Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lychee, Gin & Raspberry Ice Blocks

lychee gin ice blocks

Sometimes I get an idea stuck in my head, and it loops on repeat like a catchy song. I’ve had a half-baked idea floating around my brain for over a week now. A combination of flavours that I knew was a winner, but I wasn't sure what to do with them. While a cake or pie is usually my default option, this time I decided to make ice blocks instead. A pretty, boozy concoction that is perfect for the last week of summer. And in those other rare quiet brain moments... shake it off shake it off.

lychee gin ice blocks

The flavours of lychee, raspberry and rose were inspired of course by Pierre Hermé and the famous Ispahan dessert, which is a modern classic. I had experimented with them once before in this fruit salad, which turned out both gorgeous and delicious. I thought that gin would be the perfect accompaniment this time. I used Hendricks, which is my favourite because in addition to the usual gin botanicals, it has also been infused with rose petals and cucumber.

lychee gin ice blocks

These ice blocks were just perfect. I've been on a bit of a nostalgia kick lately, which may have something to do with eating a few childhood favourite treats like red frog lollies and Crunch chocolate. It's nice to modernise an old favourite with a grown up twist. I loved all of the flavours together. Of course if you are making it for the kiddies, just leave out the booze.

I've been eating fresh berries almost every day this summer, and the raspberries and strawberries have been especially good this year. I feel like summer has flown by yet again, but hopefully the warm weather returns for a little longer for another month (or maybe two!) of beach weather and summer fruit.

lychee gin ice blocks

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Butler, Potts Point

the butler, potts point

It's been a long time since I reviewed a restaurant. A really long time. I don't find myself trying as many new places these days, and when I do, I don't take my camera with me! But there's always an exception and this was a place I was excited to try, and have been excited to tell you about all week! The Butler made me wish I still worked in Potts Point.

It has only been open for about 2 months, situated in the space where Mezzaluna sat for 20 years. It seems to have found its feet quickly and got quite busy with a mixed clientele of people on dates, girls celebrating and the after work drinks crowd. One of the best things about summer is that you can have a leisurely dinner and still get great shots all in natural light. Especially when you are seated on one of the most beautiful terraces in Sydney. Just look at that view!

the butler, potts point

I love The Butler's decor, branding and great menu design. With a French-Caribbean vibe, there are tiny pineapples growing in pots, wicker chairs galore and palms on the wallpaper. I liked that the venue feels spacious and airy even when the place is busy, and I feel like you could have very different experiences depending on whether you sit on the terrace, at the bar or in the main dining room.

the butler, potts point

I had a little tipple to start, the Colonial Cobbler with Pineapple and Blueberry infused Bulleit bourbon, Lillet, lime, bitters, sugar and fresh mint. This kind of drink is perfect for a venue like this, modernising a cocktail that dates back to the 1830's with fresh fruit and the French aperitif Lillet. It was refreshing but more-ish at the same time, which is the perfect combination!

the butler, potts point

The menu has a great mix of dishes, from bar snacks to substantial shared mains like a slow roasted lamb shoulder. My housemate ordered a couple of oysters, which come from Merimbula ($4 each) on the Sapphire coast of NSW, and couldn't stop raving about how perfect and fresh they were. They were served simply with a squeeze of lemon and a mini bottle of Tabasco, but that's all you need when the oysters are this good.

the butler, potts point

The service is also excellent, with friendly chatty waitresses who offer some great recommendations. If we were feeling braver we would have tried the Lambs Brains, but based on the high standard of food we experienced I'm sure they would be done really well. Next time for sure. This time we tried the Beef and Spiced Pork sliders with creole mayo ($6 each). I thought they were a little bit under-seasoned, but were a good little bar snack.

the butler, potts point

The main reason I wanted to try the Lyonnaise Pork sausage rolls was the rum and pineapple relish ($12), which was really great. I liked the super flaky pastry and flavoursome pork filling. This was another clever French-Caribbean-Modern Australian fusion.

the butler, potts point

This was the standout dish by far - Tabasco prawns with mango salsa and coconut quinoa ($22). We just loved how fresh, summery and perfectly balanced it was with the sweet mango and hint of heat from the Tabasco and a lovely sauce that I'm sure was enriched with lots of butter. The prawns were plump, sweet and perfectly cooked. We tried to deconstruct it all the way home so we could attempt to replicate it.

the butler, potts point

We needed some vegetables along with all of this other deliciousness so we picked the Peas with Speck and Onion ($10). I loved the way it was served in a cute little jar, and it went well with the other dishes we picked, especially the sausage rolls. There's just something about peas and pastry together that always works so well.

the butler, potts point

We almost didn't order dessert, but my food blogger dessert stomach kicked in and we decided to try the Peach Melba. This was a brand new addition to the menu that day, and maybe even the first one that had ever left the kitchen! I loved every single part of it, especially when you tasted all of the elements together and got all the different flavours and textures in one bite. The peach was poached and had a raspberry sauce spooned on top with fresh raspberries hiding inside it too. I'm not entirely sure what was in the jelly, but I spotted hundreds of little vanilla bean seeds. My favourite part was the thyme that added a great hit of flavour. I'm a pretty big dessert snob, but this won me over on so many levels!

The Butler, 123 Victoria St Potts Point, NSW 2011

Monday, February 2, 2015

Coconut Cheesecake with Mango and Basil Caramel

coconut cheesecake

You can’t be sad while eating a mango. Same rule applies to anything with sprinkles on top. Trust me, it’s true. But there aren’t many mango recipes on my blog, which is strange as they’re right up there with my favourite fruits... or maybe it's not that strange, because they usually don't last very long in my fruit bowl.

coconut cheesecake

In this recipe, mango teams up with some of its best friends: coconut and lime in a creamy cheesecake. There’s a palm sugar caramel on top, as well as loads of fresh mango, and a little twist from a slightly unexpected ingredient, basil. If you’re a mango fan like me, you should definitely try it before the end of the season.

coconut cheesecake

Back to the basil for a quick second. I have always liked pairing fruit and herbs together and there are a lot of combinations that work really well, like watermelon and mint or pear and rosemary. I knew mango went with other herbs like coriander and mint, and even kaffir lime leaves, so the thought of putting it together with basil wasn’t quite as strange as you might think at first.

The basil flavour in the caramel was a bit subtle and next time I would use about double the amount of basil to infuse the cream, but I really loved it when you got a taste of all the elements of the dessert together - the base, cheesecake filling, fresh mango, caramel and the basil leaves on top.

coconut cheesecake

Friday, January 30, 2015

January Bites

january bites… the butler

I can’t believe that January is nearly over already. This year has truly started with a bang and I’m feeling very inspired. And very busy! There’s some new branding and website projects in the works. I’ve been doing a lot of photo shoots and some travel plans are starting to shape up, which is so exciting since it feels like I haven’t had a holiday in a really long time.

I’m also starting a new monthly column called Bites to share some of my favourite things that happened during the month just gone, whether it be photos snapped on Instagram, adventures, amazing things I’ve eaten, books or blog posts I’ve read or just other stuff that is inspirational. So here is what has been going on…

january bites… daring & disruptive

I absolutely loved reading Daring and Disruptive by Lisa Messenger, all-round inspiring lady. When I finished this book, I flipped right back to the start to read it again.

january bites… shuk

As a freelancer, I work alone most days so it's awesome when I get to work with Naomi from her office in Bondi. Even better when she takes me out for lunch. This almond and cinnamon pancake with halvah, berries and crushed pistachios from Shuk was seriously delicious.

january bites… bd woof!

And we were joined by the adorable BD Woof. She even has her own Instagram!

january bites… sunset swims

It is highly motivating to tell myself that I can go to the beach when I finish all my work.

january bites… cuckoo cal lay

My sister and I had an epic brunch at Cuckoo Callay in Newtown, a cute little spot just outside the train station. We had the 'Beret Stars and Stripes' with Brioche French toast, maple bacon, peanut caramel, whipped ricotta and maple syrup and in the back you can see the epic chips. They were like half a potato in each chip! We could only eat about three each.

january bites… delivery hero

I was one of the winners of Delivery Hero's Not Just Another Food Blogger competition and they interviewed me on their blog late last year. Then I got a lovely surprise prize and thoughtful note in the mail. Thanks guys! 

january bites… angry pirate

I took photos of some cocktails at The Angry Pirate in Redfern. A few were on fire.

jan-bites-targie

My kitty cat Tagine is as crazy as ever. She makes me laugh every single day, but I can't imagine life without her #catlady

Inspiring Reads

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Lamington Pavlova

lamington pavlova

Australia Day is one of my favourite occasions to bake for. It's a great chance to get creative and have fun with some Aussie-inspired desserts. And we get a day off work too! In past years I’ve made Lamington Doughnuts and Pavlova Ice Cream, and this year I decided to combine these two classics into one epic dessert: the Lamington Pavlova. A messy but delicious hybrid that equals patriotic perfection! Yes it tastes as good as it looks. And yes, I had seconds. Actually, we all did ;)

lamington pavlova

I’ll tell you a little secret. I wasn’t a huge fan of either of these two desserts until I tried making them myself. Soggy pavlovas and cheap supermarket lamingtons are not good things! But imagine two layers of chocolate meringue, with whipped vanilla cream, an insane amount of fresh summer berries, chopped Bounty bars, coconut chips and a rich choc-coconut fudge sauce drizzled all over the top to serve. I loved the combination of different flavours and textures, and the way the rich sauce brought it all together.

lamington pavlova

I think it combines the main elements of the lamington and the pavlova perfectly. I think it's a beautiful and impressive looking dessert to bring out at your Australia Day celebration this weekend. It found it a little bit messy to cut up and serve, but it tasted amazing. You could also make this as an Eton mess if you prefer the messy vibe.

Hope you all have a wonderful long weekend, and that the weather holds out for some long, lazy celebrations. If you're having a party big or small, there's heaps of food and styling ideas over here on my Pinterest board to inspire you!

lamington-pavlova-4

Monday, January 19, 2015

Simple Dinners 11 / Prawn Sliders with Lemon Fennel Slaw

prawn sliders with lemon fennel slaw

I think there’s something so Australian about a beach picnic to make the most of our gorgeous summer days. It’s no surprise that I love picnics. I’m not sure what it is, but eating outdoors in a new place (or a favourite place) is really special. Sydney - you gorgeous city, you - is rich in beautiful picnic spots, though my current favourites are the insanely beautiful harbour beaches that are conveniently within walking distance of my house. My housemate and I often make a few sandwiches, bring a bottle of wine and head down to the beach for a spontaneous sunset picnic and a quick dip in the ocean. It makes me happy.

Australia Day is next weekend and if the weather is good that’s definitely where you’ll find me. I made these little prawn sliders on the weekend and it got me thinking that they’d be perfect to take along on your next picnic. I could ramble for hours about perfect picnic foods, but I think you can’t go wrong with a sandwich. They’re portable, easy to eat and endlessly adaptable. Mine had some fresh Aussie prawns with a delicious lemon and fennel slaw.

prawn sliders with lemon fennel slaw

I think these little sliders can go seamlessly from beach picnic to dinner party, and would make a great appetiser too. I love the slaw most of all - it is crunchy and fresh, with a hint of sweetness from the apple and a light creamy buttermilk dressing. Fennel goes so well with many different things, which gives you options, so here are a couple of ways you could mix it up:

  • Try it with other seafood like lobster, shredded crab or smoked salmon
  • Make a variation on the slaw with shredded carrots and a lime and fish sauce dressing
  • Use large bread rolls instead of slider buns for a more substantial lunch
  • You could also use poached chicken instead of prawns. Delicious!
  • Add some homemade zucchini pickles. I think the acidity would work really well with the slaw.
prawn sliders with lemon fennel slaw

Friday, January 16, 2015

2015 Kitchen Resolutions

spicyicecream-kitchen-resolutions

I can't believe we're already half way through January - but this year has really started with a bang! I thought long and hard about my "resolutions" and discovered that the majority of them would take place in the kitchen and the office. While 2014 was a year of change and uncertainty, I think this year will be about learning, growth and good habits. I'd like to share them here to keep me accountable, and check back every now and then to see how I'm going, and what still needs work. Here we go...

1. Plan more, waste less. I often fall into the trap of impulse-buying good lookin’ produce with no idea what to do with it, and then not using it before it starts to wilt or go bad. Sometimes my housemate and I will end up buying the same thing. A few lists and a little bit of planning can go a long way to reducing the amount of food that is wasted - which is good for the planet and means more cash to buy cute props!

2. Be adventurous. I used to be the fussiest child ever and even though I have definitely become more open minded with food, there are still things I avoid trying because I think I might not like them, or don’t know how to cook them properly. But I’ve been proven wrong many times when I just get over it and give new things a try. This year I want to try cooking more seafood and adding a few more Asian dishes to my repertoire.

3. Make more things from scratch. There is something tremendously satisfying about making things that most people just buy from the supermarket like ricotta, curry pastes and pickles. There are an endless amount of things to experiment with. And as a bonus, it is usually cheaper and tastes so much better!

4. Start a small kitchen garden. I know I’ve said this before, but I accidentally murdered my herbs last time. Ooops! I’d love to be able to go outside the kitchen door and snip fresh coriander for my curries and cherry tomatoes for my salad. Maybe if the basics go well, I can try to grow a few of my other favourite vegetables and herbs.

5. Cook for friends. More dinner parties! I totally love having my friends over for lunch and dinner and we have the perfect apartment for entertaining, so I'd love to make the most of it. I'm definitely not as ambitious as Jordan who plans to host 52 dinner parties this year, but it's a great way to catch up with friends and make them feel special with a fabulous home cooked meal.

Do you have any kitchen-specific resolutions? Tell me in the comments, I'd love to know!

Friday, January 9, 2015

My Favourite Green Smoothie

my favourite green smoothie

I always find the start of a new year to be full of gimmicky health messages and short-lived resolutions, although I can’t help but appreciate the sentiment to treat our bodies a little better and hopefully bring in some goals and good habits that will last beyond February. I have been drinking green juices and smoothies for a couple of years now, but it was only about six months ago that I invested in a high-powered blender and started making them at home almost every day. I really love starting my day with a big hit of fruits and vegetables.

If you’re ready to start making smoothies at home, here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Green smoothies don’t have to be ‘green’. I add a massive handful of spinach to my smoothies no matter what. Depending on the other fruits and vegetables you use, the colour can vary from green to purple to... a somewhat questionable brown. But I think the foundation of healthy greens is the most important building block.

my favourite green smoothie

2. Use the whole fruit where possible. One reason I like smoothies is because you can get an extra dose of nutrients from the parts of the fruit that you wouldn’t normally eat. I add kiwi fruits and mangoes with the skin on because there’s a crazy amount of fibre and more antioxidants than the fruit itself! Of course you should always give your fruit a wash before you add it to the smoothie and you may want to keep the blender on a few extra seconds to really make sure it has properly broken down.

3. Experiment. And make it pretty. If you still need some convincing about drinking your greens, try out a few of your favourite fruits and vegetables with some mild tasting spinach leaves before you upgrade to kale! Also experiment with nutritious add ins like chia seeds and nuts, and different liquid bases like coconut water, almond or coconut milk. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a pretty glass, festive straw and tasty garnish. Add a wedge of pineapple and pretend you’re on holidays!

I’ve tried a lot of different smoothies over the last few months, and this is one that I keep coming back to. But it’s also quite flexible, depending on what you have in the fridge. Sometimes I use peaches or payaya instead of mango, or add a banana. If I’m starting to feel under the weather, I’ll throw in a little fresh ginger or turmeric. I love the tropical fruit flavours and the creaminess from the coconut and almond milk, which also helps it to feel a little more filling and substantial. There are no rules! Give it a try and adapt it as you go.

my favourite green smoothie


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Best of 2014

best of 2014

I hope you all had a really lovely Christmas and some time off to relax. I always get quite reflective around this time of year on the things that have happened and how fast time is flying by! This year was all about hard work and learning as I started to build my freelance business. I didn't get to bake and blog quite as much as I tried to get used to my crazy new work schedule, but I have some exciting things planned for this space in the next little while so stay tuned for a few changes to come! This year I turned 26, this blog turned 7, we adopted a cat and I didn't leave Sydney at all! I hope that 2015 brings a little more balance, growth and hopefully some travel. Here is a little look back on some of my favourite posts for the year.

1. At the beginning of 2013 I made these Berry and White Chocolate Blondies and set a few goals for the year. Happy to say I almost made it to 20 books (currently reading #18) but really didn't keep up with my adventures once a week as work and life often got in the way. This is definitely something to focus on in 2015.

2. The most popular post of the year (and also the third most popular post of all time!) was the Tipsy Peach Iced Tea, which was a delicious and refreshing summer drink. You guys have good taste ;)

3. The award for dessert eaten the most quickly has to be the Churros with White Chocolate Raspberry Ganache! I guess you can't go wrong with fried dough, chocolate and sprinkles!

4. This was a very special cake, because I love making birthday cakes and this Chocolate Chip Passionfruit Naked Cake was for my sister Beth's 21st birthday party. I was so happy with how this one turned out and everyone loved it too, especially the birthday girl!

best of 2014

5. I was so happy that I finally tried making a Dutch Baby served with Chai Poached Pears and Caramel. I loved the wintery flavours in this decadent breakfast, but I'd also love to try it again with summer fruits soon. I also really embraced caramel this year, apparently!

6. I loved this winning combination of ingredients in a simple but impressive Star Anise Panna Cotta with Caramelised Pineapple. It was actually halfway between a panna cotta and creme caramel, which made it totally delicious.

7. As you know, I love love love making doughnuts, but I was thrilled to try a recipe for a baked version that tasted just as good as a fried one! Definitely check out these Baked Doughnuts with Fresh Berry and Pomegranate Glaze. It's a great one for kiddies as they are healthier than their fried counterparts and the glaze is made with colour and flavour from the berries - nothing artificial here!

8. This pretty Hummingbird Cake was probably one of the recipes that surprised me the most, it is such a simple combination of ingredients but it works so well and is very very pretty :)

I also just wanted to say a massive thank you as always to all of my fabulous readers. I read every single one of your comments and they mean the world to me. Thanks for joining me on another year of sugar and sprinkles, and I wish you the most wonderful year ahead xx

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Gingerbread Chocolate Tart

chocolate gingerbread tart

Just a short post from me today as I've got some baking to do myself! But if you're looking for a perfect / easy / impressive / last minute Christmas dessert? I've totally got you.

This hybrid gingerbread chocolate tart came out of another sweet brainstorming session with my sister, because I really wanted to use the cute little gingerbread men confetti sprinkles that she bought me as a gift. Aren't they awesome! It is the last minute though so if you can't find them, you can use any excess pastry to make a few mini gingerbread biscuits to decorate the top.

chocolate gingerbread tart

I adapted my normal favourite pastry to include a good hit of ginger and spices. Don't be afraid to go overboard with the spices, even in the dough itself tastes quite strong, it mellows when baking and when combined with the chocolate, the ginger itself can be quite subtle. I also put a small Australian twist on it and used some finely ground roasted wattleseed from Herbies that kind of tastes like coffee and biscuits. It's delicious!

To really make this dessert beautiful and decadent, I also served the tart with some whisky-spiked caramel sauce and fresh raspberries. Gotta have a boozy sauce - it's Christmas! I loved the way all the elements worked together in harmony, especially the raspberries to offer a slight tart contrast to the rich chocolate. It feels special and festive all at once.

chocolate gingerbread tart

I also just want to thank you all, my wonderful readers for another year filled with sugar and sprinkles. I have some exciting plans for this space in the next few months and can't wait to show you! Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy holiday filled with good food and quality time with your family and friends xxx

chocolate gingerbread tart

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