Lest we forget: Anzac Bread

Have you ever heard the expression, ‘an army marches on its stomach’? Whoever was in charge of provisioning the Antipodean soldiers in World War One certainly hadn’t. Researchers now believe poor diet was one of the contributing factors to the doomed Gallipoli campaign due to be commemorated in Australia and New Zealand tomorrow.

Not only were the hapless Anzacs on a hiding to nothing in terms of their strategic position and lack of equipment, they were given the most basic of rations and suffered greatly as a result. Like the song says, war – what is it good for?

I’m not sure that modern Anzac biscuits are that nutritionally sound either, but they surely rate highly in terms of improving – even in the short-term – one’s psychological state, especially when consumed with a good cup of tea. Ending (or even starting) the day with a bowl of Anzac Biscuit Ice cream offers a similar emotional health benefits. But if you’re looking for something a little more wholesome, then this easy Anzac-inspired bread could be just the ticket.

Anzac Bread
This is bread for beginners – there’s no kneading and very little hands-on effort required at all. Mix the dough before you go to the dawn service and it will just about be ready to stick in the oven when you get back.

350g strong or high grade flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
50g rolled oats
50g desiccated coconut
1 tsp dried yeast
20g butter, cold
1 Tbsp golden syrup
325ml warm water

Put the flour, salt, oats, coconut and yeast into a large bowl. Grate in the butter and then stir vigorously to mix it in.
Add the golden syrup to the water and pour into the bowl. Mix well until a wet, sticky dough forms.
Cover with a damp tea towel or plastic bag and leave in a warm place for three to four hours, until the dough has risen and nearly doubled in size.
Turn the oven to 210C. Grease a standard loaf tin (about 21 x11 cm) and line with baking paper.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and deflate it by pressing with your fingers until it forms a rectangular shape that’s slightly narrower than the length of the loaf tin. With the short side closest to you, carefully fold the bottom third of the dough into the middle, then over again. You should have a loaf shape sitting in front of you. Carefully transfer this to the prepared loaf tin.
Let rise for 30 minutes, until it is puffy and an indent stays when you press it with a finger. Slash the top with a sharp knife, dust with a little flour and put in the oven.
Bake for 35 minutes, until risen and golden brown. Let cool for five minutes before you turn it out of the tin. Leave it on a rack to cool completely.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Treat me: Easy Easter Brioche

Do you dream of waking up on Good Friday to a trayful of freshly made hot cross buns? Me too. Over the years I’ve tried many ways of achieving this, ranging from buying them in the day before, to getting up at the crack of dawn. Neither one is particularly good – especially if you already get up at the crack of dawn and everyone in your household is ravenous at breakfast time. The first hot cross bun of the day is like the first cup of tea; you shouldn’t have to wait for it.

But this way – using a clever, no-knead, no stress method – is perfect. All you do is make up a batter-like dough the night before and leave it in the fridge overnight. Then all you have to do in the morning is wait for the oven to heat up, then these lovely, light, buttery buns are ready to eat 15 minutes later. If that’s not an Easter miracle, I don’t know what is.

Easy Easter Brioche Buns Recipe And Photo: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Easy Easter Brioche
If you’ve had hot cross bun disasters in the past or are a novice yeast baker, this is the recipe for you. There’s no kneading, just a bit of energetic stirring with a wooden spoon. If you don’t have a muffin tin you can make a giant loaf in a 23cm cake tin – it will take more like 25-30 minutes to cook.

200g raisins or sultanas
50g mixed peel (or finely chopped crystallised ginger, or other tangy dried fruit)
150ml milk
250g strong or high grade flour
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp dried yeast
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
grated zest of one orange
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs, lightly beaten
140g unsalted butter, softened but NOT melted, and cut into little pieces

Put the dried fruit in a small heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water from the kettle. Leave to steep while you get everything else organised.
Put the milk in a small pan and bring to nearly simmering point, then remove from the heat and let cool to lukewarm.
Put the flour, sugar, yeast, spices and salt in a large bowl and stir well. Drain the dried fruit and set aside.
Pour in the milk, the orange zest, the vanilla, the eggs and the dried fruit. Beat well until you have a smooth batter. Set aside in a warm place until doubled – this will take about an hour.
Beat the risen batter until it deflates, then add half the butter and beat well with a wooden spoon until it is all mixed in and there are no lumps. Repeat with the remaining butter and beat until the batter is smooth.
Grease the holes of a 12-cup muffin pan with a little butter or oil, and divide the mixture between them.
Cover the tin with a plastic bag and put it in the fridge.
In the morning, turn the oven to 170C and take the tin out of the fridge. When the oven has reached temperature and the buns have lost their chill (about 35 minutes, in my house) put them in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until risen and golden brown.
Leave them in the tin for five minutes, then gently ease out with a spatula. Makes 12.

Have a wonderful Easter, everyone x

Treat me: Chocolate pani popo

Many moons ago I went to a cooking demonstration by Ray McVinnie in which he was asked if one could substitute low-fat coconut milk in a recipe he was making. He looked up over the wok, raised an eyebrow and said, ‘but why would anyone want to do that?’ When the questioner murmured that ‘some people’ liked to watch their weight, Ray looked her in the eye and said, ‘just eat less’. It was a slightly uncomfortable moment.

Easy Chocolate Pani Popo Recipe And Photo Credit: The Kitchenmaid/Lucy Corry

Anyway, I thought of that this morning while I was checking my email and eating some extremely high-fat, high-sugar chocolate pani popo. After signing up to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop emails (it was for work, honest!) I often find myself accidentally reading her helpful tips on how to become an altogether better, thinner, more detoxed, less stressed, version of myself. These usually involve signing up to some costly therapy, buying lots of expensive trinkets or working out like a maniac as suggested by her guru Tracy Anderson.

Today, as sticky-sweet coconut caramel dripped off the fluffy chocolate-studded bun, I’d never felt less in need of Gwyneth’s advice. She might think it’s time for a spring break detox a la Tracy, I say it’s time for more pani popo. Who’s with me?

Samoan Pani Popo Recipe And Photo Credit: The Kitchenmaid/Lucy Corry

Chocolate Pani Popo
I created these buns – my own version of a Samoan classic – for the March edition of We Should Cocoa, the chocolate blogging challenge dreamed up by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog. This month, guest host Laura of I’d Much Rather Bake Than… has chosen coconut as the special ingredient. It’s also a fitting entry for the March edition of Sweet New Zealand (hosted this month by Frances of Bake Club).
Don’t be put off by the lengthy instructions, these are easy to make.

For the buns:
350ml coconut milk – not the low fat sort
500g high grade flour
40g butter, cold
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
2 Tbsp brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
1 1/2tsp salt
100g chocolate, chopped into little bits

For the sauce:
300ml coconut milk
1 cup sugar

Put the 350ml measure of coconut milk in a small pot and bring to the boil, then let cool to blood heat while you get everything else organised.
Put the flour into a large bowl and grate in the butter. Stir through briskly until the butter is mixed through (this is easier than rubbing it in).
Add the yeast, sugar and salt and mix well, then pour in the warm coconut milk and stir until it forms a soft dough. Cover the bowl and let rest for 10 minutes.
Rub a little oil on the bench and tip the dough out on to it. Fold the dough in on itself, one corner at a time until you have worked around the whole piece. Cover with the upturned bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. Repeat this twice more, then return the dough to the bowl, cover it with a teatowel and let it rise until doubled (about an hour).
When the dough is risen and puffy, tip the dough out onto the bench and knock back, then roll out into a rectangle about 1cm thick.
Scatter the chopped chocolate over it, then roll up like a swiss roll. Cut into 1.5cm slices and put these into a deep baking dish (about 30 x 30 cm, or thereabouts). Cover with plastic and leave overnight in the fridge.
In the morning, take the buns out of the fridge and let them rise for about an hour, until starting to look puffy. Heat the oven to 180C.
While you’re waiting, put the 300ml coconut milk in a small saucepan and add the sugar. Heat, stirring, until it just begins to bubble. Pour this mixture over the buns and put the dish into the oven.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the buns are a deep golden colour, surrounded by a sticky caramel.
Let them sit for 10-15 minutes before eating to make sure they have soaked up lots of the lovely syrup.
Makes at least 16 decent-sized buns.
These are best eaten the day they are made, though you can put any leftovers in the fridge and reheat them the next day. But in my experience, leftovers are not an issue.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Miso and lemon mousetraps

Do you remember mousetraps from when you were a kid? I couldn’t wait to make them when the Small Girl was smaller, mainly so I could eat them myself. There’s something about salty, savoury Marmite that goes so well with slightly scorched bread and cheese. But I’ve found something that goes even better – a mega-umami hit of miso. I know it sounds unlikely, but one bite and you’ll be hooked. The only thing that makes it better is a squeeze of fresh lemon juice on top. Trust me, it’s a winner.

Miso And Lemon Mousetraps Photo And Recipe Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Miso and lemon mousetraps
The beauty of these mouth-watering morsels is that you can make a whole trayful to serve with drinks when  you are unexpectedly pressed into hostess service, or you can make a whole trayful and call it dinner on those nights when all you want to do is collapse on the sofa. You can use any kind of bread you like – baguette, a coarse-textured country loaf or even a cheeky gluten-free number, but nothing too wholegrain-y. Keep the slices about 1/2 a cm thick for best results and only toast one side so you get the soft/crunchy texture thing happening. I’ve kept quantities vague, but keep to the suggested ratio of miso to butter. Don’t forget the lemon, either. Any leftover miso-butter mixture can be kept in a covered container in the fridge.

sliced bread, as above
1/2 cup white miso
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
50-100g tasty cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 juicy lemon

Preheat the grill and line a baking tray with foil or baking paper. Lie the slices of bread on top, then put under the grill until golden. Don’t do what I do and wander off, unless you have an unlimited supply of bread to replace the charcoal that those forgotten slices will become. Take the tray out of the oven and turn the slices over, so the toasted side is facing down.
Put the miso and butter in a small bowl and mix until well combined. Generously spread the non-toasted side of the bread with this mixture, then scatter some grated cheese on top. Return the tray to the grill and toast until the cheese is crispy and the edges of the bread are darkening.
Let cool briefly before serving with a squeeze of lemon on top.  These are best eaten the day they are made.

Five fast family dinner ideas

The thing about having a food blog is that people always think you are having something exciting for dinner. People often ask me what I’m planning to eat and until very recently I would admit that I had no idea because my beloved was in charge of dinner. Sure, I was mostly in charge of shopping and thinking ahead, but he did the leg work on the nights I was working. It was great.

Things have changed and now I’m home first and it’s not the cushy number I thought it was. Among other things it means – oh no! – that I’m now in charge of dinner all the time.

If you have a similar role at your place, here are five fast family dinner ideas to make your after-work life more balanced. Don’t forget to pour yourself a G&T when you get in, you deserve it.

Chicken Salad And Crunchy Noodles Photo Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

1. Chicken and crunchy noodle salad
This was our favourite fast dinner this summer. The noodles – I pretend to myself that they aren’t deep-fried – turn a salad and some protein into something exciting and fun. You can do it with any kind of protein you like – I do it most often with chicken thighs or pork schnitzel, but fish or even pan-fried tofu are good too.
To make this when you get home from work, marinate about 600g sliced chicken thighs in a splash of soy sauce, a spoonful of marmalade or apricot jam, a clove or two of smashed garlic and a teaspoon of sesame oil (if you are really organised you can do this before you go to work). Turn the oven on to 180C and line a small baking tray with foil, then baking paper. The foil keeps the tray clean (less washing-up) and the baking paper stops the chicken sticking to the foil. I favour using the oven, rather than the stove-top, because it offers more hands-free time. However, if your oven is slow to heat up, or you get home very late, then by all means shelve my oven-cooking instructions below for your own stovetop methods.
So – stick the chicken in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until cooked. Meanwhile, assemble a collection of salad fixings (leaves, shredded seasonal vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, whatever) on a large platter. Toss through a little vinaigrette. When the chicken is cooked, scatter it on top, then sprinkle over the crunchy noodles. Serves four.

2. Rhi’s sausages: This is an idea that the lovely Rhi left in a comment once. Throw some roughly chopped good sausages, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, garlic, rosemary and onions into a roasting dish and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 200C for 30 minutes, then toss in some chunks of oil-drizzled baguette and bake for another 10 minutes until the bread is golden and crusty. You can extend or shrink this to suit however many mouths you have to feed – though be warned, they will all eat more of it than you think.

3. Homemade fish and chips:  Turn the oven to 200C. Scrub some potatoes and cut into thin wedges. Put in a plastic bag with a couple of tablespoons of oil and smoosh about until the wedges are coated. Tip onto a lined baking tray, sprinkle over some salt and pepper. Bake for 35 minutes, shaking occasionally. Meanwhile, line a small baking tray with foil. Lay some fresh fish fillets on top, then drizzle over some olive oil, a bit of lemon juice and grind over some salt and pepper. Switch the oven to grill and put the fish in to cook for about five minutes (leave the potatoes in the bottom of the oven, they will be fine). Serve with steamed beans, cherry tomatoes and lots of lemon wedges.

4. Bacon and egg pie: This easy bacon and egg pie takes five minutes to make and – if you use really good bought pastry, like this one – it feels like a real treat. If you’re really lucky, there will be some leftover for lunchboxes the next day.

Fish And Flatbreads Or Wraps Photo Credit Lucy Corry

5. Fish ‘n flats: Not to be confused with style for harried mothers website Fox in Flats, fish ‘n flats is another insta-dinner. Grill or fry fish as above (I prefer oven grilling, as it saves on smell and washing a frying pan; my beloved says frying gives you more crunchy bits, which is also true). Serve with flatbreads (homemade or bought), hummus (ditto), crunchy salad stuff. In my experience small children will eat all sorts of things if they can wrap them up in a flatbread.


What do you eat on busy days?