Sunday, July 31, 2011

Toffee Apple Trifle

toffee apple trifle

This is a dessert that has been on my mind for quite some time, in fact for almost a year it’s been floating around in my brain, and sketched into notebooks. Toffee Apple Trifle, it just has a nice ring, doesn’t it? And it seemed like the perfect sweet ending for my Christmas in July lunch! I like the idea of a trifle, but I’ve eaten so many downright awful ones over the years that I really wanted this to be special.

I’m usually not into desserts that have a lot of components to prepare, but this is an exception and completely worth the effort. But if you’re running short of time, you can definitely use a store-bought sponge cake and some good quality store-bought custard. Don’t be put off by how long the recipe looks, each part comes together quite quickly and the whole trifle can be made in advance so there’s no need to stress once your guests arrive. Here’s a bit of a rundown of each element that went into this dessert:

Apple Cider Jelly – This was the star of the whole dish for me, and the one element that truly made it unique. While only a small amount of cider was used, it was clearly discernible but still subtle when all the layers were tasted together. I used Monteith’s Apple Cider because it’s not too sweet, but feel free to use your favourite. I also like Napoleone & Co and Rekorderlig. It has also inspired me to create some other boozy jellies, but more on that soon.

Brown Sugar Sponge – I’m just going to come right out and say that I’m not very good at sponge cakes. I think I was a little too rough with my folding so the finished sponge was not as light and fluffy as I would have liked, but I loved the brown sugar flavour. Maybe you’ll have more luck than I did.

Salted Caramel Apples – I kind of made up the recipe as I went along, simmering Granny Smith apple pieces with butter, brown sugar, vanilla and salt until I was happy with the taste and the apples were cooked through.

Vanilla Bean Custard – The perfect creamy accompaniment to round out all of the flavours. I flavoured mine with vanilla bean, but cinnamon or other spices would also be lovely. I topped mine simply, with some Persian fairy floss for a little bit of wow factor, and a lot of fun.

toffee apple trifle

Toffee Apple Trifles
Serves 6
Note: You must begin this recipe 2 days before you wish to serve it

Apple Cider Jelly (adapted from Donna Hay)
Note: this recipe will make a little more than you need, so if there’s any leftover after you’ve filled your serving glasses, refrigerate the rest of the jelly separately for a nice treat

• 1 ½ tablespoons gelatine powder
• 1 ½ cups (375ml) apple juice
• 1 ½ cups (375ml) water
• ¼ cup (60ml) apple cider
• 1 cup (220g) caster sugar

Place the gelatine and ½ cup of the apple juice in a bowl and stir to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes or until the gelatine is absorbed. Place the remaining juice, water, cider and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add gelatine and stir to combine. Set aside to cool for 20 minutes. Evenly fill six glasses until 1/5 full and refrigerate for 2 hours or until set.

Brown Sugar Sponge (adapted from Gourmet Traveller)
• 6 eggs, at room temperature
• 80g brown sugar
• 80g caster sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 150g plain flour, triple sieved
• ¼ teaspoon baking powder
• 60g butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Whisk eggs, sugars and half the vanilla seeds on high speed in an electric mixer until mixture is tripled in volume and holds a trail (10-12 minutes). Transfer to a large bowl, sift over flour and baking powder in two batches, gently fold to combine, then fold in butter. Divide between two 20x30cm brownie tins lined with baking paper and bake until dark golden and centres spring back gently when pressed (15029 minutes). Cool slightly in tins and then turn out and cool completely on a wire rack. When cool, cut out circles the same diameter as your glasses and gently drop cake layer on top of jelly layer.

Salted Caramel Apples
• 4 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1cm cubes
• ½ cup brown sugar
• 75g butter, cut into cubes
• ¼ cup cream
• 1 ½ teaspoons salt, or to taste

Place apples into a medium saucepan with brown sugar and butter and cook, stirring, until butter and sugar are melted and apples are starting to soften. Cover and cook over low heat until apples are tender. Add cream, stir to combine and salt to taste. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature before dividing evenly among glasses. Refrigerate until required.

Vanilla Bean Custard (adapted from Donna Hay)
• 2 ¼ cups (560ml) pouring (single) cream
• ½ vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
• 6 egg yolks
• 1/3 (75g) cup caster sugar
• 1 tablespoon cornflour

To make the vanilla custard, place cream and vanilla bean and seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just comes to the boil. Cover and allow to infuse for 30 minutes.

Place the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly pour the warm cream mixture over the eggs and whisk to combine. Return mixture to the saucepan and stir over low heat for 6-8 minutes or until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove the vanilla bean and allow custard to cool completely. Divide evenly between glasses and refrigerate overnight.

To serve
• Pashmak, Persian fairy floss (optional)

To serve, place a little bit of Pashmak fairy floss on top of each trifle and serve immediately.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Devonshire, Surry Hills

the devonshire

Duck and pinot, two of my favourite things, and a match made in heaven! They seem to bring out each other’s best qualities. We were gathered at The Devonshire in Surry Hills on a chilly Tuesday evening, in celebration of this famous combination. During the month of July, seven of Sydney’s top restaurants have hosted the ‘Duck Trail’ with each putting on a special duck dish, matched with a Cloudy Bay 2009 Pinot Noir.

Each dish on the trail has been designed to bring out different characteristics in the wine. With July all but over, don’t fear if you’ve missed out, because next year’s event is set to be even bigger and better! I loved the cozy, intimate atmosphere of The Devonshire, and would definitely love to come back in the near future.

We started with some bread, hot from the oven (complete with a warning not to burn our fingers from our lovely waiter) which was served with two butters – Lescure from France, and a house made whipped honey butter that was just amazing! It was just so light and airy, and perfect on the delicious warm bread. Then we were served a luscious little amuse bouche of Salt fish brandade with parsley and preserved lemon
, which was a great start to the meal.

the devonshire

We had a choice of two entrees, a delicious dish of scallops, squid, celeriac, pomegranate and golden raisins. I didn’t actually try this dish, but from all accounts it was delicious. Our waiter tells us that in order to use the whole squid, the celeriac puree is tinted with squid ink so none of the creature goes to waste.

the devonshire

I chose the Macleay Valley rabbit raviolo, which was served with mushroom, tarragon, spinach and liver cream. It looked stunning on the plate and was quite a substantial entrée. I loved the way all of the flavours and textures worked together, from the shredded rabbit filling inside the perfectly cooked raviolo, to the awesome crispy rabbit belly that sat on top. It was a beautiful dish with some really sophisticated flavours.

the devonshire

The reason we were here tonight was the main course – breast and sausage roll of duck with salsify, hazelnut and parsley. I loved the novelty of the sausage roll, but it was a world away from the kind I used to eat as a kid. The pastry was so buttery and delicious, encasing a lovely, rich, meaty filling. I had never tried salsify before, it seems to be a bit of a neglected vegetable. It tasted sweet and earthy, and was absolutely lovely with the duck.

the devonshire

I had been secretly hoping that we would get to try The Devonshire’s signature dessert, a cute and clever play on Devonshire tea. I was delighted to see it on our menus! Earl Grey crème brulee was served in retro, mismatched tea cups alongside scone ice cream and crumbs, cherry jam and vanilla bean crème chantilly.

I love infusing creams and custards with tea and the crème brulee was lovely, and the toffee shattered with a satisfying crack under my spoon. If you had a little bit of each element together, it was uncanny how much it tasted exactly like scones and tea. Magical.

Many thanks to Kate and Erica from Mango (who are both awesome gals) and to The Devonshire for hosting such a lovely evening. I can’t wait to come back soon to try some other dishes from the menu!

Spicyicecream dined courtesy of Mango and The Devonshire

The Devonshire on Urbanspoon

The Devonshire - 204 Devonshire St, Surry Hills

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mulled Wine Cherry Sauce

mulled wine cherry sauce

There’s something that looks so magical about a proper White Christmas, complete with traditional roast dinner. But on Christmas Day down under, we’re much more likely to reach for the prawns and beer than the roast pork and mulled wine. That’s why I love Christmas in July – we get to have the best of both worlds!

christmas in july lunch

Over the weekend, I hosted a Christmas in July lunch for some of my best friends. I just love dinner parties. I love planning menus, doing the shopping, setting the table, and finally sitting down with friends and family to enjoy a special meal. There was a delicious roast pork shoulder with crackling, crispy roast potatoes, pear and fennel salad, and a blow-your-mind-awesome cherry and mulled wine sauce, which is what I want to talk about today.

We’ve had some lovely, cheap cherries around of late, and while I know they’re imported and have travelled thousands of miles to get here, they’re one of my favourite fruits. This sauce is absolutely genius. Red wine is simmered with cinnamon quills, bay leaves, peppercorns and cloves until it’s syrupy and delicious, then some red wine vinegar and sugar are added to balance the sweetness and acidity, and finally the pitted cherries go in to simmer until they’re tender. It’s delicious.

christmas in july lunch

The roast pork was a perfect match, but this would also be lovely with ham, turkey, duck, or even with a charcuterie platter. If you omit the vinegar, I think this would also work as a sweet syrup which would be delicious with puddings or spooned on top of ice cream. I think this sauce will be a regular addition to my Christmas table from now on, whether it’s July or December!

mulled wine cherry sauce

Mulled Wine Cherry Sauce
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller
Serves 20

Note: The recipe below serves 20, but is quite easily scaled down (I quartered it). However it’s so damn good that I think it’s worth making the whole batch, as it will keep in a sterilised jar in the fridge for up to 1 month.

• 750ml red wine
• 4 bay leaves
• 4 cinnamon quills
• 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
• 4 cloves
• ½ vanilla bean
• ¾ cup red wine vinegar
• 200g caster sugar
• 1kg pitted cherries

Combine red wine, bay leaves, cinnamon, peppercorns, cloves and vanilla bean in a wide saucepan and simmer over medium heat until fragrant and infused (8-10 minutes). Add vinegar and sugar, season to taste with sea salt, and stir until sugar dissolves.

Add cherries, bring to a simmer and cook until just tender. Transfer cherries and liquid (including herbs and spices) to sterilised jars, seal and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Monday, July 18, 2011

4143 at the James Barnes, Alexandria

4143 at the james barnes

I had never really rated Alexandria as a foodie hotspot, but several great establishments have opened up in the last few months, including this little gem of a gastro pub called 4143 at the James Barnes. It's run by Dedes Group, who also own Deckhouse, Dedes Restaurant and Flying Fish. This bar and bistro is located in the old (but beautifully refurbished) linseed mill, and the stunning building is the perfect spot for lunch, and incidentally, has great light for taking photos of that lunch!

The great outdoor bar has its own menu of your typical pub grub – steak sandwich, fish and chips, pizzas, chicken schnitzel – with the exception that they’re done really well. Inside there is a unique, sophisticated yet affordable bistro menu. The mains are served in small portions for $16, or large portions for $28, which is great for sharing between friends, or for those times when you just can’t tackle a whole main meal.

4143 at the james barnes

We started the afternoon with a few beers and 4143’s very popular wagyu burger with beetroot relish, gherkins, cheddar and aioli on a brioche bun, served with beer battered fries. I can definitely see why it’s a bestseller – it was absolutely fantastic! I loved the slightly sweet and buttery bun, and the addition of gherkins. In fact I think I liked it even better than Charlie & Co’s wagyu burger, plus it’s a huge serving for only $14 including those seriously awesome fries!

4143 at the james barnes

The caramelised onion tart was topped generously with goats curd. I loved the crisp and buttery pastry and the sweet onions, especially with the balsamic vinegar.

4143 at the james barnes

One of my favourite dishes of the day (apart from the burger of course) was the seared scallops on pea puree with chorizo. Not only did it look beautiful on the plate, the scallops were perfectly cooked and beautiful with the pea puree. The crispy chorizo was a lovely contrast in taste and texture.

4143 at the james barnes

The first of the mains was a lovely duck breast on du puy lentils, spinach and brussels sprouts. The duck was delicious and beautifully cooked and I loved seeing brussels sprouts in this dish, they are such an underrated vegetable! This was a great, hearty, wintery dish.

4143 at the james barnes

The crowd’s favourite of the main dishes was the braised lamb shank en crepinette. It didn’t look like your average lamb shank, but was deboned and stuffed with spinach. As your knife cut into it, the tender lamb fell apart. It was lovely with the creamy parsnip mash and muscatel jus. It had just the right amount of elegance, and is definitely a dish worth returning for.

4143 at the james barnes

With our mains, we had a variety of sides including roast baby beets and beans, buttered brussels sprouts with pancetta, and roasted chats with garlic and rosemary, all of which were delicious.

4143 at the james barnes

The "dessert stomach" is a strange yet well established phenomena amongst food bloggers and luckily they didn’t let us down today because there was still much more to come! I honestly couldn’t pick a favourite out of the desserts, they were all so good! First up was the bread and butter pudding with rhubarb and macadamia ice cream. I can never go past rhubarb on a dessert menu, but I was surprised to find that this was one of the best bread puddings I’ve ever tasted! I liked that it wasn’t overly sweet, nor too “eggy”. It’s the little touches, like the lightly caramelised top and the candied rhubarb on top that made this dessert really special.

4143 at the james barnes

“Oh my God, pop rocks!” exclaimed Becca upon her first mouthful of the chocolate and orange mousse, served with hazelnut biscotti. This dessert was so decadent and rich, but I couldn’t stop eating it. The pop rocks were a lovely surprise, and I maintain that no one is ever too old to enjoy pop rocks.

4143 at the james barnes

I have to admit to being a bit of a Tiramisu snob these days, but I’m happy to say that this was a fine specimen. It had a nice coffee kick but I agree with Simon in that it could have used a touch more booze ;) I didn’t get to try the Affogato, but it looked great and I’m generally a big fan. This comes as a DIY affair, where you pour an espresso and Frangelico over a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It looked delicious.

I really enjoyed the food and the atmosphere at 4143. While only a few weeks old, the team have really hit their stride and I think it would be a great spot for business lunches, after work drinks, cosy winter dinners and chilled out weekend lunches alike. That wagyu burger alone is worth the trek out to Alexandria, trust me, but make sure you save room for dessert!

Many thanks to 4143 for putting on such a beautiful lunch and to Denea from GourmetRabbit for her part in organising!

Spicyicecream dined as a guest of 4143 at the James Barnes.

4143 at the James Barnes - Building 9, 2 Huntley St, Alexandria

4143 at the James Barnes on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chai Doughnut Holes

chai doughnuts

I can’t believe that four years ago today, I sat down to write my first blog post. That’s right, today is my blog birthday!! I thought I would make something special to celebrate the occasion. Last year I made “spicy ice cream” and this year I thought I would play with some other spices. Specifically cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger… can you guess where this is going? Chai doughnut holes!

chai doughnuts

I remember my very first cup of chai, and the heady, warm aroma of all the delicious spices. It’s now one of my favourite things, but I especially love it in winter. And it works especially well in this recipe. These doughnuts are absolutely delicious! By infusing the milk, the chai flavour really shines through in both the doughnut itself and also the glaze.

The dough is incredibly easy to make, based on the same recipe I used for these espresso zeppole. It’s a great, versatile recipe, and having tried it both ways, I can attest that it is just as easy to make by hand as it is in a stand mixer. And as you can imagine, they go down very nicely with a cup of hot chai ;)

And to all of my readers - every single one of you - I'd like to thank you for your visits and comments, which never fail to brighten my day!

chai doughnuts

Chai Doughnut Holes
Recipe adapted from Gourmet Traveller
Makes 24

• 2/3 cup milk
• 2 tablespoons loose leaf chai tea
• ½ cup pouring cream
• 225g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 tablespoon dried yeast
• 30g caster sugar
• Vegetable oil, for deep frying

Glaze
• 150g icing sugar, sifted
• 3-4 tablespoons chai-infused milk, reserved
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place milk and chai tea into a saucepan. Warm over low heat until almost boiling. Remove from the heat, cover with a lid and allow to infuse for 1 hour. Strain through a sieve and discard tea.

Measure ¼ cup of the milk and return to the saucepan with the cream, reserving the remaining milk for the glaze. Warm the milk-cream mixture over low heat until lukewarm (about 1 minute). Meanwhile, combine flour, cinnamon, yeast, caster sugar and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add cream mixture and knead until soft and smooth (2-3 minutes). Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (35-40 minutes).

Knock back the dough, and roll out to about 2cm thick on a floured bench. Cut rounds of dough with a 6cm round cutter, and place on a lightly floured tray, covered with a tea towel. Stand for 30 mintues or until risen.

Preheat oil in a deep-fryer or deep-sided saucepan to 180°C (350°F). Deep fry doughnuts in batches, turning occasionally, until golden and cooked through (about 3-4 minutes). Be careful as oil may spit. Drain on paper towels and allow to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, to make the glaze, place icing sugar in a bowl with chai-infused milk and vanilla extract and whisk to make a smooth, pourable glaze. Dip cooled doughnuts into glaze and place onto a cooling rack with a tray placed underneath to catch stray drips of glaze. These doughnuts are best eaten on the day they’re made.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Strawberry Cake

strawberry cake

There haven’t been a lot of recipe posts here lately and for that I do give my apologies. There’s been a lot going on in the last couple of weeks – my birthday was amazing, Steve and I went on a whirlwind trip to Melbourne, I contracted a rather nasty cold, we moved offices to Kings Cross, and I’ve had a few downright baking disasters!

With so much happening, and with the chilly winter weather starting to get to me, I have been in a bit of a hibernation phase. I’ve been spending a lot of time at home, curled up in bed with a cookbook, or with my laptop keeping me warm while I re-watch some of my favourite TV shows. The much-needed downtime has been just what I needed to kick start my inspiration again.

strawberry cake

Which is why, when I saw some gorgeous and fragrant Queensland strawberries, I snaffled them up immediately. They tasted lovely and sweet – a little reminder of spring is just what I needed to lift my mood.

I decided to use them in a simple yet stunning cake from Martha Stewart. The light batter puffed around the sweet fruit, and the raw sugar on top gave the cake a nice crackly crust. It was a lovely afternoon tea cake, served simply with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream and some more fresh strawberries.

strawberry cake

This recipe would be a great starting point to try with other fruit too – I think that a mixture of berries, pears, apricots or even rhubarb would be delicious! You could even try playing around and mixing up the flours like Aran did in her beautiful version of this cake.

Another thing to note is that the original recipe called for a pie tin, but I used a normal spring-form cake tin and it worked fine. But whatever type of baking tin you decide to use, just be sure to grease it very well. I can't wait to bake this cake again when the weather warms up, and it would be a lovely cake to take on a picnic! But in the meantime, it's a nice little reminder that spring is just around the corner.

So tell me, readers, how do you shake the winter blues?

strawberry cake

Strawberry Cake
Recipe from Martha Stewart
Makes one 20cm cake

• 100g unsalted butter, softened
• 1 ½ cups plain flour
• 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup caster sugar
• 1 large egg
• ½ cup milk
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 500g strawberries, hulled and halved
• 2 tablespoons raw sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Butter a 20cm cake pan. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into a medium bowl.

Place butter and caster sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, and then mix in egg, milk and vanilla.

Reduce speed to low, and mix in the flour mixture in batches. Transfer batter to buttered cake tin. Arrange strawberries on top of batter, cut sides down and as close together as possible. Sprinkle raw sugar over berries.

Bake cake for 10 minutes, and then reduce oven temperature to 160°C (325°F). Bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 1 hour. Let cool in cake tin on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar and cut into wedges. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream if desired. Cake can be stored at room temperature, loosely covered, up to 2 days.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Burnt Orange, Mosman

Burnt Orange, Mosman

I am truly lucky to be surrounded by such awesome people. For my birthday last month, Steph and Karen whisked Steve and I over the bridge to Burnt Orange in Mosman. We had been to the fantastic homewares shop downstairs quite a few times but had never eaten at the café there. And what could be better than lunch with my favourite people, overlooking Sydney’s gorgeous harbour, followed by a spot of shopping!

We started with a jug of their signature Homemade Lemonade, with strawberries, lemon slices and mint leaves. I loved that it had just the right amount of sweetness and tang.

Burnt Orange, Mosman

To share, we ordered the Duck Terrine with prune and armagnac, served with toasted brioche. This was one of my favourites of the day, and so moreish. The duck terrine was beautiful, and the pieces of prune and pistachio gave it some lovely textural contrast and a nice wintery twist.

Burnt Orange, Mosman

We had noticed that there were pies practically flying out of the kitchen – definitely a popular choice on a perfect winter’s day. Karen chose the Beef Bourguignon Pie with mushroom, bacon and eschallots in red wine jus topped with flaky puff pastry. It was chock-full of cubes of tender beef, and absolutely delicious.

Steph went for the Fish Pie with a selection of fresh fish fillets in a creamy leek & white wine sauce topped with fluffy potato mash. For some reason I’m usually a little iffy about fish pies, but I was pleasantly surprised by how deliciously rich and creamy this one was. Both of the pies were huge and the girls both struggled to finish them, no matter how delicious they were!

Burnt Orange, Mosman

Steve decided on the Grilled chicken on a salad of pomegranate, pine nuts & sultanas with baby kipfler potato and a sherry vinaigrette. It came out looking very pretty on the plate, a medley of flavours and textures. However the chicken was a little on the dry side and this was a letdown in an otherwise great dish.

Burnt Orange, Mosman

I seem to be totally powerless against pulled pork, they are two of my favourite words. So it was clear that I would have to order the Slow-roasted pulled pork with a caramelized apple puree and gratin potato. It was absolutely delicious! The pork was perfectly tender and the apple was the perfect match. To say that I was thrilled with my choice is an understatement!

Burnt Orange, Mosman

Of course dessert was in order, but the decision was tricky, as every single one sounded right up my alley! Us girls couldn’t go past the Rhubarb & strawberry crumble with vanilla bean ice cream. I absolutely adore that combination and this dessert didn’t disappoint. There is nothing better than a fruit crumble on a cold day. And look at that gorgeous plate!

Burnt Orange, Mosman

We also shared the Prune & custard tart with a drizzle of “Burnt Orange sauce”, which was a sophisticated dessert and quite tasty. I’m nitpicking here but I think I would have liked it better with a slightly higher custard to prune ratio as prune has a tendency to overpower other flavours. Lets just say it was to the crumble that my spoon kept returning to, even though I was well beyond full by this point!

While Steve is quite certainly a grown man, his attention (to my amusement, but not surprise) went straight to the kids menu, specifically the Banana Split. With bananas being so expensive at the moment, we hadn’t eaten one in months! Thankfully our waitress didn’t bat an eyelid when he ordered it, and even gave him an extra scoop of ice cream! And it was actually a really good banana split, complete with rich chocolate sauce and a brandy snap – those lucky kids!

Burnt Orange is a great café on Sydney’s stunning north shore. I was really impressed by the delicious and quite extensive menu that changes seasonally, and also by the great service and the amazing view. If you visit, definitely check out the shop downstairs. Some of my favourite props, plates and knickknacks were found there and appear quite often in my photos. Thanks again to Steph and Karen for treating me to such a lovely afternoon! xxx

Burnt Orange Café, 1109 Middle Head Rd, Mosman

Burnt Orange on Urbanspoon

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