Wednesday 29 April 2015

Italian Lemon Biscuits

Lard, lard - what do you do with excess lard?  After the Great White Lard Hunt of Brisbane, I still had a fair chunk of lard in my fridge.  And I had a feeling it was best to use it up quickly rather than let it linger in the depths of the fridge to be forgotten and dragged out next year harbouring little green men (no, no, I mean little green fungus-y bits).  By sheer chance when going through my old Women's Weekly cookbooks recently, I had stumbled across a biscuit recipe with lard.  My brain must have remembered this, and directed me to pull out this recipe so I could use some more sticky, stinky lard.  Okay, I am possibly more sensitive to the aroma than others (Mr Pickings can't smell it at all) and not being a pork eater, maybe it just strikes me as quite strong, but as I have said before when I made Aberdeen Butteries, you can't actually taste it once it has been baked.  You end up with a pretty little biscuit that resembles shortbread, and has a tangy lemon icing drizzled over it.  Nothing wrong with that scenario:)



1+1/2 cups self raising flour
60g lard
1+1/2 tbs milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg

Lemon icing:

3/4 cup icing sugar
2 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest


Place the icing sugar, lemon juice and zest into a small bowl and mix well to combine
Leave aside till the biscuits are made (I assume the icing is made first so that it thickens a little before icing the biscuits - I made it after the biscuits and it was very runny!)


Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl
Rub in the lard with your fingers till it looks like fine breadcrumbs
Heat the milk and sugar gently over low heat until sugar has dissolved
Add the vanilla
Pour the warmed milk mixture and the gently beaten egg into the flour
Stir in with a knife till well mixed, then knead until smooth on a lightly floured surface (just for a few minutes)
Here's where you get creative:
Take teaspoons of the dough and roll out till you have long, thin cigars about 13 cm in length
Twist 2 of the cigar shapes together, form into a circle, pressing the ends together so you have a sweet little round of biscuit.
Okay, confession time again!  After making 2 of these, my patience ran out and I just grabbed my star cutter and cut out shapes!  My excuse is that living in sunny Brisbane, doughs and so on don't react the same as in colder States or countries.  It is very clear that recipes are written for colder climes than ours, and so I often have to make adjustments (e.g. when a recipe suggests leaving a mixture or dough out overnight on a bench - hello!- cockroaches/ants/flies/the heat! - get real!).  Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.  So, I cut out little stars instead; I ended up with 14 though the original recipe says you will get 16 twisty ones.
Bake on lightly greased trays at 180C for about 15-20 minutes till lightly golden.
Grab a biscuit and dip the top in the icing; keep going with the rest of them.
Let them cool on a wire rack.


lard rubbed in till it looks like breadcrumbs    

warming the milk and sugar  

lightly beating the egg

pouring in the warmed milk and sugar and vanilla 

stirring the mixture together  

kneading it till smooth (this only takes a few minutes)    

a lovely smooth dough  

roll out the little cigars or cut into shapes!  

2 cigars twisted together and formed into a circle   


lots of stars ready for baking  

and baked!

sifting the icing sugar 

zesting the lemon 

stirring in the lemon juice 

dipping in the biscuits 

iced and cooling on a wire rack over a tray to catch the drips 

enjoy with a cuppa 

Saturday 25 April 2015

Aberdeen Butteries and the Great White Lard Hunt of Brisbane

Lard - rendered pig fat - so hard to come by in sunny Brisbane.  Who knew that this recipe would result in the great white lard hunt?   I strolled down to my local Woolies, whistling a merry tune, (nah, not really) happy in the thought that soon I would be making these fatty little beauties.  But no! not a skerrick of lard to be seen.  I checked out Coles - nope, not a whisker.  I walked into the local deli - huh?  lard? are you joshing?  I racked (and wracked) my brains working out where I could buy some.  I thought of taking a drive to a butcher somewhere - somewhere being the operative word as they are not easily found these days.  I mean real butchers who know how to cut up a carcass and what the cuts of animal are. I grew up living behind a real butcher who had sawdust on the floor and lots of bloody carcasses being dragged into the shop (and he only had a few fingers left!), so I am sadly disappointed these days to find neither blood nor bone:)  So I did what everyone does these days and I turned to good old Google.  And there I read that fellow bloggers like Celia she of the In My Kitchen posts, and Fiona from TiffinBiteSized had also struggled with this epic search.  And guess what! success at last from the IGA store.  Apparently the Allowrie company used to make lard and dripping (lard from pigs, and dripping from cows), but this is now branded as York Foods and hallelujah! you can buy it at the IGA stores.  And yes they are asking everybody to contact Woolies and Coles to ask them to stock it again too.  So quest successful, I could now go ahead and make these quirky Scottish delights.  This recipe is from the delightful book Shetland Food and Cooking, which I have previously reviewed.  So many more recipes to try:)
I love the quote from Marian the author who says: "there are no bad foods, just bad diets".  So true!   I have never been much of a bread lover or maker, so I am not very au fait with yeast cookery, but I have given it a damn good go here, and I was pretty pleased with the result.


bread dough:

250g strong white flour
7g dried instant yeast
5g sugar
175 mls warm water (I just kept sticking my finger in till it felt bearable)

fatty dough:

75g strong white flour
4g salt
5g sugar
75g butter softened (not melted)
60g lard softened (this happened almost instantly as it was a warm day and the lard is very soft anyway)


Place the flour, yeast and sugar in a medium bowl
Give it a stir with your hand
Add the warm water and mix it together with your hands till you have an elastic dough (this will happen very quickly) - no need to knead, but you may need to add a bit of flour to make a nice ball
Put it aside while you make the fatty dough
In a large bowl, place the flour, salt, and sugar and stir it together
Add in the diced butter and the lard and mix with a knife - the author suggests doing it with your hands but as I am not in Scotland, I used a knife as the dough was incredibly soft and melty
Now you are at the fun part -
throw some flour on your work surface
Roll out the bread dough till you have a 1cm thick rectangle
Put blobs of HALF the fatty dough on top of the rectangle
Fold over one third of the bread dough into the centre then fold the other third over the top so you have a fat squishy parcel of buttery, lardy dough
Roll out again to a 1 cm thick rectangle (in sunny Brisbane you can just pat it out with your hands)
Then dot the surface with the blobs of the other half of the fatty dough
Do the one third thing again - i.e. - fold it like a fitted sheet!
Roll out again to about 1 cm thick
Allow to rest for 10 minutes
Divide into 12 pieces (I used a ruler - I know crazy talk)
Place them on a tray coated with flour; squish them out a bit and create 4 dimples in each piece
Cover loosely with oiled cling film and let them prove for 30 minutes
Pre-heat your oven to 225C
Bake the butteries for about 20 mins or till golden
Serve warm

gather your ingredients  

add the luke warm water 

patting the bread dough into an elastic ball 

the bread dough after proving for 10 minutes 

ingredients for the fatty dough  

adding the butter and lard to the flour for the fatty dough  

mixing the butter and lard in with the flour    

patting out the dough  

 blobbing the surface of the bread dough with half  the fatty dough      

folding the doughs into an envelope shape (sort of)

second layer of fatty dough incorporated and the combined doughs rolled out again  

once the second lot of blobs are patted in and rolled out, cut into 12 pieces 

give them some dimples:)  

cover them in oiled cling film for 30 minutes to prove   

bake till golden (these might be a bit too golden)  

enjoy warm out of the oven with a nice cup of tea  

These butteries are flaky and rich, and I think I need to try making them again to get the flakiness just right!  I have a confession here -  the smell of the lard was a wee bit offputting to me though it did not affect the taste.  So folks, if you decide to try making these, do not fear the smelly pig fat, as it disappears into the dough and gives you a delightfully flaky, buttery treat.  I suggest sprinkling on some dried herbs and some sea salt flakes, and perhaps even some grated Parmesan cheese before baking to give it an extra fillip.  But these are not essential, as the buttery is a treat in itself.

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Caramel Dumplings

Brrrr it's a wee bit chilly for Brisbane tonight - only 17C and heading for 12C.  Positively Antarctic! And guess what?  I am sitting here with a (light) scarf on.  After 7 months of summer, this is a nice change.  And definitely calls for caramel dumplings for dessert to warm us up. My best friend at school and yes to the present day is The Famous Author (she who writes YA novels and is now moving into Romance). Her parents are Scottish and after nearly 60 years in Oz still have lovely Scottish accents. My first introduction to sweet dumplings was at their house; her mum made delicious Golden Syrup dumplings and also the Scottish classic Clootie dumpling which is a boiled pudding full of dried fruit. My mum on the other hand was a rebel who only made a savoury version with the fluffy little globes swimming over the top of a hearty stew.  She also only made a savoury kind of French toast, slathered in lots of tomato sauce.  Truth to tell, I didn't know that French toast was meant to be sweet with honey or maple syrup poured over it till I left home.  Now I know a good dumpling is a sweet dumpling!  I can claim no kudos for this recipe as it is out of a magazine from some years ago, but I can tell you it is delicious and comforting, and actually very easy to make.  I usually make the dumplings and the sauce well before dinner, and just finish them off in the sweet, brown, glossy sauce just before eating them.  This is where you smother them in bucketloads of thick double cream.


for the dumplings

190g. self-raising flour
pinch of salt
60g. of butter, chilled and cubed
125 mls milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or paste

for the caramel sauce:

375 mls water
200g. brown sugar
20g. butter
pinch of salt


Place the flour and salt into a medium bowl and stir together
Rub in the butter till the mixture is like fine breadcrumbs
Stir in the milk and vanilla with a large spoon
Give it a final mix with your hands till you have a smooth dough, and form it into walnut sized balls (or golf ball sized if you prefer)

Make the sauce by placing all the ingredients into a frying pan, and turn the heat on high
Let it come to the boil then take off the heat
Place the balls of dough gently into the sauce and let it simmer away on a low heat, covered, for about 20 mins or till cooked
Serve with lots of cream or ice-cream

You can pre-make the dumplings and sauce, and leave them aside till you are ready for dessert. Then go ahead with the final steps, i.e. after bringing the sauce to the boil, place the balls into the pan of hot bubbly sauce, and cook for 20 mins as above.

stirring the flour and salt together  

adding in the butter 

rubbing in the butter  

milk and vanilla going in 

a final stir 

making cute little balls        

so I ended up with 10 sweet little balls!   

making the sauce

sugar goes into the pan of water 

stirring the sauce 

adding the balls to the simmering sauce   

covering them for 20 mins to simmer away   

yep, they're ready!  Well I had to try one to check :) 

it just looks like a lot of cream - honest! :) 

I think Mr Pickings will insist that I make these again before the autumn/winter season ends.  Though I am not sure we will have much of a winter this year as it will be back to 26C on Friday!