Happy Australia Day! Yesterday was a day to celebrate all things Australian. Lets be honest, for most Australians, it has nothing to do with the First Fleet. We’ve got a day off work in the middle of summer, and we’re going to have a barbeque to celebrate. Or we’re going to go to the beach for a swim, or, like me, going to a have a picnic.
While for many Australians this day is about beer, sausages, and beer, you will quickly learn that any day ending in “day” for me is about cooking. What can I cook that we can take as a picnic, and survive a 2 hour drive in an esky?
More importantly, what were we going to have for afternoon tea? It doesn’t take a big leap to get to lamingtons, the fluffiest and most picnic-y of all Australian afternoon teas. I didn’t have much time, and have a minor cupcake obsession at the moment, so i went for an old favourite vanilla cupcake recipe. This is not strictly traditional, but they sure look cute.
As my friends can attest, these lasted about 12.5 seconds once the container was opened. They had a little drop of jam in the middle, a simple icing recipe that I have been using for about 15 years, and shredded coconut – dessicated coconut’s cuter sister. Recipes are at the end, for anyone who wants to whip up something easy for a bbq/picnic/every day of the week.
So often we go to bbqs and group events, and we end up eating chips and dip for 3 hours, and you never end up feeling full. I liked the idea of making something that would nourish and prepare everyone for a day of festivity. One of my friends suggested chicken finger sandwiches, but I had recently eaten an excellent baguette from a shop in Melbourne (on Degraves street) and felt inspired. It was a chicken waldorf baguette, based on a traditional waldorf salad – chicken, celery, walnuts, apple, and just enough mayo to keep it all together. I also threw in a little bit of left over cooked up bacon and onion, from my third picnic recipe. I put my own twist on the baguette by including cucumber as well as spinach.
They kept pretty well in the esky, in containers surrounded by ice. The string around the baguette is a cute little trick I saw in a magazine. Not only does it look quite quaint, but it really helped to keep the sandwiches together. When I ran out of baguette, I just used a nice loaf of seeded bread which worked equally well (if not better – the bread kept more moist in the esky than the baguette). It’s not quite as cute with bread, but a whole chicken makes a lot of filling, and one must improvise!
For some reason, I always think there won’t be enough food. What else would go well at a picnic, I pondered. Quiche, of course. This recipe was loosely based on about three recipes, and secrets I have picked up over the years. I just happened to have some puff pastry in the freezer. Puff pastry is an excellent think to keep around for quick baking needs. I might do a puff pastry blog special, because this is one handy thing to keep around. But for now, back to the quiche.
Although not traditionally Australian, quiche reminds me of childhood family birthday parties, and when called “Egg and bacon pie”, it sounds bloody aussie to me. Everyone likes egg, bacon and pastry, so this went down quite well. If you keep these things in the fridge, it’s a pretty easy thing to whip up if friends unexpectedly come by.
I hate recipes which have to be perfect, so if you’re like me, you’ll enjoy making these tasty treats for your next picnic. A little more butter in the icing, a little less.. a few more nuts? Go for it.
The weather looked ominous, but the day turned out really well. Good company, a few Australian beers, and some good food made for a great Australia day. Enjoy!
Liz’s Lamington Cupcakes
(makes approx 18 mini cupcakes, or 12 normal cupcakes, 6 large cupcakes)
100g butter, softened
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup self raising flour
1/3 cup icing sugar
2.5 tablespoons of cocoa
1/4 cup strawberry jam
1 cup shredded coconut
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C, or 160 for fan forced. Line your cupcake tin of choice with patty pans.
2. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and eggs until lighter and well mixed.
3. Add milk and extract, mix well.
4. Add flour, preferably sifted. Mix until the mixture changes to a lighter colour, and looks smooth.
5. Divide the mixture among the cases. Bake cakes about 20 minutes, 25 for medium cupcakes and 30 for large cupcakes. The cupcakes are done when they are slightly brown on top and the skewer comes out clean. Cool on a cooling rack.
6. For the icing, melt the butter in a small, microwave proof bowl. Add the icing sugar, cocoa, and a tablespoon of hot water. Stir to dissolve the sugar and cocoa. The mix should be quite runny for lamingtons, so add more hot water if it isn’t runny enough. It shouldn’t be too thin that it soaks the cupcake though. (Add less water for a great general purpose icing for other uses.)
7. Using a small piping bag filled with jam, pipe jam into the middle of the cupcake. It doesn’t matter if you leave a hole in the top, it will be covered by icing. Put in as much jam as you fancy.
8. Spread out the shredded coconut on a piece of paper towel or a plate.
9. When cupcakes are cool, dip the top in the icing bowl and smooth off with your finger. Dip the icing into the coconut and place on a plate. Repeat.
Chicken Waldorf Baguette
Makes approx 9 sandwiches
1 whole large shredded chicken
3 baguettes or one loaf of bread
3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
1 apple, grated
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
200g baby spinach (or salad greens of choice)
1 cucumber, sliced
1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until well combined
2. Cut Baguette in half horizontally
3. Lightly butter both sides of the bread
4. Lay down some spinach on the bottom bread layer. Top with cucumber slices and then chicken mix.
5. Place the top layer of the baguette back on top.
6. Cut each baguette into 4 pieces, cutting diagonally
7. Keep each piece together by tying a bow around the sandwich.
8. Keep in cool place until ready to eat.
Your beautiful sandwiches are now complete!
Aussie Egg and Bacon Quiche
Makes one large quiche.
2 sheets of frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 rashers of bacon, diced
100 mls cream
1. Lightly grease a fluted quiche/tart tin, and preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celcius, or 170 degrees for Fan Forced.
2. Line tin with defrosted pastry, pushing the pastry into the corners, and pressing over the edges to remove excess pastry.
3. Prick the pastry with a fork across the bottom of the pastry.
4. Line with baking paper, and put pastry weights or rice over baking paper.
5. Place the tin into the oven, and bake for 10 minutes.
6. Remove the paper and pastry weights, and bake for another 15 minutes until lightly brown.
7. Meanwhile, fry onion and bacon in a pan until onion is transparent and bacon is crispy.
8. When the pastry is cool, and the bacon mix is cool, place the mix into the pastry.
9. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, cream and milk until the egg is dispersed in the mix.
10. Pour the egg mix into the pan, and bake for 30 minutes, or until the mix is set and the top is a nice brown colour.
Serve warm or cool.