Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hope Helps


Photo credit: stock.xchng

Today I would like to talk about the hard work of Melanie Jeffree, founder of the cancer fundraising group Hope Helps. Two years ago, Melanie’s husband was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma and is still fighting hard against the disease. His positive thinking and amazing spirit were Melanie’s inspiration to do everything she can to help the fight against cancer.

Hope Helps runs a variety of different events and projects including trivia nights, market nights, Daffodil Day, Biggest Morning Tea, and a Girls Night In. All of the profits are distributed between two charities, The Cancer Council and OnTrac@PeterMac.

The Cancer Council’s core business is cancer control. They conduct and support research, as well as delivering support and prevention programs and advocacy to reduce the physical and emotional burden of cancer. The leaders are of international standing and we are significantly and positively influencing the cancer agenda. They are a non-profit organization and rely on the generous support of donors and volunteers.

OnTrac@PeterMac is a state wide, multidisciplinary clinical and research team of healthcare professionals working towards improving the survival rates, quality of treatment and care of Adolescents and Young Adults (AYA) through the:
• Establishment of a dedicated state-wide AYA cancer team
• Development of a research and development program
• Development of a health promotion, training and education program for healthcare professionals working with young people
• Effective leadership in advocacy and policy development in AYA cancer care

OnTrac@PeterMac is currently supporting over 400 young people aged between 15-25 years living with cancer and is now an internationally recognized leader in identifying and addressing the medical, psychological and social issues impacting on young people living with this disease.

The goal at Hope Helps is to give these hard working cancer prevention groups better opportunities to make a difference in the lives of so many people. The money raised will be used to continue research into finding a cure for cancer and helping make a difference in the comfort of patients under going treatment for their Cancer.

Guess what, food bloggers? One of the projects that Hope Helps is co-ordinating this year is a collaborative cookbook. It is still in the planning stage so far, and Melanie is looking for recipe submissions. We are looking for original recipes to be published in the Hope Helps Cookbook. They can be absolutely anything, from a simple snack to an elaborate dessert. The success of this project depends on how many recipes are submitted, so if you can help either contact me at fruitcakey (at) gmail (dot) com or Melanie at melanie.jeffree (at) gmail (dot) com

Alternately, if you live in Melbourne and are interested in any of the Hope Helps events, contact Melanie for information.

***

In other news, a big congratulations to Jessie from Sui Mai, she won the logo design package offered in Menu For Hope. I’ve been working on the design and I can’t wait to show you what I’ve come up with! Thanks also to every one who nominated my prize for their Menu For Hope donation, and thanks to Pim and Helen for their efforts in organization. $91,188 was the total amount raised, an incredible achivement. Lets hope we can beat that number next time!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Lord Lamington

lamingtons

Being Australia Day today, I thought I’d bake appropriately. The British landed with the First Fleet on Australian shores and declared it a colony 220 years ago, so Happy Birthday Australia, why don’t you have some cake?

The lamington is undeniably an Aussie icon, much like the meat pie. It was most likely named after a 19th century Queensland Governer, though ironically Lord Lamington apparently hated the dessert named in his honor.

There are many stories about how the cake came into being, but even if the origin of the lamington is a little fuzzy it is nonetheless an enduring favourite. It’s a staple at the local bakery, and one of the best sellers at cake stall fund-raisers.

lamingtons

It can be dressed up with jam and cream but I prefer it plain – butter cake, chocolate icing and coconut. Today I was tempted to add some grated orange zest to the cake mixture but I refrained in the name of keeping it traditional. Don’t let that stop you though, there are so many possible alternatives and additions that could be used. Adding berries or dried fruit to the cake itself would be an interesting substitute for jam.

Lamingtons
Recipe adapted from Women’s Weekly Sweet
Makes about 40 bite-size lamingtons

• 90g butter, softened
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ½ cup caster sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup self-raising flour
• 2 tablespoons milk
• Shredded or desiccated coconut

Chocolate Icing
• 2 cups icing sugar
• ¼ cup cocoa powder
• 10g butter
• ½ cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a rectangular slice pan with baking paper
2. Beat butter, vanilla, sugar, eggs, flour and milk with an electric mixer on low speed until ingredients are combined. Increase the speed to medium, until mixture is pale in colour.
3. Spread mixture evenly into the slice pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow cake to stand for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool.
4. Trim the top and sides from the cake, and cut into 2-3cm cubes. Freeze the cake cubes for about 30 minutes before dipping into the icing.
5. To make the chocolate icing, sift icing sugar and cocoa into a heatproof bowl. Stir in the butter and milk. Stand the bowl over simmering water and stir until icing is of a good consistency.
6. Place coconut in a small bowl. Hold each cake cube on a bamboo skewer or toothpick. Dip into the chocolate icing then toss in coconut, one at a time, to cover. Stand lamingtons on a wire rack until set.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Aptly Named

perth

When showing friends and family the photos from my recent Perth trip, many of them asked why are there so many photos of food? I didn’t find it strange at all, actually its been a habit of mine for years. Looking through old holiday photos it’s not unusual to find pictures of various lunches scattered amongst those of beaches and palm trees.

I’ll leave the detailed restaurant reviews to those who do them best, but I wanted to quickly mention two places at which we dined. An afternoon in Fremantle culminated with the best frites I’ve ever tasted at Little Creatures, a restaurant/brewery with a great buzzy atmosphere. The rest of the menu was awfully appetizing but my poor stomach couldn’t handle it. Much deliberation also took place at Little Caesars Pizzeria, Mundaring in the Perth Hills. We finally decided on the Mexican-inspired Chicken Siesta and the dessert pizza Caramello Sam, which was much acclaimed by past visitors, and rightly so. Pastry cream, bananas, macadamias and caramel sauce – this pizza was lick-your-fingers good.

But we cooked at home for the most part, which I really enjoyed. Holiday cooking need not be complicated, though it was tempting to make it so when you have all day to plan for it. I made my delicious roast chicken, tried pizza dough from scratch for the first time, and was treated to my host’s own specialty – plum chilli chicken nachos. One night we lit candles and ate outside just after sunset. But closest to my own heart was something that had been in the works for well over a year - the aptly named sea disaster cake.

sea disaster cake

I don’t even remember how the idea came about, but somehow a shipwreck and the subsequent bloodshed at the tentacles of a monster on the high seas seemed a good concept for cake decorating. We started with a white chocolate mudcake base, one of my favourites and used a buttercream icing for its versatility and texture. The sinking ship is a piece of chocolate and almond biscotti. The sea monster is a green meringue, although next time I would bake a smaller cupcake in addition to the large cake and use green icing. The sea disaster victims are unfortunate jelly babies. We had so much fun putting this cake together, and we’re already planning the next catastrophe to be rendered in cake form.

White Chocolate Mudcake
Recipe Adapted from Australian Women’s Weekly Cupcakes
Serves 10-12

• 250g butter, chopped coarsely
• 160g white chocolate, chopped coarsely
• 2 cups caster sugar
• 1 cup milk
• 1 cup plain flour
• 1 cup self-raising flour
• 1 teaspoon coconut essence
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 eggs

Butter Cream Icing
• 250g butter, softened
• 1 cup icing sugar, sifted
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• Food Colouring

1. Preheat oven to 170°C, and line a 22cm round cake tin with baking paper
2. Place butter, chocolate, caster sugar and milk in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until smooth. Transfer mixture to a small bowl and cool for about 15 minutes.
3. Whisk in sifted flours, essences and eggs.
4. Transfer to cake tin and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tin.
5. To make the butter cream icing, beat butter with an electric mixer until light and creamy. Add icing sugar and vanilla and beat until well combined. Add food colouring as desired.
6. Spread over cooled cake and refrigerate until set.

sea disaster cake

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Completely Captivated

chicken macadamia quiches

Sometimes you find the most wonderful things in the most unexpected places. They catch you off-guard and the moment is made magic because you could never have even dreamed it up. I wouldn't say I'm a romantic person by any stretch but sometimes a girl needs something to take her breath away, make her forget where she's standing and just be completely captivated. But no, I'm not talking about a man right now... I'm talking about a cookbook...mostly :)

I just returned from 10 days in Perth, which is Sydney's little sister all the way over on the west coast of Australia. I stayed with a good friend who gladly let me take over his kitchen and even helped as we cooked all sorts of yummy things. I won't lie, supplies needed to be purchased, but he is now the proud owner of a baking dish, a removable-bottom cake pan and a nifty set of measuring cups and I can only hope that he gets some use out of them now that I've gone. We wandered around the lovely and historic Subiaco, visited two patisseries only to find them both closed, we ate fish and chips on the beach, sat in the gorgeous Kings Park, and I went on my first ever camping trip to Margaret River. It's a small, quaint little town about 300km south of Perth famous for local wine and surfing beaches. We explored Mammoth Cave, which was an incredibly well preserved natural wonder, and watched an amazing sunset over the Indian Ocean, something I've never had the pleasure of seeing for myself before. Unfortunately though, the camera battery died on our first day there, so we didn't get many photos of Margaret River, but stay tuned for photos of the rest of the trip!

It was in this tiny little town that I found a cookbook I've had my eye on for months now, Chocolate and Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier, who you all know from her blog of the same name, Chocolate and Zucchini. I couldn't believe that I found the book in Margaret River when I couldn't find it in Sydney! On the car trip home I pored over the pages (and dribbled over the photos) and decided right away on a quiche recipe that would be perfect for a picnic we were planning.

making quiche

We used what we had on hand to make the quiches, this involved substituting macadamias for the cashews specified in the original recipe, parsley for tarragon and Swiss cheese for Gruyére. The tiny quiches held up perfectly on the picnic. I liked the chunkiness, with each bite a melding of flavours and textures. I had been thinking about putting nuts into a quiche for some time now, and I was more than happy with the result. What's more was that they were easy and fun to make! Thanks Clotilde, if you happen to see this. Your book is a very welcome addition to my growing cookbook collection, and I hope you enjoy your time in Perth this year too!

Chicken and Macadamia Mini Quiches
Adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier
Makes 12

• 1 teaspoon olive oil, plus extra for greasing
• 3 small chicken breasts, cut into 1cm cubes
• 1 teaspoon minced garlic
• 3 ripe tomatoes
• 3 large eggs
• 1 ½ cups milk
• 90g plain flour
• Sea salt and cracked black pepper
• ½ cup Swiss cheese, grated
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
• 90g macadamias, chopped roughly

1. Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F) and use a pastry brush to grease a muffin pan with olive oil.
2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, stirring for a few seconds before adding the cubes of chicken. Cook until golden and pieces are slightly firm. Allow to cool.
3. Halve and core the tomatoes, discarding the seeds and juice. Dice the flesh into 1cm cubes.
4. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add the milk and whisk again. Sift in the flour, salt and pepper.
5. Add the chicken, cheese, tomatoes, parsley and macadamias and stir with a spoon.
6. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until golden and puffy. Transfer to a rack for 2 minutes to cool, then unmould to cool completely.

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