Sunday, September 29, 2013

Peach Upside Down Cake

Yesterday was the Australian Football League (AFL) Grand Final Day in Melbourne.  Fremantle (the Dockers) played Hawthorn (the Hawks) on a rather vitriolic Saturday afternoon, when it rained and shined in equal measure, and strong winds buffeted everything.  The Hawks won to the delight of some and the disappointment of others.  I felt for the loyal Freo supporters who had bussed it all the way across the Nullarbor to see their beloved team play in their first Grand Final, only to see them pipped at the post by 15 points.
I will confess to being agnostic when it comes to the AFL, as I am from Queensland, and during my childhood, the AFL was known in our house as "Victorian football" - only played in that far off place called Melbourne, and receiving little or no airplay on Queensland television sets.  However, the AFL has wisely since gone national, and each State has at least one team.
While the drama of the Grand Final was being played out, I was preparing for a dinner party with four friends last night, details of which I will provide later.
This leads me on to my latest cake - a Peach Upside Down Cake, from a recipe by Julie Goodwin,  that I made primarily to use up the tinned peaches in my fridge which are currently outside the scope of my diet.  It ended up being a rather lovely cake: 
Unfortunately, I could only desperately taste a small offcut, not even a slice, so that I stay true to my diet mission.  From that taste, I gathered it to be a light and airy cake with lovely caramelised peaches on top - even if half of the brown sugar ran out of my springform pan in the oven!  (I should have lined that pan.)

If you happen to have some tinned peaches and want to trump peaches and icecream for dessert, you can't go wrong with making this lovely cake.

Friday, September 27, 2013

FFWD - Rice Pudding with Caramel Apples

French Fridays with Dorie this week is a dessert - Rice Pudding with Caramel Apples.  You can find the recipe online here.

I always love desserts, but at this point in time, it is a little naughty for me to be eating them.  Accordingly, I only made a quarter of the recipe and cut down on the sugar and cream.  This meant that my dessert was not as sweet as it otherwise should have been, but it meant that I was not breaking the rules of my diet as badly.

I quite liked this, but I liked the rice pudding component the best.  I have always liked rice pudding - Mum used to make for us as kids, and I still ask for it when I go home.

I'd make the rice pudding again, but probably skip the apples.

To see what everyone else thought of this pudding, visit the LYL section of the website.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fortnum and Mason Gingerbread with Prunes and Ale

A recent delicious bake from Tea at Fortnum and Mason was Gingerbread with Prunes and Ale.  The title of this recipe had me immediately - I adore ginger, gingerbread and prunes.  Ale I can take or leave, but I know that it gives a lovely rich flavour to baked goods.

This gingerbread is dense and moist, and the glaze adds a touch of sweetness to the soft, spicy cake beneath.  I loved this gingerbread, and would make it again in a heartbeat.

If you are tempted to make it, you will need:

100ml dark ale
100ml freshly brewed tea
75g chopped prunes
125g butter
125g dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons treacle (I used golden syrup)
250g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 beaten eggs
2 balls stem ginger, chopped

150g icing sugar
water sufficient to make an icing

Put the ale, tea and prunes in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, and leave to soak for 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 190°C. Grease a 20 cm square cake tin and line with baking paper.

Put the butter, sugar and treacle in a saucepan and melt over low heat. Allow to cool slightly.

Sift the flour, baking powder, ground ginger and cinnamon into a bowl, then add the butter mixture with the eggs, stem ginger, prunes and ale and mix to combine.

Pour the batter into the greased tin, and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then unmould onto a wire rack to cool completely.

When the cake is completely cool, ice the cake with the prepared icing. Cut the gingerbread into pieces to serve. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

WWDH - Seared Salmon on Coconut Spinach

This week's Wednesday with Donna Hay pick is Seared Salmon with Coconut Spinach, chosen by Chaya from Off the Shelf.  You can also find the recipe online here.

I used baby spinach instead of English spinach, and instead of chilli paste, I used curry paste.

This was pretty good - I wasn't sure about the spinach, but the chilli/curry paste combines with the coconut cream to make a very tasty sauce.

The star with the salmon was the grated fresh ginger - it pan fried into a crispy, zingy coating for the fish - adore!

To see what Chaya, Kayte, Margaret and Sarah thought of this dish, visit the website.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

No. 35, Melbourne

For my recent birthday, Tim took me to No. 35 Restaurant in the Sofitel, Melbourne.  It is called "No. 35" because it is on the 35th floor of the hotel.

Our meal commenced with some complimentary sour dough bread rolls:

They are served warm with garlic butter.  The winner was the seeded roll, which had a lovely nutty flavour.

For entree, I ordered the half dozen freshly shucked oysters with Bloody Mary and cucumber sorbet ($25):

I enjoyed these, but I felt that the natural taste of the oyster was obscured by the Bloody Mary flavour.

Tim ordered the smoked salmon with avocado, lemon cream, asparagus and shallot ($23): 

He was very pleased with his choice, so I gather that it tasted good.  I did get a taste of the salmon, which was moist and delicious.

For main, I ordered the roasted chicken with asparagus, morels and parsley and garlic emulsion ($39):

This was rather tasty, especially as I love asparagus and received 4 long spears.

Tim ordered the pork belly with black pudding, pork fritters and apples and prunes ($39):

This looked intriguing and again met with Tim's approval.

We ordered two sides - fennel and witlof salad with blood orange and macadamia ($9):

and spiced cauliflower with green chilli and pomegranate ($9):

My favourite was the cauliflower, which had a bit of spicy kick, but not so much as to leave you reeling. The highlight of the salad was the crunchy macadamias, which added both flavour and texture.

For dessert, Tim ordered the raspberry cranachan ($15):

This seemed to be a large raspberry fool with an oaty biscuit to dip in it, and included whole raspberries as well as raspberry syrup.  Tim cleaned this up pretty quickly.

I couldn't help but go for the unusual - chocolate and avocado with coffee gel, pumpkin icecream and berry glaze ($16):

The four brown cubes seemed to be brown bread, and they were rather weird; however, the dessert minus those bread cubes really worked.  The chocolate was a generous strip of solid chocolate  ganache, and everything else was either perched on or balanced around it.  I enjoyed it for something completely different, but it's not on my list of "must have" desserts.

We ordered various wines to accompany our meal from No. 35's ample wine list.

The service was prompt and attentive, and the atmosphere was fabulous - we had almost 360 degree views of Melbourne, including out to the Parisian tower of the Arts Centre, of Government House, to the football ground and various points in between.  It makes for quite a spectacle at night, with the dark sky providing a perfect canvas for the twinkling city lights.

I really enjoyed our dinner at No. 35 - it was a wonderful birthday treat.

No. 35 Restaurant
Level 35, 25 Collins St
Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: +61 3 9653 7744

Monday, September 23, 2013

Primrose Bakery Orange Cake

On Friday last week, one guy in our office had a birthday, and another was having his last day before starting a new job.  From my perspective, this was a perfect opportunity to make cake!

I didn't want to buy special ingredients, so I chose my cake based on what I already had readily available in the house.  I landed on the Primrose Bakery Book's Orange Cake.  You can find the recipe online here

Don't be put off by "golden caster sugar" - I just used plain old white sugar; or "self raising flour" - I never buy it anymore and just convert my plain flour to self raising flour using this conversion

I was almost not going to make the glaze and just use buttercream, but believe me, it was worth it and not very time consuming to make both the buttercream and the glaze: 

You end up with different textures and flavours which add interest to the lovely buttery orange cake.

The cake was a hit, even if the birthday boy was away on the day and missed out.  It is definitely a "keeper". 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fortnum and Mason's Date and Nut Loaf

On a recent shopping excursion with my friend Sandra, I found the cutest little book called Tea at Fortnum and Mason at Wilkins and Kent.  Its cover is in signature Fortnum and Mason duck egg blue and gold, and it has some of the loveliest teatime recipes you will ever see.  I want to make all of them!

I decided to start off with Date and Nut Loaf (well, actually Date and Walnut Loaf, but I used hazelnuts instead) from p109 of the book.  It involves soaking dates in tea, then mixing them into the cake batter with nuts, and lo, you have a delicious cake:

My cake did sink a little in the middle (only the second time in my life that has happened) - it may have been because I added too much baking powder as I guess-timated how to convert my plain flour into self raising flour, and maybe it rose just a tad too fast.  No matter - the end result was delicious (this was pre my low carb diet), and no-one at work complained. It has a deep caramel flavour, with depth added by the tea and some crunch from the nuts.

To make this lovely cake,  you will need:

125 g butter
100ml freshly brewed tea (I used my friend Camilla's wedding guest gift tea) 
50 g dates, pitted and chopped
175g dark brown sugar
2 eggs
75g wholemeal flour
125g self raising flour (I used 100% plain white flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
zest of 1 orange
100g chopped nuts
1 tablespoon Demerara sugar

Preheat your oven to 180⁰C. Grease a 900g loaf tin and line it with baking paper.

Pour the tea into a small bowl and allow the dates to soak in it for 20 minutes or so.

Cream the butter and brown sugar using a stand mixer, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Fold in the flours, baking powder, orange zest, dates and the tea and 75g of nuts. Pour the mixture into the prepared  loaf tin and sprinkle with the remaining walnuts and Demerara sugar. Bake for 1 hour or until cooked through.

Remove the cake form the oven and cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy with your favourite cuppa!

Friday, September 20, 2013

FFWD - Tuna Stuffed Piquillo Peppers - er Mini Capsicums

This week's fishy French Fridays with Dorie offering is Tuna Stuffed Piquillo Peppers.  I couldn't be stuffed finding the piquillo peppers to stuff, so I bought mini capsicums instead and stuffed them with the tuna mixture:

I served the stuffed capsicums with a bright array of stir fried vegetables, making for a colourful lunch.

The tuna filling was a little too fishy for me - I would have preferred some ricotta in with the fish, or for something else to break up the tuna-ishness of the ensemble.  Not a repeat for me.

To see what everyone else thought of this dish, visit the LYL section of the FFWD website.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Biggest Loser Chocolate Cupcakes for My Birthday

It was my birthday recently, and as it seemed a bit sad not to have a cake, I made my own chocolate cupcakes, pictured above.

To make these cupcakes, I took the Biggest Loser Chocolate Fudge Cake and made it into 12 cupcakes and one mini heart cake, then iced them with plain old water icing (icing sugar, cocoa, water).  I think they look pretty.

While the cake is obviously not as sumptuous as a normal chocolate cake, at only 98 calories per serving (12 serves per recipe), it is a very good alternative.  I didn't find the cake dry this time - perhaps I slightly overbaked it last time.  However, don't expect moist, mud-like cake - it is more like a pound cake in consistency.

I topped the cupcakes with Lindt chocolates:

Aren't the cupcake papers gorgeous - I bought them in San Francisco last year when I was shopping at Sur La Table with Patty:

It was a fun way to celebrate "my" day.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

WWDH - Leek, ricotta and mushroom frittata

This week's Wednesday with Donna Hay recipe was chosen by Margaret, who selected Donna's leek, ricotta and mushroom frittata.

This was a simple and tasty breakfast for me - I halved the recipe and ended up with two serves.  I chilled the second serve, and I enjoyed the frittata better cold than warm.

My tip is to add plenty of seasoning to avoid blandness, but otherwise, this was pretty good.

To see what Margaret, Kayte, Chaya and Sarah thought of this dish, visit their websites.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Grain Store, Flinders Lane, Melbourne

One cold, rainy Sunday, I went to The Grain Store in Flinders Lane, Melbourne for brunch with my friends V & C.

The Grain Store has a wonderful ambiance - light and bright and cheerful, just the kind of atmosphere you need for breakfast/brunch.  It is also surprisingly large, as it extends into a back room.

The staff are friendly, prompt and attentive, and the menu is reasonably priced.  And the food and coffee are really, really good!

The scrumptious dish at the top of the post was ordered by my friend V.  It is a bacon steak with smoky beans, egg sunny side up and a few other bits and bobs ($19).  I had been going to   order this because I love beans, but didn't think I'd make it through it all.  It wasn't as large as I had thought it would be, so maybe I could have, but I got to taste the beans - and they were so smoky, spicy and good. 

I ordered the smoked salmon with poached egg, crostini and salad ($19):

The poached egg was crumb-coated with a lovely oozy yolk: 

I really enjoyed this dish.  Sometimes, salmon can be a little overwhelming and oily, but not in this dish - it was just perfect.

C ordered the portabello mushroom and raclette rosti ($18), which was also very good.

For afters, V ordered their "special bread", a type of fruit brioche, which came with honey and ricotta ($9):

I tried just a tiny piece because of my low carb diet, and it was warm and buttery - perfect.

I would definitely go back to The Grain Store - it is top notch in my books.

The Grain Store
517 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: +61 3 9972 6993

Friday, September 13, 2013

FFwD - Veal Chops with Rosemary Butter

Today's French Friday with Dorie dish is veal chops with rosemary butter.  It is as sweet and simple as it sounds.

The sauce on the plate is made with the pan juices, chicken stock and white wine - I liked it but I used too much stock by misreading the recipe, so it wasn't as thick as it should have been.

My chops may have been slightly on the rare side, but they were good.  I served them with stir fried veg, as mash is off the cards for me at the moment while I go low-carb to try and shift some of my belly.

 To see what the other Doristas thought of these chops, visit the LYL section of the website.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tivoli Road Bakery, South Yarra

A couple of weekends ago, I went to E&T's house with Tim for lunch.  The night before, I had been to a Pink concert:
Pink was sensational.  My favourite parts of the concert were when she sang an acoustic version of Time After Time, and the finale when she sings So What dressed head to toe in sparkles and swings all over the ceiling.  Breathtaking!

To go to E & T's, I decided to take some dessert.  I was in the South Yarra area, so I ventured out to try the Tivoli Road Bakery (formerly Movida Bakery) that I had heard so much about.  As you can see from the top photo, the Tivoli Road Bakery is mostly about artisan bread.  However, they are also famed for their donuts, so that is what I bought.  Below you can see 2 x custard, quince and rhubarb donuts, 1 x dulce de leche donut, and one lemon curd donut:

They taste as fabulous as they look.  Here's a peek inside the dulce de leche donut:

Fabulous, eh?

E kindly cooked the three of us delicious lamb shanks:

This was extra special because E is a vegetarian and could not partake of this feast herself.
Tim and I capped off a marvellous day by going to Let It Be - The Songs of Lennon and McCartney at The Arts Centre (although I noticed they threw in a couple of uncredited George Harrison numbers).  Golden oldies Glenn Shorrock, Doug Parkinson and John Paul Young, together with the younger Jack Jones, entertained us on the night.
It was definitely a weekend to remember.
Tivoli Road Bakery
3 Tivoli Rd
South Yarra VIC 3141 
Ph: (03) 9041 4345

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

WWDH - Baked Fish with Tomatoes and Garlic

This week's Wednesday with Donna Hay pick is from Kayte, who chose Baked Fish with Tomatoes and Garlic from Modern Classics Book I.  You can find the recipe with beautiful photos here.

This is super easy, super quick and tasty. I found that my capers had dried out so those are missing from the recipe - they would have made it even better.

To see what Kayte, Margaret, Chaya and Sarah thought of this recipe, go visit them.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Mandarin almond cake

I have just started a low sugar low carbs diet to try and shift a little of my gut, which has been creeping up in the last few years.  For this purpose, my naturopath asked me not to eat any fruit for the next couple of weeks.  Unfortunately, I had 3 beautiful mandarins in my fruit bowl that I didn't want to waste.  My immediate thought was - let's make cake with them!

I used this recipe for Mandarin Pistachio Cake, because it uses the whole mandarins.  I was intrigued!  It was also flourless, even better in my current circumstances.  I just substituted almond meal for the pistachios, and ended up with this cake:

My notes:

  • The cake is quite soft and fragile, so be careful when unmoulding it and handling it in general.
  • The cake is also very moist, almost pudding-like, but this is how it is meant to be - it doesn't mean it's not cooked.
  • I added a plain icing sugar glaze, and was glad I did, as the cake has a slightly bitter edge from the  mandarin peel.
  • Although I didn't eat a whole slice (I just tasted some stray crumbs due to my diet),  I can say that it tasted better the day after baking when the flavours had melded - it made the cake less bitter.
Hope you all have a good week.

Friday, September 6, 2013

FFwD - Fresh Tuna, Mozzarella, and Basil Pizza - sort of

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe was Fresh Tuna, Mozzarella, and Basil Pizza.  And I made it - sort of.

I did use fresh tuna that I cut into mangled slices.  I did use puff pastry, albeit a seemingly smaller size of round than was asked for.  I used cheddar instead of mozzarella, I used baby spinach instead of basil, I used whole tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes and I skipped the fresh ginger and olives because I didn't have any.  Ummm ... so I guess that makes mine a Fresh Tuna, Cheddar and Spinach Pizza.

My reasoning for all of this innovation is that I didn't want to buy a whole heap of stuff that I wouldn't otherwise use and then be stuck with leftovers that would go to waste.  Also, I had to buy baby spinach for another recipe and I already had cheddar and I don't eat lots of cheese.  Simple.

The pizza still tasted good to me as Sunday lunch.

To see what the other Dorie cooks thought, visit the LYL section of the website.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

WWDH - Corn Cakes

This week's Wednesday with Donna Hay recipe is my pick, Corn Cakes from p82 of Modern Classics Book I.  Chaya made the recipe outside of the group last year, and you can find the recipe (minus the bacon) here.  To make the recipe as per the book, just add four cooked slices of bacon that have been chopped.

These corn cakes were quite tasty.  I served mine with chutney, as Donna suggested.

The only thing that I didn't like about this recipe is all the washing up.  Even though I used tinned corn, there was still a lot of pans and dishes involved.  However, if you don't mind that, and cheese, corn, bacon and onion mixed together in a fritter sounds good to you, then you will like this recipe.

Please visit Kayte, Margaret, Chaya and Sarah to see what they thought of these cakes.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Honey Biscuits

Do you like receiving junk mail?  I know some people who loathe it, and certainly some of the brochures and flyers that I get are not of the slightest interest to me.  However, sometimes you get a few gems, and I always like getting the supermarket specials brochures.  I also pick up the free supermarket magazines at the end of the checkout, not for the advertising, but for the recipes that they contain.

In the August edition of the Woolworths checkout magazine,  I found a terrific, simple recipe for honey biscuits.  These are easy enough that the kids can make them with a little adult assistance when using the stove and the oven.  Even better, they taste great!

The recipe says it makes 35 biscuits, but I made something like 24 biscuits - and they were not very big.    To make these delicious bikkies, you will need:

80g butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups self raising flour
pinch of salt
1 egg
1/2 cup white sugar

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and line 2 large cookie trays with baking paper. 

Melt the butter and honey together in a saucepan over medium heat, and leave to cool a little. 

Add the flour, salt and beaten egg to the mixture and combine until you have a soft, non-sticky dough.  Roll walnut sized balls of dough in the sugar, and place on the baking trays.  Flatten the tops of the balls lightly with a fork.

Bake the biscuits in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden.  Remove the biscuits from the oven and cool on the trays.

Finally, I wanted to share with you this spectacular skyline near my home that I photographed last Wednesday evening:

Aren't the colours amazing?  Enjoy.