Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Cookbook of the Month - June 2011

It is with much delight that I announce the Cookbook of the Month for June. It has been a little while since I've done this feature, so I've put quite a bit of thought into choosing something interesting for you, my precious readers!

This month's book comes from British-Indian celebrity chef and author Anjum Anand. You may remember I have featured some of her recipes on Diary of a Ladybird previously, such as my post on Carrot Kheer. At any rate, this month's book focuses on creating delicious food for optimum health by following ayurvedic diet principles.

Introducing Eat Right for your Body Type by Anjum Anand:

I have personally had a great experience with this book, and feel I must share with you that it was whilst follwing the guidelines in this book that I became pregnant with our little one currently on the way... Coincidence perhaps, or perhaps my body was in optimum health! I am no longer following the guidelines as strictly, but am definitely mindful of them in my everyday eating. So you never know - even if you have never heard of ayurveda before, I would urge you to keep an eye on this month's feature... I'll be sharing some great recipes from the book,some of which are Indian in influence, others more 'western'. I do hope you enjoy them :)

So what is ayurveda?
As described on Anjum's website:
Ayurveda is an ancient Indian science and is thought to have formed the backbone of many of the Eastern holistic medicines. It had a unique way of looking at the body and understood completely the relationship between food and the body. According to Ayurveda, what you eat can affect how you look, how you feel, who you are and most importantly, your health!

What are the 'Doshas'?
Everything in the universe is made up of the same 5 elements; air, ether, water, earth and fire. We have all 5 elements in our bodies but generally not in the same proportions, there will be more of one or two of them. These excess elements give us our own individual (elemental) imbalance (our personal DNA). In Ayurveda, these imbalances are grouped into three and are known as doshas. The three doshas are vata (an excess of ether and air), pitta (an excess of fire) and kapha (an excess of earth and water). Most of us a combination of two doshas but generally even here, one will dominate. Our dosha (imbalance) will determine who we are, how we look, how we think, our temperament and our tendencies.

Which dosha am I?
I thought you might be curious like I was! Click here to download a quick and easy questionnaire. Once you complete it you will not only be aware of your dosha, but you will also be able to see how the recipes I'm featuring will be of benefit to you, and how you can alter them to better suit your dosha.

To read more about your dosha, go to the bottom of this page on Anjum's website and click on the relevant dosha: http://www.anjumanand.co.uk/ayurveda/

More on this feature in the coming days :)

Ladybird x

PS - Did you know that you can now subscribe to Diary of a Ladybird by email? To receive new posts straight to your inbox, please submit your email address in the widget on the right hand side of the page.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Classic Apple Pie and Custard

With cooler weather setting in, there is such delight in tucking into classic winter dishes like homemade apple pie and custard... classic comfort food! It feels good and there's nothing pretencious about it...just like a big warm hug :)

I made this pie and custard to bring to our friends' place for a dinner party over the weekend. The two components are surprising easy to make at home - it makes me wonder why I ever bought apple pie from the freezer section. As for homemade custard, there really is no comparison to the gelatinous yellow goop out of the carton from supermarkets - where's the comfort in that?!

Apple Pie
Recipe adapted from Donna Hay

1 quantity sweet shortcut pastry (see recipe below)
1 egg, lightly beaten
sugar for sprinkling (optional)
8 green apples (1.2kg/2lb 7oz), peeled and chopped
1 tbsp water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp almond meal

1. Preheat the oven to 190 deg C (375 deg F). To make the filling, place the apples and water in a deep frying pan over medium heat. Cover and simmer, stirring the apples occasionally, for 5 minutes or until just tender. Drain and cool completely.

2. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon.

3. Divide the pastry into two-thirds and one-third. Roll out the two-thirds portion on a lightly floured surface until 3mm (1/8 in) thick and place in a shallow 24cm (9 1/2 in) pie tin. Sprinkle over the almond meal and pack the apples tightly into the pastry shell.

4. Roll out the remaining pastry to fit over the top of the pie. Brush the rim with water, press the edges together and trim. Cut several slits in the top of the pastry, brush with the egg and sprinkle with sugar (optional). Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden and crisp.

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
3 tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
150g (5 oz) cold butter, chopped
around 2-3 tbsp iced water

1. Process the flour, sugar and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

2. While the motor is running, add enough iced water to form a smooth dough and process until just combined.
3. Tip onto clean work surface and knead the dough together lightly.
4. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Classic Custard
an original Diary of a Ladybird recipe
600ml pure cream
1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp quality vanilla bean paste)
6 egg yolks
70g caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
1. Place the scraped vanilla bean and seeds in a medium size saucepan along with the cream. Heat until just before boiling point and remove from the heat.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour until thick and creamy.
3. Whisking continuously pour the cream into the egg and sugar mixture and then return the mixture to the suacepan.
4. Stir over low heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and transfer into a bowl though a sieve. Squeeze excess custard off the split bean and return to the custard to allow the vanilla to infuse further.
5. Serve immediately; or if not, cover with clingflim as pictured below and refrigerate until serving time. Refrigeration with prevent the custard from cooking further.
Put the two together and tuck in! I just love the combination of pie fresh out of the oven and cool custard - simply delicious!
So when you think winter comfort food, what's on the menu for you?
Till next time,
Ladybird x

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Margaret Fulton's Chocolate Cake

Sometimes simple is best. That's exactly what I had in mind when I bookmarked this recipe published in an issue of the Sydney Morning Herald in October last year. And if you're going to try a basic chocolate cake recipe, you can't go wrong with a Margaret Fulton recipe.

For my readers outside of Australia, allow me to tell you a little about this special little lady...

Photo from taste.com.au

Margaret Fulton is a highly respected individual in the Australian food community. She is widely considered the matriarch of Australian cookery. Why? Not only has she published more than 25 cookbooks that find homes on the bookshelves of thousands of Australians, but Margaret has also played a pivotal role in changing the way Australians eat. Out with the bland meat and three veg, and in with international flavours, creativity and flair! At 87 years of age, she's still going strong and inspiring a whole new generation of food lovers... including me :)

So when someone like Margaret Fulton writes that a chocolate cake recipe is a must in your repertoire, you sit up straight and pay attention! It was her words that convinced me this was a "must try" - in Margaret's words:

If I had to choose only one chocolate cake recipe to carry me through life, this would have to be it. It is just as a chocolate cake should be — not the fudgy, flourless kind that everyone loves for dessert but the perfect cake to slice into wedges for afternoon teas and picnics.

This recipe makes two cakes - one for now, and one you can freeze for later; or one for you and one for a friend/neighbour/colleague :)

Sour cream chocolate cake
Recipe by Margaret Fulton (slightly reworded by me to make it a little easier for you to follow)


4 tbsp flaked almonds
1 cup boiling water
125g dark chocolate, chopped
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
250g unsalted butter
1 ½ cups castor sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 ½ cups plain flour
A pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup light sour cream


1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius. Generously butter a three-litre fluted bundt tin or two 20-centimetre round tins. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds (this step is optional), pressing them well into the butter to coat the base and sides of the tin.
Note: I actually got this wrong and sprinkled the almonds on top of the cake before baking, but I don't think it really matters...

2. Put the boiling water, chocolate and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Leave to cool. This bowl will end up as your final mixing bowl, so make sure it is large enough for two cakes worth of batter.

3. Cream the vanilla extract, butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition.

4. Using a strong whisk, add the cream/sugar mixture to the the chocolate mixture a little at a time.

5. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder and fold in alternately with the sour cream, mixing lightly until just combined.

6. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the mixture with a large metal spoon.

7. Turn gently into the prepared tin(s) and bake for 1 hour-1 ¼ hours for a large cake, 45 minutes for smaller cakes, or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Leave for a minute, then turn out and cool on a wire rack.

So the verdict on this recipe? Not a bad chocolate cake, but I think I prefer something a little sweeter and 'gooier' for a chocolate cake. Saying that though, this is perhaps an ideal recipe for those looking for something earthy and not-too-sweet in a cake. It's straightforward to make and easy to slice and transport too which is good...

Tell me, dear readers, who inspires you in the kitchen?

Ladybird x

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Lavender and Honey Madeleines

I've got to tell you, I felt a little tingle as I returned to my blogging this weekend. It really is great to be back! And what a glorious weekend it's been in Sydney... crisp Autumn air, clear blue skies and beautiful sunshine. On afternoons like these, I like nothing more than the opportunity to sit back and relax on my balcony with Mr Ladybird over a nice cup of tea and something freshly baked. I am also savouring such moments as I approach a big change in my life...

You see, while I've been away I have been doing a little baking of my own, and I am delighted to tell you all that I have a bun in the oven! Yes, Mr Ladybird and I are expecting our first child! We are absolutely delighted and can't wait to meet our little one in October.

So there you have it - there's my news... As my first recipe after my hiatus, here is a lovely recipe for delicious madeleines ever so lightly touched by the scent and flavours and lavender and honey - a winning flavour combination, I think :)

Lavender and honey madeleines
(Recipe adapted from 'Petit Fours' by Murdoch Books)

How many madeleines this recipe will make depends on the size of your madeleine moulds. My tray's mould's are quite large (8cam in length), and this recipe made 8 - just enough for afternoon tea with 2 or 3 people. These are best served the same day as baking.


30g (1 oz) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons honey
2 1/2 tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp dried (culinary) lavender
30g (1oz) plain flour
1 1/2 tbsp ground almonds
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tbsp icing sugar for dusting (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 180 degree celcius (350 F/ Gas 4). Use pastry brush to lightly grease madeleine moulds.
2. Melt the butter and honey in a small saucepan. Set aside to cool.
3. Place the sugar and lavender in a mortar and pestle and grind to release the fragrant oils. Sift the lavender sugar to remove the lavender husks.
3. Sift the flour, ground almonds and three pinches of salt three times. This will help to lighten the texture of the madeleines.
4. With an electric mixture, whisk the egg and sugar mixture until thick and creamy.
5. With a metal spoon, fold in the cooled honey/butter mixture, followed by the flour. Fold until just combined. Allow mixture to stand for 10 minutes.
6. Spoon the mixture into madeleine moulds until they are around three-quarters full.
7. Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until lightly golden. Carefully remove from the moulds and place on a wire rack to cool. Dust lightly with icing sugar and serve.

Note: As you can see from the madeleines pictures, mine are a little past being lightly golden, so take care not to overcook them.

Until next time, dear readers!

Ladybird x

Friday, 20 May 2011

Returning soon, please stay tuned!

Hello dear readers, old and new!

You may have noticed I haven't been posting for a few months now... Yes, I am still alive and well. Life has definitely got in the way of late but I intend on making a return to Diary of a Ladybird very soon.

So,why the absence? Well... for one, my day job has been a priority (ermm, as it should be I guess!). Mr Ladybird and I also adopted a puppy at the start of the year, and getting him settled in and trained was quite a commitment! Actually, make that a huge commitment!

Introducing our Labradoodle puppy, Henry...

I mean, really.. how could you say no to a face like that?! Anyway, he is now very much part of our little family and we simply love him to bits! He is such a lovable little fellow and is full of cuddles :)

And there's been something else that's been happening in my life since my last post too. I can't wait to share it with you all ... Stay tuned for my next post for the big reveal!


Ladybird xxx
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