Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Winter and comfort food intrinsically go together. It can remind you of a different time and warm you up from the inside out, what could be better? For me personally, the best comfort food is anything meaty and cooked slowly for hours - or containing pasta and cheese, obviously! Recently I spent a wonderful relaxing Sunday just chopping, simmering and baking. It was so nice to take the time in the kitchen and slow down, with the rain falling outside.
This recipe is actually very close to my heart, as it takes me waaaay back to my very first blog post. Which is actually somewhat appropriate, as Spicyicecream celebrated its 7th birthday recently! I made a few slight changes to the recipe to simplify it, and thought about how much I've learned about cooking and baking since I started this blog.
At the beginning, I wanted to try as many new ingredients and techniques as I could, but now I get the most joy from cooking the kind of things that I really love the most and putting fun new twists on the classics. I have discovered so many favourite dishes from sharing them here first, and then making them over and over in the time since. And I've learned everything I know about photography and styling from practicing and practicing for the photos here. But geez, looking back on some of my early photos really makes me cringe!
I never in a million years thought that blogging would take off as it has, let alone that I'd still be doing it after so long, given my short attention span! It really has been a tasty little journey, and I hope it continues. I know I haven't been posting as much this year, but I truly can't imagine life without taking photos of every cake I make.
I like this recipe, because once the prep is done, you can almost leave it alone (save for a little stir here and there) for an hour while the meat simmers away. This time I made one large pot pie rather than several small ones just used store-bought puff pastry for the top to save time. Next time I would add some mushrooms, but if you like you could add other veggies too. Enjoy on a cold night with a big glass of Shiraz!
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
After a very busy July, I've been thinking a lot about the whole work/life balance thing. Ask anyone you know how they've been and 'busy' or even 'crazy busy' seems to be the default answer, a badge of honour for the ambitious. I know it's true for me!
We pack our schedules with work or self-imposed obligations, check our emails before we even get out of bed in the morning, and feel guilty, bored or useless in any moments of idleness. To me, finally being 'busy' came as a relief that my business was growing and my services were beginning to be in demand.
I took every opportunity that came my way, worked around the clock and didn't take a day off in months. I pushed aside the things I really loved to do - from reading to blogging - as less important. And then I wondered why I felt burned out and uninspired...
The more I tried to endlessly multi-task, the more scattered and forgetful I became, and then I saw a quote that really resonated with me - "The answers you seek never come when the mind is busy, they come when the mind is still".
Of course! Why do your best ideas always come when you're in the shower, walking somewhere, mixing cake batter or about to fall asleep, just as you let go of your thoughts? Down time shouldn't be a indulgence, it's an absolute necessity to recharge creativity and inspiration!
I've gotta say, it was so nice to get back into the kitchen and bake something amazing after a month of throwing dinners together haphazardly or eating unhealthy take out when I was too busy to cook.
A few overripe bananas in the fruit bowl were the inspiration for this cake. I decided to caramelise them with brown sugar in the oven before adding them to the cake to really concentrate the flavour, and then added a big splash of spiced rum to the mixture for good measure. When the cake was cooked, I piled it high with more caramelised banana slices and oozy boozy salted caramel sauce. It looked and smelled incredible!
The cake itself is a winner, but the caramelised bananas and spiced rum gave it an extra dimension of flavour. It was super easy to make in the food processor with minimal washing up, and I loved it served warm with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream, a perfect comforting dessert on a chilly winter night!
Friday, June 27, 2014
Up until this week's snowpocalypse, you'd be forgiven for thinking that winter had forgotten Sydney entirely this year. The days were still sunny and warm, and I hadn't even busted out my favourite scarves or taken my coats out of their dry cleaning sleeves from last year.
Salads and ice cream were still firmly on the menu, so when I received some beautiful red papaya and yellow pawpaw from Australian Papaya and Impact Communications, all I could think of were summery recipe ideas to show off the tropical fruit flavours.
It's one of the world's healthiest foods with a huge array of health benefits from immune boosting properties and helping protect against heart disease to cancer-fighting antioxidants and many others too. It truly is an amazing super food - and delicious too!
I had to ignore my instinct to add tequila, chilli and salt and make a tropical cocktail, especially after the week I've had, because the recipe was supposed to appeal to the kiddies and be family friendly. Most of the time when I eat papaya, all I add is a little squeeze of lime, so I decided to play with that concept and keep the flavours as pure as possible.
I created these stripy Papaya & Coconut Popsicles, which are completely gluten free and vegan too. To add a little bit of sweetness I made a simple syrup using coconut sugar and lime juice, and added that into some pureed fresh papaya, layered in popsicle molds with coconut milk. I think they turned out very cute! It's the perfect healthy and fun snack for kids and grownups alike.
And yes, in case you were wondering, I'm definitely making a cocktail with the leftover papaya! Happy Friday!
Monday, June 16, 2014
Tomorrow is my birthday, and I'm going to be 26. Around this time last year, my best friend and I were drinking copious amounts of red wine in the kitchen and booking flights to New York. My motto for 25 was 'Do Fun Shit' and I definitely did a lot of fun shit in the last year. This year I am proposing 'Take Adventures'.
Life looks quite different now, and I've learned a lot in the last year, but one of the most important things is to satisfy my need for adventures, and not ignore it. 'Adventures' is quite a grand term, and while overseas trips are wonderful of course, it is not necessarily what I mean. I am never as inspired and energised as when I'm doing something new to me. I don't know how to take relaxing holidays, because in a new place I just want to see and do (and eat) as much as possible!
But I can feel the same sense of joy and wonder from exploring somewhere in Sydney than I did when I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset. Just a simple break from routine in some way, shape or form can be enough. But the trick is to be present in the moment, keep the smart phone in your pocket and appreciate all of the things happening around you. And of course, even though it's sometimes hard to justify taking a few hours off in the afternoon when I'm really really busy, when I come back to my desk I am inspired in a great way.
Since the weather has taken a turn for cooler temperatures, I can't get enough chai. I just love the combination of warming, comforting spices and steaming soy. The next thing to try is my own chai blend! But until then, I have a beautiful recipe for a decadent breakfast using in-season pears - perfect for a birthday. The special part is the chai salted caramel, which uses some of the spiced poaching liquid from the pears, and is incredibly delicious.
I've been wanting to make a Dutch Baby for quite a while - a thin pancake mixture is then baked in a skillet or ovenproof dish until the sides puff up beautifully and it's golden brown. The oven does all the work - these are pancakes minus the effort of flipping. Use that baking time to make a pot of coffee or chai - it's win win!
I also like that you can use any kind of seasonal fruit (berries or peaches are always a good bet) or keep it simple with just a little lemon and sugar. I made mine in 2 small skillets, but you could definitely also use one large one. Just increase the baking time a little and check every few minutes for those tell-tale puffed sides.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
I'm not entirely sure why I've had a craving for chocolate after scoffing more than my fair share of Lindt bunnies over the Easter long weekend, but it seems that every recipe idea I've come up with in the last few weeks revolves around chocolate!
I've actually been wanting to make a pot de creme for several years now, but with my own little spin on it. I wanted to show off some beautiful ingredients - yet more delicious figs from my Nanna's garden and some beautiful pomegranates. And finally, this is one of those extra special recipes that I'm secretly a tiny bit proud of...
I made a rich chocolate custard spiked with a little pomegranate molasses - one of my favourite secret ingredients. If you haven't tried this prized Middle Eastern ingredient, you're really missing out! The sweet, tangy syrup is super versatile and delicious in both sweet and savoury dishes.
I've used it in homemade BBQ sauces, salad dressings and even cocktails, but my favourite is adding some to this Lamb Stuffed Eggplant recipe. Pomegranate molasses is readily available at most gourmet supermarkets these days, but you could also try making it yourself.
This dessert can be made well in advance, so it's perfect for dinner parties. It looks impressive, but it's incredibly simple to prepare. And it looks so pretty served in little jars with a dollop of lightly whipped cream, caramelised figs and fresh pomegranate arils! The flavours work really well together, and I love the added textural element of the fresh pomegranate. Some finely chopped pistachio scattered over the top would also be great. I may have had a second helping of dessert last night, they're that good!
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Easter definitely snuck up on me this year! Even though the Easter eggs have been in the shops since just days after Christmas, they are quite easy to ignore until the very last minute. I haven't even had a hot cross bun yet, let alone made any long weekend plans!
This year, I couldn't get my mind off all things robins egg blue and speckled after finding some beautiful truffle-filled eggs. I couldn't take my eyes off this gorgeous cake from The Cake Blog, but of course, I wanted to put my own spin on it, and so the Speckled Ice Cream Bombe was born!
I considered a few different flavour combinations including the delicious fresh mint that has since become a firm favourite, but I decided on a Malt no churn ice cream with a few drops of colouring for that gorgeous teal hue, and finely chopped chocolate 'speckles'. The flavour combination is a classic for a reason, it just works so well. Chocolate and malt is a match made in heaven.
I know I've said it before, but this is seriously the easiest ice cream in the world to make, with no fancy ice cream maker required, no custard to make, and no extra egg whites to deal with. With a generous drizzling of a rich chocolate fudge sauce to finish, no one needs to know that your totally stunning Easter dessert was a total breeze to make (although slightly tricky to photograph!)
I think kids and adults would both love this dessert, and imagine how good it would be as the base of a malty milkshake or scooped on top of pancakes for breakfast on Easter morning. You could make smaller individual ice cream bombes in teacups or ramekins - so cute! I'm making myself hungry, it might be time to indulge in a hot cross bun finally!
Just a quick little not to say I hope you all have a safe and happy Easter, and enjoy some good food and time with your family and friends over the long weekend! xx
Friday, April 11, 2014
Happy Friday! I'm thankful for a great week filled with work, but also some laughs, good food and exciting opportunities. There is the slightest chill in the air and with daylight savings ending, it's starting to feel like autumn is truly setting in. Truth be told, autumn might just be my favourite season in Sydney. Since I generally make these lists of the things I'm loving about once every season, I thought the timing was right for the Autumn edition. Here we go...
• fairy floss clouds • epic french toast at Three Williams • getting ready to launch my new business Lulu & Bee - stay tuned! • beach picnics with champagne at sunset • pickles • facing my fear of dinosaurs • polkadot tights • exciting opportunities • oh, Daisy! • missing Malaysia, especially Penang • cooking dinner with my housemate • strawberry and gin punch • Karen & Shaun's beautiful wedding • and the invitation suite I designed for them • homemade pulled pork sandwiches • finishing my web development course • fabulous new maxi dresses • working with my sister • shooting cocktails at The Rook and The Winery • purple glitter manicure • rewatching Buffy • cuddles • late night flower arranging • Beth's 21st party • a slight chill in the autumn air
This galette straddles the line between summer and autumn, which makes it just perfect for this time of the year. It is the kind of dessert that looks impressive even though it was a breeze to make, shows off seasonal produce and has a stunning combination of flavours.
The thyme may seem like a slightly unusual addition, but I can assure you it is what makes this dessert special. It ties the sweet plums and tart berries together beautifully. With a big scoop of vanilla ice cream (or even ginger ice cream, which I have been making on and off for the past few years) on top, I can't imagine a more perfect dessert for right now. Make it this weekend!
Monday, April 7, 2014
Cake. This simple yet magical combination of butter, sugar, eggs and liquid in it's most simplified form goes back centuries, has transcended cultures and is synonymous with celebration all around the world. Cakes can be big or small and as simple or as complex as your own imagination. I mean, you can't have a birthday, or a wedding without cake, or as Julia Child says... "a party without cake is really just a meeting."
In times where the ingredients such as sugar, nuts and spices were expensive, having a cake made for you was an immense honour. These days we experience birthday celebrations involving cake from age one and all throughout our lives, but the fundamental message has remained. I love making homemade birthday cakes for the special people in my life. It is a culinary offering of love, a way of showing someone that they are important and that you care about them. But the real joy is in the sharing and celebrating with your friends and family - it really is a lovely tradition.
It was my sister Beth's 21st birthday last week, and I wanted to make her a very special cake. After years of childhood bickering, I'm so happy that she is now one of my closest friends and business partner in a new venture that I'll tell you all about very soon. She is so funny, creative and a beautiful person inside and out. To say this cake was made with love would be the understatement of the century.
I put my own spin on a famous Momofuku Milk Bar recipe by Christina Tosi, keeping the chocolate chip cake and crumb elements but experimenting with the passionfruit curd and adding a vanilla bean cream cheese icing instead of the coffee buttercream. Is this sacrilegious? Perhaps...
I've long been a fan of the chocolate and passionfruit flavour combination (see here and here) so I knew that it would be good. But when my Dad, who has tasted many of the cakes I've ever made, says this is the best cake I've ever made, I think I made the right call. He has also requested this exact same cake for his own birthday next month. Hey, if it's good enough for David Chang...
The cake has a lot of liquid and fat in it, and the book was fairly specific about how the batter must be homogeneous at each stage to end up with a lovely moist cake. I split the cake mixture into four equal parts and baked my cake layers separately as I knew I wanted the 'naked' cake look of visible fillings and un-frosted sides, again another small deviation from the 'Milk Bar' way, but I think it's one of the best looking cakes I've ever made and I couldn't stop taking photos of it.
I was thrilled with how each component came out separately, and together the result was phenomenal. The passionfruit curd was sweet but tangy, which balanced out the rich cream cheese frosting. The chocolate crumbs added some texture and weren't too sweet. I actually wish I had doubled the amount of crumbs between the layers as I had a lot left over. The recipe after the jump looks quite long, but each part is pretty straightforward and you can make the elements over several days to lighten the load.
Happy 21st Birthday again to my gorgeous sister Beth. I hope this year is the best one yet, and I wish you adventures and happiness and french toast and success in everything you put your mind to xxx
Monday, March 24, 2014
One evening, my Nanna came over for dinner and brought with her a whole plate of beautiful fresh figs, grown on her own backyard tree. It was absolutely the best kind of gift that ever! I think I even did a little happy dance.
While I was a little tempted to just eat them all, I knew that I wanted to create some kind of wonderful dessert to share with fellow fig-lovers here on the blog. But inspiration wasn't forthcoming and I kept going back to a suggestion that an Instagram friend Thahn had made (a little while ago now)... Fig and Almond Tart.
Out of all the social media networks, Instagram is my favourite. They say a picture is worth, well, way more than 140 characters! I am inspired constantly by the talented individuals that I follow, from bloggers to chefs to photographers and designers of all kinds. I love the glimpses into their lives, sneak peeks of their projects, snaps of their breakfasts and pets. I have a rather irrational hatred of hashtags, but that's another story.
But back to the tart. It's the perfect thing to bake and eat at this time of year, for afternoon tea with a big mug of hot tea. It's a simple dessert, but these figs were absolutely beautiful and it was a great way to show them off.
The slightly sweet frangipane mixture puffed up around them as it baked to hold them in a buttery hug, while the figs took on a sweet jammy texture. It was wonderful, and is now my Mum's new favourite dessert. Apart from a scattering of icing sugar, I served it plain, but a dollop of mascarpone, double cream or ice cream would be perfect too.
Who are your favourite people to follow on Instagram?
Monday, March 17, 2014
Let's rewind to about a month ago, where my obsession with kaffir lime leaves began. I made a green curry from scratch for the very first time and I have been finding interesting ways to use them in both sweet and savoury dishes ever since. From a citrussy prawn and chilli spaghetti to a chicken, chilli and coconut soup to this delicious cake with a kaffir lime infused syrup, this new-to-me ingredient is surprisingly versatile and seems to lift it's accompanying flavours to fantastic new levels.
If you haven't tried them before, it's a little difficult to describe the flavour. They are herbaceous but floral, bright and aromatic, and are used extensively throughout Thai cuisine. I love it so much, I'm planning on raiding Steph's new garden as often as possible.
I saw this recipe in Real Living magazine, where the beautiful photo caught my eye. It was served in individual loaf tins and with minted raspberries, so I put my own spin on it with summery mangoes. It's a great recipe for a simple and versatile cake. The sour cream kept it nice and moist and I liked the hint of lime that shone through. Although there was a pretty major typo in print - 3/4 cup of baking powder seemed excessive - but don't worry, I've fixed it up in my version of the recipe below!
The kaffir lime is a really great match for the coconut and mango, and would be great with many other kinds of fruit as well, so use your favourite! And it isn't shown in my photos, but I served this cake with a large scoop of creme fraîche, which was a lovely counterbalance to the very sweet syrup.
Have you cooked with any new ingredients lately?