Monday, August 29, 2016

Koko Black, Royal Arcade, Melbourne

Recently, Wayne, Greg, Swee and I visited Koko Black in The Royal Arcade for coffee and cake.  Koko Black is a chocolate shop that also serves meals and desserts.  There is seating outside and upstairs, and we chose the upstairs section for the view in the photo at the top of this post.

Wayne ordered the Chocolate Alchemy Gateau ($10.50) - chocolate cake with dark chocolate mousse, chocolate crème and chocolate caramel:

This cake was delish - Wayne allowed Swee and I to try a little bit.

Greg ordered the Florentines ($4.00):

I ordered the Vanilla and Salted Caramel Spectacular ($9.50) - vanilla bean icecream, cashew nut brittle, warm salted caramel sauce:

It was as spectacular as it looks!  The salted caramel sauce comes in a jug on the side, which I dumped in its entirety on top of the dessert.  You can never have enough salted caramel!

Swee ordered the chocolate and salted caramel tart ($8.90):

We accompanied our sweets with coffee, and had a brilliant time admiring the view and chatting.

Downstairs, Koko Black sells a wide array of house made individual and block chocolates.  If you are a chocolate fan, I highly recommend a visit to Koko Black.

Shop 4 Royal Arcade
335 Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone:  03 9639 8911

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Mandarin and Matcha Bundt Cake

From a recent Tuesdays with Dorie project, I have a small tin of matcha powder sitting on my shelf.  If you are familiar with matcha powder, you will know that it is very, very expensive.  This means that I have no intentions of letting my matcha powder gather dust on the shelf before finally having to be thrown away.

In the July 2016 edition of Taste magazine, I was pleased to spot a recipe for Mandarin and Matcha Bundt Cake - both seasonal and containing 5 teaspoons of precious matcha powder, so a match made in heaven for me.

This is the completed cake:

From the top of the post, you can see that this cake is suitably swirly inside with both green bits (from the matcha) and white bits (without matcha).

This cake was buttery and delicious, and the mandarin (zest in the cake, juice in the icing) added just the right flavour note to cut through the sweetness.

To make this cake, you will need:

340g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
250g butter
3 mandarins (juiced and zested)
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 eggs
55g almond meal
225ml buttermilk
5 teaspoons matcha powder

For the icing:

210g sifted icing sugar
grated rind and juice of mandarin (I just used leftover juice from the other 3 mandarins and left out the rind)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease a large bundt pan with oil or butter.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder together in a bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, mandarin zest, ginger and vanilla essence until pale and creamy.  Beat in 1 egg  and 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture.  Beat in the remaining eggs, one by one, alternately with tablespoons of the flour mixture.  Beat in the almond meal, half of the remaining flour mixture, half of the buttermilk and 1 1/2 tablespoons mandarin juice.  Add the remaining flour and buttermilk and a further 1 1/2 tablespoons mandarin juice and beat until just combined.

Divide the batter into two equal portions in 2 separate bowls.  Stir the matcha through the batter in one bowl.  Spoon the coloured and white batters alternately into the bundt tin, then swirl lightly with a knife.

Bake the cake for 45 minutes or until cooked through..  Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the tin for 15minutes before unmoulding onto a wire rack to cool completely.

 Whisk the icing sugar and mandarin juice and zest together in a bowl until smooth  and drizzle over the cooled cake.

Slice and serve.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

EwE - Fish with Almond Topping, Saffron Rice and Lemon Broccolini - One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

For this week's Eating with Ellie, Margaret chose One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish as our theme, harking back to the title of a well-known Dr Seuss classic book. 

I chose to make Fish with Almond Topping, Saffron Rice and Lemon Broccolini from So Easy.  I cannot begin to adequately describe how scrumptious this meal was.  It took a little bit of fussing around with three dishes to make, and a food processor involved to make the almond topping, but in the end, it was worth it.  The nutty topping on the fish, glued on solely by moisture, was a simple but very tasty way to jazz up plain old white fish.  The fish is then baked, making the cooking process fat free.  The rice is cooked in chicken stock and saffron, and I used brown rice to up the nutrient factor.  The broccolini is steamed and then drizzled with a mixture of  lemon juice and oil.  Together, these three components make magic.

To see what everyone else made for Ellie this week, visit the LYL section of the EwE website.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

TWD - Esquimaux Pops for Grown-Ups

This month's second Tuesday with Dorie recipe is Esquimaux Pops for Grown-Ups.  These are frozen chocolate mousse iceblocks studded with chocolate chunks, and they are delicious:

They were simple to make, and I had all of the ingredients in the house.  Even better, I was able to use the Tupperware iceblock moulds that I bought at a food show on 26 August 2007 (according to the receipt in the bag) and had never used before.  It only took me 9 years, but I used them!

These pops are for "grown-ups" because they contain liqueur.  I used creme de cassis, one of Dorie's suggestions, because I happened to have it on hand.  I also bought it years ago because I saw some Kir Royale cupcakes online and was fascinated by them because I had never heard of a Kir Royale.  I am yet to make the Kir Royale cupcakes!

I made a half recipe and got 4 pops out of it.  I enjoyed them more than I thought I would - I was never a fan of chocolate icecream, but these little chocolate mousse pops are good.

To see what everyone else made this week and what they thought of it, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sydney Trip

A couple of weekends ago, Tim and I went for a 3 day visit to Sydney.  I hadn't been to Sydney for a few years, so it was great to be back again to play tourist.  We stayed at The Russell Hotel in The Rocks (pictured above), which we subsequently found out is popular with viewers of a Japanese anime series called Eternal Summer, because Room 25 was used in filming.  We are not fans of Eternal Summer, and we did not stay in Room 25, so for us, it was just a fun fact.  We loved the old world charm of The Russell, including the stairs, but if you or your loved one has mobility issues, this is not a good place to stay.  As a bonus, a breakfast bar breakfast was included in the room price, so I was able to indulge in muesli, fruit and a boiled egg on toast every morning.  The staff were super helpful and friendly, and each night, you receive a chocolate and a philosophical phrase card on the folded down sheets.

After checking in, we went to La Renaissance Patisserie in Argyle Street for some morning tea.  We enjoyed coffees while sharing this delicious buttery almond croissant:

We were seated in the courtyard behind the patisserie, which has a very cute French feel:

To walk off some of the pastry, we headed up to the Botanic Gardens, which are celebrating 200 years this year:

We continued to walk through the Botanic Gardens to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, where we visited both the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibition and the Archibald Prize exhibition.  I loved the black and white photos of Frida and the films of Frida and Diego - it was fascinating to see these intimate portraits of their lives.

After a good couple of hours in the gallery, we had worked up an appetite, so we walked to Potts Point and down to The Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel.  I enjoyed a cider and a pulled pork burger with fries ($18):

We then went walking on a path by The Harbour, where we met these hungry cockatoos pecking in the grass:

We continued on the path to Mrs Macquarie's Chair:

then walked back through the Botanic Gardens to our hotel.  We had a rest and watched the news, by which means we learned that the Opera House was lit up that night to celebrate the Olympics.  Being nearby, we walked down to see the spectacle: 

Afterwards, we went to dinner at a curious Italian establishment in The Rocks called Appetito.  The food was good, but the service was confused and left a little to be desired.  I was particularly bemused by the fact that I seemed to be prohibited from having tap water because I had ordered mineral water for my drink.  I had the minestrone ($17) because I was still quite full from our late, hearty lunch.  We also ordered the plain ciabatta ($5), which was delicious, and nicer than the grilled focaccia that came with the soup.

After breakfast seated at the window where we could people watch, we visited The Rocks markets, where we met Biggles:

Following a morning browsing the markets (I only bought some licorice allsorts), we boarded the ferry to Watsons Bay for lunch at Doyles On the Beach:

We were seated in a quiet corner near this reproduction advertising sign:

Both Tim and I ordered Doyles Red Seafood Chowder ($18.50) for entrée (starter):

It was chunky, spicy and absolutely delicious.

For main, I ordered the whole baked snapper with Thai salad ($40.50):

I was amused when the waitress checked that I understood that "whole fish" meant bones and a "face".  This was delicious, and the salad was quite refreshing, but it was a big meal on top of my chowder.

Tim ordered the Doyles Selection ($42.80) which, as you can see, is a mixture of nearly everything:

After our satisfying meal, we rolled back onto the ferry, and motored on to Susannah Place Museum, being Sydney's answer to New York's Tenement  Museum:

As you can see, unless you knew it was a museum, you wouldn't notice it at all.  It turned out to be a highlight of our visit, and for the bargain price of $8, you get a juicy slice of Sydney history.  A guide takes you through a row of four terrace houses built in 1844, and discusses the lives of 4 families that lived in the houses at various times in their history, from their construction (the Cunninghams), during the Second World War (the Sarantides), and through to their being declared a museum.  The houses have been authentically furnished with items from the relevant time in history, and in some cases, with possessions actually owned by residents of the houses.  Former residents and their relatives were interviewed to build up an accurate portrait of how the houses were furnished and how the residents lived. 

I found it fascinating, because I enjoy seeing how people lived, although I would not want to swap - the living conditions in the houses were not comfortable by modern standards.  One resident lived in her house until the 1990s, despite the rising damp, cramped space, steep stairs, small yard and lack of electricity, because she wanted to ensure that the government did not demolish the houses to make way for new development.  Thank goodness she did - these houses are living history, and without them, it would be difficult to conceptualise the lives of the residents.  Imagine having to warm the water for your bath in a copper in the cold stone yard, then carry it into the house to fill a tin tub on the kitchen floor, and everyone in the house having to use that water for a once-a-week only ablution! 

Across the road from Susannah Place is an archeological dig known as "The Big Dig", where you can see the remains of houses and various artefacts from residences that were bulldozed in the early 1900s to eradicate the plague.  There are also lots of photos on display so that you can visualise what the streets in the area looked like at the time.

Afterwards, we went to Harts Pub, an old and eclectically furnished pub, across the road from Susannah Place:

I dug the Chesty Bond guy behind the bar!  I also liked the two cockatoo lamps that lit up either side of the bar.

That night, we went for a walk around the Opera House foreshore, dodging the hundreds of people catching Pokemons:

and were treated to a P&O cruise ship (the Pacific Pearl) being towed out to sea by a tug boat:

We were still too full from lunch to want dinner, so we just had a Copenhagen icecream instead.  I had two scoops on a waffle cone - mint chip and vanilla with salted caramel ribbon.

The next morning, we again walked around the Opera House foreshore, and spotted these seals (mother and baby) flopped on the stairs:

They were a popular tourist attraction, especially with the littlies.

We then caught a ferry to Balmain, where we explored the main street before stopping for a coffee at Our Place on Darling (where we admired a little boy's super hero costume as he paid at the counter), and scoffing a cannelle each ($3) from Zumbos in the park.

We then headed back to the ferry terminal at Circular Quay and wandered up to The Lord Nelson for lunch: 

We went for share plates, starting with olives and feta marinated in rosemary, thyme and garlic ($8):

Next, we had Tim's choice, the pork pie served with mustard and chutney ($6.50):

I had never eaten a pork pie before, and this was delicious!

To finish, we had my choice, the baby school prawns (shrimp) dusted with chilli salt and burnt orange ($19):

These were also delish - the chilli gave just enough kick, and the orange added an element of freshness.

We then continued wandering up past the Hotel Palisades:

and we stumbled upon a new recreational area called Barangaroo, which we had not heard of the day before when someone asked us for directions to get there.  Here is a view of the Harbour from Barangaroo:

Our final stop for the day was the Sydney Observatory:

We went inside and looked at the free displays as well as exploring the outside of the curious looking buildings.

My request was to buy a treat for each of us at The Bakers Oven, close to where we were staying.  We walked past the tempting treats in the window every day, so I couldn't leave without trying them.  It was quite expensive - about $7 per pastry; however, it satisfied my curiosity.   I went for the cherry strudel:

while Tim went for the tiramisu:

We ate our goodies on the bus seat across the road.  The strudel was quite dense but reasonably tasty; however, for my money, I'd go back to La Renaissance instead.

Then it was time to collect our bags and head to the airport via train from Circular Quay.  It was a magical weekend, and I was sad to leave.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Salted Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am an avid reader of the food section of  The New York Times.  From time to time, I find a gem of a recipe, print it off and forget about it.  However, in the case of a recipe for Salted Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies, I could not get them out of my head.  It took me four months to make them among other projects, but I am so glad that I did.

These cookies are the bomb - the very best chocolate chip cookies I have ever had, and among the very best biscuits of any kind that I have ever had.  The tahini adds a gorgeous nutty flavour to complement the chocolate, and the flavours are set off beautifully by the salt sprinkled on top as the cookies come out of the oven.  They are also quite crispy cookies - I like them that way.

The only change I made to the recipe is that I didn't wait for 12 hours before baking the dough - I baked it straight away and the cookies seemed just fine to me.

If you like chocolate chip cookies, do yourself a favour and make these - they are wonderful.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

EwE - Steak Au Poivre Salad - Savvy Salads

Kayte has chosen Savvy Salads as this week's Eating with Ellie theme.

Regular readers will know that I am not a huge salad fan (a la Garden Salad), but that I can be won over by a particularly tasty salad.  This week, I made a salad from Weeknight Wonders that so fulfils that criteria.  It is a Steak Au Poivre Salad, and it is a meal in itself.

This salad comprises lettuce, tomato, onion, potatoes and steak all dressed with a mustard dressing.  Yum - just yum.

To see what other Savvy Salads we made this week, visit the LYL section of the EwE website.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sandra's Apricot Chicken

My friend Sandra loves her mum's recipe for Apricot Chicken.  She told me about it every time she went home to visit her mum in New Zealand, and about 12 months ago, she gave me a copy of the recipe.  I tucked the recipe "safely" into a drawer, and totally lost track of it until recently, when it popped up as I pulled something out of the drawer.  Not wanting to lose the recipe a second time, I decided to make Sandra's mum's Apricot Chicken and post the recipe here for safekeeping.

The recipe appears to have been copied out of a Maggi soup cookbook, because all of the recipes on the page feature Maggi products as ingredients.  Sandra's mum has adapted the recipe somewhat, as she adds tinned apricot halves as well as apricot jam to the pot, and cashew nuts (which I left out).  She also uses her own mayonnaise recipe that Sandra swears by (but I just used a commercial brand).

I made this Apricot Chicken one night for dinner, and took the rest to work for lunch one week.  It made a tasty meal paired  simply with cooked frozen mixed vegetables.

If you would like to try out this Apricot Chicken recipe, it is as follows:

1.25kg chicken pieces
2 tablespoons oil
1 packet Maggi Crème of Chicken soup
1 cup water
4 tablespoons apricot jam
400g tin apricot halves, drained
2 tablespoons mayonnaise 

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Heat the oil in a large frypan, and fry the chicken pieces until golden brown.  Drain on paper towel, then place the chicken pieces in a large casserole dish.

Combine the soup, water and apricot jam in a small saucepan and heat until thick, then remove from the heat, stir in the mayonnaise and pour over the chicken pieces.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 45 minutes, then serve with vegetables.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Chocolate Cornflake Biscuits

I usually don't buy cornflakes, but I had them in the house recently because they are considered "white food" for the purposes of a special diet I had to follow for a few days.  I didn't want to eat all of the remaining cornflakes for breakfast simply because I don't find cornflakes particularly satisfying. (I do however have a penchant for eating them straight out of the box as a messy snack.) It occurred to me that I could use up some of the cornflakes in baking.  Previously, I have used cornflakes in Florentine Slice and Honey Ginger Crunchies.

This time, I remembered that my Kiwi friend, Sandra, loves a chocolatey biscuit made with cornflakes known as an Afghan that is popular in New Zealand.  There have been some heated discussions on the Internet about the origins of the name of this biscuit, so I have decided to rename them Chocolate Cornflake Biscuits; granted, a rather descriptive name, but it does the job. Here are my Chocolate Cornflake Biscuits reposing on a kiwi-themed teatowel given to me by Sandra:

I own a delightful baking book from New Zealand called Ladies, A Plate by Alexa Johnston, which fittingly has a recipe for these biscuits.  You can also find the recipe online here (as I have noticed that the book is now hard to buy). 

These biscuits are utterly delicious - they are rich and chocolatey, and the fudgey icing suggested by the recipe author really elevates them into the devine.  My baking buddy at work, Wayne, asked for the .  Surprisingly, many people at work had never even heard of these biscuits.  They are truly delicious biscuits and deserve to be known and loved by many, so if you like chocolate, give these gorgeous little biscuits a try.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes and Stout Cupcakes for RSPCA Cupcake Day 2016

Today is RSPCA Cupcake Day 2016, and my workplace is again participating this year.  I have stepped back from organising duties, and this year, Justine is organising it.  Gay T and I are assistants.

I made Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes, pictured at the top of this post, and Stout Cupcakes: (reposing on a teatowel that was a Christmas gift from Gay T):

I made 12 of each, from recipes in Martha Stewart's Cupcakes.

First up, here are some process shots from the Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes (recipe online here): 

The only change that I made was to put the raspberry jam inside the cupcakes instead of on top by cutting a cone in the top of each cupcake, filling the hole with jam that I had warmed and sieved to remove the seeds, and replacing the cone with the tip cut off on top:

Here's a peek inside the peanut butter and jelly cupcakes (I had a "spare" to taste):

Here are the stout cupcakes (recipe online here):

These really packed a punch - they are strongly flavoured of spices and stout.

Instead of using the glaze suggested by Martha, I frosted my cakes with the frosting from Nigella Lawson's Guinness Cake recipe to soften the blow of the other strong flavours (as I didn't think I needed even more stout in the icing)

The PBJ cupcake was without a doubt my favourite, but it is quite sweet, so I think that the stout cupcakes will appeal to those with an inclination for earthier, less sweet baked goods. I like to cater for all tastes!  #rspcacupcakeday