Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ginger Beer Bundt Cake

ginger beer bundt cake

I suppose for those of you who know me well, the surprising thing is not that I made a Ginger Beer Bundt Cake, but that it has taken me four years to do so! I have an insane love of ginger beer (you can blame Steve for that) and it's pretty much the only soft drink I like. I think my bottle-a-day habit helped to keep The Rocks convenience stores in business! I have been wanting to use it in a cake for ages, and when I bought my first ever Bundt tin a few weeks ago, I just knew it would be perfect.

Have you been to visit Sweetapolita? It's one of my favourite baking blogs, and I just fell in love with the vanilla bean Bundt cake she made. How perfect is that glaze?! I decided to adapt that recipe to use mostly ginger beer as the liquid component in the cake and the glaze, as well as some extra ground ginger for flavour.

ginger beer bundt cake

The cake was easy to put together and baked up beautifully, with a great crumb and texture, and it stayed nice and fresh for days. But I was a little disappointed that even after adding a cup of ginger beer and close to 2 tablespoons of ground ginger, the flavour of the cake had mellowed out after baking and the ginger wasn't discernible at all!

Next time I think I'll use a more concentrated ginger beer cordial rather than the soft drink to get much more flavour from the same amount of liquid. Same goes for the glaze. But I can't deny that even though I wish there was more of a ginger hit, this is still a lovely cake and one that I'll definitely be making again.

ginger beer bundt cake

Ginger Beer Bundt Cake
Serves 8-10
Adapted from Sweetapolita

• 3 cups plain flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 2 tablespoons ground ginger (or to taste)
• 250g unsalted butter, softened
• 1 ¾ cups sugar
• 4 large eggs
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ¼ cup milk
• 1 cup ginger beer cordial

Ginger Beer Glaze
• ½ cup ginger beer, or ginger beer cordial
• Approximately 5 cups icing sugar, sifted
• 1-2 teaspoons ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 175°F (350°F). Generously butter pan and dust with flour, knocking out the excess.

Sift together the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ginger. Beat together the butter and sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla extract. Combine milk and ginger beer cordial in a jug. Alternately add flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, mixing until just combined.

Spoon batter into prepared pan, smoothing and spreading evenly. Gently tap pan on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake for about 1 hour, until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 1 hour, then invert onto a rack and cool completely.

To make the glaze, whisk icing sugar 1 cup at a time into the ginger beer until it reaches a consistency that will drizzle slowly and not run off the cake. Whisk in ground ginger to taste. Once the cake has cooled, place it on a wire rack over a baking pan and drizzle glaze on top. You might need to go over it a few times to get a nice thick glaze.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

SAXA Salt's 100th Birthday at Becasse, Westfield Sydney

saxa 100th birthday, becasse

A shopping center isn't necessarily the first place you'd think of when fine dining is involved, but Westfield Sydney is establishing itself as quite the food destination in recent months. With the most fancy food court you've ever seen on Level 5 and a whole host of new restaurants opening up on Level 6 including Xanthi, Chat Thai, Spiedo and Chinta Ria Mood for Love, there's no denying that Sydney is loving having an amazing selection of world-class restaurants under the one roof.

I had been hearing amazing things about the new Becasse, but before I could book myself in, I was thrilled to be invited to SAXA Salt's 100th birthday, an intimate lunch with a menu created by the incredible Justin North. Not a bad way to spend a few hours away from the office on a Thursday afternoon! A long hallway transports you from the food court, through all of the seasons. It's just stunning, and really sets the mood for Justin's seasonally inspired menu. The dining room is surprisingly small but friendly and intimate, with stunning decor almost feminine in style, a hybrid between Etch and Circa The Prince. Inside the restaurant, you'd have no idea that hundreds of busy city workers were lunching in the food court just outside.

Salt is on the menu today, and I am fascinated to see all the ways it will be used throughout the meal. Justin tells us that the role of salt in cooking has changed in the last 100 years - from being a means of preservation before refrigerators were common, to these days being an amazing flavour enhancer in both savoury and sweet dishes. The canapés are some of the most beautiful I've ever seen, especially the glamorous squid ink chips with caviar.

saxa 100th birthday, becasse

The first course is like an artwork on the plate, although I expected nothing less after the gorgeously plated dishes that we had at Etch last year. The ocean trout has been cured and coddled (cooked in water below boiling point) a nod back to traditional preserving techniques, and served with preserved Buddha’s hand, artichokes and spring almonds.

I was intrigued by the Buddha's Hand, an oddly shaped fruit that I had never encountered before, but it was delicious and citrussy, a wonderful match for the ocean trout, which was cooked to perfection. The almonds had a completely different texture than you would expect – soft and almost chewy, but it was lovely with the other elements.

saxa 100th birthday, becasse

I was blown away by the Roast Saddle of Suckling Lamb, it was amazingly juicy and so tender, served with delicious white asparagus, kohlrabi, confit pepper jus and herbs. A gorgeous spring dish that was full of colour, flavour and texture, and a lovely match to the 2010 Oakridge Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley.

saxa 100th birthday, becasse

It was served with a Becasse signature side dish, the Forgotten Vegetables, served with a smoking pine cone, which added some theater at the table, as well as a subtle smoky flavour. I love that Justin has almost single handedly made these little-used vegetables sexy and glamorous again.

saxa 100th birthday, becasse

I was intrigued as to the ways Justin might use salt in the dessert, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. The Zokoko Chocolate and black cumin cadeu looked stunning on the plate, but it begged to be cracked open to reveal the gooey chocolate innards within. It was served on a bed of pain d’epice crumbs, which tasted almost like a fruit mince pie and gave the dessert an almost Christmassy feel.

It was served with the most magical ice cream, made from milk that had been reduced right down so the sweetness was concentrated, with a sprinkling of charcoal on top. An absolutely magical dish, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone in being pretty darn tempted to lick the plate clean!

saxa 100th birthday, becasse

You can’t have a birthday without cake, and 100 years is a pretty special occasion! The Becasse team made a wonderful birthday cake, which was cut by SAXA brand representatives. This was one amazing cake, with layers of meringue, raspberry and peach. I wish I could have beautiful cakes like this for my birthday!

Thanks again to Becasse, SAXA and Impact Communications for inviting me to take part in this special celebration. I was blown away by the attention to detail in all aspects, from the 3 kinds of house made bread, to every single element that had been carefully placed onto each plate, everything there for a reason. I can’t wait to come back. But there was one more surprise before we left, a goodie-bag containing different varieties of SAXA salt and pepper and some absolutely lovely little petits fours by Becasse. I wish every Thursday could be so amazing!

Spicyicecream dined as a guest of SAXA

Becasse & Quarter 21 on Urbanspoon

Becasse – Level 5, Westfield Sydney, Corner of Pitt and Market St, Sydney (02 9283 3440)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Vanilla Bean Glazed Scones with Rhubarb and Gin Jam + 13 Ways with Rhubarb!

scones with rhubarb and gin jam

If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll probably know that I am a little bit obsessed with rhubarb. In Australia we’re very lucky that it’s available pretty much throughout the whole year, but it's at its best (and cheapest!) right now. I’ve actually just planted some rhubarb, and I absolutely can’t wait until I’m able to harvest my own.

rhubarb title

In the meantime though, I thought it would be fun to put together list of interesting ways to use it – a combination of recipes I’ve tried, and some that I’ve had bookmarked to try for quite some time. I hope you’ll be inspired to try one or more of these great ideas, including this amazing Rhubarb and Gin jam, that is just perfect on homemade scones. See the bottom of the post for the recipe!

drink it
13 Ways with Rhubarb!
Picture Credits: Spicyicecream & Drinking in America

1. Rhubarb is so fantastic in drinks! Try this awesome Rhubarb and Ginger Cordial inspired by Jamie Oliver, which is refreshing and delicious, especially this time of year. Add a splash of vodka or gin for a more grown-up tipple.

2. I think I've found my new favourite summer drink! What could be more perfect than a Maple Strawberry Mojito from Drinking in America, on a nice warm day?

bake it
13 Ways with Rhubarb!
Picture Credits: Pease Pudding & Sunday Suppers

3. There’s something so comforting about baked rhubarb, but the variations I’ve seen of such a simple dish are endless! While baking, the rhubarb stalks become soft and tender, but keep their shape. I loved this idea of pairing it with Whisky and Orange to top a simple custard from Pease Pudding.

4. Another idea I absolutely fell in love with was this Rhubarb and Lavender Crisp from Sunday Suppers. In fact I had the gorgeous photo as my desktop wallpaper for months! Such a romantic combination, I adapted the recipe to fill my vol au vents as part of a Daring Bakers challenge a few years ago and it was just wonderful.

13 Ways with Rhubarb!
Picture Credits: Beyond The Table & What Katie Ate

5. I never would have thought to put Rhubarb and Fennel together - in a dessert no less - but the stunning photography in this post from Beyond the Table are enough to convince me to give it a try! I would imagine the aniseed flavour of the fennel would be quite lovely with rhubarb.

6. As far as food photography goes, What Katie Ate is one of my favourites. I love the sound of this Wine Stewed Rhubarb , which I imagine would be amazing in winter, served warm, with a ginormous scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

13 Ways with Rhubarb!
Picture Credits: Raspberri Cupcakes & Lara Ferroni

7. My dear friend Steph made this gorgeous Earl Grey Cake with Rhubarb Glaze which took my breath away the first time I saw it. I'm secretly hoping she'll make it again for our next afternoon tea, because one of the only things I love more than rhubarb is Earl Grey tea.

8. We've all had lemon curd, lime curd and passionfruit curd, but what about rhubarb curd? Lara Ferroni used it to top squares of shortbread in this pretty, girly slice that i imagine would be lovely to take on a sunny spring picnic!

freeze it
13 Ways with Rhubarb!

9. This Rhubarb and Quince rippled ice cream was my very first attempt at a swirled ice cream. The flavour was kind of magical, using two of my favourite ingredients, and happily, it turned out to be quite pretty!

10. The gorgeous blog La Tartine Gourmande turns rhubarb into a delicious summertime treat with these stunning Rhubarb and Raspberry Yoghurt Popsicles. I can imagine how delicious these would be, with tart rhubarb and raspberry being the perfect foil to the creamy yoghurt. A gorgeous treat for this time of year.

cook it
13 Ways with Rhubarb!
Picture Credits: Gourmet Traveller & The British Larder

11. An idea I’ve been fascinated with for a while now is Rhubarb Chutney to go with meat, since by itself rhubarb is not sweet. I love that it also lends itself perfectly to savoury flavours like in these pork and rosemary pasties.

12. The only thing more perfect than Turkish Delight is this gorgeous Rhubarb and Rose Delight from The British Larder. Such a gorgeous pink colour, I'm sure it would be delicious, floral and fragrant. Served with Pistachio and Walnut Baklava and I'm sold!

scones with rhubarb and gin jam

13. And who could forget Rhubarb Jam? I gave it a grown up twist by adding gin, and it's absolutely amazing on a fresh, still-warm scone. Feel free to omit the gin if you prefer, it will still be delicious. When making scones (I used Steph's recipe from the CWA, I trust this woman implicitly on all things scone related), it's essential to treat your dough very gently or you will end up with hard, dry, unrisen, practically inedible scones. I gave mine a vanilla bean glaze on top, but being a rather impatient person, I didn't let the scones cool down enough before pouring on the glaze, oops!

Vanilla Bean Glazed Scones with Rhubarb Gin Jam
Serves 6

Rhubarb Gin Jam (inspired by Jamie Durie)
• 400g rhubarb
• 1 lemon, juiced
• ½ cup raw sugar
• ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped
• 1/8 cup water
• 1/8 cup gin

Scones (adapted from Raspberri Cupcakes)
• 2 cups self-raising flour
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 150ml pouring cream (35% fat)
• Approximately 2/3 cup milk
• ½ cup icing sugar
• 1 tablespoon butter, melted
• ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped
• 1 tablespoon boiling water

For the rhubarb and gin jam, wash each stem well. Chop rhubarb and place into a saucepan. Add lemon juice, sugar, vanilla bean and water and cool over medium high heat for 5 minutes or until rhubarb starts to soften. Remove lid, reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 5-10 minutes, stirring often until rhubarb is thick and pulpy. Add gin, remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Spoon into a clean jar and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sift the dry ingredients and preheat oven to 220 (430°F). Begin to cut cream into dry ingredients with a flat bladed knife, then gradually add milk until there is enough to form a soft dough. Working quickly and gently, gather dough together on a floured bench. Try to handle the dough as little as possible, using lightly floured hands to stop the dough sticking to you. Pat the dough into a rectangle about 3cm thick.

Cut out rounds using a 5-6cm scone cutter and place next to each other in a lined heavy baking dish that has sides (scones baked close together will rise higher). Lightly brush the tops of the scones with some extra milk using a pastry brush. Bake for 10-15 minutes until scones are cooked through and tops are lightly browned.

To make the glaze, combine icing sugar, butter, vanilla and water in a bowl and mix until smooth. Spoon glaze over slightly warm scones and set aside to cool. Serve scones with Rhubarb and Gin Jam.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Shredded Brisket Tacos with Tequila Lime Guacamole and Mexican Corn

brisket tacos

This post is sponsored by Nuffnang

Us Sydneysiders were blessed with an absolutely beautiful weekend, a welcome respite from the unpredictable weather we've been copping lately. And while there are countless things to love about spring, Sydney's temperamental weather is not one of them! I thought there would be no better way to celebrate such a gorgeous weekend than a casual Sunday lunch with the family.

In case you can't tell by now, I really like slow cooking hunks of meat! This time I used beef brisket, which is a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest of the animal and really benefits from braising. It not only infuses flavour right into the meat, but it ensures the end result will be perfectly tender. As I've recently learned, braising is definitely not just something you just do in winter. Meats like pork, beef and chicken are so delicious served with zingy fresh spring flavours like in these tacos.

brisket tacos with tequila lime guacamole

The recipe was adapted from Lachlan Colwill’s, which appears on the menu at Grace in Adelaide, and is definitely on my list of places to check out when I eventually make it back for a holiday there. The beef is braised in stock and soy, with delicious flavours like cinnamon, star anise and dried chilli. What you end up with (after about four and a half hours of slow cooking) is super tender beef that falls apart under your fork.

I served my shredded brisket tacos with an awesome tequila lime guacamole that I’ve completely fallen in love with. Just a small amount of tequila really brings all the flavours together and makes them shine.

corn with coriander, parmesan and lime

Mexican corn is a hugely popular dish in Sydney at the moment, popping up on restaurant menus everywhere. I love it so much that I decided to try an easy cheat’s version at home, with a chilli and coriander butter that was brushed onto the hot corn cobs, and then a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan and a squeeze of lime to finish. Totally delicious and much loved by everyone! I think this will be one dish that I’ll make over and over during spring and summer.

brisket tacos with tequila lime guacamole

Shredded Brisket Tacos
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller
Serves 6-8

• 2.5kg beef brisket
• 7 cups Campbell’s Real Stock, beef flavour
• 250ml rice wine vinegar
• 1 cup soy sauce
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 3 cinnamon sticks
• 2 dried red chillies
• 2 star anise
• 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
• 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
• 3 garlic cloves, peeled and squashed

To serve
• Corn tortillas, fresh coriander, diced tomato and lime wedges

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Heat a little olive oil in a deep fry pan over high heat. Place brisket into the hot pan and cook for about 5 minutes on each side or until well browned. Remove from the pan and place in a roasting dish or casserole dish with deep sides.

In the same frypan (if large enough, or in a saucepan if not) combine the rest of the ingredients and heat until boiling. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer to infuse for about 20 minutes. Pour liquid over brisket, ensuring it is completely submerged, cover with foil and transfer to the oven. Cook for 1 hour, and then reduce the heat to 140°C (285°F) and cook for a further 3 – 3 ½ hours or until tender, turning the dish around every hour to ensure even cooking.

Remove from the oven and set aside to rest in the liquid for a further half an hour. Remove and coarsely shred meat with two forks into a bowl. Add enough liquid to moisten (discard remainder). Serve in tortillas with diced tomato, tequila and lime guacamole, fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime.

Tequila and Lime Guacamole
Serves 6

• 2 ripe avocados
• ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
• 3 tablespoons fresh coriander, roughly chopped
• Dried chilli flakes, to taste
• Lime juice, to taste
• 1 tablespoon tequila

Split avocados in half, remove the seeds and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Add salt, coriander, and chilli flakes and mash with a fork. Add lime juice and tequila and taste. Add more salt, lime or chilli until you’re happy with the balance of flavour. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve. To avoid browning, place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface of the guacamole and press down to expel any air.

Mexican Corn with Parmesan and Lime
Serves 4

• 4 corn cobs, outer layers removed
• 2 teaspoons Campbell's Real Stock Paste, vegetable flavour
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 30g butter, softened
• 2 teaspoons coriander, finely chopped
• Dried chilli flakes, to taste
• 1/4 teaspoon smoky paprika
• Parmesan cheese, to serve
• Lime wedges, to serve

Fill a medium saucepan with water and season with salt and vegetable stock paste. Add corn cobs and cook on medium heat for 5-10 minutes or until corn is cooked. In the meantime, mix together butter, coriander, chilli flakes and paprika in a small bowl. Drain the corn and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Brush butter onto the warm corn. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and serve with lime wedges.

brisket tacos

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dumplings & Wine at New Shanghai, Chatswood Chase

new shanghai

My love of dumplings has been well documented, so I jumped at an invitation from the lovely George to attend New Shanghai's first ever Dumpling and Wine dinner. Admittedly wine is not the first beverage I would think of to pair with dumplings - tea or a cold beer, perhaps – and so I was intrigued. New Shanghai’s Chatswood Chase outpost has a stunning fit out in dramatic black and red, taking inspiration from the opulence of 1930’s Shanghai to create a moody, eclectic and beautiful restaurant that has always been busy every time I’ve walked past. It’s amazing to watch the chefs in the kitchen through the glass expertly pleating dumplings.

The first thing I noticed as we were shown to our table was the wine. Lots of wine. In the wise words of Chocolatesuze, Happy Friday, err.. Tuesday. All the better to break the ice and make new friends! Wine matching is all about the wine making the food taste better and vice versa. I would imagine Chinese food being one of the more difficult cuisines to match. After a brief rundown of the event and an introduction to the wines we'd be drinking, from a fresh vibrant Riesling to a 'crisp' Chardonnay, all the way to a Shiraz Cabernet, we were served our first course.

new shanghai

The cold mixed dish starter consisted of 3 small snack-like dishes - shredded kelp mixed with spice and vinegar dressing, a chopped cucumber tossed with fresh garlic, and the unanimous favourite on our table was the Drunken Chicken, which had been soaked in Chinese wine, herbs and spices. I loved how fresh all the components were, which made the Riesling a perfect match.

new shanghai

Of course I had been looking forward to the dumplings! My favourite dumplings in Sydney are found at Mr Chows in the Rocks, but New Shanghai’s Xiao Long Bao (steamed mini pork bun with soup filling) come pretty close. As did the delicious mini crab meat and pork buns! I also really enjoyed the steamed vegetarian dumpling, filled with vermicelli, greens and mushrooms. I was thankful for the warning that the dumplings were filled with hot soup, yet in my impatience, I somehow still managed to burn my mouth!

new shanghai

One of my favourite dishes of the night was the shepherd's purse and pork wonton tossed with sesame butter, red chilli oil and spice. It was quite a different way of serving dumplings but they were utterly delicious. The sesame butter had a beautiful nutty taste, but it overpowered the chilli oil a little, and I would have loved it even more with a bit more of a spice kick. The grated cucumber added some freshness, and worked really well to contrast the rich flavours.

new shanghai

Next up was some fried dumpling deliciousness - New Shanghai's signature pan-fried pork bun, which was a favourite on my last visit, was as delicious as ever with a generous meaty filling. We were also served a pan-fried pork dumpling, and what I believe was a tiny portion of shallot pancake. After a few glasses of wine at this point, we were amused to find that the three dumplings together looked like a sun, moon and star.

new shanghai

The dishes had been coming out in quick succession – the staff are definitely efficient – but I was having some trouble keeping up with the wine side of things! The shepherd's purse, prawn and tofu soup was a nice palate cleanser, before we moved onto the heavier dishes.

new shanghai

I had been looking forward to trying the pork belly braised overnight in sweet soy sauce, and it was as delicious as it sounds, and a stunning match for the Penfolds Koonunga Hill 76 Shiraz Cabernet 2010. I was getting extremely full by this point, but there’s an unwritten food blogger rule that you have to push through when fried chicken is involved! New Shanghai’s deep-fried chicken with special garlic and chilli sauce was so worth it!

new shanghai

Our dessert was a slow-cooked white fungus with papaya soup. I liked the refreshing taste, but I wasn't alone in finding the texture quite strange and sort of slimy. I think you either love Chinese desserts like this or you don't. I'm glad I got to try it and I try to keep an open mind towards food in general, but I couldn't finish it. The texture was a little too weird for me!

Thanks again to George from Wasamedia for inviting me along to this great event – I have definitely been convinced that wine and dumplings are a lovely match. I’ll surely be back at New Shanghai in the future for a repeat serving of those amazing shepherd’s purse dumplings in sesame butter. If you’re interested in attending, New Shanghai are hosting more Dumpling and Wine Dinners in the next few months, so hit up the website for details.

Spicyicecream dined as a guest of Wasamedia

New Shanghai Chinese Restaurant  on Urbanspoon

New Shanghai Chatswood Chase, Shop B-038 Chatswood Chase (02) 9412 3358

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chocolate and PX Brownie Cake

chocolate and px cake

When I started this blog, I never ever thought that I’d meet people who would one day become some of my closest friends. As we reminisced about our early dinner ‘dates’ at Lotus and Gazebo, and the many adventures we’ve had since then, I thought about how incredibly lucky I am to have Steph and Karen in my life, and I hope they’ll be around for a long time yet.

For Karen’s birthday, Steph and I decided that we should make her an epic homemade birthday cake. We often brainstorm baking ideas together, but we haven’t really collaborated on a baking project together since the Lemon Lime and Bitters macarons. As we threw some ideas around, we kept coming back to the insanely awesome combination of Chocolate and Pedro Ximénez sherry, two of Karen’s favourite things in the world. But what if we made it even more awesome by baking up some buttery shortbread, studded with chocolate and cocoa nibs? It absolutely had to be done!

chocolate and px cake

I was in charge of making the cake, and I decided on a fudgy chocolate brownie cake that formed the base of the Peanut Butter and Banana Mousse cake that I made last year. I omitted the peanut butter and added some PX, and deliberately under-baked it a little bit so it would be extra rich and gooey in the middle. I have to say, it smelled absolutely amazing as it was in the oven! The next morning I packed up the cake and headed to Steph’s place to make the ganache. And in major heart attack-inducing fashion, I nearly dropped the cake in transit...twice.

The chocolate and PX ganache that we made was luscious and totally sexy, spread in messy swirls over the cake. The cocoa nib shortbread that Steph made was absolutely delicious! She decided on some cute heart shapes to encircle the cake and tied it with a ribbon, which I think ended up looking really, really cute. Head over to her blog for the recipe! The reaction from Karen was absolutely priceless, and the verdict was that the cake was "better than sex" - quite the endorsement.

Happy Birthday Karen!!! Thank you for being so damn awesome! I'm so glad you liked the cake, it was so fun to make and to work with Steph on another baking/styling project. We better put on our thinking caps to come up with something even more awesome for next year ;)

chocolate and px cake

Chocolate and PX Brownie Cake
Adapted from this recipe
Serves 6

• 200g butter
• 100g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
• 3 eggs
• 210g caster sugar
• 100g plain flour
• 1/3 cup Pedro Ximénez sherry
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ganache
• 175g dark chocolate, finely chopped
• 150ml pouring cream
• ¼ cup Pedro Ximénez sherry

Cocoa Nib Shortbread
Recipe on Raspberri Cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Melt butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering, stirring occasionally until smooth. Whisk eggs and caster sugar in an electric mixer until thick and pale, fold through chocolate mixture then fold in flour and Pedro Ximénez. Spoon into a buttered, baking paper lined springform pan (I used 2 x 20cm pans), smooth top and bake until just firm to touch (20-25 minutes) Cool completely in pan.

To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set aside. Combine the cream and Pedro Ximénez in a saucepan and heat until just before boiling point. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until combined. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or until cooled, and then whisk with electric beaters until ganache is luscious and spreadable. Spread over top and sides of cake.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pimm's Jelly

pimm's jelly

Ever since making the Toffee Apple Trifles, with that amazing apple cider jelly layer that stole the show, I’ve been thinking up ideas for other kinds of boozed-up jellies. Of course champagne or moscato works a treat and is wonderfully festive, but I was keen to recreate one of my favourite drinks – the Pimm’s Cup – in jelly form.

If you haven’t tried it, it’s a deliciously refreshing summery drink usually served in a pitcher or a jug to share, containing Pimm’s, sometimes with gin, a variety of fruit – strawberries, lemons, orange, cucumber, mint leaves – and topped with ice cubes, and either lemonade or ginger ale.

pimm's jelly

A few days after thinking up this brilliant idea, I was flicking through Jamie Oliver’s magazine and saw a recipe for exactly the same thing! Call it fate or a case of great minds thinking alike, but I definitely had to give it a try. Of course I wanted to keep the flavours quite true to the drink, and I think this recipe definitely does it justice. It tastes exactly like the drink I love so much, and would be perfect to serve at a grown-up garden party or afternoon tea.

I simplified Jamie’s recipe a little bit as I was running short of time. His version has the jelly setting in two halves, so that the fruit is evenly distributed through the glass instead of all coming to the top as mine did, but unfortunately I was a little impatient! Next time I’ll make sure to do it properly as it looks really pretty. I served mine in some recycled jam jars, but feel free to serve it however you’d like – in martini glasses for a more elegant presentation, or perhaps in a punch bowl to share.

pimm's jelly

Pimm's Jelly
Serves 4
Adapted from Jamie Oliver magazine

• 7g powdered gelatine
• 150ml Pimm’s
• 450ml Lemonade
• ¼ cup sugar (optional)
• 2-3 mint sprigs, leaves picked
• ½ apple, cored, finely diced
• 4-6 strawberries, finely chopped
• ¼ cucumber, finely chopped

Sprinkle the gelatine over 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl to soften. Gently heat the Pimms, lemonade, sugar if using and mint sprigs in a saucepan until sugar is dissolved and the mixture is just starting to steam. Do not allow it to boil. Remove the mint stalks, add softened gelatine and whisk until dissolved.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Divide most of the fruit, cucumber and mint between 4 serving glasses and then add two thirds of the Pimm’s mixture. Chill in the fridge for about an hour, keeping the rest of the mixture at room temperature. When the jelly layer has set, add the remaining fruit and mint and top with the rest of the Pimm’s mixture. Leave to set in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Aki's, Wooloomooloo

aki's, wooloomooloo
Interior photos courtesy of Wasamedia

I find Indian cuisine both fascinating and beautiful. It’s steeped in so much history, with influences from the British and surrounding Asian countries sprouting countless regional variations. Complimented by the extensive use of a vast array of spices and aromatics, it’s an amazing, but I find somewhat misunderstood, cuisine – there’s much more to Indian food than just curry! Aki’s does well to bring a modern spin to traditional dishes.

It was a gorgeous, sun-drenched Sunday afternoon when my cousin and I headed out to Aki’s Restaurant, which was recently awarded it’s first Chef’s Hat in the Good Food Guide Awards, making it the only Indian restaurant in Australia with this accolade. Situated on prime real estate on the gorgeous Wooloomooloo wharf, it’s a stunning location and taps into one of the things Sydney does best – relaxed waterfront dining.

My cousin Ros had never tried Indian before, and I hoped that by the end of lunch, she would love it as much as I do. With so many delicious sounding options, the choice was a tricky one, but we decided to start with the rather delicious Tandoori Kingfish was another beautiful dish, marinated in green chilli, ginger and yoghurt, which gave it a vibrant yellow colour and just the right amount of spice. The fish had then been cooked in a tandoor oven, was perfectly cooked and fell apart with the slightest nudge from a fork.

aki's, wooloomooloo

Next up we had entrée of Namkeen Squid, which is Aki’s own take on the ever-popular salt and pepper squid. The squid was dusted with spiced tapioca flour and served with a tamarind and ginger dipping sauce. It was perfectly cooked, and not the tiniest bit chewy, and I couldn’t get enough of that dipping sauce!

aki's, wooloomooloo

Roslyn’s favourite was the Palak Patta Chat, a must order when you come here! Battered and fried spinach leaves may sound a little strange, but it’s absolutely delicious with the accompanying chickpeas and potatoes, yoghurt, date, tamarind, chilli and mint sauces. It’s a beautifully balanced dish in terms of flavour and texture, plus the presentation is just stunning. And in case you were wondering, the recipe for this awesome dish is in Issue 2 of GourmetRabbit.

aki's, wooloomooloo

I know it may sound kind of boring and pedestrian, but I was really looking forward to trying Aki’s version of Butter Chicken. When this dish is done well, it’s absolutely beautiful, and proves that Indian food doesn’t have to be spicy to be delicious. I was really impressed with Aki’s version, with the addition of dried fenugreek leaves, and wouldn’t hesitate to order it on every visit to Aki’s from now on.

aki's, wooloomooloo

We also decided to order the Patiala Goat Curry. Tender pieces of goat were slow-cooked with tomatoes, ginger, cardamom, garlic, mace and nutmeg. While this one was a little more spicy than I expected, I still enjoyed it, but the Butter Chicken was definitely our favourite of the curries. I’d also like to make mention of the delicious garlic naan and saffron rice that accompanied our mains.

aki's, wooloomooloo

Of course we had to have dessert! I always love ending an Indian meal with Kulfi – Indian ice cream laced with cardamom and pistachios. Kulfi isn't as creamy as your typical ice cream, but it's always a lovely refreshing treat. Our favourite was the warm pudding with an absolutely delicious ginger caramel. As full as we were, this one was demolished and we debated whether or not to lick the plate clean!

The food at Aki’s was every bit as delicious as I was expecting it to be, and I can’t wait to come back and try some of the other dishes on the menu like their signature dish Crab with Iddiappam or the delicious sounding Chocolate Naan, but I’ll never be able to pass up the Palak Patta Chat or Butter Chicken!

Spicyicecream dined as a guest of Aki’s

Aki's on Urbanspoon

Aki's - 1/6 Cowper Wharf Rd, Wooloomooloo (02) 9332 4660

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