Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I Heart Rosemary

Several months ago now I bought a bunch of fresh rosemary to use in some cooking. Seeing as how I paid for a bunch but only needed a few leaves I put the rest in a glass with a little water, hoping it'd keep for a while so I could use more. After a week I realised those sprigs hadn't died. After a few months I noticed this:

Look at those roots! This sprig was doing far and away the best - the other two ended up dying. Well now this little guy has his very own pot outside my front door, and so far (touch wood) he's doing well. I've also managed, somehow, to keep some basil and some flat leaf parsley alive on my windowsill. I think there's a large element of luck involved with those, though.

I really do love the types of plants that even I can't kill. My front yard is full of them. Which is a good thing, since I'm the angel of death to all things green and leafy!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chocolateria San Churro

I did some christmas shopping at Highpoint on the weekend. Thankfully I got in there early so I was mostly done before the crowds REALLY started. But after dealing with people, and spending far too much dollars, I decided I deserved a treat. I've never been to a Chocolateria San Churro cafe before, so figured I could do with some churros and tea.

Are they the best churros I've ever had? No. Even so, they were pretty darned tasty. Warm chocolate sauce and 100s & 1000s helped too :-) I went for the kiddy serve. I'll leave you with some pictures...

Peanut Butter Choc Chip Bikkies

I wanted to make some biscuits (huge surprise there, right?). Actually, I wanted to EAT some biscuits. In particular, I had a hankering for some peanut butter and choc chip biscuits. These little babies were delicious, if I do say so myself (and I do), and they were dead-easy to make. I can't for the life of me remember where on the internet I got the recipe from, as all I have to go on now are my notes in my own nigh-on-inscrutable shorthand. I'll decipher it the best I can for you.

Peanut Butter & Choc Chip Cookies (made at least 2 dozen)
125g softened butter
150g brown sugar
1 lightly beaten egg
1 tsp vanilla
150g peanut butter (the crunchier the better, in my opinion, or if you use smooth, add 50g of chopped nuts. Or add the nuts anyway, it's up to you)
225g plain flour
1 tsp bicarb soda
200g choc chips

Heat the oven to 200C. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and beat lightly till combined. Stir through the peanut butter. Fold in the flour. Stir through the choc chips. Make teaspoons-full of dough into balls and place on a baking tray, then flatten slightly with a fork or anything else you like. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden.

I also made a couple with finely diced bacon in them, on request for a friend. I personally didn't try those, as that's a bit out-there for me. I'm not sure how they tasted, I haven't heard much from that friend since! I'm sure the two aren't related though... Actually, we went to a Jeff Martin concert that night and any thoughts of biscuits went clear out of my head. Can you blame me?!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Caffe Macchiato

23 Macedon Road, Templestowe Lower
P: 03 9850 8822

Just west along Manningham Road from one of my favourite restaurants is this little street, and on this street is this little cafe.

I've had coffee here before, but never stopped for some food. We decided on a whim to try it out for breakfast this morning. Sadly, we thought we'd be thwarted at the door, with the place absolutely packed. We were told some tables should be coming up in about 20 minutes, if we were happy to wait. We said we'd go for a walk and see how it went. Well, we'd just reached the top of the street when we heard someone calling out... turning around, it was the waitress! She'd come out of the cafe, seen us, and run up to tell us there was a table free and she'd reserved it for us. How nice was that?

Our orders were taken quite promptly, but delivery of coffee and food was fairly slow. In this case I'm inclined to be a little understanding because, I'm telling you, this place could not fit any more people in. Every seat at every table was occupied, and you have to be prepared for a little wait when things are that busy. Besides, I've been to this cafe when things weren't quite so busy, and had no issues with service then.

To accompany my breakfast I had a hankering for an iced chocolate. I wish I'd been warned about it...

No word of a lie, there must be about half a litre of milk in this glass. And it was yum. Milk, ice cubes, ice cream, drinking chocolate... although it did defeat me and I ended up not being able to finish it.

We each ordered the CM Brekkie - me with scrambled eggs and an extra hash brown, him with poached eggs. I think next time I'll ask for an extra piece of toast, but aside from that this was great. Plenty of shortcut bacon, heaps of soft scrambled eggs, a delicious grilled tomato, and even Worcestershire sauce when I requested it..

I had a look over the rest of the menu and I think I'll need to go back and see what they do with their barramundi. And several of their other menu items had me eager to try them.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Linguini, Gamboretti, e pomodoro

Did I say that right? Probably not. I'm sorry. But this is what I cooked for mum and her friends for lunch.

It's always difficult to cook something that you don't actually eat yourself. Or at least, I find it difficult. Or perhaps that's not quite the right word. I mean, I've never cooked prawns before, and don't eat them either, so I have no idea of the correct way to prepare them so that they are edible. I'm happy to report that this meal was unanimously voted as "great" by all that partook.

First we picked up some prawns from Queen Vic market, with no set idea of what to do with them. I suggested I cook up some pasta and make a tomato sauce and simmer them in that. Mum gave that the nod, so I did.

A diced onion and a heaped teaspoon of crushed garlic sauteed in some oil. A tin of tomatoes and a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste, plus another half-tin of water added and set to simmer. A squirt of this, a shake of that, and it simmered for about 15 minutes. I threw the prawns in for the last 5 minutes or so. As always, I am no good at putting stuff on a plate and making it look good:

But I hear you asking, if I cooked this for them, what did I eat. I reserved a little sauce before throwing in the prawns and had this with some pasta and a spare arancini we had leftover in the freezer. It might not be as special as prawns, but it was bloody tasty too.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Grandma-style Cookin'

Sometimes you just crave a meal kinda like what Grandma might've used to make. Or just something kinda simple, homey, old style.

For those who don't know, my mum's been staying with me since the end of September. It's been great having her here, what with an operation, last-minute wedding hassles, the non-wedding, and a bunch of other things rearing their ugly heads. Today we decided to have corned beef for dinner (and lunch tomorrow, and probably as part of dinner tomorrow night... it was only a small piece of beef, but there's only two of us!).

If we imagine the plate is a clock, then clockwise from where 11 would be is:

- slices of corned beef that'd been in the slow-cooker with a bay leaf, worcestershire sauce, vinegar and water on high for 2.5 hours, then low for another 4.5 hours so that it was fall-apart tender, with chive white sauce on top.

- potato, sweet potato, carrot and pumpkin, tossed with oil and Vegeta then roasted.

- steamed broccoli.

- cauliflower that had been roasted with a little of the oil the other vegies had been tossed in drizzled over the top (BTW this is a fricken AWESOME way to eat cauliflower).

- corn cut from the cob, then seasoned with a little butter, sugar, salt, and thinly sliced... stuff from my window sill... is it sage or basil? I'm a bad person, I don't know!

- tomato and onion pudding, made by layering slices of tomato and onion with crushed Vita Brits in a casserole dish, then topped with more crushed Vita Brits and dotted with butter, and baked at about 180C for an hour. Delish. Try it.

- finally, in the middle, some steamed green beans.

Y'know, we only had a little of each thing, but it ended up being a HUGE meal. But so tasty. Needless to say, we didn't have any dessert. But hey, how good are we, folks: count the number of vegies in that meal... EIGHT vegies, plus the tomato and onion. Surely that means we can be a little bit bad for a few days? Cos, you know, we're, like, in credit, right?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Pretty Little Things

I love flowers, I really do. Unfortunately I'm terribly allergic to a few of them. There's no rhyme nor reason to which will make me suffer, so I try to avoid most of them, just on principle. I think it's partly due to this that I take pictures of them. I was going through my files on my computer the other day and stumbled across a ton of them, so thought I'd share my favourites. I've reduced the quality of the images so that the blog doesn't take ages to upload, but I think these still look nice. Where I can remember, I've included where I took the picture.

No idea where this was, but it's my absolute favourite at the moment

Hobart, gardens of Lenna hotel

Mum's place

My place, when I first moved in

First season roses at my place, 3 days ago

The Convent garden at Daylesford

Garden of a small motel about 13km out of Daylesford

Garden of a small motel about 13km out of Daylesford

Garden of a small motel about 13km out of Daylesford

No idea

Petticoat Lane, Penola SA

Nelson, VIC

Portland, VIC

Saturday, November 06, 2010

6 November, a day to remember

Today I went to a BBQ at my brother's place. While I'd had my suspicions, it was still a surprise (and I hasten to add it was a very happy one) when he announced, after we'd arrived, that he and his partner were being married that morning.

It was a beautiful backyard ceremony, moving in its simplicity. A small number of people were there; some knew of the wedding, others didn't. The short ceremony was heart-felt, and the happiness of the bride and groom were wonderful to see (even if the groom had lost his voice!). Needless to say, the BBQ after was a truly happy occasion.

I've long thought of my brother's now-wife as a member of my family, often referring to her in conversation as my sister-in-law, or just sister. I'm not sure how she feels about that, but she's definitely part of the family now, and she'll never escape!!

Congratulations Marty and Missy, I couldn't be happier for you both. And Missy - welcome to the family, in all our wacky glory!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

[Insert Suitable Title Here, I Can't Think Of One]

It's a strange feeling.

I woke up this morning to the first day of my honeymoon. The thing is I was alone, I'm not on my honeymoon, and there was no wedding.

I have to wonder what type of person visits their bride-to-be the night before their wedding and says "I don't want to get married tomorrow, it just doesn't feel right. I want to postpone it" like it's just another dinner date that you can reschedule, no big deal. Without providing any real reason, nor any apology. Without listening to or giving a damn about anything I say. With no consideration to what many people had to go through to even be there (ie. time off work, airfares, accommodation, and family conflict). And then to patronise the now-not-future-bride by saying "It's the right decision, you'll see."

Excuse me? Could you not have decided this during the multiple times you asked to marry me? Or the twelve-month-long engagement? Or two nights earlier when you looked at the alternate venue that I had found which you then agreed to, saying it'd be good? Or 5 hours earlier that day when we'd met to discuss final plans? You can postpone a meeting. You can postpone a meal. You can even postpone a visit to your doctor (although you probably shouldn't). You can not postpone a wedding.

I'll admit that the final week or two before the wedding was tough, with issue upon issue arising. However when those issues are all ones that he was "taking care of" and I should "not worry about it", I do have to wonder if there wasn't a deliberate element, conscious or otherwise, of sabotage. And yet I, with the help of my mother and brother, found solutions to every single one of those problems. Solutions which were, apparently, simply not good enough. Which means, to my mind, that's it's just another promise that was not kept, with no intention of trying.

Via text I was asked "Do we still have a future together". I replied with "You tell me." He says "Nothing has changed for me. Has it for you". I reply "Of course it fkn has. Trust and respect for you have taken a beating. You have no idea what you've done to me". I thought I understated that quite well.

During our discussion the night before the non-wedding I told him he would have to contact the venue and the celebrant and tell them. I sent a text to my side of the list saying the wedding was off. My non-bridesmaids and I made some calls early the next morning to make sure the celebrant and venue knew... nope, no calls had been made. The celebrant was lovely, and I promised her that no matter what I have to do, I will pay her for her time and work thus far. The venue was trickier. We (ie. my mum) had paid a deposit just days earlier. They'd had chefs working late the night before making 900 canapes. They were, I think quite understandably, not happy.

My mum and brother decided to get together and work something out. My non-bridesmaids and I had mentioned maybe having a "I'm Not Getting Married" party. Ma and Bro decided that was a great idea to use the venue for, and they paid the whole fee for the planned ceremony/celebration party (several thousand $$). I'll be making sure that, somehow, they get their money repaid. I put the word out to my side of the guest list saying "Hi all. I've decided that as the bar is booked and they've made all the lovely food I'm going to have a little 'I'm not getting married' party. I'd love to see anyone who can make it. I'll be there from 3pm in my party dress."

Naturally some people who had planned to travel in on Saturday morning had canceled their plans when I advised that the wedding was off. They were truly apologetic that they wouldn't be able to make it (one couple had canceled their flights but couldn't cancel their hotel room, so kindly gave it to me for the night. Aren't they lovely?). Even so, more than half the people who were originally coming to the wedding turned up to the party. And it was a good party. Obviously we didn't eat all 900 canapes, but we did put a dent in them. And there was no way we were going to get through the whole bar tab. My girls helped me get ready and I had a great time and - looking around the room at all the people who were there, who had come through horrible weather and in some cases traveled across half the continent and more to be there for me, and support me - I felt incredibly lucky and blessed to have so many people who care so much for me. Although initially I thought I'd have been happier hiding under my doona in a dark room, the party was the best thing I could have done.

I've heard that my ex-father is very happy, nay delighted, that the wedding fell through, but I wouldn't expect much else from such a bigoted, self-involved garden-gnome of a man who's only ever been in my life when he felt like it, on his own terms.

So tell me, does a relationship survive something like this? How can it, when trust and respect have dwindled? Why should I even bother spending any more time, emotion and energy on someone who has done this to me? Aside from wanting answers, what's the point? I am furious, gutted, and embarrassed by the whole debacle. Why should I give someone who has made me feel like shit any kind of chance?


Aside from all of that, I need to thank Sarah and Diana. I can't tell you everything they've done for me, but just know that I'm never going to forget what they've done over the past 48 hours, and earlier. I need to thank my mum and my brother, who are the two most special people in my life, who make me so proud to call them family, for their unwavering support. I need to thank Rosemary and Mike for donating their hotel room to me. I need to thank the paternal uncles who came to the party for being there for me despite other pressure on them to not come at all. I need to thank my maternal uncles for keeping me laughing all night with their antics. I need to thank everyone who came to the party. I need to thank everyone who sent messages/texts full of kind words and support. And I need to thank Diane at r.bar in Port Melbourne for her hard work in arranging a function with 3 days notice, and her kindness on the night after all the stuffing around. The service was great, the food was spectacular, and I'll definitely be back for dinner again and again. Diane, you and your staff are wonderful, thank you for a lovely night.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

French Toast (again), Sweet-style

You might remember my last post on french toast (holy skulking bad guys, Batman, that was a long time ago!). This is my latest. I hadn't ever had this before, but thinking about the flavours, I really hoped it'd work.

Again, I didn't really plan this well, so instead of extra-thick-cut slutty-white-bread I had to use my usual sandwich-cut multigrain. But hey, that means it's healthy, right? Right?!

So, for just li'l old me, I lightly beat 2 eggs (for me, at least free range, if not organic) with a splosh of milk and dunked a slice of bread in until it was well and truly soaked. While it was cooking in the pan I grabbed some vanilla yoghurt (I prefer Jalna) from the fridge and mixed a generous swirl of maple syrup through it. I took the first piece of bread out of the pan and put in on a plate, then dunked another piece of bread in the egg mix and got that cooking.

While THAT one was cooking I added another squeeze of maple syrup to the leftover egg mix, sliced up half a banana, and tossed the pieces through the egg mix. Once the second piece of bread was done I put it on top of the first piece of bread. Then I threw the banana slices into the pan and dribbled some of the egg over the top. After half a minute I flipped the banana slices over. Another half minute and off went the heat.

Now to assemble. I dribbled the yoghurt over the top of the french toast. I dumped the banana slices on top (mmm semi-firm on the outside, warm and gooey on the inside). Hm, it was missing something... I know, another dollop of maple syrup over the top!

Almost gives ya a toothache just lookin' at it, don't it? Actually, while the was ample sweetness, the tang of the yoghurt cut through it nicely and saved it from being sickly.

So after all that, did the flavours mix as well as I'd hoped they would?

What do you think?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Pumpkin (and other stuff) Soup

What is it about soup that can be so warming and comforting? On a rainy day, or when I'm feeling sick, I seem to crave the stuff. I'm not a big fan of the canned stuff, though, no matter how home-style the ads say some are. That being said, I do keep a can or two in the drawer at work for lunch emergencies. In any case, soup can be SO easy to make, it kinda makes me wonder why some people have never attempted it.

I started out with a butternut pumpkin, a decent-sized orange sweet potato, and a knob of ginger. I prefer to roast the vegies, I think it adds to the flavour. I also add a sprinkling of Vegeta (damn I like that stuff). I also roasted a knob of ginger, although I think, in future, I won't. And I'll also use a LOT less of it (as in, not even slim a cm-worth as the ginger came through quite strongly).

After that, into the pot with them, and a date with the masher.

I like to use evaporated milk. I think it gives, aside from the obvious creamy flavour, a silkier texture. For this amount of vegies I usually add at least one can of evaporated milk, a little at a time, and pureeing it with a stick blender to keep it smooth.

And I keep adding and pureeing until it's the consistency I like. I just adore how easy this stuff is to make.

I ended up not getting to actually eat any of this... I taste-tested it throughout the preparation, but gave it all away to friends! Oh dear, I'll just have to go make some more. Hm, maybe split pea, lentil and ham. Yum.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Double-crumbed veal with steamed veg

I tend to shy away from cooking pieces of red meat - sometimes I get it right, but sometimes it ends up so tough that it does a good impression of a all-day doggy chew-toy. Thankfully, I think through sheer stubbornness/perseverance, it appears I'm slowly starting to get it right more often than not.

So, what do you do when you buy a bunch of groceries to make a stir-fry, but then it doesn't happen? You double-crumb the steak, steam the vegies, and make up a gravy with the pan juices.

Then you eat it and exclaim how [insert expletive] good it is, and how happy you are with yourself! :-) Sadly I was far too hungry to even attempt to make it look more appetising, but hey, when it's just me here it's more about taste than looks, right?

Sunday, August 01, 2010

T'ain't Purty, But's Danged Tasty

Tonight's dinner was truly a new level of half-assery. A kiev from Wishbone, cous cous from the cupboard, a few "red back" potatoes, an orange sweet potato, garlic, salt, oil, and some Vegeta.

Wash potatoes, toss with peeled chopped sweet potatoes in some olive oil, Vegeta, garlic and salt. Throw 'em on an oven tray and start baking 'em at 180C.

15 minutes later put the kiev in on a different tray. 15 minutes after that turn the kiev over. 15 minutes after THAT boil the kettle. Put half a cup of boiling water in a bowl with a slick of olive oil and a shake of Vegeta. Measure out half a cup of cous cous and put that into the water. Stir it all around, whack a plate on top to cover the bowl and leave it for a few minutes. Fluff it up with a fork, add a little butter, then back on with the plate for another few minutes. Fluff it again, then dump it on the plate.

Take the kiev and veg out of the oven. Serve 'em up on top. To be extra bad pour any garlicy buttery liquids from the kiev over the top. Eat. Mmmmm.

Keeping in mind the picture really doesn't do the meal credit, and I actually split what's in the plate in half, eating one half and putting the other in a container for lunch tomorrow, I don't think it was such a bad effort for a Sunday night, after a VERY sleepless Saturday night. Meh, if I'm the only one that's gotta eat it, and I enjoy it, it's good enough. Right?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Salmon with Bean Puree and Greens

This is supposedly a very healthy meal. Hmph. Far too tasty to be good for you.

I got this recipe in an email a bit over a year ago and flagged it as something I wouldn't mind trying. So, 13 months later, I have. You can't hurry these things.

I've made a few modifications to the recipe and method.

Bean puree:
400g can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup low-salt chicken stock
1-2 bay leaves

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over a medium heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, take out the bay leaf/ves and puree the beans (btw, I love my stick blender). Leave covered on the stove until you're ready to serve up.

Salmon & marinade:
4 tsp good olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
2-3 tbl white wine vinegar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbl chopped dill
2 x salmon fillets

Combine all the ingredients except the salmon in a glass or pyrex bowl. Mix well. Add salmon fillets and turn to coat, then leave to marinate for 10 minutes. Heat a non-stick frypan to medium-high. Remove fillets from marinade and place, skin-side down, in the hot pan 3-4 minutes, with the lid on. Turn the fillets and cook a further 3-4 minutes, covered. Lower the heat to low while you take care of the greens.

big handful or so of spinach leaves
100g beans, topped, tailed, and cut into 3cm lengths

Steam the beans in the microwave 2 minutes. Add the spinach and microwave for a further 1-2 minutes. While this is happening remove the salmon fillets from the frypan, pour the remaining marinade into the pan and heat on high until dried out fairly well (this won't take long - a matter of a minute or two).

Sling some pureed beans into a bowl. Throw a salmon fillet in the middle. Heap some greens on top of that, and finish off with a dollop of cooked-out marinade.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Nook, Sunbury

Cnr Evans & Stations Streets
Sunbury 3429

I just wanted to share this with you. This is what I had for lunch today. It's a salmon patty with some green salad leaves. Can you see how big this damn patty is?! It was all nice and crunchy crumbs on the outside, and the inside was all salmon chunks with bits of potato and other vegies. And it was $5! Brilliant!

I glanced over the menu while I was there, and it looks like there's some good brekky and lunch options. I noticed that they have an all-day breakfast option too - I like that. Plus, there are three display cases: one hot one with pies, sausage rolls, the usual type of delicious hot pastry goodness; one with things like quiche, fritatta, and these salmon balls; and one with cakes and muffins. The coffee wasn't too shabby either.

Hm, not that I head to Sunbury all that often, but I know where I'll be going for a coffee or lunch while I'm there.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

End-of-pay-period Emergency Rations

You know what I've realised? It's nigh-on impossible to take a good picture of something with vegetable chunks in it. It so often turns out looking, well, less than wonderful.

As per usual, towards pay day meals start getting less impressive in my house. This offering last night might not be all that picturesque, but it was pretty tasty, and the leftovers are working out REALLY well.


olive oil
1 red onion still fairly usable, diced
the 3 last cloves of garlic in the bunch, finely chopped
3 nearly-past-it tomatoes, chopped chunkily (icky bits removed)
1 x 350g jar of arrabbiata sauce, only slightly past its best-before date
1 x 300g can of four-bean mix, salvaged from the back of the pantry, purchase date unknown
1 x sachet of tomato paste (or 2 tablespoons-worth)
a smattering of frozen peas and corn
the leftover half of a capsicum (which, unfortunately, I forgot to add), chopped

Saute the garlic and onion in the oil until nice and soft. Add everything else. Start cooking some pasta. Simmer the heck out of it all until your pasta is done. Dish it all up with some type of grated cheese. It'll be fine, just don't look at it!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

NAIDOC Week Cake

For those who don't know, the first full week in July is NAIDOC week. At work we had a morning tea.

This is the cake:

I thought it wasn't a bad effort at all, given the significant lack of equipment! What you see here is a chocolate cake with a vanilla centre, with a vanilla icing centre yellow spot and the rest is chocolate icing.

Here's the cake cross-section:

Yep, it was black, yellow and red on the inside too! The black and red are chocolate (with food colouring to achieve the result). The yellow is plain vanilla (once again, with food colouring).

Definitely the most creative I've been with baking for a LONG time :)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bacon and Leek Quiche

My mum and I LOVE this quiche. It may not look like much, but any time we make it we end up making pigs of ourselves and finishing the whole thing. I can't for the life of me remember where we first got the recipe from, but we haven't referred to it in years - partly because it's such a simple recipe, and partly because we've made it so many times. I made it for J last weekend and yep, none was left over.

Bacon and Leek Quiche

1 sheet of puff or shortcrust pastry
1 leek, finely sliced
150-200g bacon, finely diced
2 eggs
1 cup cream
grated cheddar cheese
any herbs you like, or maybe a little sweet chilli sauce

Grease a pie pan, press the pastry into it firmly and trim the excess. If you're using puff pastry I find it's better to blind-bake it for 10-15 minutes first. Fry the leek and bacon until leek is soft and bacon is just turning crispy. Mix the eggs with the cream in a jug along with any chopped herbs or sauce you like. Scatter the bacon mixture over the base of the pastry, then gently pour over the cream mixture. Spread a little grated cheese over the top, and bake at 180C for 20-30 minutes (depending on the depth of your quiche) until cooked.

Serve it up with some salad. I was lazy and went with a fairly pedestrian salad this night, with just lettuce, tomato, cucumber, capsicum and cheese, with a basic balsamic and olive oil dressing. But meh, it was only there to try and kid myself that it was a healthy meal. You know, what with all that bacon and cream and cheese.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Blueberry Yoghurt Cake

I like cakes. A lot. I like to bake them. I like to eat them. And I really like it when I manage to bake one that people enjoy.

This one is nice and easy, although it did give me a scare, I have to admit - when I peaked in the oven and saw this:

I thought "uh oh". But it all turned out OK.

Blueberry Yoghurt Cake

125g butter
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
1 cup plain flour
1 cup self-raising flour
3/4 cup vanilla yoghurt
1 cup frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 180C (or 160C if it's fan-forced). Grease a 20cm round tin. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix each in well before adding the next. Sift 1/2 cup of the plain flour and 1/2 cup of the self-raising flour over the butter mixture. Fold in. Fold in half the yoghurt. Fold in the remaining flour and then the remaining yoghurt.

Spoon the batter into the cake tin. Sprinkle a few blueberries around the top and press them into the cake batter. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Once the cake is cooked through remove it from the oven and leave it in the tin for about 10 minutes, then turn it onto a wire rack to cool completely. Sift some icing sugar over to serve.

I wouldn't mind this dished up with some ice cream and cream too...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

CBF and Feeling Vego

Spinach, feta, capsicum, cheddar, sweet chilli sauce... I can't remember why I had all these things laying around, but they did come in handy.

I bought one of those nasty par-baked turkish bread rolls from my local Coles, then piled this stuff on top and baked it at 180C for about 20 minutes. Soooooo yummy. I could go another right now, actually.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Savoury Muffins

I really do prefer my muffins savoury as opposed to sweet. I don't know the why of it, that's just the way it is.

I wanted to try a different recipe, and found this one... I think it needs a little more tweaking. I found these more than a little bland, and they were in serious danger of being over-cooked before they got much colour in them. Next time I might try guyere, bacon and corn, and fry up the bacon well beforehand then use the fat as well... it won't be healthy, but I bet it'll be tastier!

Savoury Muffins
2 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp paprika or mustard powder
80g butter, melted and cooled
1 lightly beaten egg
1 cup milk, slightly warmed
100g feta, crumbled
100g ham, chopped finely
1/3 cup dried or semi-dried tomatoes

Preheat oven to 200C. Grease a 12-hole muffin tin or line with patty cases. Sift flour and paprika or mustard powder into a large bowl. Pour butter, egg and milk into a jug and stir well to combine. Make a well in the flour and pour the wet ingredients in. Stir to combine. Add the feta and ham and spoon until just combined.

Spoon into muffin holes to 3/4 full. Bake 20-25 minutes. Turn onto a wire rack. Serve warm with butter.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Quince Jam with Vanilla and Cinnamon

I've never actually SEEN a quince before. Well, until I went to the Collingwood Childrens' Farmers' market last weekend, that is. I have to admit, I had a ball. I drank some incredibly decent coffee, had an amazingly good breakfast, and bought some damn fine ingredients.

One of which was a bag of quinces. These little buggers are funny things to look at, but they smell divine. I've always liked the flavour when I've had quince paste, but decided in a moment of (seeming) madness to buy some fresh and see what I could do.

Well, I ended up being incredibly boring and making some jam.

I peeled and cored 5 quinces then sliced them relatively finely and threw them in a pot with a little water, some vanilla paste (as I didn't have any vanilla pods handy), a cinnamon stick, and about 400-450g of sugar. After simmering that for, well, quite a while, I ended up with this:

Little jars of, I have to admit, deliciousness. Not bad for my first attempt at using quinces, and I think I'm slowly getting the hang of making this jam stuff. Anyone wanna jar?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Maze Melbourne

Level 1, Crown Metropol, Southbank
P: 03 9292 8300

We went to Maze by Gordon Ramsay last night for dinner. I am so incredibly upset. I’m so disappointed. I can’t stand the man, or at least the persona he presents to the world, and I was fully prepared to dislike the meal. I was determined to find offence. Hence why I’m so upset.

It was frikken brilliant.

This will be a long post, so get comfy.

We wandered in a bit after 6.30pm and asked for a table. They told us they had one but we’d have to be out by 8.30. Sure, no problem. They led us to a table.

Initially I was happy – the place is so dim that my mother could have been sitting 3 tables away and I wouldn’t have been able to see or recognise her. I wouldn’t be able to pick our waitress out in a line up. J couldn’t read the menu. That is also why there are no pictures with this post. So I thought “Ah ha! First strike!” And I’ll admit my opinion of the lighting didn’t change. Sadly (I mean, “thankfully”), that was more or less the only bad thing I have to say about our experience.

Our thoroughly charming, knowledgeable and efficient waitress explained the way things work to us. You see, the menu is set up so you create your own little tasting menu which, if you like that sort of thing, works well (btw, I DO like that sort of thing. A lot. So choosing my own set of tastings certainly appeals). Dishes tend to range between $12 and $24. While we ordered and shared, I wouldn't necessarily recommend doing that, as each serving is really meant just for one person.

We munched on some skinny baguette-type smeared with some absolutely divine seaweed butter, with tiny salt flakes to sprinkle on top. I think I could happily have a meal of just this. By the by, later in the meal when we requested some more bread they were more than happy to provide.

We chose three “starter” dishes to share – marinated pink fur potatoes, Applewood smoked kingfish and Queensland mud crab. The potatoes came out as a few slices artfully arranged around a large bite of smoked eel with the blackened leeks and other bibs and bobs. No complaints about this one. I love potatoes any way you care to dish ‘em up, and the smoked eel was delicious (a word I may be using often in this post... I’ll use my thesaurus to try and come up with alternatives, though).

The smoked kingfish was goluptious (thank you, Macquarie Thesaurus). A mouthful of yummyness.

The Queensland mud crab was interesting... It arrived on a bed of pressed watermelon, with “stuff” on top (the menu says pickled ginger, but I can’t remember what it was), with a dollop of rockmelon sorbet on top. It was nice, but my mouth wasn’t quite sure what it was meant to be processing.

We initially ordered three mains, but enjoyed two in particular so much that we asked for them again.

First up we tried the pan roasted barramundi. It was served with a puree of butternut squash and pieces of cucumber. Oh. My. God. I believe the skin had been salted, and then the piece cooked skin-down to give an oh-so-crispy-and-tasty experience, while the rest of the flesh was done to perfection. This one we ordered again. By the by, the second time we had it the piece of fish was bigger. Whether that was luck or deliberate on the part of the kitchen staff I don’t know, but it was just as good the second time as it had been the first.

Second was citrus cured king salmon with soy salt, corn (“succotash”), bok choi and wee little asparagusy bits. This was almost as good as the barra. We ordered this again as well, because dang it all, it was bloody tasty. The salmon fell apart under the knife, and the soy salt on top added a salivary-gland-kick-starting tang. And that succotash... I’m going to have to learn how to make that. I can just imagine cooking it up to have on toast on a Sunday morning.

Lastly we had lamb cannon and shoulder. Two pieces of lamb on the plate, both perfectly cooked and tender, one falling apart when you so much as waved the fork at it. A dollop of cauliflower puree with a piece of anchovy on top and a small mound of wilted stinging nettles topped with a slice of cauliflower floret completed the plate. Don’t get me wrong, just because we didn’t order this one again doesn’t mean it wasn’t divine.

From there we moved to the desserts. First up we had a coconut and white chocolate pannacotta, with a slurry of mango puree and a granita of some description on top, and a dollop of black olive caramel. This dish was probably the lowlight of the meal. Not that it was bad; it just didn’t seem to mesh together. Once we removed the caramel and just attacked the rest it was quite nice, if unspectacular. I think the caramel was simply too strong in flavour to work with the rest of the dish.

Next we ate the chocolate cremeaux. It came out as a splodge of decadently rich and creamy chocolaty sauce (which is handy as “crémeux” is French for “creamy”) with pearl barley ice cream next to a two-bite mini loaf of banana. The banana bread was uninspiring, but PHWOAR - the chocolate sauce was rich as sin, and the pearl barley ice cream was a wonderful wheaty-honey-malty piece of coldness. The itty macadamia halves on the side tasted as though they’d been dunked in a salted caramel. This was REALLY good. J very nearly didn’t get a look in on this one.

Lastly we come to the Granny smith apple parfait. A rectangle of what could have been green apple sorbet sat on a thin biscuity base (which, frankly, I think they should get rid of – the base, I mean). This all sat on a bed of oh-so-finely shaved green- and red-skinned apple slices, arranged to make the prettiest pattern. Opposite sides of the parfait rectangle had a very thin wafer of what appeared to be finely diced and pressed red apple skin attached. On top of all this was a granita of beetroot and blackcurrant. I drool just to remember it. It was the perfect way to finish off the meal. Words really can’t describe it, or at least not MY words.

So yeah, it was a wonderful meal. I definitely plan to go back, partly to see if this trip was a fluke, and partly to sample what else is on the menu. I think next time I’m going to go for the Chef’s menu, which I didn’t notice on this visit as it was so dark I didn’t realise there was more to the menu than what our waitress opened them to!

Which reminds me, the only other problem I had with Maze – if you don’t like seafood and mushrooms, there’s little left on the menu for you. There is a lot of seafood on the menu, which is fine for us, however J can’t eat mushrooms, and I’m not a big fan of them, so quite a few dishes were out for us. There again, I hope that a place of this calibre would be able to work with you, and modify some dishes. I don’t know. Give ‘em a call and find out.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Goat Curry and Apple, Pear and Blueberry Crumble

A few weeks ago Mel told me about a curry she'd made on the weekend that was a HUGE hit. I was curious to try it. I finally made my way to the Vic Market yesterday and bought a few choice ingredients. Namely, goat. That place is brilliant.

I'm sure that, for many people, eating goat is not a big deal. Me, I've never had it, so I had NO idea what to expect. Mum told me to think of lamb, and J said imagine a game-y type of lamb. I was more confused than ever!! However, having now made the curry and enjoyed it IMMENSELY, I'm a convert. I'll now happily try goat in almost anything. I was surprised at how lean it was, and how well it worked with long, slow cooking.

This was a deliciously rich, incredibly more-ish dinner that sure as hell had us licking our lips. J went back for seconds... and then finished off the rest a couple of hours later. Sadly, the picture I have here really doesn't do it justice, which of course means that you're going to have to go and make it for yourself. I think this would work well with any red meat.

I could link you to the recipe, but websites have a habit of disappearing, so here it is, with the variations I made due to either lack of ingredients or lack of equipment. What I can tell you, though, is that I can't imagine the flavour lacked anything for my changes.

Goat Curry (adapted from Steve Manfredi's recipe that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, 10/10/08)

Cube 500g of goat. I used top-side. Heat some oil in a large heavy-based saucepan, then add 1 diced brown onion, a cinnamon quill, and 5g of curry leaves (or a couple of stalks-worth) and a table spoon or so of chilli powder. Then add a tablespoon of fennel seeds, 5 crushed cloves of garlic and a few vigorous shakes of ground ginger (the original recipe called for the fennel seeds, garlic and fresh ginger to be pounded together in a mortar and pestle till they became a paste, but I don't have one of those. This still worked out well) and stir fry gently for a few minutes.

Add the goat and fry over a high heat for a few minutes till the meat is browned. Add a cup of water and simmer that over a low heat for 30-40 minutes. Cue good smells.

Add 125ml of coconut cream (or more if you like), a pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar, and the juice of 1 small lemon. Cook this over a low heat until the liquid reduces to be fairly dry and any sauce coats the meat (this can take a while... I think it took a couple of hours for me). Stir it occasionally. And if little bits "caramelise" (ahem) on the bottom of the pan, scrape them up and keep on going. It all adds to the flavour! I had hoped this would serve the two of us and leave me some for lunch today, but I have to admit that, even though I was a tad heavy with the chilli, it was pretty fu... um... it was pretty damn good. And there were no leftovers. At least I know hubby-to-be likes my cooking!

After a meal like that I couldn't think what to serve up for dessert. After such a rich meal I wanted something relatively simple. Cue a treat that I don't think I've made since grade 10 Home Ec: crumble.

Oh yum. Sadly, as I made this up as I went along, I don't have exact measurements. I only made about 2.5 people's worth of it (lucky I did that extra .5.... J cleaned it all up again!).

Apple, Pear and Blueberry Crumble

Melt some butter and grease a small ovenproof dish. Core and peel 2 medium Granny Smith Apples and 1 large pear, then cut into thin slices. Line the base of the dish evenly with half the apple slices. Layer the pear slices. Throw in a handful of frozen blueberries. Sprinkle a little brown sugar or honey around, then layer with the remaining apple slices. Preheat the oven to 180C.

How much crumble to make depends on a couple of things, like how big your dish is, and how much you like crumble. I ended up with some left over, even though I made what I thought was a tiny amount. Put 1/4 cup plain flour, 1/8 cup brown sugar and 1/8 cup of oats into a bowl. Add 25g of cold, cubed butter and rub it all together until it looks like fine breadcrumbs (alternatively, you can use a food processor). Naturally, if you need more, increase the amounts. Sprinkle this over the top of the fruit to the depth you like, pressing it down lightly. Bake for 30-40 minutes.

I had planned to make custard to have with this, but then realised that I had no custard powder left, so ended up using store-bought instead. So it wasn't quite all home-made, but it was still good.

I have to admit, if I may without sounding completely up myself, that that was a damned good meal. I done good :-)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Prime Restaurant, GPO Sydney

GPO Sydney
Downstairs from the foyer, 1 Martin Place
P: 02 9229 7777

A month or so ago we went north for a weekend, staying in Sydney overnight. We asked the concierge where he’d recommend for a great steak, since we were in a carnivorous mood. He suggested Prime Restaurant, also advising that it was difficult to find. And it was, until we worked it out.

Prime feels like a cave under the GPO, albeit a nicely turned out cave. Its stone walls, arched doorways, curtains and dim lighting all contribute to the feeling of being in a hidey-hole, possibly doing something illicit.

We were squeezed around a centre booth-style table, with the table having to be moved for us to get seated (and no, not because of monumental girths; even a supermodel would have had trouble getting into the seat without moving the table at least half a foot), and menus were presented. That’s when we realised exactly how dim the lighting was – we couldn’t read the menus. We tried tilting them towards the (fake) candle on the table, still with little success. Finally I got my phone out and used the screen to provide enough light to read by, and squinted my way through the menu. This is also why there are no pictures to go with this post. They must have switched the lights on to full-power for the pictures on the website.

Chewing on some particularly good bread (from memory, slices of a brown sourdough loaf) while we decided what to eat, we thought that while we were feeling steak-y, we weren’t overly hungry, so figured we'd share an entree before moving onto our mains. I don’t recommend doing this if you like more than a taste of each of the cured assiette of air dried wagyu and Kurabota pork served with pickled vegetable and onion marmalade. A beautifully presented plate contained one small artistic coil of each of the meats, with a small pile of the said vegetables. Half of each coil really wasn’t quite enough to fully appreciate what was, in actual fact, some really nice wagyu and pork. There was a sizeable dollop of the onion marmalade, which was equally tasty, and which we piled onto our bread to enjoy more fully.

From there, onto the mains. Steak orders come with roasted cherry tomatoes, potato one of two ways (pureed, or a frittata-style wedge), and sauce. I chose the 220g Black Angus fillet, apparently from Glen Innes in Northern NSW (good country up there!) cooked medium-well, while J had a different cut... I can’t remember... possibly the sirloin on the bone, cooked well. We also ordered a side of something... possibly vegetables... sorry, my memory has, as always, failed me. In any case, you know the food is good when conversation stops entirely once it arrives. All you could hear from our table was “mmmMMMmmm... try this!” and variations thereof for a good 5 minutes or more. The steaks were cooked perfectly, and so tender that you could have cut them with a butter knife. The potato puree was smooth, creamy, and rich with flavour. Similarly the other serving-style of potato was delicious, with a beautiful flavour.

Despite feelings of fullness, desserts were ordered. We ordered two different flavours of sorbet each, and these were well-done without being remarkable.

Prime is also apparently a top choice for wagyu, although I can’t comment on how they do it (maybe next time). I notice they also offer an express lunch menu which looks interesting. Unfortunately its just a little too far away for me to make it for lunch during my workday.

I’d definitely eat at Prime again. Prices are a little high, but the food is superb, and the staff are friendly, cheerful and helpful. I’ll just have to remember to take a torch.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Appealing to the youth of today?

I'm in a dill of a pickle of a cucumber.

VicRoads has launched a new range of ads online aimed at getting young people to behave in a more sensible fashion and have a greater chance of not crashing and dying and killing us all with them. I haven't seen them all, but I just watched one here (hopefully that will take you to the one with the lovely young Asian man speaking). And I really don't think it's appropriate.

I did, however, find it p**s-funny. Particular moments are at 1:00 and 1:16.

Which is what leads me to the dill-pickle-cucumber situation: on the one hand I think this ad really is not appropriate, mainly because of the swearing (and yes, I swear, but I believe there's a correct - or less incorrect - time and place, and an advertisement is neither), yet on the other hand that ad made me laugh out loud, and obviously it had an effect on me as I'm now blogging about it.

But on the OTHER hand (yes, I have three hands. I borrowed one) perhaps this is what will appeal to young drivers and maybe, just maybe, it'll make them think twice before using their phone while they drive. I mean, let's face it, the ad isn't aimed at children, it's aimed at people old enough to be driving on our roads, so there's very little chance they'll hear anything in it that they don't say themselves. In fact, they quite probably use far worse words in their every day life.

Unfortunately I'm not so sold or amused by some of the other VicRoads ads... "Emo" and "Red Head Gets It's Wings" I think are going too far (as well as the grammatical error in the Red Hed title just bugging me... my grammar is by no means spectacular, but come on people, this is an organisation advertising to young people - TRY to get it right) and I didn't enjoy them. Probably because they're poking fun at very specific sets of people, but not in the light-hearted way of the video I linked to. "Poleaxed" I thought was being a bit too flippant about a speed-related crash where the car flipped five times, knocking out a "No Stopping" sign but thankfully not killing anyone... The "Turn off Facebook" and "Turn off Twitter" ads were mildly smile-inducing for a second or two. And the "Using Your Mobile While Driving" air traffic control and surgery ads make a very good point.

I'm curious if other people have checked out the ads and how they'll be received generally. They're getting publicity in the newspapers with some pretty interesting feedback.

I guess, if nothing else, it's all drawing attention to the issue of safety on the roads.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"I-Love-Weekends" French Toast

I luuuurrrrv weekends. Not sure if you know, but for a while there I was working 2 jobs, which meant 7 days a week I had to get up and get moving (and let's not dwell on the time, in my late-teens and early 20s, when I was holding down 3-4). When I quit about a year ago I found that I'd completely forgotten what I used to do on the weekends.

Didn't take me long to remember, though.

There's one thing in particular that I love about weekends, and that's the fact that I don't have to drag my ass out of bed when some alarm goes off, before the sun is even up, and race off to work. Yep, I wake up whenever the hell I want (well, some weekends), and I have time for a proper breakfast. Like today.

It might not look like much but this was fabulous, if I say so myself. And I do. It was SO worth the effort. And yet so simple.

6 strawberries, hulled, sliced in half, and thrown into a small bowl with a slick of good balsamic and a bit of icing sugar, then mixed all around to coat the strawberries (with an occasional stir while the rest is being prepared). An egg, a splodge of milk and a little vanilla in another bowl and beaten. Bread (in my case, wholemeal, which ain't the most picturesque of breads) thoroughly soaked in the egg mix, then thrown into a hot pan to cook and get yummified. Repeat with a second piece of bread (note to self - use smaller bread next time, or make extra egg mixture). Throw on a plate, top with strawberries, some of the sweetened balsamic, and a twirl of golden syrup. Dish it up with a lovely cup of coffee.

Welcome to Saturday morning.


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Check Out These Girls

I can't even remember how I found out about these girls now... but I likem.

Garfunkel & Oates are actually Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci. And I like their humour. So much of their stuff gets me giggling.

Check 'em out. They've got a few videos here

Monday, February 22, 2010

Golden Dragon Palace

363 Manningham Road, Lower Templestowe VIC
P: 03 9852 4086

I was reading an article recently that was all about yum cha (I think it might have been in Epicure... or it could have been the extra food guide in the Sun... such a shame I now can't find it online). Anyway, it rated GDP as a top over-all place for yum cha. I figured I'd give it a go for dinner one night. Not yum cha, but a chance to sample their food all the same.

First up, an order of san choi bow. This was delicious, but a little overly generous as we had to eat half of it before we could even wrap the lettuce leaf around it!

These little babies are spring onion puffs. Sooo yummy. In fact, we ordered them again the second time we went, as well. Delicately light flaky pastry, lovely fresh flavours inside.

I didn't see XLBs on the menu, but I am terribly useless at seeing something when I'm looking for it. In any case, when I asked our waitress she assured us that yes, we could get a serving of these. And these specimens were quite yummy... but not a patch on Hu Tong. Also, I like my dumplings served with some dark vinegar, maybe with some gratings of ginger dipped in it too. The little dish of pale red vinegar you can see to the side here wasn't quite to my taste. Even so, I enjoyed these.

Entrees were rounded out with a serving of grilled Shanghai dumplings. Mmmmmm, I LOVE pan-fried dumpling wrapper. Oh yes, the fillings were nice too. I'd have these again in an instant.

We shared the mains. First up, the stir-fried green stuff. Not much I can really report on this... they were green, they were tasty.

But here. Right here. This here dish above. Order it. Taste it. Drool at its memory. I'm not kidding. This dish was the stand-out highlight of the meal. It's called Mandarin Shredded Beef Fillet. It's sweet, sour, spicy... a right hook of flavours straight to the taste buds. The beef is so very tender, and coated in a thin crispy.... well, coating. The slightly sticky sauce that clings to it is just amazing. Brilliant flavours, great textures. We also ordered this the next time we ate at GDP, and it was just as good. Oh my.

The only down side to the meal so far had been the fried rice... very ordinary. But after some great entrees, and that fabulous main, the desserts really kept things going. The list isn't all that extensive, but there's enough there to have a decent choice.

First up, a pineapple fritter with ice cream. I have no idea where they get their ice cream from, but this stuff was so creamy, and so nice, that J, a confirmed ice cream non-eater, cleaned it all up. The fritter was also well done, with no "old oil" taste to it at all.

And this. I have a long-standing love of "pudding". And there was also black sesame ice cream. So when I asked our waitress if maybe I could have a scoop of the ice cream with my mango pudding I was delighted when she said it would be no problem at all. And it was goooooood. I really need to learn how to make these babies (the mango pudding, I mean).

So yeah, I'd agree with what I read - Golden Dragon Palace is a good place to eat. The food we've had on each occasion there has been great, the service efficient and helpful, and the bill quite reasonable. Can't ask for much more than than, eh?