Sunday, October 11, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake

When I was little I loved Strawberry Shortcake the doll (well, it was actually her friend Apricot Pie that I coveted), and now I have a little girl myself my Mum has taken it upon herself to start a collection of Strawberry Shortcake bits and pieces for her. It occured to me recently that despite this childhood obsession I had never actually eaten a strawberry shortcake. Nor did I know what a 'shortcake' was exactly.

Well, it turns out that a shortcake is bit like a cross between a cake and a scone - but leaning towards the scone end of things.As we know, short in baking terms generally refers to the crumbliness of the baked good, often due to the flour/butter ratio.

So, I was going baby sprinkle and thought that this would be something nice and different to make. The problem was deciding on what recipe to make. As much as I love scones, I was thinking that if I was to make a traditional shortcake might it might be a bit too dry, so when I found a recipe on The Pioneer Woman Cooks (original recipe here) where she uses another variation, one that was more on the cake end of the spectrum - I thought this was the one for me and so here it is:

Strawberry Shortcake

1 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons cornflour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
130 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

230 grams cream cheese, room temperature
230 grams unsalted butter
680 grams powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
450 grams strawberries

My first 'cast' picture!

Prep the strawberries by steming them and slicing them in half. Place into a bowl and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar. Stir together and let sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, mash the strawberries in two batches. Sprinkle each half with 1 tablespoons sugar and allow to sit for another 30 minutes.

Yummy strawberries 'mascerating'.

Sift together flour, salt, baking soda and cornflour.

Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well each time. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined. Add sifted dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just barely combined.

Pour into greased and floured 20cm cake pan.

Ready to go...

Bake at 180 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from cake pan as soon as you pull it out of the oven, and place on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely.

To make the icing combine cream cheese, butter, sifted powdered sugar, vanilla, and dash of salt in a mixing bowl. Mix until very light and fluffy.

Slice cake in half through the middle. Spread strawberries evenly over each half (cut side up), pouring on all the juices. Place cake halves into the freezer for five minutes, just to make icing easier.

Remove from freezer. Use a little less than 1/3 of the icing to spread over the top of the strawberries on the bottom layer.

Nearly there...

Place the second layer on top. Add half of the remaining icing to the top spreading evenly, then spread the remaining 1/3 cup around the sides.


Leave plain OR garnish with strawberry halves.

So, not quite a traditional strawberry shortcake but delicious all the same. Its a lovely cake for spring/summer time and perfect for an afternoon tea.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Crispy Yoghurt Chicken

This dish is so good, so tasty and so easy - even Red managed to pull it off. I found it on one of my favourite blogs, The Pioneer Woman Cooks. With a few tweaks, its also a really tasty, healthy dish.

The recipe states drumsticks, but you could use any part of the chicken you prefer really. It also specifies panko crumbs, which I haven't been able to track down yet but I usually make some coarse bread crumbs from stale bread (like a pane di casa) or I think making crumbs from cornflakes would work OK too.

Crispy Yoghurt Chicken

6-8 chicken drumsticks (thighs, thigh fillets and breast fillets could all work too)
2 cups plain yoghurt (natural, Greek etc - I use Greek)
2 cloves of garlic
Juice of one lemon
2 cups (approx.) Panko breadcrumbs

Rinse and pat dry the chicken pieces and sprinkle with salt.

In a bowl combine the yoghurt with the crushed garlic cloves, chopped parsley and lemon juice.

Put the breadcrumbs in a separate bowl and add salt and pepper.

Grease a baking dish with butter.

Coat the chicken in the yoghurt mixture and then coat with crumbs. Place in the baking dish. Finally, place a small slice of butter in each drumstick. Cover with foil, then bake in a 180 degree oven for around 1 hour and then remove foil for the last 15 minutes of cooking.

Low fat tip: No need to sprinkle the chicken with salt or grease the baking dish; use low/reduced fat yoghurt and instead of buttering the chicken pieces, I simply spray them with cooking spray - they still brown nicely in the oven.

These are really yummy and the whole family enjoy them. There is a nice, subtle tang from the yoghurt and lemon that works well. Nice in the the lunch box the next day too!

I made another of her recipes recently, a Strawberry Shortcake - more on that to come!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nigella's Baklava

OMG this stuff is delicious. And evil. But delicious. And oh-so-evil. It's also very easy to make, but a little time consuming - but so worth it!

I made it as part of a Greek-themed feast I was having with Kaz and Chocolate Crackle. Kaz made really yummy bougatsa for dessert as well - it was filo heaven!

Make the syrup first and the pop into the fridge while you make the pastry part.

Nigella's Baklava

For the syrup
300ml water
500g caster sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tablespoon rosewater
1 tablespoon orange-flower water
NB: you can get rose water and orange flower water from the chemist.

For the pastry:
325g pistachios, chopped in a processor until medium–fine
125g melted unsalted butter
400g filo pastry

Use a 23 x 23 tin for this -I'd advise not to use your favourite baking tin as you need to slice through the pastry while still in the tin. A foil disposable one from the supermarket is probably best, or even silicon (but be careful not to slice right through!).

Add water, sugar and lemon juice to a pot and bring to the boil. Keep it at boiling point for 5 minutes. Add the rosewater and flower water and then remove it from the heat. Pour it into a jug, let it cool and then chill it in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 180Âșc.

Brush the tin with butter and then begin to layer the filo pastry sheets, brushing each layer with butter (tip: make sure you cover your filo with a damp tea towel so it doesn't dry out).
Use approx 20 sheets (1/2 packet) for the bottom layer, placing them in the tin evenly as you can. Then, spread the pistachios evenly over the filo sheets.

You can tell already this is going to be good...

Then carry on with the rest of the pastry in the same way. The last sheet on top should also be buttered well and then with a sharp knife trim around the top edge of the tin to give a neat finish. Cut parallel lines 4–5cm apart to form diamond shapes, making sure you cut the baklava right through to the bottom of the tin (not through the bottom of the tin though!).

Before cutting

Place in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, by which time the filo will have puffed up and become golden-brown.

Awaiting its drenching in sweet nectar

As soon as it comes out of the oven, pour over half the cold syrup. Leave it a few minutes to soak in and then pour over the rest.

Buttery, pistachio-ey, rose scented bliss!! It doesn't get much better than this - and it was even better the next day.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Citrus Yoghurt Muffins

These yummy muffins come from the 500 Cupcakes cookbook. I had a heap of Greek yoghurt I needed to use and am a sucker for anything citrus flavoured, so this was perfect. The combination of citrus flavours was really nice but you could try different variatiosn if you wanted.

Citrus Yoghurt Muffins

200g plain four
175g caster sugar
1tbsp grated lemon zest
1 tbsp grated orange zest
1 tbsp grated lime zest
1 tbsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
255ml fat-free plain yoghurt
115ml sunflower oil
1 lightly beaten egg

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Grease a 12 cup muffin pan.

In a medium sized bowl combine the flour, sugar, lemon, orange & lime zest, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the yoghurt, oil and egg until well blended. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture, stirring until just combined. Don't overmix!

Spoon the batter into the pan and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes, then remove muffins from the pan.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

These were quite a hit in my house, and a healthy treat for little Miss J.

Chicken Scallopine

This is a really yummy and fast dinner idea that can also be made relatively healthily. I usually wing this, so feel free to play with the quantities of stock and cream to get a sauce consistency you are happy with . It does thicken quite a bit, so I'd add more stock than you think you might need.

Chicken Scallopine

2-3 chicken breast fillets, sliced into schnizels
Plain flour - enough for coating the chicken
Mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup cream
Olive oil
A lemon

Put the flour into a flat container/tray/plate and season with salt and pepper. Then prepare the chicken by slicing into thin pieces (escalopes) and bash with the meat hammer to flatten a bit if you need to. Coat each piece of chicken with the seasoned flour, tapping off any excess.

Heat some olive oil to the pan and fry chicken on both sides until golden brown. Cook in batches so you don't overcrowd the pan.

Low fat tip: To make this a bit healthier, omit the flour and fry the chicken using cooking spray in a non-stick pan, or bake or grill the chicken in the oven.

Once all the chicken has been cooked and removed from the pan, add the mushrooms to the pan making sure to scrape up all the nice brown bits the chicken has left behind. Add the stock, wine and cream to the mushrooms as well as a good squeeze of lemon. Cook down until its a nice rich brown colour. Add salt and pepper to taste. The sauce will thicken, so you may need to add more liquid (stock or wine) to ensure you have a good sauce-to-chicken ratio for serving

Low fat tip: You can use just stock instead of wine an stock and instead of cream, I use the same quantity of evaporated milk which worked really well.

Once its just about ready, add the chicken back to the pan to coat in the sauce and heat up. Serve the chicken with a generous spoonful of sauce. I usually serve with smashed potatoes and green beans.

Cookies and Cream Cheesecake (non baked)

In my younger days, I was unfamiliar with the concept of a baked cheesecake and the chilled /set variety were all I ever knew. It's nice sometimes to go back to those days and enjoy the delicious taste of tangy cream cheese in a lighter form.

I have a scrapbook at home with recipes I clip out of old magazines and newspapers and this recipe is in there. I dream one day of catching up with the clippings and cooking each and every recipe. I suspect this one is from an Old Better Homes and Garden magazine and the best thing is the most cooking you'll do is some melting of butter and chocolate and boiling of water. Have I mentioned yet how delicious this cheesecake is? Because its really, REALLY good.

Cookies and Cream Cheesecake

250g plain chocolate biscuits
150g melted butter
2 teaspoons gelatine
1/4 cup water
375g cream cheese (softened)
300ml thickened cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup caster sugar
180g white chocolate, melted (use good stuff like Dream or Milky Bar)
150g cream filled chocolate bisctuits (aka OREOS) - quartered
50g dark chocolate, melted (optional)

Line the base of a 23cm spring form tin with baking paper.

Process the plain chocolate biscuits until they resemble breadcrumbs. Add the melted butter and process until just combined. Use your hands to press the biscuit mixture evenly over the base and 3cm up the sides of the tin. Cover and refrigerate for 20 mins.

Sprinkle the gelatine over the water in a small heatproof jug, then stand the jug in a small saucepan of simmering water and stir until the gelatine dissolves. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Beat the cream cheese, cream, vanilla extract and sugar until smooth. Stir in gelatine mixture and white chocolate, then fold in the quatered biscuits. Pour the cheesecake mixture over the biscuit base and cover and refrigerate for about 3 hours or until set.

Drizzle with dark chocolate to serve (optional)


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lemon Meringue Cake

It was Chocolate Crackles birthday and I volunteered to make his cake. I had seen something that I had been wanting to try and that would satisfy Chocolate Crackle 's preference for things non-chocolate; a lemon meringue cake found on the amazing and evil Martha Stewart website. Now, if you want a cake with WOW factor, then this is your cake.

There are three components - the cake, the lemon curd and the meringue. The cake part to this recipe is a beautiful moist lemon cake which would be lovely on its own. But the real hero is the curd - Oh.My.God. It took every iota of will power not to stick my spoon in and eat the whole lot before it made it anywhere near the cake. So, so good! And while there are a few parts to it, it is not as daunting as you may think.

Lemon Meringue Cake

Step 1: The Cake
230g unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (or use salted butter and leave this out)
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease and flour two 23cm/9-inch round cake tins.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating to combine after each addition. Then beat in the vanilla and the lemon zest.

Add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until just combined.

Divide cake batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the tins.

Step 2: The Lemon Curd
NB: This makes about a cup of curd, so you can up the quantities (proportionately of course) if you need/want to make more - ie if you want extra layers or to gobble spoonfuls.

4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons

Prepare a bath of iced/very cold water ( I filled my small sink with cold water and it worked fine). Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a medium heatproof bowl. Add the lemon juice, butter and lemon zest. Place over a pot of simmering water and cook, whisking occasionally, until thick - this should take around 15 minutes. Transfer the bowl to the cold water bath and let it stand, stirring occasionally, until cool. The curd will thicken up during this time. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd (like a cartouche, but made from cling wrap). Transfer to refrigerator until completely cold, or you can make it in advance and leave it overnight.

Step 3: The Meringue
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
1.5 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine the sugar, egg whites, and lemon juice in the bowl of an electric mixer set over simmering water. Whisk until sugar is dissolved.

Transfer bowl to the mixer stand and beat the egg white mix on medium speed for 10 minutes. Increase to high speed and beat until stiff glossy peaks form.

A word, if I may, regarding the meringue. I cheated OK? I wanted to save a bit of time and I made a French style meringue, which is more what you'd use for pavs and baked pie toppings. The actual recipe uses a Swiss style meringue made over heat which is more stable and helps it to hold its texture longer. I found my meringue dissolved over time, a bit like bubbles in the bubble bath, which is why it doesn't look as fluffy and luscious as the picture on Martha's site.

While it still tasted great, I learnt a new lesson about the science of cooking: for meringue that won't be baked used either Swiss or Italian style for better stability and ultimately, better presentation.

Red applied a spot-weld type effect to the cake

Step 4: The Assembly:
Remove cakes from their tins and trim the tops so they are nice and even. Eat off-cuts for quality control purposes*. Then slice each cake in half. Alternate layers of cake with a topping of lemon curd, finishing with a cake layer. Refrigerate the cake for 1-2 hours

Once its had a chance to 'set', take it out and then smooth on a layer of meringue all over, and then slather on the rest of the meringue. To complete the cake, you will then need to brown the meringue with a blow torch.


* Optional :)

Next - Cookies and Cream Cheesecake of the non-baked variety.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Cupcake Bakery

Whizzing back to my den after a quick shoe-shopping trip in the CBD with Kaz, I was very pleasantly surprised to see The Cupcake Bakery veritably leap into my path on my way into Town Hall Station. I had heard of this establishment, but thought the only CBD location was at The Ivy and had no idea one was to be found in the bowels of the QVB/Galleries/Town Hall station rabbit warren. I had also twice spotted girls clutching The Cupcake Bakery bags on the train in the past week. My interested had been piqued. This was destiny. I had no choice but to step up to the counter.

I of course simply could not go past the red velvet cupcake, I was keen to try someone else’s red velvet so I could get some kind of comparison to my own (as that is the only other time I’ve ever tried it). I was momentarily tempted by a lemon meringue cupcake, but the red velvet won out. As for Red, his flavour preferences are simple: chilli or coffee. I spotted a chocolate chilli cupcake – topical as he had attempted to make his own at home during the week using a White Wings mix with chilli flakes added – ack! But then saw a much more enticing looking tiramisu. The tiramisu was in the ‘deluxe’ section, costing $4.50 but my Red Velvet was a standard flavour costing $3.50. Other flavours included vanilla, vanilla-choc, vanilla–strawberry, choc-choc, choc-peppermint, banana and carrot. Deluxe included strawberry swirl cheesecake, hummingbird, custard tumble and lemon meringue. I noticed they have a coffee and cupcake special for $5, and they sell maxi-cupcakes for $55 (standard) and $75 (deluxe). These are made using the Wilton 3D cupcake pan by the way – try Peters of Kensington for $39 each if you want to make your own.

The subjects, looking nervous no?

So the tiramisu was packed in a mini-cake box (a-ha, so that’s where the extra $1 goes) and mine into a paper bag. After a suitable grace period post-dinner I could wait no longer, so out came the red velvet cupcake primed for consumption.

The cupcakes were very nice, moist and tasty. The red velvet was taste-wise somewhat reminiscent of my own attempt; chocolatey without being chocolate – in fact it smelt more of chocolate than it tasted. Texture wise it was different from mine, so I suspect this was butter based whereas mine was shortening based. Overall, I preferred mine (all modesty aside of course), but this was nice and my only real gripe would be they are a bit light on the icing – which incidentally was cream cheese.

Hmm Red Velvet cake.

The tiramisu was also nice. We cut it in half and it would seem they cut into the top, insert some coffee concoction and pop the 'plug' back in. The description on the web states it’s a coffee flavoured cake with marscapone icing and dusted with chocolate. I would say its a vanilla cake with a coffee 'injection', coffee flavoured marscapone icing dusted with chocolate. Yummy all the same, but what is with these cupcake shops and not making the cake as advertised?

You can see what I mean about the coffee filling here, and also the coffee cream icing

Size wise they are slightly smaller than Sparkles and if you are an icing fan then Sparkles has almost as much icing as cupcake, but the quality of the actual cake at The Cupcake Bakery is two thumbs up from me. I'll be back!

The Cupcake Bakery
Shop 2-4
Lower Ground 2
QVB, Sydney

Also at 320B George St and 428 Oxford Street Paddington.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mudgee Magic - Part the Second

OK, so upon driving back into town we went firstly to Mudgee Gourmet. This is a little shop now located in the glorious old Mudgee Railway Station building. It stocks a range of locally made jams, jellies, chutneys, sauces, oils and....well, you get the idea. I was keen to visit here to get another jar of The Grape Alternative's Traminer and Mint Jelly (I had purchased some on a previous Mudgee trip). This time I also grabbed a Shiraz and Lemon Thyme Jelly also ($13 per jar). These jellies are delicious and would be just as much at home on a cheese platter as accompanying your next roast dinner. There is also a wonderful local art and craft co-op at the railway station too - I have added to my cobalt blue pottery collection on both visits here :).

And finally we tracked down the Mudgee Brewing Company, as I understand it it's a relatively new enterprise housed in a lovely old building on the main street (Church Street). Whilst none of us are beer drinkers, Kaz had to purchase some of the beers for a work colleague and also grabbed a six pack of Porter for her dark-beer-loving husband, so the rest of us thought it might be a good place to get the 'other halves' a token present for keeping the home fires burning while we galavanted around wineries for a weekend. I ummed and ahhhed about getting some for Red, finally getting him a 6 pack with 3 Spring Ale (a wheat beer I believe) and 3 Pale Ales. At $20 for a six pack I thought this was pretty good value for a boutique brewery. Red has tried one of each and given the Pale Ale the two thumbs up.

Then it was back to our cottage and a night of tragic 80's DVDs. I had briefly mentioned the Lindt Bunny earlier, a 1kg monstrosity that Doodah brought with her. While our minds were boggling at how we would consume such a beast (but boy, were we willing to give it a try) I hit on the idea of melting it down. Huzzah! And then Kaz had the brilliant idea of making hot chocolates with the melted bunny. Double huzzah!! So a night of pure liquid Lindt indulgence followed.

The next morning after packing ourselves back into the Tarago, we had two more stops to make on our way out of town.

Firstly we wanted to visit the High Valley Wine and Cheese Company. We all love our cheese and were very much looking forward to a bit of tasting and maybe some purchases. But (and you knew this was coming) we happened to time our arrival just as a minibus full of,er, older Australians pulled up. By the time we got inside they had crowded out the wine tasting counter and also the cheese tasting counter. When any of us tried to squeeze past we were met with tsks and mumblings about being pushy and rude. Perhaps if they stepped right up to the counter instead of standing right in the middle of the only thoroughfare we wouldn't have had to be so pushy and rude (not that we were). Anyway, I digress. Some of us did make it to the front of the wine counter only to be soundly ignored. Kaz made it to the front of the cheese tasting counter (she's wiley that one) only to be looked square in the eye and then soundly ignored.

Having worked in tourism marketing all of my career, I simply cannot understand places like this; why do they not set themselves up for groups better? I have had this experience at more than one cellar door - for some reason if you happen to arrive at the same time as a large group you get ignored. Its disappointing as our money is valid currency too. In this case I know ALL of us would have been keen to buy some cheese, instead we bought nothing and left disgruntled and disappointed. I surely hope that bus load made up for our lost sales.

Luckily we left on a high after a visit to Clearview Estate, our interest piqued by the promise of their sparkling shiraz (a favourite amongst our group) and also a liquer shiraz. Only a couple of us tasted, but we were quite impressed with the sparkling shiraz (yes Mum, there's a bottle put away for Christmas) and I also bought a bottle of their rose, a more typical and refreshing example of a rose compared to the different but still yummy Pieter van Gent.'s

And with that we were off and over the mountains and back to Sydney, husbands and children. Mudgee is a great place for a long weekend away, with lots of wineries and 'foodie' oriented places to visit - they also have quite a few markets at differing times of the month so check dates etc if you are planning a visit . It was relatively quiet at this time of year, but I liked it that way. Mudgee holds a wine festival every year in September which would be worth checking out.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mudgee Magic - Part the First

Two weekends ago I had the privilege of going on a Girl's Weekend Away with my closest girlfriends Kaz, LouLou, M1, Ali and Doodah, all of whom are also part of my beloved circle of guinea pigs (ie those who are un/lucky enough for me to try my experimental cooking out on). Our chosen destination was Mudgee, selected for its proximity to Sydney, because the travelling route is via the Blue Mountains and because of its growing reputation as a food and wine destination.

We hired a Tarago (very sexy I know) so we could all travel together and as LouLou is preggers with #2, we'd be able to conduct a self-drive winery tour over the weekend.

We departed Sydney by 11am and arrived at our lunch pit stop, Leura, around 12.30pm greeted by beautifully crisp mountain air (ie it was freezing). A brief amble up the road and we made our way into Leura Gourmet for lunch. This place is great, it has a large deli counter with all sorts of goodies such as cheeses, meats and salads for takeaway purchase, plus a large range of local produce as well - the rocky road and nougat caught our attention. Lunch was delicious and hearty. I had the lasagne, which had a very rich-looking and tasty pomodoro sauce. LouLou had the eggplant parmigiana which also featured the tomato sauce, Kaz let me try her corn fritters, very tasty and served with a yoghurt sauce and salad, M1 and Ali could be heard groaning their way through their steak sandwiches and Doodah was more than happy with her pumpkin soup. Meals average the $17-20 mark - a tad more than you'd expect to pay in your average Sydney cafe, but this is the Mountains, the food was obvoiously made in-house and the servings were generous. The amazing view from the back of the cafe through the floor to ceiling window is worth the few extra dollars alone. The only thing that really let this place down was the indifference of the wait staff. Perfectly efficient, but purely perfunctionary. After coffees and hot chocolate (I selflessly tried the chili and cinnamon hot chocolate - gives a nice bit of heat on the back of your tongue and I loved the cinnamon flavour in with the hot choc) we hit the streets for a bit of a browse. After an obligatory purchase from the lolly shop, and grabbing a cherry crumble from Bakehouse on Wentworth for later, it was back in the Tarago and off to Mudgee.

Our accommodation for the weekend was Protea Farm, specifically the Grevillea Cottage. We were all more than happy with this choice - open plan living area with kitchen/living room/dining table, three queen sized bedrooms (beds very comfortable incidentally) and two bathrooms. A lovely woodfire to keep us all warm (and for toasting marshmallows), pay tv and a DVD player. All the comforts of home really.

Saturday dawned and over breakfast we marked out our plan of attack. It went something like this:

The Olive Nest: one of a few olive and oil producers in the Mudgee region. They produce extra virgin olive oil and lime, lemon and garlic infused varieties. You can also get jars of olives, dressings and tapenades. I picked up a bottle of the lemon infused oil ($35 for 500ml) and black olive tapenade ($13 from memory) which I prefer over green as I love the saltiness however their green tapenade is one of the nicest I've tasted. You can also taste 1838 wines here.

Pieter van Gent: Entering through big wooden double doors you walk on a dirt floor past massive casks to get to the tasting counter. The girls behind the desk were just lovely and the wines were quite impressive, particularly the 'sticky' and dessert styles. PvG are probably best known for their Mudgee White Port, which a few of us bought to take home. I also bought a couple of bottles of their gorgeous 'Flowers of Florence' rose, quite unlike any other I've had with a surprising butterscotch-like taste. Yum!

Frog Rock: You've probably heard of this winery as it is available through bottle shops in 'the big smoke'. A nice cellar door with some food tastings as well as wine.

Blue Wren: This was our lunch stop, a large space housed in a big blue shed kept nice and warm with wood fires. The meals were priced in the $18-$25 range, food was hearty and servings were generous. We all shared some tasty garlic bread and then I opted for the pork and sage sausages with a potato, fennel and parsley salad and caramelised onion. The sausages were on the smaller side, but were tasty and accompanied by a generous amount of the salad which was just creamy enough and although I am not a huge fennel fan it provded a nice crunchy contrast against the soft potatoes and sausage. It was definitely a comforting and filling meal. The other popular dish at our table was a lemon roasted chicken which came with a chickpea salad. The chicken was served with the wing bone in, which sparked some lively table discussion about whether it should have been called a breast of chicken or a supreme of chicken. We washed all this down with a bottle of Blue Wren's Semillion Sauvignon Blanc which was one of the nicer whites we tried on the day.

After lunch time was ticking away and as the cellar doors and shops close at 4pm we had two stops to squeeze in before heading back to our cottage and a night of DVDs and consuming an alarmingly large Lindt bunny...

But I'll continue that in a separate post before this becomes War and Peace....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Comfort Food

Winter. This season was just made for cooking don't you think? The oven warms the house, the food is rich and filling, red wine, casseroles, pot pies, hot puddings...

Two of my favourite guinea pigs were over for dinner on Saturday night, the guest of honour being Miss J's godmummy whose birthday it had been a couple of days before. I decided I wanted to do comfort food - a casserole and a pudding. I confessed to Kaz that it had been a long time since I had last made a casserole (erm, around 12 years at a guess) as the last time hadn't been all I hoped for. My memories are hazy, but I recall that although it wasn't a complete disaster, it was not not the melt-in-your mouth, full-o-flavour experience you expect nay, CRAVE from a hearty casserole.

In anticipation of this momentous occasion, I had an emergency trip to Kmart the Thursday night prior. I had been tipped off they had a range of good quality cast iron/enamelled cookware at reasonable prices. I have a great collection of Corningware, as all brides should, but you can't use that on the stove top and I wanted this to be a one pot dish. So, I dashed in en route home and when I found the appropriate aisle was confronted with a selection of RED. Bah!!!!! Again with the red! But something compelled me to turn around and lo! there was a lovely oval dish on a gorgeous shade of cobalt blue for only $56. Bargain. Even more of a bargain when I got to the checkout and it scanned at $39. You gotta love Kmart.

So I was all set for Saturday night comfort food. I had sought out some suitable casserole contenders, but eventually settled on this. The main reason was I also hadn't ever cooked with leeks before. I know, I know - at my age that is a travesty but one shortly to be recitfied. I did tweak it a bit, as is my wont. As is all cooks wonts really.

Chicken Leek and Mushroom Casserole

8 chicken thigh pieces
1 tbs olive oil
250g rindless bacon rashers, coarsely chopped
2 leeks, pale section only, washed, ends trimmed, cut into thick slices
400g button mushrooms, halved
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbs plain flour
250ml (1 cup) salt-reduced chicken stock
250ml (1 cup) white wine
6 sprigs fresh thyme
125ml (1/2 cup) thickened cream
Zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 180°C. Heat a 3L (12-cup) capacity flameproof, ovenproof casserole dish over medium-high heat.

Add half the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes each side or until golden. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken, reheating the dish between batches. Use paper towels to wipe the dish to remove excess fat.

Add the bacon, leek, mushroom and garlic and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until well combined. Add the stock, wine, lemon zest and thyme, and bring to the boil.

Return the chicken to the dish. Cover and bake in oven for 1 hour or until the juices run clear when the chicken is pierced with a skewer.

Use tongs to transfer the chicken to a plate/s. Put dish with leek mixture back on the stove. Add the cream and bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 5 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.

Pour leek mixture over chicken to serve. I served with evil mashed potatoes and green beans.

I had always though casseroles to be very complex and time consuming. Not sure where I got that idea from - I was so wrong!

And so to dessert. I have been wanting to make a self-saucing pudding for aaaaaages. Given Kaz's husband Chocolate Crackle (long story) is not a chocolate fan (ironic, huh) I thought I'd avoid the obvious and go for a caramel flavour. The following recipe is kind of a melange of a few, so I can't really credit anyone but me!!

Caramel Self-Saucing Pudding

3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups self-raising flour
100g butter, melted
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
5 tbs golden syrup
1 tbs cornflour
1 1/2 cups boiling water

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a 1.5 litre ovenproof dish.

Combine 1/4 cup of the brown sugar and all of the flour in a bowl. Add the melted butter, egg, milk and 3 tbs of the golden syrup and stir until combined. Spoon into greased dish.

Combine the remaining 1/2 cup of brown sugar and cornflour. Sprinkle over the pudding mixture. (Note: if you are having a dinner party you could do up to this stage beforehand and finish off with the next step while you eat your mains)

Combine boiling water with the remaining 2 tbs of golden syrup. Pour over the top of the pudding mixture and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. I served with double cream but runny cream would be yummo also.

As this is really so easy to make I have no choice but to expand my self-saucing repertoire forthwith. And I might add while I am fixated on self-saucing, my Mother is currently obsessed with steamed puddings. In particular, a rhubarb steamed pudding Fast Eddie made on Better Homes and Gardens a few weeks back. Her first attempt I wasn't privvy to, but apparently resulted in quite tasty, but very hard 'steamed rock cakes'. Part of me indulged in a little schadenfreude at this, given her usual lack of modesty when it comes to her cooking accomplishments, but I love rhubarb and I love puddings so I am hoping she succeeds next time.

Up next: I know, I lied and this wasn't the Lemon Meringue Cake recipe so I am doing that next. Promise. It's worth the wait though....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Things I covet:

Anything with cupcakes on it - exhibit a, exhibit b and exhibit c.

Cobalt blue kitchen stuff - like all of this.

Babushka dolls - like this, oh and this and what about these?

Oh and feijoas. The Aussies haven't cottoned onto them yet so you never see them and when you do they are at extortionate prices. But Mum and I have a plan......


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sparkle Cupcakery, Surry Hills

I work in Surry Hills, which seems to be a bit of an eating hotspot these days, and was excited to learn that a cupcake bakery had opened up not far from my office. I say not far, but anyone who has ever had to make the hike from Elizabeth Street up Foveaux Street to Crown knows that The Hill of Death lies between you and your desired destination. However, I wasn't letting that get between me and (hopefully) a good cupcake.

Before departure, I had a peruse of their website - pretty snazzy, with a run down of flavours and what day of the week they were available. I mentally made my selection and off I went.

After oxygen therapy upon conquering THoD, I spotted my prey and in I went to be greeted very chirpily by the young man behind the counter. The shop is exactly as you see on the website, I say this as I thought there’d be more to it in the flesh but no, not a huge amount of space. Given this is the 'trendy' part of Surry Hills, I wasn't surprised that there were lots of 'ladies who lunch' types in here, especially as you can sip a champers with your cupcakes.

So I perused the window display and made my selection - a lavender and honey and a coconut ice. They were placed into a stylish paper bag and whilst he was doing this I spotted a printout email on the counter from a corporate customer expressing their unhappiness. I noted this for two reasons. 1) I was about to fork over $9 for two cupcakes, so I was hoping this person had unfounded complaints and 2) I organise all our work functions, so always like to know who is worth their salt especially local suppliers. So regardless of whether or not you know who your customer is, its not a good idea to leave such notes out in plain view.

So, to the point of my visit. The cupcakes look nice, a big mound of frosting with a dot on top, it seems they (the dots) are colour coded according to flavour.

Lavender and honey – listed as a ‘soft-scented lavender cake with creamy honey frosting.’ As soon as I opened the bag I could smell the lavender. Maybe even a little too powerfully. The cupcake itself was a little on the dry side. The frosting is nice, but I am not detecting much honey. So, I take a mouthful of icing on its own. Hmmm, very fragrant but not really honey, more a lavender taste. So I take a mouthful of just cake – no real lavender flavour at all., In fact, while I do not have the resources to break down components, I strongly suspect it’s a vanilla cupcake with lavender icing, not a lavender cupcake with honey icing as the website states. A tad disappointing.

So, onto the coconut. Coconut ice – ‘tropical shredded coconut cake topped with coconut ice.’ So, this is meant to be a coconut cupcake with coconut icing. Check on the icing, but the cake is not coconut and this is obvious - there are no shreds evident in the cake at all and it simply doesn't taste of coconut. And unlike almost every coconut cake I've had in the past, this cupcake is very dry and crumbly, and is very difficult to eat.

For me, $4.50 for a cupcake is getting up there and possibly amongst the pricier cupcake offerings in Sydney. The cake itself seems more miss than hit. They are generous with the frosting and have some really interesting flavours on offer – it would be great though, if the finished product tasted of what was actaully described on the menu.

Sparkle Cupcakery
132 Foveaux Street
Surry HIlls
02 9361 0690

PS pics are coming as soon as I can get them off my phone.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Chai Latte Butter Cake

I have been doing lots of reading and what I find fascinating is the more reading you do about baking the more you realise it is absolutely all about science. And once you get your head around the basic principles you can cut loose and experiment more.

I had a girly get-together on the horizon and I decided I wanted to make a cake for grown-ups, a spice cake. I searched, but couldn't find a recipe that I liked and so decided to make a variant of the yummy butter cake I'd made for Miss J's birthday. One of my beloved 'guinea pigs', LouLou, had given me some lovely teas for my birthday, so I thought I'd use the choc chip chai one to spice things up. Some recipes I've seen use a powdered version of a chai mix, but I decided to err on the side of caution and instead infuse the tea in the milk used in the recipe - I thought that was kind of smart!

Knowing how much batter this makes, I made a half quantity and used a 20cm square tin. I layered this cake with some of the butter cream. Oh, and you can adjust the amount of chai you use to your own taste - mine was about medium spice level I think.

So, just in case you missed it... here goes with variant included:

Chai Butter Cake

1 cup of butter (room temperature)
2 cups of sugar
4 eggs (room temperature)
3 cups of sifted self-raising flour
1 cup of whole milk infused with around 1 tablespoon chai
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease and flour 3 x 20cm/8 inch cake tins, or whatever you choose to use.

Using a mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream for about 7 minutes. Add eggs one at a time. Beat well after each egg is added.

Alternate adding flour and milk beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla to mix until just mixed.

Pour batter in to tin/s. and then carefully drop the tin/s onto counter several times to ensure release of any air bubbles. This will help you have a more level cake (nice tip!).Bake for 25 - 30 minutes (depending on your oven) until done. Cool in pans for 5 - 10 minutes. Remove and immediately wrap each layer in plastic wrap to seal in moisture. Cool completely on wire racks. Once cooled, you are ready to ice /assemble your cake.

I debated about what flavour icing to use.. I think if I'd had cinnamon at the time that might have won, but in the end I decided on a coffee butter cream which is where the latte part comes in. Ultimately the coffee actually did work well with the chai spices and I would use this with it again.

Next up... (be still my heart) Lemon Meringue Cake

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Best Butter Cake Ever!

When Miss J's first birthday was approaching I of course wanted to flex my new found baking muscle, puny as it was. I knew I wanted to make her a butterfly cake and that I wanted the cake itself to be simple. To be honest I was more excited about the prospect of doing wonderful things with buttercream than the actual cake.

I can't say I'd ever made a butter cake before - vanilla cupcakes yes, but those attempts had left room for improvement. So I wanted to find a new recipe, one that was tried and true, so like all good Gen X cooks, turned to the Internet to help me. It was on Bakerella's blog that I found the recipe. Her post about it can be found right here, although she calls it a yellow cake - same same right? Americans sure love their cakes layered and I've found a lot of their cake recipes make a fairly large quantity of batter. This recipe made enough to fill a lamington tin (I think that's what it was) with enough left over for a mini-cake tin. Ordinarily it will fill 3 x 20 cm cake tins.

I made the cake the day before and covered the tin in cling wrap. It was beautiful the next day. The key to this cake being so moist and yummy is creaming the butter and sugar for a loooong time - I set mine to cream while I get all the other stuff measured and done. So, here it is...

Best Butter Cake Ever

1 cup of butter (room temperature)
2 cups of sugar
4 eggs (room temperature)
3 cups of sifted self-raising flour
1 cup of whole milk (room temperature)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease and flour 3 x 20cm/8 inch cake tins, or whatever you choose to use.

Using a mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream for about 7 minutes. Add eggs one at a time. Beat well after each egg is added.

Alternate adding flour and milk beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla to mix until just mixed. Pour batter in to tin/s. and then carefully drop the tin/s onto counter several times to ensure release of any air bubbles. This will help you have a more level cake (nice tip!).

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes (depending on your oven) until done. Cool in pans for 5 - 10 minutes. Remove and immediately wrap each layer in plastic wrap to seal in moisture. Cool completely on wire racks. Once cooled, you are ready to ice /assemble your cake.

OK so Miss J's big day was the hottest Sydney day all summer, so I had no choice but to refrigerate it after icing it. I have since read a great tip that says to use vegetable shortening instead of butter as it doens't melt as easily (also makes the icing whiter, better for adding colour). It was my very first attempt at icing anything big with buttercream and despite my fears of it all going horribly wrong, it actually came up kind of cute.

Hmmm, I think it looked better in real life. Anyway, it tasted great, so that's what really matters right? I even overheard my Mother saying 'she makes a good cake', which is the my-Mother-the-most-immodest-cook-ever equivalent of an Academy Award.

Next up... I made a variation! Chai Latte Butter Cake.

Friday, May 8, 2009

'Authentic' Red Velvet Cake

This was my first big-time experiment. I was hosting a High Tea for my girlfriends for my birthday and decided now was the time to give this a go. I had been wanting to try it ever since Ouisa uttered those immortal words 'it looks like roadkill' in Steel Magnolia's.

I wanted to find the most authentic recipe I could so I did lots of googling and reading and funnily enough it seems every Southern mom or grandma has a version, all of which I have no doubt qualify as authentic. So, it was not as easy as I thought. I did find that most recipes purporting to be authentic used shortening, not butter so I decided to give such a recipe a go. I have to say that I think this does really make a difference, particularly to the texture.

The credit for this goes to RSteve from a professional chef forum - Chef Talk. Thank you, whereever you are! RSteve says to use shortening not butter, as butter has too much water content - this maybe why the texture is different from a normal chocolate/butter cake.

Red Velvet Cake
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (Copha is the closest in Australia - make sure its softened but not melted!)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 1/2 cups sugar
60 grams red food coloring
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda sprinkled over 1 tbsp. vinegar

Prepare 2 x 23cm/9inch round tins. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.

Sift flour, salt & cocoa together. Add to the mix alternately with buttermilk. Beat after each addition.

Stir in baking soda and vinegar mixture. Add food colour (be careful here, I wasn't and you'd be amazed where red coloured cake mix can end up).

Bake for 30 minutes.

I actually made one large cake in a 20cm pan. Obviously I cooked it longer, but it still came out great. I used two of the little bottles of food colouring, which was still short but gave it good colour. An extra bottle would probably make it REALLY red, and good gels or powders would probably also make a more vibrant red. Regardless, I was happy with the redness factor for my first go. I cooled it in the tin and covered it overnight ready to be iced on the day.

Now, almost as conflicting as an authentic red velvet recipe, is what icing to use. Cream cheese is the consensus, but many Southeners claim a kind of boiled icing is the traditional type to use. Many also put a coating of pecan nuts on the finished cake as well. I felt the boiled icing was too much work, so opted for a cream cheese one. I used the recipe from the Crabapple Bakery cookbook.

I cut the cake in half and levelled the top - always a good idea, mainly because it gives the cook a chance to sample their efforts ;) . Here is what it looked like when I sliced it in half.

Nice swirled effect hey! Sorry about the bad lighting. So, a good layer of icing in the middle, place the second layer on and then ice with the remainder. I had tinted mine slightly, to look a bit girly, but here is the finished result

And upon digging in:

Yummmmmm!!! Don't expect your usual chocolate cake, the texture and flavour is different from anything else I have had before. Its chocolatey, but not a chocolate cake. It looked like it should be dry, but it was really quite moist. You NEED the cream cheese frosting, it cuts through the denseness of the cake and makes the experience complete.
I will be making this again.
Next up... the most perfect butter cake EVER

Pink Rocky Road

I just thought I'd note this idea down, as its a nice simple one for a little girl's party (and big girls' parties too ;) ) but looks and tastes yummy.

Take 400g white chocolate (I used melts, but I find melts always give a watery taste when they are melted and then reconstituted - I'd suggest using Cadbury Dream), and melt it! I confess, I melt all my chocolate in the microwave. You just need to make sure the melting recepticle is microwave safe (obviously) and completely dry, take it in 30sec increments, always give a good stir. Stop zapping when there are still a few lumps left as they will come out when you give it a final stir - any longer and it could be bad news. I find it usually take no more than 1 1/2 - 2 mins tops.

Add a few drops of pink food colouring - how much is up to how pink you want it. Stir in some desicated coconut. Chop up marshmallows and red snakes or raspberry lollies or turkish delight (or some of each if you really want to) - throw that in too, and mix so everything is nice and coated.

Put into lined tin, and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours until set. Then chop into bite size pieces.

Et voila!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

OK so I guess its about time I actually posted a recipe. But first a small disclaimer: with my first few experimental recipes I, of course, did not take too many pictures so unfortunately there aren't many 'step-by-step' type scenarios. I have some of the finished product though.

I am going to try and put up the results of my experimentation in rough chronological order, so this sees me begin with Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing. I was inspired to try this out based on the gorgeous cookies given as favours at my very good friend Kaz's kitchen tea (I have a suspicion they came from Polka Dot cakes who do gorgeous cookies as well as amazing cakes) and also by one of the ladies from my online Mother's Group who does amazing decorated cookies also.

I used the Joy of Baking recipe - this website is great as it gives you quite a detailed background about the method before the recipe, which I've found most useful.

Sugar Cookies:

1/2 cups plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (approx. 227 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a separate bowl combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

With either an electric mixer or hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (at least 3 minutes).

Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until combined.

Add the flour mixture and beat until you have a smooth dough.

Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in cling wrap. Refrigerate for about one hour or until firm enough to roll.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees, with the rack in centre of oven. Line two baking sheets with baking paper.

Remove one half of the chilled dough from the fridge and on a lightly floured surface roll out to a thickness of 1 cm. Keep turning the dough as you roll, making sure the dough does not stick to the bench. Cut out desired shapes using a lightly floured cookie cutter and transfer cookies to the prepared baking sheet. Place the baking sheets with the unbaked cookies in the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes to chill the dough which prevents the cookies from spreading and losing their shape while baking (this is optional, they seem to turn out OK if you skip this step but I may have just been lucky).

Bake cookies for about 10 minutes (depending on size) or until they are brown around the edges. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. Then you can ice them if you wish. Makes about 36 cookies.

Royal Icing:
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups icing sugar, sifted (note, use the pure stuff, not icing mixture)

Using your electric mixer or hand mixer, beat the egg whites with the lemon juice. Add the icing sugar and beat on low speed until combined and smooth. This makes about 3 cups.

At this stage you can colour the icing if you wish, or divide between bowls to make different colours. Make sure you cover the icing if you won't use it straight away as it will harden.

To make the icing thicker, add more icing sugar. To thin it out, add water.

After making these, I found some awesome royal icing tips on the Cake Journal site. Her step by step tutorials are very good and easy to follow. Essentially, the trick is to use a thicker icing to pipe an outline, then use a thinned down icing to 'flood' or fill in the cookie. She also gives great tips on icing the cookies with fondant.

So as you can see on my first attempt, I used a thicker icing and basically slathered it on. I found some lovely packets of 'fairy' sprinkles at my local supermarket which I added for that touch of, well, fairiness (they were for a little girls 1st birthday party). I made some more in a butterfly shape for Miss J's 1st birthday in February, using the outline and flood technique but unfortunatley no pics. They still weren't perfect, but sure tasted good!

The biscuits themselves are a very nice, very more-ish plain biscuit. I could definitely eat lots of them. The icing is faintly lemony and a nice addition. Upon tasting my first one it brought back some vivid 'taste memories'. I soon figured out that what I had made here was the home-made version of one of my all-time childhood favourites, Iced Animal Biscuits. D'oh!! All this time lamenting I couldn't get them here in Australia and all they were was simply a sugar biscuit with royal icing! No longer will I go without.

Next up... 'Authentic' Red Velvet Cake

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

You put the lime in the coconut

Those who know me, know that 99% of the time I choose citrus flavored sweet stuff over chocolate. I do love it when people combine both, so I don't have to choose, like those lime Cointreau truffles you get at DJs, but I digress. I used to suck lemons as a kid. No, really...I used to ACTUALLY suck the lemons. Hmmm. And one of my favourite combos is lime and coconut.

So today at work we had one of those farewell morning tea things. I didn't attend but our lovely office manager brought me in some of the cake. There were two, a tiramisu looking concoction that she had swooned over (she is a bit of a foodie I might add). It had these gorgeous toffeed nuts on top. Yum. but 'twas the second one that made my heart sing. Without doubt, the yummiest coconut cake I've ever had. Oh lordy me, I really can't describe how good it was. And yes, lime was there too - lovely flecks of rind through the lightest coconut cake I've ever had, but it was present in some other way too - and not in the delicious cream cheese icing either. I had a hunch as to who may be responsible for it and yes, its Yael's Cakes of Distinction. And its a lime syrup that's responsible for the lime yumminess factor.

I have a good recipe for coconut cake at home, so standby for experimentation! But in the meantime if someone offers you a chance to taste Yael's lime and coconut, do not walk, RUN as fast as you can to secure your slice of heaven.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Blue is obviously not the new black

OK, so a few years back kitchen appliances started coming out in a range of 'fashion colours'. Glossy reds, deep blues, shiny black - oh and for a few dollars more you could pay for no colour at all and get brushed chrome or stainless steel.

Awesome - I have aways loved cobalt blue and after scrimping together some hard earned cash, taking possession of a few gift vouchers and plotting my attack for 10% off sale time, I very excitedly went along to DJs and purchased my pride and joy - a shining beauty - my Sunbeam Mixmaster in gorgeous cobalt blue. Those who know me, know I have quite a few splashes of this shade about the house. I planned, in time, to get a few more items in this glorious shade to match, and make my kitchen a shrine to deepest blue.

So, yeah, well time got away. I look around now... no more cobalt blue. Everywhere I look is red, red, RED. Some cream, black (of course) and pastels. All of which are lovely, but why-o-why did they all conspire against me and stop making things in cobalt blue? Why?

My Mixmaster will now have to stand proud and tall, alone in the corner, and wave the flag for all the appliances gone before in that beautiful shade of blue.

No, pastel blue will NOT do.



Wednesday, April 8, 2009


I am wanting to make Nigella's Chocolate Fudge Cake for a Good Friday get together at Mum's place but I was a bit put off by some of the ingredients. In fact, this is a common reason why I haven't ever made any of her recipes yet - she seems to use a lot of things unheard of in these parts, or at least hard to get a hold of, which usually = very expensive. I'd always been worried that substituting ingredients in recipes, you lose some kind of special flavour or texture or chemical reaction that only those things can impart, but I am feeling brave so decided it was time to get over this, and to do some research for suitable Antipodean substitutes particularly on the sugar front....

So here are my findings, thought they might be helpful -

Muscovado sugar can be substituted with dark brown sugar
Golden caster sugar = raw caster sugar
Demerera sugar = raw sugar

and a few more definitions just in case:

icing mixture = icing sugar + cornflour
pure icing sugar = powdered sugar to the Yanks and is just that - powdered sugar, nothing more
granulated sugar = plain old white sugar

I also discovered that the closest thing to corn oil is grapeseed oil as they both have a relatively neutral flavour. I'd say that canola oil or light olive oil would be OK too, just as long as the oil doesn't have a strong flavour.

Chocolate Fudge Cake here I come!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

In the beginning...

Me...blogging...about food. What a shock!

I guess its not a huge surprise given my love of food and eating (which is absolutely obvious if you have ever met me) and also my love of writing and generally being verbose.

This blog is really my way of chronically my journey from complete cooking/baking novice to hopefully something better and there will probably be a few reviews along the way as well and general sharing of anything interesting I dig up.

My particular penchant is baking, something I think is genetic as my Nana and Mum were/are both fantastic bakers. Whilst I was on maternity leave recently I found that my dormant baking gene had been activated and so my family and friends have been subjected to my various experiments thus far. I will add details of them here when I get some pictures. Oh, and on that -I have been delving into the world of baking, cooking, cupcake and cake blogs, and wow there are some amazing and very informative ones out there. Equally as impressive is the photographic skills of some of these guys and girls. Well you won't find that here. I am a really bad photographer but hey, who knows, I could get better at that too as time goes by. Here's hoping.