Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Peppered apricot & apple

Larry (from Curb Your Enthusiasm): Can I tell you something about apricots? 1 in 30 is a good one. It's such a low percentage fruit.

Growing up I spent a lot of my youth running from my parents car to my grandmother's door as fast as my uncooridnated spindly legs could move. To enter my grandmother's property you had to swing open a whiny metal gate, broken and battered from too many swings. As you took your first step, you had to duck your head should you poke an eye with a heavy, hanging apricot.

Her apricots were always the best; you hardly ever sunk your teeth into a bad one. I have found that when purchasing an apricot, as Larry said, there is a high chance that it will either be too acidic, too bruised, too something. I am fickle when it comes to eating apricots fresh - they have to be just right. I wolf them down once they are dried, but I prefer to cook them fresh to improve their flavour.

This recipe was intriguing - few ingredients, and an odd combination at that.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 5mins.
cooking time: 45mins (includes cooling time).
total: 50mins.

taste: 4.5/5. This is like rain in Summer for your taste buds. The first sensation is the cool, voluptuous cream that envelopes everything with a cloud-like comfort. I used less as I thought it would be too obnoxious but I would definitely use the amount listed next time as it was oddly my favourite part.
I was cautious with the pepper, as my husband and I are pepper/chilli intolerant. The pepper is mild, I used two grinds to dust the fluffy cream of each glass (and also four twists into the whole fruit compote), which perhaps was too little as only once did I detect it's zest.
The marshmallow cream occasionally parted and I tasted the intense, tart apricot with the juicy Granny smith apple. Along with the sour was the citrus punch from the lime, all combined to make an incredibly tart fruity medly. The apricots also gave their distinct sweetness with their soft, spongy flesh that helped to subdue the firmer acidic apple (you could use a sweeter apple but I prefer the tart Granny Smith.)
I used slightly less sugar (74g raw sugar) and it was just the right amount of sweetness for me, as I wanted this to be a refreshing, palate cleansing dessert which it was.
The cream really is necessary for this to work, as the fruits would be too strong and abrupt if eaten without the soft cream.
I had to add a couple of tablespoons of water to get the fruit to become soft and a liquid to form, as it was just sticking to the pan without the extra liquid.
My husband didn't like it as much as me, it found it too 'fruity' but I thoroughly enjoyed its simple complexity and freshness.

would I make it again: Yes. Although hubby didn't rate it too highly (3/5) I enjoyed it and find it a simpler, healthier alternative to most desserts.

recipe: Peppered apricot & apple

Friday, December 11, 2009

Vanilla bean creme brulee with blueberries

Christmas as a child was magical.

All year my brother and I would wait with anticipation as heavy as lead for Christmas to come. When we spied bon-bons at the supermarket and festive wreaths adorning the grey spire of telephone poles and golden stars strewn across shop windows, our excitement would keep us as energetic as the Energiser bunny. But when the Christmas tree lights lit up our lounge room with fragments of rainbows we were beside ourselves with glee. There was just nothing like the night before Christmas; dreaming of Santa Claus, reindeers, elves and the gorgeous, colourful bow-tied gifts that would be waiting for us under the evergreen needles.

But eventually you get older, wiser and discover that just like the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny, Santa Claus isn't the one bringing you the gifts, they are courtesy of your parents trips 4:45am trips to the car or a hidden room. After that the Christmas lights don't transfix you like they used to, the swarm of a Christmas stampede as everyone rushes to buy gifts becomes annoying rather than festive, and then the eventual task of having to buy gifts and make meals for others leads to the feeling that Christmas is a hectic, expensive time of the year. Sometimes it just makes you tired thinking about it. Perhaps it is because my husband and I are no longer children and neither do we have any. I am sure once we see the joy it brings our own children, some of that wonder will rub unto us and remind us of how happy Christmas made us as children, because after all, nothing brings out the child in you like your own child.

This year I am the one holding Christmas for my 30odd relatives. Whilst all my gifts-to-be are wrapped and underneath my 58% completed silver Christmas tree (hubby's pick) I still have to pre-order my copious amounts of meat and seafood for a Christmas Lunch fit for Dionysus himself. All of this organising has definitely frazzled me and I am desperately looking forward to Boxing Day the 26th of December, when I can put my feet up and just do nothing.

In the mean time I felt I should reward my organisational skills with a dessert I always order when out but never make at home -Creme Brulee.

ease: 4/5.
prep time: 25mins.
cooking time: 1 hour.
total: 1 hour & 25mins (plus at least 4 hours chilling time).

taste: 4/5. These would have been awarded a 5/5 when eaten the same day, however after an overnight stay in the fridge the custard left a powdery residue on my tongue after eating, nothing like the smooth, velvet custard from the day before. After only leaving them in the fridge for 4 hours they had a luxuriously vanilla flecked smoothness akin to satin sheets. I used vanilla sugar to sprinkle on top and then melt beneath my blue flame to form a deep, amber toffee crust that cracked beautifully beneath my spoon. The tart indigo berries complimented the sweet creme as beautifully as night compliments day. It is unfortunate that a longer stay in the fridge changed their disposition to 'gritty'.

would I make it again: No, only because it changed texture the next day.

recipe: Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee & Vanilla Sugar

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Vanilla cookies

Somehow I must have sent out a telepathic invitation to the only two insects I don't mind, as the last time I posted, two white butterflies came to cheer me up, and today, hidden underneath my kettle of all places was perhaps the only insect that everyone likes, the shiny scarlet ladybug/ladybird.

I was a little perplexed as to how a ladybird came to be crawling along my kettle; carefully I offered my finger and as it crawled along, tickling me, I took it outside and placed it on my bonsai. After I came inside I thought I'd look up what a visit from a ladybird might mean, the most common folklore was that if a ladybird visited you at home, you should count the number of spots on its shell as that would be the amount of money you would unexpectedly receive. Immediately after reading that good omen I raced outside to count spots, but it had already flown off, perhaps to some better-informed person's house. Even though it's just a goodluck superstition thought I'd buy a lottery ticket anyway, who knows, maybe I'll have some ladybird-luck.

I have been busy working and trying to fit as many things in before Christmas and therefore haven't baked much. But today I was really craving something warm from the oven. This recipe was quick, easy and simple - and it filled the house with that wonderful hug of a cookie smell.

Vanilla Snap Biscuits
from Marie Claire Flavours by Donna Hay

185g butter, chopped
1 cup caster sugar
2 1/2cups plain flour
2tsp vanilla extract (or use vanilla seed paste)
1 egg

Place butter, sugar and vanilla in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the flour and egg and process until combined. Remove mixture and wrap in cling-wrap. Refrigerate the dough for 30mins. Preheat the oven to 180C. Roll out the dough on baking paper or lightly floured surface until 5mm thick. Cut the dough, using  7cm round cookie cutter and place the biscuits on the trays lined with baking paper. Bake for 10-13mins until the cookies are golden on the bases. Cool on trays. Makes 24.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 38mins.
cooking time: 10 mins per tray - I had to do two lots.
total: 58mins to make 32 cookies.

taste: 4/5. This is like a shortbread with it's butteryness, however it is moister with a finer crumb and a softness of fragrant vanilla. I added a touch of vanilla seed paste, I would recommend using that rather than extract so that you get the wonderful flecks of black seeds. Also, a light dusting of sugar before going into the oven would make them prettier also.

would I make it again: No - but that's because I'm not really a fan of shortbread.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mascarpone & mango pavlova with mango in vanilla syrup

My steps were short and heavy as my arms bowed under the weight of bags straining to hold their profusion of Christmas-presents-to-be.  I exhaled sharply as I lifted my legs over the front step, exhausted from many hours of shopping and the stinging neck pains that resulted.

At that moment, while I was fumbling for keys, two white butterflies unhurriedly danced between my legs, as if I were a calm tree, and not some crazed woman with holiday frustration. I forgot my search for the keys, my arms no longer complained of exertion and I exhaled with a smile, not a burden. Their dance around my ankles may have only lasted a few seconds, but in those seconds I was refreshed and I could hear my heart laughing. Somehow that one moment erased all of the irritation I had collected during my Christmas shopping.

With my butterfly-induced good mood I decided to make something as equally refreshing and wonderful.

Mascarpone & mango pavlova with mango in vanilla syrup

4 egg whites
220g (1 cup) caster sugar
Mascarpone & mango filling
125g mascarpone
1/3cup thick cream
200ml mango puree (about 1 1/2 mangoes)
1/4tsp vanilla extract
Mango in vanilla syrup
75 (1/3cup) caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cinnamon stick
2 mangoes peeled, stone removed and thinly sliced

Using an electric mixer, beat eggwhite until firm peaks form, then gradually add caster sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating well until sugar is dissolved before adding more, and beat until thick and glossy. Divide mixture among two base and side-lined 22cm springform pans and bake at 140C for 1 hour until firm and dry to the touch. Turn oven off and cool pavlovas with door ajar. For mascarpone and mango filling, combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until firm peaks form. Cover and refrigerate until ready and cinnamon stick in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until liquid is reduced and of a syrupy consistency. Place mango slices in a bowl, pour warm syrup over, cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to serve. Place the less perfect meringue on a serving plate, spoon filling over, then top with remaining meringue. Serve slices of pavlova with mango in vanilla syrup.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 10mins to get the pavlova into the oven (make the rest while it cooks for an hour and cools).
cooking time: 5mins to put it all together.
total: 1 hour and 40mins (includes cooling in the oven).

taste: 4.5/5. Beautiful, fragrant vanilla with sweet cinnamon hits your tastebuds first followed by creamy, mango puree that dissolves to reveal chewy, sweet pavlova before your mouth is refreshed by the juicy mango slices. The pavlova allows both incarnations of the mango to shine brightly and please your palate whilst providing a delicious base.

Despite cooking it for 10mins less than recommended, it had already browned too much and was therefore chewier - it also refused to yield to my knife as a donkey does to being pulled, causing the filling to come oozing out and the layers to flatten. Despite this, the flavours made up for the firmer texture and difficulty in serving it. Just keep an eye on it and if it starts to brown turn the oven off.

would I make it again: Yes - it has the potential to be a great dessert to serve to guests.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Chocolate & vanilla puddings

My love for all animals (except most insects butterflies and lady bugs get a free pass) is one that is deeply tethered to my heart. Whenever I see an animal hurt or in pain, it pulls on that tether, and each time I can feel my heart tear and bleed. The depth of my compassion for them is even a mystery to me.

What's with all the 'animal love' talk you may wonder. Well, it has to do with my bedroom windowsill, or more specifically, what's on my windowsill.
I creature I have a fondness for is birds; I have three feeding trays on my porch that I fill with wild bird seed or sometimes bread and fruit. Watching birds twittering away (the non-tech kind) and zipping about here and there brings me joy. What brings me even more joy is baby birds (even baby alligators are kinda cute).

As a child, whenever I found an abandoned bird egg I tried my best to take care of it and hopefully hatch a baby bird I could one day set free (I could never keep a caged bird) not knowing that the egg had probably been abandoned a long time ago, and the little birdie inside would not hatch, no matter how hard I tried. Another sight I'd love to spy would be a birds nest, whether occupied or vacant.

The day we moved into our current home I spied no less than three empty birds nest, one nestled into thick pine needless, the other wedged between a crawling rose and our garage bricks, and the third was camouflaged between large leaves of ivy above the external laundry door.

Now imagine my delight, when one Spring morning, I clearly heard the tiny tinkling of baby bird's chirping. Tiptoeing closer to the sound I found myself standing before the closed cobalt drapes of my bedroom at 8am. They had been permanently closed for the last three weeks to guard against the sun's intense heat. I tentatively reached out and tucked the edge of the heavy drapes between my fingers, and as carefully as I could, as if there were made of gold leaf, I began to pull them aside, held against my face, as I peered through my window. It only took a few inches of them being parted for me to see a well woven nest snuggled in between the window sill and the luscious green ivy running up beside it. In the nest I spied four, perhaps five tiny birds, their skin the colour of a pink nose in winter, naked and bumpy, with their little belly's moving to the flutter of their chirps. I looked up and noticed a petite black bird with an apricot beak, wriggling worm in its grasp, darting straight towards the nest, so I hastily shut the curtain lest I frighten it with my enormous eyes and smiling teeth.

It has been three weeks since I first discovered the babies, and oh my how fast they grow. Already they have almost woven themselves jackets of feathers and have begun to lift their heads to peak over to what lays beyond their home. A few of my family members have caught glimpses and each time their eyes find the tiny feathered creatures, they light up and sparkle with the glee of a gold digger finding gold.

To celebrate the impending departure of my windowsill youngsters I invited those of us who have watched their progress with happiness over for the best kind of parting gift, a chocolate pudding with a molten center, something to sweeten the sadness of 'empty nest syndrome'.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 12mins.
total: 37mins.

taste: 4/5. The softest chocolate taste, like a feather to the cheek.
When I checked on these at the 12minute mark, the top hadn't cracked so I left them in for another 4 minutes - as a result I did not have a molten center as much as a sticky, gooey center. Although there was no lava like oozing, they were still delectable. The outer layer of cake is spongy with a thin chocolate and sugared crust that breaks away to reveal its tender middle.
Inside the cake goes beyond moist to an airy fudginess. The chocolate does not march onto your tongue, it gently sashays with a nice sweetness and a hint of vanilla.
There is that unidentifiable strong note playing in the background, which I would guess is the Brandy.

Lovely, moist puddings that would appeal to most with their un-confrontational disposition.

would I make it again: Yes - when I am in the mood for a milder form of chocolate and a quick dessert, although I would probably decrease the sugar a touch next time.

recipe: Chocolate and vanilla puddings

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lamb sausage roll

These were not on my list to be blogged, as it was a dinner, and dinner's tend to be late in the evening, when the light is poor and my energy spent.

However, halfway through his first roll, my husband insisted that I at least take some sort of rudimentary snap shot so that I could post it and other's could enjoy this recipe as much as he was. I, of course, obliged. So here they are, captured modestly, but eaten with fanfare.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
10mins (I used store bought puff pastry and harissa paste).
cooking time: 35mins.
total: 45mins.

taste: 4.5/5. Needless to say, hubby adored these, packed with flavour and easily edible without cutlery. Best of all, he didn't even feel the need to reach for the tomato sauce.
I halved the recipe to make three large sausage rolls.

would I make it again: Of course.

Great Australian Sausage Roll

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pistachio & cardamom barfi

We have been dropping like the flies on our windowsills.

Normally I persevere and continue to cook during hot weather, this time around I simply threw in the tea towel.
Breakfasts and lunches have been fruit, sandwiches, yoghurt, crudites - anything that doesn't require cooking. Dinner has been much the same with baked bean jaffles, caprese pressed sandwiches and super quick fritattatas. What we have missed out on has been desserts. Oh my have I missed my sweet treats. Hubby and I settled with chocolate coated licorice, but after four days, it's become a little unsatisfactory. There was a one night reprieve, where my darling husband took me out for my birthday to a restaurant I have been dying to go. Once I sunk my spoon into luscious lemon bisteeya and a date and chocolate tart, I knew I had gone too long without making a dessert, my favourite thing to prepare in the kitchen.

When I first tasted pistachio barfi, I was 10 years old, and one of my best friend's brought it as her heritage dish (we all brought dishes from our cultural backgrounds). It was my favourite dish out of the thrity or so I tasted. For years and years I asked my friend if she could get her mother to make it again for me, alas, 16 years on and I haven't had the pleasure of tasting it twice. Today, with the temperature only reaching 26C, I seized the opportunity with the utmost vigour to find a recipe for barfi, even though it's not the same as the one I had so long ago, it was still something different for my tastebuds to try.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 15mins.
total: 35mins plus 6 hours chilling time.

taste: 4/5. The soft, fudgelike cube surrenders willingly to your teeth, as it's silky, cardamom touched sweetness fills your mouth. The pistachio crumbs add a hint of flavour, but mostly provide a texture once the barfi has dissolved.
This reminds me of what a fudge would be like, if it dreamed of being as smooth as marble and as soft as butter. I was a little disappointed in the subtlety of the cardamom, and the practical absence of the cloves, two spices I can always handle more of, and this definitely needs more of them. The only downside was that it smelt softly of cheese, which put some of my family off, although it didn't taste like cheese.

would I make it again: No, as nice as it was, the faint aroma of cheese was just a little off putting for me.

recipe: Pistachio & cardamom barfi - from Good Taste - May 2008, Page 77

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Karithopita - Walnut Cake

This is the 3rd installment of Sofia's Kitchen.

This spongy, nut studded cake, lovingly doused in a vanilla sugar syrup and then cut into a diamond shape, is perfect which a cup of Greek coffee. (Recipe transcribed by Helen)















Monday, November 9, 2009

Halfway cookies

The wind softly moved through the house like the soft hushing shake of a maraca. The rhythmic noise began to lull me into a calm trance as I sat in my sarong, beneath the cool licks of the air conditioner.

There is a new play in town, a one man show, with the Sun as it's star. It will be playing all week, from 6am til the moon closes it down at 9pm each night. Even while the Sun rests up for tomorrow's show, everyone will be talking about it all night long as they kick off the sheets in their sweat coated sleep.

During the day as I pick individual cherries from a box of cerise jewels I am asked my opinion on this show, 'Man, that sun is strong ain't it?' or 'How about that heat?'. It seems the Sun, who has played its role harsh and fierce, doesn't have many fans. Most are looking forward to the plays end on Sunday night, when we have been told to expect another crowd dividing show, The Thunderstorm Time, this is a cast ensemble with lightening as the lead and thunder as the supporting role - the ominous clouds provide the scenery with some fleeing birds singing the chorus. I don't mind the play, as long as I can watch mostly from my air conditioned home, with front row viewing only occasionally.

With the Sun playing loudly every day, I decided to watch from the shade of my kitchen, as I baked something sweet to nibble on during intermission. I should note that I waited two days to photograph these as I was too busy eating them. The photos don't do them justice as the ones shot were cold from the fridge, turning their fudgy, moistness dry and firm. But believe me, these are anything but dry and firm.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time:
18mins to oven stage.
cooking time: 20mins (I cooked them for 25 which was a touch too long).
total: 38mins.

taste: 4.5/5. Straight from the oven your nostrils are showered with the milk drinking sweetness that only a cookie can bring. The base is chewy but soft, with a lovely doughy centre, a hybrid between cookie and cake. The next layer is indulgent and all semi-melted chocolate, soft and tongue coating. Lastly, there's the sweet, caramel meringue topping that covers the slice like a low flying cloud, occasionally allowing a brief glimpse of coffee coloured chocolate peaks or even cakie (cookie/cake) valleys.
It is sweet without being overwhelmingly so. Even after two days they are still good. Although take them out of the fridge a good 30mins before you want to eat them as the cold turns them hard and dry (like you see in the pictures). Note: you may need to add extra liquid to the cookie base, and perhaps a lighter hand with the chocolate.

would I make them again: Yes.

recipe: Halfway cookies

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Blood orange olive oil cakes

I have been neglecting myself.

It's true, and it is something I regrettably do often. I spend so much time nurturing and caring for my husband and dog that I forget to do it for myself. The first signs are usually that I smile less, I tend to be sombre and cloudy as I make meals, do chores, work and give affection to my loved ones. Then I begin to lose that stockpile of happiness within and I find myself becoming easily irritated by those I dote on. And then lastly I have nightmares, most often about something dear to me being taken away, like a child. I interpret these as the separation of myself from my neglected spirit. If I don't feed my spirit I can feel it begin to fade away like a photograph left in the sun.

Therefore drastic measures took place today, me and my needs would come first, before my loved ones. I decided to spend the day doing whatever I know sustains my spirit so that I could shake up the grey cloud that hangs around me from overlooking myself.

First up, I decided to get something done that I have been meaning to for the last five months - getting my car washed. And let me tell you, when I saw that gleaming beauty, freed from weeks of dirt left by angry rain and detritus from wet shoes, I felt as if I had given myself a good rinse.

Next, I spent an hour or so reading through blogs that make me smile. It was an hour well spent.

Thirdly, I visited the library and brought back a treasure of books yearning to be read, pages reaching out to be touched and turned by new fingers. Reading is something that truly invigorates and nourishes my spirit. From the age of four when I had learned to read and write I spent every moment immersed in different worlds and other lives. My parents often forgot they even had a daughter as I was always in my room, reading, as silent as the air.

Fourth - after a quick roll around with my dog I turned on the oven, put on the apron and prepared to do some good old baking. I have been dying to make something with the remaining few blood oranges left, having waited til that last moment to turn them into something delectable. These little cakes sounded delicious and are perfect for sharing with others.

As I sliced the oranges, and felt their crimson juices trickle through my fingers I felt myself beginning to warm, as if sunlight had begun to pierce my overcast skies. With each twirl of the whisk and ladling of the batter, I became glad.

Only half the day has passed and I have already smiled my first smile in too long.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 20mins to get into the oven.
cooking time: 20mins for 12 - this made 15. (20mins is all it took for mine to cook, which is 35mins less than the recipe states as it calls for the use of a loaf pan, rather than muffin tray, so keep an eye out.)
total: 1 hour for two batches.

taste: 4/5. The exterior of these golden muffins is gorgeously chewy with only a soft sweetness and perfume from the olive oil. Sunken in its depth are tiny gems of softened blood orange, now a soft amber in hue. They provide gentle bursts of lively citrus that mellows the lubricious cake. I did find my selfish hoping for more pockets of acidity though as they provide the best flavour.
  • I cooked these in muffin tins for only 20mins - it made 15 muffins.

would I make it again: No - I want to try other blood orange recipes out there.

recipe: Blood orange olive oil cakes

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Spinach, feta & tomato slice

Public holidays, wonderful things really.

Whilst hubby and I love our Sundays, having only one day each week to indulge our own interests without even a thought of work sometimes isn't enough. And that is what makes public holidays all the more sweeter.

This particular one happens to be a Melbourne only holiday - the grand Melbourne Cup. Whilst many don their best frocks to see the horses up close and personal, or head down to the local TAB to place bets, or even visit a friend or family for the Aussie tradition of a good old BBQ complete with pulling a horse's name out of a hat for a fun $2 house bet, hubby and I decided we would do what we needed most - absolutely nuthin'.

No visiting, no driving, no changing out of our pyjamas. Home bound we will be. I will most likely use this time to teeter around the kitchen, making something or other, followed by a thick novel, first words yet unread. Hubby will no doubt be on the Xbox, catching up with his 'old friends' with perhaps an afternoon stroll with the dog to stretch his game legs.

Yes, public holidays really are wonderful.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
35mins til ready to go into oven as a whole.
cooking time: 35mins.
total: 1 hour & 10mins.

taste: 4/5. Simple but strewn with flavour. The flaky pastry gives way to iron-rich wilted spinach woven between strings of melted cheese and morsels of sweet tomatoes that must be eaten with caution lest their piping hot pulp burn your taste buds.
I sometimes worry tarts like these will be overwhelmingly eggy or rubbery - this is neither. The egg merely provides the base upon which the vegetables and cheese leap off to sensitively tantalise your taste buds.
I used slightly less spinach and a couple more tomatoes. I also blind baked my tart with pie weights.

would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: Spinach, feta & tomato slice - Good Taste - November 2009, Page 63

Monday, November 2, 2009

Semolina apple cream

The weekend has passed, and with it Summer's preview.

We had glorious sun as well as magnificently terrifying lightning storms; the very epitome of Summer. What I love most about the freshly washed grass, warm sun and post-electrical storm air is the smell, my goodness, it's indescribable. The air is charged with the smell of old rain, or pending rain for that matter, and it just fills me up with life. I feel energised whilst shivers run down my spine, as awesome as lightning is, it still scares me senseless unless I am in the safety of my home - I need my house of bricks.

Today was a kaleidoscope of sunshine, wind and rain. The hot temperature when mixed with grey clouds, bellies filled with water waiting to be expelled leads to an overall mugginess, I'm not sure whether to put my gumboots on or slap on a singlet. I do not care for humid weather, I like to be dry, whether the weather hot or cold, no stickiness for me please, my hair just won't cooperate.

I neither wanted to be in or out, so I opened my kitchen doors as wide as they could stretch and decided to do some baking whilst the cool breeze blew soothingly onto the nape of my neck, damp with perspiration.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 15mins to get semolina done and apples in the pan.
cooking time: 15mins.
total: 30mins plus 1 hour cooling time.

taste: 3.5/5. The texture and lack of flavours makes this seem a little like baby food. I added some vanilla bean seeds to the semolina mixture but I think the apples could have used a good spicing to bring some depth of flavour. At best it is like a plain milk pudding with stewed apples on top. If you want to try it add some cinnamon, nutmeg, mixed spice - something. It is mildly sweet with a slight tartness from the apples.

would I make it again: No.

recipe: Semolina apple cream

Friday, October 30, 2009

Chocolate fudge brownies

When I began this blog, I intended to photograph and enter at least one of the meals I make each day. Looking back, Issometimes achieved this, but most often fell short.

The biggest hurdle of blogging each dish was writing the actual post, most days I just simply could not think of anything new to write and therefore chose not to write anything. Talking about weather and particular ingredients became a little repetitive after a while. If something really deserved to be posted, and my mind was still blank, it would be a 'short and sweet' post - I think there may be quite a few of those.

At the moment I am in a 'reading' stage - voraciously devouring tens of library books each week, with little desire to do anything else, especially write. Too much effort, I thought. Why write when I can read someone else's writing?

Well, it has been over a week since my last post, and only eleven this whole month (granted Mr Salmonella kept me busy and eating nil for one week). No where near my desired thirty which saddened me. And then I thought, well perhaps I am trying to achieve too much at the detriment of the posts and the meals they showcase. Perhaps three, at the most, four dishes a week would be more manageable, more fun and less taxing on my limited creative thinking funds.

And so I return, with a new aim of three/four posts a week, to start on a Friday with a decadent but comforting chocolaty treat.

prep time: 20mins - includes cooling chocolate.
cooking time: 40mins.
total: 1 hour (plus brownie cooling time).

taste: 4/5. Your teeth crackle the chewy crust to sink deep into fudgy, sweet chocolate, occasionally grazing past a crunchy walnut buried beneath the deep brown gooeyness. The texture is divine, not too sticky but with enough moistness to avoid becoming cake-like - I do not like my brownies to be springy or crumbly, they must be able to make your lips smack with their density. They are a touch of the sweet side, with the unmistakable caramel streak of brown sugar.
I did not cover the brownies with foil and bake for an additional 20mins, after 40mins in the oven they were already starting to burn so I took them out and cooled them in the tray.
I substituted the macadamias for walnuts.

would I make it again: Yes. Whilst not the best brownie I have ever eaten, they are the best I have made so far. I would decrease the amount of brown sugar next time though.

recipe: Chocolate fudge brownies

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Baked pears with spiced mascarpone

Whilst most of my desserts are selected due to their desirability, aesthetics or occasion, sometimes they are chosen in an endeavor to use up left over ingredients that I do not wish to waste.

When I am choosing a dessert for this reason I look for one that would require me to purchase few additional ingredients, after all, the purpose of its selection is to save money by not wasting ingredients I already have, not to spend accruing more.

Pears are wonderful creatures; they are the perfect size for a quick snack, they pare incredibly well with certain meats and add a refreshing element to salads. What I love most about pears is that they can be an elegant, easy dessert with just a little baking or poaching. One of my most memorable desserts was a Poire belle Hélène - a gorgeous poached pear, vanilla ice cream and the most decadent of decadent chocolate sauces. Simple yet divine.

Less is always more with stand-alone pear desserts, just a simple syrup and maybe something dairy on the side. This recipe was not only easy and cheap regarding additional ingredients, but it looked like it would deliver on flavour and after all, flavour is everything.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 5mins.
cooking time: 1hour (includes 15mins resting).
total: 1 hour & 5mins.

taste: 4.5/5. Delicious, warm and satisfying.
The pears are firm but yield willingly to the curve of your spoon.
The first taste you get is the lush, buttery vanilla syrup, slightly sweetened by the caramel brown sugar.
The mascarpone is cool and creamy on your tongue, imparting heady spices, soft sweetness and bitter orange before the gorgeous juicy pear comes through once again.
The pear is the star and although it gives way momentarily to the syrup and mascarpone, it shines through the end leaving you palate refreshed and ready for another bite.

I made the following modifications:
  • I used 2 pears
  • I quartered the pear syrup
  • I used 1tsp vanilla seed paste instead of a vanilla bean since I quartered the recipe
  • I quartered the mascarpone
  • I used 1tsp mixed spice
  • I used 1/2tsp orange zest
  • I used 1tbs icing sugar
would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: Baked pears with spiced mascarpone - from Super Food Ideas - July 2008, Page 82

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I have never tasted a dessert with so much variation than the Tiramisu.

I have had dozens of them. Each different, even when made by the same people. More cream, less coffee, more alcohol, less mascarpone - after eating my fair share I seem to have narrowed down my likes.

Mascarpone rather than cream. I prefer the denser and substantially creamy texture much more. When it comes to the fingers, it has got to be savoiardi. Coffee? Yes, but don't overdo it, something like a vanilla blend not a face-slappingly strong and bitter espresso. Alcohol, definitely, it needs that kick. I am open to the type, I have had Marsala (a firm favourite), Kahlua (not bad) & Tia Maria (probably the least favourite). Also, as with the coffee, a light touch please, I don't want to end up face deep in my dessert. Chocolate shavings or coca dusted on top also lands in my 'like' list.

With those specifications made I went on the search for a recipe. What I liked even more about this one is that it whisked the egg yolks, sugar and marsala over a heat, something I have eaten on its on and absolutely love. With everything ticked I was pretty sure this recipe would be perfect.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 20mins (using store bought fingers).
cooking time: 3 hours at least in the fridge.
total: 3 hours & 20mins.

taste: 4/5. Quite nice, however the original picture and my result look nothing alike.
First of all, the mascarpone mixture was not snow white, more of a pale yellow in colour.
Next, the texture was smooth and silky right up until I added the egg whites, then it got a little 'foamy'. Not sure what I did wrong there, I beat my eggs only to soft peaks as instructed, but it made the mixture a little too airy.
In terms of taste, the biscuits (I used store bought) were perfectly soaked without being soggy, they are faintly soft but firm, spiked with sweet Marsala and bitter coffee with a tinge of vanilla from the beans I used. They helped to cut through the rich mascarpone mixture, mildly sweet and soft, but not cream-cheese smooth, more like a mousse I guess. The dark chocolate sprinkled on top punctuates perfectly. Although it is not overly sugary, it is still a rich dessert. Whilst I enjoyed it, I was wishing the mascarpone had been smoother with a little more weight.

would I make it again: Yes - I wanted the Tiramisu in the picture, smooth white mascaprone, not pale yellow and airy. Might add a little less Marsala next time to the yolks as well.

recipe: Tiramisu

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chocolate & salted butter caramel mousse walnut brownies

How hard is it to string a few words together to make a sentence? Very for me today.

Whilst my hands have been super busy, I feel as though my brain has taken a siesta with an undisclosed return time. I was trying to think of what topic I should write about today and nada. Nothing but an empty shop up there. And then I thought, well, I shall write about my lack of something to write about. And what do you know? An almost decent paragraph's worth.

In regards to today's dessert, it was chosen to please five people all with different tastes. Whilst I do foresee it failing to please one particular guest, I am hoping everyone else will find it pleasant, perhaps even lovely. Caramel and I have had many disagreements; our relationship is quite tempestuous, I have a feeling it too is a Scorpio. I'm always the most hesitant when browning, how dark is dark? Whilst I prefer my caramel mild, most like that deep toffee which comes from pushing it as far as it will go before burning and becoming too bitter. Well, here's hoping Miss Caramel is in a good mood today.

ease: 3.5/5.
prep time:
45mins to get brownie cooked.
cooking time: 3 hours. (includes cooling time)
total: 3 hours & 45mins.

taste: 4/5. They look nothing like the lovely Tartlette's but they still tasted fab.
The ganache is as silky and dark as a ganache can be, it melts instantly and envelops everything in a dark sharpness.
The caramel mousse dissolves instantly on your tongue, with a deep bitterness, mine made all the more bitter because of my use of dark chocolate, I could not taste the salt unfortunately.
My favourite layer, the walnut brownie base, has a large soft crumb, more cake-like in its adhesiveness but with a definite 'fudge-like' quality. It is the sweetest component for me and along with the dotted walnuts it helps to soften the other bitter layers. Upon eating, the ganache and mousse meld into each other before yielding to the friendly brownie beneath.
Alterations I made:
  • I used dark chocolate throughout (had no milk chocolate to use for the mousse darn it).
  • I cooked my brownie for just under 30mins.
would I make it again: No - multi-component desserts stress me out and they have to be a 5 for me to make it again (see Triple Chocolate Praline Tart).

recipe: Chocolate & salted butter caramel mousse walnut brownies

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Strawberry & vanilla cream sandwich

I do not like to play favourites; being one half of two siblings, I found it often left the unpicked feeling unwanted and unliked, as as the shy recluse, I tended to be the latter.

Saying that, I do have a favourite berry, which is difficult, as berries in general are all beautiful beings, some tart, some sweet, some plump and soft, and some firm and juicy. They, along with cherries, are the 'pin-up's of the fruit world with their vivacious colours and edibility. I love them all and would gladly take any offered (even those undesirable when eaten raw I will find a use for cooked). I would love to be original and say that the burgundy mulberry is my favourite but I'm going to side with the masses and pick the strawberry (both figuratively and literally) as my favourite berry.

If I had to list some reasons here would be a few examples:
  • whilst their peak season in Australia is from September to January, they are grown all year round.
  • they taste wonderful in all their unadorned rawness, as well as baked or pureed or sliced into sweets.
  • they are fairly easy to grow in a pot on my back porch
  • I haven't met one person yet who doesn't like them
One thing I do not do is buy frozen strawberries; absolutely horrible things. Whilst other berries freeze with flair, strawberries lose what makes them wonderful. Sinking my baby teeth into a luscious, fragrant strawberry gave me great joy, the same joy is experienced when taking a bite with my giant orthodontic-corrected adult teeth - years have not changed a strawberries taste.

I'm sure strawberries would bring joy to any hour they are eaten, but strawberries at breakfast are truly tantalising.

Like a mille-feuille with a leather jacket and a Harley - the thick, buttery brioche forms the foundation for this tower of carmine and magnolia. The squished berry remnants trickle onto the vanilla flecked, lush cream whilst the icing sugar lovingly powders the three tiers in readiness for it's drooling recipient. A fruit sandwich is sweetness in a conventional package.

Strawberry Sandwich
Makes 6

3 brioche rolls (80g each), cut into 1/2cm thick slices
1/2 cup thick cream
1 1/2 tbs icing sugar, plus extra to serve
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
350gm strawberries, hulled and thickly sliced

Toast brioche slices. Combine cream, 1/2tsp icing sugar and vanilla past in a bowl and whisk until thick.Place strawberries in a bowl, add remaining icing sugar and crush using a fork.
To serve, place 1/3 of brioche on a bench, spread with half the cream and top with half the strawberries. Repeat layering, finishing with a piece of brioche. Serve dusted with icing sugar.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
total: 10mins.

recipe: 4/5. The buttery brioche, sweetened with powdered sugar dissolves to a hint of vanilla cream before your mouth is filled with the juices of tartly sweet bruised strawberries. Quite light depsite it's other decadent ingredients.
Make sure you do not slice larger than 1cm as you may have trouble opening your mouth wide enough. The only downside; missed strawberry stains on your cheek whilst out in public.

would I make it again: No - it was lovely, but not lusting after another one (and brioche loaves are a little hard to find in my area).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rice puddings with caramel gala apples

Man, getting sick really gets you behind.

When you are rolled up into a ball, in a dark room, with no lights or sound, and in horrible pain, time drags it's feet as though they were made of gold bullions. Once you have recovered, it melts them down and goes gallivanting past you like a wild horse released, making it that much more difficult to catch up on everything you haven't done whilst incapacitated (which most of the time, also includes eating).

The obligatory mountains of cloth - patterned, solid, and stained, was the first task to be dealt with. Along followed streaky cupboards, littered bench tops, and of course the double sinks filled with all sorts of charcoaled pans and dishwasher queues.

Once the mess was tidied and the laundry loads finished, a trip to the butcher, grocer and supermarket entailed resulting in an exhausted wife. It was all well and good as I knew that the next day I would plan to do absolutely nothing that I considered arduous.

Come late afternoon with its Spring shower, I felt like making a 'cup' dessert that I could slowly eat with a teaspoon over the space of say, 40mins. I had an accidental extra packet of carnaroli rice and so figured a rice pudding would be in order. Two gala apples were looking neglected amongst the larger fruits so I thought I'd save them as well.

ease: 4/5.

prep time:
cooking time: 1 hour & 20mins - my rice took ages to reduce
total: 1 hour & 40mins (includes 15mins chilling time).

taste: 2.5/5. As soon as I added the sharp apple cider vinegar I knew I wasn't going to like it. I hoped the apple cider vinegar would dissipate as it cooked but it didn't, coupled with the tangy lemon these apples were much too tart and acidic for me. One reviewer suggested Calvados in place of the vinegar, a much better choice I believe.
Unfortunately the rice didn't fare much better. It was quite sweet and had more of a grainy texture rather than a lusciously coated creaminess. Put together, this was a big let down for me.

would I make it again: No.

recipe: Rice puddings with caramel gala apples

Friday, October 9, 2009

Porridge with strawberry & banana brulee

A lack of posts has been due to a lack of eating food.

On Tuesday night I went out to dinner. Wednesday morning and afternoon I found that I had no appetite at all. Wednesday evening came along as did severe stomach cramps followed by vomiting and overall lousiness. A trip to the doctor the following day resulted in a diagnosis of Salmonella poisoning. It is now Friday afternoon and I have just begun to feel a little better, less pain, less nausea, less fevers. My appetite has still to return, but I thought it best to try to get some food into my stomach.

With little energy I needed something that needed little prep and little active cooking. Porridge is always easy, and this recipe only called for a an extra minute to slice and torch (my first time using my torch, and I loved every electric blue flamed minute of it). My porridge was sans brulee, as I thought sugar shouldn't be something I should eat right now - but hubby got the full deal.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 10mins.
total: 12mins.

taste: 4/5 (hubby's not a porridge fan, I'm sure I would have rated it higher). Creamy porridge, with sweet banana and tart, juicy strawberries with a gorgeous crunchy toffee taste - an indulgent but healthy breakfast.

would I make it again: Yes.

Strawberry, banana, oatmeal brulee

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sofia's Kitchen - Greek Doughnuts (Tsirihta- Pontian)

Here we are again, for installment #2 of Sofia's Kitchen.

The first half of the day we made delicious, crispy doughnuts with a fluffy doughy center soaked in a lovely sweet syrup. You can play around with the syrup, perhaps a rosewater syrup with a sprinkling of pistachios, or even perhaps skip the syrup altogether and just roll them in a cinnamon sugar. Sometimes we also add a sprinkling of walnuts and cinnamon. A word of warning; these are addictive, ask my husband who scoffed down five whilst I had me head turned.

Tsirihta (Greek Doughnuts)
makes around 30

2 cups plain flour
1 tbs dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 ¾ cup water
olive oil - for deep frying
sesame seeds – dry roasted

200g honey
½ cup sugar
2 cups water

Place all dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix to combine. Gradually add the water to mixture and whisk to make a smooth batter. Batter should be slippery but cohesive. Cover bowl with glad wrap and place in the sink filled half way up the bowl with hot water. The heat will help the batter rise. Once batter has risen to double its original size, re whisk to combine all ingredients.

Heat oil in a deep frying pan. Make sure oil is hot. Dip tablespoon in a cup of oil (to avoid batter from sticking to spoon) and scoop a portion of the batter and drop into hot oil. Continue this process allowing enough room in the pan for them to float around without sticking together. Turn donuts over once golden brown. Remove with a perforated spoon when golden brown on both sides and place into a bowl with paper towel to absorb the oil.

Make syrup by adding all ingredients into a pot and boil till sugar has dissolved and mixture has thickened slightly. Make sure syrup isn’t too watery as will not stick to the donuts properly. Drop the cooled donuts into the hot syrup mixture 3-4 at a time and toss around to coat all sides. Remove and place onto the serving dish. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and ENJOY!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Chocolate fudge cake

Today was filled with un-expectations.

The first un-expectation occurred at 3:30pm when I spotted my father heading towards the very butcher shop I had just stepped out of. He then invited my husband and I over for dinner which was quite a nice surprise. I told him I would whip up a chocolate cake to bring along.

The second un-expectation occurred approximately one hour after as I was patiently waiting for a gentleman to back out of his car spot. Once the car park was vacated I began to reverse into it when an extremely rude citizen decided to drive into it and steal it from me. I sat there, staring at him through my rear view mirror with extreme indignation whilst he just shrugged his shoulders and went about shopping. I would have to say that having a car park stolen after waiting for it, with your indicator on, rates highly on my 'anger' list. I truly, and I mean truly, had to refrain myself from keying his car and then once again, from throwing sheeps milk yoghurt in his smug face when I came across him at the dairy section.

It took a little while for the steam to dissipate from my head (some venting to my husband helped greatly). On my way home to offload said groceries I saw two men with a whippet off his leash (another high rater on my list). I muttered to myself about 'irresponsible owners' and 'leashes' whilst I arrive home and packed everything away.

Fifteen minutes later I was once again in my car, on my way to pick up my husband from work when I noticed again, the same caramel whippet from before. This time, after scanning around, I noticed a woman with another two dogs also not on leashes, so I assumed the whippet must be hers. Some more muttering occurred before I drove off.

Then the third un-expectation happened on the way home, on our street, at approximately 5:25pm, when lo and behold, a caramel-coloured whippet ran in front of my car. Yes, the dog I had already seen twice ran right in front of my car as I slammed on the brakes and blared the horn. He or she then sheepishly went around to stand in front of my husbands passenger door, sad and puppy-eyed. We were only 8 houses from home so we decided to take the car back, get the local councils number and then head back to the dog to wait for them to pick it up. In the 1 minute we were gone, the dog had disappeared. We drove through the streets a couple of times before we thought that perhaps the owners had finally found their dog and taken it home, it had been loose for over an hour. Well that is what I really hope, as the thought of a lost doggie wandering the streets really saddens me.

The two following un-expected events meant that the chocolate cake intended for my father's dinner did not make it in time. His phoned us to announce the readiness of the chicken roast he had made, a good 20mins before the cake would even be ready. So alas, it was left at home, to be eaten the next day for breakfast. Of course, I did drop off a hefty chunk to my father's house, as a chocolate cake was promised, and there is nothing worse than expecting a chocolate cake and not getting one.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
7 mins (whip eggs and get chocolate ready whilst sugar comes to a boil.)
cooking time: 1 hour.
total: 1 hour & 7mins.

taste: 4/5. This is my kind of gluten-free dessert.

The cake is lusciously fudgy as you sink your teeth through its crackled, chewy top, dusted softly with earthy cocoa. It's sweetness is understated, I believe the light muscovado sugar is to thank, as it lends just enough sweetness to soften the bitter, dark chocolate, none of that tooth achingly sugary business here.
This fallen, deep chocolate cake with gorgeous sticky textures is satisfying but also, does not have you reaching for a glass of water, as some chocolate cakes do.
It is made all the tastier by its comparative easiness and ability to be eaten by those without restrictions and those with wheat restricted diets.

The only changes I made were to use 54% dark chocolate throughout (Ryan doesn't like the deep bitterness of really dark chocolate like I now do) and to cook the batter all at once, rather than in two stages, as I was desperately trying to make the dinner deadline.

would I make it again: Yes. Yummy, and not overly dense and rich flourless chocolate cake.

recipe: Chocolate fudge cake

Lemon, Poppyseed & Yogurt Tart

This weekend was stuffed liked a stomach at a 12 course degustation.

Apart from our work hours on Saturday we also managed to squeeze in shopping, errands and another visit to my grandmother Sofia's house for more recipes from her kitchen (results coming soon). Luckily we were blessed with copious amounts of sunshine and an extra hour of sunlight thanks to daylight savings to get everything done.

This tart was meant to be eaten on Sunday, but as its particular recipients were not attending Sofia's kitchen part II, I stored what I had begun to assemble in the fridge and rescheduled its baking for the following day.

This morning 8:50am truly felt like 7:50am and I was a little sleepy eyed and wobbly on my feet (you might think a 8:50am wake up is late, but I realise that once the tiny stomping of feet come along I will never be able to sleep in anywhere close to 8-something, so I am enjoying it while it lasts).

After driving my husband to work I spent a good hour or so nibbling through a bowl of yoghurt and home-made muesli pondering what I should do today as I caught up on a weekend's worth of blogs. During my regular opening of the refrigerator door, I spied with my little eye a half-made, postponed tart desperately waiting to be made. It might not have been intended for my tummy, but in 45mins it would very well be heading there.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time:
1 hour & 30mins (includes chilling and thawing time).
cooking time: 45mins.
total: 2 hours & 15mins.

taste: 3/5. This tart was originally baked for my gluten-free in-laws,however they cancelled their visit and it was left for me and my sugar-loving husband to eat.
I am not a fan of the texture of rice flour, I find it too 'gritty' so the base wasn't to my taste at all. Whilst the light, airy filling was pleasant, I would have loved more lemon, and probably more sugar for my sweet tooth. For a very healthy dessert it is lovely, but I love my naughty treats so I didn't enjoy this as much as people who actually have a gluten-free diet probably would.

would I make it again: No - I have plenty more gluten-free recipes to try that I might love as well.

recipe: Poppyseed, Lemon Yogurt Tart, the French way

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tropical smoothie

My husband, dog and I are smoothie lovers.

We have at least one smoothie per week, more in Summer as the heat rises and our desire for something cold and refreshing (but also filling) increases. Most often I throw in whatever I have on hand, which often includes frozen bananas as a base. They add thickness, smoothness and coldness which are three things I need in a smoothie. I've tried a few recipes, some have been great, some not so great. The ones I make randomly tend to be best. Whilst a banana and cinnamon smoothie is our classic go-to, I felt like something more 'tropical' today.

Tropical Smoothie
serves 2 generously

1 small, chopped frozen banana
1/4 fresh pineapple, chopped
1 kiwi fruit, peeled and chopped
1tbs honey
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup Greek yoghurt (or any plain)
1 scoop (2tbs) Vanilla protein powder

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
5mins (chopping involved).
cooking time: 1min (to blend).
total: 6mins.

taste: 4.5/5. Pineapple, with its juicy, clean sourness comes out first followed by citrusy orange juice, tart, seedy kiwifruit and finally creamy, tangy yoghurt. The smooth, creamy coconut milk comes in next before a hint of sweet vanilla and honey round it all off. Refreshing, interesting and bursting with Summer time tastes.

would I make it again: Yes.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chicken & leek vol au vents

No, these are not DB vol au vents, it is only a mere coincidence - also, my lovely hay coloured puff pastry stacks are store bought.

Another month has come and gone.

As a child the days dragged like a heavy anchor, seeming to take an eternity to pass. Along came graduation and it was as if I was on fast forward; forget to hit pause and weeks flew by without any recollection as to what events they had contained. Ask me what I did last week, and without my trusted diary in hand I would stare at you blankly wondering what day it is.

I guess youth is wasted on the young, although I don't think a life like Benjamin Button's would be any better. Before I get ahead of myself, I am still young, not climbing-trees-and-enjoying-sleepovers-with-my-girlfriend's-young, but young enough to still ignorantly enjoy lying in the sun (with sunscreen) without thinking of the damage it will inevitably cause down the track (although I think this too will be over soon).

But I digress, time is abundant as long as I live in the moment rather than sleepwalking through it. For instance I went many places and did many things today whilst also having time to read a book and get a head start on dinner. I also saved time by buying pre-made vol au vents, leaving me more time to spend with my husband and dog. I was definitely a time-utiliser today.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 15mins to pastry stage.
cooking time: 15mins.
total: 30mins.

taste: 4/5. Ryan said they taste better than they smell. He loved the buttery pastry and creamy chicken.

would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: Chicken & leek vol au vents

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fuji apple spice cake with cream cheese frosting

Apples are the Cinderella of fruits.

They are often overlooked and under appreciated, lying forgotten in the fruit bowl; they aren't flashy or exotic and are most often neglected or passed over. However, given a chance, they shine when baked into sweets or when paired with meats and salads. Give them a chance and you will be rewarded, trust me. I was guilty of being an ugly stepsister, labeling apples boring and not interesting enough for my trolley. Everything changed once I baked them into my first apple crumble, since then they have become the jewel in my fruit bowl.

It is no secret that I have more than a mere fondness for the acid green Granny Smith with its luscious tartness to rival any amount of sugary sweetness.

Oh no, I've done it again.

I guess I have forgotten my lesson and been quite snobbish to other apple varieties that should also be deserving of my attention. It might be a little late, but at least I can rectify the error of my ways and give some other apples a go, who knows, there might be an apple dearer to my heart than my lovely Granny Smith.

Today it's Fuji's day to shine, let's hope this cake allows it to.

ease: 4/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 1 hour (includes 15mins cooling time)
total:1 hour & 25mins.

taste: 3/5. Surprisingly this wasn't very moist. I was also wishing for more apple chunks as no one realised it was an apple cake by taste alone.
The spices were too subtle and the cream cheese frosting super sweet. It was like carrot cake's ugly stepsister. Poor Fuji got locked in the cellar :).

would I make it again: No.

recipe: Fuji apple spice cake with cream cheese frosting

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Chamomile, peach & ginger smoothie

Spring cleaning for me means emptying fridges and flipping mattresses, for some family members it means overhauling their diet most likely beginning with a detox for a 'kick start'.

As I mentioned a while back I had a yukky bout of gastritis which my doctor hypothesised might have been due to my highly acidic diet (read: sweets, grains & starches). In my attempt to try to eat more alkaline I discovered that my father and my father-in-law were both attempting to also eat alkaline (albeit to a much higher extent than I - sugar and flour, we shall never part).

For them this included a mother load of vegetables, fruits, green drinks, certain minerals and tonics. Maybe in the future I might show their devotion to truly 'cleanse' my body, but in the mean time, I will stick to eating fewer sweets, and attempt to implement healthy meals/drinks such as this smoothie.
ease: 5/5.

prep time: 5mins.
total: 5mins.

taste: 3/5. As the smoothie was hot from the tea I added some ice cubes to cool it down quickly and it made it a little watery so hubby didn't like it at all.
If you have time I suggest putting it in the fridge to cool rather than using ice cubes so you don't lose the flavour and texture.
The chamomile is the main flavour in this followed by the subtle peach before the strong ginger comes through. It was nice, but too much like a tonic than a smoothie for me (plus Ryan won't drink it again).

would I make it again: No.

Chamomile, peach & ginger smoothie - from delicious. - February 2005, Page 62

Monday, September 28, 2009

Chewy ginger cookies

Strange things were happenin' last week down under.

Firstly we had the September equinox and I was inundated with girlfriends telling me they all had a 'weird feeling' and were afraid to trust their own judgments.

The next morning people in Sydney (and then Queensland) woke up to eerie vermilion skies, unable to see anything, locked indoors fearing it was 'Judgement Day'. The Bureau of Meterology claimed, "An event like this is extremely rare," Mr Hanstrum said. "It's one of the worst, if not the worst." Comforting stuff...

Ont he other hand in Melbourne, our weather has been quite tame, we may have had more rain this past week than we did most of Winter, but nothing out of the ordinary really.

My phone has gone back to hibernating, common sense has returned to my girlfriends and the red dust storm has cleared to glorious blue skies that bring a sense of safety and familiarity. All of this normalcy gets my fingers twitching for a nice cookie dough.

Cookies, as you may already know, wouldn't make the 'favourites' list on my mobile phone. Their number is rarely dialed, but once in a while, I will think of them and pick up the phone. The family member I call most would be ginger - my favourite type of cookie is laden with ginger, warm spices and more often chewy than crumbly. I am still on the search for the 'perfect' ginger cookie and this family recipe looks promising.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 15mins for two trays.
cooking time: 8mins.
total: 23mins for 24 cookies - additional 8mins per two trays.

taste: 4/5. This batter made over 100 cookies for me - huge amount!
These are really buttery and chewy with a hint of spice. For some reason I had two jars of golden syrup when I thought I had one jar of molasses and one of syrup,so I had to use golden syrup instead - my cookies were lighter and probably didn't have that depth that molasses has.
I would have definitely loved these spicier and would double the amount of spice for next time.

would I make it again: Yes - with more spices and molasses, but I would halve the recipe.

recipe: Chewy ginger molasses cookies