Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Best Buttermilk Pancakes

My husband and I recently had a small morning argument about pancakes. After some chivvying, he got up and made pancakes for breakfast (I make nice Saturday morning breakfasts all the time, without chivvying). For reasons only he knows, he eschewed all of the recipes I've already blogged, and found yet another random one on the internet to try. Again forgetting previous advice, he decided not to separate the eggs and whip the whites, used a random mug instead of a proper measuring cup for the flour, tried making his own buttermilk, and overbeat the batter. The result: bouncy tough glue circles; what I imagine dwarves chew for breakfast. Even with as nice toppings as I could find, they were inedible.

I spent half an hour or so Googling until I found someone who'd already been through this loop, and found the perfect husband-proof buttermilk pancake recipe. No egg white separation, but you will still need to remind him to buy buttermilk, and to leave batter barely mixed. I have updated it to metric quantities with Australian ingredients (I think our buttermilk is thicker). We didn't think we would eat all of these, but they were so delicious we polished them off. You'd be healthier splitting these between three people, or four as part of a brunch.

  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 eggs, slightly whisked
  • 500ml Casa Buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

In a medium bowl, stir together the salt, baking powder, baking soda, flour and sugar. In a separate larger bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Drizzle in the butter as you continue to whisk.

Switch to a wooden spoon and pour the dry ingredients on top of the wet; stir until almost completely combined. The more you stir pancake batter, the more flat and tough the pancakes will be, so mix only until a few streaks of flour are remaining.

Butter and heat a pancake pan and cook ladlefuls of batter until bubbles begin to form, flip and cook until golden. Serve immediately: I like mine with maple syrup, crème fraiche and strawberries.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Soft Buttery Dinner Rolls

I usually suck at making rolls. I don't know why, but they always come out dry, or rock hard. It's probably because I never used to look up any specific recipes, just took some bread dough and divided it. This time I wanted to make one of those Vietnamese/French fusion sandwiches, like banh mi, but cribbed from Nigel's second Kitchen Diaries. I really wanted a soft, fresh, buttery roll, the kind you get in a five star restaurant and can't help but take two of, even though you know you shouldn't fill up on bread. Fortunately I found an awesome recipe first-try! My main modification was to use the dough setting of the breadmaker, because I have a three-month-old I'm lazy.


  • 1 tablespoon active-dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup (110ml) warm water
  • 1/2 cup (110ml) milk (I prefer whole)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups (400g) plain flour
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • melted butter for greasing and topping
Put the ingredients in the breadmaker and put on a dough setting. Once it gets to the first rise cycle, switch it off, and leave for about an hour, until doubled in size.

Flour a kitchen counter and turn the dough out; divide in half, in half, and then into thirds, to form 12 little dough balls. Without totally knocking the air out, tuck any rough edges away, and make the balls fairly round-shaped. Line a 9x13" (23x33cm) pan with greaseproof paper, then brush with melted butter. Lay 12 dough balls in a 3x4 grid, evenly spaced. Cover with a warm damp (but not heavy) tea towel and let rise in a warm environment (I use my oven on 40C, no fan), for 30-40 minutes, until pillowy.

Preheat the oven to 190 C and brush the rolls with more melted butter. Bake for 13-18 minutes, until risen and golden. Don't overbake -- you want to catch them while they're still moist and tender.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Chicken and Fennel Stew

More yummy winter comfort food! I really love the combination of chicken, sausages and fennel in this stew. To accentuate the fennel flavour, you can add a teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds. I have been using this recipe for so long that it exists as a print-out from 2007 in my recipe binder, since tablets and smartphones had not yet come into common usage. While it is a good recipe, I have changed the order and cooking times of things a little to suit my own tastes.

  • 1 large or 2 small bulbs fresh fennel, cut into ~16 wedges
  • 1 large brown onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 6 chicken thighs
  • 3 links sweet Italian sausage (about 1/4 pounds)
  • a small wine glass of dry white wine
  • 500ml homemade chicken stock
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar, more if needed
  • freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, more for sprinkling
If you do not already have chicken stock lying around, use the bones from inside the chicken thighs, some bay leaves, any leftover stalky tough bits of fennel and the roots from the onion in this recipe, and carrot and celery if you have them, to make a chicken stock (set this going first thing). Otherwise, stock powder is OK, although not *quite* as good.

Prepare all of the vegetables. Reserve some outside layers from a couple of the fennel wedges, and all of the feathery green leaves, for garnish. Skin and debone the chicken thighs, and cut the sausages into ~4cm pieces.

Fry the sausage pieces in a little oil in a deep Le Creuset until crisped and browned on the outside. Then, add a little more oil to the pan, and fry the chicken thighs for a minute or so on each side, until golden. Remove the meats from the pan, scraping it a little to remove most of any stuck bits. Add a little more oil and fry the onion and fennel for 4-5 minutes, until the onion has softened, then add the garlic. Pour in the white wine and use a wooden spatula to combine it with the sticky bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the stock, rosemary, fennel seeds (if using) and potatoes and simmer for 10 minutes, until the potatoes are just cooked.

Remove a ladleful or two of the onion, broth and potato (and any bits of fennel that happen to come along too) and set aside, allowing to cool. Meanwhile, return the meat to the pan, and cover, aiming to cook for a further 25 minutes. When the set aside vegetable mixture is cool enough, blend to a paste using a food processor, then scrape back into the pan. Stir the stew occasionally to prevent further sticking. When the chicken is tender, add 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar and taste and adjust the seasoning.

To prepare the garnish, use a very sharp vegetable peeler to shave the reserved layers of fennel into very thin strips. Add the feathery leaves and season with a little salt, pepper and olive oil.

To serve, ladle the stew into individual bowls, top with the garnish, and serve with grated parmesan for people to add.