Friday, 23 December 2011

Another mince pie or 2

Hey all, G guest blogging on one of my favourite subjects- Christmas mince pies.

A couple of blogs ago, K posted a picture of a pie from the Emerald Hill Bakery at the South Melbourne Markets
It was pretty good, pastry was very short, and the mince was fruity and tasty. Definitely worth another go.

Above are mince pies from  Brunetti's (the one with the star cut out) and Laurent.
The one from Laurent had good filling, good balance of spice and fruit, but the pastry was too thin and not buttery enough.  Probs not again.
The Brunetti's pie was sadly disappointing.  The pastry was ok, not very buttery and too thick but had a nice sugar crust on top. And whilst advertised as rum mince pies, the rum was too much and you could barely taste the fruit, and certainly no spice.  Won't be bothering about them any more.

So all in all, 2 out of 3 so far reviewed not meeting my admittedly very high standards.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Lunch at Cafe Vue

In the new year I will be working in Carlton, rather than the city. So today I am having a last lunch date with G at Cafe Vue - the affordable Shannon Bennett option.

Today we each had a lunchbox. A tomato and rosemary fondue and crackers, a broad bean and citrus salad, a turkey and stuffing mini brioche roll and a Christmas cake. Yum!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Mince pie for me

Picked up a scarily pale pie from Eclipse on Flinders Lane, Melbourne. Yes, the pastry was too pale but was delicious and the filling was great, full of chunky bits of fruit. A pricey choice, $3.50, but awesome.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Mince Pie macaron?

Yes, really! And it was interesting - really was the taste if mince pie!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Cake decorating time

After my recent class with Jennifer Graham of crabapple cupcake fame I am feeling inspired! So I fished out some tools from the back if the cupboard and bought some new tools too.

Cut out some shapes and then painted some shapes with shimmer paint and put some glitter on others. Still need to put mini cachous in the centre of the blossoms.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Not the first

And unlikely to be the last if the season.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A moment with Nigella

I am loving Nigella at the moment - particularly her Christmas DVD.  G and I watched the DVD over the weekend and swooned for the Chocolate Christmas cake.

There is a comment on the Food Network page about this recipe, recommending that you double the cocoa to make it like a fruity brownie.  Not sure that I am ready to take it that far, but am certainly keen to give the recipe a go.  Has anyone tried it?  Or any of Nigella's other Christmas recipes?

I think I will have to go dried fruit shopping and give the cake a try.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A tuna onigiri salad

A delicious, pre sugar-flower making class dinner.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Lemon and marscapone pasta

A while ago The Age published a top 25 quick pasta dinners - you know, cook the pasta and do 2 or 3 simple things in a pan and hey presto! dinner. Admittedly, The Age printed this list in May 2011 and this is the first time that I have cooked from the list, but better late than never?

A little white, I will grant that, but delicious.  And with a salad gave a more reasonable serve a vegetables!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Something for you to take advantage of quickly

Living Social and Jump On It are offering cupcake/macaron classes - $69 for a 6 hour class in the Melbourne CBD, run through Carrick Education - I have purchased that deal!

And, for my Sydney readers, Jump On It is offering 24 mini cupcakes for $24.

I won't normally be an advertising service, but I couldn't resist this one.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Arepas in Fitzroy

A quick and easy Argentinian lunch on Brunswick St, Fitzroy. The restaurant is Cruzao, a small concrete-floored, red-brick walled restaurant and live music venue. At lunch time on a Saturday the music was from a CD, but there was a small stage laden with music gear - will have to come back with friends for some music and more arepas.

An impromptu cheese platter

A less than elegant platter, but I love the combination of soft cheese and walnuts.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Cheat's apple "crisp"

Happy Thanksgiving (to my American readers).  Tonight, I surprised Geoff with a Thanksgiving Apple (and Pear) Crisp.

 A museli bar, crushed up for the "crisp". 

the best vanilla ice cream

apples and pears, to be cooked in a saute pan in butter (with a lid on the pan) for about 10 minutes

apple and pear crisp

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Apple and Broccoli soup

An odd concept - broccoli and roasted apple soup.  Even stranger was that the apples are simply cored and roasted, skin on, and added to the soup, skin on.

I realised that this thickens the soup, and once blitzed in the food processor, is unnoticeable in terms of texture.  However, I will agree that it is not the most attractively coloured dish.

Served with an apple and avacado salad.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A simple soup

Poach the chicken in stock. Remove the chicken and cook pasta in the same stock. Shred the chicken and return to the pot with some fresh spinach.

Dinner. Oh, you could grate some Parmesan on top if you are so inclined.

Monday, 21 November 2011

A fancy afternoon tea

What a charming way to spend Sunday afternoon!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Elizabeth David's chocolate mousse

Just 30grams of chocolate (ghiradelli) with an egg and a tea spoon of sugar per person. 

The recipe is here - give it a go.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Wedding cake, 1 year on

This is what it looked like a year ago:

And this is what it looked like now:

It still tasted pretty good - though the icing was a little funny...

Friday, 18 November 2011

What's for dinner?

It's going to be 33 degrees today, and I hate cooking* on a Friday, so where should I go and what should I have? 

*No cooking means no turning on the oven or stove, but I will "put something together" if necessary.


Thursday, 17 November 2011

A "healthy" potato bake

A former housemate of mine loves a potato bake.  One afternoon he cooked one and the two of us sat on his bed and ate the whole thing.  Delicious.  Definitely not healthy - think of all the butter and cream (he is a bean pole, so that didn't bother him). 

Instead, I decided to give this version a try, a supposedly healthier version, despite the cubes of butter you put on top at the end.

Layers of parcooked potatoes, ricotta, spinach and tinned salmon.  With a fairly small amount of cheese and butter on top.  

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Roast chicken

I've often read that the true test of a cook is a roast chicken.  It's so easy to overcook one part and undercook another, rendering the entire bird inedible.   There are a couple of school's of thought that exist to avoid this problem, both relying on the fact that the breast cooks faster.
  1. Bring the bird up to room temperature (by leaving it out of the fridge for half an hour) but tape/strap a bag of frozen peas onto the breast portion to ensure it is colder when the bird goes in the oven. 
  2. Preheat the oven with a cast iron roasting pan inside.  When you have seasoned the bird, grab the hot roasting pan out of the oven and put the bird in thigh side down.
I did not use either technique and am not entirely sure which recipe I followed - I think it was from Delicious, and I will find it if I ever need to replicate it by looking for the stuffing recipe (mushroom and delicious).

Monday, 14 November 2011

Not salad nicoise

A hot salmon nicoise - acceptable?

I generally prefer salmon to tuna, am not a huge fan of beans and on a cooler day I like a hot meal.  Enter the salmon "nicoise". 

Cooked the potatoes, blanches the snow peas and then sauteed it in the pan when the salmon was close to as done as I wanted it.

Check out those hard-boiled eggs - not even a hint of a grey ring.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Jamie's duck fiesta

Another aeroplane Jamie's 30 minute meal special - this meal was a combination of a couple of episodes and was seasoned with what I had, rather than what Jamie suggested.

We used "Maha" spices - there is a restaurant in Melbourne called Maha.  When you pay the bill you are given a small test tube of middle eastern spices, rather than an after dinner mint.  There was definitely some kind of mild chilli, maybe some cumin and some cinnamon in the test tube.  Anyway, we rubbed that spice blend onto the duck (just enough for 2 duck breasts with a little left over to use in the salad dressing).

To go with the middle eastern theme we cooked some couscous and mixed in some pomegranate and almonds.

Then I added a cucumber salad to the table.  Jamie did an Asian style dressing and I toned it down a bit so it wouldn't compete with the Maha spices.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Jamie's quick ragu

Have I waxed lyrical about Jamie Oliver's 30 minute meals before?  I just love that show.  I genuinely believe that I can accomplish what he does in the time allotted.

I watched a number of episodes on a recent aeroplane ride, and frantically scribbled down recipes on the back of the sick bag.  This quick ragu was inspired by Jame's pregnant wife's cravings.  However, it really is a great mid-week pasta meal.

The key is buying good quality sausages.  Jamie mentions that the sausage should contain a certain percentage of meat, but that information is only helpful if you buy your sausages pre-packaged as the packaging will have that info.

G and I buy our meat from a butcher so we can't be sure of the precise percentage of meat, but are convinced that the sausages are good quality.

The process after that is simple.  "Blitz" (ie use your food processor) onions, carrot, celery and the sausages.  Do your best to peel the skin off the sausages (easier than it sounds) or otherwise keep an eye out for the skinless sausages.

Then fry, until everything is browned, add a tin of tomatoes and season.  Try to complement the seasonings that were in the sausage.  Cook some pasta and serve.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Pearscuitto pizza

Pear is a fairly common savoury ingredient these days, particularly in salad.  However, I was a tad skeptical when I saw a recipe for pear and proscuitto pizza.

I try to live "dangerously" and will give most things a try, and given the success we've had with other pizzas from Theo's book (Theo & Co), I figured it was worth a try.  

The uncooked pizza looked a little funny - I guess we didn't do the best job making the pizza dough into a circle, nor laying out the pear slices in a particularly attractive manner.

Once cooked, the pizza was still obviously misshapen, but caramelised and crispy and, most importantly, delicious looking - and tasting!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Dessert fail

And it was all my fault!

I had some careme chocolate short crust pastry in the freezer that was approaching its best before date, so I thought I would try a pear frangipane tart.  I blind baked the crust, and then painted it with melted chocolate - supposdly meant to ensure that the crust stays crisp. 
a cross-section of the finished dessert

the melted chocolate painted onto the blind baked crust

However, the chocolate was too thick (or it was just a silly idea) and it was very difficult to break through the crust when serving and eating the tart.   The frangipane portion was ok but the pear made it a big soggy, so no real win on any portion of the tart!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Waste not

I am a true believer in:
  • using things up to the absolute last little bit
  • giving things away once I have no use
The second explains why, though I am a lover of reading, I have very few books in my house.  I borrow books from the library, or buy them secondhand and give them away once I am done.  A book needs to be truly special to warrant a place on my bookshelf.

I also do regular culls and take donations down to the local Salvo's.  However, when I have something that I can't donate I try to use it up - in this case, egg whites.

After making the birthday cake for my Mum I was left with 3 egg whites which I put in the fridge, to buy myself some time to think about what to do with them.  In the end, I decided to make some plain meringues.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Mum's birthday cake

I made Maggie Beer's moist buttermilk cake for my Mum for her birthday.

1 2/3 cup SR flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
125g unsalted butter 
1 1/4 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 lemons worth of zest
2 eggs + 3 yokls etra
1/2 cup buttermilk

Beat the wet ingredients, starting with the butter and sugar and then adding the rest (vanilla, olive oil, eggs).  Then add the zest, flour and buttermilk and beat further.

Cook at 170 degrees for 30 mins, cover with a sheet of baking paper and cook for another 20 mins.  Cool in the tin for 20 mins and then cool completely on a cake rack.

Slather in delicious lemon butter icing - 2 2/3 cup icing sugar, 100g salted butter 3 tbs lemon juice and 2 lemons worth of zest.

Yes, the cake is supposed to dip a little in the middle, but how much it does will probably depend on your oven.