Nuts and Bolts for a retro snack with drinks

This is spicy and crunchy snack, commonly known as Nuts and Bolts here in Australia, delicious to have with a cold beverage. Who would think that combining mixed nuts, pretzels and a breakfast cereal with some flavourings would result in an irresistible snack?

This is one of those retro recipes that the modern woman in the 1960’s could easily prepare with the convenience foods that were never previously available. But you know what? Nuts and Bolts are still great today! I’ll admit, we’re not talking healthy food here – a wee bit high in salt, I would think. Since Australia Day just around the corner, Nuts and Bolts are the perfect snack to bring to the BBQ or to have on the table when friends come around for drinks. So make a double batch. You’ll have some for yourself and also fill a few jars to give as a nostalgic gift made with love.

As an Italian Australian, I grew up with pasta, tortellini and minestrone. Then one Christmas my sister was given a Women’s Weekly cookbook. What a revelation it was because flicking through the pages, we found fascinating, “new” recipes. Prawn cocktail, steak diane, trifle and choc mint slice! And Nuts and Bolts fitted in there somewhere, as well. I felt so modern and “Australianised” creating these wonderful recipes. As a result my imagination and cooking fervor was sparked. That book was probably the best cooking lesson ever and I still have a copy.

Spicy crunchy savoury snack of nuts, pretzels and crunchy cereal

I’ve added extra spice to these Nuts and Bolts but basically it’s the same classic retro recipe. Yet this is my choice of flavours. While you can add what ever nuts you like, leave out the pretzels, change the cereal, add more spice or less. Totally your choice. Almost anything goes. Almost!

Spicy Nuts and Bolts

Makes about 8 cups
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20-25 minutes

Ingredients

250g Nutri Grain cereal
375 mixed roasted nuts
200g salted pretzels
1/2 cup light olive oil
45g packet cream of chicken soup mix
45g packet french onion soup mix
1 1/2 tablespoons Indian curry powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F
  2. Into a large, deep roasting pan place the cereal, nuts and pretzels
  3. In a small bowl mix together oil, soup mixes, curry powder, Worcestershire sauce, paprika and garlic powder.
  4. Pour the oil mixture over the cereal/nut/pretzels and mix well.
  5. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, stirring every 5-8 minutes until dry and starting to take on a light golden colour. Watch the cereal,  being high in sugar it will burn easily.
  6. Cool before storing in an airtight jar.

Picking up Spicy crunchy savoury snack of nuts, pretzels and crunchy cereal

Parmesan Crisps

Sometimes I think we complicate life unnecessarily. I’ve been reading an interesting blog lately – Becoming Minimalist. Some of it is a bit intense but if you take the general idea we do better with less…less stuff. So I have attempted culling some of my “stuff” and buying less. It’s not easy and I often think I will need items that I haven’t used for years or ever, for that matter. I have a bit of a problem in my pantry…I love to keep it well stocked…you know, just in case! I love baking and cooking and much of the time I like recipes that require a little bit of skill or complications. 
In the spirit of “becoming minimalist”, today I bring you a very simple recipe requiring just one ingredient – Parmesan cheese.  I see this abounds on the web but sometimes we need reminding that even simple is good or even great. These can be whipped up to have with drinks and nibbles or to add crunch and interest to a salad or try adding dried herbs or spices to the cheese. Simple!
Enjoy your weekend!
Parmesan Crisps
Heat the oven to 200C/400F.
Finely grate enough Parmesan cheese. Cover a baking tray with non stick paper or a silicone mat.
Take spoonfuls of  cheese and place piles of cheese onto the baking paper leaving about 3 or 4cm between each. Flatten and spread out the cheese just a little.

Bake in the oven for around 5 minutes but keep and eye on them.
Remove and allow to cool and crisp. If not crispy enough, pop back into the oven for a little longer.

Relax and enjoy!

PÃO DE QUEIJO – The Daring Bakers’ May, 2014 Challenge

This month’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge took us on a trip to beautiful Brazil! Renata of “Testado, Provado & Aprovado!” taught us how to make Pao De Queijo, tasty cheese buns that make the perfect snack or treat, and that will make your taste buds samba!

With the Soccer World Cup  about to commence in a matter of days, it is appropriate the May’s Daring Baker’s challenge takes us to Brazil. Our wonderful host Renata of “Testado, Provado & Aprovado!” chose these delicious cheese balls which as a bonus just happen to be gluten free. I used a mixture of Gouda and Parmesan cheese and we just couldn’t stop popping them in our mouths!
Thank you, Renata!
.

TRADITIONAL PÃO DE QUEIJO
Source:- Renata of “Testado, Provado & Aprovado!”


Servings:
Yields about 80 small balls
Ingredients:
500 gm (4 cups) tapioca starch (If you have access to sour tapioca, you can use 250gm (2 cups) of each)
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
2-3/4 tablespoons (40 ml) (1½ oz) (40 gm) butter
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) salt (or to taste depending on how salty your cheese is)
3 cups (750 ml) (9 oz) (250gm) Monterey Jack Cheese (or another cheese of your liking, or a mix of cheeses), coarsely grated
1 to 3 large eggs
Directions:

  • Heat milk, butter, and salt in a small sauce pan until it comes to a boil. Watch closely as it may boil over. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Sift tapioca starch into a large bowl.
  • Pour the boiled (hot) mixture over the tapioca and start stirring with a fork. The milk mixture will not be enough to form a dough yet. You will have a lumpy mixture, that’s what it is supposed to be.

  • Keep stirring with the fork, breaking down the lumps as much as you can, until the mixture cools down to warm.
  • At this point, preheat your oven to moderately hot 400° F/200° C/gs mark 6
  • Add the grated cheese to the tapioca mixture and mix well, now using your hands.
  • Add one egg at a time, mix with your hands until dough comes together. I suggest you lightly beat the egg with a fork and add little bits until the dough comes together into a soft but pliable dough. You only have to knead it a bit, not as much as you knead a yeasted bread. It’s OK if it is slightly sticky
  • Form balls with the dough and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicon mat or lightly greased with vegetable oil. If necessary, you can oil your hands to make shaping easier. The size of the balls may vary from small bite-sized balls to the size of ping pong balls. They will puff up quite a bit after baking.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes or until they just start to brown on the bottom. You may have golden spots of cheese on the crust. Don’t over-bake as they will get hard and bitter.

“Very Nice” Avocado Dip

Planning major renovations to a house involves many hours of decision making. Choosing materials, style, which wall should go, which shouldn’t. You know, that sort of thing. When we renovated our house 12 years ago it was a little different. All the renovations which involved extensions outwards revolved around one thing – the avocado tree. Yes, I know now it seems stupid! The avocado tree had to stay and the extensions were worked around it which resulted in a one bay carport instead of two! Hmmmm, really stupid!
 So it would be very remiss of me not to showcase the tree of such importance. And yes, over the years it has provided ideal first baby solids, lots of breakfasts, lunches and dinners. It has supplied many family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and even the odd tradie with bags of fruit for weeks on end.

This tree is years old and is said to have been plant from seed. It reminds me of the mystical magical Faraway Tree in the children’s tales by Enid Blyton, old, huge and gnarled providing goodies for those who live in it (or near it, in our case). I sometimes wonder if a cloud will stop over the top of the tree and we could climb up into it.

The fruit it bears is huge and luscious and is borne in great quantity. Every year as the fruits set we peer up into the branches and declare, “Oh, not as many as last year.” But as the weeks of bearing and giving of fruit draws to a close, we have all had a fair share of avocado, for this year at least.

Yes, I do have a soft spot for our big, old tree that provides year after year. We are lucky indeed. Many have said we should sell the fruit because there is so much but when the tree gives so selflessly why should we reap financial rewards.
 Sometimes it is in the simple act of sharing the abundance that we find pleasure.

 This avocado dip is jotted down in an old school exercise book long before I ever had unlimited access to such luscious fruit and it is entitled “Very Nice Avocado Dip” so that’s what I will call it.

Very Nice Avocado Dip

1 avocado
1/4 cup mayonnaise or sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoons minced red onion or spring onions
1 – 2 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
1/2 – 1 teaspoon fresh chilli, to taste
salt and freshly ground pepper

Peel and deseed the avocado. Place in a food processor with the remaining ingredients. Process until smooth. If you want a chunky dip simple mash the avocado with a fork and mix in the remaining ingredients.

Serve with crackers, fresh bread or crackers as I have – flavour the crackers with chilli.

Cheese and Ham Sofficini

The Italians know how to do food, don’t they?
Born of Italian parents, I grew up surrounded by food. Not just food – good food, great food, tasty food! And lots of it. Yes, food was and still is an important part of my life.
Growing up we never had fish and chips from the takeaway shop, or frozen fish fingers not even chicken nuggets or other frozen meals from the supermarket. It just wasn’t in my parents vocabulary.
But then again I grew up in Australia and these types of frozen or convenience foods were not familiar to my parents. Mums and dads in Italy though, may have been a little different. Because included in their frozen food section of the supermarket are sofficini. Yep, apparently lots of different flavours and they are I’m told quite good, so much so that Italian food bloggers are making a homemade version. I first spotted these on one of my favourite food bloggers site Manu’s Menu and I knew I had to make sofficini. Think about it, pastry filled with ham, cheese and besciamella sauce, crumbed and fried. It’s got to be good. And it is! Manu’s Cheese and Ham Sofficini are to die for!
 
The amounts of filling required for the sofficini are really variable depending on the size of the rounds that you cut. Also you will notice sesame seeds  on my finished sofficini. No, definitely not traditional however I make my own breadcrumbs from stale and unfinished bread – never waste bread, remember! Homemade breadcrumbs are the best. I always flavour my breadcrumbs with a little garlic, herbs or seeds.
 
Have you tried frozen sofficini? I’m curious, are they that good?
 
 
Cheese and Ham Sofficini adapted from Manu’s Menu
 
Ingredients:
 2 cups milk
 2 cups flour, sifted
 2 tablespoons butter
11/2 teaspoons salt
 200gms cheese (Manu suggests Gouda or Swiss or sweet provolone, I used Gouda), grated 
 200 gms – 5 oz. ham, minced
 besciamella, recipe below
 1 egg
Breadcrumbs to coat
 
Bring the milk, butter and salt to the boil. Once it boils take it off the heat and  add the flour all at once. Stir well until the dough comes away from the sides of the saucepan. This is like a choux pastry without the eggs.
Once the dough is cool enough to handle knead gently until smooth. It’s a beautiful dough that handles well. Now wrap in plastic and allow to cool to room temperature.
 
Now, roll out the dough fairly thinly, about 3mm. I used a 10cm cutter but Manu suggests a 13cm. My sofficini were more of an appetiser so the size was just right for that purpose.
 

 
In the middle of the round place a small amount of besciamella, cheese and ham. Fold over and press with a fork to close. I found the dough stuck easily and rerolled beautifully.

Beat the egg with a fork. Dip the sofficini first in the egg then in the breadcrumbs. Fry in hot oil. Sofficini can be frozen at the breadcrumb stage and then fried from the frozen.
 
 
 Besciamella
 
50 gram butter
50 grams flour
2 cups milk
a grinding of whole nutmeg
salt and white pepper
 
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir until the butter and flour mixture is bubbling. Change to a whisk and carefully add the milk whisking all the time. Bring to boil stirring or whisking the whole time to avoid lumps. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Once it boils allow to bubble for a minute to cook out the flour. Remove from the heat
 

George Colombaris’ mum’s Cypriot Pies – Koupes

 
Do you think we should mess with recipes of well known, well respected, clever chefs?
Mmmm, maybe not.
But this time you should because these Koupes are so tasty with a couple of extra ingredients added.
In George Colombaris’ fabulous cookbook “Greek Cookery from the Hellenic Heart”,  he lists Koupes under the category ” My mum’s Cypriot Heart” so I would suspect this is a very traditional recipe. But I’m of the belief that even traditional recipes can do with a little bit of tweaking. Just a bit more cinnamon, flick in some garlic and a dash of oregano and mint, that’s all. Really, it does make a difference and then…don’t forget the extra sprinkle of salt and squeeze of lemon as you eat them out of the hand.
 
Koupes
 
 Dough
2 cups fine burghul ( cracked wheat)
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
 
Filling
50 ml olive oil
150g beef mince
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves galic, chopped finely
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup parsely, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried mint
salt and pepper to taste
 
vegetable oil, for frying
lemon and salt for serving
 
Make the dough by pouring the boiling water over the burghul and salt. Stir it well, cover and leave it for 2 hours.
After 2 hours add the flour, cinnamon and pepper. Knead well. You may need to add a few drops more water to bring it together but that’s all. It should be quite firm.
 
 
In the meantime, prepare your filling. Heat a pan, add the mince and brown well. Allow all the juices to evaporate. Then add the onion and garlic and continue to cook, sweating the onion off. Add the remaining filling ingredients. Mix well and then allow to cool.

Take a small amount of dough ( George recommends 50g). Moisten your hands with olive oil, this is important. Flatten out the dough on the palm of your hand and place a tablespoon of filling in the middle. Fold over the sides of the dough and press together to enclose the filling and form an oval-shaped ball.

You could prepare these well in advance then shallow fry them in hot vegetable oil at the last minute. Drain your koupes on paper towels and serve hot.

… with a squeeze of lemon and…
 

… a sprinkle of salt.
 

Pepperoncini Piccante Ripieni – Stuffed Hot Peppers

It’s true, you know, Italy really is a food lovers paradise!
Ok, so I know everyone has already figured that out but I couldn’t believe the person I turned intoover there.
I just wanted to buy food all the time. It’s crazy. You really have to restrain yourself. I would love to have bought so much more food. I didn’t because I wasn’t sure what I could bring back into the country and actually, I felt a little silly just buying food the whole time!
I have attempted to recreate the food, the ambiance and the taste since I have been home.
This is a delicious antipasto I sampled at dinner with my cousin. Of course, she pickled fresh peppers and I have used bottled hot peppers. But then again she also cured the most delicious little Calabrian black olives and her husband made his own wine. Dinner was spectacular.
 
This is a very loose recipe and I’m sure you could adjust the few ingredients to suit your tastes. This is what I like.
 
Pepperoncini Piccante Ripieni
 
200g canned tuna in oil
2 tablespoons capers, if in salt rinse well
4 large or 6 small anchovies
a handful Italian parsley, coarsely chopped

 
 Put all your ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.

Whizz until smooth.
 
 
 Take a jar of hot peppers, drain and allow to dry upside down on paper towel

 
Fill a plastic disposable piping bag with the tuna mixture and fill each pepper cup.
Carefully place all the fill peppers into an appropriate size container with a lid and top up with olive oil before sealing with the lid. Apparently they will keep well for a while but we ate our quickly so I can’t be sure about keeping qualities.
 
I can be sure that they are good, really good. Try stopping at just one!