Chocolate Mud Cake (07 / 50)

This is a really easy recipe for a deliciously dense chocolate mud cake. I paired the cake with a dark chocolate ganache, but I didn’t make enough ganache and so I only had enough for the filling. It was pretty nice at room temperature, but phenomenal warmed up in the microwave for 20 seconds with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate Mud Cake

Serves 12
Preparation time –  20 minutes
Cooking time – about 100 minutes, depending on your oven
Recipe – http://www.bestrecipes.com.au/recipe/chocolate-mud-cake-L1217.html

Ingredients

  • 250g butter, chopped
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 2 cups caster sugar
  • 1 1⁄3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee
  • 3⁄4 cup plain flour
  • 3⁄4 cup self-raising flour
  • 1⁄4 cup cocoa
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

In a large saucepan, add the first 5 ingredients. Melt together over a low heat until sugar is dissolved and butter and chocolate are melted. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Sift plain flour, self raising flour and cocoa into a large mixing bowl.

Add the cooled liquid and beat gently.

Add the eggs and mix gently.

Pour mixture into a greased cake tin and bake at 150°C for 1 3⁄4 hours. Check your oven after an hour as baking time may vary (my oven only needed 90 minutes)

Chocolate Mud Cake

Chocolate Mud Cake

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Pumpkin and Chickpea Salad (06 / 50)

Every time I throw a barbecue, I always make the same potato salad and a garden salad. My potato salad is fantastic, but the garden salad not so much. So this time I thought I’d whip up something different. This salad was pretty good, it was really easy to prepare and tasted great with our meaty leftovers for the next few days.

Pumpkin and Chickpea Salad

Serves 6
Preparation time –  15 minutes
Cooking time – 20 minutes
Recipe – http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/669/pumpkin+and+chickpea+salad

Ingredients

  • 1.2kg butternut pumpkin, peeled, deseeded, cut into 2cm pieces
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 400g can chickpeas, drained, rinsed
  • 6 dates finely chopped (see note)
  • 1 small red onion, halved, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 large lemon, rind grated, juiced

Preheat oven to 200°C. Lightly grease a large roasting pan. Combine pumpkin, 2 tablespoons oil, ground coriander and cumin in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to prepared pan. Roast for 20 minutes or until pumpkin is tender. Allow to cool.

Combine pumpkin, chickpeas, figs, onion and chopped coriander in a large bowl.

Combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil, lemon rind, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and salt and pepper in a jug. Pour over pumpkin. Toss until well combined. Serve.

Pumpkin and Chickpea Salad

Pumpkin and Chickpea Salad

Baby Snapper with Basil and Orange Crust (05 / 50)

Wow, already one tenth of the way through this project, and it’s still only January!

I like fish, but I’m not very adventurous when it comes to cooking it. Once a week or so we will have pan fried salmon, which I am slowly improving at. Maybe twice a year I will do a steamed snapper with ginger and shallots, and I can also make a nice fish and zucchini curry using a paste. Like I said, not very adventurous.

I have always loved the sight of a whole fish on a plate. A whole fish, just for me! But while my mother the doctor can dissect a whole fish and leave the bones completely intact, it takes me forever to eat a whole fish and I always struggle to get the bones out of every bite. Fish with the bones in is just such an effort! Actually I did pretty well this time around. I think the key is to be gentle when lifting the flesh off, and to make shallow explorations with the fork rather than trying to cut it like a piece of steak.

This recipe was very tasty, but I feel it could have had more orange flavour. However this could be because the orange I used looked and tasted rather anaemic, with a juicier and more flavourful orange this recipe would have been much more successful. I left out the tomatoes and served it with ratatouille instead.

Baby Snapper with Basil and Orange Crust

Serves 4 (I halved the recipe and made it for 2)
Preparation time –  10 minutes
Cooking time – 15-20 minutes
Recipe – http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/18309/baby+snapper+with+basil+and+orange+crust

Ingredients

  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • 100g toasted pinenuts
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange rind
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and cracked black pepper
  • 4 small snapper (each one around 350g), scaled and gutted
  • 250g baby vine-ripened trussed tomatoes), to serve
  • olive oil, extra, for drizzling

Preheat oven to 200°C. Place the basil, pine nuts, Dijon mustard, garlic, orange rind and juice in a food processor or blender and process until roughly chopped. With the motor running, gradually add the olive oil until mixture is combined but not entirely smooth. Set aside.

Use a sharp knife to cut four or five 1cm-deep diagonal slashes in the thickest part of the fish on both sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread the basil mixture over both sides of the fish, working the mixture into the cuts.

Place the fish in a baking dish lined with non-stick baking paper (if you need two baking dishes place one dish on a higher shelf and swap shelves halfway through cooking).

Place the tomatoes around the fish, and drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until fish is cooked through when tested with a fork – the flesh should flake. Divide the snappers and tomato among serving plates and serve immediately.

Baby snapper with basil and orange crust

Baby snapper with basil and orange crust

Ratatouille (04 / 50)

Ever since I saw the movie Ratatouille, I’ve wanted to try making ratatouille. I mean, how cute is that little rat?! There has always been one thing holding me back from doing so, and that thing is eggplant. Simply put, I don’t like eggplant. To say I detest it and that this particular vegetable makes me feel a little queasy and all kinds of icky is an understatement.

My dad is to blame for this. Because my mother worked incessantly, my dad was the main cook in our family while I was growing up. The problem was that he really wasn’t very good at cooking. He once brought some packet sauce back from Malaysia and served it to us over some nondescript pan fried fish, and the first time we all said we liked it. We soon regretted that opinion when the next night, we were greeted at the dinner table by a plate of random white fish topped with that same sauce. And the night after that, and the night after that, and so on for what seemed like an eternity. But that’s another story.

Obviously I am no expert on eggplant, given that I hate it so much. My dad used to serve it rather overcooked, so it was squishy and kind of flavourless and just really gross in every way. I’ve always thought that there must surely be more to this vegetable than I had been exposed to. And I’m rather pleased to discover that I was right!

This recipe was a good introduction to eggplant because it kind of disintegrates into the casserole and is no longer identifiable as eggplant. The end product is really not that attractive, but it tastes fantastic. I got distracted by the TV so I only cooked it in the oven for four hours, but it turned out quite nicely. We had this alongside a baked whole baby snapper, and the next day it was really tasty on toast.

Ratatouille

Serves 6
Preparation time –  20 minutes
Cooking time – 4-6 hours
Recipe – http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipe/8302/the_perfect_ratatouille

Ingredients

  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 red capsicum, seeded and diced
  • 1 green capsicum, seeded and diced
  • 1 large eggplant, diced
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • 2 strips lemon rind
  • 125g swiss brown mushrooms, cut into chunks
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes

Heat the oven to 120°C. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy based, ovenproof saucepan over a low heat and fry the onion for about 10 minutes, but really you can just fry it as long as it takes to chop the other ingredients.

Add the garlic to the pan after the onions. Then add the capsicums, then the eggplant and zucchini, lemon rind, mushrooms and tomato. Season well with salt and pepper, put the lid on, and cook in a low oven for several hours. It’s okay after 2, good after 4 and even better after 6.

Ratatouille

Ratatouille

Chargrilled Lime and Garlic Balmain Bugs (03 / 50)

I think it’s kind of cheating to use this as my second recipe. As recipes go, it’s pretty simple. However I’m going to include it anyway, because I’ve never cooked Balmain Bugs before, and I’ve never used the barbecue before! I’m a firm believer that the barbecue is the man’s territory, so my husband does the barbecuing while I make the salads (and dessert of course). The one and only time I had people over for a barbecue while he was out was for my hen’s party, and I made my male friends cook the food. Not very good hostessing on my part, but I wasn’t about to abandon my beliefs, not when a barbecue is the only time I get my dinner cooked for me!

I bought my Balmain bugs from the local fish market and could only get frozen ones. I imagine they are a lot better when bought fresh, but these were pretty tasty. I wasn’t entirely sure how to prepare them, so I ended up just cutting them in two lengthwise with a cleaver and a pair of kitchen scissors. I removed the vein with a knife and rinsed out the halves out gently before brushing on the butter sauce. They cooked nice and quickly on our crappy barbecue with just a single turn after 3 or so minutes.

Chargrilled Lime and Garlic Balmain Bugs

Serves 4-8 (depending on how many halves you want to serve each person)
Preparation time –  10 minutes
Cooking time – 5 minutes
Recipe – http://womansday.ninemsn.com.au/food/everydayrecipes/994683/chargrilled-lime-and-garlic-balmain-bugs

Ingredients

  • 8 uncooked Balmain bugs, heads removed
  • 60g butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lime rind, and lime wedge

Spray a barbecue or chargrill with oil. Preheat on high.

Slice Balmain bugs in half lengthways. Carefully remove the centre vein from tail, using the point of a knife.

In a small jug, whisk together butter, lime juice, garlic and lime rind. Brush bugs with butter mixture and season to taste.

Barbecue for 3-5 minutes each side, or until golden and cooked through. Serve Balmain bugs with lime wedges.

Chargrilled lime and garlic Balmain bugs

Chargrilled lime and garlic Balmain bugs

Barbecued Octopus and Chorizo Salad (02 / 50)

After I posted that photo of the chocolate cherry cheesecake onto my Facebook wall, I got a couple of complaints from my friends. It seems that my New Year’s resolutions to cook 50 new recipes and improve my photography were wreaking havoc with their resolutions to improve their eating habits. Not really my problem, but I promised I would find something healthy-ish for my second recipe. I’m not sure how healthy chorizo is, but the dish has the word “salad” in its name, so I think it must be somewhat healthy. Shush, I’m sticking to my logic.

I left out the capers, because I don’t like them, and I used dried oregano because I’m too cheap to buy a bunch of fresh oregano when I only need a tiny amount. I only put in 500g of baby octopus because there were only two of us eating, but I think 800g is good for 4 people.

Barbecued Octopus and Chorizo Salad

Serves 4
Preparation time –  10 minutes
Cooking time – 5 minutes
Recipe – http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/21412/barbecued+octopus+and+chorizo+salad

  • 800g baby octopus, cleaned, halved
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbs finely chopped oregano
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 chorizo sausage, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, cut into wedges
  • 100g baby rocket leaves

Combine the octopus, garlic, paprika, oregano, half the lemon juice and half the oil in a large bowl. Season with pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 15 minutes to marinate.

Preheat a barbecue or char-grill pan on high. Add the chorizo and cook for 1 minute each side or until golden. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel. Reduce heat to low and add the onion. Cook, turning occasionally, for 2 minutes or until onion is soft and just starting to caramelise. Transfer to a plate.

Place the octopus on the barbecue and cook, turning occasionally, for 2 minutes or until just cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside for 5 minutes to rest.

Combine remaining lemon juice and oil in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Arrange rocket, chorizo, onion and capers on serving plates. Top with octopus and drizzle with dressing. Serve immediately.

Barbecued Octopus and Chorizo Salad

Barbecued Octopus and Chorizo Salad

Double Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake (1 / 50)

I made a few new year’s resolutions this year. The first was to take more photographs, so I’m attempting a 365 Day Project, which lives on Flickr because quite frankly a picture is supposed to say a thousand words, and I don’t want to write 365 blog posts.

The second resolution was to be more pro-active about cleaning and keeping our house tidy, something which I have always been pretty slack about. If you see me cleaning, it either means I needed to get to the sink and couldn’t, or we have people coming over. So this year will be the year to change that, hopefully.

The third resolution was to cook 50 new recipes this year and write blog posts about them, complete with photograph (which also will help to improve my photography you see). This is the first of those 50 recipes – Double Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake. Yum!

One of my favourite things about summer is definitely the fruit. Mangoes, cherries, lychees, grapes, and melons… in summer I could just live on fruit alone! I’ve just come back from three weeks overseas, and since getting back I have been to the store almost daily to buy more cherries. So it makes sense that my first recipe features this amazing and delicious fruit.

Double Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake

Serves 12 (depending on how large you like your cheesecake slices)
Preparation time –  15 minutes
Cooking time – 50 minutes
Adapted from – http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/21373/double+choc+cherry+cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 250g packet Arnott’s Choc Ripple biscuits, halved
  • 125g butter, melted
  • 2 x 250g packets cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3 cup caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 200g dark chocolate, melted, cooled
  • 350g fresh cherries, pitted and halved (or 415g canned, drained)

Preheat oven to 160°C/140°C fan-forced. Grease a 6cm-deep, 20cm (base) round springform pan. Process biscuits until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add butter. Process until just combined. Press mixture over base and side of prepared pan. Refrigerate while making filling.

Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition, until combined. Gradually beat in chocolate until combined. Fold in half the cherries. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Place pan on a baking tray. Put the baking tray and pan into the oven, and carefully fill the baking tray with hot water. The water bath will prevent the cheesecake from cracking.

Bake for 50 minutes or until just set. Cool in oven with door slightly ajar. Cover. Refrigerate until chilled. Top with remaining cherries and serve.

Double Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake

Double Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake