Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cookbook Challenge # 6 - American - Mac & Cheese

I have a confession to make.

It is something that goes against my better judgement when it comes to good food. 

Call it a 'dumbing down' of the palate if you like.

I have an unhealthy love for this stuff that comes in a cardboard box which contains a small bag of macaroni pasta and a tin ( yes a tin) of thick unnatural looking orange goo ( aka cheese sauce). Its also known as Kraft Deluxe Macaroni Cheese or a 'Kraft Dinner'. 

There I said it! I have loved this fine fine product since I was a kid and think it is absolutely divine! I guess my parents weren't very food forward but then it again it was the early 80's! and I love them even more for introducing me to this fantastic product.

Nothing needs to be added to it, as it is perfect on its own. But since it is a day of confessions I will admit to the addition of tomato sauce from time to time. But when this is done it can't be added to the entire bowl, it must be added to only a small portion of it because you must have some of the original to come back to if the tomato sauce component starts to sweeten it too much. The 'tomato saucing' of Mac & Cheese is quite an art. I don't advise it unless you are a regular mac and cheese connoisseur but if you do intend on indulging be careful as it could ruin the whole experience for you.

Whilst the origins of Macaroni Cheese are reported as having begun in England, Mac & Cheese as it is affectionately termed, is said to have first been introduced to the United States by President Thomas Jefferson in the early 1800's. It is now known as an all-American old fashioned favourite.

Mac & Cheese is one of my favourite comfort foods. I go nuts for the stuff! It's comfort food at its best. I must say that nothing comes close to my love of Kraft Macaroni Cheese Deluxe and its fine taste but for the purpose of this Cookbook Challenge I thought I would give an actual recipe a try. Enter Jamie Oliver's version from his cookbook 'COOK with Jamie Oliver - My Guide to Making You a Better Cook'.

Jamie Oliver's Macaroni Cheese 

Serves 4-6

500g good quality macaroni 
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
a knob of butter
a small bunch of fresh marjoram or oregano leaves picked ( I used oregano)
100g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus extra for grating
100g of fontina or taleggio cheese, roughly torn
100g mascarpone cheese
1/4 of a nutmeg ( I used powdered)
a small ball of buffalo mozzarella cheese ( I used regular mozzarella).

Fontina cheese, Barilla pasta, Parmesan and fresh oregano
Preheat your oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. Cook the macaroni in a pan of salted boiling water 2 minutes short of the timing on the packet instructions, then drain in a colander and reserve a little of the cooking water.

Heat the butter in a large heavy-based frying pan. When it starts to foam, add the marjoram or oregano and fry for a minute until it starts to crisp up, then turn off the heat.

Add your cooked pasta to the marjoram or oregano butter, along with a couple of spoonfuls of the reserved cooking water and the Parmesan, fontina or taleggio and mascarpone.

Return to a medium heat and toss and stir around until most of the cheese has melted and you have a lovely gooey sauce – you may need to add a little more of the reserved cooking water. 

Season to taste, then tip it all into an earthenware dish. 

Grate over the nutmeg, tear over the mozzarella and sprinkle over the extra Parmesan. 

Bake the macaroni cheese in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, finishing up with a quick whack under the grill, until golden brown and crispy on top.

I actually didn't use buffalo mozzarella as suggested as I already had some regular mozzarella in the fridge. I think this could have made a big difference because as it started to cool the mac cheese became rather firm. So if you do make this dish, make sure you eat it super hot!

I also managed to find fontina cheese at Coles Broadway in their specialty cheese section. Not having tried it before I found it to be super tasty and moreish. I did consider just having it with crackers and not making the dish!

I hope you enjoy this dish and make sure you try Kraft's Macaroni Cheese Deluxe - it really is special.

No bias here!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Best Banana Cake - "In the WORLD"

"In the world!" I can just hear Jeremy Clarkson's voice on UK television show Top Gear echo these sentiments. He does it so well, although not in relation to food of course. But I like to think he would if he tried a slice of this banana cake. I know its a big call, but until I meet another banana cake which claims to be better than this one, this one takes the title.

It was Alex's birthday and I asked her what sort of cake she would like me to bake for her. Alex isn't a huge cake lover but she tells me she is partial to a good banana cake, and tells me it must have cream cheese frosting. With this in mind , I begin scouring the Internet searching for the ultimate banana cake recipe. 

Well, I think I may have found it. It comes with cream cheese frosting and its super moist which I think is partly due to the addition of buttermilk.Yum!

NB* The recipe states that the cake should bake for about 1hr. I actually found it needed about 1.5 hours and I use a fan forced electric oven. See how you go.Its definitely worth the wait.

The Best Banana Cake - "In The World"

From Food.com's Best Ever Banana Cake w/ Cream Cheese Frosting 


  • 1 1/2 cups bananas, mashed, ripe
  • teaspoons lemon juice
  • cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 1/8 cups sugar
  • large eggs
  • teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

  • Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 1/2 cups icing sugar


  1. 1 Preheat oven to 275°F /135C.
  2. 2 Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan.
  3. 3 In a small bowl, mix mashed banana with the lemon juice; set aside.

  1. 4 In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  2. 5 In a large bowl, cream 3/4 cup butter and 2 1/8 cups sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. 6 Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in 2 tsp vanilla.
  4. 7 Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk.

Cake batter- yummo!

8 Stir in banana mixture

  1. 9 Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

  1. 10 Remove from oven and place directly into the freezer for 45 minutes. This will make the cake very moist.
  1. 11 For the frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth.

  1. 12 Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla.

  1. 13 Add icing sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed until frosting is smooth.

  1. 14 Spread on cooled cake.

I cut the cake into three even layers and then sandwiched them together.
Layer upon layer of cream cheese frosting nom nom nom
  1. 15 Sprinkle chopped walnuts over top of the frosting, if desired ( or hearts!).

The original recipe can be found 

Best enjoyed with an afternoon cup of tea or coffee.

Yum! xx

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kiwi Apple Cider Fizz

For this 'outdoor' inspired challenge I chose a refreshing drink which is quick, easy and tastes delicious. Oh, and did I mention it is best served whilst enjoying the afternoon sun outdoors? 

Lately, Sydney's weather hasn't been very conducive to enjoying the outdoors, however I live in hope that we will have a few more warmish evenings before the end of this month when daylight saving ends.

The 'cookbook' I chose for this challenge is 'Drinks' by Marie Claire. I chose this recipe book as I really don't use it enough and it is jam packed full of wonderful and exotic drink recipes, some of which include cashew date milk, raspberry coconut cream shake and liquorice, spearmint and basil wake-me-up's.Yum!

I absolutely adore alcoholic apple cider and over the last year or so we have seen quite an array of different ciders enter the Australian market. One of my favourites is Three Kings Cider from Victoria . It contains 100% apples and markets itself as a premium cider. Another one that I really like is Mercury Cider made by the Cascade Brewery in Tasmania.

For this recipe you can use any type of cider (even pear) and it gives you the perfect excuse to branch out and try a new one. Most bottle shops including Dan Murphy's carry a fairly decent range.

You can also make this for the kids, using a non-alcoholic cider of course.

I was only making this for one ( Me!) so I halved the ingredients below. 

Kiwi Apple Cider Fizz 

( Did I mention this is SUPER easy too?)


2 Kiwi Fruit
Juice of 1 Lime
750ml ( sparkling apple cider)  ( or 1 standard 330ml per person will suffice)


1. Peel the kiwi fruit, slice finely and split between 2 glasses

Slice finely and ignore my uneven slices 
Place kiwi slices in glasses

2. Combine the lime juice and cider and pour over the kiwi fruit ( I added the lime juice to the glass then poured in the cider)

Juice some limes and add to the glass with the kiwi
Top with chosen cider
3. Serve immediately

4. Easy, Enjoy!

Tell me, do you have a favourite apple cider?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cookbook Challenge No. 4 - Love

Brownies! Everybody loves them, right? Right.


Nigella's Flourless Chocolate Brownies from her cookbook : Nigella Express are a great after dinner treat. This recipe was perfect for the Cookbook Challenge No. 4 - Love

Nigella Express is a great cookbook its packed full of super easy and super tasty recipes. Whats not to love about that?  I also have the Nigella iPhone app and it has many of the great recipes that are in this cookbook.

I love the Cookbook and love all things chocolate so this one was a no brainer!
I must admit due to my crazy life, I have fallen a bit behind on the challenge over the last few weeks, with most of my fellow bloggers up to challenge number 5. I should be back on track soon, I promise.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, I didn't make the chocolate fudge sauce ( it was optional) and besides, I'm trying to watch the calories. This recipe is great for those of you out there who are gluten intolerant because the recipe uses almond meal which is one of my favourite ingredients when it comes to baking. I find it makes things super moist and I love that nutty texture it brings to a cake or in this case the chocolate brownie.

Nigella's Flourless Chocolate Brownies


  • 225g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
  • 225g butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 100g chopped walnuts ( I didn't use walnuts on this occasion and added 2 extra tablespoons of almond meal instead)

  • 75g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
  • 125ml double cream
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons
  • Camp coffee or 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 x 15ml tablespoon golden syrup

For the brownies:

1. Preheat the oven to 170'C/gas mark 3. Melt the chocolate and butter gently over a low heat in a heavy based saucepan.

2. Take the pan off the heat, mix in the vanilla and sugar, and let it cool a little.

3. Beat the eggs into the pan along with the ground almonds and chopped walnuts. Turn into a 24cm square baking tin or, mostly sensible, use a foil one.

( it was here that I added the chocolate mix to a separate bowl with the almond meal and eggs)

4. Bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, by which time the top will have set but the mixture will still be gooey. Once cooled , cut carefully, four down, four across, into 16 squidgy bellied squares.

For the sauce:

1. Break up the chocolate and put into a heavy-based saucepan.

2. Add the remaining ingredients, then place the pan over a gentle heat and let everything melt together.

3. Once everything has melted, stir well, take off the heat and our into a jug to serve.

I found that these brownies were best served hot. The addition of some good quality vanilla bean ice cream and hot fudge sauce would make the perfect dessert. 

You could also substitute the walnuts for different nuts - I think Macadamias would be great or alternatively you could add choc chips for extra rich brownies.

Do you have a favourite recipe that uses almond meal?

Enjoy x