Sunday, March 28, 2010

Biggest Weakness

cupcake

One of my biggest weaknesses is peanut butter M&M’s. They can be a little hard to find in Sydney but thank goodness for all the convenience stores catering to the tourists in The Rocks! The combination of chocolate and peanut butter is hard to beat, and is one of my all time favourites. One of my favourite weekend breakfasts is peanut butter and nutella on toast, which is gooey and delicious, like a melted Snickers bar.

And this is why, when I saw this recipe on Epicurious, I bookmarked it immediately – chocolate brownie cupcakes with peanut butter frosting? Yes please. And with Easter right around the corner, what could be better than a decadent chocolatey treat?

The brownies are crispy and crackly on the outside, but the center is still ever so slightly gooey – a must for any brownie, as far as I’m concerned. The frosting is slathered on thick, and I added some extra vanilla extract and salt to cut through the sweetness of the icing sugar. On top I put a single slice of sautéed banana that was perfect with the flavours and textures of the cupcake. This is the best excuse to get chocolate on your fingers and then lick it off. So go on, indulge your inner child and your sweet tooth in one delicious treat.

Chocolate Brownie Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
Adapted from Epicurious
Makes 10

• 90g unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
• 225g dark chocolate, finely chopped
• 85g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
• ½ cup brown sugar, packed
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• ½ cup plain flour
• ¼ teaspoon salt

Frosting
• 1 cup icing sugar, sifted
• ¾ cup smooth peanut butter
• 50g salted butter, room temperature
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
• 2-4 teaspoons thickened cream, if needed

Sautéed Banana
• 1 banana, cut into 10 slices
• Butter

For the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and line 10 standard muffin cups with paper liners. Combine butter and 225g chocolate in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water. Stir until the mixture is melted and smooth. Remove from over the water and whisk both sugars into chocolate mixture and eggs one at a time. Whisk in vanilla, flour, salt and remaining chopped chocolate.

Divide between muffin cups and bake for about 20 minutes or until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached. Transfer cupcakes to a cooling rack to cool completely.

For frosting, place icing sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until mixture is smooth, adding cream by teaspoonfuls if frosting is too thick. Taste and add more salt if desired.

For sautéed bananas, melt butter in a small frypan over medium heat. Place banana slices in the pan, cooking for 2-3 minutes or until golden. Turn to cook the other side and drain on absorbent paper.

Spread frosting in swirls over cooled cupcakes, and top with a slice of sautéed banana.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Manly Wine

peacock!


What could be better than a beautiful meal with a beautiful view? Manly Wine is the latest offering from the Gazebo group, on South Steyne just metres from the beach. It’s our first venue on the other side of the harbour and our fourth venue to open since I started working there 18 months ago! Manly has all the quirky qualities that Gazebo is known for with a retro seaside twist. Working on their artwork was truly a lot of fun. With some lovely ladies in tow, we headed over the bridge.

rosé sangria

Greeted by a peacock suspended from the ceiling, some pink flamingos, and the restaurant’s lovely staff, we were shown to our table, which several people commented was the best seat in the house (someone must like me down there). We started with a jug of lovely Rosé sangria, which was absolutely perfect for such a nice summery night. Delicately flavoured with crème de fraise liqueur, bianco Italian vermouth, lemonade, strawberry and lemon, it was delicious and refreshing, perhaps going down a little too easily!

oysters

We were quite hungry by the time our share plates arrived, and being so close to the water we subconsciously gravitated to the seafood offerings. It’s now that I’ll confess, up until a year or so ago I wasn’t a fan of seafood, but I’m slowly broadening my horizons and trying new things. However I’m not quite up to oysters yet, but the girls loved them. They were wonderfully fresh, served with a shiraz vinaigrette, or simply a squeeze of lemon.

crispy squid

A dish I’d seen on the Gazebo Wine Garden menu and had wanted to try for a while was the Crispy Squid with mint, coriander and cucumber salad. The squid was crispy on the outside yet still wonderfully tender and was perfectly balanced with the freshness and crunch of the cucumber. The squid is a little on the salty side but nicely balanced when you try a little of everything in the one mouthful.

kingfish ceviche

An unexpected favourite for me was the Kingfish Ceviche served with a lemon and ginger spritz and crunchy edamame. It was presented beautifully, and was the most incredible fresh fish I’ve tasted in a while. The crunch from the edamame was perfect and I kept going back for more.

italian cold meats

The Italian cold meat plate was another great dish to share, and generous in size. It featured some gorgeous prosciutto and salami, but my favourite part though, was the quince jam, which was delicious with just about everything (especially shoestring fries!)

leek and tomato tart

The mains took a while to come out, which was good for digestion but bad for photos. By that time the sun had set and the restaurant is typically quite dark inside. Steph ordered the Soft Leek and Blistered Tomato tart with baby herbs, pesto and goat’s cheese. It was a classic combination of flavours with interesting textures, and pretty too.

grilled chicken salad

Denea picked the Char-grilled chicken with king prawn and avocado salad and lime & chilli dressing, pilled high into a tower. Now this is my kind of salad – hearty and yet still beautiful and fresh. The chicken was perhaps a tiny bit dry.

ocean trout

Karen went with seafood, of course and decided on the Grilled Ocean Trout with potato galette, blushed tomatoes & zucchini tagliatelle. The fish was cooked perfectly, but the plating of this was a little clumsy compared to the other dishes, and my photo doesn’t really do it justice.

fish & chips


And I decided on the Beer Battered Barra with mushy peas, crinkle cut fries and tartare sauce. I absolutely love the presentation of this dish. It’s so fun and unique, with the hilarious retro newspaper cone and deep fryer basket. It’s a big call, but I think this might be the best fish and chips I’ve tried in Sydney – the barramundi was so crunchy on the outside with a delicious beer batter that wasn’t oily or gluggy in the slightest. I have a huge love for crinkle cut chips, and you can never go wrong with mushy peas. My only complaint was that the portion was huge and I didn’t even come close to finishing it all!

Manly Wine is a great venue in a fabulous location. It’s spacious without seeming overly large, and would be just perfect for lunch before or after a trip to the beach, or to watch the sun set with your special someone and a glass of wine. I think the food is great for the medium price range (the most expensive main is $25) although it would be great to see a bit more difference between the menus of the three Gazebos, because they’re all very similar. The service was great and it was nice to see a few familiar faces. And as usual, I want to transport the quirky, mismatched furniture straight into my living room. I had a really great night with some of my favourite girls, and I’m looking forward to heading back to the beach again soon!

Manly Wine 8-13 South Steyne Manly

Manly Wine on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 19, 2010

Current Favourite

sorbet

I haven’t had a lot of time to spend in the kitchen lately, but it made me so sad to see the gorgeous plums I bought sitting unloved in the fruit bowl and I just had to make something delicious with them. And then few weeks ago at work, I was updating the menu for one of our venues, Kit & Kaboodle Supper Club and I remembered a fantastic cocktail I’d had there before called ‘Vanity’.

I was drawn to it because of the blood plum jam and brown sugar combination no doubt, and I decided to try and recreate those flavours in the form of a sorbet. It’s been a goal of mine this year to share many more original recipes, and this one turned out even better than I had hoped. It’s my current favourite, and I’ll definitely be making it again and experimenting more in the future.

I started by simmering the quartered plums with water, brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla extract until they were tender. I removed the skins with tongs (they come off easily once the plums are tender), added the vanilla and the vodka, cooled to room temperature, and then promptly forgot about it until a day or two later (this step is optional). The mixture is then pureed in the blender, and churned in an ice cream maker. And it’s amazing! The combination of flavours is just superb. It’s refreshing but sophisticated, with a great depth from the brown sugar. Eat it outdoors, at sunset on a late summer evening.

‘Vanity’ Plum and Brown Sugar Sorbet
Makes 1 litre

• 5 medium plums, stone removed, cut into eighths
• 1 cup water
• ½ cup brown sugar
• 1 tablespoon lime juice
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 30ml (1 shot) vanilla vodka

1. Place the plums, water, brown sugar, lime juice and cinnamon stick in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally until the plums are tender and the skins are starting to peel off the fruit on their own. Remove the skins with tongs and discard.
2. Stir in vanilla extract and vanilla vodka, and more lime juice to taste. Cool to room temperature.
3. Remove the cinnamon stick and puree mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth.
4. Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, and then freeze overnight or until scoopable.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Birthday Breakfast

pancakes

I recently went back to Perth for a few days for the boyfriend’s birthday. It was a big one, and I just had to be there with him. He wanted a quiet one, which was rather nice. He decided there needed to be pancakes in the morning, chicken schnitzel for dinner (my secret specialty!) and cheesecake for dessert. With a trip to the movies to see Alice in Wonderland, Pringles for lunch, and a cute birthday card with a puppy on it, of course.

vines

My efforts were completely outdone by his parents though, who scheduled a surprise wine tour of the Swan Valley for the two of us. Surprise, because we had no idea what the day would consist of, even until we arrived at our destination. Swan Valley is only about 15km from the city center, but you feel like you’re a world away, out in the country! First there was a cruise of the Swan River, complete with a wine and cheese tasting (all before 11am). We left the group at Guildford, a gorgeous historic town, and got on a bright pink bus, which took us to Ambrook Wines, where we did another tasting. Their Moscato was the highlight for me, absolutely sublime.

lunch

From there, another smaller bus took us to the Margaret River Chocolate Factory, where we sampled their dark, milk and white chocolates and picked up a few goodies and presents. We were then taken to a winery restaurant for lunch, whose name I unfortunately can’t remember. The tasting plate was delicious – smoked salmon, chorizo, char-grilled asparagus, frittata, amazing cheeses, dukkah, beetroot relish and more. Most of the vegetables were grown on the property, and the dukkah, bread, fritatta and relish was made in the kitchen, and many of the other items were local to the Swan Valley also. I was very proud of Steve for trying both asparagus and beetroot!

wagon

We were then picked up by a wagon with horses called Toffee and Bonnie, and given a tour of the area, which included a stop at an Aboriginal art gallery, an ice creamery and tastings at two more wineries before we headed home, exhausted and unbelievably full.

pancakes

But let’s get back to the pancakes. The recipe came from Delicious magazine a few months ago, gracing the cover of the November issue, and can also be found in Valli Little’s book ‘Quick Smart Cook’. The photo looked absolutely beautiful, and I knew the boy would love the bananas and caramel. The recipe itself was more complicated than my usual go-to pancake recipe, which can be made without cursing even before you’ve had a cup of coffee. The eggs are separated, with the whites beaten separately and folded in, which produced the lightest, fluffiest pancakes, but a fair bit of washing up.

I left out the crème fraiche, and I forgot the shredded coconut, but they were delicious nonetheless. The best bit is the caramel sauce, which we were drizzling on almost everything all week, and makes this a very indulgent breakfast. I think in the future I’ll stick with my normal buttermilk pancakes, because they’re easier to make and tastier in my opinion, but the banana and caramel combination was an absolute winner. It was a really nice few days away that I so needed after the craziness that was February. Perth was lovely as usual, and I hope the boy had a great birthday!!

Coconut Pancakes with Banana and Caramel
Serves 3-4
Adapted from Delicious

• 4 eggs, separated
• 1 cup (250ml) coconut milk
• 1 cup (150ml) plain flour, sifted
• 1 teaspoon baking powder, sifted
• 3 ripe bananas
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• Unsalted butter, to grease
• Crème fraiche, and shredded coconut to serve, optional

Caramel Sauce
• 50g unsalted butter
• ½ cup (100g) firmly packed brown sugar
• 3 tablespoons golden syrup
• 150ml thickened cream
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Stir all sauce ingredients in a pan over low heat, to dissolve, then simmer for 5 minutes until thickened. Set aside.

Place yolks, coconut milk and a pinch of salt in a bowl and whisk until combined. Gently fold in the sifted flour and baking powder. Mash 1 banana and fold in to combine, with the vanilla extract. In another bowl, whisk eggwhites to stiff peaks, then fold into the batter.

Heat a non-stick frypan over medium-low heat. Melt ½ teaspoon of butter in the pan. Add batter to the pan (I used a ½ cup measure to ensure pancakes were all even in size) and cook for 2-3 minutes each side, until golden and cooked. Keep warm while cooking the remaining batter.

Slice remaining bananas, arranging in a stack on a serving plate, alternating banana slices and crème fraiche (if using). Drizzle with caramel sauce and sprinkle with coconut.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

GourmetRabbit

gourmetrabbit cover

I’ve mentioned the “little” project I’ve been working on with Denea, the lovely Miss Jessica Rabbit, over the last few weeks but now I am more than happy to show you with pride, and a little bit of disbelief on my part that we made a magazine!

GourmetRabbit is 76 pages of pure content, bridging the gap between industry professionals and home cooks. The articles are written by the leaders in their fields – experts in wine, spices, produce, farming and of course, cooking. And I designed it, cover to cover.

jessrabbit

It seems strange to think that I only met Denea at the food bloggers Christmas picnic in December, surely I’ve known this girl for years! I offered her a fruit mince pie and we got to chatting. She wanted to launch a combination blog and magazine. As a graphic designer and foodie, it’s always been a dream of mine to design a food magazine. Several cocktail-fuelled meetings later, I was on board and excited about the concept.

farm change

From a list with only a few possible contributors, this has grown to contain articles from eating better meat (by Tim Elwin from Urban Food Market), to tasting wine (by Sharon Wild), to the seedy underbelly of commercial kitchens as told by a third year apprentice in a 3 hat Sydney restaurant, even how to eat for your star sign or make vinegar at home, and that’s only the beginning! I even have a recipe in the Munching section, for some amazing Summer Puddings to make the most of summer berries!

spicy icecream

The magazine was launched to the public on Monday 1st March at the lovely Tastevin Bistro and Wine Bar in Darlinghurst. It was exciting to see so many people there who were excited about the work we had done. Clement Chauvin produced some incredible canapés. My favourites were ‘Mary’s Bloody Bites’ vine ripened cherry tomatoes injected with bloody Mary and impaled with a cucumber, ‘Bonbon’ a French bonbon of ocean trout with preserved lemon puree, “I Love a Big Belly Footrest” slow cooked pork belly on pickled papaya and cucumber.

The dessert canapés stole the show, with mini crème caramels buttons with caramel rum sauce and the most incredible lemon and rhubarb macarons. The wines on the night were supplied by the lovely Stamford and Clark from McLaren Vale in South Australia, and the “Achacha in Wonderland” cocktail was made from the latest new fruit to hit Australia’s foodie scene.

wild about wine

This was quite a journey. Launching a magazine is not something I’d suggest if you value your sleep and/or sanity. But to hold the printed copy in my hands and flick through the pages of this book that I’ve worked so hard on and I am so proud of, is the most amazing feeling in the world.

watermelon

Thank you to Denea for giving me so much creative freedom, Alison Sainsbury who designed the website, Alex, Natasha and Clement at Tastevin for all the work they did for our launch, Simon, Lisa and Karen for their photography work, all the contributors and everyone who made it to the launch. I hope you enjoy the first edition of GourmetRabbit!

If you’d like to see what it’s all about, you can head to the website and subscribe online!

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