Sunday, March 31, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Galette

Summer has gone in Australia, and the last of the summer produce will slowly disappear from the shops.  To linger over the taste of summer, I bought some rhubarb from the supermarket, with no clear idea of what I was going to make with it.  I also serendipitously found some cheap strawberries at a fruit shop near work.

After thumbing through a couple of my recipe books, I decided to make a pie from p52 of Gesine Bullock-Prado's excellent Pie It Forward.  I chose to make her Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Lattice Pie, but ended up with a few differences, both deliberate and accidental.

First, I noticed that the crumble recipe had as much butter in it as the pie dough itself - this sounded way too naughty for me, so I decided to leave out the crumble.

I made enough dough for a double pie crust, as intended, but made a mistake in deciding to test my new lattice pie crust docker on the pie crust without practising first.  I ended up with a holey top pie crust (in all the wrong places) which I had to bin because it had fruit juices all over it and could not be re-rolled.  Enter plan B - the Strawberry Rhubarb Galette.  I used Gesine's pie crust recipe and strawberry-rhubarb filling, but with no crumble and no top crust.

The result was excellent - the filling set up perfectly, and the crust was delicous.  This galette got a good wrap at work, with one person guiltily admitting to eating two pieces, and another pronouncing it to be my best yet.  I'd say that was a success! 

To make this galette, you will need:

1/2 quantity Gesine's All-Butter Easy Pie Dough (makes a double crust) - the recipe is online here and on p19 of Pie It Forward.

You find the ingredients for the filling and instructions for assembling the pie online here.

To make a galette like me, place the dough in your pie plate, and don't trim off any overhang.  Pour in the filling, then fold the excess pie dough around the filling.  Wash the dough with a mixture of beaten egg and a teaspoon of water.  Sprinkle a little sigar on the dough, and bake the galette for around 40 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. 

I think this galette, or Gesine's original pie, with its spring ingredients, would be the perfect Easter treat.  Happy Easter everyone!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Quick Plum Cake (Germany) for A Taste of Harmony

Last Friday, 22 March, our work hosted A Taste of Harmony morning tea, an event which celebrates diversity in Australian workplaces by encouraging colleagues to share food and stories from different cultural backgrounds.

As most of my colleagues are Australian, I decided to delve back into my ancestry and make a German treat.  I chose Quick Plum Cake from p58 of Dr Oetker's German Baking Today.  This cake comprises a light cakey bottom topped with plum halves, with a crumble on top.  It went down a treat, and all of it was gone bar one slice by the time that I made it to the morning tea.  I tasted a sliver off that slice and saved the rest for one of my friends. 

It is a rather handsome cake and is easy to make.  I used tinned plums instead of fresh plums, and I don't think that this was detrimental to the finished product.  

To make this cake, you will need:

800g plums (fresh or tinned)


125g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
125g sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla
grated zest of 1 lemon
125g butter or margarine
2 eggs


150g plain flour
100g sugar
1 pinch ground cinnamon
100g butter

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Grease and line the base of a 26cm springform pan.

For the cake, sift together the flour and baking powder into the bowl of a stand mixer, add all the other ingredients, then mix together on a low setting to just combine the ingredients before mixing thoroughly on high for  2 minutes or until the batter is smooth.  Spread the batter over the base of the prepared springform pan.

Halve and stone the plums, and arrange on top of the cake batter, cut side up, so that the plums overlap.

For the crumble, sift the flour into a mixing bowl, then stir through the cinnamon, sugar and zest.  Rub in the butter until the mixture hasd a crumbly consistency.  Sprinkle the crumble over the top of the plums.

Place the cake into the preheated oven and bake for aorund 50 minutes or until cooked through. 

Remove the cake from the oven, unclip the ring from the springform pan, and allow the cake to cool on a wire rack.

Serve with icecream, cream or yoghurt, or eat generous slices just as they are.

Friday, March 29, 2013

FFwD - Steamed Lemon Spinach + Orange Scented Green Lentil Soup

It is Good Friday, and it is also French Friday with Dorie.  I am home with my family for a visit, which is nice and relaxing after a crazy few weeks.

This week's FFwD recipe is Steamed Lemon Spinach - I made this at the start of the month to go with the Chicken Diable, and it is really easy and really good.  I feel deprived if I don't get greens with my meal these days - as a child I couldn't abide them!

I also caught up on the Orange Scented Green Lentil Soup:

I didn't mind this soup, although I did find the orange flavour rather strong (from orange peel that is boiled up and pureed with the other ingredients.  I didn't strain the soup - I like the "chunky" consistency.

To see what the other Doristas thought of this week's recipe, visit the LYL section of the FFwD website.

Enjoy your hot cross buns and fish and some quality time with your nearest and dearest this Easter.  Ciao!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Daring Bakers - Zucchini Coconut and Macadamia Muffins - Hidden Veges

Ruth from Makey-Cakey was our March 2013 Daring Bakers’ challenge host. She encouraged us all to get experimental in the kitchen and sneak some hidden veggies into our baking, with surprising and delicious results! 

The challenge required us to bake a sweet cake, biscuit or confectionery of our choice with a “hidden” vegetable ingredient. I chose Karen Martini's zucchini, coconut and macadamia muffins from The Age Good Food (p9) on 5 March 2013.  You can find the recipe online here.  I skipped the xanthan gum and the frosting.

These muffins were soft, not overly sweet but still pleasant, and the macadamias gave a nice crunch.  You can see the zucchini in mine, but if you wanted to shred the zucchini really finely, I am sure that it would "disappear".

Thanks to this month's host, Ruth.  To see what the other Daring Bakers made, visit the slideshow at the Daring Kitchen website.

WWDH - Asparagus Tarts

This week, for Wednesday with Donna Hay, Kayte chose Asparagus Tarts from Modern Classics Book I

These tarts are as simple as can be - take a rectangle of puff pastry, top with trimmed asparagus and grated parmesan cheese, bake for 25 minutes or so and et voila - tarts!

These were easy and tasty - and perfect for Easter.  Check out what Kayte and Margaret thought of these tarts at their websites. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Marshmallow Easter Bunnies

This year, for the first time in 5 years, I made marshmallow bunnies for Easter gifts.  I always find making these a little nerve racking because there are so many variables that can go wrong, but everything seemed to work out in the wash - the bunnies set, they didn't have crazy gelatine tops on them, nor did they have crunchy bottoms.  I was very pleased with them.

The recipe for these bunnies is here.  I made four medium bunnies and 12 little ones from the mixture.  I added vanilla flavouring, but left the bunnies white.

The bunnies don't look like much until you paint on the detail with liquid food colouring, so do not skip that step.  Also, make sure that you roll each bunny in dessicated coconut once painted to stop it from sticking to everything.

These bunnies are a fun Easter treat to make for the young or young at heart.  They also use minimal ingredients, so are cheap to make.

What traditional treats do you make at Easter?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunflower Cupcakes and Black Caviar's 24th Win

On Friday night, I went with my friends C and V to Moonee Valley racecourse to watch Black Caviar, an Australian racehorse, run in the William Reid Stakes.  This race was special because if Black Caviar won, it would be her 24th straight win.

There was around 20,000 people at the racecourse to watch Black Caviar, and it caused some tension (me included) as people jostled for space to catch a glimpse of the racecourse for Black Caviar's race.  Here is Black Caviar in full flight, as seen on the big screen from the top of the public grandstand:

Many people were dressed in Black Caviar's salmon with black spots, and the anticipation would have unnerved a human being.  However, luckily for Black Caviar, she did not understand a word of the hype that was being built up around her, and she romped comfortably to her 24th straight win, in her last race on Victorian soil.  Good luck to you Black Caviar - you are a magnificent mare.

Wednesday last week was my last Pilates class with my instructor of almost 3 years, Emilia.  She is off to have her first baby.  To wish Emilia farewell, I baked her these sunflower cupcakes:

The base cakes were the Old-Fashioned Cupcakes from the Back in the Day Bakery Cook Book.  You can also find the recipe online here.  The recipe is unusual because the flour is added at the start and beaten with the butter.  These cupcakes were quick and easy to make, but these won't be replacing my favourite recipe, as I found them to be just a tad drier than my usual recipe.

Instead of using buttercream, I iced the cupcakes with white chocolate ganache, then placed fondant (coloured yellow using gel colour) sunflowers on top (stuck on with apricot jam syrup) and black cachous, similar to the one I made at CW Cakes.

I gave the best half a dozen out of the nine cupcakes that I made to Emilia, and shared the rest with a couple of work buddies. 

Everyone enjoyed eating these cupcakes, and my Pilates class was impressed - although these cupcakes were super easy to make.

Best wishes to Emilia and her husband on the pending birth of their bub.

Friday, March 22, 2013

FFwD - Ispahan Loaf Cake

This week, our French Fridays with Dorie project was the Ispahan Loaf Cake that was longed for by many.  This cake, inspired by a Pierre Herme creation, is a rose flavoured almond flour cake with a secret stash of raspberries hidden in the cake batter. It is a lovely moist cake, and the rose flavour is not at all overwhelming.

I found this cake easy enough to make, although for some reason it stuck to the base of the tin - I just stuck the torn part back on and disguised it with a simple glace icing.

This cake was really good, although it did not elicit any enquiries for the recipe.

To see what the other Dorie bakers thought of this cake, visit the LYL section of the FFwD website.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

WWDH - Brown Butter Sage Fettucine (with Chorizo)

For Wednesdays with Donna Hay this week, Margaret chose Brown Butter Sage Fettucine.  This dish is comprised of fettucine with a browned butter and crispy sage sauce.

I added pan fried chorizo sausage to make this a complete meal, and I am glad I did, as it added some oomph to the flavour.

This is a simple, quick dish if you are on the run and don't have many ingredients in the house.

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

BWJ - Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's time for Baking with Julia again, and this week's recipe is Rick Katz's Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies, hosted by  Peggy of Galettista.

These cookies are, as their name suggests, coffee flavoured cookies jam packed with a whopping amount of chopped chocolate.  I only made half a batch, and I think that would be plenty to fill the average cookie jar (it made 23 cookies).   They taste pretty good, provided that you like coffee - and chocolate.

My photo is at a weird 90 degree angle because Blogger in its wisdom decided it looked better that way, and I do not have the time or the energy right now to fix it.

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

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Tribute to Fred

Today, we lost our dog, Fred, who was a truly unique personality.  His passing leaves a jagged, gaping hole in our lives.

Fred was born on an undetermined day in December 1998, but became part of our family in January 1999.  My brother had been forbidden by my mother to have another dog after the previous one passed away.  However, just two weeks later, my brother disappeared on a road trip to Jandowae and came hope with a tiny, chubby mini fox terrier puppy, sleeping in his cap.  The cheeky little puppy had been chosen because he trotted up to my brother and starting chewing his fingers, and from that moment, he was whisked away from the life of a truckie's dog for which he had been earmarked.  Mum threatened to send the puppy back from whence he came, but he soon melted her heart, and became firmly entrenched in our family.

I had nicknamed my brother Fred, which clearly annoyed him, because he anointed his new puppy "Fred" in the vain hope that I would stop calling him that.  Thenceforth, in our family, we had "Big Fred" and "Little Fred".

Little Fred was mischievous from day one, chewing apart not one but two soft foam puppy beds in a matter of weeks, and flattening two stripey puppy balls.  Mum was adamant that a dog's place was outside, and my two dogs had always lived in a kennel in the yard.  However, it didn't take long for Fred to move from the back patio to the laundry and finally, into my brother's bed (literally).

Early on, Fred decided that commercial dog food was not for him (apart from some dry puppy food).  Accordingly, for most of his life, Mum boiled up chicken legs for Fred's dinner, and members of the household took turns scraping the meat off the bone into his dish.  Unlike many dogs, he never guzzled his food in one sitting (except for a couple of days after he came home from the boarding kennel, where they took his food away after a time), and instead preferred to graze at leisure.  Fred would never deign to dig in the mud in the yard to bury odd tidbits - rather, he would daintily pat aside the top soil or bark in the garden bed, drop in the tidbit, then pat the soil or bark back over the top for later delectation.  He also from time to time liked to hide his booty behind the lounge chairs, much to Mum's horror! 

For treats, Fred loved pigs ears (dubbed a "copper thing" by my brother), liver treats and Schmackos beef straps, which we sadly often used as bribes rather than rewards.  Fred was king of the household, with a very stubborn and determined streak, so once he set his mind to something undesirable, a bribe was often the only way to distract him.  Of course, like all dogs, Fred coveted people food the most, and we were all guilty of indulging his taste for it from time to time.  Fred used to bark at my mother and brother if they did not hurry up with the morsels that he considered to be his - apple cores, the end of a Hava Heart icecream on a stick,  the box in which my mother's macadamia and mango cheesecake had been sitting, leftover vegetables and the dregs at the bottom of my brother's cup of Milo. Despite all of this, he was rather fussy, and would unhesitatingly turn up his nose at items which did not pass the "sniff" test.

As king of the household, Fred liked to challenge the queen, my mother, by sitting in her chair whenever he could. However, he was just as fond of all of the other lounges, particularly if there was someone that he could sit next to.  My poor mother despaired of keeping the tapestry lounges she had waited so long for clean, as Fred would not only sit in them, but also rub himself against them and scratch at the seats to "nest". 

Fred was always a fit dog, as he tirelessly raced around the house and yard, and entertained himself by playing "ball"; that is, he would drop a tennis ball off the lounge or onto the kitchen floor, then catch it as it bounced. Fred disliked getting his feet wet or getting dirty, so he often trotted along the garden paths instead of cutting cross-country through the yard. 

Fred had some rather peculiar habits - he would bark at the curtain flapping in the kitchen window, at reflected sunlight on the loungeroom ceiling and at the teatowel when my brother was wiping up,  and he would savagely attack the mop and the ironing board.  If we were sitting outside on the back patio, he would annoy us by first wanting to come and join us, then go back inside within a short time, and then repeat these manoeuvres on continuous loop until we all went back in.  Fred also had a habit of wanting to investigate the front yard numerous times each night, and having to be let out then in each time. 

Despite his sometimes naughty behaviour, Fred had the most wonderful personality.  He loved being with people, and he was always happy to be stroked and rubbed, especially on his belly.  The first time I tickled Fred's belly, when he was just a tiny pup, he squealed with delight, his tiny eyes closed in sheer ecstasy.  Unlike my previous dog, Fred adored being patted whenever he could, and he would nudge you with his wet nose or bat your hand with his paw to indicate where he wanted to be patted next.  Fred was also happy to look into your eyes, something that many dogs find challenging and disconcerting.

Every evening, Fred would race out to enthusiastically greet my mother at the front gate when she came home from work.  When I came home to visit, I also received an enthusiastic greeting from Fred, and when he was young and strong, I often had tiny bruises on the top of my legs from where Fred had jumped up to say hello.  In his eagerness, Fred took no heed of bare legs or stockings, so many a scratch and laddered stocking resulted from Fred's salutations.  Fred also had a firm belief that when the shopping came home in plastic bags, there must be something for him, and he would mill around excitedly while the shopping was unpacked.

Fred learned to know the sound of my brother's car, and he would leap up to the door to await his master long before we knew that my brother was home.  He hated it when my brother went out at night, and he would pace anxiously up and down or sit, ears pricked, at the front door until my brother returned. The two Freds slept together every night; in summer, Little Fred slept on top of the bed, and in winter, he burrowed underneath the sheets and blankets, and had to be physically cloughed out on frosty mornings.  Both Freds would often snore, so I am have no idea how my poor Mum ever got any sleep in her room across the hall from them.  Every Sunday morning, the two Freds would hop into my brother's car and go to the car sales to check out the new cars.  Little Fred would eagerly await this trip each week, and bark impatiently if my brother dallied in heading off.

Like most dogs, Fred hated cats with a passion, and any cat who foolishly ventured into our yard soon left in a mad dash.  Straying possums received the same sharp shrift. However, Fred was largely all bark and no bite, and he never harmed any of these foolhardy intruders.

Fred absolutely adored Christmas, as he knew that there would be presents for him to unwrap under the tree, and that he would share in our Christmas dinner of chicken, pork, turkey and ham.  In the lead-up to Christmas, Fred would often poke his nose hopefully into the barrier fencing off the Christmas tree; the barrier was necessary to prevent him from getting into everything before the big day.  He believed that every present must be for him, and would often stop unwrapping a present mid-way when the others were being handed out in the expectation that he was about to receive another.  Fred had a detective's nose for latex toys, and they had to be well hidden to stop him from discovering them before Christmas.  Here is a video of Fred's last Christmas, doing what he loved - unwrapping a present:

Last New Years Eve, Fred slept at the foot of my bed while he waited for my brother to return from New Year celebrations, and I enjoyed his company.  However, he leapt up excitedly and went to bed with my brother on his return home.

Fred has been part of our lives for over 14 years, and he has been a constant during a period of continuous change for me.  I have moved numerous times during that period, even spending 9 months overseas during Fred's fourth year, but Fred was always there, enthusiastically receiving me like an old friend whenever I returned home to visit.  He became used to my comings and goings, but always dropped his tail, normally held so proudly aloft, to indicate his sadness when I left.  That tail, which Mum called his "flag", would wag swiftly in delight whenever Fred was pleased, and Fred was pleased often.

Unfortunately, on Wednesday last week, I received the disturbing news that Little Fred had been in decline for a couple of days, and had been taken to the vet for treatment.  Fred had stopped eating, and had become dehydrated and wobbly on his feet.  We were hopeful at first when the vet indicated that he might have diabetes, and that there was a tablet available to treat him.  However, there would be no such luck.  Blood tests revealed that the cancer that had plagued Little Fred around two and a half years ago had returned, and this time, there would be no cure.  After a couple of days on a drip, Little Fred returned home last Friday.  Even then, we hoped that he may be with us for a few weeks more. 

My mother warned me of the graveness of his illness, so I arranged to fly home for the weekend ahead of my planned Easter trip to see "my boy".  I am glad that I did - on Saturday morning when I arrived home, it was clear to me that Fred was seriously ill.  He was a shadow of the vibrant dog I had seen on the Australia Day weekend.  He did not get up to greet me from where he was lying on the floor, although he managed to feebly wag his flag on recognising my voice.  His flesh had seemed to melt away, and he was all skin and bone. Fred had to be carried up and down the stairs, and he could no longer jump up onto the furniture or walk very far.  He was able to sit up beside me on the lounge for a cuddle, although his eyes had lost their sparkle and were deeply sad. By Sunday, Fred no longer responded to his name, and was confused when he was put down after being carried from place to place.  It seemed all that he could do to breathe, and he tried to hide in the bushes when we took him outside.  I knew that when I rubbed Fred's belly and said goodbye, it would be for the last time.  Today, my brother made the decision to take him to the vet, and the little fella was given assistance to end his suffering.  Fred now has a resting place in our back yard under one of the trees that he loved to rub against.

Fred was the most delightful dog, with personality plus.  I am thankful that he chose to join our family and enrich our lives, and he holds a very special place in my heart.  God bless you Fred.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Chewy Amaretti (Kate Gibbs recipe)

No French Fridays with Dorie this week, I'm afraid - life has been going at a frantic pace, and it has been as hot as Hades here, both of which have combined to ensure that a hot, leisurely soup were not on my menu.  I do have the lentils, so perhaps I'll make it next week. 

Instead, I bring you some beautiful chewy amaretti, from a recipe by Kate Gibbs (Margaret Fulton's granddaughter).  The recipe is online here

These little biscuits were perfectly delicious, and being bite-sized, it was easy to have more than one.  If you like almonds, these biscuits are made for you.  Even better, they are very simple to make.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Brazil Nut Ginger Cake (adapted from Dan Lepard)

To coincide with Australia Day, Dan Lepard published an irresistible recipe in The Guardian for Macadamia Ginger Cake with Lamington Icing.   I enthusiastically printed it out, as I knew this was one I would have to make.
It took me a while, but I finally got around to making this cake - and it was well worth the wait.  The golden, light cake was the perfect vehicle for the roasted nuts and crystallised ginger, while the chocolate icing rounded it off nicely.
The only changes that I made were to substitute Brazil nuts for the macadamias (because that is what I had), and to use ordinary chocolate water icing instead of lamington icing.

This cake went down a treat at work and is definitely a keeper.  It doesn't really remind me of lamingtons - it is in a class of its own.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

WWDH - Vegetable Pies

It's Wednesday (known as "hump day" in Oz), and that means it's Wednesday with Donna Hay.  Wednesday snuck up on me a lot more quickly this week, as Monday was the Labour Day holiday in Melbourne.  I spent Sunday and Monday in Bendigo, a famous Victorian gold mining town, and yes, I went down a gold mine!  Sadly, I do not have any gold to share with you.

Kayte chose this week's Donna recipe, being Vegetable Pies from Modern Classics I.  I envisioned these as being veges encased in puff pastry.  However, I was wrong.  These pies are a little more sophisticated, and comprise a shortcrust pastry filled with roasted vegetables, ricotta and cheddar.  They are also supposed to be sprinkled with parmesan on top, but I somehow forgot to do that.  No matter - these pies were delicious!!  The cheese gives a lovely kick to the vegetables, and it forms a harmonious mix on the palate.

The only thing I would change next time is to blind bake the pastry first, as my pastry had a slightly soggy bottom.  However, it was only minor, and I still enjoyed these pies very much.

Thanks to Kayte for choosing this recipe - do check out what she thought of her pick, as well as Margaret and Chaya.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Perfect Blueberry Muffins (Felicity Cloake)

I am an avid reader of Felicity Cloake's "Perfect" recipes in The Guardian.  A short time ago, Felicity featured a recipe for Perfect Blueberry Muffins - a great baking recipe to try during the busy working week as it is not labour or time intensive.

There were two things in particular in this recipe that made it different from other blueberry muffins that I have made.  First, Felicity uses brown sugar instead of white sugar - I think this gave the muffins a wonderful depth of caramelised flavour.  Second, instead of just using all the blueberries whole, she mashes half and uses the remainder whole.  I believe that the mashed blueberries made the muffins wonderfully moist.

My Pilates class did vote these muffins as perfect - so perhaps Felicity is spot on.  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Roasted carrots and beets from Jamie at Home

At St Kilda Veg Out Farmers Market last weekend, I splurged on some of the more unusual things that I saw.  When I laid eyes on these coloured carrots:

I knew I had to have them.  Aren't they glorious!

I also bought some beets - out of sheer laziness, I rarely cook beets, but they are truly a devine vegetable that I should indulge in more often.

Armed with rainbow carrots and beautiful beets, I wanted to cook them in a non-boring fashion.  I knew that Jamie at Home contained some terrific vege recipes, so I turned to it for ideas - and wasn't disappointed.  In fact, Jamie had a recipe for Roasted Carrots and Beets - an absolutely perfect match for my vegetables.

Jamie mixed garlic, orange juice and thyme with the carrots, and garlic, balsamic vinegar and rosemary with the beets, with the flavours added to the freshly roasted vegetables o they absorb the flavours. Delicious!  I made the recipe as stated, except that I substituted sage for the rosemary (because I didn't have rosemary), and I left the skins on the carrots.  (Ignore the brussels sprouts - they were opportunistically thrown into the pan.)

You can find the recipe online here.  Or watch Jamie do it here. Accordingly, if you find yourself with some lovely root veges this weekend, do yourself a favour and try out Jamie's roasted beets and carrots.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Nigella's Malteser Cake for Jeff's Birthday

On Tuesday, it was colleague Jeff's birthday.  A birthday cake was therefore in order, so I chose to indulge in a long-held ambition to make Nigella Lawson's Malteser Cake from Feast.  You can also find the recipe online here.

The big deterrent to me making this cake has always been the requirement for Horlicks, that malted milk powder beloved of insomniacs.  In Australia, it is priced at $10 for a container - which is big bikkies when you are only going to use a small amount of it, most likely only once.  However, for Jeff's cake, I had the inspiration of using Ovaltine, a chocolate malt drink powder which, to the delight of my purse, was also on sale for just under $4.  A cake was born!

The only tip that I have for making this cake is that, where Nigella says "whisk the eggs and the sugar", make sure you use the whisk attachment with an electric mixer.  I unfortunately did not read the part about an electric mixer until later in the recipe, and tried to adequately beat together the eggs and sugar using a hand whisk.  It was a lot of hard work and did not give the desired result, as my batter was replete with lumps of sugar, which I vainly tried to mix in after the fact.  This led to my cakes having a crusty, sugary top, and being a little tougher than I would have liked.  However, when you start baking a cake at 9.30pm, you really don't care about such things anymore.

The icing is a doddle to make in the food processor, although I somehow almost stuffed that up too by not removing all of the butter paper before commencing processing.  Again, the lesson learned is do not make a cake at a time of night when you should be fast in the land of nod.   I also managed to get a distinct lean on the cake when I frosted the layers together, even though the cakes were initially flat.

I triumphed with the icing, despite the initial hiccup, as everyone commented on how good it was.  As for the cakes, everyone was very kind, but I know that from my perspective, they were not up to scratch.  This was nothing to do with the recipe and more to do with my aforesaid flawed technique.

Happy birthday Jeff - I hope that you enjoyed your birthday, including this less than perfect version of the famous Malteser Cake.

Friday, March 8, 2013

FFwD - Cheesy Creme Brulee

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe is Cheesy Creme Brulee.  To me, it tasted like a very small crustless quiche.  This translates to - it tasted fine, but I can't really see the point.

I used gorgonzola in the  base of my brulee, as that was the only block cheese I had.  For topping, I used pre-grated  cheddar.

There's not much else to say about this, I'm afraid.  Have a lovely weekend, and check out the thoughts of the other Doristas on this dish at the LYL section of the website

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Jamie's Stuffed Zucchini Flowers in Tomato Sauce

I have long had an obsession with zucchini flowers.  I had never eaten them before, but there was something that fascinated me about stuffing and cooking  zucchini flowers - it sounds so summery and delightful.  Unfortunately, zucchini flowers are not that easy to find unless you grow your own zucchinis, so imagine my delight when I found this box of zucchini flowers at the St Kilda Veg Out Market for $5: 

I like to avoid fried food, but thought I would take one for the team to try these zucchini flowers.  However, the first recipe for stuffed zucchini flowers that I found when flicking through my cookbooks was not fried at all.  In Jamie Does, Jamie Oliver features a recipe for stuffed zucchini flowers in tomato sauce - perfect!  It meant that I could cook my zucchini flowers without feeling bad about deep frying.

One thing I hadn't really considered was how fiddly it is to prepare and stuff the zucchini flowers.  I made it more difficult for myself by refrigerating the flowers so that the petals wilted and stuck together (tip - do not do this).  You have to open up the petals carefully and somehow get into the flower cavity and snip out the stamen.  Next, you have to coax a ricotta and herb cheese mix into the tiny flower cavity without tearing the flower - sheesh.  It is not a job to do when you are short on time.

Despite the fiddliness of it all, I managed to successfully stuff my 14 zucchini flowers, and make the dish with tomatoes and olives.  It was really delicious, although I think the strong flavours of the tomatoes and olives overwhelmed most of the other flavours.

If you are curious, like I was, to try this dish, you will need:

A bunch of mixed fresh soft herbs (I used just basil)
250g ricotta
50g grated parmesan
pinch of ground nutmeg
salt and pepper
1 lemon
12 large or 16 small zucchini flowers (baby zucchini still attached)
500g vine ripened tomatoes (I just used a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes)
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
3 small banana shallots, peeled and finely chopped (I just used a small brown onion)
A handful of black olives

Pick the leaves off the herbs, and finely chop the leaves and the stalks. Place in a bowl with the ricotta, parmesan, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste, then add the finely grated lemon zest. Mix well with a fork.

Prise open the zucchini flowers, and snip off the bright yellow stamens.  Rinse the flowers and carefully fill each one with a teaspoon (or however much you can fit in!) of the ricotta mixture. Carefully press and pat the petals back together to seal in the mixture.

Cut a small cross in the top and bottom of your tomatoes, then plunge them into a bowl of boiling water for a minute or so until the skins blister and come away. Place in cold water until cool enough to handle, then peel off and discard the skins. Cut the flesh into 1cm chunks. (Or just open a tin of tomatoes!) In a wide pan, heat a good lug of olive oil on medium heat and fry the garlic and shallots for 3 to 4 minutes until soft. Add the tomatoes and olives and bring to the boil then season with salt and pepper.  Simmer on medium heat for 5 minutes, until thickened slightly.

When your sauce is ready, carefully lay your stuffed flowers on top and drizzle with olive oil.  Cover the pan and leave on a low heat to simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the zucchini flowers are cooked through and the sauce is thick. Cut the zested lemon in half, and squeeze the juice of one half onto the sauce.

Serve with lemon wedges, salad and bread, if desired.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

WWDH - Beef and Caramelised Onion Cous Cous Salad

For Wednesday with Donna Hay this week, I chose Donna's Beef and Caramelised Onion Salad from Off the Shelf.  You can also find the recipe online here.  As the name of the dish suggests, it is comprised of pan fried beef fillet slices atop a bed of onion cous cous and baby spinach.

I took heed of the Cookbook Critic's comment on the excessive onion in the cous cous, and I only used one onion (instead of four).  For me, that was plenty.  I used wholemeal cous cous instead of white, for no reason other than that I could.  I had a heck of a time finding cous cous that wasn't already flavoured with dried veges by Ainslie Harriott! In the end, I bought some from the organic shop in Flinders Street (as Mediterranean Wholesalers was not on my weekend travel list).  My beef fillet (which cost a motzah) was cooked to medium rare.  It looks funny because I don't have a sharp carving knife for meat, so the slices are a little mangled.

Although it is reminiscent of Manu on My Kitchen Rules to say so, for me, this dish needed some sauce.  I liked it way better on day 2 when I added some chilli jam to the mix.  

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

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

BWJ - Croissants

This week's Baking with Julia challenge is Croissants.  Our host is Amanda of Girl + Food = Love.  I had made croissants in September 2011 for The Daring Bakers, using Julia Child's recipe from Mastering The Art of French Cooking, so I was interested to see how this recipe went by comparison.

I will be honest - I liked Julia Child's recipe way better than this one.  It was less fussy (although by no means not fussy), and the end result was a lot better.  I found the Baking with Julia recipe to take longer (the recipe suggested 8 hours just for resting the dough before laminating), and the resulting croissants were overly buttery somehow - they just weren't as good taste-wise, and certainly appearance-wise, for me.

I filled my croissants with almond filling, and topped them with flaked almonds so that you were not left guessing as to what flavour they were.  The paleness results from my oven, which is useless at browning things on top.

I still have half of my croissant dough in the freezer, but I sadly won't be in a hurry to use it.

To see what the other Baking with Julia bakers thought, visit the website.

Friday, March 1, 2013

FFwD - Chicken Breasts Diable and Spiced Butter-Glazed Carrots

Thank goodness we've made it to Friday again - and the first of March already!  It has been a steamy, hot week this week - which is very unlike Melbourne and much more like Brisbane, where I hail from.  Ironically, it is wet and cool there - has the earth been turned on its head?  Extraordinary!!!  The humid heat has made it difficult to sleep, so I am not sure whether I am coming or going this week.

This brings me to this week's French Fridays with Dorie dish, Chicken Breasts Diable - aka chicken breasts pan fried and served with a creamy mustard sauce.  My photo may not do the dish justice, but this was seriously good.  The hardest part for me was ensuring that the chicken was cooked through, as I overlooked the requirement to flatten the chicken breasts a little before cooking - oops.  It all worked out in the wash, although it took significantly longer than 8 minutes for the chicken to cook.  However, if you like things hot and spicy, don't be fooled by the name of this dish - it is tame as a lamb in the spice department.

I served my chicken with the lemon-steamed spinach (to be revealed later this month), and the spiced butter-glazed carrots that I missed way back in December 2010:

These were pretty good - I am a ginger fan so I especially liked the fresh sliced ginger flavour through the carrots.

The only dish I now have not made from our schedule is Salmon in a Jar - and that was deliberate.  Maybe one day I will get the stomach to try it, but not right now.

To see what the other Doristas thought of Chicken Breasts Diable, visit the LYL section of the FFwD website.