Monday, April 29, 2013

Caramel apple upside-down cake

On the cover of this month's Delicious magazine, there was a photo of the most luscious looking autumnal cake I had seen for some time.  Wanting to know more, I bought the magazine and learned that the luscious cake was a Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake by Valli Little, with a layer of golden caramel on top of the apple slices on top of the cake, and with dulce de leche in the cake batter.  Yum!

Unlike my usual habit of putting away magazines without making anything, I promptly bought everything that I needed to make the Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake.    The only hitch was that I could not find dulce de leche in my supermarket, so I used David Lebovitz's baked condensed milk method to make some non-scary dulce de leche of my own.

Here is the resulting cake:

Valli advises to serve the cake warm, and I agree with her assessment - I found the cake a little dry and heavy when it was cold.  However, I took it to work and the verdict was that the punters liked it warm or cold.  Just goes to show what a personal thing taste can be.

If you would like to make this warming, pudding-like cake, you will need:

220g sugar
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1cm thick
175g salted butter
100g brown sugar
200g dulce de leche
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
175g self raising four
100g almond meal

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Grease and line a 24cm springform pan., and wrap the outside of the pan in foil to stop it from leaking during cooking.

Put the sugar in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water, and stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves, then increase to medium heat and allow the mixture to cook, without stirring, until it turns golden amber in colour.  Pour the caramel over the base of the prepared pan and set aside to cool.

Lay overlapping slices of apple in concentric circles over the caramel in the base of the pan.

Put the butter and brown sugar into an electric mixer and beat until thick and pale, then beat in the dulce de leche and vanilla.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then fold in the flour and almond meal.  Pour the batter over the apples in the cake tin, and spread out evenly.

Place the cake into the oven to bake for 35-40 minutes or until cooked through.

Cool the cake in the tin for 10 minutes before inverting onto a plate to cool until just warm.

Serve with cream or icecream - enjoy!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Crowd Pleaser Chocolate Cake for Lee's Birthday

Today is Lee's birthday.  As I cannot be there for the day, I celebrated the occasion with her a few days early by making a chocolate cake for her birthday.  This sour cream chocolate cake is the Australian Women's Weekly Crowd Pleaser Chocolate, and the recipe is online here.

Be warned - this makes one massive cake, so when it talks about a crowd, it means it.  My tip is to work with the frosting quickly, as it sets up firmly in no time and requires quite a bit of coaxing thereafter to work with.

Here is a shot of the un-frosted cake: 

and a peek inside at the crumb:

Instead of decorating Lee's cake with fresh flowers as suggested by the recipe, I made fondant decorations using silicone moulds, pink lustre dust and pearl glaze:

The tiny little pieces were a challenge to unmould without squashing them:

I think these decorations are so cute and I will definitely make them again.
The verdict on the cake - everyone else seemed to enjoy it, but I found the cake rather dryer than I would like.  That said, with the sour cream frosting, it was chocolatey and decadent.
Happy birthday Lee! 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Daring Bakers - Savarin

It's Daring Bakers time again.

Natalia of Gatti Fili e Farina challenges us to make a traditional Savarin, complete with soaking syrup and cream filling! We were to follow the Savarin recipe but were allowed to be creative with the soaking syrup and filling, allowing us to come up with some very delicious cakes!

I decided to veer away from the traditional Savarin flavours to make a Cherry Savarin by soaking my Savarin in a cherry brandy syrup (1/2 cup cherry brandy + 2 cups water + 1/4 cup icing sugar, boiled up together) and topping it with a  cherry compote made from frozen cherries.  I made crème patisserie for the filling as I love custard.

The Savarin took an awfully long time to make because of the rising time involved - I think my Savarin had around 6 hours or so of rising time.  I also found that I did not have quite enough syrup, so while three quarters of the Savarin was nice and soft and spongy, the bottom remained rather bread-like.  I also think this could have been better if I had soaked the bottom of the Savarin in a bowl of syrup as well as pouring on the syrup in the cake tin while the Savarin was hot.

Nevertheless, the Savarin was rather delicious: 

I mean, custard and cherries - how bad can it be?  The Savarin also got snapped up at work, although nobody really knew what it was.  This was the proof of the pudding in my books.

Thanks to Natalia for hosting this month - if you are keen to make a Savarin, she will have the recipe we used on her blog. To see a rainbow array of Savarins, visit the slide show on the Daring Kitchen website on 27 April, US time.

Friday, April 26, 2013

FFwD - Swiss Chard Pancakes

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe is Swiss Chard Pancakes.  In my case, they were actually spinach pancakes, as I could not buy Swiss chard.

These pancakes are from a fairly standard pancake batter with chives and spinach blitzed through it, and cooked in the usual way.  I made a third of the recipe to yield 7 pancakes.

I served my pancakes with aubergine, mango and chilli jam on some and with cottage cheese on the others. 

These pancakes were OK, but probably not something I'd make again.

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

Thursday, April 25, 2013

ANZAC biscuits for ANZAC Day

I adore the Anne of Green Gables books by LM Montgomery, and I also love the first miniseries based on the books starring Canadian actress Megan Follows.  I didn't enjoy the second miniseries as much because of its departures from the books, although if I take it in its own right rather than comparing it to the books, it is rather good too.  Until recently, I hadn't seen the third Anne miniseries, because I knew that it was not based on the books at all.  However, I bought all three Anne miniseries as a boxed set and decided to start by watching miniseries three.

Miniseries three, entitled Anne: The Continuing Story, is set during World War I.  Anne and Gilbert are all grown up and get married before Gilbert goes away to war to serve as a medic.  When Anne's letters to Gilbert are returned unopened, Anne goes to war-torn Europe with the Red Cross to look for him.  Although Anne: The Continuing Story is a separate piece of fiction in itself quite apart from the LM Montgomery books, I enjoyed it, although definitely not as much as the first Anne of Green Gables miniseries.  The maturity of the relationship between Anne and Gilbert was a treat to watch, and the miniseries very effectively reminded the viewer of the horrors of World War I.  As Megan Follows said in an interview about the miniseries, this was not a time of innocence.

Today is ANZAC Day in Australia, a public holiday to remember those who fought for our freedom.  The original ANZACs landed at Anzac Cove in Turkey during World War I.  Many of the ANZACs were very young, with some young men lying about their age so that they could enlist.  I cannot imagine how those young men dealt with the horrors of war, losing their innocence so drastically and immediately.  Just last year, the long lost images of a number of Australian soldiers in France were uncovered, and it is amazing to see those photos so many years later. 

To celebrate ANZAC Day, I made ANZAC biscuits, which are a staple in many Aussie households.  There are lots of different recipes for ANZAC biscuits, but all are along the lines of an oatmeal cookie made with golden syrup.  This year, I made the ANZAC biscuit recipe from Day to Day Cookery by Downes, the school home economics cookery text that I loathed at the time.  My school was very old fashioned, making all girls do home economics and all boys do manual arts in Year 8, and even more of an affront, making all girls (but not boys!) do Parent Craft in Year 9.  I still find this extraordinary, even now - don't boys need to learn to cook and sew and Parent Craft too?  And I would love to be more handy around the house.

The recipe for ANZAC biscuits is as follows:

1 cup plain flour
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup coconut
3/4 cup sugar
140g butter
3 tablespoons golden syrup
3 tablespoons boiling water
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl.  Add the rolled oats, coconut and sugar. 

Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the syrup and water.  Add the bicarbonate of soda and allow the mixture to foam, then pour it onto the dry ingredients and mix well.  Place tablespoons of mixture onto a tray, spaced well to allow for spreading, and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

WWDH - Smoky roasted gazpacho

This week's Wednesday with Donna Hay is Smoky Roasted Gazpacho from Modern Classics Book I, chosen by Chaya.

This gazpacho contains roasted tomato, garlic and onion combined with paprika and water to make a cold spicy soup.  It was easy enough to make, and interesting to learn, but not something that I fancy enough to make again.

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

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Corned beef and cabbage

Every week, I attend a clinical Pilates to keep mind and body together.  When I mention "mind", I have been lucky enough to fall in with a terrific bunch of girls in my class, and each week we chat about all manner of things during the class.  A regular topic is "what are you having for dinner?" A couple of weeks back, Alison said she was having corned beef.  Now I love corned beef but I had never cooked it myself before, so I was inspired by Alison to give it a go.

I had to look up a recipe for cooking corned beef, and after some unsuccessful searches thorugh my recipe books, I chanced upon this Donna Hay recipe on the Internet.  I left out the onions and carots, but otherwise cooked the corned beef as instructed.  The end result was magnificent - just like mother used to make, even though mother did not put all the extras in  she just adds a splash of vinegar, apparently.  My corned beef is topped with some chutney out of the jar - perfect!

 I had also never cooked cabbage before, and was wary of all the bad cabbage stories that I had heard.   Initially, I intended to boil the cabbage, but another trusty Internet search yielded a forum thread with a method for sauteeing shredded cabbage on the stovetop in oil, all purpose seasoning, salt (added last to avoid drying out the cabbage) and soy sauce.  This cabbage tasted pretty good, and stayed crispy rather than turning soggy.

Chuffed, I served my corned beef and cabbage with a jacket potato, cooked simply in the microwave and sprinkled with salt and all purpose seasoning, with a dash of low fat cream.  This was a dinner of champions! 

Even better, I have leftover corned beef for corned beef sandwiches for my lunch - solving the difficult question of what to have for lunch this week.  Corned beef, pickles and tomato on crusty bread is a winning lunchtime dish.

I hope that if, like me, you are a corned beef and cabbage novice, you find this post useful.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Incredibly Wonderful Chocolate Cake by Jill Dupleix

Do you ever hear the name of a dish and that alone determines that you must make it?  I do from time to time, and when I heard about a Jill Dupleix cake recipe called "Incredibly Wonderful Chocolate Cake", I knew that I had to make it.  How could I not make something that is incredibly wonderful?

This contains 250g of dark chocolate, contributing to the incredible wonderfulness of this cake - I used dark chocolate Easter eggs.  It is like a huge American brownie - it is crispy on the outside and soft and fudgy on the inside, is smooth on the tongue and melts in the mouth.  Look at the texture:

It really is an incredibly wonderful cake.

Let me leave you with my favourite feedback on this cake, from a work colleague:

"Your cake tasted like Jesus himself hand made it.  It was amazing."
If that doesn't convince you to make it, I don't know what else will.
Have a great weekend.

Friday, April 19, 2013

FFWD - Cod and Spinach Roulades

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe did not sound good to me.  Cod and spinach roulades?  They sounded even worse when I realised we were making fish mousse sausages filled with spinach, onion and preserved lemon:

Scary little suckers, aren't they:

These actually didn't taste too bad in the end, but honestly, why would I waste good fish by processing it up with egg white and cream to make fish sausages, when unadulterated fish tastes so much better.

To see what the other Doristas thought of this dish, please visit the LYL section of the FFWD website.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

WWDH - Free-form Ratatouille Tart

This week's Wednesday with Donna Hay is Free-form Ratatouille Tart chosen by Margaret.

This comprises a shortcrust pastry filled with roasted veges (garlic, onion, eggplant, capsicum and tomato).

I couldn't be bothered making pastry, so I used frozen pastry, and instead of making the whole tart, I made two minis.  I haven't tried them yet as I already had dinner before I made them.

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

Update:  I finally tried these tarts and found the filling to be absolutely scrumptious - I guess I should have known with all of those fabulous roasted veges!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

BWJ - Madeleines

This week's Baking with Julia challenge is Madeleines, and is hosted by Katie and Amy of Counter Dog

I have made madeleines a number of times before - I am not a madeleine wiz like Kayte, but I have learned a couple of things about them.  First - do not overfill your moulds - underfill them slightly, as they spread like mad when baking, so unless you want barnacles instead of shells, take it easy on the batter.  The other thing I have learned about madeleines is that they bake crazy quick - I often find that if I follow the baking time in the recipe, my madeleines are often darker than I desire - behold the photo above.  These madeleines were only in the oven for 10 minutes, but they went dark underneath.

On the upside, I got perfect little humps in the backs of my madeleines.  What is it about French baked good - feet on macarons, humps on madeleines.  Heck, maybe they'll be sprouting arms next.

I didn't find these madeleines particularly dry, as some Julia bakers did, although I found the batter to be rather more solid than I am used to working with.

To check out what the other Julia bakers thought of this madeleine recipe, visit the LYL section of the BWJ website.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Great Eats in Greater Melbourne

Hello weekend!  it is a bit grey and cold here today, but I am not going to let that put a dampener on my happiness at making it to the end of a long, stressful and crazy week, and NOT having to travel this weekend - hooray!

I know that Kayte likes my out and about posts, and I have been collecting photos of random food that I have eaten for a while, so I thought that today, just for fun, I would post about some of the  gastronomic delights that I have enjoyed recently in and around Melbourne.

First up and most recent, a branch of the Vietnamese street food chain, Roll'd, sprung up near my office in Flinders Lane.  I originally thought I'd be keen to try the traditional pork banh mi, but then when I realised it contained cold meat, I went instead for the BBQ chicken "bun mee" (as Roll'd dubs it):

This is pure deliciousness - hot BBQ chicken, coriander, cucumber, carrot and shallot in the softest baguette I have ever had., for the bargain price of $6.60  I hate hard chewy bread, so this baguette was a revelation.  The only downside to this roll was the shallot, which stayed with me for the rest of the afternoon.  Next time, I think I will cut up the shallot and halve its size so I am not eating shallot for the rest of the day.

Next up are some gorgeous chocolates from Koko Black in the City: 

This particular selection, given to me by Tim, is the Picnic Box especially for Valentines Day, but they sell these chocolate separately all year round.  Devine - my favourite was the heart filled with raspberry flavoured cream.

Staying on a sugar high, isn't this box of cupcakes from The Cupcake Queens in Kings Arcade, Armadale adorable:

Their base cupcakes (apart from the chocolate and red velvet ones) are all vanilla, with the flavours coming from the icing on top.  For dinner with some friends, I bought  one each of chocolate oreo, red velvet and musk:

The musk one was for me - I am a huge fan of musk lifesavers and musk sticks, so this cupcake just ramps up the musk to another level - yum.

Veering way off left of field, here is the tasty lunch I ate at Crossways, the Hare Krishna restaurant, in Swanston St, the City:

For the tiny price of $7.50, I got a huge serve of curry of the day, the pudding of the day (spotted dick and custard, I think) and a drink.  It is all vegetarian.  Sure, it isn't the fanciest food you will ever have,  but it is tasty and filling.

Revisiting my bent for Asian food, below are the cheapest and tastiest prawn rice paper rolls I have ever had: 

They are from a little shop just off the Little Collins Street side of Equitable Place, heading towards Elizabeth Street, but the name of the establishment unfortunately escapes me.  These rice paper rolls cost $5.90 for 3, and come with your choice of sweet chilli or teriyaki dipping sauce.  It's sweet chilli all the way for me!

Turning to a weekend excursion venue, Tim and I took the train to Spotswood one weekend, where we dined at the Spotiswoode Hotel for Sunday lunch:

It's right across from the train station, so you can't miss it.  For a mere $10, we got all of this food with the Sunday roast special: 

On the day we were there, it was turkey, complete with a dollop of cranberry sauce, and a mix of roasted and steamed veges.  It was really, really, good, but there was so much food that Tim had to help me out with mine.  I recommend booking, as this place is pumping at lunch time.

Before lunch, we stopped off at Candied Bakery in Spotswood:

It is just a short stroll up the road from the railway station.  Tim ordered Candied's famed lamington, filled with raspberry jam:

It was a massive lamington, and Tim highly recommends it.

I went for the crème brulee tartlet:

It was OK, but I think I would have liked Tim's lamington more.

Outside, these two little dogs waited patiently for their owners to emerge with some treats:

Aren't they gorgeous?

I hope you have enjoyed this gastronomic trip through Melbourne with me.  Have a great weekend!

Friday, April 12, 2013

FFWD - Financiers

It's Friday again, and I am rather glad, as I have lost my Mojo this week.  I am hoping a restful weekend will bring it back.

For French Fridays with Dorie this week, our recipe is financiers, so called because when made in their traditional rectangular shape, they resemble gold bars.  The difference between this financier recipe and others I have tried.

I didn't have financier moulds, so I used ordinary muffin tins, which yielded 9 financiers.  I almost wrecked my financiers completely, as for some reason, instead of 175g of butter, I added 275g - then wondered why I was having trouble getting the butter to mix in.  Once I realised my mistake, I poured off the excess butter, and luckily, everything seemed to come together.

I did not change the recipe a jot (except perhaps by having more butter!),  and I liked these financiers very much.  The browned butter made the financiers smell devine as they were baking.

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

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

WWDH - Spinach and ricotta cannelloni

This week's Wednesday with Donna Hay recipe was chosen by Kayte.  It is Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni from Modern Classics Book I, and can also be found online.

I have never made cannelloni before, so I found this to be an interesting recipe.  It ended up being fairly easy to make, as Donna stipulates the use of fresh lasagne sheets into which the spinach and cheese filling is rolled up before being topped with bottled tomato pasta sauce.

Here is a peek at the insides:

This cannelloni is very tasty but quite rich - I couldn't eat the entire serving of two pieces, so divided the cannelloni up into one and half piece lots.  I served my cannelloni with frozen veges dolloped with aubergine and chilli jam.

I would make this again - it was delicious.

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

Sunday, April 7, 2013

MoVida Next Door and Pop Up Patch, Melbourne

One Friday evening, Tim and I decided to go for a treat and dine at MoVida Next Door, the little cousin to MoVida, the Spanish tapas restaurant right next door in Hosier Lane.  We didn't have a booking (and I now know we can't book there) but were lucky to squeeze in when we arrived just after 5.30pm.

MoVida next door is also a tapas establishment, making it a perfect place to order a variety of dishes to share.  The menu has a number of always available dishes off the menu, and a large and bewildering variety of dishes on the blackboards above the bar that you will need to discuss with your waiter.

We started off with an almond soup with grape granita (on menu when we visited but now removed):  

This cold soup was an interesting concept, but it did not appeal to me taste-wise that much.

Next, we ordered bomba (pictured at the top of this post and below) ($4.80)  - chorizo-filled, mashed potato "bombs" with spicy sauce, which resemble fried eggs in appearance:

These bomba were very good indeed, and I could have gone seconds quite easily.

We followed the bomba up with gambas - garlic prawns off the blackboard:

These prawns were sticky and very tasty, but were our most expensive pick at $24 for 4 prawns.

One of my favourite dishes was one of the regular menu items, the remolacha ($12.50):

This dish comprises a salad of beetroot, goats curd, pickled garlic and honey roasted walnuts.  I adored each element of the dish, and both Tim and I thought that the honey roasted walnuts were devine - you could eat them by the handful on their own.

Our final dish was off the blackboard - sardines with heirloom tomatoes:

This was a light, tasty dish, and the sardines were not at all oily or cloying.

All up, our meal cost $94 for two with a glass of alcohol each.  While that is a little too exxy for every day dining, it was nice for a treat, and I'd definitely go back again for the great food and the very friendly and knowledgeable staff.

After our early dinner at Movida Next Door, Tim and I strolled across the road to check out the Pop Up Patch behind Federation Square:  

The pop up patch is an organic community garden where for the sum of $25 a week, you can grow your own veges in the special "no dig" patches:

Many people have kitted out their patches with scarecrows, garden ornaments and identity signs for the plants, so it really was a fun place to visit.

Hope you had a good weekend!

Movida Next Door
164 Flinders Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: 61 3 9663 3038

Friday, April 5, 2013

FFwD - Pierre Herme’s Olive Sables

It's French Fridays with Dorie, and it is Friday, 5 April.  First up, I wish a very happy birthday to two amazing women whom I admire greatly - Jane Asher and Agnetha Faltskog.  I grew up wanting to be Agnetha during her heyday in ABBA, and Jane Asher is a more recent discovery through her time as a 60s icon (before my time - the Internet is a great research tool) and her more recent adventures in cake entrepreneurship.  (Yes, I know she has done many other things, but these are the reasons that I think she's amazing.) Congratulations ladies, and I hope you both have a marvellous day.

OK, back to our FFwD challenge this week, which was Pierre Herme's Olive Sables. 

I didn't know what to make of this recipe, which contains savoury olives and sweet icing sugar, and uses potato starch (a new to me flour).  Even more weirdly, it contains the grated yolk of a hard boiled egg:


Yes, really:

Who knew?

I am not sure what contribution the egg yolk made to the biscuits, but they surprised me.  They are really good - I thought that olives and icing sugar were a terrible match, but they somehow work in these cookies, which are just very slightly savoury.

I'd definitely make these again.  To see what everyone else thought of these biscuits, visit the LYL section of the FFwD website

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

WWDH - Indian Lamb Curry

For Wednesday with Donna Hay this week, I chose Indian Lamb Curry from p100 of Modern Classics I.

The recipe as Donna wrote it did not contain any vegetables, and lots of meat.  I halved the meat and added 500g frozen veges to my curry so that it became a one pot dish.  I served it over boiled rice to suck up all the juices.

When making this, I made the mistake of adding ground spices to the pan, not realising that Donna intended to use non-ground spices, make them pop in the pan and then grind them.  As a result, a burned my spices a bit.  However, I was still really happy with the  finished curry and I would make this again.  Note that it is a fairly mild curry, so if you like it hot, bump up the amount of chilli powder that you add. 

To see what my fellow Donna devotees, Kayte, Margaret and Chaya, thought of this dish, visit their websites on Wednesday US time.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

BWJ - Rustic Potato Loaf

For Baking with Julia this week, our recipe was Rustic Potato Loaves.  Our host for this week is Dawn of Simply Sweet.  This bread involves the unusual technique of incorporating mashed potato into the dough.

Initially, I thought that the dough was never going to come together, but thanks to the patience of my stand mixer, it eventually did.

My loaf never rose particularly high - in fact, it seemed to deflate in the oven, despite the steam I created.  However, it tasted really good - I am not a huge bread fan, so this is high praise.  The taste was slightly nutty, perhaps because the potato skins are combined into the mix.

To see what the other Julia cooks thought, visit the LYL section of the Baking with Julia website.