Tuesday, December 12, 2017

TWD - Soft Salted-Butter Caramels

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is Soft Salted-Butter Caramels.  These caramels were easy to make and delicious.  However, "soft" is not a word that I would use to describe my version of them.  They ended up being a firm caramel, kind of like the centre of a Fantale.  They were in fact so hard that when they fell on the floor (oh yes, I had fun cutting these), they shattered in half. 

Dorie said that she rolled her caramels into logs.  This was not a possibility with my caramels.  However, despite their firmness, they still had some degree of flexibility - enough that they bent if left over the edge of the cutting board for too long, and could be straightened out.

I was pleased with these caramels and would make them again if I felt inclined to make sweets.

To see what everyone else thought of their Dorie recipe this week, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.  

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Ottolenghi's winter spiced cheesecake with marmalade glaze

In The Guardian recently, I spied an interesting sounding recipe for Winter Spiced Cheesecake with Marmalade Glaze by Yotam Ottolenghi.  The cheesecake was interesting because it contains sweet potato; yep, you read it correctly, sweet potato.

Being a sucker for anything a little unusual, of course I tried it:

As you can see, these cheesecake is a glorious orange colour, and the base has a wonderful earthiness about it from the toasted almonds and sesame seeds.  Don't skip the marmalade glaze - the filling of the cheesecake is not overly sweet, so the glaze gives the cheesecake a delightful sweet hit.

To make this cheesecake, you will need:

550g sweet potatoes cut in half lengthways
60g hard amaretti biscuits (I used morning coffee biscuits)
60g Hobnob biscuits (I used Graham crackers)
60g roasted almonds, roughly chopped
10g toasted sesame seeds
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
70g melted butter
300g cream cheese (I used light cream cheese)
250g mascarpone
90g icing sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla bean essence
140g fine-shred marmalade
3 tbsp maple syrup
Preheat your oven to 210 degrees Celsius. Line a round 23cm spring-form pan with baking paper.

Line  an oven tray with baking paper and put the sweet potatoes cut side down on it.  Roast the potatoes for 30-50 minutes until soft. Scoop out the potato flesh, discarding the skins, and process in a food processor until smooth.  Refrigerate until cold.

Put the biscuits in a food processor and blitz until fine crumbs form. Mix with the almonds, sesame seeds, spices and butter, then press into the base of the springform pan to form an even layer. Chill in the fridge.

In a stand mixer, beat the cooled sweet potato with the cream cheese, mascarpone, icing sugar, two tablespoons of lemon juice and a teaspoon of vanilla until smooth. Spread the filling evenly over the biscuit base, then refrigerate overnight or until set.

Bring the marmalade, maple syrup and the remaining lemon juice and vanilla to the boil in a small saucepan and stir for two minutes until the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Release the cheesecake from the pan, discard the paper, and pour the cooled marmalade mix evenly over the top of the cheesecake. Refrigerate again for 10 minutes, then serve.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

TWD - Princeton Gingersnaps

Last Thursday night, I went to see Culture Club at Rod Laver Arena.  I was too young to see them live when they were in their heyday, so it was a perfect opportunity to make up for lost time.  There were also two other 80s bands - Eurogliders (of Heaven Must Be There fame) and Thompson Twins' Tom Bailey.  I could not have named one Thompson Twins' song, but  when Tom Bailey sang Hold Me Now, I recognised it instantly.

Boy George's audience engagement was above average, with plenty of audience banter.  I love the fact that he used a number of very English phrases, like "tough bird", "a right old strop" and "go mental".  I know what these phrases mean, but they are not used that much in Australia.  It was fun to see the old Culture Club film clips playing in the background, reminding us all of just how much life we have lived since the early 80s.

Today's Tuesday with Dorie recipe (Dorie's Cookies) is Princeton Gingersnaps, which reminded me of another blast from the past, Arnotts Gingernut Cookies.  These cookies have a triple ginger hit - crystallised ginger, fresh ginger and ground ginger.  They are perfect to eat on their own or dunked in a cup of tea.   

I enjoyed the fact that these cookies were crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.  They baked up perfectly round from a ball, which impressed me no end.

To see what everyone else baked this week and what they thought of it, visit the LYL section of the Tuesdays with Dorie website.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Loreto Christmas Cake

It is December already, and Christmas is almost here.  I have had a busier than usual year, so I am not as organised as I can be for Christmas preparations.  I have changed jobs, signed a contract to buy an apartment after months of weekends dedicated to the search, participated in a tap dancing concert at The Palais (a big theatre in Melbourne) with everything that leads up to that (classes, dress rehearsals, making costumes etc), danced at Luna Park for Melbourne Tap Week before that, participated on a professional committee, given a professional seminar presentation, attended a number of concerts (most recently Culture Club last Thursday night, and Paul McCartney is coming up next week), and baked and blogged my heart out.

Here is a happy snap from backstage at the tap concert - fittingly our class were dressed as layer cakes for one number:

This year, I made a conscious decision not to make a Christmas cake or a Christmas pudding.  I have decided just to make cookies and sweets for a change, although today, I did make some peach jam using Maggie Beer's recipe again, this time with a teaspoon of cinnamon and a couple of shots of whiskey added.

However, a few years back, I made a Christmas cake from Loreto Cooks, given to me by my friends Steve and Craig.  Steve was recently made mayor of Stonnington, his local council area - congratulations Steve! 

I took a photo of the Loreto Christmas Cake, but never blogged about it, so I figure that given that I did not make a cake this year, it is a good time to share this cake from Christmas past.  You still have time to make a Christmas cake if you want to!

To make the Loreto Christmas Cake (recipe by Linda George at p180 of Loreto Cooks), you will need:

500g raisins
125g mixed peel
125g glace cherries
125g blanched almonds
500g sultanas
125g currants
125g dates
1 orange, juice and rind
4 tablespoons brandy
315g plain flour
250g butter
250g brown sugar
5 eggs
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons mixed spice
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon

Cut the fruit into small pieces, and place into a large bowl with the nuts.  Add the orange juice, rind and brandy to the bowl and soak for a few days, stirring daily (overnight is probably enough!).

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.  Line a 23cm square cake tin with one layer of baking paper and three layers of brown paper.

Mix half the flour with the fruit and nut mixture.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy.  Beat in the eggs one by one, beating well between each addition.  

Sift the other half of the flour with the remaining dry  ingredients into a separate bowl.  Alternately fold the flour and fruit and nut mixture into the egg mixture until well combined.

Scoop the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin, then bake for three to three and a half hours, reducing the temperature of the oven if necessary during the cooking process.  If the top of the cake starts getting too brown before it is finished cooking, place a foil "tent" over the top of the cake to protect the cake from burning on top.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the tin on a wire rack.

Store the cake wrapped in fresh baking paper and aluminium foil in a cool dark place until Christmas.  You may optionally ice the cake with royal icing or marzipan and fondant, but it is good as is.  Slice into small pieces and serve.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Cheat's Chicken Paella

On page 56 of the October Coles Mag, there was a recipe for Cheat's Chicken Paella.  It looked and sounded so good, I could not resist.  It was so much easier than regular paella.

I was not disappointed by the results.  Although perhaps not the same as a traditional paella, it is close enough and tastes very good.

Interested in giving this a try?  If so, you will need:

4 chicken thigh fillets, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
400g can diced tomatoes
500g microwaveable brown rice
500g frozen stir fry vegetables

Combine the chicken and seasoning in a bowl and set aside.

Heat a non-stick frying pan and cook the chicken. 

Add the tomatoes to the pan and bring to a simmer. 

Stir in the rice and vegetables, and cook until both the rice and vegetables are heated through.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

TWD - Desert Roses

This week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe is Desert Roses.  These are a melt and mix concoction comprised of cornflakes, dried fruits and nuts bound together with butter and chocolate.

There's not much to say about these.  They reminded me a little of fruit and nut chocolate with cornflakes for crispiness.  Dorie describes the Desert Roses as "candies", and that's pretty much what they are.

I made a quarter batch of desert roses - I had no idea what I'd do with 40 of them, and 340g of chocolate is a big investment in one recipe for a full batch.  They were delicious, but not so wonderful that I would hurry to make them again. 

To see what everyone else made this week and what they thought of it, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Becco Italian Restaurant, Melbourne

A few weeks ago, Tim took me out for a belated birthday dinner to Becco, a modern Italian restaurant hidden in a laneway off Bourke Street behind Pellegrinis.  

I had not heard of Becco until Tim booked this dinner, but it is I have since learned a well known and loved Melbourne restaurant.  On the night that we attended, a ringing endorsement of this restaurant arrived in the form of celebrity chef Guy Grossi and his family, who came to dine at Becco just before we left.  Guy of course owns his own Italian restaurant, so the fact that he attended another Italian restaurant for dinner is a stamp of approval indeed.

On arrival, we ordered champagne cocktails ($18):

For starter, we ordered one of the specials, stuffed zucchini flowers with raddichio salad: 

This starter was light and delicious.

For main, Tim ordered the Tagliata- Rare Grilled Porterhouse (200gm) Salsa Verde, Roasted Onion and Capers ($41):

I wanted to be adventurous and try something that I have never had before, and which is undoubtedly Italian - Veal Saltimbocca with Prosciutto, Parmesan, Sage and White Wine Reduction ($39):

This dish was really moist and tasty, and I was glad that I took the opportunity to try it.  It's a dish I'd order again.

For sides, we ordered the sautéed spinach with chilli ($12) and the buttery mash ($9):

No meal is complete without dessert, and this one was no exception. Tim ordered the hot apple pie with warm anglaise ($19), as he had heard good things about it:

He was not disappointed.

I ordered a daily special, a peach and raspberry crostata:

It was delicious, with the fruity filling being quite refreshing, and the crumb on the side adding a pleasing texture.

The service at Becco was friendly and efficient, adding to the overall terrific evening that we had at Becco.

11-25 Crossley Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9663 3000

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Golden Harvest Slice

This month's Red Tractor calendar recipe is Golden Harvest Slice.  The name of this recipe really appealed to me and I had high hopes for it.  It comprises a buttery base topped with fruit and nuts.

The harvest theme of the recipe goes well with the quote of the month:

However, this slice was just a bit meh for me.  OK, I didn't have any dried apricots as called for in the recipe, and I forgot to add the almonds in the topping.  However, I am still not sure that these ingredients would have changed my mind in the finished product.   I also made an oopsy in forgetting to add self raising flour instead of plain flour in the topping.  Perhaps that would have made me like it better, but it wouldn't overcome the crumbly base and very sweet topping. 

I made this slice for our tap class picnic, along with a beautiful Gerard's Mustard Tart from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table:

We were going to eat our picnic in the gardens at St Kilda after our dress rehearsal and before the big concert, but it stormed, so we ate it in the cramped conditions behind the stage at the theatre where we were to perform that evening.

If you would like to try Golden Harvest Slice, you will need:


1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
125g cold butter

Combine the flour and sugar in a food processor, then pulse in the butter.  Press into a greased 20cm x 30cm slice tin.


40g softened butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup self raising flour
1/4 cup brandy
90 g chopped dates
90g sultanas
90g chopped dried apricots
90g sliced raw almonds

Mix the butter, brown sugar, brandy, flour and golden syrup together.  Stir in the fruit and nuts.

Spoon the topping over the base, and bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.

Remove the slice from the oven and allow to cool in the tin on a rack.  Cut into squares.  http://kitchenlaw.blogspot.com.au/2010/10/ffwd-gerards-mustard-tart.html?m=1

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

TWD - Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Dulce de Leche Filling

It's Thanksgiving on Thursday in the US, so the time is right for the Dorie's Cookies bakers to make pumpkin whoopie pies with dulce de leche filling.  These are light, spongy cakes, studded with cranberries, and in the recipe, filled with marshmallow crème and dulce de leche.

I made some changes to the recipe.  First, fresh cranberries are pretty nigh impossible to get here, so I used dried cranberries.  Also, marshmallow crème is not something that is easy to get here, so I substituted cream cheese frosting for the filling. (My frosting is oozing out because I had to fill the whoopee pies while they were still warm.)

As these whoopee pies are baked in muffin tins, they do not have the lovely domed shape of normal whoopee pies. However, don't hold that against them.  These whoopee pies are light and fluffy and scrumptious.  I am glad that I only made half a batch, as it would be easy to eat more than one!

To see what the other Dorie bakers made, visit the LYL section of the Tuesdays with Dorie website.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Curtis Stone's Sausage and Asparagus Pasta

In another delve into the supermarket magazines, I chose to make Curtis Stone's pasta with sausages and asparagus from the October 2017 Coles magazine.  As a disclaimer to my comments, I am not a huge pasta fan or a huge sausage fan.  So, you may ask, why did you choose to make this?  Well, because it sounded quick and easy and a good thing to make to  take to work for lunch.

Don't get me wrong - this pasta was OK, and I think it got better as the week went by.  I think part of my indifference to it stemmed from the sausages that I used (Woolworths beef, garlic and rosemary sausages; sacrilege, I know, when the recipe calls for Coles Beef Oregano and Parsley Sausages). I think plain old beef sausages would have been better.

If pasta is your thing and you like sausages, then this would be a great quick and easy dinner.

The recipe is as follows:

1 tablespoon olive oil
500g beef sausages (I am agnostic as to which ones you use)
2 chopped cloves garlic
1 1/3 cups passata
250g large spiral pasta
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 4cm pieces
20g grated parmesan

Remove the sausage meat from the casings and break into small chunks.

Heat the oil in a frypan and cook the sausage meat until golden brown.  Add the garlic and cook until garlic is fragrant.  reduce the heat and add the passata.  Simmer and cook for 2 minutes or until the passata reduces slightly.

While the sausage is cooking, cook the pasta according to the packet.  During the last 2 minutes of cooking time, add the asparagus. Drain the pasta and reserve 1/2 cup cooking liquid.

Add the pasta and asparagus to the sauce and toss to combine, then add 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid to the sauce to thin it out.  Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with parmesan and serve.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

TWD - Brown Sugar Tart

For Tuesday with Dorie this week, I made Brown Sugar Tart.  As described by Dorie, it is like pecan pie filling without the pecans plus bacon.

As Dorie also mentioned, this tart is sweet - super sweet.

The jury is out for me on this tart.  I didn't like it while still slightly warm - it was very egg custardy at that stage.  Once cold or room temperature, this tart was OK, although the bacon in it was not my favourite thing.  You need something to take away from the toothe-aching sweetness of the filling, but I am not sure that bacon is my preference for doing so.

This one was also not a favourite with the punters at work, and a few forlorn pieces were still left when I headed for home.

To see what the others baked this week, and what they thought of it, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Curtis Stone's Stir Fried Rice Noodles with Chicken and Vegetables

I am sometimes  lost for inspiration as to what to cook.  If left to my own devices, I could slip into a routine of my fallback stir fry, roasts and grilled meats.  For that reason, I love getting the supermarket magazines and flicking through for ideas before I shop for the week.

The October 2017 Coles magazine has a very yummy recipe for stir-fried rice noodles with chicken and vegetables by Curtis Stone.  I wasn't quite sure about this recipe when I chose it as it uses chicken mince (not one of my favourite things generally), but the combination of flavours and textures transforms the chicken mince into something delicious.   Curtis says that the chilli garlic (siracha) sauce is optional, but for me, it made the dish.

This dish is quick and easy to make, and uses sauces that I already had in the pantry.

To make it, you will need:

1/4 cup oyster sauce
 2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon siracha sauce
150g pad thai noodles
2 tablespoons olive oil
500g chicken mince
120g sliced button mushrooms
1 carrot sliced into matchsticks
1 thinly sliced brown onion

Whisk the sauces and 2 tablespoons of water together in a small bow, and set aside.

Cook the noodles in salted boiling water for ~ 5 minutes, rinse under cold water and drain.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a frypan or wok.  Cook the mince in the pan until browned, breaking it up as you go. Transfer the mince to a plate.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan, and when the  oil is smoking, add the mushrooms, carrot and onion and stir fry until the mushrooms are tender.  Stir in the chicken mince and the sauce, and combine well.  Toss the noodles through the mixture and stir until heated through.

Serve in large bowls garnished with chopped spring onions (if desired).

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Fish Curry with Ginger and Turmeric

The dish in the photo to this post may not look like much, but it is one of the most delicious fish curries I have had in a long time.

The recipe comes from the Woolworths magazine for October 2017 (p80).  I have made a number of fish curries with coconut milk which seem to taste like coconut.  This curry uses Greek yoghurt instead, and all the other flavours shone through.

The original recipe did not include any vegetables other than onion and chilli; I added frozen vegetables to the curry to make it more of a one pot dish.

The use of curry powder gives the curry a pleasant kick of flavour.

To make this curry, you will need:

750g skinless barramundi fillets (I used half this amount!)
200g Greek yoghurt
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 crushed cloves of garlic
3cm piece of ginger, grated
1 tablespoon oil (I just used olive oil, recipe says coconut oil)
1 sliced brown onion
1 tablespoon curry powder (I used Keen's mild)
2 sliced green chillies (I used just one)
coriander to serve (optional)

Cut the fish into large chunks.  In a large ceramic bowl, combine the yoghurt, turmeric, garlic and ginger.  Coat the fish with the yoghurt mixture and allow to marinate for 15 minutes.

Heat the oil in a fry pan or wok.  Add the onion and cook until softened.  (Also add 1 cup frozen vegetables here if using.) Stir in the curry powder and cook for 1 minute.  Add 1/4 cup water and stir well.

Add the fish and marinade to the pan, and bring to a simmer.  Scatter over the chillies, cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.

Garnish with coriander (optional), and serve with brown rice (and steamed asparagus for me!).

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

TWD - Kerrin's Multigrain Chocolate Chip Cookies

This month, our first recipe pick from Dorie's Cookies is Kerrin's Multigrain Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I know that Mardi will be pleased - she has consistently voted for these for months.

These cookies are "multigrain" because the recipe calls for whole wheat flour, buckwheat flour and kasha.  Mine are a little less multigrain, as I subbed the buckwheat flour for the cornmeal that we had to buy for Dorie's recipes a while back, and I subbed the kasha for ground almonds.  The reasons for these substitutions are practical - use up what you have and don't buy even more packets of  unusual ingredients to languish in the pantry with the existing ones.

Despite my substitutions, these cookies were delicious.  I accidentally made a full batch, but they will not go to waste.  They are simply delish!

To see what the other cookie bakers made this week, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Shannon Bennett's Famous Raspberry Cheesecake

Tim is a huge fan of raspberries and white chocolate, so when the cover of this month's Delicious magazine featured a raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake recipe from Shannon Bennett, I knew that I had found Tim's birthday cake.

This luscious creation had a base of crushed Anzac biscuits. I could only find school lunch box packs of Anzacs, so I opted for ginger nuts instead. I also halved the raspberries because hey, raspberries are expensive! Otherwise I followed the recipe, with lashings of cream cheese and sour cream, combined with melted white chocolate and bejewelled with fresh raspberries.

I made myself a mini cheesecake so I could try it too.  As expected, this cheesecake is scrumptious!

If you are a fan of raspberries and white chocolate or just love cheesecake, then this recipe is definitely worth making.

The mini!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Dinner by Heston, Melbourne

For Tim's birthday last week, I took him for lunch at Dinner by Heston.  As you can guess, Dinner by Heston is a restaurant associated with Heston Blumenthal.  It is situated on Level 3 of Crown Towers in Southbank, Melbourne.

The entrance to Dinner by Heston is a long dark passage.  At the end is what looks like a black wall, but just when you think you won't get in, that black wall slides back to reveal the interior of Dinner by Heston.  We were greeted by two friendly staff members, one of whom showed us to our table.
Shortly afterwards, we were greeted at our table by a French sommelier, from whom we ordered two glasses of French pink sparkling wine.
A short time later, a waiter brought over this lovely dark bread with a delightfully chewy crust:

There was a five course tasting menu ($160 per person), but we decided to go with main and dessert from the a la carte menu.  All of the dishes are inspired by a particular historical time.

Tim ordered the roast duck breast with beetroot and chard from the 1600s ($58):

I ordered the roast quail with confit butternut pumpkin, pumpkin puree, spiced crumb and chard ($56) from the 1860s:

These meals looked deceptively small, but were very filling.  The quail was soft and melted off the bones - no need to "chew the bones" to get all of the meat.

For sides ($14 each), we ordered the carrot with caraway, which was beautifully sweet and caramelised, and a favourite of mine:

and the green beans with almonds:

We drank glasses of shiraz from the extensive wine list to accompany the mains.
Next came dessert.  Tim went for the lamington ($32): 

This lamington was not made of cake and coconut - the centre of the lamington was a creamy smooth mousse filled with raspberry jam and resting on a chocolate ganache foundation, and covered with grated milk chocolate:

I went for the signature dessert, the Tipsy Cake:

This was a lovely buttery brioche, swimming in a boozy "tipsy" sauce, with roasted pineapple on the side.

We skipped the coffee as there were no flat whites or cappuccinos =- we didn't understand the coffee menu at all.

The meal finished with a complementary chocolate pot each:

The service at Heston was friendly and efficient.  I loved the "steam punk" atmosphere, the fact that I was seated where I could see the kitchen staff cooking through the viewing window, and that we had a window table with an expansive view of the Yarra River.

Dinner by Heston was a special experience which I enjoyed very much.

Dinner by Heston
Level 3 Crown Towers
Crown Melbourne
8 Whiteman Street
Southbank VIC 3006

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Red Tractor October - Moroccan Couscous Salad

October's Red Tractor calendar recipe is Moroccan Couscous Salad.  It is Moroccan spiced couscous containing lots of vegetables, which is what I think inspired the quote of the month:

This salad was easy to make and quite tasty.  Add a can of tuna and you have a complete meal.

The recipe is as follows (I made half):

2 cups cooked couscous
750g sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 heaped teaspoon Moroccan seasoning (I used harissa)
420g can chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup currants (I forgot these)
1/2 cup lightly toasted pepitas
100g coarsely chopped rocket leaves (I used a spinach and rocket mix)
1 cup chopped parsley (I left this out)
1/2 cup chopped mint (I also left this out)


Juice and zest of 2 large lemons
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (I used orange vinegar)
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.  Line an oven tray with baking paper.  Toss the sweet potato in the olive oil and Moroccan seasoning, place on the baking tray, and bake for 30-40 minutes until soft and caramelised.

Fluff up the couscous with a fork, then toss through the remaining salad ingredients.

Out the dressing ingredients into a screw top glass jar and shake until combined.  Use the dressing to dress the salad.  Add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.