Saturday, October 22, 2011

Yo Gabba Gabba - again!

As my boys' birthdays are less than a week apart we have a combined birthday party. My way of overcompensating for this is to produce 2 birthday cakes. My youngest son turned 2 and like his older brother, has a penchant for all things Gabba. Having already pulled Brobee out of the bag last year, I decided to go for another character this time around - Toodee. The icing is a combination of butter cream (the darker blue) and ready-made fondant (the lighter blue and the white eyes and fangs). Toodee's eyes are completed with black spots, outline and eyelashes all cut from liquorice strap. Her mouth is also cut from liquorice strap. The cake itself is lemon butter cake - tangy and delicious and a nice alternative to the chocolate Peppa Pig cake.

Peppa Pig

After I made the Brobee cake for my eldest son's 3rd birthday, he got in early with an order for his 4th. He wanted Peppa Pig. Like a good mother, I obliged! Once again, I used Nigella Lawson's Sour Cream Chocolate Cake recipe (1.5 times the original as I made this in a large lamington tin - 33 x 22.9 .5.1 cm)). The icing is a combination of butter cream (the blue background) and ready-made fondant (Peppa's pink head, tail, pinker cheek and white eyes). Peppa's eyes are completed with chocolate buttons. Her arms and legs are made from musk sticks and her feet have been cut from liquorice strap. The outline and Peppa's dress are made from sliced red snakes. It was a hit (hurray!).

Eggplant pasta

Eggplant is one of those vegetables that divides people. I wonder how many who claim to hate it ate it undercooked - a sin that produces a squeaky, chewy and unpalatable result. Eggplant is delicious fried but given its propensity to soak up liquid like a sponge, this is not the healthiest mode of regular consumption. I like to bake a whole eggplant in the oven, imparting a smoky flavour and a creamy consistency that melts into this pulpy, tasty pasta sauce. The eggplant squeamish need never know!

Eggplant pasta
Serves 4
1 large eggplant, pierced a few times all over with a fork
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 gloves of garlic, minced
1 small red chilli, minced (deseeding or including at all - optional)
2 x 400g tins Italian tomatoes, chopped
1 large handful Kalamata olives, halved and pitted
1 heaped tablespoon capers, drained and chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh continental parsley, chopped
400g penne (or other variety short pasta)
Fresh parmesan, grated, to serve

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Place eggplant on baking paper on a tray and bake for 1 hour, turning at 15 minute intervals. Leave to cool while preparing other ingredients.

Heat oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sautee for 5 minutes or until transparent. Add garlic (and chilli, if using) and sautee 1-2 minutes longer. Add tomatoes with their juice and 1 can of water. Turn up heat to high until mixture is boiling.

Meanwhile, cut the top off the cooked eggplant and halve it lengthwise, removing skin and scraping out soft flesh and juices with knife. Roughly chop the flesh. Add eggplant, olives and capers (if using) and cook until mixture is thick and pulpy (about 10 to 15 minutes - ie the same amount of time it takes to cook the pasta).

Cook pasta in salted, boiling water according to packet directions (penne takes around 12 minutes). Drain and add to the sauce together with the parsley. Mix until combined and turn off the heat.

Serve in bowls with a generous sprinkling of fresh, grated parmesan.