Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Lolly Cake, a Hangi and New Zealand Treats

Recently, I went on vacation to the north island of New Zealand with my family.  Like last time, I took the opportunity to try some unique New Zealand treats.

There are a few Kiwis in my office, and more than one had never heard of Lolly Cake.  I decided to make it my mission to bring them up to speed on Lolly Cake, and bought some Eskimo sweets in New Zealand to do just that.

Eskimos are foam marshmallow sweets in pink, yellow, white and green colours, made by Pascall.  The packet states: "These cute little guys chill out in New Zealand.  You would think they would prefer somewhere colder but it's a good job for us they don't!"

Lolly cake is New Zealand's answer to Hedgehog - it is a refrigerator cake made with Eskimos, malted milk biscuits, condensed milk, butter and coconut.  It is a melt and mix jobbie, so anyone can make it.

If you are curious enough to make it, the recipe is as follows:

1 packet Eskimo lollies (or ~200g other foam lollies, like bananas)
1 x 250g packet malted milk biscuits (graham crackers would also work well here)
200g condensed milk (~ 1/2 can)
120g butter
dessicated coconut sufficient to roll the cake in

Break the Eskimos into bite sized pieces with your hands, and crush the malted milk biscuits roughly into crumbs with the end of a rolling pin.  Put the Eskimo and biscuit pieces together in a large bowl.

Melt the condensed milk and butter together in a saucepan until smooth, then pour over the crumbs and Eskimo pieces.  Mix together until well combined.

Turn the mixture out onto a long piece of cling film, and using the film for assistance, roll the mixture into a long log roughly 5cm in diameter.  Roll the log in dessicated coconut until the outside is thoroughly coated, then wrap the log back in the cling film and refrigerate for a couple of hours until firmly set.  

Cut the log into coins ~1cm wide and serve.

While in New Zealand, we attended a hangi at Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua:

The guy on the right is our chief, hence the huia feathers in his hair.  A hangi is actually the pit where food is cooked on heated stones.  The above photo shows the vegetables and meats (fish and lamb) cooked in the hangi.

The hangi was served to us non-traditionally in a warm dining room away from the rain and cold, with plenty of sides and condiments:

There was also dessert of pavlova, peaches and butterscotch pudding (also non-traditional) afterwards.  I sat next to a lovely young couple from California who had spent the day zorbing.

I love visiting supermarkets in places outside of Australia, and New Zealand was no exception.

I bought this apricot and ginger jam at Pak'n'Save in Rotorua:

I also bought the Eskimos plus Lolly Scramble (assorted wrapped lollies) and a Party Pack (assorted jubes) at Pak'n'Save:

In Countdown in Rotorua and Napier, I picked up these unusual flavours of Whittakers chocolates, which we pay a small fortune for here in Australia:

My favourite is still the Nelson Pear and Manuka Honey that I had bought in Australia for double the price.

While in Napier, I bought the very cool Six Sisters Café teatowel that you can see at the top of this post.  The Six Sisters are six identical houses of different colours built along Marine Parade, one for each of a gentleman's daughters.  These days the houses are occupied by various activities, including the café.  

At the café, I also bought these three slices for my family to share:

Left to right, they are coffee and cashew, peanut butter and jelly, and ginger crunch.  The latter was the winner for me.

At the Wellington Underground Market, Mum bought me this Conitos La Casa from the La Casa Alfajores stand:

It comprises a chocolate biscuit, atop which is a maraschino cherry and a mound of dulce de leche.  The whole lot is then enrobed in chocolate:

Delicious!! It is an Argentinean treat.

While in Wellington, we had breakfast at Columbus Coffee on Sunday morning.  I could not go past the pancake stack with grilled banana, bacon and maple syrup:

At another café, I bought this wonderful Deep Spring Pear and Passion Mineral Water with only 73 calories:

I wish that we'd get this drink here in Australia.  So good, just like a soft drink without all the calories.

So there you go - a quick culinary hop through the North Island and a takeaway Kiwi recipe to try.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

TWD - Smoothest, Silkiest, Creamiest, Tartest Lime Tart

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe is Smoothest, Silkiest, Creamiest, Tartest Lime Tart.  As the name of this dessert indicates, it is a lime tart filled with a strongly tart lime filling, that has been strained of zest and any lumps and bumps from the cooking process to make it smooth.  

The ingredient which makes this tart smooth and silky is the very thing that I did not like - butter.  Lots of it.  The filling comprises a custard made from lime-zest flavoured sugar, eggs and lime juice.  Once the custard is sieved,  a lot of butter is mixed in.  From my perspective, it gave the tart a greasy, buttery mouth-feel, a little like Swiss meringue buttercream, and that put me off.

The tart case is made from Dorie's sweet tart dough, which as always I just pressed into the tart pan rather than rolling it, just because it is easy.  Dorie says that using all of it via the pressed in method will make the tart case thick, but I don't care - can you get too much of a good thing?

I haven't had any taste-testers for this tart yet (after all, I may be the only one who thinks the filling is too buttery).  However, sadly, my dislike of the buttery mouth-feel and the exorbitant cost of limes ($20/kilo) means that this tart will not be a repeat in my kitchen.

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

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Bistro Gitan, South Yarra

For my birthday this year, Tim asked me where I would like to go to dinner.  Three years ago, we had gone to 25 Toorak Road, a lovely French restaurant, so I nominated to repeat the experience.  Sadly, 25 Toorak Road is no more, so Tim nominated three other French restaurants for me to choose from.  

I selected Bistro Gitan, as having done my research, I liked the sound of the atmosphere and the location, and the service and food also received great reviews. 

Bistro Gitan did not disappoint.  It is located in a Victorian building opposite leafy Fawkner Park, and has a warm, cosy atmosphere, enhanced by an open fireplace:

The restaurant is a collaboration between Melbourne restaurateur, Jacques Reymond, and his children, and its name means "Gypsy".  The food draws from French bistros, with Spanish, Italian and Mediterranean influences.

The service was charming from start to finish, with the front of house staff being friendly, informative and efficient.

We started our meal with three "petite" dishes to share.  First up was the escargot with garlic butter and almonds ($15): 

We ordered this because neither of us had ever tried escargot before.  Before the dish arrived, I was anticipating a Pretty Woman moment.  However, with the chefs wisely knowing that the majority of us have no idea how to eat snails out of a shell, they came served in a little dish with individual wells, sans shell.  I enjoyed the escargot, but will have to admit the overwhelming taste was garlic, so I am not sure if that means I like snails or not.  The toast served with the escargot was perfect for soaking up all the beautiful garlicky, buttery sauce left in the wells.

Next up, we ordered on the daily specials, pork rillettes with pickled onion, cucumber and cornichons ($10):

This was delicious, though we could have used a couple of extra slices of toast so that there was enough to spread the glorious rillettes on.

Our other petite dish was another daily special, carrots with pistachio and yoghurt ($8): 

The carrots were tender and sweet, and complemented by the creamy yoghurt and crunchy pistachios.  This was another lovely dish. 

Onto main courses, and Tim ordered a 250g grass fed eye fillet steak with pommes Pont Neuf (aka French fries) and Gitan dressing ($44), served medium rare:

I ordered a daily special, barramundi with fennel, white beans and peas ($40):

I loved the crispy, flavourful skin on the flaky barramundi, and the choice of vegetables was subtle enough that the flavour of the fish was not overwhelmed.

We also ordered two sides - the beautifully smooth spinach a la crème ($9):

and the steamed seasonal vegetables ($9):

Of course, no birthday dinner is complete without dessert.  I ordered the quince tarte tatin ($16) -

The pastry was beautifully caramelised and crunchy, while the quince was perfectly jammy.  Delicious!

Tim ordered a citrus dacquoise made with pistachio, and yuzu sorbet ($16):

Tim was not as enamoured of his dessert as I was with mine, and felt that my dessert was the pick.  Having a small taste of Tim's dessert, I would have to agree.  It wasn't bad by any means, but just wasn't as good as the tarte tatin.

We had a lovely evening at Bistro Gitan, and I would happily return there. 

Bistro Gitan
52 Toorak Road West
South Yarra VIC 3141

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Best Cream Scones - Red Tractor, September

The tradition of afternoon teas comprised of scones with jam and cream and a pot of tea makes for fond memories.  I was brought up with this tradition, and even now, it feels like a special and genteel affair.

Scones are a staple at every country show (and the very urban shows!), both as part of the baking competition and served by the reliable ladies at the CWA Pavilion.  They are also the bane of every home economics student - in a less enlightened era, all the girls at my school had to do "home ec" in Grade 8, and I hated it.  Every high tea tray in Australia also features scones, regardless of the other components of the tea tray.

I have swapped the tea for coffee a year or so ago, but I still love good scones (preferably served warm) with jam and cream.  

This month's Red Tractor calendar recipe pays homage to this tradition by serving up a recipe for The Best Cream Scones, by implication to be served with a pot of piping hot tea:

I cannot confirm whether these are "the best" cream scones, but I can confirm that they are very good indeed.  I am not much of a scone maker, and my scones have a nasty tendency to be flat, but these rose a treat - high and fluffy, nicely browned on top, with plenty of surface area for lashings of jam and cream.  They were just perfect in my eyes.

To make The Best Cream Scones, you will need:

4 cups self-raising flour (or plain flour dosed with baking powder, like me)
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1 1/4 cups thickened cream
1 1/4 cups water

Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius.

Place all of the ingredients together in a large bowl and knead together to combine.  Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and roll or push out to a 3cm thickness.  (Note - I needed to add some more flour, as my dough was too sticky to cut.  There is no exact science - you need to do it by feel.)

Using a round biscuit cutter or a sharp edged glass, cut as many scones out of the dough as possible, pushing back together and repeating with any leftover dough (but be careful not to work too much as it will make the scones tough).

Place the scones on a lined baking tray, and brush the tops with milk.  Bake the scones in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown. 

Remove the scones from the oven and wrap them in a tea towel so that they stay soft.

Serve the scones with jam of your choosing and whipped cream.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

TWD - Devil's Food Wafflets with Chocolate Sauce

For Tuesday with Dorie this week, we are breaking out the chocolate for breakfast with Devil's Food Wafflets with Chocolate Sauce.  Dorie says that waffles are revered in Europe and not just eaten for breakfast, but breakfast time was the most convenient juncture for me to make these wafflets.

To make waffles, you need some kind of waffle iron.  I have a stovetop waffle pan somewhere, but since I moved house earlier this year, it has been securely stashed as I rarely use it.   I was not in the frame of mind to be retrieving the waffle pan from its hidden location.  However, I remembered an episode of Jamie's Christmas where Jamie Oliver made waffles outside on a griddle pan.  Perfect!!  I could easily access my griddle pan, so I used this as my "waffle iron".  I think it worked pretty well: 

I only made a quarter of the recipe, which still yields two serves of waffles and sauce for one person.  I topped the waffles and sauce with chopped strawberries.  I thought that using strawberries was pretty brave of me, given that there are currently persons unknown in Australia who think it is quite funny to bury sewing needles inside of strawberries and watch people on the news maim themselves permanently when they unknowingly ingest  the needles.  However, my strawberries were just gorgeous and needle-free.

These wafflets were good, but I don't usually make waffles, so they probably won't be popping  up regularly in my  house.

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

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Fonda Mexican and Gontran Cherrier, Hawthorn

I had wanted to try Fonda for a long time, just because I dig the name.  "Fonda" automatically brings to mind the mighty Fonda acting dynasty.  However, the restaurants are actually named "fonda" because in Mexico, a fonda is a family home that has opened to the community as a restaurant. Neat, huh?

The Hawthorn branch of Fonda is conveniently located both close to tram and train lines, so it is quite easy to get there.  It is set in a bright, open space, with plenty of light and visibility of the bar from all angles:  

We were greeted by a friendly staff member on arrival and promptly seated.  On learning that we were first timers, the host explained the menu to us.  Some of the dishes at Fonda are designed for sharing, while others are single serves designed for one person.

As a starter, Tim ordered a chicken taco with corn, guacamole, and pico de gallo ($7.50):

For myself, I just love corn on the cob but rarely cook it myself (because I batch cook and freeze things),  so I could not go past the Chargrilled Corn, with chipotle aioli, queso and lime ($6):

The corn was divinely spicy and just melted in the mouth - I could have easily gone seconds and thirds.  However, main courses were to come, so I resisted temptation.

For main, Tim ordered a Mex-Bim-Bap salad with pork, guacamole, baby spinach, shaved cabbage, radish and smoked corn, among other ingredients ($20):

It looked delicious, but as the bowls all contained quinoa, I was not going to touch them with a barge bowl given my sensitivity to quinoa.

I chose the much safer option for my gut of a pulled pork quesadilla with baby spinach, chilli, lime and pineapple salsa ($16):

It was delicious.  I am having a real pineapple renaissance at the moment, so I loved the salsa.

If you wanted more chilli sauce, there was a mild sauce called the Jane Fonda, or if you really wanted some kick, there was the F#*k You sauce:

I tried both and liked them :)

To wash it all down, I ordered a Flying Brick cider ($9):

For dessert, we swapped continents and went to Gontran Cherrier, Artisan Boulanger, for Tim's favourite, an Almond Croissant:

This was a huge though delicious croissant, so I am glad that we usually share dessert.

Of course, no pastry is complete without a coffee: 

Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn has some great food venues, and these are just two that we'll definitely be going back to.

651 Glenferrie Rd
Hawthorn VIC 3122

696 Glenferrie Rd
Hawthorn VIC 3122
Ph: (03) 9915 8600

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Donna Hay's Candied Apple Cake

In the 100th (and last) edition of Donna Hay magazine, there is an entire section of beautiful Enchanted Garden cakes.  Long time readers will know that I adore beautiful cakes, and this edition was perfectly timed so that I could choose one of the cakes for my birthday cake.

I selected the Candied Apple Cake, with gorgeous slices of skin on, candied apple adorning the  sides of the cake.  On making this cake, and reading the other recipes in the Enchanted Garden section, all of the cakes contain large quantities of plain flour with only bicarbonate of soda as the raising agent.  My cakes were rather flat and dense, and I am wondering whether they are meant to be that way, or whether there is a misprint.  In any event, my finished cake was only one apple high, whereas the one in the magazine is a towering three apples high. I was also not enamoured with the texture of the cake.  I would be interested in hearing the experiences of anyone else has made these cakes and whether they thought there was sufficient raising agent in them.

The only candied apple element of this cake is the candied apple slices on the outside.  I tried to step up the candied apple flavour by reserving the gorgeous rose pink syrup from boiling the apple slices and brushing it over the cut surfaces of the cake, and putting two tablespoons in the icing.  I am not sure that it helped much to boost that flavour but it was worth a shot.  

If I made this cake again, I would also (a) use a different base cake recipe that is less dense; and (b) put some apple either through the cake or between the cake layers so as to give more prominence to the apple flavour.

Nonetheless, I think this was a pretty cake, and my friends said that they enjoyed it:

If you would like to have a go at making this cake, you will need:


2 cups water
250g chopped butter
4 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
2/3 cup almond meal
4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Candied apple slices

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
3 red apples, thinly sliced lengthways on a mandolin


375g chopped butter
3 cups sifted icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius.  Grease and line three x 18cm round cake tins.

Put the water and butter into a saucepan and stir over medium heat until the butter is melted.

Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda, almond meal and sugar into a large bowl and stir to combine.  Next, add the lightly beaten eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and melted butter mixture and stir until smooth.

Divide the mixture evenly between the three cake tins and bake in the preheated oven for approximately one hour or until cooked through.  Remove the cakes from the oven but leave the oven on so you can make the candied apple slices.  Cool in the tins for 15 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.  

To make the candied apple slices, put the sugar and water into a saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil.  Cook the apple slices in the syrup, in three batches, for 2 minutes each.  Remove the apple slices from the syrup with tongs and place flat on lined baking trays.  Bake in the 160 degree oven for 20 minutes, then allow to cool on the trays.  I forgot about one batch of apples and boiled them for 15 minutes - they made the most devine crisp apple chips once baked.

For the icing, place the icing sugar, butter and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until pale and creamy.

Now comes the construction part!  Trim and halve each of the cakes. (At this point, you can brush the cut side of the cakes with reserved apple syrup, if desired.)  Put the bottom cake layer on a cake plate or cake board, and spread with half a cup of the icing.  Repeat for the remaining layers.  Spread the remaining icing over the top and sides of the cake, and press the apple slices into the sides of the cake.

Slice and serve!  Donna says this cake feeds 8-10, but the cake is massive, so I would say it could feed twice that number, cut into thin slices.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Phillippa's Sausage Rolls

Who doesn't love an Aussie sausage roll?  Spicy mince, flaky pastry and tomato sauce (of course!) merge to make one delicious, popular treat.

I recently made the sausage rolls from Phillippa's Home Baking, which use rough puff pastry and a mixture of beef and pork mince.  For those not from Melbourne, Phillippa's is a bakery institution established by Phillippa Grogan, famed for its breads and other baked goods. 

These sausage rolls did not disappoint - they had flaky pastry, and were just on the right side of spicy and juicy:

Have I tempted you to make some sausage rolls for yourself?  If so, you will need:

Rough puff:

225g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
170g cold butter, cubed
125ml chilled water
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Put the flour and salt into a bowl.  Add the butter, water and lemon juice.  Use your hands to mix the ingredients together into a rough dough, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for half an hour.

Take the dough from the fridge and roll into a rectangle about 20cm x 30cm, with the edges being as straight as possible.  Fold one short end of the dough into the middle of the rectangle, then fold the doubled over part of the dough over the top of the remaining third of the dough so that you have a folded piece of pastry measuring 20cm x 10cm.  Wrap in plastic film and chill in the fridge for half an hour.

Repeat the rolling and folding process with the pastry three more times.  You now have ready to use rough puff pastry!

Sausage rolls: 

80g fresh breadcrumbs
1 brown onion, chopped
100ml tomato sauce (ketchup)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt 
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
350g beef mince
350g pork mince
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped thyme or sage
1 x rough puff pastry
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk

Process the breadcrumbs in a food processor to make medium sized breadcrumbs, and place into a large bowl.

Put the onion, tomato sauce, mustard, salt and pepper into the food processor and blitz to a puree, then spoon into the bowl with the breadcrumbs.  Add the mince, parsley and herbs to the bowl and mix with your hands until well combined.  Place into a covered bowl and chill.

Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius.  Line two baking trays with baking paper or silicon mats.

Lightly flour your work bench, then roll out the rough puff pastry into a rectangle measuring 48cm x 30cm.  Cut the pastry into three pieces measuring 30cm x 16cm each.

Take the sausage meat mixture and divide into three even pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball, then roll  each ball into a sausage measuring the length of the long end of the pastry.  Place one sausage on the edge of one long end of a pastry strip, brush the opposite long end of the pastry strip with water, then roll the pastry, starting with the sausage edge, to enclose the sausage in the pastry. Press the edges of the pastry join lightly with a fork to seal.

Repeat for each of the other two pastry strips and the remaining sausage mixture.  Cut each long sausage roll into the desired size using a sharp knife (I cut each into quarters for party sized sausage rolls).

In a small bowl, beat the egg and milk together with a fork, then using a pastry brush, brush this egg wash mixture over the top of the sausage rolls.  

Place the sausage rolls on the lined trays and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until cooked through and golden on top. 

Serve the sausage rolls hot with lashings of tomato sauce.