Saturday, February 28, 2015

Salted milk chocolate brownies

Are you attracted by unusual flavour combinations?  I know that any flavour combination that sounds a little off the beaten track instantly gains my attention and makes me curious.  So it was with Ruby Tandoh's Salted Milk Chocolate Brownies, the recipe for which is online here.

Salted caramel has become commonplace, but salted milk chocolate is new to me, so I decided to give these brownies a burl.  I wanted to make sure that they were gooey in the middle but not too gooey, so even though my photos show that the brownie tops all cracked when I cut them, the filling stayed steadfastly in one piece, and was delightfully fudgy.  I count this as a win.

The salt and milk chocolate (Cadburys, in my case) complemented each other well, making for a brownie with a twist.  I would definitely make these again.

Friday, February 27, 2015

FFWD - Riviera Fish Soup

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe is Riviera Fish Soup.  It is a tomato based soup made from fish pieces and with flavour added from the fish head.

I bought a whole fish before reading the entire recipe and the reason behind the request for a whole fish (in case you were wondering, it was so you could boil up the soup with the fish head).  In retrospect, I should have just bought fillets.  I am not sure that the head added that much, and descaling and dissecting a whole fish was a pain in the butt.  My fish fillets were sadly ragged, and I ended up cutting them up with the kitchen shears because it was easier.  I made a half batch of soup only.

I find with Dorie's soups that my versions always end up too thick, and this was no exception.  It is so thick that it is visually unappealing.  I ate half the soup, and even though mentally I had logged that it tasted OK, I couldn't bring myself to eat the rest of this claggy concoction.  The very look of it put me off.  The fishy smell was also disconcerting.

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

Thursday, February 26, 2015

EwE - Grilled Tandoori Chicken Breasts

For Eating with Ellie this week, Glennis chose Grilled Tandoori Chicken Breasts from Weeknight Wonders.

This dish as super easy to prepare, super quick to cook, and tasted wonderful.  The yoghurt coating kept the chicken moist and tender, and the flavours were everything that I like.  I served my tandoori chicken with stir-fried frozen veg.

To see what the other Ellie cooks thought of this dish, visit the LYL section of the Eating with Ellie website.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

WWDH - Pasta with pumpkin and sage brown butter

For our weekly Wednesday catchup with Donna Hay, Margaret chose pasta with pumpkin and sage brown butter from p18 of Off the Shelf.

This dish was as tasty as it was simple to make. The recipe called for different pasta to mine, but I don't eat heaps of pasta and I had pasta shells in the pantry, so that is what I used. The toasted sage and brown butter were the crowning glory of the dish.  Just remember that you need 30 minutes beforehand to roast the pumpkin first.  I seasoned my pumpkin before roasting and sprayed it with oil to give it some flavour.

I really enjoyed this, and enjoyed it again the next day for lunch with a can of tuna mixed through it before reheating.

To see what the others in our group thought of this dish, visit the LYL section of the Wednesdays with Donna Hay website.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

TWD - Pink Grapefruit Tart

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe is one of the most exquisite desserts that I have ever tried, and features the  unlikely ingredient of grapefruit.

The recipe is for a Pink Grapefruit Tart, inspired by a dessert that Dorie saw at Victor & Hugo in Paris.  You fill a shortcrust tart shell with a thin layer of almond cream and top it with a pink grapefruit flavoured custard, and the top of the finished tart is decorated with pink grapefruit sections:

As you can tell from the description, there are quite a few steps to make this tart, with lots of waiting time in between (for the pastry to rest, for the custard to set, for the constructed tart to set), but the end result is worth it.  As I stated above, this dessert is exquisite - it is one of the  best desserts I have ever had.  And I don't even particularly like grapefruit!

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

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mr Banks Cafe, Melbourne

Mr Banks Café is a treasure that was right under my nose, and I would never have found except that my colleague, Justine, mentioned it to me.   It is hidden in the Fulham Place laneway off Flinders Lane, and is marked by a cheery red logo of a man on a bike in a bowler hat, inspired by Mr Banks in Mary Poppins. 

Mr Banks is a café specialising in fabulous gourmet style sandwiches, which are served with home-made potato crisps and a salad which varies depending on the type of sandwich.

On my first visit to Mr Banks, I wisely went with their signature sandwich, the Mr Banks ($13) - pulled pork, fennel slaw and candied bacon on a brioche bun:

This is still my favourite sandwich of all.  The pulled pork is tender and spiced just right, and the candied bacon is a delicious and inspired touch.  Behind the sandwich there is a gherkin, which adds a sour kick that goes well with the sweetness of the sandwich.

On my next visit, I ordered the roast chicken wrap with stuffing and gravy:

This one is my least favourite of the dishes I have tried so far.  It was a little dry and bland, and I probably wouldn't order it again.

Back on the plus side, I liked the  Gai Guong - chicken and prawn pattie on a brioche bun:

I quite liked this, but I found the fried pattie a little on the heavy side, compared with the lightness of the pulled pork.

Most recently, I tried the Sherlock Holmes - a cold sandwich served on Turkish bread with beef, pickles and salad (I asked for it to be sans the raw red onion that comes as standard):

I really enjoyed this sandwich, and it is my second favourite.  Then again, I do love beef and pickles.
I have always found the staff to be friendly and helpful, which adds to making for a pleasant lunch experience. 
If you are in the vicinity of Mr Banks, do yourself a favour and drop in for lunch - the menu changes all the time, with only the Mr Banks being a constant.  There is always at least one vegetarian option.
Mr Banks
Fulham Place (off 347 Flinders Lane)
Melbourne VIC 3000
 Ph:  03 9614 5732

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Lola Berry's Fig, Peach and Cardamom Paleo Loaf

I am an avid reader of the food columns in newspapers.  There are, of course, recipes published that I would never try in a million years, but they are interesting to read about.  However, I am quite often inspired by a recipe that I have found in the newspaper, and provided that I print it off immediately and don't let it languish too long in my pile of recipes, I will make. 

This was the case with Lola Berry's recipe for Fig, Peach and Cardamom  Paleo Loaf, in The Age.  The name of the cake immediately appealed to me, and because of my flirtations with a diet prescribed by a naturopath at one point, I had all of the ingredients except for the fresh fruit on hand.  Perfect!

This cake is quite easy to make, because it is basically a one bowl and one jug number, with no mixer or fancy equipment required.  I had bought some gorgeous fresh figs and a fresh peach from South Melbourne market especially for the occasion.  It took about 20 minutes in the oven than the recipe stated, whether this was due to the size of my pan, my oven or otherwise. 

The end result was quite pleasing:

Unlike some gluten free cakes that I have tried, this cake was quite moist inside.  The flavours melded pleasingly, and the appearance of the cake was quite attractive.  The only drawback is that I found the cake crumbled fairly easily - whether this was because of its inherent moistness, the lack of gluten, the presence of so much fresh fruit or all of the above, I cannot tell.

However, the cake tasted really good, and I would make it again, crumbliness and all.   There is no need to top it with anything - it tastes great on its own.

Friday, February 20, 2015

FFWD - Vanilla-Butter-Braised Lobster


                                                   Phoebe Buffet, Friends
For French Fridays with Dorie this week, we are back on our extended trip to the seaside.  However, today we are trying something very different - Vanilla-Butter-Braised Lobster. 
I had never previously tasted, let alone cooked, lobster, and I was kind of like a rabbit in the headlights for a while.  This was compounded by the fact that Dorie's unabridged recipe involved using 4 live lobsters and 700g of butter!  I didn't even know where to buy live lobster.
Once I had time to take a step back, my plan of action was clear.  I would go to the fishmonger in a posh neighbourhood, where they were more likely to stock lobster, and I would ask for frozen lobster (ie one that someone else had conveniently dispatched for me).
In this vein, I ventured off to the balmy climes of Hawksburn Village, where indeed I was able to acquire frozen lobster.  However, frozen lobster tends to mean just the lobster tail.  I was fine with that, especially as the cheapest said lobster tail (singular) cost $25.95!
The lobster tail went into the freezer until Valentines Day, when I invited Tim to dinner to share in my rather pricey lobster entree.
I scaled down the clarified butter to 125g (as a guess), and prepped butter and lobster before Tim came over.
To prepare the lobster for braising, you have to dunk it in boiling water for a few minutes.  It goes from this:    

to this:

Inside, once the shell is peeled away, you get very pretty red meat:

The lobster had its revenge somewhat, as its shell is remarkably spiny, so I had to take care in removing it.  However, the shell thankfully yielded up the meat very easily, even if it did prick my fingers.

Once you have your prepped lobster meat and vanilla flavoured clarified butter (yep, you read correctly) ready, it is a very simple matter to braise the meat in the butter.  I halved the lobster tail for an entree sized serving.

I served the lobster meat on a bed of lemon steamed spinach, as suggested by Dorie.  I was pleasantly surprised by this dish - the vanilla flavour was quite subtle (Tim couldn't detect it at all),  and the overall dish was very tasty.  However, with the price of lobster, I won't be serving it too often!

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

If you are a fan of fashion, do check out my travel blog post on the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition which was recently hosted by the National Gallery of Victoria.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

EwE - Pork Tenderloin with Fennel and Grapes

It's Eating with Ellie time, and this week, it's my pick from Weeknight Wonders - Pork Tenderloin with Fennel and Grapes. 

I just know there's a bunch of people who hate fruit and meat together, and another bunch who hate aniseed flavour, who are hating the sound of this dish.  However, I cooked it, and I loved it!

I made this dish for Valentine's Day dinner.  I paired the pork with mashed potato and broccolini with toasted almonds and balsamic vinegar.  It was all so good, and I loved the sauce that was served with the pork.  This dish has a little bit sweet, a little bit aniseed, and a lot of oh so good.

To see what the others thought of this dish, visit the LYL section of the EwE website.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

WWDH - White Fish with Pine Nut Brown Butter

For Wednesday with Donna Hay this week, Kayte has selected Donna's White Fish with Pine Nut Brown Butter.  This recipe is from New Food Fast, but is also online here.

What else can I say but that this was simple to prepare and very tasty to eat.  I splurged on pine nuts for this recipe.  My fish was blue grenadier (because it was the cheapest!).  To serve my fish, I multi-purposed leftover veg from tomorrow's EwE assignment.

This was my Sunday lunch, and it was very good.  I think even Hyacinth Bucket would have approved of this fish supper.

To see what the others thought of this dish, visit our new Wednesdays with Donna Hay website.  Cook along if you'd like!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Raspberry and White Chocolate Fudge Brownies

In case you missed it (ha, ha), it was Valentine's Day last Saturday.  To celebrate the occasion, I invited Tim over for dinner.

Dessert is always going to be a big deal for me, because I am a baker first and a cook second, and I wanted to make Tim a white chocolate and raspberry dessert - because those are two of his favourite things.

There are literally hundreds of white chocolate and raspberry recipes to choose from, but I needed something decadent that I could make from ingredients that I had in the house.  Enter this recipe on for Raspberry and White Chocolate Fudge Brownies.

The "brownies" took around 45 minutes to bake, and they have to cool in the tin because the fruit makes them fragile.  However, the end result was fruity and sweet and decadent.

I served the brownies at dinner with caramel sauce and vanilla icecream:

I was the lucky recipient of these chocolates from Tim (they are pictured sideways because I tried manipulating this photo with two different programs, yet Blogger insists on displaying it this way or distorting it):

Inside the lovely heart shaped tin were 8 chocolate champagne truffles, just for me:

 photo IMG_4286_zpse7b1d9be.jpg

Did you do anything to celebrate Valentine's Day?  If yes, what did you do, and did it all go well?   I'd love to hear your stories.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Nash Gallery and Cafe and Esk Bakery and Cafe, Esk, Queensland


On the Australia day weekend, we took advantage of the glorious summer weather and went for a drive in the country.  Our destination was Esk, a small country town with a thriving antiques and cafe scene.

My mother had previously visited the Nash Gallery and Cafe a number of times with her friends, and wanted to have my brother and I share the experience.  Nash Gallery and Cafe is situated in historic Lars Anderson House.  Lars Anderson was a sawmiller and builder in the region in the late 1800s, who is known for building tramways to transport timber from the forests to his mills.  My family are not gallery types buy they are eating types, so we happily sat down for lunch on the shady verandah at the cafe section of the gallery. 
 The cafe menu is quite extensive, and there are a variety of desserts in the cake cabinets at the counter.  You order at the counter, but your order is then delivered to the table.  There is a choice of indoor or outdoor seating.
I oredered the Spiced Cajun Chicken with a garden salad and chunky chips ($18.95):


This meal wasn't anything fancy, but it tasted nice and I happily cleaned my plate.
The service was friendly, and if the aim of your visit is the destination, not the culinary experience, the Nash Gallery  and Cafe is a great place to grab a spot of lunch.
Before leaving Esk, we stopped off at the Esk Bakery and Cafe for some take-home baked goodies:

I chose the citrus tart for Mum, the lime and coconut tart for me and the pavlova for my brother:

The lime and coconut tart was really good, but I would have been happy to have a smidge more tang.

During a service station stop on the way home, we all bought icecreams.  I bought an Australia Day edition Green and Gold Golden Gaytime:   

Instead of plain white vanilla icecream, the inside of the Gaytime was green and gold:

Needless to say, it was delish!
Overall, our Esk trip was a pleasant  way to pass the time on the Australia Day long weekend.

Nash Gallery and Cafe
212 Ipswich St
Esk QLD 4312
Ph: 07 5424 2424
Esk Bakery and Cafe
156 Ipswich Street
Esk QLD 4312
Ph: 07 5424 1652

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Rose Ombre Layer Cake for Valentines Day

All you need is love
Love is all you need.
                                                                The Beatles

Love it or loathe it, today is Valentine's Day.  I for one am not adverse to this day of love, not because I float in a sea of flowers while lying back on a chaise lounge to eat decadent chocolates, but because I like the idea of a day to celebrate romantic love, and it involves lots of red and pink, two of my favourite colours.
I like to celebrate occasions with baked goods, and this year, I was immediately taken by the Ombre Layer Cake that I found on Tartine and Apron StringsKayte had given me a set of Wilton 6" 5 layer cake pans for Christmas, and this was the perfect opportunity to use them.  (It astounds me that in Australia, we get charged twice the price or more of the US market price for such things, so I am grateful for Kayte's gift.) 
Instead of using the Swiss meringue buttercream in the recipe to ice the cake, I used my favourite Primrose Bakery Vanilla buttercream recipe, tinted palest pink, and flavoured with rose water instead of vanilla.
I bought Flowerdale Farm Turkish Delight rose petals to decorate my cake - a little pricey at $6.95, but they are surely the crowning glory of my creation: 

Here's an aerial shot - so pretty:

Once sliced, the true beauty of the ombre layers shines through:

It is a very impressive looking cake.  Even better, the cake tastes devine.

My only tips on making the cake layers are that they are quite delicate - grease your pan well, run a knife around the rim of the pans to unmould them, and oil your wire rack for cooling them, as the layers have a tendency to tear and stick.

Do you have any plans for Valentine's Day?  And do you like to celebrate Valentine's Day, or ignore it?

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Friday, February 13, 2015

FFWD - Chicken Couscous

For our Friday the 13th French Friday with Dorie this week, we leave the seaside and make a journey inland to Old MacDonalds Farm for some chicken - Chicken Couscous, to be precise.  It comprised chicken and vegetables cooked in chicken stock with plenty of spices for kick, and served on a bed of couscous cooked in the broth in which the chicken had been cooked.

This dish is everything that I love - spicy, lots of vegetables and some heft so that I am not left feeling hungry.  I could feast on this kind of dish every night.  I think that if I had bothered with the harissa and raisins that Dorie suggested as extras, it would have been even better.

I was also surprised at how quick this was to cook - it was done in around 40 minutes from start to finish.

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

Thursday, February 12, 2015

EwE - Japanese-Style Savoury Vegetable Pancakes with Prawns

I am a fan of My Kitchen Rules on Channel 7.  I told myself that this year, I wasn't going to get hooked - but it's already happened, and I am in, at least for the instant restaurant round.  Last night, I was very excited to see my home town featured.  It looked so pretty, and made me a little wistful for home. 

In my kitchen, I recently made Japanese-Style Savoury Vegetable Pancakes with Prawns for our new Thursday cooking group, Eating With Ellie.  This week's recipe was selected by Chaya.

I made an approximation of a quarter of the recipe for breakfast one morning.  It may be because I am not very good at cooking this sort of thing properly (too dark on the outside, not quite cooked enough in the middle), or maybe because prawns aren't my thing early in the morning, but I wasn't taken by these.  I want to steal Margaret's pancakes (as pictured on the Eating with Ellie website), as they look so crispy and golden.  For this reason, my indifference is probably more about my personal execution of the dish than the recipe.

To see what the other members of our group thought of these pancakes, visit the LYL section of the EwE website. And if you'd like to join us, just contact any one of the EwE members and get a hold of  copy of Ellie Krieger's Weeknight Wonders, the book from which we are cooking.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

WWDH - Dukkah-roasted chicken with cauliflower rice and tahini yoghurt

For Wednesday with Donna Hay this week, I chose dukkah-roasted chicken with couscous and tahini yoghurt from p54 of Issue 78 of  Donna Hay magazine.

When I chose this, I didn't really think about the availability of dukkah to our other group members, as it is available in the supermarket here.  However, everyone else had to make their own dukkah, as it appears not to be a commonly available item in the US - sorry folks.

As long as you have a sharp knife to cut the chicken, this dish is very simple to make.  I bought chicken pieces instead of butterflying a whole chicken.  Instead of couscous, I served my chicken with cauliflower rice.  The combination of the dukkah, tahini and yoghurt with the chicken was sensational.  To get my veges in, I served my chicken with stir-fried greens.  

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

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

TWD (BCM) - Marquise au Chocolat

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe is all about chocolate - it is a frozen dessert called  Marquise au Chocolat.

Butter and dark chocolate are mixed with egg yolk, sugar and cream to create a very rich, dark ice confection:

I quartered the recipe, and to give you an idea of how rich this dessert is, even a quarter of the recipe uses roughly 100g of chocolate.

This dessert was probably a little too rich for my tastes, but if you like your chocolate, deep, dark and rich, this is the dessert for you.  I took the leftovers to my friends at work and they loved it. 

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

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Tea Salon, Emporium, Melbourne

A few weeks ago, to celebrate the Russian New Year, I went with a couple of friends to The Tea Salon at Emporium in Melbourne. The Tea Salon is my idea of girly heaven - cakes, tea, floral crockery, pastels and pretty wallpaper.  What else could a girl want?

I ordered a pot of Rooibos Raspberry Vanilla tea ($5.95): 

I enjoyed this tea as I could drink it without milk, as the flavour was not overly strong.

For the scone component of our tea, both of my friends ordered the Lemon, Pistachio & Currant scone, served with jam and cream ($6.50):

When I saw how lovely their scones looked, I had scone envy - but only until I tasted mine.

I ordered the scone of the month, the Pina Colada Scone, with chunks of ginger and pineapple, and served with a pineapple, ginger and lime marmalade ($6.50): 

This scone was simply devine - I would love to have it again, especially the wonderful marmalade.

The scones are enormous - one is more than enough, especially if you had eaten before hand like we had, and the size and presentation of the scones means that they are worth the price.

If you are looking for a fun place for a girly tea party, you can't go past The Tea Salon.

The Tea Salon
Emporium Melbourne
Level 2, 295 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: 03 8609 8188

Friday, February 6, 2015

FFWD - Winter Ceviche

For French Fridays with Dorie this week, we made Winter Ceviche.  As you may expect, this was another seafood dish, but this timer with scallops.  Although labelled as a winter dish, this ceviche is perfect in summer too, as it uses bright, fresh ingredients and is quite light and served cold. 

Instead of investing in mango nectar for the citrus and mango marinade, I used peach juice from a can of tinned peaches instead.  I imagine the end result would be similar, as both the nectar and the peach juice are sweet and fruity.

You are supposed to serve the marinated scallops on a bed of tarragon, but I issued baby spinach instead.

I enjoyed this winter ceviche (after all, it is based on  the luxury of scallops), but it didn't excite me.   I probably wouldn't make it again, as there are ways to serve scallops that I like better.

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

Thursday, February 5, 2015

EwE - Penne with Grape Tomatoes, Spinach, and Toasted Garlic

For Eating with Ellie this week, Peggy chose Penne with Grape Tomatoes, Spinach, and Toasted Garlic from p224 of Weeknight Wonders.

I didn't have any penne, but I already had some small pasta shells, so that is what I used.  I also quartered the recipe so that I had the ideal meal for one.

The pasta is paired with a topping of pan roasted garlic, cherry tomatoes, spinach and parmesan.  It is really simple, but quite tasty.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this dish, as I am not a huge pasta person, and have always assumed that you needed a sauce to go with the pasta.  In this instance, the topping ingredients provide sufficient flavour without drowning the pasta in sauce.

To see what the other Ellie cooks thought of this week's dish, visit the LYL section of the EwE website.