Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pancetta, sage, ricotta & olive pasta

Two sleeps before I awake to a new year with limitless possibilities and no expectations.
I am looking forward to this new year more than others before; this one almost past, whilst filled with joy and wonderful experiences, was also filled with much heartache and loss for me - but I guess that makes it one I won't forget in a lifetime of years...

For the new year I am breaking old habits, one of them being the tradition of a new year's resolution, instead, I will endeavourer to live in the present, and make the most of whatever comes my way - no self-promises to be broken :). Que sera, sera...

In regards to what I shall be cooking in 2011, I am setting myself a challenge to cook at least three recipes per week from my collection of dusty, and almost forgotten cookbooks. It is time I finally discover which books contain golden recipes and which merely lumps of lead, as let's face it, not all printed recipes are great ones...

Perhaps I will end up with a little extra shelf space for some new and wonderful books as well.

Speaking of which, what are some of your most tried and true cook books?
And are you making any New Year's Resolutions?

Pancetta, sage & ricotta pasta
adapted from No Time To Cook by Donna Hay
serves 2

200g pasta (rigatoni)
15g butter (I used 30g)
1tsp olive oil
8 sage leaves
8 slices pancetta, sliced thickly (I used three for R's bowl)
1/2cup green olives, halved
pinch chilli flakes
1 tbs lemon zest (I omitted as R doesn't like lemon)
2 tbs lemon juice (I omitted also)
150g fresh ricotta
finely grated Parmesan to serve

Cook pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 10-12 mins. Drain.
Meanwhile, in a large, deep frypan, add butter,oil, sage & pancetta and cook for 3mins or until pancetta is crisp (I cooked pancetta separately as it takes a while to crisp up). Add olives, chilli, lemon zest and juice and then drained pasta to the pan, toss to coat. Place pasta in bowls and top with chunks of ricotta and sprinkled Parmesan cheese.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 5mins.
cooking time: 15mins.
total: 20mins.

taste: 3/5. Sucker-punch pasta.

This dish certainly isn't mild by any means. I actually quite liked the briny olives with the strong sage and bite-y Parmesan upon the soft pasta and cool ricotta with a hint of heat. Hubby found it too salty, despite there being no additional salt, and as much as I liked the flavour combo, I have to agree that it was quite salty, the lemon I omitted most likely would have helped to cut through that with its acidity and would add some 'freshness'.

would I make it again: No - hubby thought it was OK, but would prefer to see what else is out there.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Soft ginger & molasses cookie with white chocolate

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there
from Clement C Moore, A Visit from St Nicholas

Merry Christmas!

Between the hanging wreaths upon the door, the ribbons strewn along the floor and coloured ornaments galore, I have forgotten to stop, take a breath and enjoy the Christmas spirit. All whom I have spoken to lately seem to have gotten caught up in the panic and rush for presents and preparation, forgetting to relax and enjoy this festive time of year with loved ones. So today, with the presents wrapped, tree adorned and food prepped, I am lounging with my feet up, thoroughly enjoying a cookie from the batch I made 'for Santa'.

Are you relaxed and enjoying the break, or still running around like a madman?

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 15mins.
cooking time: 30mins for three lots.
total: 45mins.

taste: 4/5. Full of ginger and spice and all things naughty...
I adore ginger cookies made with molasses and these are no exception. Incredibly soft with a slight 'chew' these cookies are packed with heady spices that would warm the cockles of even the coldest heart, sprinkled with caramel hinted sugar and creamy pearls of white chocolate, Santa would certainly be happy to find these waiting for him on Christmas Eve. 
Whilst I found these rather addictive, they were a bit sweet for me with the addition of white chocolate and sugar dusting. I guess I am a ginger/molasses cookie purist, only spices for me please.

would I make them again: No - only because I like my ginger cookies less sweet.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Potato chips with roasted garlic, truffle salt & gruyere

I apologise for my absence, and today's rather shortly hemmed post, but it is for a good reason; my husband and I recently became the proud parents of a Green Cheek Conure we have named Sweet Dee. She hatched on the 10/10/10 and eight long weeks later we finally got to take her home. Although she has been with us only a few days we have already fallen in love. I never knew a little bird could be capable of so much affection, all she wants to do is nuzzle into my neck and give me beaky kisses. As you can imagine I have hardly spent any time in the kitchen, mostly to slice a peach or pod some peas for Sweet Dee. And when I have had to eat meals they have been quick in both terms of cooking and eating. I did however manage to take a hasty photo of a recent snack whilst Sweet Dee was playing in my husband's hoodie.

They may not look pretty or be posh, but these fries make a great snack. Although they are naked in the pictures I later smothered them with cheese which turns into an oozy gooey extremely delicious cloak.

Potato chips with roasted garlic truffle salt & gruyere
Serves 2

3 large potatoes (I used sebago), peeled or scrubbed, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide planks, each plank cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 bulbs (heads) garlic, intact
Truffle salt
150g Gruyère cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 200°C. Place potato batons in a rimmed baking sheet. Remove papery, outermost skin from garlic, but keep the bulb intact. Slice off top 1/2 inch of bulb, exposing each clove; discard trimmings. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil and toss to coat thoroughly.

Roast potatoes and garlic in oven. After 20 minutes, turn potatoes with spatula. Roast until potatoes are tender and golden around the edges and garlic cloves are soft when pressed, about 20 minutes more. Sprinkle fries and garlic with truffle salt and grated gruyere.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 10mins.
cooking time: 40mins.
total: 50mins.

taste: 4.5/5. Forget Side Dish, this has what it takes to be a Main.

You can't beat hot chips with their crunchy skins and their soft, fluffy interiors. When sprinkled with truffle salt, smeared with roasted garlic packed with robust sweetness with a final scattering of cheese that melts and coats everything with its unctuousness, these chips simply become the most delicious savoury snack. We loved this so much I made it twice in the same week.

would I make it again: Yes.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Black forest cake

The sky hasn't been very accommodating lately. Some days the sun shines like an intensified beam through a magnifying glass, casting harsh shadow and blinding whites in every photo I tried to take. And then on other days the clouds smothered the sky, so tightly woven that not even the smallest slither of sunlight could seep through rendering the house in darkness even with every curtain parted painfully open. Although I baked and sautéed, I could not take a decent photo of anything produced in my kitchen until one short moment when I hastily pulled a half eaten Black Forest cake from the fridge and managed to take two snaps before whatever remnants of greyed light turned to dust.

The first time I had black forest cake I was in the 7th Grade and I made it with my two best friends for our German class. We had my father video tape us whilst we baked away in the kitchen, using a packet of Betty Crocker Chocolate Cake mix as we aimed for ease over quality back then. I can't exactly recall what it tasted like, but I remember not being overly impressed by it.

Fast forward 13 years (man that sounds like a long time) and here I am, making it for the second time, from scratch, with a completely changed palette. Black Forest Cake Take #2.

1969 Black Forest Cake
recipe from Gourmet Traveller

Serves 8-10

300g dark chocolate (63 percent cocoa solids), coarsely chopped
1½ tablespoons kirsch
155g unsalted butter, softened
250g caster sugar
6 eggs
55g dried breadcrumbs
250g almond meal
155g unsalted butter, softened
250g caster sugar
6 eggs
55g dried breadcrumbs
250g almond meal
300ml thickened cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
300gm canned pitted sour (mrello) cherries, drained
chocolate curls, to serve


Combine 130g chocolate, kirsch and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl and place over a saucepan of simmering water for 5 minutes or until chocolate is melted, then stir until smooth. Set aside.

Beat butter and sugar together in an elec
ctric mixer for 5 minutes or until pale and creamy, add eggs one at a time, allowing each to be incorporated before adding the next, and beat until combined. Add chocolate mixture, mix to combine, then fold through breadcrumbs and almond meal. Spoon into a baking paper-lined 20cm round cake pan and bake at 180C for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre withdraws clean. Cool on a wire rack, then halve cake horizontally.

Combine thickened cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Place base of cake on a serving plate and spread with half the cream, top with cherries, then cover cherries with remaining cream and place top layer of cake over cream.

Melt remaining chocolate over simmering water and spoon over cake, scatter with chocolate curls and serve immediately.

ease: 4/5.
prep time: 22mins.
cooking time: 40mins
total: 1 hour & 2mins.

taste: 4/5. A rather tasty forest indeed.

I must admit that initially, I was quite unsure of the addition of breadcrumbs to a chocolate cake, but any uncertainties were cast aside once my teeth sunk into the soft yet toothsome cocoa layers. This cake is basically composed of three flavours, a softened and sweet chocolate, voluptuous cream and cerise cherries plump with a tart sweetness.

I don't know if I mentioned this before but for some unknown reason I just don't like eating cream with cakes, it somehow makes them too heavy for my taste buds and overpowers whatever flavours the cake is portraying. Therefore it seems, even 13 years on I am still not a great fan of the Black Forest Cake, my husband on the other hand rather enjoyed this, hence the 4/5.

would I make it again: No - I personally prefer the chocolate mousse incarnation of the black forest flavours.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lemon & lavender cake

As I sit in the lounge room, eyes contentedly closed, I listen to Nature's Orchestra playing the Ode to Storms outside my window. I hear the thunderous bass drumming steadily as its vibration reverberates through each cell in my body, whilst the lightning clangs and the rain shakes like a maraca against the trees, against the huddled birds, against the window's face. The secondary droplets falling like a piccolo flute forming streams of a harp's strings, flowing to lower ground. Eventually the rain and lightning subsides, leaving only a rolling rumbling and downpour-soaked birds calling out to their friends with a melodic 'are you ok?'

And then silence as the birds and I hold our breath whilst listening to the absence of wind...

Until the thunder once more fierce and powerful in its pounding begins the number once again. But this time I have brought something to steady me against the tempest raging outside, a cup of tea, slightly steaming and a slice of cake to nibble during the encore.

Lemon & lavender cake
adapted from this recipe

200 g butter
4 large eggs
200 g sugar
90 g plain flour + more for the pan
90 g ground almonds
3/4 tsp baking powder
zest and juice from one large lemon
2 tbsp sugar for syrup
1/2 tbs dried lavender for syrup
2 tbsp demerera sugar to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 160 C.

Prepare a large loaf pan by cutting baking paper to fit the length, letting the excess fall over the sides. Grease and flour the ends of the tin.

Mix the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, and lemon zest in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, beat the butter and 200 g sugar till light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones. Scrape the batter (it will be thick) into the prepared loaf pan.

Bake 45 minutes, until risen and golden brown on top.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan.

While the cake is cooling, make the syrup: mix the juice of your large lemon with 2 Tablespoons of sugar and 1tbs dried lavender. When the cake is cool, pierce it all over with a bamboo skewer and spoon the syrup over it. Let it soak in. Sprinkle some demerera sugar on top.

ease: 4/5.
prep time: 15mins.
cooking time: 40mins.
total: 55mins.
taste: 4/5. Afternoon tea just got tastier.

The cake was more moist than than Derek Zoolander's Merman; it was soft, slightly sticky and easy to eat.
Flavour-wise the cake was politely sweet in a very charming way. The bright lemon added a slight tartness to the lavender's girlish floral bouquet, whilst the demerera sugar on top added a wonderful caramel-hinted crunch. The three flavours worked wonderfully together, although I would have liked more of a citrus kick and would most likely add another 2tbs of lemon juice to the syrup.

would I make it again: Yes.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Marinted feta, zucchini, pea & mint tarts

Despite the lashings of rain punishing my bedroom windows, the air was too laden with moisture to sleep with even the slightest covering of thread. And although I do not like to slumber in only my unmentionables without a sheet to offer some modesty, I had to neatly push it aside, unlike my husband who preferred to violently kick his covers off and force them to the end of the bed in a tangled mess. We are certainly opposites when it comes to sleeping styles. I barely move once I find a comfortable position, normally curled up on my left, and stay put without emitting even a peep, my beloved, on the other hand, thrashes about wildly for a good half hour or so before passing out in the most visually uncomfortable looking positions whilst muttering all sorts of nonsensical jargon with the occasional arm going rogue and whacking the headboard, or sometimes even my face...but onto my point.

On sticky, humid nights I find I wake up worse for wear and that the days seems to weigh me down with their heavy air leaving me with a sheen of glistening sweat that never seems to evaporate. Once the evening shade is drawn and our tummies yearn for their last meal I can barely muster enough energy to think about what to make, let alone making it. It's nights like these you want something, quick, light and easy. So thank God for recipes like this one.

Marinted feta, zucchini, pea & mint tarts
(serves 2)

1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry, slightly thawed,
2 small zucchini, cut lengthways into thin ribbons using a vegetable peeler
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup (70g) frozen peas, thawed on paper towel
100g Marinated feta
1/4 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Line a tray with baking paper.

Place the puff pastry on the prepared tray and prick all over using a fork. Place in the freezer until ready to use. Place a baking sheet or a pizza stone in the oven to heat.

Add zucchini, onion and peas to a bowl, and season with black pepper.

Remove the pastry from the freezer and divide the zucchini mixture between pastry rectangles, leaving a 1cm border, then top with pieces of feta. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the baking paper with the tarts to the hot baking sheet. Bake the tarts for 15-18 minutes until the pastry base is crisp and sides are golden brown.

Scatter with mint and drizzle with a little olive oil. 

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 5mins. I did not include the eggwhite from the original recipe, it wasn't necessary.
cooking time: 13mins.
total: 18mins.

taste: 4/5 - the perfect light dinner on a Spring evening.

On nights when the air humidly clings to me like a toddler wanting attention, slaving away over a volcanic stove becomes something to dread. But what to do when your tummy is grumbling and you can't spend another night eating take out? This recipe is the solution. I spent all of five minutes tossing the veggies into a bowl (yes, I used frozen peas) before sprinkling them onto a sheet of puff pastry and then popping it into the oven. Before the commercial break came they were already gloriously puffed and the cheese just beginning to liquefy and singe. Despite the ridiculously short amount of prep and cooking time, these babies weren't short on taste. If I was to take a bite out of Spring I'm pretty sure this is what it would taste like. The vibrant mint, sweet peas and cool zucchini gave the dish a wonderful freshness and vitality and paired beautifully with the creamy, tangy goat's cheese (I always use this Meredith Dairy Marinated goat's cheese in case you were wondering, and no, I am in no way affiliated with them, I just love me some of their cheese :) and the crunchy savoury pastry. I have made these twice in the last two weeks alone when the weather has steamed up my kitchen more than the car Jack and Rose were getting busy in.

would I make it again: Yes - already have.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Grapefruit pudding cake

A warm thank-you to all those who wished me a Happy Birthday - my week ended with lovely gifts and an extra couple of inches on my waist from the numerous dinners :) This week I shall be running around to organise my husband's impending birthday which falls on the following Monday, he's so difficult to buy for, but I think most men are, whenever they need something they just get it themselves!

As much as I would love to spend a little more time writing something special, I have laundry to hang whilst the sun is still in the drying mood and a shopping list to write, which I rather enjoy doing as I am a list-aholic. But don't worry, I have Thursday free so keep your eye out for a regular post :).

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 12mins.
cooking time: 35mins.
total: 47mins.

taste: 3/5. Sorry yellow Grapefruit, my tongue does not like you.

This dessert hinges on whether you like the sharp bitter tang of a yellow grapefruit, if you do, then this delicate spongy, airy and luscious pudding fit for breakfast or a light dessert is for you, if not, then give this one a miss. For me, the slight eggy-ness of the custard-y top paired with the bitter grapefruit didn't tickle my sweet tooth or my savoury taste-buds. But now I know that yellow grapefruit just aren't my 'thang'.

recipe: Grapefruit pudding cake

Monday, November 15, 2010

Banana pancakes with golden syrup

Salutations readers.

Firstly, I must apologise for the minimal posting of late. You see, November is a very busy time for me as it contains not only mine, but also my husband's birthday. My birthday falls on the 11th, commonly known in Australia as Remembrance Day. This year I celebrated my birthday over four consecutive days (well nights really), shared with my husband, mother, father and in-laws - all that celebrating and eating out left me too tired to cook (as well as a few pounds heavier...)

This morning, however, I got back into my regular programming and whipped up some pancakes. Nothing special, just a fluffy pancake dotted with bananas that caramelise and soften, smothered in sticky, golden syrup. I've linked the recipe, but I shall save my usual ratings and descriptions for my next entry :)

Banana pancakes

Friday, November 5, 2010

Rosewater flan with burnt orange caramel

 But he that dares not grasp the thorn Shoud never crave the rose.
Anne Bronte 

Custard. You might think them humble in their modest simplicity. Completely un-pretentious; they are sweet, soft and a symbol of all things 'homely'. These are but few of the reasons I adore a bowl of custard, either plain or flavoured, spiked with brandy or poured over a steaming Christmas Pudding. But truth be told, when it comes to making it myself, custard is the thorn in my side. More often than not I end up with a curdled mess, despite my best efforts to coddle it and never let it get too hot, I always seem to leap over 'thickening' and straight into 'curdling'. But if you want the rose, you have to brave the thorn right? So no matter how many disasters, I always try again, because when I get it right, my reward is worth it.

Rosewater flan with burnt orange caramel
from the October 2009 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller
serves 4

500 ml (2 cups) milk
250 ml (1 cup) double cream
1 orange, rind removed with a peeler
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp rosewater
110 gm (½ cup) white sugar
125 ml (½ cup) freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat oven to 170C. Combine milk, cream and orange rind in a saucepan and stir over low heat until just beginning to boil.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs and yolks in a bowl to combine, add rosewater and half the sugar, then pour milk mixture over egg mixture and whisk to combine. Strain through a fine sieve into a jug and divide among four 250ml-capacity ovenproof dishes. Place dishes in a large roasting pan and fill pan with enough boiling water to come halfway up sides of dishes. Bake until custard is just set but still wobbles slightly in centre (30-35 minutes), remove from pan, cool completely.

Scatter remaining sugar evenly over base of a small saucepan and stir occasionally over medium heat until sugar dissolves (1-2 minutes), then cook until dark caramel (7-8 minutes). Remove from heat, add orange juice (be careful, mixture will spit), stir to combine, then set aside to cool.

Remove pith from orange with a sharp knife and thinly slice flesh crossways. Place an orange slice on top of each custard, spoon over caramel sauce and serve.

ease: 4/5.
prep time: 25mins.
cooking time: 30mins.
total: 55mins.

taste: 2.5/5. Lacklustre.

I was expecting a custard with a little flair and exoticness, unfortunately that's not what I got. The rosewater was merely an echo of an after-taste whilst the custard, whose texture was as smooth as polished marble, tasted like only like an egg-bomb. The caramel sauce did add a nice citrus-y bitterness though.

would I make it again: No.

recipe: Rosewater flan with burnt orange caramel

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bugs Bunny pasta

It seems the time has come again
for things that frighten boys and men
Of ghosts and ghouls and witches brooms
to leave the comfort of their tombs
As Jack O Lanterns light the way
and all things creepy come to play
Grab your friend and hold on tight
All Hallows' Eve begins tonight

Although I live 'down under', Halloween seems to excite my inner child who revelled in all things spooky and slightly macabre growing up. Whilst my fellow school mates idolised Britney Spears, it was Wednesday Adams whom I felt a kinship with. Beetlejuice, Buffy and Jack Skellington were my peeps. So despite the lack of pumpkins on doorsteps and door-knockers in costume, I still wanted to get in on the action and contribute something 'orange' for this occasion. And although not necessarily spooky, mention cooked carrots to a child and I'm sure they'll be frightened :)

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 10mins.
cooking time: 50mins.
total: 1 hour.

taste: 4/5. Carrot-tastic!

When I was no higher than a hip bone twas true that I detested any form of cooked carrots. Perhaps if I had been given this dish my carrot-loathing would have been halted far earlier than the age of twenty-two...

I loved this dish. It was tasty with a lovely balance of sweet, salty and savoury (although I may have added a little too much thyme the second time around, don't be too liberal with this fragrant herb). Both adults and children alike loved it. As always, I would increasing the topping-to-pasta ratio, as it's always best to have more than less. I also found that this worked with some pasta shapes better than others. Penne wasn't as great as farfalle or even macaroni.

would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: Bugs Bunny pasta

Monday, October 25, 2010

Browned butter pizookie

My eyes slowly fluttered open, casting a hazy glance towards the clock. Upon seeing a 5 I allowed my lids to close and drifted off into a dreamless, heavy sleep. A little too heavy. The next time I glanced at my clock it read eleven. ELEVEN. I jumped out of bed faster than Superman and managed to get ready, vacuum the house AND make two dozen cookies in less than an hour. Pretty decent indeed.

The first stop was a friend's house where I spent hours laughing with them and smiling incessantly at their 8month old son (it amazes me how genuine and pure babie's smiles are) whilst sipping Chamomile tea and munching on said-24-chocolate chip cookies.

The second stop was a quick visit to my mother-in-law for a chat, a few games of Angry Birds and a another cup of tea.

Then it was a pit-stop at home for a dress change before heading out to meet my family at a local Thai restaurant for my Grandmother's 73rd birthday where we chowed down on Sweet & Sour Pork, Pad Pak and super delicious banana fritters and sticky black rice puddings.

Despite our super packed day, once we changed into our tracksuit pants and put our feet up I felt like a supper cookie snack, but more than a just cookie. And that's where this recipe came in and more than satisfied that craving. What are some of your post dinner cravings?

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 25mins.
cooking time: 15mins for three ramekins.
total: 40mins.

taste: 4/5. For lovers of cookie-dough deliciousness.

This was sweet and salty with oozy chocolate and fluffy cookie-ness - a ramekin full of soft, fudgy, crumbly, crunchy and oh so very yummy goodness.

Needless to say everyone enjoyed these, though be warned, a small serving still satisfies whilst a larger serving may cause a tummy ache.

would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: Browned butter pizookie

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Apple, rhubarb & raspberry crumble

There are a lot of things that were simply meant to be together; chocolate and peanut butter, hot weather and popsicles, Buffy and Angel... And then there's my favourite symbiotic pair; rainy days and baking.

When all the birds hide under leafy canopy's and the rain splashes against every window pain and roof tile, creating pools of rippling water beneath my door step I roll up my sleeves and reach for my apron; it's Bakin' Time.

Apple, rhubarb & raspberry crumble
from Mindfood magazine
serves 6

4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thickly sliced
½ cup caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 bunch rhubarb, trimmed, cut into 3cm pieces
125g fresh or frozen raspberries
¾ cup crumbled amaretto biscuits
½ cup plain flour
1/3 cup natural almonds, roughly chopped
½ cup brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
125g butter, cubed and chilled

Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly grease a 5-cup-capacity ovenproof baking dish (or 4 dishes with ¼ cup capacity each).

Put apple, caster sugar, cinnamon stick and ¼ cup water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain apple. Discard cinnamon stick. Transfer to a large bowl to cool. Combine rhubarb and raspberries with cooled apple. Spoon into baking dish.

Put biscuit, flour, almonds, brown sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Using fingertips, rub butter into mixture. Sprinkle crumble mixture over fruit. Bake for 20–25 minutes or until crumble is golden.

Serve with cream or ice-cream.

ease: 4/5.
prep time: 20mins.
cooking time: 20mins.
total: 40mins.

taste: 3.5/5. The three Musketeers of the fruit world!

First to tickle the tastebuds is the politely sweet tang of the rhubarb followed by the homely apple, all comfort and hugs. While these two are getting to know each other raspberry knocks on the door with its vibrant tartness before the sweet, nutty and almond-y crumble comes in.

Needless to say, I enjoyed the combination of the three fruits together, if you prefer a little less tartness than perhaps substituting the rhubarb with strawberries would be lovely. The crumble on the other hand, was ok, but the amaretto biscuits added a flavour I don't like in a crumble topping, a regular oat and brown sugar topping would suit this better. It also needs a little more cinnamon for warmth.

would I make it again: Yes to the fruit combo, no to the crumble topping.

recipe: Apple, rhubarb & raspberry crumble

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fluffy pancakes with roasted peanuts & sesame seeds (Ban chang kuih)

1. High tea at The Peninsula. 2. Traditional Yum Cha. 3. National Day Fireworks. 4. View from Revolving restaurant. 5. Sheraton in Shenzhen. 6. View from The Peak. 7. Taking the ferry from Kowloon to HK Island.

You might be thinking, well, that's not many photos, but that, my friends, is all I took on my whirlwind three-day-stay in Hong Kong.
We were so busy cramming as much into a day, at the sacrifice of sleep, that my mind never rested for a minute to remember my camera. Normally, upon returning home and finding very little photographic evidence of my spontaneous sojourn I would be upset, but alas, I am not. The three days I spent there were frenetically paced, but wonderfully so. I felt our schedule meshed with the culture and activities well. There was this one particular moment, when my husband, myself and two friends were standing in a nightclub elevator where it suddenly hit us that we had been awake for a solid 48 hours, needless to say we spent the next five minutes completely freaking out and sputtering out a million 'OMG's' before we decided we should probably have a quick drink at the bar and then head home before we forgot what our own names were. Good times.

Since arriving home I have been re-familiarising myself with the life and routine I left back here, which has taken a little longer than usual as I left my iPhone in Hong Kong. All of a sudden I had to go back to handwriting shopping lists rather than using an App (and yes, I did leave said shopping list at home and was left standing in each aisle at the supermarket trying to use my very dusty memory skills...).
Whilst I am all for using less technology on a daily basis, there were a few times I found myself making unnecessary trips all because I couldn't call my husband to find out where he was and instead had to drive to each location until I found him - he was back at home, the last place I looked, naturally.

Luckily, my phone was found and shipped back and I am no longer getting out of bed at 5am (my phone is also my beside clock). Having had a better chunk of sleep I awoke at a more decent hour to whip up a batch of pancakes, with an Asian twist.

Have any of you been without a piece of technology and found yourself feeling a little lost?

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 2hours.
cooking time: 10mins for two large pancakes.
total: 2 hours & 10mins.

taste: 4/5. Tastier than I thought.

I was a little sceptical at the lack of wetness in this dish, but it was not missed. Hubby was extremely happy with his pancake and loved its different texture and combination of flavours. I doubled the but mixture because I am always greedy with toppings - I loved the nuts but it was a little sweet for me sugar-wise. My pancakes didn't look as fluffy as the ones pictured, but I have a feeling that may have had something to do with the freshness of my baking powder.

would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: fluffy pancake with roasted peanuts and sesame seeds

Friday, October 8, 2010

Warm apple crunch crumble with honey pepper yoghurt

There has been a lot of finger tapping and leg twitching. Perhaps a touch of pacing as well.
You see, I arrived home on Monday, and after the obligatory immediate unpacking and settling in, I was eager to dust off my blogs. Unfortunately, the eagerness only resulted in the hovering of my fingers above the keyboard, unable to decide which letter to press first. I hovered for a good portion of four days waiting for the Inspiration Fairy to come and sprinkled her dust and send my brain into a frenzy of creativity, but all I got was hand cramps. And then I thought, well, you have quite a few posts backed up, waiting only for text, why not post something to give you a little more time until your brain switches itself back on. And so this is my filler post. Never fear, I expect the Inspiration Fairy's flight shall be touching down very soon indeed...

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 20mins.
cooking time: 15mins.
total: 35mins.

taste: 2.5/5. Very perplexing.

I am trying to form words of what this tasted like to me but I've got nothing. It wasn't unpleasant but it wasn't really pleasant either. I could taste each of the inidivdual components without really enjoying them. Instead of melding together and forming a delicious synergy they fell apart and stood around, not really doing anything like a room full of very awkward strangers.

would I make it again: No. But perhaps my taste buds just didn't get it, yours might.

recipe:  Warm apple crunch crumble with honey pepper yoghurt

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Regular posts shall be resumed shortly...

Because right now I am in Hong Kong!

Thanks to a local friend we have enjoyed some wonderful Yum Cha, learned how to eat a dumpling the right way and savoured tasty Mandarin food with stunning views of the bay. We have haggled with vendors, bar hopped from Kowloon to Hong Kong island and even watched the National Day Fireworks display a - it has been a busy 48 hours!

There is so much more to do in so little time, and I have a sneaking suspicion I shall develop a craving for Cantonese/Mandarin food upon my return home - Spring Rolls anyone?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

White chocolate, honey & goat's milk tarts

I awoke to a lilac glow gracefully stretching her ballerina legs through the part in the curtain. Only the corner of the room shimmered in the pre-dawn light, the rest remained untouched in their sullen grey. I rubbed the dream-sleep from my eyes and deftly snatched my phone, I have always been able to transition from sleep to a functional waking state within seconds of my awakening, unlike my husband who remains in a hazy trance until lunch time...

The clock flashed 6:03am, nine minutes until dawn was expected to arrive. I turned to my beloved, his mouth slightly open, his face frozen in a dream somewhere, some-place. It's wonderful to watch people in this restful state, between worlds, the seriousness and weight of being an adult hidden away. I always stare in wonder at how innocent and child-like my husband seems when he slumbers. I almost prefer him this way...

I touched his face tenderly with the back of my index finger, tracing the contour of his cheek bone. His eyelashes fluttered briefly from my caress but it did not interrupt his repose. I slid out of the bed and slipped on my robe to stop the morning chill from piercing my warmth with its cold tendrils. After feeding the birds, who seemed to have risen even earlier than I, most likely in their quest to catch the worm, I searched for something to make my husband. I wanted it to be akin to dreaming, to make his transition to alertness gentler. If I had to choose a food that symbolised the Land of Nod it would have to be milk and honey; as comforting as sleep's embrace.

The image of this dish alone spoke softly of children's dreams and feather-light kisses. And so this is what my dearest awoke to...

ease: 4/5.
prep time: 1 hour & 30mins.
cooking time: 35mins.
total: 2 hours & 5mins.

taste: 3/5. For the sweet tooths.

There was no tart nor tang nor deep chocolate depth to break up the silky sweetness of the honey, milk and white chocolate trio. Although they offered different shades of sweetness, it was all too 'one note' for me; I need some discord to add interest.

Flavour aside the texture was wonderful and the crust added the perfect 'toughness' for the delicateness of the dish.

would I make it again: No - too 'goodie goodie' for me I am afraid.

recipe: White chocolate, honey & goat's milk tarts

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Shepherd's pie

The next time it rains, when the last drop has fallen to its soil, go outside. Close your eyes... I n h a l e.  
Can you smell it? Amazing isn't it? It's as if the rain has stripped away Nature's cloak with its crystal soak and revealed her innermost secrets. The world suddenly smells alive. Just breathe it in and feel it rush through your veins, pulsating Mother Earth's very life essence through your soul and Really Wake Up.

If I could bottle the scent of newly washed air and dew-laden gardens I would dab it onto my wrist and sniff whenever the world began to look less colourful or my connection to it wavered. So, CHANEL or Dior or anyone, get right on that please :).

Freshly fallen rain not only makes the day smell better, it also makes me hungry. Perhaps it is from the revitalising cool air on my face after hours spent jailed indoors by the water's slanted bars that sparks my appetite, I'm not really sure. But it's not just me either. Once the pitter pattering stops, my male-half suddenly awakes from his laptop trance and asks, "what's for lunch?"

Today, nothing tastes better post-elemental shower than a warm, nourishing pie from the oven. During my short-lived meat-eating-era my favourite savoury pie was a Shepherd's - the combination of pillowy mashed potatoes covering the saucy flavoursome meat just did it for me. What is your ideal rainy day lunch?

Shepherd's Pie
from Gourmet Traveller
serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 fresh bay leaf
800 gm minced lamb (I used 200g less as I wanted it to be more saucy.)
2 tbsp tomato paste
250 ml (1 cup) brown chicken stock (see note)
125 ml red wine
60 ml (¼ cup) Worcestershire sauce
120 gm (1 cup) frozen peas, defrosted
1 cup (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Creamy mash
800 gm desiree potatoes, coarsely chopped
250 ml (1 cup) pouring cream
100 gm butter, softened

Preheat oven to 200C. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, garlic and bay leaf and cook until vegetables are soft and start to colour (7-10 minutes). Season to taste, add mince and stir, breaking up mince with back of spoon until brown (5-7 minutes). Add tomato paste and stir to combine. Add stock, wine and Worcestershire sauce, bring to the boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce is thick (20-25 minutes). Stir through peas and parsley and season to taste.

Meanwhile, for creamy mash, place potatoes in a pan and cover with cold salted water. Bring to the boil over medium heat and cook until tender (10-15 minutes). Drain potatoes and return to pan. Add cream and butter and mash until smooth. Season to taste.

Divide mince mixture between four 2 cup-capacity ovenproof dishes. Top with potato and bake until golden (10-15 minutes). Serve with extra Worcestershire sauce to the side.

ease: 4/5.
prep: 40mins.
cooking time: 10mins to brown potatoes.
total: 50mins.

taste: 4.5/5. Those shepherd's sure know their pies.

R loved this and was asking for more the next day. Apart from tasting the mash (which was lovely with its buttery downiness) I didn't taste the meat mixture, but I smelt it cooking and it made me swoon with salivation. The smell almost ended my sixteen years of vegetarianism...almost.

would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: Shepherd's Pie

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Jamie's bloomin' brilliant brownies

It's hard to surprise me.

I am quick to spot a falter in someone's speech or an inconsistency in their behaviour, I blame this sleuth-like quality on my star sign, the mystery loving Scorpio. It is due to my inquisitive, suspicious nature that almost all of my husband's efforts to surprise me are foiled by yours truly, most often unintentionally. I can't seem to help going on the chase if I smell a rat, whether the deceit is well-intended or not.

After guessing last year's intended birthday surprise R finally gave up and has not tried anything since. That is probably how he managed to sneak out of the house for a supposed business shop visit (the fact that it was pouring outside and quiet at the office should have piqued my intrigue, but I was too absorbed in my Spring cleaning to bother probing) to return with a bunch of vivid roses and tulips. I was not merely shocked by the surprise gift, but also that he bought me flowers, which has only ever happened on the occasional birthday or Valentine's Day (my girlfriend's are the usual flower givers).

Not only did I not mind that he had successfully tricked me, but I was girlishly thrilled to receive a completely unexpected bunch of flowers. I must have said thank you a dozen times as I happily stared at the flowers throughout the day, they truly do put a smile on a woman's face. I couldn't help but marvel at the tulips in particular with their watercolour streaks of Byzantium purple and cornflower blue, simply a masterpiece of floral beauty.

To show my thanks I baked a tray of 'chocolate only' brownies I spotted on this blog as per hubby's request. We were both equally happy with our gifts :)

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 15mins.
cooking time: 23mins.
total: 38mins.

taste:  4/5 - fairly brilliant.

For me the taste was very earthy with an almost coffee-like depth; the cocoa gave them a rich chocolate intensity. Flour's minimal attendance allowed the brownies a lovely soft, toothsome fudginess but it had a slight graininess towards the end.

Hubby gave these a 4.5 but for me they were a 4; they were a touch too dark and heavy for me, but nonetheless they were quite addictive.

I have a query, I use different percentage callebaut chocolate, in this instance I used a 70% dark callebaut, I read recently that callebaut chocolate may change the consistency and outcome of recipes that call for bitter-sweet or 70% dark chocolate - is this true?

would I make them again: No, there can only be one brownie recipe, and I have yet to find it.

recipe: Jamie's bloomin' brilliant brownies

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lemon & garlic-salt crusted chicken

Caw. Caw. Caw.
I heard the raven at my door.
Peeking in between the blinds to see if I was there.
Caw. Caw. Caw.
He made his presence known once more.
Wanting to receive a treat to take back to his lair.

I'd like you to meet my newest Avian friend, Gomez the Raven (his partner I have nicknamed Morticia, and although we have met, she still remains cautious to approach and keeps me at four arms distance). Gomez appeared one evening whilst I was on my deck, perched on a plum tree vine spotted with newly budded blossoms. After a few twitches of his head, as if to ascertain the level of my threat, he clumsily hopped a few branches closer until he eventually landed on the cobalt blue railing. He looked at me, and I at him. I understood he wanted a snack, and he understood that I understood he wanted a snack. I hastily scrounged up a slice of apple and a few almonds. He gulped the almonds down first but took his time with the apple. Clutching it between his toothpick, obsidian claws he nibbled a few chunks before placing it firmly in his mouth to fly back to his nest at the far end of the neighbours yard beyond. And from that moment, every morning around 7am, I go outside, whistle three times, call his name, and within a minute or two he appears on the same plum tree branch to see what I have brought him. Sometimes in the evening, if I can hear him cawing, I put out another treat along with a whistle and a yell, and sometimes his wife comes too for their supper time morsel.

On a similar note, meet Squeaky. He isn't like the other Lorikeets. He prefers to eat the paint on the bowl, rather than the sunflower seeds in it. His chirp isn't very chirpy either, in fact, it's his namesake; the raspy squeal of a broken squeaker toy. But if it wasn't for his daftness or eccentricities, even his slightly larger, hunchbacked appearance, I wouldn't be able to pick him from the rest of his ilk. It is because he stands out that he (or she, I'm not really sure which) is endearing to me. My special little Lorikeet, Squeaky.

Introductions to my feathered-friends aside, I shall leave you with one of my husband's more recent lunches. As I prefer him not to dine at almost all take-away or fast-food outlets I sometimes hear him reminiscence loudly about certain, unhealthy snacks he once held dear. One of these snacks was fried chicken. Crumbed fried chicken that leaves your fingers greasy and face messy. I hoped this recipe would be a suitable satisfaction of his cravings, and luckily, it was. In fact, he likes it even more than the original despite it only having  a few herbs and spices rather than eleven...

Also, I would like to wish my baby brother a Happy 23rd Birthday! My, they grow up so fast don't they...

Lemon & garlic-salt crusted chicken 
(serves 4)

3 teaspoons salt flakes (I used 2tsp for 3 drumsticks)
2 teaspoons garlic salt (I used 2tsp for 3 drumsticks)
1/2 teaspoon paprika (I used 1tsp for 3 drumsticks)
1 large lemon, rind finely grated
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 large chicken drumsticks, skin on (I used 3 without skin)
2/3 cup self-raising flour
olive oil cooking spray (I used regular olive oil and just splashed it on top)

Preheat oven to 220°C. Lightly grease a large roasting pan.

Combine salt flakes, garlic salt, paprika and lemon rind in a bowl. Add oil and stir to combine. Place drumsticks in a large bowl. Spoon over oil mixture, rubbing in to coat chicken with your fingertips.

Place flour in a large snap-lock bag. Add drumsticks, 1 at a time, and shake to coat. Place drumsticks in roasting pan. Spray both sides lightly with oil.

Roast drumsticks for 20 minutes. Turn. Spray again with oil. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Serve.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 5mins.
cooking time: 35mins.
total: 40mins.

taste: 4.5/5. Finger lickin' good.

I modified it slightly as you can see above in the recipe. They came out of the oven with their coating still in tact and very much golden and tasty. Hubby wolfed them down happily :).

would I make it again: Yes.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rhubarb, rose & pistachio dessert

 And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, "The Sensitive Plant"

The beginning of Spring is like the first chord struck during a theatre performance; No matter what conversation you are in or what you are doing, when that first note is heard everyone is thrust into a hushed awe. And that is how the Spring flowers bloom. One morning you awake and they are simply there, stunning you into silence with their unexpected beauty. My favourite of all the flowers that awaken one September morning are the blossoms. Be it cherry, plum or pear they all cheer me equally with their paper thin fragility in hues of pink, snow white or apricot blushes.

Each morning I tiptoe into the crisp air, still tinged with Winter's icy kiss, and soak up every petal in every shade, knowing that soon they will give in to the honey words of the wind and fly away to dance their last until next September, their scene replaced by October's act.

The changing of a season reminds me to savour those fruits still lingering from last, like the glossed stalks of Rhubarb, each a different shade of crimson or magenta with their leafy emerald tops, soon to fade from farmers stalls. You should come to expect at the ending of one season and beginning of another to be showered with posts featuring one or two fruits, or even vegetables. Rhubarb will no doubt feature more than once this coming week as I hurry to savour its taste. That's the glory of seasonality, nothing gets old.

Now you must excuse me, it seems this morning's two hour glucose blood test marathon has finally caught up to me, and I'm feeling rather faint much like most of the female characters in Victorian classics tend to do on an hourly basis. This sweet treat will surely speed my recovery :).

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 3mins.
cooking time: 12mins cook and rest.
total: 15mins.

taste: 3.5/5 - texture troubles.

As you all know, I recently joined to the rhubarb club and was quite enjoying my membership. I love the way it tangs and tarts in such a sweet manner, and I also adore the way it collapses beneath my spoon after its stewing.
In this dish I liked the following:
the combination of rose, rhubarb and pistachio, truly a terrific trio in the making. The yoghurt added a clean palate to the dish without offering competing flavours.

What I didn't like:
The texture. I'm not sure why but the rhubarb mixture left an incredibly chalky after-texture that I did not care for at all.
Whilst the flavour was good, the texture was too off-putting for me and I wouldn't even have a clue as to why it was chalky.

recipe: Rosewater rhubarb dessert

would I make it again: No - the texture ruined it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gypsy pork rolls with sofrito

It's surprising what sneaks back in your luggage following a holiday.
Some people bring back trinkets of famous monuments, artisan goods or cheap knockoffs depending on the location. Others, myself included, amass hundreds of snapshots or film clips to put into slide-shows or albums to share with friends and family. And then there are some that find the glimpse of another life in a different country too good to pass up and simply bring their suitcases home only to fill them with their old life's belongings to head back to start afresh.

My bags from France came back with a little of all three. I pulled out blocks of silken chocolate wrapped in beautiful delicate papers that would make any girlish heart squeal with glee. The scents of petite soap bars mingled in the air exhaling notes of rose, lavender, lime and lotus as we passed them around, each recipient choosing one that pleased their nose most. Following the gifts we watched the photos on our flat screen, offering commentary when prompted; the shots from Paris elicited the most oohs and ahhs. Believing my luggage to be empty we bid everyone adieu and settled back into our old habits.

But I was mistaken. Something had stowed away and followed us home. It was neither souvenirs nor film but a piece of life from France. A ritual we had been quick to adopt when living in our apartment on the Avenue de la Bourdonnais; the afternoon siesta. Lunch in France is not a sandwich scoffed down at a desk nor a coffee in a paper cup. It is a sacred time of respite, rest and the enjoyment of a good meal. It is meant to be savoured and lingered over not rushed or worked through. We realised soon that we would have to schedule our grocery shopping around the two-sometimes-three hour afternoon break when stores would be closed and bistros filled with people relaxing, laughing and ceasing their work to go back to living. Lunch became our favourite part of the day. We would eat a three course meal whilst watching the world go by or head home to whip up a feast of fresh produce, fluffy baguettes filled with oozing cheeses finished with the most juicy strawberries imaginable, eaten with our fingers whilst our feet rested on the balcony balustrade, the breeze tickling our toes as we let ourselves slip into the afternoons embrace. It was as replenishing to the soul as a cool drink of water following days of thirst. And yet it was the first thing to be forgotten on our return home...

Until it crawled out of my luggage and unto my lap. If we can do it in France, then why not here? We choose our own hours, so why not choose something that made us happy? I became determined to give it a try. Instead of sending my husband off to work with a standard sandwich he left empty handed, but with a promise that I would return at 1pm with something worth taking a break for.

And that is what happened. At 1pm I arrived at his work with two large lunches and some cutlery. Although he was busy he stepped out and we ate in peace at a leisurely pace, enjoying our food and conversation at the back of the store on a tiny table for two most commonly used for storage. Not only did we enjoy our lunch, but I have a feeling that little table was also happy to finally be used as it was intended.

We have been home for a few weeks now, and more often than not we are still managing to shut off if only for one hour to enjoy a lazy lunch and recharge our spirits.

ease: 4/5.
prep time: 5mins
cooking time: 35mins
total: 40mins

taste: 4.5/5. The first impressive lunch.

Although it didn't look as pretty packed into a tupperware container, hubby was still happily surprised by his lunch when I came to drop it off - it was his 'tastiest' lunch ever. He said it was full of flavour and wolfed it down in minutes.

I tasted the sofrito which definitely packed a flavour punch. The tomatoes were sweetly acidic from the sherry with the caramelised sweetness from the onion and garlic also. I used smoked paprika (not pimento) which I doubled because I simply loved the depth it gave to the dish, it really brought it all together. The mint leaves also helped to cut through the smoky, tangy sweetness with a burst of freshness every now and again.

I forgot to get the butcher to butterfly and pound the pork, so I just sliced it in half, and although it was a little thick and the rolls a little clumsy, it still tasted fine, but it was a bit pink in the centre which hubby didn't mind.

would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: Little Gypsy Pork Rolls

Monday, August 23, 2010

Spiced zucchini loaf

The rising sun
Blesses my mind
With joy.
The setting sun
Blesses my heart
With peace.
Sri Chinmoy

I never underestimate the power of the sun on our mood and our sense of well-being. It really is amazing to see the effect sunshine, following days of grey and slate, has on people. It's as if they have become uncovered for the first time after years spent under a dust sheet in an unused room. All of the glum and apathy fall to the floor as they breathe, smile and lift their heads to the sky.
I witnessed such an event yesterday at a friend's son's baptism. The clouds had rolled back and the sun came marching out with baton in hand and a super snappy step to match. Everyone greeted each other with, 'how perfect is the weather today, so beautiful', with a smile beaming from their sun-dazzled cheeks. It made the day just that much more special and joyous. The little man himself enjoyed the sun's kiss on his head and soon forgot the tears from his oil-bath. Like an eraser to a chalk board, all negativity is washed away by golden light.

It seems Winter has allowed Spring to set up one week early - flowers have already begun to bloom, birds have begun their mating dances, and leaden clouds no longer carpet the entire sky. I find that I am making excuses to be outside and feel the warmth tickle the surface of my skin. Even the air feels fresher when drenched in bright-lemon rays. 

As the afternoon approached I decided to bake a treat to accompany a cup of tea and a midday nature-break, which may have lingered past the hour...

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 10mins.
cooking time: 50mins.
total: 1 hour.

taste: 4.5/5. This became my catnip.

I will never forget how this loaf made my home smell. The mixture of spicy cinnamon and heady nutmeg combined with that sweetness of bread made my home as inviting as a roaring fire on a frostbitten day - I felt like I was getting a huge aroma-cuddle. Sigh.

The taste was nourishing and deeply satisfying - the spices, the sweetness, the moistness, just everything.

The texture was as perfect as the Winged Victory of Samothrace. The crust became that perfect chewy, slightly crunchy texture which gave way to a super moist but with only a slight large crumb centre.

I liked this so much I made it twice in one week. I made it first with white spelt flour and the second time with wholemeal spelt flour - both were lovely, but the first had a slightly softer centre.

I also increased the cinnamon to 1tsp and the nutmeg to 3/4tsp.

would I make it again: Already have.

recipe: Zucchini bread

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Black forest mousse

Of course, I photographed my own glass, which was the dodgiest one. I assure you, the others were beautifully layered and much more appealing.

My energy has waxed and waned like the sea's edge lapping at the shore.

Some moments will find me fluttering to all corners of a room like a fairy high on Pixie Dust; enthusiastically humming to upbeat tunes whilst scrubbing counter tops with all the enthusiasm of the kids on Glee combined. And then comes the low of lows trough, in these moments, I will be hidden beneath layers of bed sheets, consciously ignoring the suns persistent knocking on my window as it peers between the blinds whilst calling me out for pretending not to be home.

As much as I'd love to raise my eyebrows comically, hands by my ears and with a shrug say 'I have no idea what's causing my energy-fluctuations,' I cannot. One look at my food-intake of late and you'll be shaking your head and waging your finger at me. My stomach has entertained all kinds of cakes, tarts, chocolates, pastas, chips, dips and everything bad for my hips. I think it's time I got off the sugar train and made a reservation for Veggieville. But before then, I'll be hosting a final party in my belly for some chocolate peeps and maybe a few cookie bros. To kick it off, let me introduce you to Mrs Mousse - such a sleek and silky lady :).

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 6mins.
total: 6mins.

taste: 4/5. Simple - but impressive and delicious.

I recently chose this to finish a dinner party, I wanted something really quick and easy, so I could hastily get back to the guests, but I also wanted it to look special and taste lovely. The flavours are classic black forest - chocolate, cream, cherries and a touch of alcohol. Obviously if you are going to use a store bought chocolate mousse, make sure it's good quality, same goes for the cream. Needless to say, everyone enjoyed it.

would I make it again: Yes. Super easy and quick.

recipe: Black forest mousse

Friday, August 13, 2010

La bete noire

Old friendships are like the nook of a lovers arm; natural, comforting and familiar.
New friendships are like a new pair of heels; it takes a while to figure out which outfits they match and how to walk in them and in time, whether they will become worn-in or a pair you hardly wear.

After I met my husband, we made new friends, I befriended his, and he befriended mine, but we also made some together. After attending a previous school mates 21st with whom he had been just a friendly acquaintance, they suddenly found common ground that hadn't been there in their youths and established a friendship. Not long after, this friend met a woman, and eventually they got married one month after us. It was fortunate that not only do I get along with him, but that I also formed a friendship with his wife. When we all catch up we spend hours talking over good food, all together at first, and then his wife and I will find a cosy corner to really dish the dirt whilst nibbling cookies and they will wander off to play pool, pinball or some other boys toy whist munching on chips and being completely oblivious to our animated conversations, mostly about them.

After we both returned from our respective holidays abroad, we got the call that their new house (only a 5 minute drive away) was finally ready for guests, and could we please come over for a casual dinner and catch up. Naturally, we were asked to bring nothing, but how can I possibly come empty handed? My mother would have had a conniption if I brought nothing to a dinner/house-warming, she raised me better than that.

My first thought instinctively ran to a dessert. But as this friendship is still in its early bloom, I didn't know what flavours or sweets they liked most. So, as I often do when I want to please all tastes, I chose chocolate, as it's the safest bet sweet-wise. Because really, how could you possibly not like chocolate?

 No inside shots I'm afraid as this cake was a housewarming gift.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 10mins.
cooking time: 1hour plus 3 hours chilling.
total: 1hour & 10 mins plus 3 hours chill.

taste: 4.5/5. This truly is a 'black beast' of a cake.

If you want one truly great flourless chocolate cake recipe, then look no further, this is it. All chocolate, eggs and sugar this cake is rich, satsifying and death-by-chocolate inducing. But I asure you, after a short eating break, you will be going back for more.

The cake's texture is fudgy and divine, and once it hits your tongue it begins to melt. Coupled with a silky ganache...well...I'm currently wishing I had a piece left over. I've made this with both 56% chocolate and 70% chocolate - hubby loved the first whilst I loved the second. Next time, I shall use the 56% for the cake and the 70% for the ganache.

It would be easy to play around with different spices (perhaps cinnamon), alcohols (Grand Marnier?) and even perhaps a sprinkling of Fleur de Sel on top.  I'd recommend tarter fruits if you wish to adorn the cake with them, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries etc.

would I make it again: Yes - this is the second time already.

recipe: La bete noire

Monday, August 9, 2010

Chocolate-lavender fondants

This post has lingered like those who stay to watch the credits of a movie. All I had to do was write a few words and click publish post. But I have been stuck.
Do I write about the way the sea in Nice sparkled more brilliantly than Edward Cullen on a Summer's day? Or do I write about the magical way the sunlight is streaming through my window now in Melbourne, so densly that I feel as though I could write my name in it with just my fingertip? Or perhaps I should just leave it at that, and wait until my writing mojo has returned in time for me to write the next post. Yes, that is what I shall do.

ease: 3.5/5.
prep time: 10 mins plus 3 hours chill
cooking time: 14mins.
total: 3hours & 24mins.

taste: 3/5. This volcano is dormant.

The magic of fondants is all about the ooze. This was more of a thick sludge than ooze. Yes, the fudgy centre was nice but it's not what I wanted out of this chocolate pudding.
The cake was was also rather crunchy and firm - perhaps using a dariole mould rather than a ramekin is what made this less soft and less lava-like.
I substituted violets for lavender and thought the floral element is pretty much what saved this dish from just being a dark, and slightly bitter fudgy cake. Despite this we all polished off our plates.

would I make it again: No. I've made other fondants before that were more 'fondant-like'.

recipe: Chocolate-violet fondant with creme fraiche ice-cream

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

France 2010

A fortnight of travel showcased in a few photographs.

The journey began in Paris, France...

We travelled the rooms of the Louvre and sat on the steps of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica...

We touched the golden petals of sunflowers, feasted on Berthillon ice-cream and Nutella crepes and became hypnotised by carousels...

We walked the hall of mirrors at Versailles and from sunrise to sunset we gazed upon the Eiffel Tower from our balcony...

We explored the canals of Bruges and tasted the chocolates of Belgium...

We watched street performers in Avignon square and relaxed by the bridge on the riverbed...

We travelled through Lavender fields, chased butterflies and felt the Mistral wind blow in Provence...

And lastly, we came to the Côte d'Azur to lie on polished pebble beaches and dip our toes in the Mediterranean Sea.

Even with only two weeks of sights beheld, I have filled my head with enough to last me through one hundred dreams of beauty. It certainly was a trip to remember.