  There’s cold cobs, warm cobs, and even dessert cobs.  They’re so popular, they’re even mentioned on the radio.

If you don’t know what a cob loaf is, it’s pretty much just a round loaf of bread.  BOOM! Mind blown.

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But I’m going to stick to the classic spinach dip cob, and I’m going to use the most popular version of this recipe found on Taste.com.au.  I mean, if it’s highly rated surely it’s the best recipe for spinach cob right?

Time to get on your expandable pant wear as we review the Spinach Dip Cob!

If you want to watch the video of my review, check it out below:

Here’s the recipe from Taste.com.au:

Cob Loaf Spinach Dip

Ingredients

  • 450g (approx 1 pound) cob loaf
  •  250g (approx 8 ounces) frozen spinach, thawed
  •  250g (approx 8 ounces) creamed cheese, softened
  •  300ml (approx 10 ounces) tub sour cream
  •  40g (approx 1.5 ounce) packet French onion soup mix
  •  Crackers, to serve

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F)/160C (325F) fan-forced. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Cut 4cm (1 inch) off top of cob loaf to form lid. Scoop bread from centre of loaf, leaving 1.5cm edge. Tear or roughly chop bread pieces.
  3. Squeeze out any excess moisture from spinach, discarding any liquid. Combine spinach, cheese, sour cream and soup mix in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Spoon mixture into loaf. Top with lid. Place on prepared tray. Arrange bread pieces in a single layer around loaf. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Serve with cut vegetables and extra crackers if desired.

The Good, the bad, the inedible

As always, lets start with the good.

Mate, this recipe is so easy, there’s no way you can screw it up.  And it’s really quick to make to.

Yeah. That’s about it really.

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Let’s start with those instructions.  How the hell are you supposed to cut 4cm off the top of a round loaf?  let me just get my laser level and square ruler out of my back pocket and measure that out exactly.  Seriously Taste.com.au, let’s be realistic here.

Good lord this dip is SALTY.  And all you taste is French onion soup mix.  If it’s called “spinach dip” surely you want to taste the spinach in said dip right?  If not then don’t call it spinach dip!

Even without seasoning it as per the reason (because me being as impatient as I am, I had to try the dip out a couple of times before completing it), it was still salty.  Then I read the ingredients on the back of the French onion soup mix.  Did you know that the list of ingredients goes in order from what’s used the most in a recipe to the least?  Pretty handy tip for  when you’re keeping an eye on your salt intake or anything else in general.  Anyway, salt was the third most predominant ingredient in this particular mix.  The next time I went to the supermarket, I got curious and looked at every French onion soup mix packet I could find, and every single one had salt as the third or fourth most predominant ingredient. Every. Single. One.  Pretty scary ay?

Next downside to this is the dip once made, doesn’t actually fill a whole cob.  Which really just sucks because that means there’s too much bread to dip.  So if you want to fill the cob you have to double up this recipe.

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Each time I got it out of the oven, I dove my crispy bread cube all the way down to the bottom of the dip.  A) because I wanted to ensure that the entire dip was warm and B) because I am a pig. And each time I did this, the dip wasn’t warmed all the way through.  It was warm on the top and room temperature on the bottom.  Now, I don’t know about you, but my instincts usually say with any cream based dips if they’re room temperature that’s not entirely food safe.  It’s probably okay in this scenario, but I certainly don’t think it makes this dip the best cob dip on the planet.

I think this is my first review of a taste.com.au recipe, and to be honest it leaves something to be desired.  What I’ve found is that the ingredient amounts aren’t enough to fill the whole cob (seriously who in their right mind would fill a cob only halfway?!), and their instructions are too specific for their own good.  If you’re going to publish a recipe, no matter how simple the process is, make the instructions simple. Make sure the ingredient amount complement the entire recipe or actual serving size.  Come on Taste, you can do better than this!

So, let’s move on to my new and improved version!

I threw out my laser level and square ruler thingy and just cut a quarter from the top of the loaf.  The dip then filled the loaf enough that there was an excellent bread to dip ratio!

I thought immediately it’s time to scrap the French onion soup mix.  You can give flavour to the dip without adding too much salt, and the soup mix was just too overpowering. This is the perfect opportunity to add some fresh herbs and use some garlic and onion to give it some flavour.

I decided that raw onion and garlic would be way too overpowering as the dip doesn’t actually cook in the oven. Instead, powdered garlic and onion would be the perfect option – not too powerful, but just enough to give the dip flavour. But after adding double what I thought needed to be added, the dip was still missing something.  Something tangy, and a bit acidic.  Dijon mustard did the trick!  And with the new version, this dip was perfect even just cold, which if you’re like me, a cold dip is WAY better than a warm one.

So, go grab a cob and a few simple ingredients and get dippin’!

New and Improved Spinach Cob

Ingredients

  • 450g (approx 1 pound) cob loaf
  •  250g (approx 8 ounces) frozen spinach, thawed
  •  250g (approx 8 ounces) creamed cheese, softened
  •  300ml (approx 10 ounces) tub sour cream
  •  2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup chopped herbs (I used parsley)
  •  Crackers, to serve

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F)/160C (325F) fan-forced. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Cut the top quarter of cob loaf to form lid. Scoop bread from centre of loaf, leaving thick edge. Tear or roughly chop bread pieces. If you’re serving a cold cob, toast your bread cubes in the oven and set aside.
  3. Squeeze out any excess moisture from spinach, discarding any liquid. Combine spinach and all remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. If you want a cold dip, refrigerate for at least half an hour and serve in your cob.
  5. If serving warm, spoon mixture into loaf. Top with lid. Place on prepared tray. Arrange bread pieces in a single layer around loaf. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Serve with cut vegetables and extra crackers if desired.

Toffee – Easy to Make, Easy to Eat

Christmas is quite literally now around the corner.  Our tree is up, presents wrapped, our favourite Christmas movies on the telly and fruit mince pies cooling on the counter.  I have to admit, the older I get the more I love spending Christmas Eve at home with Minou and the hubster, grazing on fantastic food and drinking a special bottle from the cellar.

Every year I  make a small treat boxes for my coworkers, as a way to say thank you for a fantastic year.  I try to make a variety of goodies, but as you can imagine things can get a bit hectic around the holidays, and this year was no exception.  Since November I haven’t been exactly sure which way is up or which day it is.  It has been cray cray (in a good way) at work in the lead up to Christmas, then there was Turkey Day where the green bean casserole from my previous post was a hit, and before you know it, Christmas is here.

So this year it was time to think small and simple.  Fruit mince pies are always a hit, but this year there are a few vegetarians and religious restrictions in the team, so I needed an alternative.  Mom on Timeout’s toffee recipe came through on my Facebook feed in the nick of time.  It seemed easy enough to create and plus hey, I love hard toffee.  Win win!


Here’s my video of the test.

Here’s the original recipe:

Mom on Timeout’s “Better than Anything” Toffee

Ingredients
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 227 grams) Challenge unsalted butter (Of course, you can use your favourite butter.  Challenge butter doesn’t exist here in Australia)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Spray a 9-inch (23 centimeter) square baking dish with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.
  2. Spread the chopped pecans in a single layer on top of the parchment.
  3. Add butter, sugar, and salt to a heavy bottomed 3 quart pot
  4. Bring to a boil over medium low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar.
  5. Once the candy is boiling, stir occasionally, slowly and evenly, until the candy has reached 290F (143 Celsius) to 300F (148 Celsius), or “hard crack” on a candy thermometer.
  6. Once the candy has reached 290F-300F, remove from heat and gently stir in the vanilla extract.
  7. Carefully pour the mixture over the chopped pecans.
  8. Let the candy sit for a few minutes, undisturbed, before sprinkling the chocolate chips over the top.
  9. Cover the baking dish with foil and let sit for 5 minutes or until the chocolate has softened.
  10. Remove the foil and gently spread the softened chocolate into an even layer. An offset spatula works best for this.
  11. Place the candy in the refrigerator and let cool completely. Give it at least 2 hours.
  12. Lift the parchment out of the baking dish and place the toffee on a cutting board or solid surface.
  13. Use a knife to gently break it into smaller pieces.
  14. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

The Good, the Bad, the Inedible

I’ve actually never made toffee, so this was an exciting challenge for me.  The recipe seems really easy, just a matter of dumping in ingredients and letting them bubble away.  What could possibly go wrong with that?

Yeah….the first test was a fail.  Absolute epic fail.  The toffee split when it hit about 250F, making the brown, curdled gluggy mess.  I had no idea what I had done wrong!  After doing some research there’s a few possibilities.

  • Stirring too hard and too often- This I think is the most likely reason.  Stirring too hard could possibly cause an abrupt temperature shift, which is a big no no for toffee.
  • Increasing or decreasing heat too drastically could also cause this.  I’ll admit I was very gentle stirring this bath, and I was using a whisk, so maybe while whisking too hard, I added too much cool air and just the force of my whisking caused it to split.
  • Using a cheap saucepan that doesn’t distribute heat properly – Yeah nah.  That’s definitely not me! Scanpan and Le Creuset all the way!
  • Humidity – water and fat don’t mix, so if it’s too humid in your kitchen this could also cause your toffee to split.

So with the second test I made sure to not stir the pot too much and too vigorously.  And that certainly helped me get a successful toffee!  Woohoo! My dentist is going to love me the next time he sees me!


There area  few things with this recipe I would change.  It’s not the ingredients, but more the order of adding ingredients in. I would add the vanilla in at the very beginning with the sugar and butter, as it does splatter around in the hot pan and also to prevent any drastic temperature changes in the toffee.  You’re not putting much vanilla in, but let’s just air on the side of caution and safety.  Nobody likes burnt fingers, hands and faces.

I would also use a 9 x 13 inch pan instead of a square 9 x 9 inch pan.  I like my toffee a bit thinner instead of thicker chunks.  But hey that’s just my personal preference, you are welcome to do what you wish!  Mom on Timeout also uses milk chocolate chips, but considering how sweet the toffee already is I used semi sweet chocolate chips in the second test to cut through the sweetness a bit.  But again you’re welcome to try either milk or dark, or maybe a combination of both if you prefer!

Here’s the amended recipe with my suggested edits:

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 227 grams) butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Spray a 9 x 13 inch (23cm x 33cm) pan square baking dish with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.
  2. Spread the chopped pecans in a single layer on top of the parchment.
  3. Add butter, sugar, salt and vanilla to a heavy bottomed 3 quart pot
  4. Bring to a boil over medium low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar.
  5. Once the candy is boiling, stir occasionally, slowly and evenly, until the candy has reached 290F (143 Celsius) to 300F (148 Celsius), or “hard crack” on a candy thermometer.
  6. Once the candy has reached 290F-300F, carefully pour the mixture over the chopped pecans.
  7. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top and let sit for 5 minutes or until the chocolate has softened.
  8. Gently spread the softened chocolate into an even layer. An offset spatula works best for this.
  9. Place the candy in the refrigerator and let cool completely. Give it at least 2 hours.
  10. Lift the parchment out of the baking dish and place the toffee on a cutting board or solid surface.
  11. Use a knife to gently break it into smaller pieces.
  12. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

 

Did my coworkers like the toffee?  Considering it was very quiet in the office as they munched on it, I reckon they did!

From my family to yours, have a wonderful Christmas and a fantastic New Year, full of cheer and goodies!