Thursday, June 30, 2016

EwE - Warm Bulgar Salad with Grapes and Feta - The Colour Purple

This week's Eating with Ellie theme chosen by Margaret is The Colour Purple.  I made Ellie's Warm Bulgar Salad with Grapes and Feta - the grapes and red onion in the salad are purple, and I used cracked purple wheat.

This dish is lovely - the nutty bulgar wheat pairs nicely with the creamy feta and sweet grapes, and the kick from the red onion.  It is a nice filling salad as well, and I served it as a side with Ellie's Pork Tenderloin with Fennel and Grapes.

I would definitely make this salad again, and it is yet another winner from Ellie.

To see what other purple dishes the others made, visit the LYL section of the EwE website.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

TWD - Rice Pudding, Strawberries, and Spiced Hibiscus Syrup

This week's Tuesday with Dorie alternate recipe is Rice Pudding, Strawberries, and Spiced Hibiscus Syrup.  I do love rice pudding, so I was very happy to make this.  However, I only made a half recipe because I didn't want to make my rice pudding into a roly poly (me).

The rice pudding is made with a very small amount of arborio rice, which is pre-cooked then plumped up with lots of milk.  I used skim milk because that is the only milk that I use, and it worked fine.  The pudding is topped with chopped strawberries (no magic there), and a spiced syrup which is meant to be flavoured with hibiscus tea.  The spices are black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and orange. I couldn't find pure hibiscus tea, so I used a passionfruit tea that claimed to have "a twist of hibiscus".  In reality, it just tasted like passionfruit, but that suited me fine.

I really enjoyed this pudding.  The serves are quite small, but when you consider that one serve contains a whole cup of milk, that is adequate.

To see what the other Dorie bakers made this week and what they thought of it, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Cantaloupe Bread with Walnut Glaze

Recently, I needed a cantaloupe (that's rockmelon to me) for a fruit salad.  Unfortunately, being winter, cantaloupes are thin on the ground.  I miraculously managed to find one, but it was absolutely enormous, and the fruit salad only required a quarter of it.  What to do with the rest, recognising that I would never just eat it all?

I did a Google search on cantaloupe recipes, and was pleasantly surprised by the variety that I found.  In addition to the granitas and sorbets (which were not what I wanted in winter), there was quite a number of recipes for baked goods. I would never have thought of putting cantaloupe in baking before, but I was surprised at how many people already had in a creative way.

One of the recipes that I chose was this recipe for Cantaloupe Bread with Praline Glaze. (I only made half the recipe to make one cake.) This recipe comprises a beautiful soft cake (which someone told me tasted like banana bread), topped with an irresistible brown sugar and butter glaze, studded with nuts (walnuts, in my case):

This bread tastes as good as it looks, and it went in a flash at work.  Quite a few people told me how much they liked this, which is another sign that it was exceptional.
The only disclaimer I will put on it is that the cake is quite soft and the topping sets reasonably hard, so cutting the cake is a challenge.  However, this is a small price to make for such a delicious morsel with an unlikely main ingredient. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Slow Cooked Beef with Cannellini Beans and Cauliflower Mash

Winter has well and truly hit us in Melbourne.  It is, more often than not, cold and grey and wet.  It is good weather for staying indoors, snuggled up with a warm beverage, and for soups and stews and roasts and warm puddings.

Many winter foods, although comforting, can be a little unfriendly on the waistline.  Accordingly, when I spied a recipe for Slow Cooked Beef & White Beans with Cauliflower Mash in the June 2016 edition of Taste magazine, I was stoked.  It fulfils my need for warming, hearty food to ward off the cold, while remaining friendly on the calorie side (334 calories per serve).

Without further ado, here is the recipe (serves 8):

1 tbspn olive oil
800g diced blade steak
2 finely chopped red onions
4 finely chopped celery sticks
2 finely chopped carrots
4 thinly sliced garlic cloves
1 tbspn chopped fresh rosemary
250ml red wine
2 x 400g cans crushed tomatoes
1 tbspn balsamic vinegar
2 x 400g can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 large cauliflower divided into florets
2 tbspns milk
1 tbspn horseradish (I omitted this)
baby spinach leaves

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius.  Heat half of the oil in a casserole dish over high heat.  Brown the beef in  two batches in the hot oil, then remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the rest of the oil in the casserole dish over medium heat.  Cook the onion, celery and carrot until soft.  Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for a further 2 minutes.  Add the beef and the wine to the casserole dish and simmer for 5 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half.  Add the tomatoes and vinegar and stir well, and bring the mixture to the boil.

Remove the casserole dish from the heat, cover, and bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour.  Add the cannellini beans to the dish, stir, and cook for a further 30-60 minutes in the oven until the beef is tender.

Cook the cauliflower in a saucepan of boiling water until soft, then put into a food processor with the milk and horseradish (if using) and process until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the mash with the beef on top, and baby spinach leaves on the side (if desired).

Thursday, June 23, 2016

EwE - Apple Coffee Cake - Margaret's Birthday, Let's Make Cake!

This week for Eating with Ellie, we are celebrating Margaret's birthday with cake.  Ellie doesn't have a lot of cakes, but if the one I made is anything to go by, the ones she does make are good.

I chose Ellie's Apple Coffee Cake.  The recipe is from a book I don't have, called Comfort Food Fix, but someone has published it online here.

What can I say - this cake is just delish.  It contains brown sugar, apples, walnuts and cinnamon.  It has an amazingly low amount of oil and butter (2 tablespoons of each).  Yoghurt adds a little more fat and protein.  Half of the flour is wholemeal flour, for a bit more protein. 

Despite all of these adjustments, this is one tasty cake, especially when served warm.  I served my piece with a dollop of yoghurt on the side.

To see what the others made for Margaret's birthday, check out the LYL section of the Eating with Ellie website.  Happy birthday Margaret!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Apricot Slice with Lemon Icing

I really enjoy the ABC program, Kitchen Cabinet, with Annabel Crabb, a journalist.  For the uninitiated, the show each week comprises Annabel visiting a different politician for a meal.  The host cooks the main course and Annabel always brings dessert.  Recently, Annabel released a cookbook called Special Delivery, which contains lots of delicious recipes (savoury and sweet) that you can transport to share.

For absolutely ages, I have had my eye on the Apricot Slice with Lemon Icing in Special Delivery, the recipe  for which Annabel attributes to her friend Wendy's mother.  I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of Special Delivery, but if you can't, an admirer of Annabel's work has posted the recipe here.

What's not to love - dried apricots plumped up, butter, coconut, sugar, flour and almonds make up the dense, cakey slice (that's a bar cookie in the US), and it is topped with a dead simple icing of icing sugar and lemon juice.  Annabel reckons it's even sturdy enough to post.

I'll be taking note of this one as a future quick and easy crowd pleaser.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Hairy Dieters' Tuna and Sweetcorn Pasta Salad

Recently, I acquired a couple of books from The Hairy Dieters series.  From The Hairy Dieters Book 1, I chose to make the tuna and sweetcorn pasta salad one week for work lunches.  The recipe is also online here.

This pasta salad was very easy to make, and was quite tasty.  The only criticism that I have is that in the suggested serving size, I found the amount of salad a tad unsatisfying.  I normally have the opposite problem with recipes in that the serving size is way more than I want, but here, I could actually have done with a little more - perhaps dividing the salad into  3 portions instead of 4.

However, I am overall impressed with The Hairy Dieters' recipes, as they are just good old home cooking dishes made more calorie-friendly, and I will continue to try out some more. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Chickpea and Vegie Curry

Although I am not a vegetarian, I really enjoy vegetarian meals.  I intend to make a more conscious effort to observe Meatless Monday or some other day at least once a week when I serve meatless meals.

One of the delicious vegetarian meals I have enjoyed recently is a Chickpea and Vegie Curry from The Good Life by Sally Obermeder and Maha Koraiem. I always like a good curry, and this one is full of healthy ingredients - and is meat-free.

To make this warming, hearty vegetarian curry, you will need:

25g flaked almonds
2 tbspns olive oil
2 chopped brown onions
1 tspn grated ginger
2 tbspns curry paste
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tbspns lime juice
400g tin chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
1 zucchini sliced into 1 cm slices
60g broccoli florets
270ml coconut milk
140g baby spinach leaves
chopped fresh coriander for garnishing

Toast the flaked almonds in a small frying pan and set aside.

Heat the oil in a saucepan on medium heat and add the onions, garlic, ginger and curry paste, stirring frequently, until the onions soften.  Stir in the tomatoes with a pinch of salt.  Simmer until the mixture thickens, then add 1/2 cup of cold water, the lime juice, zucchini, broccoli and chickpeas.

Cover the saucepan and cook for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through.  Add the coconut milk and stir.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the spinach and heat until just wilted.  Season the curry with salt and pepper.

Remove the curry from the heat and allow to stand for a few minutes to thicken before serving over cooked rice and scattered with the toasted almonds and coriander. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

EwE - Red Bean Stew with Walnuts and Pomegranate - Lovely Legumes

The theme for this week's Eating with Ellie is Lovely Legumes, chosen by me.  I chose something a little off the beaten track from Weeknight Wonders, a Red Bean Stew with Walnuts and Pomegranate.  It may sound kind of weird, but Ellie assures us it is a Georgian dish called Lobio.  I was attracted to this recipe simply because it was different.

I had no expectations of what this dish would be like, but as it happened, it is really good.  The flavours meld to create a rich, hearty stew, with the pomegranate juice adding just a hint of tartness and a citrus-like flavour.  It is perfect for the cold winter days that we have been experiencing in Melbourne.

The pomegranate seed garnish is not necessary, but it adds some welcome texture and colour to this stew.

This is another great dish from Ellie that I'd make again.

To see what the others made for Lovely Legumes, visit the LYL Section of the EwE website.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

TWD - Rose Fraisier

In the Northern hemisphere, it is summer - days filled with warmth and sunshine.  Accordingly, for Tuesdays with Dorie this month, two very summery desserts have been chosen as our recipes -  Rose Fraisier, and Rice Pudding, Strawberries and Spiced Hibiscus Syrup.

I am aware that in Australia, we are very lucky - our winters are very mild compared with much of the rest of the world.  However, that doesn't mean that I enjoy them.  Grey, cold and wet days do not for happiness make, and I will impatiently wait for the next 5 months or so to pass (because once it gets cold in Victoria, it stays cold) and for the warmth and sunshine to bless us once again.

In the meantime, I will enjoy the Northern hemisphere summer by proxy through reading everyone's wonderful summery posts, and by creating my own little splash of summer with a summery dessert or two.  For my first pick, I went with the Rose Fraisier.  I chose this one first because it seemed to have the most steps/be the most time consuming, and I know that later in the month, time will not be my friend.  "Fraisier" means "strawberry bush", and refers to the many, many strawberries in this luxurious dessert.

I have made a Fraisier once before, for Daring Bakers way back in 2011.  That one was a different beast altogether, made with chiffon cake and filled with pastry cream, and assembled in a spring form pan.  Dorie's Fraisier is made with a rose flavoured yoghurt cake base, and filled freeform with a mixture of pastry cream and whipped cream to make it light and fluffy.  Dorie herself has tweaked her Fraisier recipe from the traditional Fraisier you will find in France, so I feel OK that I accidentally tweaked Dorie's recipe by putting my strawberries the wrong way around.  This was not a deliberate act of rebellion - more an act of inattention, but I still think it looks pretty.  

The photo of the Fraisier in the book does not reflect what you will get if you follow the method in the recipe, because (a) the pastry cream is tinted pink - however, there is nothing in the filling recipe that would make it pink; and (b) the straight sides of the Fraisier indicate that it was constructed in a springform pan like the Daring Bakers version, rather than assembled freeform as per the Chez Moi instructions.  I mention this so that if you subsequently make this, you are not disheartened because your Fraisier does not turn out just like the photo - rather, it seems that the food stylist here went for the prettiest result.  

My Fraisier was never going to look like the photo because I placed the strawberries the wrong way around on the perimeter of the cake, and didn't even realise until it was fully assembled.  Also, I couldn't have a forest of strawberries inside my cake because I didn't have enough strawberries - I had more of an ordered garden of strawberries planted carefully in circular beds.  (Strawberries were $4.99 a punnet, so I could not justify buying more than 2 punnets.) Nonetheless, I was happy with my Fraisier - I am a huge advocate of putting your own spin on recipes so that they are uniquely yours, and that certainly applies in this case.  As a final twist, I glazed my Fraisier with apricot jam - red currant jelly or, for that matter, anything containing red currants, is as rare as hen's teeth in Australia, so the good old baker's fallback of apricot jam worked a treat here.

Here is the rose/lime/ginger flavoured yoghurt cake which forms the foundation for the Fraisier:

And here is a look inside my Fraisier:

And here is my slice:

I can't say that I really noticed the rose flavour in the cake.  The creamy filling and the strawberries were the standout impression that I had, but I guess that is as it is meant to be.  As Dorie says, "This sweet is all about the berries and cream and the skinny cake is just there to frame them."

I enjoyed this dessert.  Although I like pastry cream without the added cream better, I think the whipped cream added a lightness that is well suited to a dessert like this.

To see whether the other Doristas made rice puddings or Fraisiers this week, and what they thought of them, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Donovans, St Kilda for Sandra's birthday

Recently, my friend Sandra celebrated a milestone birthday.  She had always wanted to try Donovans in St Kilda, so that is where she invited a group of her friends to mark the milestone with her. 

Inside, Donovans has cosy couches for having drinks while waiting for your table, and is decorated with an eclectic collection of curios of all kinds:

While waiting for the rest of the group to arrive, we started off with cocktails.  I chose the Chop Chop Charlie ($19) - a passionfruit concoction that slid down the throat way too easily:

For a starter, most of us ordered the arancini ball ($5), with a crisp outer shell disguising the tasty risotto within, and a creamy sauce streaked across the plate:

For a shared entrée, two of the guests ordered the chicken liver parfait ($22), which came with a shallot and ginger compote and lovely sourdough to eat it on:

For main course, I selected the crispy skin barramundi with kipfler potatoes, sautéed spinach, cherry tomatoes and capers ($48):

Although on the pricey side, I can say that my main meal was absolutely delicious, and the barramundi had a crispy skin as promised.

Sandra and Jana ordered the seafood linguine with Moreton Bay bug ($52):

Vanda ordered the 500g grilled snapper served with chips and salad (no idea of the price, market price on the day):

Andy went for an entrée size of the confit duck gnocchi ($27):

We also ordered cos leaves with parmesan to share ($12):

The grand finale was dessert.  The four chocolate lovers at the table shared the bombe Alaska, their signature dessert, with chocolate hazelnut icecream inside ($45):

Although the bombe Alaska is advertised on the menu as being for two, it is rather large, so I think dividing it among four people was just right.

Andy and Jana had also brought Sandra a chocolate mud cake:

Here is a peek inside the bombe Alaska:

And here are the happy diners before proceedings kicked off:

The service at Donovans was friendly and efficient.  When Sandra expressed an interest in the old photographs decorating the walls, the owner himself was happy to come out and discuss them with her.  Now that's old fashioned service.

While Donovan is definitely a special occasion restaurant, I really enjoyed my meal and would go back for another special occasion.

40 Jacka Boulevard
St Kilda VIC 3182
Ph: (03) 9534 8221

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Roast Chicken with Oregano and Thyme

There's nothing like a roast dinner in winter - while it is cooking, it warms the house and fills it with delicious aromas, and it warms the cockles of the soul when it is eaten.  There are many different ways that you can flavour the humble roast chook when roasting it.  Recently, I enjoyed a herbed version with oregano and thyme from The Good Life by Sally Obermeder and Maha Koraiem.  The recipe can also be found online here.

This version of roast chicken involves flavouring the chicken with oregano and thyme, which are placed both inside the cavity and under the skin of the chicken.  I was super proud that I was able to use oregano and thyme from my own herb garden - I am not a green thumb, so I am in awe every day that I have managed to grow herbs successfully.  The chicken is also flavoured with lemon, a la Nigella Lawson.  The chicken is roasted on a bed of carrots, onion and potatoes, with more lemons thrown in for flavour.

I served my chicken with a side of boiled green beans.  It was a super delicious yet super simple dinner, and one that I would make again.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Coffee Walnut Cake for The Melbourne Cake Club - Be Our Guest!

The Melbourne Cake Club met last night at Berlin Bar, tucked away in a laneway and up several flights of stairs in the Melbourne CBD.  Five members of the Cake Club and three guests (Tamara, Judy and Marilyn) braved the chilly weather to drink cocktails and share cake.

Finding Berlin Bar is a challenge in itself, as it doesn't exactly scream its presence.  Once you have found it, even then, you have to ring a doorbell and wait outside until the staff let you in.  

You enter Berlin Bar through the "West":

but in a separate room out the back, you enter the "East":

Berlin Bar has an extensive range of cocktails, both cold and warm (flaming, even).  I ordered the cocktail of the week - the Seemann Getrank (literally "Seaman's Drink"), described by Berlin Bar as follows:

In the 19th century, sailors were suffering of scurvy due to a lack of vitamin C while on long voyages without fresh supplies of fruits and vegetables. Surgeon General Sir Gimelette from the Royal Navy find a way to fight this disease and to make his crew happy, he has created a [alcoholic] drink made of gin and lime juice [full of vitamin C]. This week, to celebrate world gin day, Berlin is modernising the original recipe from Sir Gimelette with Botanica Gin mixed with Lillet Blanc, Angostura bitters, agave, fig and cinnamon; to create a botanical sweet and sour drink.  Get on board sailor! 

(Photograph courtesy of the Berlin Bar Facebook page)

Onto the cakes!  I made Nigella Lawson's Coffee Walnut Cake from Kitchen.  I forgot that I had made this once before, but no matter - it is a real winner of a cake.

Dalya brought a delicious chocolate layer cake sandwiched with ganache and with cream and pomegranate seeds on top:

Nicole made a 5-layer chocolate cake sandwiched with vanilla buttercream, sprayed black on the outside, and topped with a white chocolate ganache "drip" which was then painted gold with rosewater and gold lustre dust:

Judy brought an apple and almond upside down cake:

Abi brought along a fun cake that I, as a sweet tooth, adored - a Skittles pinata cake with Skittles syrup, Skittles icing and Skittles baked in the middle:

Alex brought along some Italian biscuits that he says are good with alcohol:

Here are the cake slices so you can see inside all of the cakes:

It was another fun meeting of the Melbourne Cake Club.  Next month's theme is Savoury Cakes - join us if you would like to!

Berlin Bar
2/16 Corrs Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9639 3396

Thursday, June 9, 2016

EwE - Thai Vegetable Curry with Tofu - Where's The Beef

For Eating with Ellie this week, Margaret chose the theme of Where's The Beef?  Interpreting this to mean vegetarian meals, I selected Ellie's Thai Vegetable Curry with Tofu.

I served this curry with brown rice for a bit of added oomph.  I really enjoyed it, and it was my lunch for work during the week that I made it.

To see what the others made for Where's The Beef?, visit the LYL section of the EwE website

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Maple Oat Banana Loaf

If you are looking for a cake that is jam packed with good things to eat, and uses up those pesky bananas on the turn, then look no further - I have the perfect cake for you.  Thomasina Miers' Maple Oat Banana Loaf fits the bill to a "T", and tastes fabulous to boot.

I halved the recipe to make just one cake, as I couldn't handle two at once.  However, I would definitely make this again - it is just so tasty, and with all of those great ingredients (carrots, bananas, pepitas, apple, sultanas, walnuts), I dare say it is on the healthy side too.

Do yourself a favour and make this cake - you will be back for more.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Solarino, Melbourne CBD

A couple of weeks ago, Tim and I went to see The Beatles Orchestrated, performed by The Beatle Boys in conjunction with the Australian Symphony Orchestra.   The event was staged at Hamer Hall, and was a grand evening - you can see some photos of the event here.

We decided to make a night of it and went to dinner beforehand.  We didn't have any plans, so we just wandered through the city at random, and came across Solarino, an Italian restaurant in a laneway off Little Collins Street:

Italian is always a good choice, so we ventured in and were shown to a cosy corner table.

To start, we ordered the bruschetta with gorgonzola, fig and pancetta ($15.90):

If you love ficci biondi, then this is for you.  Personally, I adored this starter - sharp cheese, sweet figs, salty meat and crispy bread, a winning combination.

For main, Tim ordered the risotto with scallops, pumpkin, basil and spring onions ($26.90):

I didn't personally taste this, but Tim enjoyed it.

I went for the Soft shell chilli crab salad with rucola, green beans, basil aioli and balsamic reduction ($24.90):

I fell in love with soft shell crab at The Smith in New York, so it was wonderful to be able to have it again.  This version did not disappoint, with crispy, juicy crab atop a tasty rocket and green bean salad.

For dessert, we had the tiramisu ($13.90), of course!

It may not look fancy, but it was delicious.

The service was friendly and efficient, leaving us plenty of time to wander up to our show.

Solarino was a great find, and I would definitely go back there.

San Paolo Solarino
7 Howey Pl, Melbourne VIC 3000