Thursday, May 31, 2018

Miso Braised Chicken

I am a fan of the free supermarket magazines for tracking down tasty recipes for dinner.  A little while ago, Coles had a recipe for Miso Braised Chicken in their magazine, which can be found online here.

No surprises that this dish is bursting with Asian flavours - miso, ginger, soy, mirin and sesame.  I liked it so much that I accidentally made it twice in a couple of weeks, which I only discovered when I saw that I had photographed it twice.

If you are looking for a quick, tasty and healthy meal, this could be the dish for you.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Fitzrovia Buns

I have written before about how much I love the Honey & Co Baking Book.  There are so many recipes in it that I want to make.  I have already made the Pear Ginger and Olive Oil Cake and the Baked Doughnuts with Citrus Curd.

For ages, I have been waiting to make the Fitzrovia Buns, which are Honey & Co's answer to Chelsea Buns.  For the uninitiated, Chelsea Buns are sticky buns, kind of like pecan sticky buns or cinnamon buns in the US.  The Fitzrovia Buns caught my eye as they were filled with dried sour cherries and pistachios.  Sour cherries are hard to get here, so it took me a while to gather the ingredients, and then a while longer for me to find a spot in my schedule to make these buns.

However, I am so glad that I did.  These Fitzrovia Buns are the bees knees of buns - dense, sweet, sticky and packed with flavour. If you don't own the book, the recipe is posted online here.  However, if you love baking, I highly recommend this book - there are many delicious sounding and unusual recipes here that you won't find elsewhere.

The Fitzrovia Buns involve a few steps - making a dough, making a sugar syrup, waiting for the dough to chill, filling and shaping the dough, waiting for the buns to rise and finally baking the buns.  The dough and the syrup can be made in advance if you are short on time.  It took me four hours from beginning to end to have a warm batch of buns on my kitchen bench.

My faith in how good these buns were was backed up by the rapid rate at which they disappeared at work.  They get a gold star from me.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Dining out in Darwin

A few weeks ago, Tim and I went to Darwin on holidays.  Darwin is in the Northern Territory, right at the top end of Australia.  Rather than having four seasons, Darwin has a wet season and a dry season.  The peak tourist season is during the dry season, which runs from May until October.  It is still very hot during the dry season (plus thirty degree Celsius temperatures), but it is not as humid as during the wet season, and it virtually never rains.   

While in Darwin and its surrounds, we took the opportunity to sample the local cuisine.  I can say that Darwin and Kakadu boast some of the most delicious food that you will eat, so it is definitely worth seeking out some top end specialities if you visit the Northern Territory.  

On our first night in Darwin, we visited the Mindil Beach Market for dinner.  On the way there, we witnessed the most glorious pink sunset. 

At the Market, there are food vans of nearly every variety you can think of, together with entertainment and shopping opportunities.  Crocodile claw keyring anyone?  

There is a carnival atmosphere at the Market, and it is a lot of fun.

 On our second night, we went to The Tap on Mitchell, a pub-style dining venue with a large, open air dining area fronting Mitchell Street, one of the main streets in Darwin. 

At The Tap, we could not go past the grilled barramundi (~$30), given that Darwin is famed for this fish:

The servings are generous at The Tap - Tim and I could have shared this dish, which came with two large pieces of barramundi.

Here is Tim enjoying a top end beer at The Tap:

After that, we went on tour for a few days to Kakadu National Park. We stayed one night at the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel, which is literally in the shape of a crocodile.  There are not too many options in Kakadu for dining, so luckily, the hotel restaurant, Escarpment, is a top notch venue, despite the presence of a dated buffet option (which we skipped for a la carte).

Again, cognisant  that  the Territory has some unique food to offer, we went with local delicacies wherever possible.  We started with the crocodile spring rolls:

I had never tried crocodile before and was unsure what to expect.  Some say that crocodile is like chicken; I think it is more like firm white fish, and is very tasty.

For main, Tim had the steak with sweet potato chips:

while I went for the kangaroo and mango salad:

I don't know what was in the dressing on the kangaroo, but it was utterly devine.

For dessert, we shared a wattleseed panna cotta with mango icecream:

This was good, but an anti-climax after the delicious kangaroo main.

Our next night landed us back in Darwin.  That night we ate at a Chinese restaurant near our hotel which was OK but nothing out of the ordinary.

After a day in Litchfield National Park, we arrived back in Darwin on sunset.  We decided to make our way to the thriving restaurant district at the Darwin Waterfront.  Our restaurant of choice that night was CHOW Vietnamese restaurant.  I love the fresh, vibrant flavours of Vietnamese food, and this restaurant did not disappoint.

For entrée, we shared the pork and prawn rice paper rolls ($9):  

These were good, but not unusual.

For main, Tim ordered the Sweet and Sour Soup with chicken, tamarind, okra, pineapple and tomato ($21): 

He enjoyed it as it was quite different to anything he had tried before.

I went for the Vietnamese Chicken Curry ($22), with chicken cooked on the bone, a coconut curry sauce and sweet potato: 

What can I say - this was sensational!

For dessert, we shared the tasting plate for one ($16), with ginger deep fried icecream, coconut cake and lychee jellies:


This was terrific too, my favourite being the deep fried icecream.

Seating was available inside or out - we combined the best of both worlds by being under cover in an open area of the restaurant.  This is the groovy mural on the back wall of the restaurant: 

I adored CHOW and wish it was closer so that I could go back.

The next day, we went out to Cullens Bay.  At night, there may be a thriving restaurant scene there, but it is almost deserted during the day.  At the gift shop, we found small tubs of Crazy Acres icecream ($6), made locally in the Territory at Berry Springs:

We tried the mango flavour, but there is also banana, passionfruit and vanilla.  The icecream is made with simple, natural ingredients and is absolutely delicious.  

That night, we headed to Rorkes Beer Wine Food for dinner.  Rorkes is situated in a lovely art deco style building, with many original fixtures still intact.  A very modern feature of Rorkes is that some of the tables come with their own beer taps to pour your own beer.

It was a very quiet night at Rorkes on the night that we were there.  We were a little disappointed that the online menu was not reflective of the much more limited menu at the venue.

Tim ordered the pub classic, chicken parmigiana:

while I ordered a rather lacklustre sweet potato gnocchi:

It was a grand venue, but the food was not inspiring.  It is not a place that I would be keen to revisit other than for the art deco features of the interior and the novelty of pouring your own beverage.

On our last day in Darwin, we did a Darwin Heritage Walk walking tour with John of Walk Darwin.  The last stop on our tour was at Lyons Cottage on The Esplanade.  There is a café there being part of a commercial outlet called Aboriginal Bush Traders, where John told us that we could buy a Devonshire tea with damper instead of a scone and with Australian native flavoured jam.  

Umm, well, don't go to Aboriginal Bush Traders and ask for a Devonshire tea as the staff will look at you as if you have gone completely bonkers.  We know because we tried it.  Instead, you need to order the Damper and Jam ($10.50), being a wattleseed damper served with your  choice of jam (we ordered the Kakadu Plum Jam), and to make it into a Devonshire tea, you have to order the tea separately. 

Although the service was rather unenthusiastic and slow, the damper was nice and it was a lot of fun to try this uniquely Aussie style of "Devonshire tea".

To cap off our Darwin trip, we went to the Hotel Darwin for lunch.  In its heyday, the Hotel Darwin was the place to be, but is now a shadow of its former self, although it has retained some lovely architectural features in amongst the modern less genteel trimmings of an Australian pub.

On John's recommendation, we ordered  the Territory Tasting Plate ($22), with salt bush seasoned emu, lemon myrtle fried crocodile and chargrilled kangaroo:

I couldn't taste the difference between the emu and the 'roo, and the crocodile reliably tasted like fish.  I enjoyed the novelty value of this dish more than anything.

Hotel Darwin also boasts that theirs is the best steak sandwich ($24) in the Territory, so we also ordered one of those: 

It was certainly very hearty and tasty, though unusually served on Turkish bread.

There you have it - our culinary tour of Darwin and Kakadu.  Hope you enjoyed it!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

TWD - Springtime Cookies and Curd

For Tuesdays with Dorie a couple of weeks back, we made Double-Butter Double-Baked Petit Beurre Cookies.  This week's recipe involves taking those cookies and turning them into a fruity dessert.

It is difficult to see in my photos, but the base of the dessert is a cookie, which is then topped with curd.  The recipe specified making grapefruit curd, but I still had citrus curd from a little while ago.  I could not justify making yet more curd, so I just used the citrus curd that I had.  Dorie also suggested making an optional rhubarb compote to top the curd, but I skipped that too.  Finally, the cookie and curd are topped by strawberries macerated in sugar and Kirsch.  I definitely recommend using the Kirsch if you have it - there's nothing like boozy, syrupy fruit.

I really enjoyed this dessert, despite it being autumn (nearly winter!) rather than spring in my neck of the woods.

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

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Lemon and Elderflower Cake for the Royal Wedding

Today is the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle.  I am currently watching the ceremony as I type.  Meghan's dress is simple and beautiful, and she looked so pleased to see Harry at the altar.  Her mother looks so proud.  What a wonderful occasion. 

Unless you have been out of radio contact for a few months, you will know that London-based, Californian born pastry chef Claire Ptak has been chosen to make their wedding cake, which will be a lemon and elderflower cake decorated with fresh flowers (including peonies).

I made my own version of a lemon and elderflower cake to celebrate the Royal Wedding.  There are many variants of lemon and elderflower cake recipes, and Claire Ptak's is a secret, so I did some Internet searches to choose one that I liked.  The recipe for the base cake that I chose is this one.  It was a good choice, as the cake baked up in even layers that were sturdy enough to cut easily into layers and stack.

There appears to be an omission in that the recipe calls for lemon zest in the cake, but it is not mentioned in the method.  I ended up using the zest in the soaking syrup.  I also used lemon juice instead of lemon extract to flavour the cake.

Another change that I made was to brush some of the syrup onto the hot cakes while they were still in the tins, when the syrup is best absorbed.  I then used the rest of the syrup on the cake layers once the cakes were cooled and cut.

For the icing, I did not go with the recipe that is suggested with the cake.  Instead, I used my usual Primrose Bakery Buttercream recipe.  However, instead of flavouring it with vanilla extract, I flavoured half of it with lemon curd and lemon zest, which I used to fill the cake layers.  I flavoured the remainder of the buttercream with a tablespoon of St Germaine (elderflower liqueur), as used in the soaking syrup.

I did not have peonies, so for the purposes of the photographs, a placed a yellow gerbera and some white carnations on top of the cake, from a bouquet given to me by Tim.

I think this cake turned out very well aesthetically.  It is not a professional cake like Claire Ptak's will be, but then again, I am not a professional baker.  I loved how well this cake cut into slices - it was very easy to cut an attractive, sturdy slice.

Congratulations to Prince Harry and Meghan - I wish them all the very best for their lives together. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

TWD - Vanilla Brown Butter Madeleines

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe is Vanilla Brown Butter Madeleines.  Madeleines are little sponge cakes in the shape of a shell.  Normally they are very plain and don't really impress me.  However, this version had a lovely flavour profile from the vanilla, browned butter and honey that they contained.  They are also quite pretty:  

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

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Sticky Mud Brownies - Red Tractor May

This month's Red Tractor calendar recipe is Sticky Mud Brownies.  It is accompanied by the following quote: 

I totally agree with that - you don't feel like you need to check yourself with true friends.

This recipe is super easy and gets a great result, so without further ado, here is the recipe:

125g melted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I used white chips)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin.

Whisk to butter, sugar and oil together in a bowl for a minute.  Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk for another minute. Fold in the flour, cocoa and salt with a rubber spatula.  Fold in the hazelnuts and chocolate chips.

Scrape the batter into the prepared baking tin and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the centre feels set to the touch. 

Allow the brownies to cool in the tin to room temperature, then remove from the tin and cut into 16 squares.  Dust with icing sugar before serving, if desired.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

TWD - Double-Butter Double-Baked Petit Beurre Cookies

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is Double-Butter Double-Baked Petit Beurre Cookies - quite a mouthful!

These cookies involve making a baked streusel type crumb, then adding more butter and combining it into a dough before baking again.  The process takes a while because the fragile second stage requires the dough to be frozen for an hour before cutting out the cookies and handling with care.

I made a half recipe and got 9 cookies before I just gave up trying to cut out the crumbly dough.

These cookies are buttery and toasty tasting from the double bake. They are quite delicious, although a little painful to make.

To see what the others made this week and how they fared, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

TWD - Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe is Strawberry Shortcake Cookies.  The name is a little misleading because they are actually little sponge cakes topped with cream and strawberries, rather than cookies.

Dorie suggests that you put a strawberry compote in the middle of the sponge cake before piping on a ring of whipped cream and topping with strawberry slices.  I used red jam instead of making the strawberry compote - worked just fine.

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