Saturday, July 30, 2016

Madeira Cake

A little while ago, I had to go on a preparation diet for a medical test.  The best way to describe the diet is "smooth white stuff".  It meant that I was quite limited in what I could eat, including the types of sweet treats I could have.

To indulge my baking habit during this period, I made a plain vanilla cake known as a Madeira Cake.  Madeira Cake is often used as the base for other flavoured cakes, but on this occasion, there was to be no additions for me.

There are dozens of Madeira Cake recipes out there, but the one I chose was from  a vintage cookbook, The Schauer Australian Cookery Book (1962 edition).  All of the recipes in this book are in imperial measurements, and there are no photos.  Also, there is no separate list of ingredients - you read the ingredients as you go along with the method.

The finished cake was a beauty:

The recipe as it appears in the book is as follows:

Cream 1/2 lb butter and 1/2 lb sugar together.  When quite white add a few drops of vanilla essence or a little grated lemon rind [not in my case!!]. Add 4 eggs slowly well beaten together. Sift 10 oz plain flour with one level teaspoon of baking powder twice. [I skipped the sifting.]  Add to the mixture.  Beat in lightly.  Half fill a well greased and floured tin. Place in another tin [hmmm, I didn't] and bake in a moderate oven for 1 1/4 hours.

Don't you just love it?  It assumes some knowledge of baking and so doesn't fill in the finer details like cookbooks today.  For me, this was not a problem, but I can imagine it would cause some people to scratch their heads.

It was a lovely cake, and hit the spot despite its totally unadorned nature.  Even the work crowd appreciated its simplicity.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

EwE - Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Dressing - Melons, Melons, Everywhere

For this week's Eating with Ellie, Kayte chose the theme of Melons, Melons Everywhere.  I liked the sound of Ellie's Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Dressing from So Easy, so that is what I made.

This fruit salad contains rockmelon (cantaloupe) as its major ingredient, so fits in well with this week's theme.  I was actually surprised to be able to buy a cantaloupe at this time of year, but there was one left in the shop.  It had my name on it.

This lovely, sunny looking fruit salad also features strawberries and kiwi fruit, and is dressed with a mixture of honey and lime juice.  (I skipped the mint.)

It was lovely eaten on its own, or served over muesli for breakfast.

To see what the others made this week, visit the LYL section of the Eating with Ellie website. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

TWD - Summer Market Galette

Our second July recipe for Tuesday with Dorie is Summer Market Galette.  It is a bitter sweet irony for me to be making Summer Market Galette when it is actually the middle of winter in Australia.  However, thanks to the  global export market, I have been able to buy US nectarines and plums, and I used canned apricots and frozen blueberries to make up the balance of the fruit.

You could actually make this with whatever fruits you wanted to.  However, to keep this aligned with the title of the recipe, I went the extra mile to use "season appropriate" (that is, summer) fruits in the galette.

The fruity component was given some zing by the addition of lime zest, grated fresh ginger and mint.  In all, it was rather a tasty tart that I served warm with icecream:

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

Monday, July 25, 2016

Broccoli and Ricotta Mash

Mashed potatoes are nearly universally adored, but poor old broccoli is often given a bad rap.  If you have children who don't like broccoli, or you are not a fan, a way that you might be able to make it more palatable is by making this broccoli and ricotta mash.

The mash comprises potatoes, broccoli and ricotta, mashed together with flavour enhancing ingredients.  This delicious mash alternative is from The Good Life by Sally Obermeder, and the recipe is as follows:

2 small potatoes diced into 2cm squares
500g broccoli cut into small florets
2 tbspns olive oil
2 crushed cloves garlic
115g ricotta
zest of 1 lemon
2 tbspns lemon juice

Cook the potatoes in boiling water for 8 minutes.  Add the broccoli and cook for another 6 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Heat 1 tbspn of olive oil in a frying pan and cook the garlic.

Drain the potatoes and broccoli and put into the bowl of a food processor.  Add the garlic with the remaining tbspn of olive oil, the ricotta, and    the lemon zest and juice, and process until you have the desired  mash consistency.

Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve as a nutritious side with whatever you fancy.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The High Tea Party, Sofitel, Melbourne

Last Saturday, Kamilla, Irena and I headed off to The High Tea Party at the Sofitel in Melbourne.

One of the event sponsors was Royal Albert China, who had this gorgeous display of tea party crockery at the door:

We had goodie bags on our chairs full of samples and vouchers on arrival, and there was a lovely mini bottle of Prosecco for each guest.

 Once we were seated, our tea tray arrived:

There were mini desserts:

and scones and mini quiche:

and ribbon sandwiches:

My favourite was the scones, served with jam and cream:

The crockery was Miranda Kerr by Royal Albert - isn't the tea cup pretty:

The tea was bottomless but I could only manage two cups.

Here we are at our table waiting to be served:

There was also entertainment by jazz singer Emma Pask (from The Voice Australia), and two fashion parades - one by Leona Edmiston and the other by a lingerie house.

Outside, there was a seemingly endless array of stalls selling everything from jewellery to chocolates to vodka.

It was a great opportunity to catch up with my friends and enjoy some great food and entertainment.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

EwE - Greek-Style Spinach Rice - It Isn't Easy Being Green

For Eating with Ellie this week, I chose the theme of It Isn't Easy Being Green.  Ellie has lots of fabulous vegetable recipes in her books, so I decided to choose something along that line for a side dish.

I chose Ellie's Greek-Style Spinach Rice from Weeknight Wonders.  In theory, it sounded great - brown rice and frozen spinach cooked with tomato paste and onion, with optional feta.  I left out the feta but otherwise made the recipe as written.

Unusually for me with an Ellie recipe, I didn't take to this dish.  It was too bland for my liking - a little too close to rabbit food.  Unfortunately, it won't be a repeat.

To se what the other Ellie cooks made this week, visit the LYL section of the Eating with Ellie website.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Slow Cooker Whole Chicken and Cranberry Maple Pecan Pudding for Christmas in July

On Sunday, I invited four friends over to my place for Christmas in July dinner.  For the uninitiated, Australia's seasons mean that July is winter, making it the perfect time to indulge in Christmas treats which are more suited to cold weather than December, when Christmas is celebrated around the world.  This means that in Australia, we really can have two Christmases - one in July with roasts and Christmas pud, and one in December with seafood and icecream.

We started off with cheese (washed rind, triple cream brie and cheddar), dips (sweet potato and cashew and guacamole) and crackers to start the conversation while dinner finished cooking: 

Here is the table all laid in expectation:

For dinner, we had slow cooker roast chicken with roast pumpkin, potato and carrot, and steamed asparagus:

I had never cooked a whole chicken in the slow cooker before, so I was pleasantly surprised.  the recipe for the chicken that I used (including a spice rub) is online here at Tori Avey's website.  The meat stayed beautifully moist and tender, and the spice rub gave the meat a nice flavour.  For the gravy (not pictured), I drained off the juices that cooked out of the chicken and thickened them up in a saucepan with a dessertspoon of cornflour dissolved in water to make a paste.

Two of my guests are gluten and dairy sensitive, so I made this Cranberry, Maple and Pecan Pudding from BBC Good Food:

You can see that when I turned out the pudding, the base of it caved in a little.  I can only guess that the crumbly texture of the pudding is at least in part due to its gluten free status.  Next time, I would leave the pudding to cool in the pudding basin for a while before unmoulding.

I didn't have fresh  cranberries (they are virtually impossible to obtain in Australia), so I used frozen cherries in the  sauce instead:

For the dairy lovers, there was also raspberry ripple icecream to go with the pudding.

The pudding doesn't taste like regular Christmas pudding - it is nowhere near as rich for a start.  However, it is very fruity, and reminds me of a light fruitcake. 

It was a fun evening and a great way to celebrate Christmas in July.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Date and Walnut Self-Saucing Pudding

Recently, I asked my colleagues what they wanted me to bake next.  They suggested Sticky Date Pudding.  However, I am a little rebellious and decided to go with the general theme but in a different form so that I didn't have to buy cream.  And lo, the Date and Walnut Self-Saucing Pudding was born.  

This delicious pudding features dates and walnuts in a biscuity pudding batter, and makes its own caramel sauce (which I think is quite magical).

I served this pudding warm with a scoop of icecream - what could be better on a cold winter's night?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Sweet and Sour Pork

If you go to your average Chinese takeaway in Australia and order sweet and sour pork, you will be served battered pieces of pork coated in an atomic red sauce.  It's a bit like the British version of chicken tikka masala.  However, in the June 2016 edition of Gourmet Traveller, there is a beautiful Cantonese recipe for sweet and sour pork that is nothing like the Chinese takeaway version.  I couldn't wait to make it.

I was so glad that I did - it was rich, spicy and flavourful, and no atomic red sauce in sight.  I served this gorgeous dish with brown rice to ensure that all of that wonderful sauce was soaked up.

To make this Cantonese sweet and sour pork by Tony Tan, you will need:

250g fresh pineapple
1 small onion
1 firm tomato
1/2 red capsicum
1/2 green capsicum
1 spring onion
2-3 long red chillies, deseeded
2 cloves garlic
oil for deep frying
75g potato flour + 1 tspn extra
65g rice flour
steamed rice to serve


1 teaspoon five spice powder
2 tspns light soy sauce
2 tspns Shaoxing wine
1 tspn ginger juice (squeezed from 2 tbspns finely grated ginger)
1 beaten egg
500g pork neck

Sweet and sour sauce

185ml chicken stock
125 ml tomato sauce
1 tbspn sugar
1 tbspn rice vinegar
2 tspns light soy sauce
1/2 tspn dark soy sauce
1/2 tspn sesame oil

For the pork:

Mix all of the ingredients other than the pork together in a bowl. 

Cut the  pork into 3cm pieces, toss in the marinade in the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate for at least 15 minutes.

For the sauce:

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl.

For the rest:

Cut the pineapple into bite sized pieces, cut the onion and tomato into wedges, thinly slice the capsicums and chillies, cut the spring onion into batons, finely chop the garlic;  set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok.  Combine the flours in a bowl, add the marinated pork and toss to coat, then deep fry the pork in batches until browned and crisp.  Drain the pork on paper towels.

Wipe the wok clean and add 1 tbspn frying oil.  Once heated, add the garlic, chillies and onion, and stir fry until the onion starts to colour.  Add the capsicum and pineapple and stir fry for 20 seconds.

Add the sweet and sour sauce, bring to the boil, then add the spring onion and tomato, and stir fry until warmed through.

Combine the extra tspn of potato flour with 1 tbspn cold water and stir into the sauce to thicken.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Return the pork to the wok and warm through.  Serve over rice.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Walnut Cake (Gateau aux noix) for Bastille Day

Today is Bastille Day, also known as French National Day, and celebrates the start of the French Revolution in 1789.  To join in the celebrations, I have made a French specialty from The Alps region - Walnut Cake or Gateau aux noix. 

The recipe that I used is from Taste Le Tour by Gabriel Gate.  This is fitting, because the Tour de France is currently on, and this book contains recipes from Gabriel's TV program showcasing recipes from the regions through which the Tour de France is held. 

I wasn't really sure what to expect when I made this cake, and the "icing" in particular baffled me.  This cake is a flourless walnut cake topped with caramel and decorated with walnuts.  I had no idea what I was doing with the caramel and was scared that I would ruin the cake by putting it on top.  However, I needn't have worried - the cake itself was soft and nutty and delicious, and the caramel on top adds a touch of sweetness. 

To make this cake, you will need:

160g walnuts
150g butter
140g sugar
grated zest of one lemon (I skipped this)
4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
a pinch of cream of tartar


50ml water
100g sugar
2 drops red wine vinegar (I used balsamic - no problems)
10 walnut halves

Preheat your oven to 150°C. Grease and line a 22 cm cake tin.

Grind the walnuts to a coarse meal in a food processor.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, lemon zest and half of the sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, and mix well between each addition. Fold in the breadcrumbs and walnut meal.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar to  form stiff peaks, then whisk in the remaining sugar until the mixture is no longer grainy.

Add a third of the egg whites to the nut mixture and fold in using a rubber spatula, then fold in the remaining egg whites.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top of the cake, then bake in the pre-heated oven for 1 hour.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before unmoulding onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the topping, mix the water, sugar and vinegar together in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Cook to a light brown caramel. Pour the topping slowly onto the centre of the cake and spread it out evenly over the top of the cake. Decorate with walnut halves.

Here is the first slice of cake:

I was amazed at how good this was - definitely a repeat.

Happy Bastille Day!

EwE - Green Bean and Walnut Salad - Eat Your Veggies!

For Eating with Ellie this week, Margaret has asked us to Eat Your Greens.  I am happy to do so.  As a child, I hated most vegetables with a passion, and I doubt that ate too many greens.  Now, I feel deprived or as if the meal is not complete if there are no veges, including greens.

The recipe that I chose is Ellie's Green Bean and Walnut Salad, which can also be found online here.

Mustard, red wine vinegar, parsley and red onion are combined with chopped walnuts and cooked green beans to make a delicious side dish that would go with just about anything.

To see what the others made this week, visit the LYL section of the EwE website.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

TWD - Cornmeal and Berry Cakes

For this week's Tuesday with Dorie, I have chosen to make the Cornmeal and Berry Cakes.  These are simply little cakes made with cornmeal and olive oil, and hide berries in their heart.  

I decided to make cupcake-sized cakes instead of 4 mini bar cakes (because I don't have the tins).  I also used frozen mixed berries instead of fresh raspberries in the centre because it is the middle of winter here.

These cakes were surprisingly light, and the cornmeal adds a little texture.  The berries are a nice surprise in the centre, especially if you don't know that they are there.

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

Monday, July 11, 2016

Hairy Dieters' Lamb, Potato and Spinach Curry

I recently acquired two of The Hairy Dieters cookbooks and have been making a few recipes from them.  Recently, I made the Lamb, Potato and Spinach Curry from The Hairy Dieters - How to Love Food and Lose Weight.  You can also find the recipe online here.

Although less calorific than your standard curry, it is full of rich flavours so that you don't feel like you are missing out.  It also has the convenience of being a one pot dish, as your meat and vegetables are cooked in the same pot.

This curry was quick, easy and tasty, and not so heavy on the calories - a winner all round.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Miss Biscuit Beginner's Comprehensive Cookie Decorating Class

On a rather cold, wet Saturday a couple of weeks ago, I made my way to Seddon to attend a Beginner's Comprehensive Cookie Decorating Class at Miss Biscuit.  Miss Biscuit's new premises have only been open for a month, so they are bright and fresh and new:

Miss Biscuit, Julia Day, sells decorated cookies, decorating supplies and  homewares at the front of her premises.  Here are some examples of the gorgeous decorated cookies that you can buy at Miss Biscuit for ~$5 each:

In the beginner's class, there are places for 12 students.  The class runs from 10am to 3pm, and includes morning tea (tea/coffee/juice/water and cookies) and lunch (wraps, fruit, chocolates).  You learn to decorate 9 different pre-made cookies.  The price of the class (currently AUD$225) includes all materials, a leaflet with three cookie recipes (including a fabulous "no chill" vanilla cookie dough), a royal icing recipe and a piping tip guide covering three different brands of tips.

Here is the class attentively listening to Julia's tips on rolling out the cookie dough evenly: 

Here is Julia demonstrating how to put a wing on her bird cookie design - see how much fun she's having:

On the day, we learned how to decorate 9 different cookie shapes with Julia's designs.  Here is my completed set of cookies:

I think that all of the cookies are cute, but my favourites are the bird:

and the icecream: 

I bought cutters for both of these from the Miss Biscuit shop, which also sells everything used in class.  I am lucky in that I already have a fair collection of equipment from my own adventures in cookie decorating.  I have made flooded cookies before - see these Lovebird Cookies, these crazy hearts, and these butterflies.  However, I learned some new tips and tricks from Julia that I know I will find invaluable.  I especially like how she creates definition in her cookies by sectioning and layering.

I highly recommend Julia's class.  It was well organised, there was no mad rushing to complete the tasks, and everyone had enough equipment at their own bench - there was no Lord of the Flies type behaviour that I have experienced in some classes in vying for scarce equipment.  Julia is also very approachable and friendly, and was not hung up about how you held your piping bag and whether or not you did a perfect job.  In an adult education class, this is just as it should be.  If I ever practise enough to become more skilled, I would definitely go back to Miss Biscuit for the advanced class.

65a Charles St
Seddon VIC  3011

Friday, July 8, 2016

Olive, Cheese and Onion Cake for the Melbourne Cake Club - Sensational Savoury Cakes

Last night, four members of the Melbourne Cake Club met on a cold wintery night at Milton Wine Shop in Malvern to enjoy Sensational Savoury Cakes.

Our venue, the Milton Wine Shop, was a beacon of cosy warmth and comfort. We had a lovely table beside the fireplace in the back room:

I had to arrange the venue for the first time this month, as Dalya, our usual host, is on holidays.  The Milton Wine Shop were hospitable from the start - they were quite happy for us to bring our cakes and eat them at the shop, and provided us with plates and forks and serviettes.  Thanks to The Milton Wine Shop staff!

On to the cakes.  Lindsay, fresh from a holiday in the UK, brought a Goats Cheese, Sultana and Walnut Cake, adapted from this Hugh  Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe:

The sultanas added just the right amount of sweetness and moistness to the cake.

Abi made a Savoury Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese and Feta Icing, adapted from a recipe in the same Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall article

The icing was superb and really made the cake.

Sue made a spectacular nine-layer Tortilla Cake from a recipe in her own collection:

Here's a peek inside the layers:

This was so delicious - just the right amount of spicy, and a slice would make a perfect meal.

Here's my slices of cake, ready for me to dig in:

I made an Olive Cheese and Onion Cake from this recipe

 It was deliciously cheesy (I just used a pre-grated cheese mix) and surprisingly light.  Here's a peek inside:

We enjoyed our savoury cakes - they surprised me at their variety and deliciousness.  We also took a group shot holding a sign wishing Dalya a happy birthday to post on social media, with the assistance of the lovely Milton Wine Shop Staff.

All in all, it was another terrific evening with the Melbourne Cake Club.  If you are in Melbourne and would like to join The Melbourne Cake Club, you are most welcome to - just look for us on or Facebook.

Milton Wine Shop
1427 Malvern Road
Malvern VIC 3144
Ph: (03) 9824 5337