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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Monday, November 28, 2005

Richmond Seafood Tavern

About a month ago I ventured into a pub I had pretty much ignored previously for one of the most impressive seafood meals I've had. The pub, on the corner of Hoddle St and Elizabeth St, Richmond is nothing exciting in an nothing exciting part of Richmond. It's filled with old regulars at the bar and playing the pokies, but somehow they've acquired themself a very fine restaurant, with a distinct emphasis on seafood.
Apprently this pub restaurant has a very close connections with the old Fitzroy place, Rubira's, which was a seafood institution in its day. Bringing in the old manager of Rubira's to revamp the bistro here means that these pub meals have definite pulling power. An interesting concept in an otherwise bland pokies venue.
If you're not into seafood, this is not your place. Yes, there are a few alternatives. There's lasagne...but it's made with seafood. There's a steak option, but who'd bother, really? You're not coming here for steak.
Before the night an email from Tony Leonard, the reviewer for 3AWs pub of the week informed us of the quality of all items on the menu and encouraged us to order a shared seafood platter. He warned us that it would be expensive, but that's the price you pay for good seafood. This shared-platter idea was encouraged by our waitress, who confirmed that it is what the pub does best. Order as many items as you like from the menu and they'll put together a platter for you in an appropriate size. The cost would be dependent on what you order.
Sounded pretty good to us, and our table of ten organised 3 platters between us. The photo above is our platter, shared between 3 of us. Not shown are the salted snapper fish cakes we ordered, which arrived first and were served individually. Hot, crispy, salty and substantial, they were a great beginning to the meal, which had already started with beer in the main bar.
Contained on our platter were our choices of chilli prawns (separate small dish above) - juicy and tomatoey but with no real kick of chili. Our chili-lover on the table was disappointed, although the prawns were excellent; very plump and firm. Behind them are a specialty of the house, king prawn spring rolls - a big, juicy prawn wrapped in spring roll paper and deep fried. Hot, crisp oily goodness - but best to eat these soon after they land on your table.
We ordered the full selection of scallops on the shell. The selection at the time included with bacon; with a champagne herb sauce; and mornay. I enjoyed all of these, but particularly the more delicate flavours of the champagne & herbs. I often forget how good scallops are, and have to remind myself to order them more often.
Also chosen was a selection of oysters. Half a dozen natural, served with lemon, and half a dozen kilpatrick (bacon and worcestershire sauce - not a favourite taste combination of mine as it kills the flavour of the oyster, but chosing the platter was a collaborative process!). These oysters were very good, albeit on the small side, and tasted freshly of the sea. This is despite it being at the tail end of oyster season here.
However, the real standout of the meal was one that took me by surprise. Some simple Red Emperor fillets deep fried in a light beer batter were incredibly fresh and full of a wonderful delicate, yet earthy flavour. It reminded me closely of the fish ordered in good Chinese restaurants which is quickly steamed to enhance the real quality of the product. This was a dish that didn't need any accompaniment. Lemon, salt, tartare sauce are all superfluous when faced with fish this good.
Desserts are good, and quite refined - there was a coconut pannacotta, slices of various tarts (good pastry) and a chocolate parfait. An attractive inclusion was an affogato with your choice of liqueur. A long platter arrived with a tall, stemmed bowl containing a scoop of good vanilla icecream, flanked on either side by a shot glass of espresso and one of your liqueur (Amaretto in our case).

Cost per person for a platter of this size was between $50-$60 per person, and whilst portions were large and filling, they were not pub-sized extra generous. Add to this drinks and dessert, and yes, it probaby won't be a weekly excursion. But for entertaining and as a place to celebrate it is excellent; the room is large, with enough space between tables to feel some privacy, and there is space for large groups. Drinks are at bar prices and there is a good wine list, obviously geared toward a selection of good white wines. I was expecting to dine to a backdrop of clangs and coins from the pokie machines, but they are at the other side of the building, and the only time you'll be near is when retiring to the bar for a few end-of-evening liqueurs. If you don't want to be that close to reality, remain at your table to prolong the well-fed haze.

Richmond Seafood Tavern
14 Elizabeth St, Richmond (cnr Hoddle St)
Ph: (03) 9419-8724
Tues-Fri noon-3pm; Thurs, Fri, Sat, 6pm-9pm;
Website: Richmond Seafood Tavern
Other reviews to be found here and here.

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

BBM3 - Package Arrived!

You know, I underestimated the feeling of excitement I would get when seeing my Blogging by Mail package mystery package arrive. It turned up yesterday, after a fairly upsetting day I had, so it was a such a nice feeling knowing that somebody I'd never met, over the other side of the world, had prepared a care package for me full of exciting new things to try.
My partner, Jocelyn, is from San Francisco, which happens to be my favourite US city (of those I've visited) and included a lovely, handwritten letter describing the contents of her "taste of the US holidays" package for me which included:
-Home-baked cranberry muffins - with the dried cranberries soaked in rum. Mmmm. Jocelyn commented that cranberries are found everywhere around the US at this time of year, and soaking in them in rum highlights another great tradition of the season: alcohol!
-Mexican Wedding Cookies. I'd never heard of these before, but have totally fallen in love. What gorgeous little nut studded buttery delights these are. I think the nuts are pecans, which I really love, but which are quite expensive down here. I've asked Jocelyn for the recipe, as I have plans to make these for Christmas. SO delicious!
-Boutique gourmet chocolates from SF confectioner Joseph Schmidt, in the shape of turkeys and pumpkins, in honour of the season. Jocelyn commented that when people think of chocolate and San Francisco, they usually think of Ghiradelli, and I admit that I ate more than my fair share when I was over there in 2003, however she chose to include some boutique chocolates instead. Wow, the quality of these chocolates is amazing; I'm quite a fan of chocolate, in case you hadn't noticed (ahem...I even have a separate archive category for it!), and these are top notch, gourmet products. The box of 6 turkey shapes, in dark, white and milk chocolate are filled with rich, ganache-type fillings and are truly decadent. Unfortunately most of the turkeys didn't quite survive the intense Australian sun, and suffered a bit in transport. But they were still gorgeous tasting chocolate blobs! I haven't yet tried the pumpkin shapes - as they are almost too beautiful to eat. What perfect shape and colour.

Jocelyn also included a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle food section, full of special recipes for Thanksgiving - some of which left me feeling a bit faint (brining your own turkey in garbage bags overnight??). I also was intrigued by the size of the newspaper. Goodness, the Chronicle is a very TALL paper, isn't it? How does one read it on the train in the morning?? She also included a photo of her kitchen - and made me very envious of the KitchenAid mixer on her bench.
Finally, Jocelyn wrote that she is from Native American (Indian) stock - at which point my eyes opened wider. Goodness! How exotic for me, here on the other side of the world! Part of their great culinary heritage is corn, and she included the recipe for her mum's corn pudding which appears on the Thanksgiving table every year as a side dish. With fresh corn in season down here now, it's something I certainly will try soon.

I was so excited to receive this package, and every time I reached into my drawer at work to nibble on a Mexican wedding cookie, I smiled to think of the care and effort put in by somebody on the other side of the world. What a way to reaffirm one's faith in humanity. :-)

PS-Just today my package arrived for my recipient in Malaysia! Here's a peek.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Osaka ho!

Last night I decided to visit Osaka!

In a completely unlike-me spontaneous decision I decided last night to spend the holiday time between Christmas and returning to work in January visiting my friend in Japan, where he went to teach English back in July. Since then he's started his own foodblog, and I've been very tempted by his recipes and reports of the wonderful places to eat; apparently there are 200,000 restaurants in Osaka, and it's the dining and entertainment capital of Japan!

Today I managed to convince another mutual friend to join me (didn't take much convincing, to be honest)and we set flight for Japan on 28 December for about 10 days. Yay! Yes, it's going to be freezing cold, but we plan on lots of time in warm restaurants, yakitori joints, karaoke bars.... :-) And I do plan to be blogging from his laptop; I imagine we might have the same content on some days!
We're already making lists of things to do and places to visit. Kyoto and Kobe are both nearby, and train travel is pretty cheap, so they're high on our list. I visited Japan (Tokyo and Kyoto) in 2003 and was blown away by it; I never expected to love the country so much, so I'm very excited about returning.
Anyone with any good acommodation suggestions in the Honjo Higashi section of the Kita district would be much appreciated. Our friend doesn't have enough space in his little tatami matted apartment to easily accommodate sleepover guests!

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Hay, Hay it's Donna Day

If you're not Australian you're most likely not to get that direct reference to a very popular, long-running, now defunct Saturday night tv show. In any case, it's a clever pun thought up by Barbara, who's organised the inaugural Donna Hay day. If you don't know who Donna Hay is, check out Nic's description. Even though Nic's not Australian, she's a major fan of Donna Hay, as are quite a lot of international foodbloggers. Ms Hay really has become quite a success in Australia; in fact it was only fairly recently I discovered she was Australian. "Oh, somebody that successful must be from the UK or USA" I would think. Oops - Cultural Cringe strikes again.

Only yesterday I received my Christmas edition, full of beautiful, clean, bright photos of holiday biscuits and treats I'd love to make, but for this first Donna Day extravaganza, the wildy popular swirly self-frosting cupcakes have been chosen. It's true that I have already
made and posted about these before, as have quite a list of other foodbloggers (they were indeed flavour of the month), but in light of their obvious popularity, the idea to choose them is a good one. Those who have made them know how easy and attractive they look, and for those who don't - what more gentle way to be introduced to the Donna world?

Last time I used the new Kraft dark chocolate peanut butter spread: Nuts About Chocolate; mmmmm. Just like a Snickers bar - and I used it again for half of this batch (shown in the top photo). I was inspired after that about all the possible toppings I could use for the swirly features, and one in particular stood out; the thick, dark apple paste from Holland: Appelstroop. This stuff has the colour and texture of engine grease, but tastes fabbo. It's basically apple juice and sugar boiled down for ages until it turns thick and gooey. Yes, it's very sweet but it also has a tongue-tingling tang from the apples and a hint of smoky bitterness like treacle or molasses. Don't know about elsewhere, but it's pretty easily available from lots of supermarkets

So, you can see my effort using the apple paste. Not quite as successful with the swirling technique there. I've come to the realisation that has put a dampener on my wild list of possible toppings. Peanut butter and Nutella etc. work well because they have a similar texture to the raw cake batter; therefore the swirling and subsequent cooking amalgamates the two components well. However, using apple syrup or honey or raspbery jam....not so good. The texture is too runny, and they don't swirl too well. They also tend to bubble over and coat your muffin pans with a thick, baked-on syrupy mess which is a nightmare to clean.
But, oh yeah; they taste pretty damn good. And that baked in frosting makes them perfect to transport - just as I'm doing this afternoon as I take off for a long weekend at a friend's beach house on the Great Ocean Road. No phones, no internet - just lots of books and walk on the beach. Cheers!
I'm looking forward to seeing how many people around the world make this recipe this weekend, and who wins the prize for the prettiest swirls.

If you want the recipe for the swirly self-frosting cupcakes, it can be found in this post.

Appelstroop swirly cupcake I was enjoying...

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Monday, November 14, 2005

Prawns with garlic and chilli

Mum emailed me to say she was going over to the market - what did I feel like for dinner? For some reason I wrote "Prawns!". I'm not sure why, because I didn't have any particular prawn dish in mind; it must've been one of those deep spiritual urges...
So, I came home feeling hungry, and knowing that I wasn't going to spend more than 20 minutes preparing dinner. Prawns are useful in that regard; nothing you're making with prawns is going to take too long to make, unless you're shelling. And then you deserve all you get! Although, I guess you could spend ages rolling them in rice paper parcels with artistically displayed coriander leaves showing through the dough a la Donna Hay.
I found a hopeful-looking recipe in Nigella's How To Eat, which endeared itself to me even more because it was in the Cooking for One & Two people chapter, plus it was a 30 minutes or less to prepare meal. Bonus.
Nigella goes on a bit about being careful with adding salt to the frozen prawns you'll just have to use because you won't be able to get fresh, uncooked prawns. Apparently the saltiness intensifies in the inferior frozen prawns available at fishmongers. Well, huh. I live in Australia, and apparently getting fresh, uncooked prawns is just a matter of pointing at them and specifying how many kilos you want. Nyah!!! :-P It's times like that I realise how fortunate we are. I actually had a cheap prawn curry from the local Burmese takeaway shop last night. Yes, that was prawn curry and Burmese fast food! I love this city.

So, this recipe calls for ~250g raw, unshelled prawns. I had more than that, but went with the general quantities of everything else. 2 cloves of garlic, 100ml white wine, a few fresh chillies, sliced and parsley. You fry up the garlic and chillies and let them cook slowly for a few minutes to infuse the oil and then throw in the prawns for 2 minutes until they turn pink. Slosh in the wine and let it cook another minute or so. There shouldn't be enough liquid for the prawns to start bathing, just enough for a sauce. Taste for salt (fresh prawns might need a little) and throw over the parsley.
Nigella recommends eating the prawns carapace, head and all. Now, I'm a big fan of crunching on prawn tails and I have begun watching in jittery bemusement people who fastidiously leave their prawn tails on their plate. People, there's meat in them tails! They're crunchy like potato chips! And prawn shells are apparently good for lowering cholesterol (convenient excuse, eh?). So, I had no trouble crunching away on the tails and shells. Not so keen on those little legs, which I threw about with abandon. Mum was a bit put out with me that I didn't bother shelling the prawns beforehand, but I guess that's one of the ways you can turn a 30 minute meal into a 1hr 30 minute ordeal.

However, I do draw the line at sucking down prawn brains and eyeballs. No thank you. My brother and I both had a horrid experience burnt into our brain as children when we witnessed an elderly Italian great uncle chomping down on prawn heads during a Christmas dinner, whilst blithely carrying on a conversation with the feelers waving out from his lips and eyeballs dropping onto the plate. My brother is still overcoming this unfortunate experience. And only a few years ago I was peeling a prawn when I didn't accurately judge where the head ended and found my hands covered in brown brainy goo. No more prawns for me that Christmas! So, thanks anyway Nigella, I'll happily go the shells, but no gooey prawn heads for this girl.

Surprisingly, considering I added 2 sliced birds-eye chillies, there was virtually no heat or chilli taste. Quite odd. Nigella only calls for 1, so I thought I was being quite daring. Next time I'd go 3 or even 4 chillies. Another possibility she suggests is to add a tablespoonful of brandy just before adding the wine, which is something I was planning to do, and forgot in the heat of the moment.
Served on a great pile of baby bok choy, this made a surprisingly filling and satisfying meal. Good stuff, and prawns are not that terribly expensive you know, especially in non-peak holiday times, that they really can be a quick dinner alternative for 1 or 2 of you on a weeknight.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Rich Fudgy Chocolate Cookies

These are extremely good. When I was beginning my research project for the perfect chewy chocolate chip cookie, I received many, many recipes from many people. One of my friends remarked on the coincidence that she had just that day received a chocolate cookie recipe from a workmate. This workmate is apparently a pretty top baker, and promised for months to send this recipe, which she promptly forwarded to me to try. (this friend is not the baking type! :- ) )
It was after a few batches of substandard CCC recipes that I was feeling a bit disheartened, and quite frankly, a bit sick of choc chip cookies (?!), that I chose to try this. Because it was a variation on a CCC, I thought it might be a nice taste change, and yet sort of, almost, possibly, technically fit the research proejct criteria. Ahem. Any excuse.

These are very rich and definitely fudgey; almost like a brownie in biscuit-form. The inclusion of cocoa as well as chocolate helps with both the soft texture and the intense chocolate flavour. What I loved was that I didn't have to get obsessive about cooking times; a few minutes too much or too little won't affect their texture too much, unlike a standard choc chip cookie which can turn into choc chipboard if you lose track of minutes. Perhaps they were just a tad too sweet for my taste; whilst there were no problems eating them, I felt that tickle in the throat and need to cough that you get after something intensely sweet, and I noticed several of my workmates having the same reaction. 350g is a lot of brown sugar, and I think it could be reduced a little without sacrificing the flavour or texture.

These were very popular, and those of you who have been following my baking-for-the-mystery-workplace project will be interested to know that they have instigated a score card and comments sheet for my weekly effort. Perhaps you might be interested in seeing this particular feedback?

Heh. "Room for improvement"?! I felt a bit affronted by Ken's comment, until his true motive was revealed; "If I write they were good, she'll stop making them!" he proclaimed upon interrogation. Huh! I would also like to point out that Joe has a degree in English Communication from an American university. Lol! His professors must be very proud.... ;-)
As you can see, the soft, fudgey texture I loved wasn't appeciated by all. Doesn't that just go to prove that the perfect cookie is differently perfect for different people.
Read on for the recipe:

I've included the recipe exactly how it was notated by workmate of my friend.
Rich Fudgy Chocolate Biscuits

250g dark chocolate
175g Butter
350g Soft Brown Sugar (or possibly less says Niki)
3 Eggs
Vanilla Paste (if you can get it) or Extract – just a splodge
275g Self Raising Flour
50g Cocoa Powder
White Chocolate Chips (optional) – quantity to taste (I used small milk chocolate drops)

Preheat the oven to 160C (fanforced).

Melt chocolate and butter together in the microwave.
Add sugar and beat with a hand held whizzer.
Add eggs one by one while continuing to beat.
Add vanilla paste (or extract).
Sift flour and cocoa together and fold into chocolate mixture.
Fold in choc chips.

Line baking trays with non-stick baking paper and use two teaspoons to drop dollops mixture well spaced out on the trays.
Bake for about fifteen minutes.

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Monday, November 07, 2005

Chocolate Chilli.....

I meant to write about this on the weekend, conscious of wanting maintain my regular updates. In fact, I meant to do a lot of things on the weekend, but one of the perks of the job as a cataloguer is to handle the material that arrives in the library for cataloguing, and some of the monographs can be pretty interesting. My attention was caught by a new book about Kim Jong Il and North Korea, and I secretly carried it home for the weekend. I really couldn't put it down; North Korea is a disturbing country. So.....no posting on the weekend. The computer was never even switched on!

But, last week was my brother's birthday (coinciding with the Melbourne Cup Day public holiday I didn't get as a university employee!....bah!!) and I asked what he would like for a cake. After being reminded that he really doesn't go in for cakes, and could I make an icecream cake? (nope), he suggested something chocolate. With maybe some cinnamon? I suggested, with him being such a big fan of anything extremely hot, a chocolate, cinnamon, chilli combination might be the go. He gave his assent, and I had a think about what to do.

It was pretty easy to make a decision. I remembered the chocolate gingerbread I made earlier in the year, to which I added some chilli powder. The resulting cake was dense, rich, chocolatey and spicy. Most importantly, I remembered it being not too sweet; an important consideration, when it was being presented to 6 boys in their 20s - all of whom are not really into sweets. This cake is smoky and almost bitter from the large amount of treacle (or molasses). It also carries chilli flavour really well.
I added about 3/4 teaspoon of chilli powder - going slowly because it's always easier to add than subtract! I was aware of not wanting to blow people's heads off, but also wanting to create a distinctive afterburn. Tasting the raw batter, I definitely could detect a kick, but it didn't translate to the cooked cake so much. Yes, there was certainly a warmth in your mouth, and a slight heat in your throat, but it was more like a spice. Actually it was fairly similar to the heat from fresh ginger. My brother enjoyed it, but recommended I up the chilli content next time. If I used 3/4 teaspoon this time, he suggested going for 2 teaspoons next time! Yep, he does likes things hot, although he hasn't quite taken after my uncle who chose to chew on one of the decorative dried chillies instead....!!

I went for the gingerbeer/chocolate icing this time; even buying the top stuff Bundaberg ginger beer, but I wasn't so impressed by it. There wasn't enough of either the ginger beer or the cocoa to really create a distinctive taste of either flavour. The sour lemon icing I used last time worked much better. This icing mainly tasted of sweetness, so I decided to split the cake open in the middle and fill it with whipped cream. It made it look more festive and birthday cake-like too. Additionally, at that stage I was still under the impression that the cake would be pretty hot, and I thought the masking properties of dairy might be needed. As we know, it didn't, but the cream cut through the dark richness really well, which is what you need when you're eating it after a big celebratory dinner.
Read on for the recipe:

Chocolate Chilli Gingerbread
Adapted from the Chocolate Gingerbread in Feast.

'This is very rich, very strong: not for children, but perfect for the rest of us' Nigella Lawson.

For the cake:
175g butter
125g dark brown sugar
200g golden syrup
200g black treacle OR molasses
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon chili powder (or to your own taste and pain threshold)
1 1/4 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons warm water
2 eggs
250ml milk
275g plain flour
40g cocoa
175g chocolate chips (preferably dark)
For the icing:
250g icing sugar
30g butter
1 tablespoon cocoa
60ml ginger ale (ginger beer)

1 pot whipping cream

Preheat oven to 170C and tear off a big piece of baking paper to line the bottom and sides of a roasting tin approx 30x20x5cm deep.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter along with the sugars, golden syrup, treacle or molasses, cloves, cinnamon, chili and ground ginger. In a cup dissolve the bicarb of soda in the water. Take the saucepan off the heat and beat in the eggs, milk and bicarb in its water. Stir in the flour and cocoa and beat with a wooden spoon to mix. Fold in the chocolate chips, pour into the lined tin and bake for about 45 minutes-1 hour until risen and firm. It will be slightly damp underneath the set top which is the way you want it.

Remove to a wire rack and let cool in the tin. Once cool, remove and slice in half with a serrated knife and make the icing.
Sieve icing sugar. In a heavy-based saucepan heat the butter, cocoa and ginger ale. Once the butter's melted, whisk in the icing sugar. Let cool slightly, and whip the cream until fairly stiff. Plop the cream over the bottom layer, and pour over the icing to cover the top.
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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Pumpkin rocks with brown butter icing

In solidarity with our neighbours up north, in the middle of pumpkin-feasting season, I thought I'd make something to appeal to their strange practices of eating pumpkin as a sweet food. Pumpkin pies, cookies and desserts are definitely not popular here in Australia, and feel well....kinda wrong! Like announcing you enjoy having fish with strawberry jam. Down here, pumpkin is eaten roasted in chunks, next to a roast meat dinner, or in a Thai curry, or pureed into soup. Even the infamous pumpkin scones of Flo Bjelke-Petersen fame are just spread with butter and toe the line between sweet and savoury. That's not to say we're right and you're all wrong! It's just very odd to us.

Halloween is not a big deal here; it passes with barely any acknowledgment, despite the weather around now to be perfect for wandering the streets in the light of evening asking for lollies. Around this time, at least in Melbourne, there's far more popular attention showered on the
Melbourne Cup and the Spring Racing Carnival. Although, whilst the pumpkin-feasters in the north have been bunkering down iin the autumnal chill, we had one of the hottest nights on record last night with the temperature hovering around 27 degrees (80F) all night. I barely got a wink of sleep. And Melbourne is nowhere near the tropics! To think there's the possibility of this occurring anytime from now until late March fills me with dread. Gawd, I hate summer.

So, back to the pumpkin. This is another recipe from the book where I found the quick brown bread in the last post. It caught my attention, both for its seasonal ingredients, but also for its browned butter icing. Mmm...nice. I had a bit of desultory look around some gourmet supermarkets for canned pumpkin, without much hope, and not much hope was returned. It's impossible to find here. Sure, I could have gone to the David Jones Food Hall and spent $10 on one imported can, but I'm not that crazy. So, I cooked and steamed my own pumpkin.

Using your own steamed pumpkin in a baking recipe is always going to change the texture. There is much more water in the puree, which is removed from the canned pumpkin. Therefore these biscuits were definitely cakey in texture. In fact, without any crunch at all, they were similar to little patty cakes or scones. This actually wasn't a bad thing; it was nice to create something quite unexpected. I used walnuts rather than pecans, and chose not to include the raisins because.......well, bleaaaahhh! The spices work really well, and they even taste quite nice without the brown butter icing. My uncle preferred them that way. In fact, without the icing they're relatively health conscious; nuts, raisins (maybe), pumpkin, wholemeal flour... However, the icing really is excellent; a big, round, vanilla, buttery taste that works so well with the biscuits. In fact, the boss at A. work, where I sent half of the batch, claimed they were "possibly the best thing you've ever made! A definite 8 out of 10 for sure".
No, I don't know why she took off those 2 points. Maybe she likes raisins....
Read on for the recipe:

Pumpkin Rocks with Brown Butter Icing

Ingredients (Makes ~50)
125g / 4 oz butter, softened
150g / 5 oz plain flour
175 g / 6 oz soft brown sugar, lightly packed
225g / 8 oz canned pumpkin or cooked pumpkin*
1 medium egg, beaten
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
125 g / 4 oz wholemeal flour
75g /3 oz pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped
100g / 3 1/2 oz raisins
50g / 2 oz butter
225g / 8 oz icing sugar
2-3 tbsp milk

* Cutting the pumpkin into small pieces and microwaving, then pureeing with a fork works very well.

1 - Preheat the oven to 190C/375 F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.

2 - Using an electric beaer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the plain flour, sugar, pumpkin, beaten egg, and beat with the mixer until mixed well.

3 - Stir in the ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon on the vanilla essence and then sift in the baking powder, bicarb of soda and grated nutmeg. Beat the mixture until combined well, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

4 - Add the wholemeal flour, chopped nuts and raisins to the mixture and fold in with a metal spoon or rubber spatula until mixed thoroughly together.

5 - Place teaspoonfuls about 5 cm/2 in apart on to the baking sheet. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are firm.

6 - Remove biscuits from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat, until pale and just turning golden brown.

7 - Remove from the heat. Add the sugar, remaining vanilla essence and milk, stirring. Drizzle over the cooled cookies and serve.
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