Thursday, 29 January 2009

What will be tuile be - Daring Bakers January 2009 Challenge

I did it! I rose to the challenge!

At the end of December I signed up to become a Daring Baker, having stumbled across the group though Not Quite Nigella's blog. Was extremely nervous as I saw the creations from December's challenge appear on-line, and was beginning to think I should just change my mind and duck out in order to save face. I surprised myself, and actually it really gave me something to think about and plan during the rather dull month of January so I'm really glad I stuck with it. And so today I am very pleased to be publishing the results of the January Challenge.

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

I admit to being somewhat relieved when I saw what we had to do. Relieved because 1) my oven is very unreliable for baking, 2) fancy ingredients could prove difficult to find here and 3) the past challenges I've looked at seemed a bit beyond me. The task was to make and shape the tuiles and pair them up with something light and fruity. I decided to go with the pretty butterflies, and served them yesterday's 'Mama & Me' group (as a treat for my very, very cute friend Hiroko's birthday) together with a white chocolate cheese cream and fresh strawberry coulis:

Yields: 20 small butterflies/6 large (butterflies are just an example)
Preparation time batter 10 minutes, waiting time 30 minutes, baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch

65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.3 ounces sifted all purpose flour
1 table spoon cocoa powder/or food coloring of choice
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste (I didn't use a mixer, just a good old fashioned fork). Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes (my kitchen is cold, so I didn't need to do this!). This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly (I made my stencil from a milk carton). Press the stencil on the bakingsheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter (it needs to be really thin, so I used another piece of the carton to scrape over the stencil). Leave some room in between your shapes. Mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe decorations on the wings and body of the butterfly.

Bake butterflies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from bakingsheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm (within secoends, I found!), you might want to bake a small amount at a time (I did 2-3 at a time). Or place a bakingsheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable. Shape immediately after baking using for instance a rolling pin, a broom handle, cups, cones (I used, once again, a milk carton)...

I decided to minimise the risk of the tuiles hardening before having time to shape them by cutting a piece of baking parchment for each tuile. I could then whisk them off the hot tray one at a time, and they were much easier to handle this way.

The cream was a doddle to throw together:

150g white chocolate, melted
200g cream cheese
100ml double cream

Cream together the cheese and double cream, then stir in the melted chocolate. Chill for a few hours before piping.

And the coulis couldn't have been any easier:

200g strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 tablespoon water

Combine the ingredients in a pan and bring to a simmer, then tip into a blender and whiz! Chill before using.

I ended up enjoying myself way more than I'd expected with this challenge. Tuiles are strangely addictive to make, and happily I have a bowl of batter in the fridge for me to experiment with whenever I get a few spare minutes. Go, I dare you!

Monday, 26 January 2009

Chai's up

Busy day today, as I had to go and watch J's lessons at school. Of course, had M with me and so I was expecting it to be challenging to keep her in angelic mode for 4 and a half hours, and it was. PE first, and naturally she wanted to run around with Big Bro, however they were doing skipping so far too hazardous. Music next, playing pianica and woodblocks. Way too tempting for M, she broke free but in doing so caught her nose on my nail and - arghh, blood - permission to leave granted! It wasn't as cold as I'd anticipated, but I suppose the body heat from 40+ is enough to take the chill from the air. I was impressed to see that each classroom had a humidifier to help reduce the risk of bugs being passed around - they are on stand-by for a flu epidemic.

I'd better let you have the recipes I started to tell you about yesterday. First up is the soup, again taken from my Weight Watchers cookbook and only 100 calories per serving.

Spicy Prawn Soup

1 teaspoon butter
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
200ml tomato puree
1200ml hot vegetable stock
100g large tiger prawns, shelled and de-veined

Melt the butter in a pan, add the Worcestershire sauce, chili powder and tomato puree, and heat until it starts to splutter. Stir in some of the stock and mix until smooth, the pour in the rest of the stock and simmer gently for five minutes. Stir in the prawns and continue to simmer until they are cooked. Season and serve.

I set aside a portion for myself before adding the prawns, and it was tasty enough for me without. I wish I could show you the photo from the book, it looks so delicious! Unfortunately, I didn't have time to try and get a very good photo (I was too occupied trying to look calm and get all the dishes prepared, I'm sure you can relate!).

Next up were the curries. The mushroom curry was featured in Good Food magazine, and I managed to find it on their website (

Mushroom and Potato One-pot Curry

1 tablespoon oil
1 large potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1 onion, chopped
1 aubergine, in chunks
250g mushrooms (I used shimeiji and eringi, for a change!)
3 tablespoons curry paste
150ml vegetable stock
400ml coconut milk (recipe said low-fat but I could only get full-fat)
coriander (I couldn't get fresh so had to use dried)

Fry the potato and onion for five minutes, then add the mushrooms and aubergine. Cook for a few more minutes before adding the remaining ingredients. Simmer until tender.

This was definitely my favourite part of the meal - I will certainly be making this again, in fact just remembering it is making me hungry! The other curry was a supposedly a chicken balti, although it was unlike any chicken balti I had ever come across. There wasn't a picture of this in my book so I don't know what it is supposed to look like, but it was very yellow. K did say that he enjoyed it, though, and he is very honest about my food so I trust that it tasted alright.

Chicken Balti

2 onions, sliced
2 red peppers, cut into thick strips
600g diced chicken breast
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 inches fresh ginger, grated
2 green chili, de-seeded and finely chopped (couldn't get one so I had to miss this out)
2 teaspoons curry powder
4 cardamom pods, crushed slightly (looked everywhere for these but had to use ground cardamom in the end)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 tablespoons low-fat plain bio yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Fry the onion and pepper for about five minutes, then add the chicken and brown all over. Add the other ingredients and heat gently until simmering. Cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes, then remove the lid and allow the sauce to thicken and reduce slightly. Season and serve.

We finished the meal off with a pot of chai. I'd never made it before, and really I don't like milky drinks, but I was keen to give it a go a so many people rave about it. I trawled through tons of recipes and ended up concocting my own based on what was available. I was surprised at the amount of time required to make this, not exactly a quick cup of tea!


1/2 star anise
10 cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice (I couldn't get the berries)
2 sticks cinnamon
6 white peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (again, only because I couldn't get pods)
2 Yorkshire teabags
5 cups milk

In a pan, add the spices to 1 cup of water, bring to a boil and then turn off the heat and leave to steep for 10 - 20 minutes. Add the milk and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat, add the teabags and leave to steep for another 10 minutes. Strain and serve.

This made a huge pot, and so I put what was left over in the fridge to let M try the next day, and she absolutely loved it!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Pans = smiles

Ohisashiburi (long time no see)! I think I need a quick boot to get me back in to gear...

Actually, this week has been quite good for a number of reasons. Firstly, I managed to persuade K to let me buy a new pan! You wouldn't believe how excited I got over this. Since arriving here in the summer I have been cooking with camping pans. And I only had two. So I went out and bought a beautiful stainless steel pan with a lovely thick base, and could hardly contain my excitement about cooking dinner that night (I am obviously very easily pleased). Not only that, but I'd told him about a Le Creuset-type casserole that I'd seen on Amazon for a fraction of the price of the genuine article (a snip at 4,350 yen!) and before I knew what was happening he'd ordered it for me! Perhaps he read what I wrote about him previously...

Isn't it gorgeous? And it won't class with my posh dinner service, either!

The second reason was that I'd finally managed to lure some friends over for dinner that very night - what a great day! We'd decided on having an Indian night, and so here's the menu I came up with:

Spicy Prawn Soup
Naan Bread
Chicken Balti
Potato and Mushroom One-pot Curry
Saffron Rice
Grilled Pineapple with Mint and Toasted Coconut
Spiced Chai

I'll have to post the recipes over a couple of days, I don't want to bore you. So today I'll start with the recipes which needed some preparation the day before, and I'll make you wait til next time for the rest!

I took the recipe for Naan Bread from Weight Watchers' Spice Up Your Life. They were pretty easy to make, although the result wasn't very authentic and I will look for a different recipe next time. Maybe I should check how many calories are in proper naan bread before doing so, as these are 265 calories per serving.

Naan Bread

425g plain white flour
1 teaspoon salt
150ml low-fat plain bio yogurt
1 teaspoon dried active yeast

Combine the ingredients in a bowl and use up to 150ml warm water to form a dough. Knead for 5 minutes until the dough is soft and feels springy. Cover with clingfilm and chill in the fridge overnight. Uncover the dough and knead for 3 minutes, then cover and chill for at least another 4 - 5 hours. Divide the dough into 6 pieces and roll each into a ball. Flatten and pull into a long oval so that the dough is about the tickness of your fingers. Lightly oil a couple of baking trays and put the naan on them to rest for 15 minutes. Heat the oven on it's highest temperature setting, sprinkle the naan with a little water and bake for 5 - 10 minutes, until they start to brown.

Dessert was taken from Gordon Ramsey's Fast Food (not that fast when you realise it needs to be started a day ahead). I love, love, love fresh pineapple so couldn't wait to try this:

Grilled (should be griddled but I don't have a griddle( Pineapple with Mint and Toasted Coconut

75g caster sugar
small bunch of mint
1 large, ripe pineapple
30g desiccated coconut

Put the sugar in a small pan with 150ml water and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, before increasing the heat and bringing to the boil. Drop in the mint, remove from the heat and leave to cool. Cut the pineapple into 8 wedges and cut out the core. Stick under a hot grill for a few minutes each side and leave to cool slightly. Cut away the skin, then slice thinly and put the fruit in a bowl. Pour the infused syrup over and chill until ready to serve. Put the coconut in a dry frying pan and heat, stirring, until nicely browned. Sprinkle over the pineapple just before serving.

Fortunately, this recipe made plenty for me to be able to enjoy left-overs the next day!

Yikes! I've just realised that I haven't ironed J's school uniform for tomorrow, so I'd better dash. Promise not to keep you waiting too long for the other recipes...

Monday, 19 January 2009

Getting the oomf back

Apologies, I really seemed to loose my oomf this last week. Feeling homesick, missing friends, behind on absolutely everything... if I'd not got the family to sort out I would probably have spent the last 7 days hiding under my duvet. Of course, been doing lots of cooking ('cause you have to, don't you), but there's not much in the way of photos to share with you I'm afraid. Made a spectacular (according to K, he even went as far as saying that this was one of the best meals he had tasted!) hotpot yesterday, chosen becuase I was cooking for a crowd (tripled the recipe) and I could get all of the ingredients here quite easily. My friend loaned me her Shuttle Chef (a thermal cooker, bit like a slow cooker but doesn't require any electricity), so it really was a hassle-free way to cater for so many. Here's the link for the recipe so that you don't miss out:

By all accounts, you have to try this recipe out for yourselves!

Saturday's supper was not so exciting, but went down well with the family and I have a picture!

Rice with daikon (mooli) and minced chicken

2 cups uncooked rice, washed and prepared for steaming
100g minced chicken
3 inch length daikon
2 tablespoons cooking sake
2 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons soy sauce
shredded nori seaweed

Mix the sake, mirin and soy sauce in a bowl and add the chicken. Peel and cut the daikon into thin strips. Put the daikon on top of the rice, then pour the chicken mixture on top. Cook the rice, and let it steam for 10 minutes before giving it a mix. Serve in bowls, sprinkled with shredded nori.

This was far too healthy for K, so he pleaded for some takoyaki (batter balls containing octopus and cabbage) smothered with sauce and mayo. And actually I didn't make them - there was a bag of them in the freezer for me to zap in the microwave :)

Was all excited last night as was expecting friends for dinner this evening, so passed the evening planning an Indian feast! Woke up at 1.00am realising that I'd forgotten to make a start on the nan dough, but discovered that they're going to come on Thursday instead. Will be fab to have some English-speaking company, so sad that they are leaving the country at the end of this month (but praying that all will be well for their return).

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Ketchi King

Have just been watching 'Britain's Tightest' and it made me realise just how stingy K can be!! At the end, the winner was caught (horror of horrors) using one teabag to make 3 cups of tea! K wins, hands down. He uses the same teabag for days, drying it out each time. The camera followed one tightwad around the supermarket as she was waiting for food to be marked down, 'Doesn't everyone shop like that? she asks - um, they do in our house. As a prime example, tonight's dinner was sashimi (hurrah, all I had to do was cook the rice and soup). In order to be able to eat a treat like this, K heads for the supermarket after 8pm as that's the time the fresh produce gets reduced. He has been known to go early and hide the stuff he has his eye on at the back so no-one else finds it! It's become a bit of a sport...

For those of you who are reading from the UK, sashimi is raw fish. Sushi is generally (but not always) raw fish with specially prepared rice. Here you can see K that feasted on raw salmon, sea bream, yellow tail and scallops. It is served on finely shredded daikon (mouli raddish) and shiso (saspirilla) leaves, which I made K eat as he now has to eat more healthily. After this he ate zenzai, which is hot azuki bean soup with toasted mochi (rice cake) dropped in the middle.

To be fair though, I must admit that when K goes out one one of his bargain hunts he nearly always comes home with some chocolate for me - so perhaps he's not that tight after all!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Spicing things up

We had a curry night! Actually I'd a number of dishes planned for a proper Indian meal to be enjoyed after the children are in bed, however while they were eating their tea K decided that he couldn't wait any longer after all and so I had to quickly throw a couple of recipes together asap - humph! So the Spiced Prawn Soup turned into Prawns Sauteed in Butter and Lemon, and the Saag Aloo is on hold 'til tomorrow when I finish off today's Chick-pea Curry leftovers. Don't you just love it when a recipe makes more than you realise and you have enough over to avoid having to cook the next day?!

Chick-pea curry (serves 2, generously)

2 onions, chopped
400g tin of chick-peas, drained
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2.5cm piece of fresh root ginger, grated (I cheated here and used the tubed stuff you can get here)
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground corriander
1 tablespoon tamarind paste (I couldn't get this)
3 fresh tomatoes, skinned and chopped
200ml black tea

Stir-fry the onions until soft and starting to brown. Add the other ingredients and bring gently to a simmer. Put a lid on and cook for 10 minutes, then remove the lid and continue to cook for a few minutes until the liquid has reduced and thickened slightly. Season and eat!

I served this with saffron rice, but I think it would be better with a veggie pilau. It was pretty good, although not spectacular - something was missing (I suppose that would be the tamarind). But I've got enough to play around with for lunch tomorrow, and I'll pair it up with the Saag Aloo that I didn't get to make tonight. Certainly beats Marmite on toast!

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Eat your greens

Today was a 'So I'll just pack my bags and leave, shall I?' kind of day. Horrid, horrid, horrid - what a waste of a Saturday! Don't worry, I'm not going to bore you with the details. Anyway, feeling somewhat better now. Moving on...

K has had the results from his health check. I've been telling him for years that it just isn't healthy to eat crisps by the multi-bag-full and ramen for breakfast, but it takes a simple piece of paper for him to take notice! His liver is suffering the consequences of this daily abuse, and so with immediate effect he has decided it is time to eat properly. Which will be very good for me, as he will no longer be filling the cupboards with junky snacks for me to be tempted by. Size 10 here I come!

Decided I needed to break away from my beloved Nigella books for a change, and experiment with some local produce. Found this vegetable, no idea what it is called (in Japanese or English) but it looks a little like sprouting broccoli:

Anyway, it's green so must be healthy! I used it to make a stir-fry with some sliced shiitake, garlic, soy sauce and a splash of yakiniku sauce I found in the fridge, which went down well even with the boys. I served it with some chicken wings, which J liked so much he sucked the bones clean! They were just marinaded and roasted, very simple:

Wholegrain Mustard Marinade

2 teaspoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons wholegrain mustard
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil

Unfortunately I'd already made dessert before learning of the health check results, so K forced himself to eat some of the strawberry and cream gateau and the children helped to ensure that he wouldn't have to do so again tomorrow.

I'm still trying to be good (apart from the Cocoa-Cola cupcakes) - haven't had chocolate in days...

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Let them eat cake

I'm a bit behind, but the boys are back at school today so time to get back into the old routine. This last week has been great - no having to be out of the door by 7.30am, no driving back and forth to kindy, no uniforms to iron... And they boys have loved it, too, playing outside for hours on end enjoying the wonderful weather (cold but sunny). Their favourite game at the moment is 'bouken' (explorer), and they pack a bag with some snacks and grab their ninja swords and a torch each before setting off for their den (in the rice field at the front of hour house). I check on them every half hour or so, but amazingly there seem to be very few squabbles and I hardly see them during daylight hours.

I'm actually feeling quite rubbish at the moment with a sinus infection (it's reeeealy painful!), hence me not posting for a couple of days, so as M is having a little nap at the moment I thought I'd ignore the housework and try to catch up a little. I've got a few recipes to post today, so hopefully I'll get this done before she wakes...

First up, I did some baking for yesterday's mini-concert. I actually baked two recipes, however one was a disaster so didn't get served! Had a 'discussion' with K last night about the oven - he has no idea how frustrating it is! Of course, I am obviously using it wrong (according to him). I demonstrated how, after pre-heating the oven to 200c, I could comfortably stick my (wet) hand inside. He's starting to believe me, I think. Anyway, I'm rambling. Cakes!

Chocolate-marmalade Cake

125g unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
300g marmalade
150g caster sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs, beaten
150g self-raising flour

Gently melt the butter in a pan then add the chocolate and remove from the heat, stirring until smooth and melted. Add the marmalade, sugar, salt and eggs and give it a good mix before beating in the flour. Pour into a prepared 20cm round tin, and bake at 180c for about 50 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack.

I was warned that this cake looks rather plain, and it really did (and that's why there's no photo). If your making it for guests it definately needs a bit of sprucing up, serve with a dollop of cream and sprinkle with icing sugar perhaps. As it was, I ended up baking this cake for 80 minutes (trying to get it to cook through) and even then it was stodgy in the middle, grrrr. Naturally I tested it to see how it tasted, and it was good enough for me to keep and eat myself, but I wasn't happy to serve it to friends. I will definately make this again once we've got the oven sorted!

Coca-Cola Cupcakes (again, a Nigella recipe taken from How to be a Domestic Goddess)

200g plain flour
250g golden caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
125ml buttermilk (I used 30g yoghurt mixed with 100ml milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
125g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
175ml Coca-Cola


225g icing sugar, sieved
30g butter
3 tablespoons Coca-Cola
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cola Bottle gummy sweets

Combine the flour, sugar, bicarb and salt in a bowl. Gently heat the butter, Coco-Cola and cocoa in a pan until the butter has melted. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix well. Beat the egg, buttermilk and vanilla together in a jug, and then beat it into the mixture. Pour into paper cases in a bun tray and bake at 180c for about 15 minutes. Prepare the icing by combining the butter, Coca-Cola and cocoa in a pan and gently heating it until the butter melts. Beat in the icing sugar and vanilla extract. Spoon the icing over the cakes as soon as they come out of the oven, and let them cool in the tray. Top each cake with a sweet before the icing cools.

The recipe said this would make 12, but it made more than double that. Unfortunately, as I only have one bun tray, I had to take them out before they could cool and this spoiled the smooth icing with cracks. But I have to say, these were just amazing! Really, really, delicious with a velvety texture - what a surprise! Wasted on children...

Oh no, the baby awakes! The rest will have to wait for another time!

Monday, 5 January 2009

Something fishy

It's been a pretty uneventful day here. K went back to work, so there was certainly less fighting and crying than usual (and therefor less shouting, too), so it was actually somewhat peaceful! I made a start on getting the house back in order, but have sooo much to do before Wednesday morning, when our 'Mama & Me' group will play host to a gospel singer/musician giving us a mini concert! There'll be loads of kids (they don't go back to school until Thursday), so I'm looking forward to a good baking session tomorrow to be able to feed the ever-hungry hoards.

I decided to just cook something light for dinner tonight - my body is groaning from all the junk I've been eating over the past week. So I marinated some tofu, which got pan-fried and served with o-chazuke:


3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar (any kind, but brown is best)
1 tablespoon cooking sake
1 clove garlic, crushed.

Mix together and marinade your tofu (or chicken, pork chop, salmon, it works well with pretty much anything!) for as long as you fancy. You can boil up any remaining marinade and reduce it to a sauce, if you like.

O-chazuke (serves 4)

1 salted salmon steak (about 100g, a little goes a long way!), cooked and flaked
steamed rice
some nori (toasted seaweed), shredded
a pot of freshly-made green tea

Divide the rice into serving bowls and top with the salmon. Pour over some tea and sprinkle nori on the top. Squeeze a dab of wasabi onto the inside of the bowl. Dekiagari (done)! There's no reason why you couldn't substitute the salted salmon for ordinary, or a different fish altogether.

I made myself a veggie version using umeboshi (pickled plum) in place
of the salmon. I also had some of my persimmon chutney with the tofu, ooh it was tasty! This was so easy, this'll probably make it onto the weekday breakfast menu.

While rooting through the fridge I stumbled upon a pack of taiyaki!

That's what happens when a man goes shopping - he buys all sorts of things and doesn't tell you. But it was a very nice find - I stuck them under the grill for a few minutes to warm up and toast, and they got wolfed down for pudding. For those not in the know, taiyaki are a bit like waffles stuffed with sweet azuki bean-paste (anko) and shaped like fish. And now that I've grown accustomed to anko, I quite like them. When I first came to Japan I couldn't stand anko, mainly because it kind of looks like chocolate and I was left disappointed on many an occasion. They put anko in everything - are you sure it's a jam doughnut?

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Early riser

There are some drawbacks to being an aspiring domestic goddess. Bearing in mind that this morning was the last 'day off' before K goes back to work, and therefor my last opportunity in a long time to get a few extra minutes of sleep in the morning, I don't know what possessed me to want to make apple kuchen for breakfast. Serves me right, I should know by now that the way Nigella lives is pure fantasy, but anyway set to work on the dough before bed last night. I really miss my breadmaker, just set the timer and wake up to warm, fresh bread. But was very pleased to learn that you can prove a yeast dough in the fridge overnight, leaving just a little work for the morning to be rewarded with something special for breakfast. That was the plan. I hadn't taken into account that M has decided that sleeping is for wimps and requires an audience for 'inai inai bah!' at all hours. I don't think I managed to get any sleep until K went downstairs with the boys shortly after 7am (Super Hero time!), but then I had to drag myself out of bed at 8am to finish off that which I had started. It was either that, or they could just have cornflakes - but hey, I'd kneaded that dough by my own fair hands and I was not about to let it go to waste! An hour later and the house smelled just as a house should smell on a Sunday morning:

All that was missing from the table this morning was some fresh orange juice (argh, I should have thought of that) and a Sunday Paper. I must point out that this dish is presented to you on a beautiful mat made by my very, very cute friend Hiroko!

Apple Kuchen


350g strong white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
50g caster sugar
3 1/2g easy-blend yeast
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
grated zest of half a lemon (I thought I'd got one, but ended up using mikan zest instead!)
125ml milk, lukewarm
50g unsalted butter, softened


1 egg
1 tablespoon cream (if you have some, I used milk)
2 apples
1 tablespoon demerara sugar
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons flaked almonds (I didn't use these because of J, don't like to take a chance with the hospitals being closed on Sundays!)


75g icing sugar, sieved
1 tablespoon hot water

Put the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a bowl. Beat the eggs and add to the milk with the zest and vanilla. Stir the liquid into the dry ingredients and mix to form a dough. Work in the soft butter and knead by hand for about 10 minutes. Cover with a teatowel and leave in a warm place for about an hour (or in the fridge overnight) until doubled in size. Punch down and press into a tin or dish (about 20cm x 30cm), and leave to prove for another 20 minutes.
Beat the egg and cream together and brush over the dough. Peel, core and chop the apples finely and spread over the dough. Mix the sugars with the allspice and sprinkle over the top, finishing with the almonds. Bake at 200c for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180c and bake for about 15 minutes more.
Mix the icing sugar with the hot water to make a runny paste, then drizzle it over the kuchen as soon as it comes out of the oven. Be warned, it is easy to eat more of this than you really should.

I'm really going to have to finish now - I've just run a spell check and the number of typos was shocking. I blame the lack of sleep. It's nothing to do with the large G & T next to me.