Monday, February 28, 2011

Alfajores for World Dulce de Leche Day

When Brilynn of Jumbo Empanadas announced that she was creating a World Dulce de Leche Day event, I was in.  Who can resist that sweet, sticky magical substance known as dulce de leche, a caramel flavoured delight?

I chose to make alfajores.  Alfajores are caramel sandwich cookies that incorporate cornflour, and are a popular treat in Spain and Latin America.  Until my friend Elisa made alfajores from a kit, I had never heard of them.  However, with their sweet dulce de leche centres, I thought that alfajores would be perfect for World Dulce de Leche Day.

The recipe that I used for my alfajores can be found here.

These cookies are quite straight forward to make, and taste delicious.  I bought my dulce de leche pre-made to make life easier, but if you make the David Lebovitz baked version, it is easy enough to do and isn't scary (like boiling a tin can be).

Elisa said these cookies were very good.  I liked them too - it's hard not to like cookies filled with dulce de leche!

Visit Brilynn's blog to see more great dulce de leche ideas.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Daring Bakers - Panna Cotta with Passionfruit Gelee and Florentines

Do you like to make the classic dishes?  I enjoy making for myself dishes that are the stuff of legend due to their popularity.  The panna cotta (cooked cream) dessert comes into that category, and this month, courtesy of the Daring Bakers, I made it for the first time.

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies. 

Now a florentine in Australia is quite different to this florentine recipe, which  I would more describe as a chocolate coated lace cookie:

They are delicious cookies, but very fragile - if you don't eat them fresh out of the oven, they lose all their crispness and crunchiness.

My panna cotta are topped with a passionfruit gelee for a tropical summer feel.  Queen Vic Market obligingly had passionfruit at 8 for $2.  I used the gelee recipe here.

I decided to make my life difficult by moulding my panna cotta in silicon heart shaped moulds:

I thought it was a cute idea, but I didn't figure on how hard they would be to get out of the moulds intact.  I lost 3 along the way, so it was definitely a scary time when I was unmoulding these.  However, the end result is worth it:

Pretty, yes?

There is a veritable rainbow of different sized, shaped and presented panna cottas and florentines from the Daring Bakers this month - you can check them out by viewing the slide show here (on the 27th US time).

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Greengage Tart

One of the women that I most admire is Jane Asher, a British actress, cake decorator extraordinaire, designer of inventive fancy dress costumes, and 60s icon.  When reading Jane's bio, I learned that she acted in a film called The Greengage Summer when she was just 14 years old.  I then learned that the film was based on a novel of the same name by Rumer Godden.  Now I had never heard of a greengage before, and wanted to know what it was.  I learned that a greengage is an old variety of plum, also known as Reine Claude, and commonly grown in France (which is where The Greengage Summer is set).  There is a lovely blog post about the greengage plum here.

In a strange coincidence, I was flicking through my newest cookbook, Pastry - Savoury and Sweet by Michel Roux, when I came across a recipe for Greengage Tart on p60.  The tart looked wonderfully luscious, and I bemoaned the fact that I was unlikely to ever find the mysterious greengage, as I had never seen them before.  However, the gods were smiling on me, for the same day, I found greengage plums in the David Jones Foodhall.  Initially I ignored them (as they were rather pricey), but three days later, I raced into DJs and bought myself enough plums to make the Greengage Tart.  Aren't they beauties:

I was so excited by my find that I told my Mum about greengages on the phone.  She was completely unphased - apparently, her parents grew them, so she knew exactly what  they were.  Drat!  I thought I was telling her about an exotic new ingredient, while Mum grew up preserving them.

However, greengages in hand, I made the wonderful tart in Michel Roux's book. And I am in love!  This tart was devine.  My taste tester Sandra confirmed it for me (just in case I was fooling myself because of my girly crush on greengages).  It is comprised of a thin, barely there flan shell filled with creme patisserie and topped with halved greengages, then baked until the greengages are soft.  The greengages have a sweet, honey-like flavour, and are very juicy.  The closest taste I can think of is green grapes.  The sweet plums on the smooth vanilla custard is a dream combination.

To make this, I suggest making the creme patisserie first, as it needs time to cool.  To make the creme patisserie, you will need:

3 egg yolks
75g sugar
20g plain flour
250ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk the eggs and 25g sugar in a bowl until light and creamy.  Whisk in the flour.

Place the milk, the rest of the sugar and the vanilla into a saucepan, and bring the milk just to the boil.  Remove from the heat.

Pour one quarter of the milk into the egg mixture in a slow steady stream, whisking as you go, then add the egg mixture into the rest of the milk, continuously whisking.  Place the milk back over the heat, and whisk continuously  until the creme patisserie has thickened, then place it into a clean bowl, press a layer of cling film against the surface of the creme patisserie, and refrigerate it until cold.

To make the flan shell, you will need:

125g plain flour
75g butter, cut or grated into small pieces and softened
(I use salted butter so that I don't need to add more salt)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Enough chilled water to make a dough

Put the flour into a bowl and make a well in the middle.  Put the egg, butter and sugar into the well, and mix those ingredients inside the well with your fingers or a spoon until well combined.

Using your fingers, gradually blend the flour into the ingredients in the well until you have a crumb like mixture.  Add chilled water, a small bit at a time, and mix it into the dough with your fingers until the dough comes together and is smooth.  Press the dough into a disk, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour before using.

On a floured work surface, roll out the flan dough to ~4mm thick.  Line a greased 9 inch tart pan with the flan dough,and prick the base of the flan with a fork.  Allow the flan to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes:

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius.  Whisk the chilled creme patisserie to loosen it, then spread it in an even layer into the base of the flan shell:

Halve the greengages and remove the stone:

 Arrange the greengages on top of the creme patisserie, cut side down:

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, then sprinkle 15g sugar on top of the tart, and return it to the oven at 200 degrees Celsius for a further 10 minutes.  Remove the tart from the oven and allow it to cool in the tin on a wire rack.

The tart can be served warm or at room temperature.  I also ate it chilled from the fridge, and any which way, it was fabulous.  Now, how to get a hold of more greengages ...

Friday, February 25, 2011

FFwD - Short Ribs in Red Wine and Port

French Friday with Dorie this week required us to make the most scrumptious beef short ribs in red wine and port.  My photo at the top of this post, with the ribs on a bed of mash and pancetta green beans on the side, doesn't do it justice.  It was devine.

The recipe calls for 9lb (4kg) beef short ribs.   Hmm, for one person, no can do.  My butcher has sold me the wrong cut, and these 4 pieces cost me $16:

I can guarantee you that there was no more than a kilo there.  However, when I went to Queen Vic markets a week later, I saw what looked like the right cut (sold as spare ribs) for ~$10/kilo.  Oh well, no matter, I had beef from the rib area and that would do.

Here are all the chopped up veges:

You may ask - what hapened to the veges - I can't see them in the photo?  Well, that is a good question - all the veges are used merely to flavour the sauce, and are strained out of the end product.  

The sauce involves a whole bottle (750ml) of red wine, so I bought a $5.50 rough red.  It also uses a cup and a half of port.  However, the gelatinous meat, slow cooked with the alcohol and the veges, ends up like this:

You can see why Dorie's book only has a photo of the raw ingredients with a sliver of meat on the side.  This photo doesn't look attractive, but believe me, the rich, rich sauce created tastes out of this world with the melt-off-the-bone meat on a bed of mash.  Yes, this dish was way too pricey to be on a regular rotation in my house, but boy it tasted good.

To see what the other FFwD members thought of this dish, visit this week's LYL section at the FFwD website.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tex Mex White Hominy Bake

A couple of weekends back, my friend Elisa took me to Casa Iberica, a Spanish/South American deli in Fitzroy.  It was fun to check out all the products that Woolies would never dream of stocking.  Also, because Elisa's mum is Peruvian, she had a working knowledge of some of the more unusual products, so it was an educational trip.  Elisa treated me to strawberry Frunas (fruit chews) and a kind of Spanish drink mix called Chica, and shared an alfajor with me.  Yummo!

While in Casa Iberica, I bought a tin of white hominy, which I had heard of but never tried.  It is pretty hard to find here, so I was keen to buy it while I could.  White hominy is white corn kernels that have had their hull and germ removed.  Elisa says it is nice served as a side dish.

Now being the proud owner of a tin of white hominy, the question was - what should I make with it?  I found a great recipe called Stella's Tex Mex Hominy Bake on Lone Star Plate.   It consists of white hominy, kidney beans and rice.  I de-veganised the recipe by substituting Sour Supreme with sour cream, nutritional yeast  with parmesan cheese, and vegan cheese with regular cheese.  The top of the bake is lattice work tortilla strips (or in my case, just good old strips of pita pocket bread):

If you think it looks delicious - it is.  It tastes superb, with just the right amount of spice, and the cheese adds a warm, filling touch to the dish.  The tortilla lattice work provides a crunchy contrast to the soft, "meaty" filling.  I would definitely make this again.  As I only used half the tin of white hominy, this gives me an opening to do so!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Salt Roasted Beetroot with Orange and Ginger Sauce

I start this post by sending out my sincerest wishes for the safety and welfare of the citizens of Christchurch, New Zealand, a beautiful English-style city that was badly damaged yesterday lunchtime by an earthquake, and unfortunately people were killed and injured in the process.  Please pray for the people of Christchurch.  


I received some really good feedback recently on my post about pancetta green beans, with one comment that there are not enough side dishes posted about.  In that vein, this post is about another side dish that beetroot lovers everywhere will adore - salt roasted beetroots with orange and ginger sauce.  I came across this recipe via Jonathan at Around Britain with a Paunch, who found it on an Amazon book review for chef Marcus Samuelsson's book, Acquavit.

As the name of the dish suggests, you roast up beetroots on a bed of salt, with a head of garlic:  

I halved some of my beets because they were enormous.  I also had to roast my beets for 2 hours instead of one to get them "fork tender".

The salt keeps the beets moist, just like roasting a whole chicken or fish in a salt crust keeps them moist.  Once the beets are cool enough to handle, you peel and dice them, and place them in a bowl with the roasted garlic after you have squished the cloves out of their skins.

In the meantime, you make a simple sauce to pour over the beetroot by reducing orange juice with ginger and some other goodies in a saucepan.

I loved this dish.  The beets can be served as a side with whatever takes your fancy, or if you really love beets, you can dig into a bowl of diced beetroot all by itself.  If you are a beetroot fan, you will find a number of interesting beetroot dishes on Jonathan's site, for as he says, he has become "obsessed" by beetroot.  One of my favourites is a beetroot curry, which is on the list for the winter.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

TWD - Toasted Almond Scones

 Have you ever smelled food wafting through a window or door and been carried away by the scent?  Fresh baking bread has to be one of my favourite smells in the world.  For a fabulous sensory poem that includes references to smells, see Rupert Brooke's "The Great Lover".

I could become a great lover of this week's Tuesday with Dorie pick from Mike of Living Out West.  He chose Dorie's Toasted Almond Scones.  The smell of these scones both during baking and afterwards carries you away to another place - it is absolutely heavenly.  I took them to work wrapped in a tea towel, and I was reluctant to wash that tea towel, because the gorgeous smell of the toasted almonds in these scones lingered, beckoning me within.

Here is my scone spread with Nuttelex - for work, I split the scones in half and spread them with sour cherry jam.

I only got 8 scones (not 12), but wished for more - these are delightful.

Thanks to Mike for this week's pick - he will have the recipe, or buy the book.  To drool over some more of these scones, visit the LYL section at the TWD website.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Austrian Apricot Dumplings (Marillenknodel)

I am attracted by the unusual - something a little different from the norm that strikes my fancy.  Recently in my pilates class, one of the girls was talking about her in-laws making dumplings with fresh apricots, sugar cubes, potato dough and breadcrumbs.  I immediately knew I wanted to make these dumplings, so off I went to Google to do a search, and found this recipe for Austrian apricot dumplings. I only made a half batch for the purposes of this experiment.

Making these dumplings is a really cool process, and I have never seen anything like it before.  First, you slice open an apricot 2/3 of the way round and remove the stone, then replace it with a sugar cube:  


In the meantime, you boil up some potatoes, mash them well, and make a dough with the mashed potato.  (I had to use a lot more flour than suggested to get a dough that I could work with.) You then wrap the dough around the apricots to form balls:

I only managed three dumplings out of my half batch of dough.  Oh well.

You then boil these rather large balls for 10 minutes in salted water, then let them drain on paper towels before sprinkling them with fried breadcrumbs and sugar.

During the boiling process, the sugar cube in the centre of the apricots melts, so that the dumpling is savoury on the outside and sweet in the middle.
These were definitely different.  I enjoyed them for a change (though I can only manage one at a time - they are huge), but now that I have satisfied  my curiosity, I probably wouldn't make them again other than as part of an Austrian themed dinner.
Have a great week.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fig Loukoumades with Raspberry Syrup

Do you ever hear about a particular dish and know that you must try it, no matter how impractical it might be unless, say, you are having a dinner party?  That happens to me often, but luckily I don't get the time or have the ingredients very often to indulge my craziest whims. 

However, this week, I read about some battered figs with raspberry and rosewater sauce that someone had seen on SBS Food Safari, describing them as "food porn".  As soon as I read that, I was a goner - if I could find the recipe, I was making it.

A quick Google search, and up came a recipe for Fig Loukoumades with Raspberry Sauce.  You can find the recipe here.  To my credit, I only made half the recipe, so that I wasn't overly indulging my whim.

Oh my, these were good.  I ate two for breakfast, and saved the rest for later.  As Peter, the chef and creator of this dish says in the video, the figs go all soft and jammy inside while frying, and with the raspberry/rosewater sauce on top, this is heaven on a stick.  

When I told my Mum I was making these, she was predictably less than impressed.  She is not a food adventurer.  However, this is an adventure that I am glad I went on, no matter how crazy it is to make it for Sunday morning breakfast.

I have plenty of sauce leftover, so I think it will go perfectly over icecream with a few fresh raspberries.  Mmmmmm ...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pork neck cooked in lemongrass and chilli

Until recently, my Thursday nights were centered around Luke Nguyen's cooking show, Vietnam, where Luke took us on a culinary tour through his family's native Vietnam.  The food and the scenery were so beautiful that I longed to be there.  I will admit there were some things that I am not keen to try (dog penis anyone?), but most of the food was delightful.

I am not well acquainted with Vietnamese cuisine, so I was excited when Luke's second book, The Songs of Sapa, became available through our work bookclub.  It is a beautiful book, and I have enjoyed browsing through the pages, but I am also keen to try some of the recipes.

For my first dish from The Songs of Sapa, I made Pork Neck Cooked in Lemongrass and Chilli (p153).  Perhaps one thing that I didn't appreciate when I made this dish was the words "serves 4-6 as part of a shared meal".  I believe that Luke intends that for one meal, you will make a number of dishes, and I found the portion size quite small.  Next time, I will double the portion size so that there is enough for my once-a-week cooking outing.

Despite the small portion size, this dish tasted wonderful.  The chilli, lemongrass, garlic and fish sauce worked well together and gave the pork a lovely subtly spicy Asian flavour.  I served the pork with boiled rice and bok choy that had been stir fried with soy sauce, honey and ginger.

If you would like to try this dish (bearing in mind my comments about portion size), you will need:

2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 stems lemongrass, white part only, finely chopped
3 crushed cloves garlic
4 birds eye chillies, finely chopped (I used two ordinary chillis)
300g skinless pork neck cut into 2cm cubes
150ml water (I forgot this!)
(optional: fresh coriander and sliced cucumber to serve)

Put the sugar, fish sauce, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon lemongrass, 2 teaspoons garlic and two teaspoons chilli into a large bowl, and stir well to combine.  Add the pork to the bowl, coat it in the sauce, then cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Heat two tablespoons oil in a frypan or wok, and add the remaining lemongrass, chilli and garlic, and stir fry until fragrant.  Add the pork and stir-fry for 3 minutes.  Add the water, then cook for a further 10 minutes.  Transfer the meat to a serving bowl and garnish with coriander.  Serve with rice and sliced cucumber (if desired).

Friday, February 18, 2011

FFwD - Pancetta Green Beans

Beanz means Heinz ...

Err, well, not quite. These are not baked beans, but green beans, with pancetta. They are this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe. Yep, green beans twice cooked with salty pieces of fried pancetta. They tasted like beans - with pancetta.

If you like beans, you can see lots more at the FFwD LYL section for this week.  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sultana grape cake

One of Australia's greatest cooks is Maggie Beer, co-star of The Cook and The Chef, and producer of her own range of food products.  For some time, I have owned one of Maggie's cookbooks, Maggie's Kitchen, and I have been eyeing up her Sultana Grape Cake ever since then.

The Sultana Grape Cake contains 3 cups of sultana (green) grapes and the zest of 4 lemons, which combine to produce a fresh, fruity cake.  Maggie also made this cake on The Cook and The Chef. The recipe was inspired by a recipe in a cookbook that Maggie had called Riches from the Vine.

The top of the cake is supposed to have grapes on it - unfortunately, mine all resolutely sank into the cake.  No matter - I still think it is quite handsome, don't you?

I absolutely adored this cake.  Not only is it fresh and fruity, it is light and fluffy, and compared with many cakes, contains a minimal amount of fat from butter and oil.  I would make this cake again in a heartbeat - it's a shame that it is only possible during grape season.

To make this cake, you will need:

3 eggs
150g sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
60g melted butter
75ml milk
200g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
finely grated zest of 4 lemons
large pinch ground nutmeg
500g fresh seedless green grapes
1 tablespoon demerara sugar
icing sugar for dusting (if desired)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Grease and line a 20cm round springform pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together until pale and thick.  Add the oil, milk and butter and mix well.

In another bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder, and stir in the lemon zest and nutmeg.

Dump the flour mixture into the egg mixture and fold in until just combined.  Fold through two third of the grapes. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and sprinkle with the rest of the grapes and the demerara sugar.  Return the cake to the oven and bake for 40 minutes or until cooked through.

Turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Dust the cooled cake with icing sugar (if desired) before serving.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

TWD - Chocolate Oatmeal Drops

Chocolate and oatmeal - hmmm, not natural bedfellows, but they tasted good together in this week's Tuesday with Dorie pick, Chocolate Oatmeal Drops, chosen by  Caroline and Claire of Bake With Us.

Chocolate Oatmeal Drops are, as Dorie herself states, more brownie-like than cookie-like, as they are quite dense, fudgy and chewy.  Their dark brown colour and deep chocolate flavour come from the combination of cocoa and melted chocolate, and the oats add texture.

These cookies were good - perhaps not what I would naturally gravitate to, but enjoyable all the same.

This recipe makes a lot of cookies - Dorie says 50, but I got 41.  Even though I managed to "lose" a few on the way to work (ahem), they lasted most of the day by force of numbers.

To get the recipe, visit Caroline and Claire (on Tuesday their time), or buy the book, Baking From My Home to Yours.  And to see what the other TWD members thought of these cookies, visit the TWD blogroll.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Vanilla Marshmallows

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will have learned recently that I am a huge fan of Pascall marshmallows.  I love the traditional pink and white ones, and can eat them by the bagful.  I am also rather fond of homemade marshmallows, which have a very different texture and taste.  Marshmallows of the homemade variety are much less sweet than the commercial version, and have a bouncy texture to the touch as opposed to being squishy like the commercial variety.  My mum used to make us homemade marshmallow rabbits every Easter, which we looked forward to with glee.

For Racquel's birthday present, the last kind of sweets that I made (that worked) were homemade marshmallows.  There are a gazillion different ways to make homemade marshmallows, so once again I chose the recipe that seemed to have the fewest and most readily available ingredients, with the least amount of effort.  That recipe came from The Australian Women's Weekly Sweet book.

These marshmallows were quite simple to make, and I didn't have any trouble with them setting.  The recipe is as follows:

2 tablespoons gelatine
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups sugar
1 cup hot water
1 teaspoon rosewater (I used vanilla)
pink food colouring
1 1/4 cups dessicated coconut

Spray a 25cm x 30cm swiss roll pan or baking tray with cooking oil.

Sprinkle the gelatine over the cold water in a small bowl or cup.

In a saucepan, combine the sugar and hot water, then stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves; increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture to the boil.  Add the gelatine mixture to the saucepan, and allow the mixture to boil without stirring for 20 minutes.  Remove the saucepan from the heat, and allow to cool until lukewarm.

Pour the sugar mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer, add the desired amount of food colouring and vanilla, and beat it on high speed for 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens, turns white and holds its shape.  Spread the marshmallow mixture evenly over the prepared swiss roll pan or baking tray, sprinkle the top with coconut, and allow to set at room temperature.

After the marshmallow has set (~2 hours), cut it into squares and roll in coconut.


Friday, February 11, 2011

FFwD - Orange and Almond Tart

I can't believe that Friday has rolled around again already.  It has been a busy week for me, made even busier by the fact that I have had a head cold all week, which gives you a great smoochy grey blanket aura.

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe is the reverse  of the cotton wool-like bubble that my head has been occupying this week - it's bright, it's sunny, it's got sharp citrus flavours - why, it's an orange and almond tart!  My tart looks like its just floating there in my photo, but it is actually sitting on a white desk - I had to take another photo at work because the ones I took at home did not turn out.  The tart is comprised of a pastry shell, filled with almond cream and topped with segmented oranges.

My oranges were of the navel variety, which did not make for nice  segments because the navel takes a chunk out of the top of each segment.  With the pastry shell, I used up the rest of the pastry that I made for the fruit mince tarts before Christmas.  It is very buttery pastry, hence it went a deep golden brown with the hour cooking time.  I glazed the top of the tart with apple jelly - because I could.

My taste tester Sandra loved this tart, and gave it one of the best ratings I have had in ages.  I liked it too - the almond cream goes chewy with baking, and the oranges add a tart kick to it.

Other fruits can be substituted for the oranges (eg plums, figs, apricots), all of which would be delicious and work with the almond cream.

To check out some more great tarts, visit the LYL link at the FFwD website.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Musk sticks

Remember the coconut ice that I posted about earlier this week? Well, in keeping with my pink lolly theme, I also made Racquel some musk sticks.

Musk sticks are little sticks of sugar flavoured with edible musk oil and coloured pink, although there are certain "fruit sticks" out there (with no fruit actually included). Some bloggers who have not grown up with musk sticks and their cousin, musk lifesavers, think musk sticks smell and taste like grandma's handbag. However, I have grown up with them and I love them.

Since Frankie published a recipe for musk sticks in its Sweet Treats last year, they have been popping up all over the blogosphere. If you are tempted to make your own musk sticks, you can find the recipe here. This recipe makes musk sticks that are crisper than the chewy commercial version, but provided that you use musk flavouring, they taste the same.

The musk sticks are displayed in my Queen Elizabeth II 80th birthday mug that I purchased at Windsor Castle the last time I was in England - it's been a while!

I have also been honoured by being awarded the "Stylish Blogger" award by Elaine of California Living, Steph of Jumping Off the Cliff, Michelle of Flourchild and Natasha of Mmmm Home Cooking. Thanks guys! The rules of the award (after thanking the person who bestowed it on you) are:

Share 7 facts about yourself:

  1. I cannot stand the cold - I would rather it be 40 degrees Celsius than 8 degrees Celsius.
  2. I love Pascall marshmallows, and can unfortunately eat them by the bag. No poor imitations will do.
  3. I still have not unpacked all the boxes from when I moved 8 months ago - the task seems beyond me.
  4. I am a bit of a hoarder, and save all kinds of things for a "rainy day" - the trouble is, how do you store it all?
  5. I am a huge fan of The Beatles, despite the fact that they split up before I was even born. They currently provide the soundtrack to my life.
  6. I adore 1930's and 1960's fashion - they are poles apart from each other, but both embody gorgeous colours, shapes and patterns.
  7. My favourite TV show of the moment (aside from cooking shows, of course!) is Mad Men. The cool elegance of the sets and clothes, combined with the complex plots and seriously flawed characters leaves me wanting more after every episode.

Pass this award onto 15 bloggers that you think deserve this award and let them know about it.

Here is a list of some of the stylish blogs that I visit, in no particular order:

  1. Grandma's Kitchen Table
  2. Jill's Blog
  3. Gourmet Green Giraffe
  4. Hold the Beef
  5. Of Muses and Meringues
  6. Nutmeg Nanny
  7. Barbara Bakes
  8. Lethally Delicious
  9. Mary Mary Culinary
  10. Effort to Deliciousness
  11. Visions of a Sugar Plum
  12. Darjeeling Dreams
  13. The Caked Crusader
  14. Yummy Chunklet
  15. Canela Kitchen

Hope you enjoy checking out these blogs!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

TWD - Southern Bread Pudding

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe, chosen by Sharon of Simply Southern, was Bourbon Bread Pudding - which gave me the perfect opportunity to use up the remainder of my stollen from Christmas. (After all, it is now February - I don't want stollen living in my freezer for the rest of the year.)

This bread pudding is made pretty much like any other bread pudding, with chopped up bread soaked in custard before being baked 'til golden brown. Dorie added bourbon to the custard - I gave my bread pudding a Scottish twist and used Glenfiddich instead.

I ate a slice warm, and as Dorie suggested it would, it was fantastic served as is:

I did find the custard rather "eggy", but this was not a drawback for me - I quite like egg custard.

To check out how the other TWD members went with this pudding, check out the TWD blogroll.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Coconut ice

A couple of jobs back, I had the most most amazing experience of working with a group of 25 or so people who all did different back office functions, but who for the most part got on exceptionally well together. Once a quarter, we'd go on a big social outing which, for most of my time there, was paid for by the company. We'd always do something fun but low stress, like lawn bowls, a river cruise, visiting a brewery or ten pin bowling and karaoke. We also often went to lunch at a nearby pub or cafe, a favourite being The Prince Albert or "PAs" as it was fondly known, with the grumpy old man behind the bar. When PAs closed for renovations, we tried venues further afield, including The Swan (a kind of sports pub) and The Richmond Hotel (which was seriously damaged by fire a week after we dined in its 1970s chic surroundings).

During that time, we worked with a wonderful lady called Racquel, who was our boss's personal assistant (also coincidentally known as a "PA", but not to be confused with The Prince Albert). More than anyone, Racquel was responsible for bringing our motley crew together and instilling a sense of fun. She is a fabulous lady, and I am so grateful for the two and a half years that I was in that job and had the pleasure of working with Racquel and the other people in our team.

Racquel turned 40 years young this year, and celebrated her birthday with a belated party on Saturday night. I was delighted to attend, and had a marvellous night catching up with a host of familiar faces and sharing in Racquel's celebration with her family and friends.

To zhoozh up the present I gave Racquel, I packed it with a variety of homemade sweets. Out of the four types of sweets that I made, only one (the Turkish Delight) failed. The rest turned out really well ( much to my relief).

One of the sweets that I made Racquel was coconut ice. For the uninitiated, coconut ice is a firm to hard pink and white sweet based on dessicated coconut, and is tooth-achingly sweet. I have three little books dedicated to sweet making, and each of them contains a different recipe for coconut ice (and indeed all of the sweets that I made). I chose a coconut ice recipe from Hope and Greenwood's Life is Sweet for which I had all the ingredients in the house, as I was running short of time and could not go out to buy anything. The coconut ice that I am familiar with uses Copha (vegetable shortening), but the Hope and Greenwood version is based on condensed milk. It therefore tastes significantly different to the version of coconut ice that I am used to, and has a chewy, soft texture rather than shattering into firm, melt-in-your-mouth shards like the Copha version, but is still delicious and distinctly coconut flavoured.

To make your own coconut ice, you will need:

500g icing (confectioners) sugar
2 x 400g tins of condensed milk
400g dessicated coconut
Pink or red food colouring

Line an 8 inch square cake tin with cling film.

Place the sifted icing sugar and condensed milk into a large bowl, and stir until well combined. Use your hands if the mixture becomes too stiff to stir. Add the coconut in 2-3 equal portions, combining one portion before adding the next. The mixture will become very stiff, and using your hands to knead in the coconut will be helpful at this stage.

Divide the mixture into two equal portions and colour one half pink. Put one half into your lined cake tin, and press down firmly and evenly. Place the second half of the mixture on top of the first in small pieces so that you can easily spread it out to cover the bottom layer without mixing the two. I found the back of a spoon useful to help me to spread out the second layer, as the mixture stuck to my hands. Place the coconut ice into the fridge to set overnight.

Once the coconut ice is set, cut it into squares (~20 pieces).

Enjoy - just don't tell your dentist!

I am sending this post to Lisa of Sweet As Sugar Cookies for Sweets for a Saturday #3.