Tuesday, September 28, 2010
If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, then this week's Tuesday with Dorie pick by Leslie of Lethally Delicious is just what the doctor ordered. She chose Dorie's Tarte Fine, comprising a sheet of puff pastry topped with paper thin apple slices and sugar, and glazed with apricot jam.
My Tarte Fine was perhaps not so fine, because I wasn't going to get out my mandolin to shave off thin apple slices, and my knife-cut slices were perhaps not as thin as Dorie intended. But hey, with ingredients like this, how can you go wrong - it tasted great regardless. It is best served warm with a scoop of vanilla icecream.
Thanks to Leslie for hosting us this week - she will have the recipe. To check out everyone else's tartes fine, visit out the TWD blogroll.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Ahh springtime - when all the flowers awaken from their slumber, the air smells fragrant, the world looks brighter, and the weather gets warmer. Err, wait - in Melbourne, the weather has not got warmer - I am still in my winter coat, and most days are still dreary and grey. It's the coldest September for 23 years (according to Livinia on Nine News), and it has not creeped above 19 degrees Celsius since May (courtesy of Karl on the Today show). The flowers must know something we don't though, because they started to bloom in late August, and my street is now like The Nutcracker Suite with a ballerina-like row of delicate, white flowered bushes in full bloom. This leads me on to the point of this post ...
The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.
We had to decorate our cookies according to a "September" theme. As it is spring, and I associate spring with new life - flowers and lambs and butterflies - I chose butterflies. I also had an ulterior motive, as for months, I have had Marian's butterfly cookies on Sweetopia bookmarked, because they are gorgeous. I wanted to make them, but had never gotten around to it. Mandy's choice of challenge gave me the perfect motivation.
I have made sugar cookies in the past, and have been underwhelmed by the taste, as they seemed to be a tasteless vehicle for pretty icing. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe - the cookies smelled and tasted wonderful without any icing at all. I did in fact eat a couple of the browner ones without any decoration at all, and really enjoyed them. Sugar cookies are redeemed in my eyes - at least if they are made using the challenge recipe (which is on Mandy's site, for those who are interested). Because the weather is still cool, I had no issues with the cookies sticking and giving me problems at the cutting out stage - which is a huge relief. I rolled and cut out the dough on baking paper rather than using a flour-dusted benchtop, as it is less messy, makes it easier to peel off the cut-out cookies, and means that the dough doesn't absorb extra flour.
Having accomplished the first task without a hitch, it was time to pipe and flood the cookies with the royal icing recipe provided by Mandy. I used dark brown gel colouring to colour royal icing for the outline of the butterflies. It was surprising how much colour I needed to get the shade of brown I wanted:
Next, it was time to flood the outlines with more royal icing in bright colours (as butterflies are bright and beautiful!). While at Preston Market with Elisa, I had picked up some powder colours in red, yellow, green and blue, and these were a God-send for colouring the icing in vibrant, true colours. Red has always been a problem for me in the past, but the powder colour enabled me to achieve a vibrant, nail-polish red colour (albeit using quite a bit of colouring). To pipe, I just made paper piping bags - thanks to Greg at William Angliss for teaching me to make these.
Immediately after flooding the cookies with the base colour, I used the techniques in Marian's butterfly cookie post to add contrasting detail to the cookies. Finally, I sprinkled my butterflies with edible gold disco glitter/fairy dust:
These cookies were lots of work, but I had so much fun making them. And doesn't the end result warrant it - I loved them, and almost didn't want to eat them. However, I remembered how shameful it would be for such wonderful cookies to go to waste, so I took them in to work to share. The ladies loved them - no idea about the blokes, but then again, I wouldn't expect a shed-full of macho engineers to be overly impressed by butterfly cookies.
Thanks to Mandy for hosting Daring Bakers this month. You can check out the truly inspirational creations of the other Daring Bakers by visiting the Daring Bakers blogroll.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Do you like roasts? I love roasts, as it reminds me of being ten years old. Every Sunday, my brother and I would go to Sunday School (initiated by me because I wanted to sing the cool songs and be in the church plays). When we came home, there would be Barbara Woodhouse on TV (as I wanted to be a vet specialising in dogs!), followed by Sunday roast. Mum usually made roast chicken, probably because this is what we liked the most, served with roast potatoes and gravy. It was a very comforting routine, and as a chubby, greedy ten year old, one that I adored.
Fast forward to today, and I still like a good roast. However, with my interest in exploring food, I like to branch out a little from the usual salt and pepper seasoned roast. I had a lovely piece of beef fillet living in my freezer for about a month, and flicked through my cookbooks to find something interesting to do with it. In the end, I settled on Beef Will Moreland from Sunday Roast by Clarissa Dickson Wright and Johnny Scott. Clarissa apparently once worked with Will, a talented violinist, and he gave her the recipe, which was originally meant for topside, but which Clarissa upgraded to beef fillet.
The flavours of Beef Will Moreland are Thai-inspired - coconut milk, chilli, ginger, lemongrass and coriander. Clarissa says that you can strain the sauce and reduce it, but she doesn't bother - and nor did I. I liked the chunky pieces in the sauce - it added texture and colour to the dish. You can find the recipe for Beef Will Moreland here.
Don't be put off by my rubbish photos. If you enjoy Thai-inspired dishes, I can highly recommend this dish.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
It was my birthday recently, and I had the most fantastic day. I am definitely not talking about the weather - it was very cold, with a biting wind and rain. No, it was a fantastic day because I spent the entire day (literally) in the company of friends.
In the morning, I went to Preston Market with my friend, Elisa, to shop for lunch. Erm ... and I might have picked up a few things here and there - for instance, I had to try a Baby Ruth bar, purely for research purposes, of course - ummm, and a truckload of dried fruit for Christmas cake and puddings, and err, some cake decorating supplies, because you can never have enough of those and ....
Back at Elisa's, closely supervised by her two pooches, Coops and Porter, Elisa made us delicious veggie tarts using the spoils from our market trip.
Next came dessert - hooray! Elisa made me a birthday cake - this is the second year in a row that someone has made me a cake, and I am as pleased as punch. The cake, pictured at the top of this post, is a White Wings white chocolate and raspberry cake, to which Elisa had added marshmallows (knowing my obsession with them).
Here's me blowing out the candles:
The afternoon comprised of chatting and watching Edward Scissorhands (which, shamefully, I had never seen from beginning to end before).
A short train trip and a quick change later, I was off to dinner at Assaggi, an Italian restaurant in Malvern. Assaggi is run by an Italian family, and the food is excellent. (Matt Preston reviewed it here.) There is a wood-fired pizza oven in the front kitchen that you walk past on the way in. The friendly staff ushered us promptly to our upstairs table (I was a little late because of my trip back from the north), and remained friendly and upbeat throughout. Tap water is available on request, provided in large bottles, and is replaced without prompting throughout the meal. The restaurant is both BYO and licensed, so you have the best of both worlds. Corkage is $7 a bottle.
I had been to Assaggi once before with my friend Veronica, and I knew that the pizzas at Assaggi were devine. Accordingly, I knew I was going to order pizza. Here is my choice - the Delicioza, which has a crispy, thin, light as a feather crust topped with bocconcini, speck, gorgonzola and pear slices:
Everyone else enjoyed their selections too - James ordered an enormous whole flounder served with beetroots which looked very impressive, the girls both ordered the gnocchi, Christian had the linguine carbonara and Tim had another type of pizza.
Despite being full, of course we ordered dessert. I ordered the berry semifreddo, which tastes every bit as good as it looks:
Assaggi has a warm, friendly atmosphere, with staff who make you feel welcome. Its authentic Italian food is wonderful, and everything on the menu sounded appealing.
Overall, it was a fun birthday. Thanks to my friends who made it that way.
99 Glenferrie Rd
Ph: (03) 9500 1624
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
This week's Tuesday with Dorie was hosted by Rhiani of Chocoholic Anonymous. She chose Dorie's Coffee-Break muffins.
These muffins are little coffee-flavoured morsels that are definitely not sweet, designed to go with your coffee or to be toasted for breakfast. In Australia, we generally don't toast sweet muffins (only the English kind), so I am always intrigued when this practice is mentioned.
I wanted to love these (especially as I was keeping them for my lunch), but I only found them OK. This means that they probably won't feature in my recipe rotation. However, a lot of other TWD members did love these - you can check out their take on these muffins at the TWD blogroll. Thanks to Rhiani for hosting us this week - she will have the recipe.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Vegie Bar is a Melbourne institution that needs no introduction. Situated in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, its bustling, cosy interior lifts the spirits immediately on entry. Vegie Bar's philosphy is to provide healthy, affordable vegetarian food in a fun environment, and they certainly deliver on that promise.
I visited Vegie Bar for a friend's birthday recently. Because Vegie Bar is so popular, on entry, you put your name down on a table list, take an "animal" (in my case, a Zebra), and go out the back to a cosy bar area to wait until your table is called.
Our party of five didn't have to wait long before being seated. The tables are packed in pretty closely, but because the vibe of the place is so upbeat, everyone is good natured about it and take it in their stride. The wait staff are friendly and efficient, and our meals come out quickly.
I ordered a vegetarian Moroccan tagine with cous cous, pictured at the top of this post. The serving was huge, and the flavour of the dish was fabulous - just the right level of spiciness. Everyone else at our table was happy with their picks as well.
My downfall came in ordering dessert. I was already quite full after my meal, but as these things happen, someone suggested dessert. I had been eyeing off the bread and butter pudding in the cakes cabinet since we came in, so I needed no persuading to order a dessert. Now this was no ordinary bread and butter pudding:
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Cooking for one can sometimes be a drag. I usually prefer dishes that are quick and easy to prepare, as I figure that if I am the only one I have to please it doesn't matter so much.
On Saturday evening, I was in a place where I knew I wanted to eat dinner sooner rather than later, and I didn't want to make anything that was too fussy, but at the same time, I wanted something tasty and different to my usual "anything goes" stir fries. On spec, I took Jamie's Dinners off the shelf, and I found a great tray baked chicken Maryland dish. You can find the recipe here.
This dish has only a small number of ingredients, the trickiest being white wine (as I don't drink at home and wasn't sure if I had any in the cupboard). The remaining flavours for the chicken come from sweet corn (I used tinned), cannellini beans (didn't have any so I used chick peas!), cream (or in my case, the more waistline friendly evaporated milk), streaky bacon and - wait for it - banana. Now I don't know about you, but the thought of chicken and banana together doesn't sound appealing. However, ignore all inherent repulsion that you might feel about this combination - after baking, the banana just melds into the dish and gives it a lovely sweet flavour that works well with the salty bacon.
This dish also wins ticks for being really fast - you mostly just pop everything into the baking tray together, then let it look after itself for 40 minutes or so.
I simply served this with cooked frozen veges (I am a heathen and microwave them), which I used to soak up the extra sauce on the plate and give them flavour as well.
If you are looking for a quick but crowd-pleasing and tasty dish for dinner, you could do a lot worse than trying this dish from Jamie. I highly recommend it!
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Do you remember when upside down cakes were the height of sophistication as dinner party fare? They always fascinated me as a child, because the glossy fruit on top looked so good, and I wondered how they "glued" it on.
Fast forward to the present, and upside down cakes are still good value, although dismissed by some as passe. Sabrina of Superfluous is our host for this week's Tuesday with Dorie, and she chose Dorie's Cranberry Upside-Downer.
Now cranberries are not an easy thing to procure in Australia, whether fresh or frozen - the only way to really get them is dried. A cake with dried cranberries on top didn't do it for me, so I harked back to the grandmother of upside down cakes, the pineapple upside down cake, to make a Pineapple Upside-Downer. I also inserted a frozen raspberry into the centre of each pineapple ring to make it pretty and resemble the glace cherry versions of my youth.
This cake is light and spongy and delicious. I ate mine warm, but didn't get to try it cold because I forgot to save myself a piece. Oh well, that's the way it goes.
You can check out the recipe at Sabrina's site or in Dorie's book, and to see more variations on the Cranberry Upside-Downer, visit the TWD blogroll.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
On 15 September 2010, it is the 120th anniversary of Agatha Christie's birth. Agatha Christie needs no introduction - she is the best-selling author of all time, with her crime novels selling over 2 billion copies, and translated into 45 languages.
To celebrate Christie's 120th anniversary, Jane Asher, actress and cake maker extraordinaire, was asked to create a cake recipe. Jane was inspired by a passage in Christie's A Murder Announced, a Miss Marple novel, to create the recipe for Delicious Death®. You can find the relevant passage, the recipe for the cake and more background information here and here.
Delicious Death® is a rich flourless chocolate cake, filled with brandied fruits, and enrobed in rich chocolate ganache.
The Agatha Christie website has invited everyone to join in the celebrations by making Delicious Death® and posting a photograph of their creation to their Facebook page created for the occasion.
This was too good an opportunity to pass up - the cake looks scrumptious, I love a historic occasion, and I am a fan of the Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot TV series (although I will confess to never having read an Agatha Christie novel).
Here are my fruits being cooked in brandy:
Next step is to make the cake:
I substituted half of the almond meal for ground pecans (because I didn't have quite enough almonds).
Once the cake is cooled, it is split in half, and filled with the brandied fruits:
The two halves of the cake are then joined back together, and the cake is smothered in a rich, decadent chocolate ganache. Finally, it is decorated with scroll rows of ganache, crystallised violets, crystallised rose petals and gold leaf (or in my case, one row of scrolling, crystallised violets, silver cachous and pink hearts). I also piped "Good Wishes" across the cake, as in the passage of the novel which inspired this cake, the cake baker says that she would do that:
Finally, slice and enjoy!!
Doesn't this look fabulous? And it was - perhaps not worth dying for, but very, very good.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Recently, Tim and I went to dinner at one of his favourite haunts - Co Do Vietnamese restaurant in Victoria Street, Richmond, Victoria. For the uninitiated, if you love Vietnamese food, then Victoria Street will be your idea of heaven - it is virtually wall to wall Vietnamese restaurants, and the hard part is choosing which one to try.
Tim discovered Co Do in the Qantas Australian Way magazine, and first went there with his friend Steve. They've been going back ever since.
On the night in question, I let Tim do the ordering (as he's the expert on this one), and we had his favourite dishes from the Co Do menu.
The first dish, pictured at the top of this post, is spicy quail. As the name of the dish suggests, it is quail in a spicy (but not too spicy!) sauce. It comes with crisp but nondescript vegetables, which I assume are there solely to help you to soak up the remaining sauce and to cleanse the palate. Tim and I shared this dish for entree, as there are 4 pieces of quail. This is a fabulous dish that is literally finger licking good, but if you are a messy eater, beware the splashes of sauce on your clothes - or hey, just wear old clothes, and no-one will care.
The next dish is broken rice - perched atop a bed of steamed rice are a fried egg, a slice of sausage meat, a slice of pork and noodles, with a few crispy veges on the side. (Which again I can only assume are meant to be palate cleansers, as they really don't add to the dish.) If you order this, be sure to crack the egg yolk over the rice so as to taste the gooey rich goodness. There was a lot of sauce-less rice, so to give it a kick, I squirted mine with barbecue sauce. I am pretty sure this is not a traditional Vietnamese thing to do, but it tasted good, and Tim liked this tip.
The meals at Co Do are filling, delicious, and don't cost a bomb. It is BYO, so you can take whatever alcohol takes your fancy. The green tea is served in a thermos, which I think is a great idea, because there is nothing worse than bitter, cold green tea. As a bonus, if you are a karaoke fan and speak Vietnamese, the restaurant plays Vietnamese karaoke in the background. The service is efficient and friendly, the space is roomier than many Vietnamese restaurants on the same strip, and it is the kind of place that you can bring children with no problems (and there were quite a few with their families on the night). Overall, Co Do gets a thumbs up from me.
196 Victoria St
Richmond 3121 VIC
Ph: (03) 9421 2418
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
However, it was not until I was a grown-up baker that I discovered peanut butter biscuits. Any PB biscuits are seriously good - for reference, check out Duckie's ode to peanut butter and peanut butter cookies.
Accordingly, I was pretty happy with this week's choice of Dorie recipe - peanut butter criss-crosses, selected by Jasmine of Jasmine Cuisine.
All the other reviews I read of these cookies is that they are crisp - hmmm, don't know what happened there, but after baking for the required time, my biscuits were cooked but soft. Perhaps it is because I strayed a little on ingredients due to the limitations of my pantry cupboard - I remembered to buy the peanut butter and peanuts (honey roasted, of course!), but forgot to buy white sugar and butter. As a result, I used all brown sugar and Nuttelex in my biscuits.
No matter - why fret about what ain't broken? These biscuits were seriously good - which is a relief, because the recipe makes a lot of them (38 in my case, 40 for Dorie). I don't think they'll ever usurp the nourishing goodness of a PB sandwich, but these are good, nevertheless.
You will be able to check out the recipe on Jasmine's site when it is Tuesday, her time. You will also be able to look longingly at many other versions of these biscuits by visiting the TWD blogroll.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
First stop was Cupcakes on Pitt. You can buy all kinds of cupcakes here with unusual flavours, and all dressed up very prettily and presented in sweet little cupcake window boxes. Even better, the cupcakes are only $2.50 each. I chose strawberries & cream and Black Forest flavours:
I found the frosting on the strawberry cucpake way too buttery for my liking, but the cake itself was a beautiful pink strawberry flavoured cake, which got the thumbs up. The Black Forest is topped with ganache and whipped cream - devine! The cake itself was a little dry, but the topping made up for it.
I had a lovely florentine at a French cafe in Mossman called Le Breton Patisserie with my friend Karen, her hubby Michael and adorable baby Hugo, but unfortunately, I have no photos of it. However, it tasted delish, and was thin and crunchy, just the way I like my florentines.
Next morning, I continued my foodie journie for brekkie at the Bona Fides Cafe. This venue faces the harbour at Cockle Bay Wharf, and I stumbled on it by accident just by wandering towards Darling Harbour. My breakfast choice was these beautiful French pancakes served with maple syrup:
They were more like crepes and surprisingly filling. Big thanks to the helpful and friendly staff - my breakfast was served in record time, and they gave just that little bit extra to make you feel welcome.
On Sunday morning, I caught up with my friend Alison, who very good naturedly waited with me in line for half an hour or more to enter the hallowed hole in the wall of Adriano Zumbo's Patisserie at Balmain. Here is the queue - it doesn't look that long, but the shop is tiny inside (literally a hole in the wall), and people tend to agonise over their selections and oooh and aaah at the creations inside, so it takes a while:
Here is a glimpse of the shop window, filled with quiches, palmiers, apple turnovers and other assorted pastries:
Once inside, the first treats on offer are pizzas and quiches:
Next came some lovely rainbow hued custard tarts:
followed by some full-size cakes - from left to right are the Honey Combover (honey swiss roll plus honeycomb) and the I'll Get Back to You Barry (chocolate mousse and chocolate heaven):
It is all very Willy-Wonka-esque - all the cakes are surprising both inside and out, and have very imaginative names. It makes you feel just like Charlie Bucket with his golden ticket, and is well worth the wait if you are crazy about cake - and there were a lot of people who were, because they spent big bucks in here.
Moving on to the small cakes, which are an affordable $8.50 each, we have Shabilicious (caramel cheesecake on steroids), Lola (a coconut and caramelised puff pastry creation) and Roses are Red Mandies are Orange (like a huge macaron):
Next we have Wheely Wemon, a citrus and meringue concoction:
Cloudy Thyme and Got No Grains (which we ended up purchasing):
and Charlies Homemade Ginger Fear (ginger beer gel, ginger pudding and chocolate ginger foam eggs) and What a Great Pear of ... (pear and almond confection with choux pastry on top):
You can read more about the flavours here.
This is another gratuitous shot of Adriano Zumbo's creations:
And of course, you can buy macarons - many Australians were first introduced to macarons on Masterchef by Adriano Zumbo's macaron tower:
On the day, there were eight flavours available (can't exactly remember what they were), and I bought all 8 for my friend Tim. Unfortunately, they are a little the worse for wear after their journey to Melbourne, but it's the thought that counts, right?
Apart from the macarons, I bought a spinach, goats cheese and blueberry quiche (because I really wanted to know what blueberries would taste like in a savoury dish! and the answer is "delicious"):
a pear and macadamia sticky bun, of which I don't have a photo but was delicious, and the Got No Grains:
I wanted this because it was so unusual - oatmeal creme, toasted spelt mousse, maple gel, and sesame nougatine perched atop a chocolate coated muesli bar. Alison and I shared this (courtesy of my handy Advil packet improvised knife), and it was extremely sweet - primarily because of the maple gel. My favourite part was the muesli bar on the bottom.
Alison purchased the Cloudy Thyme, which we also shared (and cut using the cardboard base from the Got No Grains):
This ethereal creation is, according to Adriano Zumbo's website: Liquorice pate brisee, olive oil creme citron, butterscotch caramel, oven roasted apples, mint meringue ball & thyme italian meringue. We couldn't put our finger on the spice in the meringue at the time (I wrongly guessed cardamom), but it really made this cake - it was absolutely superb, very unusual and the pick of our purchases.
Having finally fulfilled my long held ambition to visit Adriano Zumbos (and loved it - thanks Alison!!), I went to high tea with my friend Camilla in the afternoon at the Swisstotel. Camilla kindly bought my tea and a glass of bubbly as an early birthday present - what a sweetie.
This is my first plate - jelly and marshmallow cone, mandarin jelly, salmon wrap and ham and mustard sandwich:
Here is a glimpse of just some of the many treats available at the Swisstotel high tea:
After taking a breather (being very full and high on sugar after eating all day), my next plate was a marshmallow and fruit chocolate fondue kebab and a mini creme caramel:
For dinner that night (yep, I have unlimited capacity, it seems), I ventured to Din Tai Fung in World Square:
My friend Karen recommended this as a place for great dumplings (and I understand that it is famed world-wide for its dumplings, being an international chain). Unfortunately, for one person, a serve of six dumplings (even without my sugar binge!) is not do-able, so I ordered another dish.
Because I was dining alone, I was able to go straight in to dine at one the communal tables (there was a wait of about 10 minutes for parties of two or more).
I ordered the pork and vegetable wonton noodle dish, with a spicy sauce:
I was informed that the sauce was mild - hmm, maybe for Asian tastes, but I was glad that it was not any hotter, as it made my nose run as it was. However, it tasted delicious, and I polished it off without any problems.
Next time (I hope there is one!), I will get just the salads - they are fantastic!!! Believe me, I am not a salad girl ordinarily, so for me to say that these salads were worthy of a meal on their own is saying something.
I hope you enjoyed coming on my trip through the Sydney food scene as much as I did!