Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chocolate cake with apples & hazelnuts

"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."

Abraham Lincoln

There are many quotes pertaining to the shortness of our lives and the importance of actually living it rather than rushing through. Whilst I am aware of the swiftness of life, the birthday signposts reminding us that we have driven through another year of our unknown length of existence, I also feel that it can be enough if we just remember to look out the window once in a while and take in the sights and experiences around us.

As I have gotten older I have learnt to slow down and be present in each moment; the person I become is largely tied to what I experience in life. The friends I spend time with, the loved ones whom I laugh with and the daily occurrences I encounter and remember all contribute to the richness of my life.

I will admit that as much as I try to slow down, there are days that I just seem to be on auto drive, much like Adam Sandler's character in Click. Some days flow into each other like water into sand, hard to recall and washed away with each lap of the wave. It is not often, apart from momentous occasions such as Christmas, births and weddings, that I can remember what I was doing on a particular day a year ago. Today happens to be one of those days.

Exactly one year ago, in a different house, in a different life, I decided to keep a record of the food I made to enable my husband to see exactly what I had cooked for him. Thinking inside the square I began to simply write a text document, my husband, who prefers to look rather than read, suggested I create a blog.

When I created this blog I had but a vague idea of what I wanted to do with it. As I began to explore the blogs of others, and to see a glimpse into the lives of people who enjoyed food as much as I did, it encouraged me to spend more time on something that brought me joy. 1 year later I am even more excited by new tastes and new recipes to try and hopefully love.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 35mins. My skewer came out clean at 35mins, however upon eating it was still not cooked, I would suggest cooking it for another 10mins.
total: 55mins.

taste: 4/5. This cake is very light and not dense at all. I think it is for this reason that the apples seem to distract from the chocolate rather than compliment. Their firm tartness dominates the light, fluffy chocolate cake and crunchy hazelnuts. The cake is also not very sweet; I liked it but I didn't love it. However I gave it a 4 as two big boys fawned over it and had seconds and thirds.

would I make it again: No - prefer flourless cakes to be dense and muddy.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pear fritters

"Life is short, and it is up to you to make it sweet."

Sarah Louise Delaney

A spur of the moment afternoon treat.

3/4 cup caster sugar
1/2tsp cinnamon
Olive oil for frying
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
2 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
1tbs caster sugar
1 William pear thinly sliced
plain flour for dusting

Heat enough olive oil in a fry pan to deep fry fritters. Mix caster sugar and cinnamon together and set aside.
Whisk self raising flour, milk, eggs, vanilla and extra sugar until smooth.
Dust pear in plain flour and then dunk in wet mixture. Place in oil and fry for 3minutes or until golden, make sure you turn them over.
Lift pear out with a slotted spoon and toss in cinnamon sugar (I would place on a paper towel for a second to absorb extra oil so it doesn't soak up so much sugar.) Serves 4 when pears are thinly sliced - makes about 12 fritters.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 3mins.
total: 11mins.

taste: 3.5/5. Too much sugar! Dropping them in the sugar straight out of the pan had them soaking the granules up like a sponge. However, once scraping off a good majority of sugar they were much nicer. I would recommend slicing the pear thickly though as it was lost in the doughy sweetness, some couldn't even taste it at all and thought they were simply eating donuts.

would I make it again: No - for me to deep fry it has to be freakin awesome and these were merely nice.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Baked chocolate cream with ginger-poached pears

The wind keeps us trapped inside, throwing knives of cold rain and stirring up whirlwinds of chilling air.

We braved the war once for laundry but were defeated as we hurried back into our sanctuary, shaking the wet debris from our shoulders and hoods. We covered every inch of our skin with layers of clothing, wrapping ourselves in a cocoon of warmth.

Some hours passed before my feet eventually regained feeling and I was able to move from the nest I had huddled myself into on our couch. On days like these my husband amuses himself by playing his Xbox and my dog sleeps until the weather subsides and his chances of a walk improve. I strangely didn't feel like reading, my stormy weather habit. In a few hours we were to be picking up our friend from the airport, something I was not looking forward to in this climate. Bad weather tends to add many minutes to car trips, so I thought it best if I started on dessert now, rather than risk insufficient time later.

These night shots are killing me - if you have tips on how to get decent night shots please feel free to pass them onto me :).

ease: 3/5. Multi components and time consuming.
prep time: 2hours & 5mins.
cooking time: 35mins.
total: 2hours & 40mins.

taste: 3.5/5. Wowza this is a heavy hit of chocolate. I don't know why but it seems that the older I get the less I can handle deep, super rich chocolate without drinking litres of water and feeling a little ill. The pears taste exactly like the Stone's green ginger wine, so I suggest that you taste the wine first before poaching the pears in it. The chocolate is like a fudgy cake batter, full of dark chocolate headiness. The pear does help somewhat to cut through the sweetness with its juicy ginger-ness, but the chocolate is still the most overwhelming flavour. Adaptations I made:
  • omitted crystallised ginger, the pears were already very ginger-y
  • used three 250ml ramekins - no one was able to finish their serving
  • I peeled the pears - I think it may just be an error in the recipe that it doesn't state this step

would I make it again: No - too much chocolate for me to handle.


Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon & lemon cream

Sunday mornings are magical.

There are no obligations - I can truly spend the day as I wish. Sundays usually begin with an extended stay in bed, followed by a leisurely decision regarding what to eat for breakfast. Pancakes are normally favoured, but I felt like something savoury and healthy. Our 10am brains chose scrambled eggs with a twist.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 3mins.
total: 8mins.

taste: 3.5/5. The tangy cream with hints of fragrant time (1 sprig) and citrus overpowered the scrambled eggs. Along with the salty, smoked salmon the scrambled eggs were truly lost amongst its more aggressively flavourful accompaniments. I did not include spring onion as I had none, I also added 1tbs of cream to the eggs.

would I make it again: No - Ryan didn't like it enough to warrant a second try.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Apple crumble

An apple a day keeps the doctor away...

As a child, apples were not a fruit I enjoyed eating. They were in fact the fruit I dreaded seeing most upon opening my small cobalt plastic lunch box; too cumbersome to eat and plain boring. In an effort to make the apple more appealing my mother would tell me that famous saying, as she knew of my aversion to doctors she thought it might work. It didn't.

As an adult I occasionally began to grasp for the apple nestled in amongst the food tray. I always wondered though why the apple was chosen as the advocate for health. I would think the strawberry more appropriate, they have more Vitamin C than apples and not only do they help to reduce plaque, supposedly they also help to whiten teeth. Strawberries are also well liked by children, more so than apples, so perhaps the strawberry should be the new doctor-deterring fruit.

Ramblings aside, apples have been welcomed back into my diet with arms wide open, with bouquets of flowers and towering masses of blimp-like foil balloons. I would attribute their return on account of my burgeoning interest in cooking. In raw form, I may reach for another fruit instead of the apple, but when choosing one to cook, the apple would always be picked first. There is just something so safe and comforting about apples, like being wrapped in a blanket by your grandmother whilst she makes a fire to toast marshmallows in her cosy living room. With each mouthful I am filled with warmth, and a familiar sense of fuzzy serenity.

If I were only allowed to make one apple dish, it would be chosen due to its flavour, ease and ability to comfort as well as it being something I would want seconds of. With those standards to meet, hands down it would have to be the humble but timeless Apple Crumble. This particular apple crumble was the first made-from-scratch dessert I attempted. And although I have flirted with a few other recipes I have kept returning to this one for its simplicity, ease and deliciousness. I'm sure almost everyone has an apple crumble dish they make time and time again.

I am not a fan of pairing something cold, such as ice cream, with something hot - it is jarring to my system. I prefer dollops of pure double cream, sometimes if I feel decadent enough, clotted cream.

ease: 5/5.
prep time
: 23mins. I am not gifted in the art of peeling, it takes me a while.
cooking time: 50mins.
total: 1hour & 13mins.

taste: 4.5/5. Sweet, cozy satisfaction. The sweet, crunchy and almost chewy crumble gives way to tender, tart apples spiced with cinnamon and hints of nutmeg and peppery cloves. The sweetness, tartness and spiciness meld warmly in your mouth and leave you wanting to forgo the plate and help yourself to the baking dish, cleanly licked spoon gripped tightly in your hand. This is by no means a complex or beautiful dish, it is just pure home-style crumble that satisfies.

I cut my apples according to the instructions this time around, and they didn't reach that oozy on-the-brink-of-liquefaction stage that creates a sticky, syrup like sauce which I love. This was probablt on account of them being a little too thick so they didn't get to that almost transparent stage. I would recommend slicing each half into 8 slices rather than 6 - 16 slices for a whole apple.

I also cut down the butter to around 200g.

I find that this dish lacks spicing as written so I always use 11/2tsp cinnamon, 1/2tsp nutmeg, and 1/4-1/2tsp ground cloves which is still subtle but noticeable.

would I make it again: Yes - I think this is the sixth time I have made it, it shall be in my repertoire for years to come.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Butterscotch apple cake

I awoke to the soft whirring of the ducted heating, beginning its first shift to warm the house. I touch my icy nose, a reminder that it is no longer summer.

It is not long before I hear the soft padded feet prancing towards my room to wake me for breakfast. Greeted by wet kisses and doggie breath I turn to my partner, still clinging to the last few minutes of sleep as I wrap myself in clothing to serve up breakfast for bipeds and quadrupeds alike.

Stepping outside onto dew covered wood I wade through morning mist to scatter seeds into bird feeders and to unlock the squeaky gate to allow Yoshi entry to our dampened garden. The mornings are always cold, and most often wet. Socks, knits and sometimes scarves are needed, however, the afternoon heralds the next Act. Sunshine evaporates all droplets of water and bestows a gentle heat upon my head. I find myself shedding layers like a rose drops its petals. It is during these bright afternoons that I like to do my baking most.

Gazing at the leaves burning red and pale ochre leads me to think of perhaps Autumn's signature fruit, the apple. Without knowing I have planned two dishes for this week that both seem to include gingerbread spices, it could be that Autumn subconsciously causes me to crave ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and nutmeg.

ease: 4/5. A little time consuming.
prep time: 30mins. I included making both the cake batter and butterscotch sauce.
cooking time: 1hour.
total: 1hour & 30mins.

taste: 2.5/5. This was overwhelmingly sweet for me, my mouth was filled with blood-sugar spiking butterscotch sauce and brown sugar. Unfortunately the apple was not only sunken (if anyone knows why the apples didn't remain clearly visible as the original recipe shows, please let me know) but it was lost in a sea of sugar. Everyone had around three tablespoons followed by glasses of water, such a shame.

would I make it again: No - much too sweet and sugary for me.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Plum gingerbread cakes

"And I had but one penny in the world. Thou should’st have it to buy gingerbread."
– William Shakespeare, Love’s Labours Lost

He looks at me with Smartie eyes, his bow tie soft and red. I could smell his scent wafting through the dome glass, enticing and familiar. Hints of ginger, with traces of cinnamon and nutmeg and the tiniest suggestion of cloves and allspice fill my breath as I close my eyes and sigh happily.

Oh Gingerbread man, how I love to eat you piece by piece.

Gingerbread never ceases to bring me happiness - either in the form of a person, in a slice of cake or enveloped in a cookie, I will eat them all. The gingerbread pancakes I made a while back still linger on my taste buds, I yearned for the gorgeous spices and decided it was time for the gingerbread to return. Tonight I am cooking for my husband and a friend so I wanted my gingerbread a little more refined for company. And as our friend loves plums I thought this arrangement would be perfect.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 15mins.
cooking time: 15mins.
total: 30mins.

taste: 4.5/5. Deep, sweet, sticky gingerbread gives way to the juicy, tart plum, soft and round. Ryan wolfed them down in 4 seconds flat when they came straight out of the oven. I added some allspice, nutmeg and cloves, about 1/4tsp each. My only complaint was that they fell apart when taken out of the moulds and the plum sunk unlike the photos of the original recipe.

would I make it again: Yes.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Pork chops with apples, pears & maple syrup

"The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions -- the little soon forgotten charities of a kiss or smile, a kind look, a heartfelt compliment, and the countless infinitesimal of pleasurable and genial feeling."

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor

I find happiness if I chose to find it.

Days may pass where the pink camellias flowing onto my balcony remain unnoticed, unappreciated. And then one day, I will freeze time, slow my breath, and open my eyes to the world. In that moment my soul is gladdened by the camellia's beauty, their existence acknowledged.

There are many moments in my life where I stop, whether willingly or unexpectedly, and I am suddenly filled with happiness, realisation or love. Whether it is noticing the way the sunlight dances through the burning leaves in Autumn, or catching the moment before my dog begins to yawn, or even perhaps becoming aware of the softness of my husbands lips with an unexpected kiss. I am often so busy with life that I forget to slow down and live, to notice the little things, the big events, and everything that happens in between.

More often than not it is the little things that I value and that matter the most in the end. A small gesture, such as an unexpected compliment from a stranger, can bring happiness not only in the moment, but whenever thought upon.

I feel that the food blogging community is filled with the kindest of strangers, whose compliments on the food you create or recreate, or the photographs or sentences you string along, are always sweet natured and quick to bring forth a beaming smile when read. I am taking this moment to return thanks to all I have not met, and do not know, but who spent time brightening my day with a small comment. Thank you very, very much.

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

taste: 4.5/5. I first made this a week ago, but as it was so late I did not bother to post it. However, my husband loved it so much he requested it again and I made it a week later.
"The juicy pork gives way to tart apple with hints of smooth caramelised sweetness (my husbands words re-worded)."
I made the following adaptations for 1person:
  • I used chilli flakes
  • 1tbs lemon juice
  • 2tbs apple cider
  • 1 shallot in place of the onion
  • 2tbs maple syrup
  • 1/2 pear and 1/2 apple
  • 1/2tsp Rosemary
  • 1tsp sage (I snip my herbs with scissors straight into the pan)
  • I continued to cook the pork with the fruit on the stove top for 10mins instead of placing it in the oven.
would I make it again: Yes - already have.


Chocolate macaroon delice

Waste not, want not.

Nothing saddens me more than food spoiling and having to be thrown away. In the beginning my disorganisation led to a lot of waste, which forced me to plan in advance what I would make each week in an effort to avoid buying superfluous produce. This has been effective however certain issues arise such as having leftover egg whites that you did not plan to use.

With bowls of viscous fluid I searched for a recipe that would use them all up without creating other leftovers. This recipe was not planned, and in a way, it was extra special because of its spontaneous creation.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 12mins and 1hour refrigeration.
total: 1hour and 32mins.

taste: 4/5. Ryan loved this but for me the chocolate and cream was incredibly overpowering and dehydrating. I could feel my heart accelerating with each bite; I actually only used the ganache to fill and top the delice, as I ended up with more than needed and felt the chocolate icing wasn't necessary. I also used a smaller tray, I would not recommend the size they stipulate as you will end up with very thing layers and too much ganache.

would I make it again: No - too rich and sugary to appreciate the chocolate.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Chocolate mink

I feel a little bashful beginning with an apology, but I must as the sun outran me today and I was left with nothing but down lights to illuminate my efforts in the kitchen. I have not yet become accustomed to the earlier sunset and find myself chasing shadows.

Dreadful pictures aside, when deciding on a suitable treat to end a meal that would please all I couldn't think past chocolate. Many wedding gifts still lie unused, one of which was white, ceramic ramekins. Two choices made, chocolate and ramekins, I flipped back through old print outs and found chocolate mink. As an avid licker of yet-to-be-cooked chocolate mixes the thought of warm, chocolate lava flowing over my spoon filling my mouth with the raw essences of chocolate made my stomach growl and my mouth drool.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 10mins.
cooking time: 20mins.
total: 30mins.

taste: 4/5. More like a moist, wet souffle than the thick, unctuous stream of chocolate I was expecting. I used 1/2cup ramekins which makes enough for 4 people. The serving looks small but this dessert packs a punch and leaves you highly satisfied with its intense richness. I served this with double cream, ice cream would be even better.

would I make it again: Perhaps - want to try some lava cake or chocolate fondant recipes to see if I prefer them.


Fennel & orange salad

The night would not let me sleep.

For reasons unknown I found myself waking at odd hours; two hour intervals of bizarre dreams led to me lying in bed awake wondering why I was awake, and not dreaming bizarre dreams. Nights like these never lead to productive days as I find myself falling asleep any moment I become too still.

One such moment I was sitting on my couch as I placed down the book I am currently reading, A New Earth, to contemplate what I should do next. The curtains had been pulled apart as far as they would allow and I became entranced by the golden sunlight flickering through the lush green trees as the end of my garden, and then before I knew it, I woke up with a sore neck, 45 minutes lost and my father's arrival looming. Oops.

With broccoli & potato soup sorted I thought some crusty bread, olives and perhaps a light refreshing salad to cleanse the palate before dessert could definitely be achieved before diner time.

Fennel and orange is one of my favourite go to combinations for a tasty, juicy salad with plenty of flavours and dimensions. I wanted to add some pizazz by way of dressing, and the pomegranate one on Chez Us seemed like just the ticket, perhaps next time pomegranate seeds may be the used.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 5mins to slice.
cooking time: 3mins to toss with dressing.
total: 8mins.

taste: 4/5. Refreshing with sweet aniseed, citrusy orange and tart pomegranate.

would I make it again: Yes.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Broccoli & potato soup with cheese & bacon

Oh Sun, why do you have to rush out on me, taking your light with you like a cape around your shoulders. Apologies for the photos, but I have not yet purchased a flash for moments where my meals arrive past sunset.

For those of us who trudged back to work today, at least we were given glorious weather which goes miles in brightening moods.

Every moment possible I would step outside to just sit and bask in the sun's warmth; after work was done and dusted I grabbed a new book to read whilst I listened to the birds and felt the sunshine in my hair.

Nibbling on gooey, chocolate cupcakes baked and brought over by friends for fun-filled hours of Pictionary, Wii & Peggle my mind strayed to what I should make tonight for dinner. I was left with 1 head of broccoli from an Easter dish I made, as well as a few potatoes that missed out on being mashed. Despite the warm weather I felt like moulding myself to the pillows on my couch, with a nice bowl of soup in my lap whilst I watched episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm with Ryan and Yoshi.

As the sun began to tuck itself in for a good night's sleep, I closed my book, wandered inside, and pulled out a big stock pot to make big bowls of restorative, warm soup.

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

taste: 4/5. I halved everything except the cheese - thick, goopy soup that fills you stomach and warms you up. I pureed the soup as I prefer a smooth, velvety texture. I didn't sprinkle the bacon on mine to make it vegetarian.

would I make it again: Yes.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Chicken with sun-dried tomato cream sauce

Sheer exhaustion and post-Easter fatigue overwhelm me today.

In the aftermath of children's laughter and chocolate covered mouths I am left with battlefield remnants of dirty dishes, pots, benches and rubbish. Fuelled by the pressing need to sit with my legs up on my comfortable couch I powered through the cleaning with some much appreciated help from my husband and although there are still a few loads of laundry waiting patiently to be cleaned, I can rest with my feet up in between turns of the drier and swooshes of the washing machine.

As an Easter treat to my family, my husband, brother and I made a video with my father and uncle's heads plastered to Chippendale bodies - I highly recommend having a play with it as it definitely brings raucous thundering laughter and tears from those who watch it.

My most precious moment yesterday was watching the children hunting for Easter eggs; an event I loved so much as a child I still do it to this day with my husband and my dog. The thrill of finding jewelled eggs in everyday places brings so much joy, especially to wide-eyed children.

My fridge overfloweth with desserts and sweets, only a few of whom will be completely consumed as hard as I may try. With all of the cooking and baking of the past few days I felt dinner should be simple and non-fussy.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 15mins.
total: 17mins.

taste: 4.5/5. My husband was licking his plate and asking if there was anymore - he really loved this dish and even asked me what was in it. I halved everything except the tomatoes to make sauce for 1 person.

would I make it again: Yes - super easy and as hubby said 'it's pretty hot'.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

White chocolate tiramisu trifle with spiced pears

Crunch, scuff, flip, crunch, flip, huff.

I watch the scattered hues of crimson, straw and rust crackle beneath my black Puma sole. The sunlight blinks code through the fishing net canopy, causing me to squint and return my gaze to the littered pavement, my dog's padded paws happily rustling through, my husband's thongs flipping remnants of leaves onto his naked toes.

The breeze is pleasantly cool as it licks my neck and playfully tousles my hair, moving on to cause mischief in the tidily raked piles, like a 2 year old child experiencing Autumn for the first time. Too soon we arrive home, the jingle of keys and the sound of squeaking rubber and short nails clicking up the stone stairs brings our dalliance with the Autumn's afternoon to an end.

Easter is always spent with family; cousins, uncles, grandmothers, brothers, in-laws, we all gather at someone's house with super sized amounts of food piled on bags of Easter chocolates stacked in our arms like the leaning tower of Pisa. There are more smiles than cameras and hugs are passed around like Chinese whispers. Easter is one of my favourite times of the year; for the families it brings together, and that is falls in Fall.

Despite the wisdom in making something you have tried and loved before, I always seem to attempt something elaborate and new for family gatherings. This either results in a triumph, or a string of apologies from my lips regarding my poor choice of recipe or my lack of skill (I love to cook but I will be the first to admit it is not something I excel at). With my theme of trying new things for this year, I thought I would attempt my first trifle. As the children tend to stick to their bounty of chocolates I thought something a little more adult would be the perfect treat. As soon as I decided on a trifle there was only one recipe that came to mind, one of the first I ever bookmarked from - and I have waited a long time to try it.

ease: 3/5. Very time consuming and many components, but not technically difficult.
prep time: 45mins to make pears and mousse and 3hours chilling time.
cooking time: 15mins to assemble trifle and make whipped cream topping.
total: 4hours.

taste: 4/5. Others liked this more than I did - they loved the subtly spiced pears the most. The flavours were subtle with an overall sweetness, the pears helped to break it up with their juiciness. I doubled the amount of liquid to soak the lady fingers and they were still dry. This was a little bit of a disaster for me. I could only manage two layers and even then the mousse was on the scant side, as well as the pears (I think my dish may have been too large). The biggest mistake I made was not paying attention when I bought a piping set, it turned out that the piping bag was plastic! I couldn't twist the top and as a result I had cream pouring out from the top, it was a HUGE mess. IF I ever made this again I would poach more pears, use my liquid and double the mousse.

would I make it again: No - too long to make and I wasn't over the moon, nice, but not mind-blowingly awesome.


Thought of the week

Friday, April 10, 2009

Poached ocean trout, fennel and orange salad with baguette

Each morning, with the dancing of dust on streams of sunlight, we open our bedroom door to the Eiffel Tower.

In my unappreciative and awkward youth I had the privilege of visiting France, well, more like dashing through. But even with the brief scents and flashes of scenery through a bus window, it stuck with me, lingered in my memories, waiting to be refreshed.

My husband on the other hand has not yet stepped foot on French soil, but nevertheless is a Francophile like myself. Throughout our house are French inspired items, such as our ash bistro-eque wooden breakfast table to the man-sized black and white photo on canvas hanging at the end of our hallway. We love french food, french furniture and the french way of living and enjoying each day (my husband also has a penchant for the French accent, how I wish I had one). And although we didn't have time to include France on our blip of a forthcoming honeymoon, a long visit will hopefully come along next year.

In the mean time I shall dream Parisian dreams over croissants at breakfast, and baguettes with dinner.

Un rêve et un rêveur, voilà le terme de la nature et de la pensée.
André SUARÈS, Poète tragique
(A dream and a dreamer, those are the terms for nature and thought. )

ease: 5/5.
prep time: time: 10mins.
total: 20mins.

taste: 4/5.
I made a few adaptions for dinner for two:
  • 2 fennel
  • I halved the amounts of wine, verjuice, mint and celery
  • I used two ocean trout fillets
This was a light, tasty dinner but I would definitely add more orange juice and mint the next time as I felt myself trying to savour the citrus bursts and the cooling mint alongside the salty fish and aniseed fennel.

would I make it again: Yes.


Banana & passionfruit cake

New friends may be exciting and novel, but old friends are comforting and familiar; bananas are one of my oldest and most visited friends.

In the beginning I enjoyed their mushy cloying sweetness before my first tooth had pierced my gum and established itself like a peg on a clothesline.
When I was as tall as the kitchen table I ate them with my tiny hands, naked and plain.
During the years I read 'The Baby-Sitters Club' I ate them sliced, smeared in peanut butter, and skewered with wooden toothpicks.
With my shiny driver's licence in hand I ate them frozen, blended with yoghurt, soy milk and sweet vanilla protein powder, devoured by the glass to impart energy needed to listen and learn.
As a busy wife I eat them baked into reassuring mouthfuls of warm cake or muffins, perfect with a cup of soothing tea and a food magazine cradled in my lap.

Bananas have remained constant from childhood to marriage, portrayed in whatever form I feel I need. They make their way into my metal caged cart each week, carried home in reusable bags to settle into the fruit bowl. Just like dear old friends, I never tire of them.

Today is Good Friday, a day marking the death of Jesus Christ, and not long after, his resurrection. In Australia Good Friday is a public holiday, as is Easter Sunday and Monday, and whilst I do not attend church, like I did as a child, I try to use this time for reflection and prayer. I also spend it doing things that bring me joy, such as baking and spending time with too-little seen family and longtime friends.

Happy Easter to all.

Apologies for the photos - it seems the sun decided to have an early night and I missed it's rays during the shoot.

ease: 4/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 3 hours to bake and cool cake and refrigerate icing.
total: 3 hours and 15 minutes.

taste: 4/5. My cake turned out nothing like the gorgeous one on flagrante delicia but it still tasted delicious. Super moist with a lovely sweet and tangy icing. I left the pips in the icing as I wanted some crucnh, as you get with passionfruits.

would I make it again: No - I liked the banana hazelnut cake a touch more, and 'm not sure whether this would work out even with a second try.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Brown sugar pavlova with banana & rum syrup

Searching through my fridge for rogue vegetables or jars of sauces past their use by date, I found my bowl of 12 egg whites left over from the Kaffir lime & coconut tart.

As a week has passed I thought it best to use them up as quickly as possible. My first thought ran to pavlova (possibly due to being an Australian - also a quintessential Kiwi dish). I have had my fair share of pavlovas, which I find incredibly delicious; in fact I imagine that if clouds were edible they'd taste just like a pavlova. Despite all my years of devouring, I have myself, never actually made one.
This excited me, I'm not sure if that is sad, being excited by whipping eggs, but hey, it put a smile on my face. I wanted my first pavlova to be a little different, like me; so I started flipping through one of my Gourmet Traveler magazines and I struck gold and found an almost Caribbean twist on the pav, using bananas, rum and brown sugar.

I must say, whilst I was whipping my eggs, watching them grow and gloss over, and then smearing them onto the baking tray, I was really enjoying myself. In fact, I think I had the most fun ever making this pavlova, let's hope it tastes as fun as it was to make.

Brown sugar pavlova with banana & rum syrup
from Australian Gourmet Traveller March 2009

4 egg whites
150gm caster sugar
120gm brown sugar
10gm cornflour
1tsp white vinegar
1tsp vanilla paste
400ml thickened cream
sliced bananas and passionfruit pulp to serve
Rum syrup
125gm caster sugar
90gm brown sugar
1tbsp lemon juice
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 banana, coarsely chopped
20ml golden rum

Preheat oven to 150c. Whisk egg whites and a pinch of salt until soft peaks form, then add sugar gradually and whisk until firm peaks form and mixture is thick and glossy.
Add 70g brown sugar, whisk until glossy. Fold in cornflour, vinegar, and vanilla bean paste.
Spoon meringue onto an 18cm diameter mound on a baking paper-lined tray and bake for 2 hours. Turn off oven and cool completely to cool pavlova.

Meanwhile, for syrup combine sugars, lemon juice, vanilla bean seeds, banana and 130ml water in a small saucepan and stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and cook until syrupy, remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Add rum and stir, then strain and cool.

Whisk cream and remaining brown sugar together until soft peaks form. Spoon on top of pavlova, top with sliced banana, passion fruit pulp and drizzle with rum syrup.

ease: 4/5. A few components.
prep time: 20mins.
cooking time: 2hours cooking and 1hour cooling in oven.
total: 3 hours & 20mins.

taste: 4/5. I accidentally left this in the oven for 1hour and a half so the meringue cooked all the way through, no mushy inside. I also forgot to add the rum to the vanilla syrup, despite this everyone loved it. The pavlova and cream have hints of caramel and vanilla whilst the creamy banana complements the flavours well, the sharp, tangy passion fruit helps to cut through all of the decadent rich flavours. Really delicious and looks great too.

would I make it again: Yes - great for company.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spiced pear & walnut muffins

Laundries with outside access are lovely in warm weather as you can leave the door open and it's only a couple of steps to the clothesline.

Cold, damp weather on the other hand makes it an even larger chore. After my 4th trip outside my nose started to run and I felt a little chilled and miserable. I wanted something comforting to nibble on with a hot cup of tea. Muffins are perfect to nibble on, mix in a few warming spices and you've got the perfect hot tea accompaniment.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 20mins.
cooking time: 25mins.
total: 45mins.

taste: 4/5. Really moist muffin with a crunchy sweet and salty topping. I would definitely add a little more cinnamon to the batter next time, as well as a little cardamom as the pear tends to mute the spices a little.

would I make it again: Yes.


Apple pancakes

Breakfast: sometimes I will feel like eggs and salmon but 9 times out of 10 I opt for something sweet.

Pancakes have got to be one of the best breakfast options out there. I don't think I have ever heard someone say they don't like pancakes. The mere fact that there are 24hour Pancake Parlour, adds weight to their popularity (in fact I shall be eating my dessert at the Pancake Parlour tonight, most likely my childhood favourite, the Alice in Wonderland.)

I've tried many pancake recipes but I have never made one that only used around 3tbs of flour and was mostly grated apple. It seemed like a healthier version of my favourite breakfast so I was happy to try this one out.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 5mins.
cooking time: 6mins.
total: 11mins.

taste: 4/5. These are basically apple fritters - I sprinkled mine with cinnamon sugar which gave a beautiful sweetness to the crispy tart apple. I increased the sugar in the batter to 1tsp.

would I make it again: Yes - Ryan prefers normal pancakes but I think these are a great healthier option.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pork chops with roasted pears

Today was simply lovely.

After a few hours of work we spent the day hunting for Easter eggs to fill both tiny excited hands and aged wrinkled ones alike. I set aside a Terry's chocolate orange and Lindt bunny for myself, whilst Ryan bagged himself a Ferrero Rocher. Yum. After eating more chocolate than we should have, and playing more DS games than we should have time slowly ticked towards dinner, and what could be a better end to the day than roasted pears with pork.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time:
5mins to prep pears and pork marinade.
cooking time: 20mins.
total: 25mins.

taste: 3.5/5. Ryan thought it was very nice and loved the pear/pork combo. I served it with a salad of rocket, pomegranate, feta and walnuts. I made the following modifications to serve 1:
  • 1 pork chop
  • 2tbs parsley leaves
  • 3 sage leaves
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 beurre bosc pear
  • no onion
would I make it again: No - would like to try some other pear/pork combos in case something is better.

recipe: adapted from here

Friday, April 3, 2009

Vanilla porridge with honeyed apples

Goodbye sunny 30C and welcome 22C stormy wetness -ah, the joys of Autumn.

Yesterday I was licking ice creams, and today I am craving hot mugs of steaming tea and warm, comforting foods. I love this weather, and it seems my husband is an Autumn convert too, although he wishes he had enjoyed yesterdays rendition of Summer a little more before Winter's recital played today.

I have finally gotten up early 4 days in a row (between the ranges of 7am to 9:15am) and it has allowed me to finish my work at around lunchtime (between the ranges of midday to 2pm) which gives me afternoon time to myself. As I was expecting last minute guests yesterday, I did a Tasmananian Devil and spun around in a whirlwind cleaning up the house. So apart from some backed up laundry I can spend time making big bowls of porridge that I am desperately wanting. I can also watch some old episodes of Angel I have recorded on my Foxtel IQ - RIP Andy Hallet , you brought me many smiles as the beloved character Lorne.

Donna Hay Magazine

1 cup rolled oats
2 cups milk
1 cup water
1 vanilla bean, split and seed scraped
extra milk, maple syrup, brown sugar to serve
honeyed apples
2 red apples, sliced
2 tbs honey

For apples, heat non stick fry pan over high heat. Cook apple for 1minute each side. Add honey and cook for 2mins until golden.
Place oats, milk, water and vanilla bean in a saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8mins or until thickened. Pour into bowls and serve with apples, maple syrup, sugar and extra milk. Serves 4.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 2mins.
cooking time: 8mins.
total: 10mins.

taste: 4.5/5. Really creamy, porridge with undertones of vanilla (I used 1tsp vanilla paste); I also used 2 cups full cream milk and 1 cup soy milk. Along with honey I added 1tbs of brown sugar to the apples whilst cooking. I also use wholegrain porridge which is why its not super white.

would I make it again: Yes.

Chicken braised with kaffir lime leaf

Jade leaves with shining skins
and citrus whispers

Purchased for the purpose of a Kaffir lime & Coconut Tart I was left with many more deep forest kaffir leaves waiting to release their lime perfume. Four were lucky enough to impart their flavour to coconut rice and richly spiced chicken.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 15mins.
total: 25mins.

taste: 2.5/5* (this is probably largely to do with my changes). I made a lot of modifications to make this for 1 person:
  • 1 heaped tsp tamarind paste
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 chilli
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2tsp turmeric
  • 2tbs water
  • oil
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 125ml coconut milk
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1/2tsp salt
I omitted the first step and proceeded to blend the appropriate ingredients. I added them to the oil, followed by the chicken and the tamarind pulp with a splash of water. I only waited 5mins before adding the coconut milk, leaves and salt and let them simmer uncovered for a further 10mins.

The overall taste was really sharp lime which overpowered everything else.

would I make it again: No.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Salmon & pesto spaghetti

If someone offers a warning regarding a particular wedding photographer, forget about how pretty the pictures and albums are and take heed.

Needless to say my husband and I went trough hell trying to stick to the original package deal we signed on for, and after 3 days and over 20 hours of arguing we still ended up $1,500 over the initial amount. It's like a hostage negotiation, if you don't pay up then you can kiss your darling photos goodbye. In all honesty I wouldn't have minded paying the extra amount if they had just been honest about their packages and 'hidden costs'; it's the plain faced lying that gets my goat.

Venting aside (I'm hoping this hasn't aged me 10 years, because it sure feels like it has), I was left with little energy and a mountain of apathy. All of my emotional wells have been drained dry and I was left an amorphous blob on the couch. The only thing that was able to render me mobile was my grumbling tummy. I wasn't sure how long I'd be able to stay upright before falling asleep so I opted for something quick (with the possibility of using pre-packaged items) to fill my belly.

serves 2

olive oil
1 salmon fillet
3tbs pesto
200g spaghetti
grated cheese, to serve

Pre-heat oven to 180C. Line baking tray with foil and spray salmon with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for 12mins or to your liking.
Meanwhile boil water, oil and salt in a large saucepan. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, leaving small amount of cooking water and return to pan. Stir through 3tbs of pesto and flaked salmon. Serve with grated Parmegiano Reggiano.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 3mins.
cooking time: 12mins.
total: 15mins.

taste: 4/5. Use a pesto you love as it is the main flavour.

would I make it again: Yes - super quick week night dinner with no fuss.

recipe: adapted from here