Saturday, February 27, 2010
There must be some sort of sign saying 'Spiders Welcome', because in the last 24 hours alone I have had three spiders move in, the worst of which was a white tail above my kitchen window. My husband had to escort them off the premises as I only allow Daddy Long Legs to stay (as long as they don't come near me).
Aside from unwanted guests of the arachnid variety, life has been pretty mellow. My father and brother were kind enough to stop by, eat and then run, but not before grabbing a brown paper bag filled with these ruby flecked beauties you see above and below.
When I am expecting guests I tend to make two sweet options just in case one doesn't appeal. And it's fortunate I did that, as the Blackberry-Balsamic Brulee I made for dessert was a little lacklustre and these modest but charming muffins saved the day and everyone left happy.
My photographic ability really doesn't do them justice, not in the slightest. I urge you to give them a try - and feel free to use whatever type of chocolate takes your fancy, I'll end up trying all three shades I'm sure, any excuse to make another batch.
prep time: 15mins.
cooking time: 25mins.
taste: 4.5/5. McDreamy Mr. Muffin.
Oh my goodness, these would have to be in my top 3 muffins of all time at least. They are best when still warm from the oven.
The sugar crusted top is divine and crackles beneath your teeth as you dive into it's incomprehensibly moist and soft middle. The cake itself is sublime - the perfect texture and base to build upon.
The chocolate (in this instance I used milk as hubby prefers it, but IMO definitely go for the dark chocolate, it would elevate this to luxurious rather than just indulgent, white would also be interesting) is firm but also velvety liquid, it's silken sweetness softened by the juicy, tart raspberries which give it zing and pizzazz.
A perfect pairing enveloped within a perfect muffin. Bliss!
Next time I would use dark chocolate and increase it to 150g as I was wanting more cocoa goodness. Even though I only cooked these for 25mins, they were a touch overdone, so check from the 20minute mark. This recipe made 10 muffins.
would I make it again: Yes. Might have to get myself a copy of Bourke Street Bakery if the other pastries are anyway near as good as these muffins.
recipe: Raspberry & dark chocolate muffins
Friday, February 26, 2010
It seems I've gone 'fig crazy' (that is a rather paper-thin attempt at mimicking the phrase, stir crazy).
Figs are the 'falling stars' of the fruit world; blink and you might miss them. Due to their fragility they are also quite pricey which is why I have decided that the first fruit tree I plant will be a Fig Tree. Until the day when I can happily pick my own, I buy a dozen or so each week to use almost immediately. Some my husband eats adorned, juices dribbling down his stubbled chin. The ones I safely hide from his greedy fingers I make into something sweet or savoury, they work beautifully in either camp.
Hubby actually chose this recipe, as initially, HE was meant to make it, and whilst he did help, I ended up taking over as I just can't bear to watch him fumble around in my kitchen. Yes, it's MY kitchen and I don't like to share it.
ease: 5/5 (especially if you use a store bought pizza base, which we did).
prep time: 8mins.
cooking time: 8mins.
taste: 4/5. Simple but satisfying.
I was hesitant about using a tomato passata base to go with the figs, but hey, it worked. The tangy tomato went well with the sweet fig.
The first flavour that hits you though is the lingering liquorice of the fennel seed which gives way to the successful fig/tomato pairing before the gooey, salty cheeses and crisp pizza base wrap it all up. I made two medium sized pizzas, one for each of us. Hubby didn't like the fennel that much as he preferred the fig to be the lone star of the show, but I enjoyed it more.
would I make it again: Yes.
recipe: Fig & goat's cheese pizzas
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
I feel like I am still falling down the rabbit hole.
Life has suddenly changed and yet is still the same. Small things like doing the food shopping are tinged with melancholy and sadness, as like every detail of my life, they are no longer shared with my dog. There is no happy face in the window when I come home, nor is there one buried in my shopping bags searching for a treat.
Everything is a little darker today as hubby had to return to work, meaning, for the most part, I would be alone today. I don't like how it feels. Just when you think that perhaps it might be getting better, that boulder of heavy grief weighs you down, reminding you that you are still carrying it. I know that with time, it will gradually be worn down enough to feel happy again, but it's something I will carry with me for life, because I just loved him too much. He will be forever engraved on my heart - it will continue to love him with each beat, until the last one reunites us.
Cooking was something I have been putting off as we always did it together - he was never far from my side when food was involved. My husband, bless him, tried to be the cook, but it's just not something he enjoys doing, so most days we have had late lunches from cafes, and then very late cooked eggs, and perhaps only one or two dinners (not including the wonderful meals my mother dropped off in the first few days to help us stay nourished). I feel it's time for me to get back into the kitchen, as hard as it will be, but someone needs to do it because I'm getting a little bored of eggs (sorry sweetie :).
prep time: 3mins.
cooking time: 15mins.
taste: 4.5/5. A flavour parade in your mouth.
Hubby even suggested there might be too much flavour, but nonetheless he thoroughly enjoyed this dish.
I substituted the blue cheese for an goat's cheese marinated in olive oil, peppercorns and thyme as I didn't want the figs to be overwhelmed by a bitey blue.
would I make it again: Yes.
recipe: Chicken paillard with fresh fig salad & blue cheese
Thursday, February 18, 2010
my best friend
1998 - 2010
On Saturday 13th February, at 10:30pm, I received a phone call from the veterinary surgeon who was trying to remove the bone cancer from my dog's spine which we had only discovered 24hours previously, when out of nowhere, my little boy couldn't get himself up from the floor.
He had bad news...my baby had slipped away during the surgery.
I don't remember much of what he said as I just started screaming and didn't stop. We brought him home for one last night with us and soon he will be home again, in his little urn.
My dog wasn't just a dog, he was my son, and I have never felt such grief in all my life. I'm still trying to understand how one minute he was fine, and after one incident, he was suddenly gone.
I am trying my best to keep it together for the sake of my husband who has had to miss work to look after me because I can barely breathe.
All of my prayers are now wishes, that we will one day be reunited, and my heart will be whole again.
I love you Yoshi. I love you.
Posted by CC11 at 11:49 PM
Thursday, February 11, 2010
“Love is just a word until someone comes along and gives it meaning.”
My whole life I was adamant that I would marry my first boyfriend. This certainty caused some jibbing from my relatives, but I stood firm and stuck to my guns.
When I graduated school at eighteen and started University, my father allowed me to start dating. For around the first six months of 2004 I didn't meet anyone I was interested in. Eventually, as most of my girfriends started getting boyfriends I decided to go on a few group dates, even though I didn't feel like any of the boys in question were 'right for me'. As you can imagine, after a couple of first dates, I had not wanted to have any second dates.
Eventually and unexpectedly, I got an online message from a boy, we exchanged email addresses' and spoke over MSN for a week. We got along well, had the same morals and plans for our futures and we both found each other attractive (thanks webcam) - but this was all online. After one week, we both decided that there wasn't a point continuing the online friendship, as nether of us were interested in just-being-friends - so we arranged our first date. As my father is very traditional, the boy in question had to come to my house to meet my father before taking me out for lunch. Luckily, he was fine with it and our date went well. And it was on this date that I finally wanted to go on a second date. And a third. And a fourth - you get the picture. Almost 6years later we are still together (married), still happy and still chatting to each other on MSN/Google Talk - sometimes when we are sitting on the same couch, on our respective laptops.
As you know, Valentine's Day is coming up. It's not something we really celebrate any more and on this particular one we are just having dinner with my father and his partner. But I thought I would dedicate this fondant to my darling husband who makes my life sweeter every day - and the ice cream to myself, for being a kick-ass wife :).
P.S. I ate the last one while you were at work, sorry :)
I chose to make David Lebovitz's Salted butter caramel ice cream rather than the one included in the Gourmet Traveller recipe.
For the fondant:
prep time: 1hr & 30mins.
cooking time: 18mins (almost 3x longer than the time stated in the recipe).
total: 1hr & 48mins.
taste: 5/5. Restaurant worthy.
When hubby tried this he exclaimed 'It's almost as good as Chef Terry's - I couldn't have asked for a better compliment. I have made quite a few fondants before but nothing has measured up to this lil beauty. Now, how shall I even try to describe it's deliciousness with my inadequate words...
First off all you have the lovely, crackled crust that yields ever so willingly beneath the spoon's eager edge. Its chewy crispness gives way to moist, spongy cake which alone is divine, before finally, that impressive lava flows into your mouth with its chocolate sensuality and peanut butter delight. This dessert is now my 2nd favourite ALL TIME chocolate dessert - Triple Chocolate Praline Tart came close to losing it's crown.
Upon reading another blogger's trial of this dish I made a few changes.
- I increased the peanut butter by 20g. I chose to use smooth peanut butter, but I would recommend crunchy as I think that those tiny chips of peanuts would only add to the experience with their crunchy texture.
- I increased the chocolate by 50g.
- I left out 1 cup of whipped egg whites.
- I cooked this for 18mins.
would I make it again: Yes.
For the ice cream:
prep time: 30mins (to chilling stage).
cooking time: 10hours (includes all chilling)
total: 10 hours & 30mins.
taste: 4.5/5. All hail the Ice-Cream Queen!
Hands down this is the best ice cream I have made, and probably the best I have tasted. I was sneaking spoonfuls of this baby while it was STILL CHURNING - that was the extent of my willing to wait for it, and the real kicker - I don't even like ice-cream much.
As A so kindly commented, 'I wish C (me) was my wife, I will turn gay for you if you cook like this for me'.
This ice cream so soft, and whisper light that you will think your taste buds have been touched by heaven. The flavour is incredible, so much depth, so much character yet so polite. The caramel is divine and the quaint nuttiness paired with the subtle saltiness is inspired. This ice cream is worth the price of David Lebovitz's book alone (and yes, I have the book).
Should I have been brave enough to let the caramel darken further - Yes, it would improve on the already awesome flavour. I didn't add the praline, but I can guess it would also improve it.
I was glad that I finally found something worthy of my imported French Salted Butter - definitely use the good stuff in this.
I was rushed on time so it only got 6 hours in the fridge before heading to the ice cream machine, and due to the hot weather it took twice as long to be ready, before only making a short pit stop back to the freezer for 30mins - so it tend begin to melt as soon as the scoop touched it, but no one really cared. It is a soft ice cream, but that's what I prefer.
would I make it again: Yes.
recipe: salted butter caramel ice-cream
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
500g crushed walnuts
2 tbls castor sugar
2 tbls bread crumbs
1 tbls cinnamon
250g unsalted butter
2 tbls salted butter
1 pkt filo pastry (Brand Antonio)
2 cups water
1½ cups castor sugar
Preheat oven to 180C.
Melt butters and set aside to cool slightly.
Mix walnuts, bread crumbs, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.
Prepare square or rectangle tepsi by brushing base with melted butter. Place one sheet of filo onto base and butter filo, repeat this process with 5 sheets of filo. Sprinkle nut mixture evenly over filo (aprox 4-5 tbls) and then place another sheet of filo, butter and repeat process. Use 2 sheets of filo in between nut mixture layers, remember to butter each sheet of filo. Repeat this process until you have the last 5 sheets of filo for the top layer. Finish the top layer with buttering each sheet including the top layer. Splatter water over the top as well to help the pastry flake up when cooked.
Using a sharp knife cut through the layers of filo with rows aprox 5 cm apart and then again diagnally to create diamond shape pieces.
Place tepsi into pre heated oven and cook until golden brown.
Place sugar and water into a pan and boil until sugar has disolved, allow to simmer until liquid has reduced by half and syrup slowly drips of a spoon. You can add some lemon juice to liquid at this stage if you prefer.
Once cooked allow baklava to cool completely before pouring the hot syrup over the top.
**alternative ingredients – replace walnuts with pistachio or hazelnuts and add rosewater to syrup instead of lemon for a more fragrant result
Monday, February 8, 2010
Another instalment of Sofia's Kitchen.
Up first are the deeply satisfying and addictive Perishkia. After eating seven of these yesterday I am still craving them.
We filled most with the spiced potato, but we also made some with cinnamon lamb mince and some with anchovy (dotted with red food dye).
Perishkia (Greek Russian Potato Dumplings)
1 KILO PLAIN FLOUR
1 TBL DRY YEAST
1 TBL DRY YEAST
1 TBL SALT
2 TBLS OIL
2 GARLIC CLOVES
1 TSP PAPRIKA
SALT & PEPPER
SIFT FLOUR IN BOWL, SPRINKLE YEAST AND SALT OVER FLOUR AND COMBINE DRY INGREDIENTS. MAKE A WELL IN THE MIDDLE OF FLOUR AND ADD THE OIL AND EGG. MIX BY HAND TILL INGREDIENTS ARE COMBINED AND GRADUALLY ADD WARM WATER AS YOU CONTINUE TO MIX TO PRODUCE A SOFT AND FLUFFY DOUGH. COVER WITH CLING WRAP AND KEEP WARM (EITHER IN A SINK OF HOT WATER OR COVERED IN A BLANKET) TILL DOUGH DOUBLES IN SIZE.
WHILE DOUGH IS RISING MAKE THE FILLING. PEEL AND CHOP POTATOS AND BOIL TILL COOKED THEN DRAIN. IN A PAN SAUTE ONIONS AND GARLIC ANDTHEN ADD THE PAPRIKA. MASH POTATOES AND THEN ADD THE ONION MIXTURE AND SALT AND PEPPER TO TASTE – MIX WELL.
ONCE DOUGH IS READY, CUT INTO SMALL BALLS (A LITTLE LARGER THAN A GOLF BALL). FLOUR THE SURFACE AND ROLL OUT THE DOUGH, PLACE A TABLESPOON OF THE POTATO MIXTURE IN THE MIDDLE AND FOLD OVER PINCHING EDGES CLOSED. PLACE ON BAKING PAPER TILL READY TO COOK.
HEAT OIL IN A DEEP PAN AND FRY DUMPLINGS TURNING ONCE TILL GOLDEN BROWN. DRAIN ON PAPER TOWEL AND SERVE HOT OR COLD.
Friday, February 5, 2010
Being someone who takes an obscene amount of pleasure in eating, the best reward I can think of has to be edible. Today, to motivate myself to tie up my sneakers and actually participate in something close to exercise I chose to bake some yummy muffins that would be warm and ready for me upon my breathless return.
prep time: 17mins.
cooking time: 38mins.
taste: 3/5. The poppyseed was too poppin'.
I was hesitant to pour my 1/2cup of tiny onyx beads into the batter mix, but I stayed true to the recipe and proceeded - with my first mouthful, once the lemon-y tang from the sweet, viscous icing had subsided I anticipated the gorgeous acidic tropical tang from the passion fruit and orange to come through, but they didn't. All I got was the crazy crunching of the poppyseeds which seemed to make up 90% of the muffin. With each mouthful my heart sank - if I were blindfolded I wouldn't even guess these muffins had orange or passion fruit - only the lemon icing and poppy-base.
If you want to give these a go - because they do truly look gorgeous on the original post - I would decrease the poppyseeds to 1/4cup to let the fruits shine.
would I make it again: No.
recipe: Orange, passion fruit & poppyseed muffcakes
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Despite my warm surroundings, I always feel like I need something sweet to neatly finish off the day's eating - my nightly sugarcap if you will. Normally I will eat a succulent piece of Summer fruit, most often the stone-pipped variety. Tonight, after a rough day, both hubby and I needed something more. Something capable of alleviating the stifling heat and soothing the day's earlier disturbances with its heavenly deliciousness.
And this little pudding, well, after one bowl I feel nothing but relaxed and gratified - thank you Mr Pudding, thank you very much.
prep time: 11mins.
cooking time: 28mins (do peaches while it cooks). I used two 1.5cup ramekins - I would recommend a 22minute mark check as they were already a touch overdone by 28minutes.
taste: 4.5/5. A very pleasant surprise.
In all honesty, I chose to make this dessert to use up the small remainder of buttermilk I had in the fridge, I did not have very high hopes for it. But once I lifted the tray out of the oven and saw the heart-tweaking golden brown souffle-esque puffy rim, standing triumphant and proud, I began to doubt my previous assumption.
After tumbling the glistening, amber drenched, rubenesque peaches over its supple, ivory body, I plunged my spoon into its softness and greedily gobbled away - and let me tell you, it was sublime.
The buttermilk pudding is a sigh-inducing combination of al dente bronzed crust with a light and spongy outer edge that encases a softer, almost custard-like centre. The flavour is as subtle as breathing, only slightly tangy and only barely sweeter, it provides the perfect base upon which the tart and deep maple soaked peaches can shine without overwhelming your taste buds. A great combination.
I used peaches rather than raspberries and I am thankful I did, as I believe that raspberries are much to punchy for this delicate pudding, the peaches had just the right amount of acidity.
I halved the recipe but used 2 eggs - it was perfect for two people. After checking on their progress at the 28minute mark I snatched them out of the oven as they had already bronzed more than desired and any longer may have been to the detriment of the supple pudding.
Be warned - it does collapse within 1minute of being removed from the oven - I ate mine 3 minutes after removal and it was lush.
would I make it again: Yes.
recipe: Buttermilk pudding cake with maple raspberries
Monday, February 1, 2010
A peach is a nectarine in fuzzy clothing.
Nectarines are my number one fruit - but they have to be super firm and tear easily from the pip. It is this firm quality that makes peaches less desirable with their plump, soft, juiciness (that and their furry skin). However, although nectarines are my snacking fruit of choice, I hate them in desserts as it ruins their chasteness, peaches on the other hand, I LOVE in desserts.
As I mentioned in my last post, upon arriving home, I spied two sad peaches sitting in the fruit bowl waiting to be picked. Their case was less critical than the bananas so I relegated them to be used the following day. I didn't want to buy any additional ingredients (aside from extra peaches), and as the weather was quite stifling, I didn't want a heavy or overly sweet dish either - I wanted their natural vibrancy to be the star element.
This dessert delivered on all of my requirements.
ease: 4/5 - multiple components.
prep time: 15mins (do most while meringue cooks).
cooking time: 35mins (includes assembling).
taste: 4.5/5. This is a peach of a dish.
The pillow-y meringue with its cracked crust and soft, marshmallow interior supports the cloud-like cream that envelopes the subacid peach slices and flirtatious peach sauce like a doting mother does her child.
Visually it also appeals; the purest white, with its cream sashay, and summer bright jewels are draped in a beautiful tangerine-rose sauce flecked with vivid coral flesh.
This desserts' sweetness in mellowed by the fruits acidity and makes this a dessert that both satisfies the sweet tooth and also satisfies those who like 'refreshing, light' desserts.
The only change I made to this dish was to substitute the orange flower to 1tsp rosewater essence - which, in all honesty, I couldn't taste. Perhaps more is needed to provide a lovely floral note. I used a combination of white and yellow peaches.
would I make it again: Yes. Everyone liked this more than they anticipated. The components can be made ahead and then assembled when ready to serve.
recipe: Peaches & cream meringue cake - from February 2010 issue.