Dulce de Leche

Dulce de leche.

Doce de leite.

Spanish Caramel.

…Milk Jam, anyone?


So, Argentina made the World Cup final and I made dulce de leche to celebrate. As if you even need an excuse for something as brilliant as dulce de leche but hell, the restaurant’s opening at 3am for the game and I’ma need something to jolt my sleepy brain into bilingual bartender mode. For the uninitiated, it’s like caramel but so. much. better. Dulce de leche on a banana is the ultimate combination, but you can use it for topping on just about anything, as a cake filler, or for alfajores. I know I’ll be spooning the leftovers into my porridge, too. Just don’t tell anyone.

This is a very basic recipe and it won’t yield dulce de leche quite as good as the stuff in Argentina but it’s close enough, really. I make it in a batch and what I don’t use in alfajores gets given to friends or kept in a jar in the fridge. For reasons.

Make a meal of it:

3 cans condensed milk (okay, who are we kidding? Two and a half cans.)
2 pinches salt flakes
1 tsp vanilla essence

Bain-marie that bad boy, taking it out to whisk every 20 minutes or so until it turns roughly the colour in the picture. I use a pyrex dish inside a deepish baking tray with some foil over the top. Obviously, longer baking = thicker dulce de leche.  It’ll come out gluggy and lumpy and strange, but just keep whisking and you’ll end up with smooth, sweet deliciousness. I know it all sounds very vague, but you just have to trust this one. It really is that simple.


Madeleine’s Spiced Sangría



Last Saturday we celebrated my friend Diana’s 21st at the Hutt (and by ‘we’, I mean everyone else celebrated at my house while I was at work, then I got to pig out on the leftovers when I eventually made it home). Diana’s Mexican, so she had the house decked out in my favourite colourful papel picado streamers with a gigantic piñata out the back, and the whole thing was catered with some seriously delicious tacos and other treats on offer.

My job? Give her the keys and fill an entire laundry bucket with sangría.

I used a colleague’s recipe as a base to work from, but I subbed the sugar syrup for pomegranate juice, added some chili to stick with the Mexican theme, and used up some of the Huttmate’s leftover rum instead of buying a whole bottle of cointreau. Yep, I know, I absolutely cannot stick to a recipe but hey, it turned out to be delicious!

Make a meal of it:

For syrup
2 cups pomegranate juice
10 cinnamon sticks
2/3 tbsp cloves
1/3 cup lime cordial
Rind from 1 orange, sliced thinly (keep the rest of the orange to slice and throw in the sangría later)
Decent slug of vanilla essence
2 shakes of chili (or to taste)

For Sangría
1 bottle red wine (I used a cab sav)
1 litre dry ginger
90ml brandy
90ml cointreau or spiced rum
Punnet of strawberries and two small granny smith apples, sliced and diced

1. Put all the syrup ingredients into a saucepan and heat gently until fragrant. Make this two days before the party so it can sit in the fridge and all the flavours can seep out.
2. The night before the party, combine the syrup with the wine, spirits, and chopped orange. Again, leave in the fridge to stew.
3. Before serving, add the ginger ale, strawberries and apple.
4. Serve over ice and get ready to festejar!

Note: I tripled the recipe to suit a big party, and had enough left over to poach some pears in during the week. Yum!



Best Ever Baklava

Baklava is magical stuff. Mine got me a free ticket to WOMAD music festival, where I discovered this epic DJ. It also had a random Saudi guy who wandered into our house go “whoa, not even my Mum makes that!”

Heads up: this one’s not a healthy version, but it’s baklava so who caaaares! You might want to halve the recipe too – this is what I use for big gatherings.


Make a meal of it:
Note: Blender/processor required.

Nut mixture:
500g walnuts
500g almonds
150g pistachios
1/4 cup cinnamon
1-2 tbsp nutmeg
2 pinches ginger
1 cup raw sugar

3 cinnamon sticks
juice of 1 orange + 3/4 of its rind, cut in strips
juice of 1 lemon
slurp each of vanilla essence, rosewater & almond essence/amaretto
1/2 cup honey
10-15 whole cloves
2-3 whole star anise
a shameful amount of sugar (probably about another cup or so – enough to turn it all into a sticky mess)

Also Required:
a packet and a half of filo pastry, and melted butter.

1. Par-roast the nuts and allow to cool.
2. Put them into a blender/processor and whizz them till about half the mix has turned into meal and the other half into rubble.
2. In a bowl, add spices and sugar.
3. Grease a deep tray with butter and a bit of flour.
4. Cut the filo to fit the tray, then layer: pastry, butter, pastry, butter, etc for about 10 sheets of filo.5. Spread out half the nut mixture.
6. Pastry, butter, pastry butter; about 7 sheets.
7. Spread out the other half of the nut mixture.
8. Pastry, butter, pastry butter; about 7 sheets.
9. Now comes the tricky part. You have to cut the huge slab into little diamond-shaped pieces before you cook the pastry. Obviously with my spacial awareness being as it is, I find this rather challenging and I have to stick my tongue out in concentration as I do it. Sometimes, bits of pastry end up in my mouth this way.


10. Bake until the filo is golden brown. While it’s baking, make your syrup by combining all the ingredients in a pan and simmering with a few cups of water. Use your judgement on how much water  and sugar you need based on the size of the tray you’re using and how sweet and sticky you want it.
11. When the baklava has cooked, remove from the oven and pour the hot syrup over the top. It’s traditional to do this while the pastry is still hot – just ask my Aunt Mina. I’ve done it both hot and cold though, and I can’t say there’s a noticeable difference other than the super satisfying noise it makes while hot.
12. Allow to cool while rearranging the contents of the syrup to make it look pretty (of course).
13. Behold the magical powers of baklava!

Amazeballs, Ed. 2: Gingerbread Cashew Balls

You know those ‘Nakd’ bars you can get at the supermarket?

The ones that are super delicious, but they cost you so much it’s really hard to believe that all they put in them is fruit and nuts?

Trust tightarse Little L to find a way around that!


Make a meal of it:

Note: You’ll need a processor for this one.
Makes a generous week’s worth.

1 heaped cup date paste (combine pitted dates and a splash of water in the processor, and mush away!)
2 1/2 cups coarsely blended cashew meal
1/4 cup vanilla protein powder
2 tsp ginger juice (put ginger through the garlic crusher and juice comes out; alternatively, use powdered ginger)
A few shakes of ground nutmeg
Sesame seeds for rolling

1.  Mix it all together, roll into balls.
2. Dip in sesame seeds.
3. Pop into mouth and be genuinely surprised at how satisfying they are. I actually went back into the kitchen to sneak a few more of these while the pictures were loading.


Amazeballs, Ed. 1: Inca Balls


I’m deeply suspicious of protein powder. I don’t know if it’s because I’m sure you can get enough protein by consuming actual food, or because it smells exactly like the bottle formula we used to give to the poddy lambs.

Actually yeah, it’s definitely about the lambs.

Anyway, I was curious about maca powder so I decided to give it a go in some balls. These are deliciously fudgey and maltey, and I’m proud that they worked out well given that they are the result of an inspired I’m-going-to-support-the-boyfriend’s-gym-project-while-also-getting-to-make-a-mess-in-the-kitchen-inventing-stuff moment. They’ve conquered my fear (by olfactory association) of protein powder, and I’ll be making more of these for myself!


Make a meal of it:
Note: I used a processor, but if you don’t mind paying extra for pre-made almond meal, you don’t really need one.
Makes about a week’s worth of emergency snacks.

2 cups almonds
1/2 cup cocoa (yeah yeah, I’ll use raw cacao when I finish my tin of cocoa, okay?)
1/3 cup vanilla protein powder
3 tbsp maca powder
3 tbsp coconut oil
1-2 tbsp raw honey
Pinch or two of chili (because chili chocolate)
Shredded coconut for rolling

1. Blend the almonds, cocoa, maca, chili, and protein powders.
2. Heat honey and coconut oil together until the oil has softened.
3. Mix it all in a bowl and roll into balls.
4. Roll in the shredded coconut and you’re good to go…
and go…
and go…
and go!

Green Smoothie (that doesn’t taste green)


I know, I know. Green smoothie drinkers are about as tedious as lunch instagrammers, but guys?

These things just taste like banana & strawberries – NOT like the juice from Popeye’s rubbish bin.

I know you’ve heard it all before, but they really do make me feel great and they’re an easy transportable fuel for those crazy long days with two jobs, bus rides and no time for breakfast.

Make a meal of it:
Makes one jar-sized smoothie.
3-4 strawberries (tightarse tip: I hoard the slightly too ripe ones when they’re on special, and freeze them. The blender seems to cope with this).
1 large banana
1 generous handful baby spinach
1 tsp spirulina, green mix, matcha or similar
2/3 cup liquid, to ease blending. I use kefir, but yoghurt or coconut water also work fine.

Chuck it all in a blender, whizz away, and try not to shove your health kick down other people’s throats.


Experimenting with Kefir

Currently at the Hutt, there are prickly pear and yucca offcuts sprouting roots in jars of water on top of the gas unit, and another jar of scary-looking milk slowly fermenting out on the table. I don’t think anyone would be surprised if one of these days I go full mad scientist and start wandering around with frizzy hair and a coat, muttering to myself.

Oh, wait…

Anyway, Kefir: It’s home-made fermented milk and looks about as disgusting as it sounds. Never fear! It’s basically a runny kind of Greek yoghurt, only with tons more probiotics up in there. You can chug it down on its own, add some honey and pop it on your museli, or (my favourite) just throw it in your blender instead of yoghurt the next time you make a smoothie.

Still not convinced?

All I can say is it’s waaay cheaper than yakult, easy to make, and more effective than probiotic tablets. It helps with bloating and other, umm, feminine issues, and I’ve also noticed a slight difference to my skin since including kefir in my diet.

I’d very much recommend getting on this stuff after a round of antibiotics too. Those things are nasty.


Make a meal of it:
You need:
1. Kefir grains. I got mine from an online store originally, but they multiply so if you want to give it a go I can give you my extras. The grains are little white lumpy things that feed on the lactose and whatever else is in milk. You need about a teaspoon to get started.
Side note: Yes, this means kefir is safe for the lactose-intolerant, because the grains break it down.
2. Milk. I use the unhomogenized full cream milk from Paris Creek, because I like to eat the cream from the top first it’s the most ‘whole’ milk I can find. Any milk works though, except for UHT. For things like soy and coconut milk, other mad scientists recommend switching the grains back to dairy every few weeks so they can refresh themselves.
3. A mason jar, because we’re trendy like that. Really you just need a glass jar with a lid.

How to:
1. Put one teaspoon of grains into your jar along with a cup or so of milk. The more milk, the longer it will take to ferment.
2. Close the jar loosely and sit it somewhere in room temperature for 12-24 hours.
3. Shake occasionally. I just give mine a swirl on my way out the back door every so often.
4. Pour through a strainer to separate the kefir from the grains.
5. Use the grains to make another batch!

1. Refrigerate for a little bit after straining to make it firmer and more yoghurt-like.
2. If you go away for a while, just give the grains extra milk and leave the jar in the fridge. They can sit like that for a couple of months and just take one or two batches of fresh milk to perk up again when you arrive home.

Laziest medicine ever!