Sunday, May 31, 2015

Maple Syrup Pecan Pie

While I was staying with my mother for Mothers Day, she wanted to make a pecan pie for dessert.  Sadly, she could not locate her recipe for it.  A Google search came to the rescue, and I found the BBC Good Food website recipe for Maple Syrup Pecan Pie.

We just used store bought shortcrust pastry with the filling from the recipe.  This pecan pie was really good, because it was not overly gooey and sweet, like some pecan pies can be.  This one was a winner for us, and made a great dessert served warm on a cold night.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Raspberry Ricotta Cake

Before I went on holidays, I had a massive container of ricotta cheese to use up.  I came up with some recipes that I felt so so about after a Google search, but the Eureka moment came when I read about a raspberry ricotta cake on The Amateur Gourmet.  It looked devine and just what I wanted to make.

The recipe is Bon Appetit's Raspberry Ricotta Cake.  I followed the recipe to a T save for adding an extra quarter cup of raspberries on top (because I didn't have any).

It turned out to be a beautiful cake - moist, light and with tang from the raspberries.

It was delightful served warm with icecream for dessert:

It was also good on its own served at room temperature next day.  Loved this cake - I'd make it again.

Friday, May 29, 2015

FFWD - Celebration Week #1: The AHA Moment - Lamb Tagine with Apricots

This week for French Fridays with Dorie, we have to choose your favorite, loved the most, best recipe in FFWD to share this week and explain why, and share our top 5 favorites.

There are many recipes in Around My French Table that I really loved.  When I went back through my FFWD posts to make a list of the recipes that I liked the most, I noticed that a recurring theme was Dorie's meat and fruit combinations - chicken tagine with sweet potato and prunes, duck with kumquats and pork with mango and lychees.  Accordingly, it made sense to me that I would choose one of these meat and fruit dishes as my AHA! moment.  It was hard to pick one dish over another, but I landed on Dorie's Lamb Tagine with Apricots.

This tagine pairs meat with fruit in a classic sweet and savoury combination, and jazzes it all up with a mix of spices.  My experience is that the tagine tastes best next day, when the flavours have had time to develop and meld.
I have made tagines before Dorie's, but not all of them hit the mark.  This one is particularly good, and tastes fabulous with Dorie's cardamom rice pilaf, or ordinary brown rice.
In addition to the Lamb Tagine with Apricots, five of my other favourite dishes from AMFT are:
To see  what the other Doristas regarded as their AHA! moment from AMFT, visit the LYL section of the FFWD website.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

TWD - Rhubarb Upside Down Brown Sugar Cake

For Tuesday with Dorie (Baking Chez Moi) this week, our recipe is Rhubarb Upside Down Brown Sugar Cake.

This cake was simple to make, amd took just over an hour, including preparation.  My baking time was more like 40 minutes than the 20 minutes stated by Dorie. I started making the cake batter while the rhubarb was stewing in its juices so that I could streamline the process (as you do when you start baking at 9pm).

The resulting cake was beautiful, light and moist with a caramel flavour from the brown sugar, and the tangy rhubarb topping worked a treat as a contrast to the sponge.  I used raspberry jam as a glaze and that worked fine too.

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

Totally Unicorn Beetroot Cake for 8th Blogiversary

Wow, I can hardly believe it - I have been blogging in this space for 8 years today.  My blog started with modest aspirations - I just wanted to chronicle what I cooked.  I had been a "lurker" for a couple of years beforehand after discovering food blogs through a newspaper article on cupcakes.  The first blogs that I read were Cupcake Bakeshop by Chockylit and 52 Cupcakes by the Cupcake Queen.It all grew from there.

After I while, I figured that there was no reason why I couldn't start my own blog.  The beginnings of this blog were humble, and it still is - I keep it because I enjoy chronicling my food adventures, and since joining various cooking groups online, it has also become a social activity for me.

To celebrate the 8th birthday of this blog, I have made Poh Ling Yeow's Totally Unicorn Beetroot Cake which I saw on her charming show, Poh &Co:

What is not to love about this cake - chocolate, beetroot, cream cheese, cream and more chocolate:

My cake batter probably wasn't quite right as it was so thick, I pressed it into the pan rather than poured it, but no matter - the cake seemed to turn out alright in the end, and any dryness was more than compensated for by the cream cheese filling and ganache.
Poh's ganache recipe worked out really well - you could apply it straight away without it running all over the place.
In case you wondering about the name of this cake, it comes from the  name of a heavy metal band in which Poh's brother-in-law, Mikey, is the drummer - Poh makes this cake for the band whenever they stay with her.  
If you fancy a chocolate cake with a difference, then the Totally Unicorn Beetroot Cake is definitely worth a go.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Plum Jam

I recently made some plum jam using yellow plums.

To make jam, the general rule is one part fruit to one part sugar.  In this case, I also added the juice of a lemon to up the pectin content (which helps the jam to set).  I removed the plum stones but left the skins on to give some texture to the jam.

Once you have your fruit, sugar and lemon juice (if using) in a saucepan, you bring it all to a rolling boil and continue to boil until it thickens sufficiently that when you place a drop of it on a plate that has been in the freezer and run your finger through it, it wrinkles and a gap remains where your finger had been.  If the jam runs back into the gap and doesn't wrinkle, it is not ready yet, so you have to keep boiling it.

Once the jam is ready, pour it into jars that have been sterilised (by placing in the oven for 1 minutes or by boiling in a pot of water) and seal.

Making a jam is a great way to use up surplus fruit, or to preserve a slice of summer for the winter months ahead.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Coconut Cream Cake

I hate wasting ingredients, and I find that Google is my friend when I am looking for ways to use up odds and ends of perishable ingredients.

Recently, I found myself with the best part of a can of coconut cream to use up.  Turning to trusty Google, I found this recipe for coconut cream cake by Anne Thornton.

It is quite a decadent cake, being a double decker glory, so instead of coating the whole cake in icing, as suggested by Anne, I just filled the middle of the cake and iced the top with the cream cheese frosting:

This cake is beautifully moist and very coconutty in flavour.  I would definitely make it again.

Friday, May 22, 2015

FFWD - Last recipe - Chicken in a Pot – the Garlic and Lemon Version

Well folks, it's been a wild ride, but here we are - the last one.  We are up to the very last recipe in Around My French Table - Chicken in a Pot - the Garlic and Lemon Version.  This is the cover recipe, so it is fitting that it is the last recipe that we make. The recipe has been posted online here.

You can see pretty easily from the photos what comprises Chicken in a Pot - roast chicken and vegetables with broth steamed in a pot in the oven, with a basic dough used to seal in the steam.  The vegetables are the classic combination of carrots, onions and celery, with sweet potatoes and whole garlic cloves thrown in for luck.  The broth is comprised of chicken stock, white wine and herbs.

The dish is served with bread on the side - for soaking up the broth, of course!!! 

There is nothing not to like here - who doesn't like roast chicken?  It was an easy to dish to make - not much chopping, and the chicken and vegetables being browned before going into the oven to give them some colour and flavour.

For the last time on our almost five year journey, go visit the LYL section of the FFWD website to see what the other Doristas thought of Dorie's Chicken in a Pot – the Garlic and Lemon Version.

However, don't despair - we are partying on for another four weeks to reminisce about the highlights of our Around My French Table odyssey.  Join us for the fun!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

EwE - Shrimp Creole

It was my turn to pick for Eating with Ellie this week, and I chose Shrimp Creole.

I went seriously off piste with this recipe.  I found I had no onions, so I used leek.  I bought a yellow, not a green, capsicum.  I used Cajun seasoning as Creole seasoning is not a thing here, and Cajun sounded pretty close.  I also used frozen spinach instead of fresh baby spinach, as I used up all the baby spinach on something else, not realising that I needed it for this.

I really enjoyed this dish.  It had a bit of zing, with the Cajun seasoning and tabasco sauce, and tasted really good.  This is definitely one I'd make again.

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

WWDH - Hot Potato Mustard Dressing

For Wednesday with Donna Hay this week, Kayte chose Hot Potato Mustard Dressing from p143 of Off the Shelf.  This involves boiling kipfler potatoes, and while they are still hot, tossing them with a mustard based dressing (ingredients here).  I don't like red onions, so I swapped them for shallots.  The dressing was very tasty.

As suggested by Donna, I served my potatoes with some pan fried salmon.

To see what the other Donna cooks thought of Hot Potato Mustard Dressing, visit the LYL section of the WWDH website.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bowery to Williamsburg, Melbourne

If American style sandwiches are your thing, you can't go past Bowery to Williamsburg in Oliver Lane, Melbourne.  I am late to the party on this venue, which I found out about by accident through a colleague who raved about their Reuben sandwich.  I love a good Reuben, so I couldn't resist trying the version at Bowery to Williamsburg, where the Reuben is their signature sandwich.

Here is a quick peek at the menu:

The prices are rather steeper than the Reuben that I had in Branson, but that is true of most things in Australia.

The interior of Bowery to Williamsburg is decked out in a New York-inspired theme, as their name would suggest:

It gets very busy, so it is best to go early for lunch.
I visited Bowery to Williamsburg with Tim.  We decided to hedge our bets by sharing a Reuben (corned beef, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, cheese) ($13):

and a Rachel (presumably named after Rachel from Friends), which was the same as the Reuben except that the meat was turkey, not corned beef ($13):

It turned out to be a good move, as Tim preferred the Reuben and I preferred the Rachel.  Both sandwiches were tasty and very filling.

You can order a sandwich, side (either macaroni cheese or salad) and a drink for $17.  I am glad that we didn't - I was well and truly satisfied with just the sandwich.

Tim washed his sandwich back with a Brooklyn lager, actually brewed in New York state:

while I had a Soho sparkling mineral water ($4), from Doncaster, VIC (not quite the same!):

We enjoyed checking out the interior of the cafe from our elevated perch on stools at a bench tucked away from the madding crowd:

I'd definitely go back - the food was good and plentiful, and the service was friendly. 

16 Oliver Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Claire Ptak's Kumquat Almond Cake

Recently, Tim gave me some kumquats from his parents' tree.  I had sent him an email about a kumquat cake recipe by Claire Ptak, so he provided me with the kumquats to make the cake.

The cake is meant to be made with buckwheat flour, but I substituted spelt flour.  The crowning glory is candied kumquats on top:

Here's a peek inside:

This cake is perfect served warm with some of the candying syrup and icecream:

Friday, May 15, 2015

(French) Food Revolution FFWD - Fighting for Food Education - Caramel Almond Tart

Today is Food Revolution Day, a global campaign launched by Jamie Oliver to put compulsory practical food education on the school curriculum.  One of the Doristas, Mardi, is an ambassador for Food Revolution Day, hence for French Friday with Dorie this week, we are hosting a French food revolution.  Mardi has asked us to choose a recipe or technique that we have learned from Around My French Table that we think is a "must know". 

Now, while I realise that pastry is not a necessity of life, it is a very handy skill to have, as pastry can be used as a basis for making meals such as pies and quiches, as well as for making desserts and treats.  Before Dorie, making pastry scared me, as I had had more than one failed attempts at making it.  However, through Dorie, I have discovered a fail-safe technique for making pastry that is quick and easy, and does not even require you to endure the sometimes tricky task of rolling out the dough.

The recipe that is now my go-to pastry recipe is Dorie's Sweet Tart Dough from Around My French Table.  Although it is a sweet tart dough,  I don't see why it can't double up for certain savoury applications because it is not overly sweet (but note that Dorie also has a "good for almost everything" tart dough that can also be used for this purpose).

I applied Dorie's sweet tart dough recipe to making her Caramel Almond Tart from AMFT.  The dough is made in the food processor, so there is no need to fear rubbing the fat into the flour or sticky hands.  I also always just press the dough into the tart pan rather than rolling it out - which means less effort and no breakage, with a perfect fit every time!  Another self-taught tip that I have when using Dorie's sweet tart dough is that if the mixture comes out too crumbly to come together easily, just add a little ice water  to assist in bringing the dough together.  Dorie also taught me how to prevent shrinkage of the pastry during baking by chilling the dough before shaping and chilling it again after it has been moulded into the tart pan.   Here's my pressed-in sweet tart dough, partially baked and covered with toasted sliced almonds in preparation for my caramel filling:

Another skill that I have learned from Dorie is making caramel.  It really is simple when you know how.  You just melt sugar and water together - don't touch otherwise it will crystallise, but gently swirl to get an even colouration, until you get a lovely amber colour:

then stand back and add the cream - it will pop and spit, but just add the cream slowly and don't put your face over it, and everything will quickly calm down: 

et voila - in this case, a lovely caramel cream filling, but you simply change the proportion of cream to make caramel sauce, caramel candies etc - the same basic principles apply:
Mastery of these two techniques (making pastry and making caramel) results in a wonderful caramel almond tart for your family to enjoy:
Fun to make, good to eat, and best of all, you know what is in your food because you made it from scratch - no nasty chemicals.
To see what the other Doristas learned from Dorie for our French Food Revolution Friday, visit the LYL section of the FFWD website. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

EwE - Asparagus and Mozzarella Pizza

For Eating with Ellie this week, Peggy chose Asparagus and Mozzarella Pizza.  This dish involves a wholemeal pizza base topped with cheese and asparagus.

Bought pizza dough is not a thing here, so I made my own wholemeal pizza dough from this recipe.  I am not a big pizza eater, so I reduced the recipe by half to make a 6" pizza for one.

Because I used a smaller pizza base, I could not arrange the asparagus spears in spokes, as suggested by Ellie.  While I lost the visual wheel effect, it had no influence on flavour.

I quite liked this pizza as a light meal.  Asparagus is one of my favourite vegetables, and with the cheese, it makes a moreish combination.

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

WWDH - Spinach Ravioli with Basil Oil

It was my pick for Wednesday with Donna Hay this week, and I chose Spinach Ravioli with Basil Oil from Seasons.  The recipe is also posted online here.

This ravioli is made using gow gee wrappers from the deli section of the supermarket as the pasta.  You then place a small amount of spinach and ricotta filling in the middle of a wrapper, brush water around the edge of the wrapper as glue, and place another wrapper on top and press to seal.  Instant ravioli!

I liked this dish a lot.  It was very filling and cheap to make, hence is a winner in my books.

To see what the other Donna Hay devotees made of this dish, visit the LYL section of the WWDH website.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

TWD - Nutella buttons

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe is Nutella buttons.  These are little mini white cake cupcakes filled with Nutella and topped with either ganache or white chocolate.

As you can see, I went the white chocolate route, and spread it on rather than dipped it because I found the chocolate to be too thick for dipping.

Here's a peek inside:

My "buttons" were not domed on top like Dorie's, but they sure tasted good. 

To see more of these little cakes, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Chocolate Mud Cake for Swee's birthday

Today is my colleague, Swee's, 40th birthday.  To celebrate this momentous occasion, I have made her a birthday cake.
Because I needed to make it a few days in advance, I chose a chocolate mud cake:
which I then topped with ganache once cool: 

and covered with black ready to roll fondant icing:

To make the cake pretty, I used some Lucky coloured fondant to make some daisies and put numbers on the cake: 

I then added a sausage of coloured fondant around the bottom edge of the cake to finish it off:

covering the join with a bow:

Voila!  I am very happy with this cake.

The recipe for the chocolate mud cake comes from A Cook's Book of Decadence - Chocolate, Coffee, Caramel, which my friends Elisa and Trudy gave to me for my birthday one year.  It is as follows:

250g butter
250g dark cooking chocolate
2 tablespoons instant coffee powder or granules
150g self-raising flour
150g plain flour
60g cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
550g sugar
4 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
125ml buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius.  Grease a deep 23cm round cake tin, and line the base and sides with baking paper, making sure the paper extends ~ 5cm above the top of the tin.

Dissolve the coffee in 185mls hot water. Put the butter, sugar, chocolate and dissolved coffee and water in a saucepan. Stir over a low heat until smooth, completely melted and blended. Set aside.

Sift the flours, cocoa and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre.

Add the combined eggs, oil and milk; pour into the well in the dry ingredients, and using a spatula, mix well into the dry ingredients. Add  the cooled melted chocolate mixture, and fold in until there are no lumps.  

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Place the cake into the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes or until cooked through when tested with a skewer. Leave the cake in its tin on a wire rack o cool completely before decorating.

For the ganache, I used Poh's ganache from her Totally Unicorn Chocolate Cake recipe, found here.

Here are the birthday girl and I with the cake:

I also cross-stitched Swee a birthday card - after all, it's a milestone birthday: