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?
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Do you make a menu plan for your weekly dinners, or wing it every night depending on what you feel like eating?
I'll definitely admit to some
Food waste is a huge problem these days with Aussie households throwing away $8 billion worth of food every year. That number is incredibly alarming, but could be so easily turned around if we all shopped a little more thoughtfully and made better use of our leftovers. And it will save you money too! Because I find that herbs are the one thing I find myself throwing out most often, I've put together some tips for how to store them, use them and preserve them below.
1. Store them properly. The first step to maximising the life of your fresh herbs is storing them properly to avoid prematurely wilted leaves, and it can differ between the kinds of herbs. This article from Taste has some great tips.
2. Make pesto. Any leafy green herbs you have lying around will work including basil, parsley, coriander, mint and even spinach, kale and rocket leaves. Whiz in the food processor with some olive oil, pine nuts (or almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds - experiment with it), parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Serve with pasta or freeze for later.
3. Make herb butter. I absolutely love this idea! Soften some salted butter and mix in almost any kind of chopped herbs (or a mixture). This is a delicious and practical way to extend their life by a few weeks.
4. Add to a drink. Parsley and mint are delicious and good for you in green smoothies and juices. A few basil or mint leaves in some iced water is wonderfully refreshing, and you can get really creative with herbs in cocktails and cordials. Basil and berry mojitos, a coriander mule, rosemary simple syrup or the classic mint julep, just to name a few.
5. Freeze them in olive oil. This is a great little tip from The Kitchn that prevents them from turning brown in the freezer and infuses the oil with a great flavour that will carry through into your cooking. Note: this works best with 'hard herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme, and oregano.
6. Dry them. Almost all herbs can be dried for use later. This article has lots of great tips and step by step photos of several ways to dry herbs - from in the sunshine to in the oven.
7. Grow your own. If you have some space in your garden or on your balcony, consider planting a few of the herbs you like to cook with. Most grow really well in pots, and when you only cut what you are about to use, you'll have fresh herbs all the time and no waste. If you grow coriander, you can also use the seeds in cooking, they're lovely lightly toasted in a pan and added to soups and stocks or pounded in a mortar and pestle and added to curries.
I had an enormous bunch of silverbeet (99c!) plus a few half bunches of herbs and some rocket in the fridge when I stumbled across this recipe in one of my favourite cookbooks, Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi. This kind of recipe is very 'forgiving' and you can easily substitute some of the greens, herbs and even cheeses for whatever you have available. In keeping with the theme of not wasting food, I also loved that the recipe used both the leaves and the stems of the spinach, which gave it a really interesting flavour and more hearty texture.
After years and years of hating ricotta, I think I can safely say I'm now a fan, and it goes so well with spinach and pastry, as most people have known forever. This pie reminded me of a cross between a Turkish burek and a Green spanakopita - both things I now love!!
Here are a few ways to mix it up...
- My Dad thinks it would have been nice with some meat in the pie - either chicken or pork mince that can be fried with the onions before moving on with the recipe as below.
- Try kale or swiss chard instead of spinach
- Experiment with different herbs, depending on what you have left in the fridge. Dill or coriander would also work wonderfully.
- Add some toasted pine nuts for a little bit of crunch
- You could try using a good quality butter puff pastry instead of the filo
- It's perfect the next day for lunch, or on a picnic, and delicious served at room temperature
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
I realise that it might be a little bit cruel to be talking about dessert at breakfast time, especially when salted caramel is involved, but I just had to share this recipe with you. I've cooked up some pretty delicious things in recent times but I've gotta say - and this is a big call - this recipe is my new favourite. I'm already looking for another occasion to make it again soon.
It involves beautiful summer fruit (I used peaches but you could try other stone fruit as well), vanilla bean-spiked mascarpone, a homemade oat crumble and a generous amount of salted caramel. It elevates an already beautiful peach to something almost transcendent.
It came about when I was looking for a quick but still impressive dessert to make for a dinner party last weekend. This fit the bill perfectly, and was definitely a crowd pleaser. The flavours just work.
When you get a little of everything on your spoon, it's a party in your mouth between the sweet, creamy, salty and crunchy elements. The oat crumble and caramel sauce can be made well before your guests arrive, and the peaches popped into the oven just before you serve the main course.
As I mentioned earlier, I think it would also be amazing with other stone fruit such as nectarines or plums. It could even work with grilled fruit such as figs, mango or pineapple. Uhh, yum! And in winter a version with pears or apples would be the ultimate comfort food.
You could try a big scoop of ice cream or creme fraiche instead of the mascarpone, and crumbled meringue or praline on top. With room for versatility like that, I think this recipe will become a firm part of my repertoire!
Monday, February 10, 2014
It was only after I'd made, styled and photographed this dessert that I planned to post next week that I realised that it'd actually be a pretty awesome dessert for Valentines Day. Apparently in February I develop an infatuation with doughnuts and raspberries, as last year's post contained accidentally similar flavours!
Let me preface this post by saying I've never been a fan of the rampant commercialism that comes along with VDay. This is also my first one as a single lady in years... But this year I'm actually a little thankful for a little reminder to show and tell my friends how much I love and appreciate them, because it's something we perhaps don't do as often as we should. I know I'm guilty.
I like to show my love for the people in my life with cooking, whether it be making their favourite foods or express posting them a batch of cookies. More than anything I wish I could teleport all of my friends from their various corners of the globe, get them all in a room together, drink some wine, laugh a lot, cook them an incredible meal, and finish with this dessert.
So whether you're spending time with your boyfriend, girlfriend or best friend, I hope you tell them how much they mean to you. And not just on Valentines Day, but often. I urge you to avoid the tacky store-bought flowers and overpriced chocolates. This year, show your love with something homemade instead, whether it be a home-cooked meal, a scrapbook of photos, or if you're crafty, a DIY gift. There's lots of ideas over here!
These churros all but vanished, they were consumed so fast. A few even went missing during the photo shoot. I love this combination of flavours - a barely sweet doughnut cooked to a perfect golden brown, paired with a white chocolate and raspberry ganache, that also includes a healthy splash of Chambord raspberry liqueur. And some sprinkles for good measure, because lets face it - sprinkles are never a bad idea :)
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
One of the things I love the most is learning about and trying out new foods and ingredients. I could spend a ridiculous amount of time and money happily wandering around specialty supermarkets, picking up random products I've never heard of and then pottering around the kitchen finding delicious ways to use them. The last few years has been all about exotic superfoods with amazing health benefits, alternative gluten-free flours and sweeteners.
They were just starting to come into the mainstream when I started blogging nearly seven years ago, championed by Heidi Swanson from 101 Cookbooks and Alice Medrich amongst others. These days, quinoa, buckwheat, and most of those once hard-to-find ingredients are now available in your local supermarket!
I love chia seeds. They are super healthy and delicious sprinkled on cereal or yoghurt with fruit and in juices and smoothies too. But I'd never tried baking with them, and I wanted to do a slightly different take on the classic lemon and poppyseed muffin.
I used a recipe from Taste, and it was ridiculously easy to make all in one bowl for minimal washing up, which is always a good thing! I also made a very simple glaze which was a nice touch for a little bit of sweetness, but they would also be nice without.
These muffins would be a great little snack to pack in the kiddies' lunch boxes now that school is back. Next time I might add a little yoghurt to keep the muffins super light and moist, as the texture was a tiny bit heavy.
You could also experiment using the zest of orange, lime, grapefruit or a combination of all for slightly different citrussy taste. And if you can't find chia seeds at the supermarket or health food shop, poppy seeds would be delicious too!
Thursday, January 30, 2014
I used to think of myself as strictly a coffee only girl, but things have definitely changed. I sometimes still have a coffee in the morning or if I'm out with friends, but I'm predominately a tea drinker these days!
I have a problem walking past T2, but an even bigger problem if I end up walking in. This photo only shows part of my collection *blush!* If you've been reading for a while, you'll know that I love tea in all manner of desserts, from earl grey ice cream to chai doughnuts, but I am always intrigued when I see tea used in cocktails.
Last summer I started making iced tea regularly because it was so delicious and refreshing, and I couldn't help but think that some kinds of tea would be awesome with a few shots of booze - because what isn't improved with booze, really? - and served as a pitcher cocktail.
The possibilities are endless of course - a fruity tisane with vodka, lemons and strawberry pieces, or a twist on the mint julep with peppermint tea, bourbon and fresh mint (I can tell you that this is in fact delicious!)
For this month's Thursday Tipples post, I experimented with a vanilla black tea combined with peaches, spiced rum, vodka and a little Cointreau, and it turned out even better than I'd hoped. This drink feels very summery because of the peaches, and I loved the subtle spices that came through from the tea and the rum.
So here's something to do this weekend... Make a big pitcher of tipsy iced tea and drink this with friends at sunset, sitting on the balcony or out in the backyard - perfect! You can thank me on Monday ;)
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
While I love making elaborate meals when friends come over for dinner, when I'm cooking for myself I like to keep things super simple and relatively healthy. I love writing this Simple Dinners column every month, because it allows me to either try brand new things in search of easy weeknight meals, or to share dishes that have become my favourites over the last few months.
I've made this salad a lot because it's so quick and delicious. The flavour combination works really well, and it's filling but not heavy. With Australia Day coming up and a long, lazy weekend on the way, I've had this recipe on the brain and thought it was a perfect time to share it here.
To me, this is a perfect fresh, modern Aussie salad that you could cook on the BBQ, or serve at room temperature on a picnic. It's gluten free and has no carbs, so you can definitely justify an extra serving of pavlova ice cream or lamingtons for dessert ;)
Here are a few ways to mix it up...
- It's a great way to use leftover roast lamb or even beef
- Serve this salad with grilled lamb cutlets on top instead of the sliced lamb
- Mix in cooked cous cous or quinoa for a more substantial meal
- Use grilled haloumi instead of the lamb to make it vegetarian friendly
- Try baby cos lettuce if you don't love the peppery taste of rocket
- Marinate the lamb in different spices - cumin, sumac and chilli would be delicious
- I used goats fetta this time, but normal fetta is also a winner
- A lemon mint vinaigrette would definitely be tasty!
- If asparagus isn't in season, try blanched broccolini or green beans
For other Aussie recipes, click here.