Tuesday, March 15, 2011
At the Food Bloggers Christmas picnic in 2009, I offered a bright and friendly red-haired girl a fruit mince pie. I didn’t know it at the time, but that girl would quickly become my business partner and one of my best friends. She had grand ambitions, and somehow I landed in her life just in time to help turn them into reality. We launched GourmetRabbit Issue 1 in March 2010. It was an amazingly successful year, with the concept of industry-written content and the unique, quirky design setting it apart.
Issue 2 “The Best Knows No Borders” is now proudly sitting on my bookshelf, 50 pages bigger than the first, with almost 140 pages of amazing recipes and articles. I designed the book cover to cover, which is what has kept me very (very very) busy over the last few months! But there’s no better feeling than finally seeing the book printed, and flicking through the pages one at a time. I’m thrilled by how it turned out, I think it’s even more beautiful than the first one.
It is absolutely packed with awesome content. There’s articles about spending a night in a restaurant kitchen by Alvin Quah from Masterchef, all about American food (it’s so much more than burgers and fries!) by Dan McGuirt from Jazz City Diner, what chefs really think of food bloggers by Josh Nicholls from Café Ish, DIY spirits by the very talented Sam Bygrave, how food and sport are connected by four of the South Sydney Rabbitohs finest players…
There’s in-depth guides to show you what to look for in both beer and saké, a chef’s guide to Turkish food and culture by Somer from Efendy in Balmain, what ‘best before’ dates really mean, Adriano Zumbo’s recipe for Regal Salmon and Raspberry macarons, a food guide written by and for Sydney locals and much, much more.
The website has also had a makeover, now GourmetRabbit.com is a free food industry noticeboard where you can catch up on all the industry goss, like which restaurant has a new chef, a new menu, a special event and much more. Subscribe to the "Bunny Bulletin" and it will be delivered to your inbox! And of course there will also be awesome monthly industry-written feature content.
GourmetRabbit Issue 2 officially launched last Tuesday night at Harts Pub in the Rocks, where articles in the book came alive with tastings and demonstrations by PR Raineri Deli, canapés by Regal King Salmon, cocktails by Sam Bygrave, an Asian grocery by Ettason and craft beer tastings by Harts. It was a delicious night with plenty to munch on and it was so nice to see that everyone is as excited as we are.
It is now available in over 1600 newsagents and book stores around Australia, so keep your eyes peeled and grab your copy! But for my awesome readers, I have two copies to give away! All you have to do is tell me who or what you would like to see in Issue 3.
It could be a particular recipe or your favourite chef, an interview or a travel story, anything! The winner will be decided on Monday 28th March and contacted via email (so make sure you fill in your email address on the comment form so I can get in touch with you!) Postage is to Australia only. Good luck!
Saturday, March 13, 2010
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Monday, April 7, 2008
I’m now down to the business end of this Vanilla Project. The fun conceptualising part is over, now is the actual production part, made trickier by the fact that I’m still learning Dreamweaver and Flash! The website had to have an environmental aspect to it, and in my early research I learned about the Rainforest Vanilla Conservation Association. The concept of my website then became a shop selling pure vanilla products, from food to perfume, containing real vanilla grown in this way.
Both vanilla and cocoa are species native to the tropical rainforest, therefore they thrive best in their native environment. Vanilla is a vine and therefore requires the support of a tutor tree. It is difficult to grow under artificial conditions in plantation style settings, where the land is cleared and concrete posts are installed for the vines to grow on. Vanilla production is most sustainable under natural shade trees using traditional production methods.
Cocoa has always been a subsistence crop of poor farmers in developing countries. In recent times, farmers have been abandoning the crop for more lucrative agricultural activities. Dwindling supplies have forced worldwide prices to rise. However, cocoa makes an excellent tutor tree for vanilla vines and has the added benefit of providing an additional source of income for the vanilla farmer. If vanilla and cocoa prices stabilize at a level that gives a good return to the farmers, both crops will be an important source of economic incentives to conserve the tropical rainforest.
A one acre vanilla-cocoa plantation is estimated to annually absorb the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions from burning 2,550 gallons of gasoline. For every serving of real vanilla or chocolate ice cream you enjoy, you are removing from the atmosphere the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions from burning the same weight of gasoline.
I had never made crème brulée before this weekend. In fact I had only ever eaten one in my life, at my favourite Patisserie in The Rocks while waiting for a ferry. I fell in love with the way the crunchy toffee topping gave way to the silky vanilla flecked custard below. I recently found a little kitchen blowtorch for an unbelievable price and I had to have it, so this was its official christening. I picked Dorie Greenspan’s recipe because it looked the simplest and didn’t require as many egg yolks as others I have come across. I am accumulating egg whites at an unbelievable rate, at last count there were fifteen in my freezer! I made vanilla crème brulées this time, keeping with the theme of my project, but I’m looking forward to experimenting with different flavours in the near future.
Adapted from Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
• 1 ¼ cups thick (heavy) cream
• ½ cup whole milk
• 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
• 3 egg yolks
• 1/3 cup sugar
• About 6 tablespoons light brown sugar
1. Combine milk, cream and vanilla seeds and bean in a small saucepan. Bring just to a boil, then remove from the heat and allow the mixture to infuse for at least 30 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 95°C (200°F). Place six ramekins on a baking tray.
3. When ready to make the custard, reheat the cream mixture and remove the vanilla bean.
4. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl until well blended. While still whisking, drizzle in about a quarter of the warm cream mixture. This ensures the eggs won’t curdle. Slowly pour the remainder of the cream and milk and whisk well.
5. Tap the bowl against the bench to remove the bubbles and strain it into the ramekins.
6. Bake the custards for 50-60 minutes or until the centers are set. Allow to cool until they reach room temperature. Cover each with plastic wrap and refrigerate, preferably overnight.
7. Sprinkle each custard with a tablespoon of brown sugar, then caramelise the sugar with a blowtorch until it bubbles and colours. Wait until the bubbles subside before serving.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
When I said I was filling a sketchbook with ideas for my vanilla project, I wasn’t joking. I have done a lot of thumbnails! Web design is a completely new area for me; quite different to the print design that I am used to doing, though the design thinking sometimes overlaps between the two areas. I am also trying to learn three new programs! It’s a busy and stressful time, but also very rewarding. Today I’d like to share some more of my research, about vanilla’s long and interesting history.
The vanilla plant is native to Mexico where local tribes, in particular the Totonac people, treated the aromatic spice as a sacred gift from the gods. It is firmly rooted in their ancient legends, where it is believed that the spilt blood of two lovers transformed into the vanilla orchid; its tendrils and vines symbolising their embrace, the flowers a tribute to the slain princess, and the scent finer than incense.
In early times the elusive and short-lived vanilla flowers were pollinated by long-billed hummingbirds and rare bees, meaning that only a few beans grew on each vine. The beans were allowed to fully ripen and split open before harvested.
In about 1500BC, tribes from different regions began trading with each other, exchanging spiritual beliefs and important discoveries such as vanilla and cacao. Similarly, the conquering Spaniards brought the same items back to Europe in the 1500’s, fuelling the new spice trade and igniting the senses of the privileged in society who could afford such exotic luxuries. Europeans came to learn the medicinal properties of vanilla that had been known to the tribes for hundreds of years. It was effective in settling the stomach, treating insect bites, and was a proven aphrodisiac – “the Viagra of the 16th century” – among other varied uses.
The French expanded the use of vanilla in the perfume industry, and were responsible for establishing the first vanilla plantations outside of Mexico, in the Réunion and Mauritius islands. It was there that a 12-year-old slave discovered how to pollinate the flowers by hand and produce a significantly larger yield. Today, Madagascar is the world’s largest producer of vanilla, but prices have fluctuated since the 1970s due to environmental and political factors, demand far outstripping the supply, and the increasing use of imitation vanilla.
Vanilla: The Cultural History of the World’s Favourite Flavour and Fragrance by Patricia Rain is an amazing resource for all things vanilla. If you’re interested in reading further, I would certainly suggest this book. David Lebovitz also had a very informative post on his blog, here.
A quick word about the cheesecake, I made this for Easter lunch with the family and everyone loved it, though we could only fit in small slices after a big meal. I really loved the cookie-like hazelnut crust. This is the first time I’ve used ricotta in a cheesecake but I was pleasantly surprised by the delicate texture, it was rich but not heavy. The original recipe called for apricot jam, but I substituted my new favourite, a delicious plum, cherry and raspberry jam. The use of a 24cm cake tin means that the cheesecake is quite skinny, but it gave a nice ratio of crust to filling.
Vanilla Spice Cheesecake
Adapted from Australian Women’s Weekly Cheesecakes
• 80g butter, melted
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ¾ cup plain flour
• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• pinch ground nutmeg
• 1/3 cup vanilla-infused caster sugar *
• 1/3 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
• ¼ cup jam, warmed
Vanilla Bean Filling
• 1 vanilla bean
• 250g cream cheese, softened
• 500g ricotta cheese
• 2/3 cup vanilla-infused caster sugar *
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice
• 2 eggs
* to make vanilla infused caster sugar, place one vanilla bean (if used before, rinse and thoroughly dry it) into an airtight container with 1 cup of caster sugar. Leave to infuse for at least a week.
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Lightly grease a 24cm springform tin, and line with non-stick baking paper.
2. For the crust, combine the butter, vanilla, flour, spices, sugar and hazelnuts in a medium bowl. Press mixture over the base of the prepared tin. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Bake for about 20 minutes or until just browned. Spread with jam.
3. Reduce oven temperature to 150°C (300°F)
4. For the vanilla bean filling, split vanilla bean in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds with a small, sharp knife. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese, ricotta, vanilla seeds, half the sugar and juice in a small bowl with an electric mixer until just combined. Transfer to a large bowl.
5. Combine the remaining sugar and eggs in a bowl, beat with an electric mixer for 5 minutes on high speed or until thick and creamy. Fold the egg mixture into the cheese mixture and pour over the prepared base.
6. Bake in a slow oven for about 35 minutes or until firm to touch. Cool cheesecake in oven with door ajar. Refrigerate overnight.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
At the moment, I’m working on a really interesting and fun project at college. It is still in progress, and I’ve been filling a sketchbook with ideas and thumbnails for a website about vanilla. One of the things I love most about my course is the ability to explore issues that we’re passionate about and food is a definitely recurring theme throughout my portfolio. The first step of any design project is research, and for weeks I immersed myself in anything I could find related to vanilla, from encyclopedias to cookbooks, and I even purchased some Madagascan vanilla beans to sample for myself. I think I’m addicted now, I can never go back!
Vanilla is a part of the orchid family, the largest family of flowering plants in the world. Many species of orchid are epiphytes, which means they grow on other plants, using their stronger structure for support. Epiphytes are common in tropical rainforests, to which vanilla is native. In fact the plant only thrives in tropical regions close to the equator that receive adequate rainfall such as Mexico, Tahiti and Madagascar, which are now the three largest vanilla producing countries in the world.
It is the most labour intensive of all food crops, as the flowers have to be pollinated by hand. The harvested beans undergo an extensive curing and drying process that can last up to nine months, and have to be rolled away each evening to prevent theft and possible rotting due to condensation in the cooler air. Combined with factors such as the regions’ susceptibility to typhoons and the western world’s commercial reliance on pure vanilla, fluctuations in price are very common.
Today, over 95% of ‘vanilla’ products contain a synthetic flavouring derived from lignin, a by-product of paper manufacturing. Some artificial vanilla essences contain Tonka beans. They have a similar fragrance to vanilla, however are a source of the chemical Coumarin, which can be toxic and is actually banned in the United States.
In the next few weeks I hope to put my vanilla beans to good use and share some recipes, as well as more of my research and designs as the project progresses. Yesterday I made ice cream for the first time. I don’t have an ice cream maker so I used the freeze-and-mix method, which still produced incredibly smooth and utterly gorgeous ice cream. Ironically, now that summer is officially over, the weather feels more summer-like than ever. Perfect ice cream eating weather, I’d say.
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
From Modern Classics 2 by Donna Hay
Makes about 1 litre
• 1 cup milk
• 2 cups single cream
• 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
• 6 egg yolks
• 2/3 cup caster sugar
1. Place the milk, cream and vanilla (including the bean) in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the mixture is hot but not boiling. Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes
2. Place the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk until thick and pale.
3. Remove the vanilla bean from the milk mixture, and slowly pour over the egg yolk mixture. Whisk well to combine.
4. Return the mixture to the pan and stir over low heat until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
5. Set aside to cool. A good way to do this is to fill your sink with a little cold water and a few ice cubes and place the saucepan in there.
6. Either place the custard in an ice-cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions OR place the mixture in a metal bowl or cake tin. Cover and freeze for 1 hour. Beat with an electric hand mixer and return to the freezer. Repeat three times at hourly intervals until the ice cream is thick and smooth.
Friday, October 12, 2007
As a graphic designer who loves to cook, it is seems like a natural progression to be
I've noticed food has played a big part in my creativity this year. There was the corporate identity, style guide and 12 page brochure for a cupcake café called Carpe Diem in term one. And the self promotional piece that combined my love of baking and packaging in term two. There was wine label design which I might speak about later, and at the moment I'm working on an annual report for an organic food supplier and a set of menu icons for a Sydney restaurant.
The magazine that you see above was a term three editorial project. We were given a title, Niche and were required to conceptualize and design a viable magazine. My Niche was a magazine purely about desserts, and the fancier the better. Does anything like this actually exist any where in the world? I have never seen it in Australia, but our magazine market is fairly small. It was a fun project to design, thinking not only about what would suit the style of the current issue but others too. It would be wonderful, one day, to be able to combine these two loves in a career of designing cookbooks or magazines... or maybe if the graphic design thing doesn't work out I'll just open a bakery!
Saturday, July 14, 2007
I’m a second year graphic design student, and I’m considering getting into packaging design when I finish my course next year. It is a really interesting area, I think, because your designs are made tangible, for people to look at, pick up, and hopefully put into their shopping trolley.
Of course there are a lot of factors that determine purchasing decisions, but no one can deny that packaging plays a part. It takes me ages to do my grocery shopping, because I stand there analysing the designs, trying to figure out what works, what doesn’t, and why.
I love seeing things like the photo above, on the packaging for Arnott’s Tim Tams. Even more amusing for me, as I found them while putting away my mum’s groceries.
My mother is notorious for hiding her chocolatey treats. That’s one of the signs of addiction, isn’t it? Luckily, I am pretty good at finding them, and sometimes even when I’m not looking for them. Just this afternoon I found a block of chocolate hidden underneath the plastic bags in the pantry. I am so tempted to re-hide it somewhere else so when she is looking for her hidden treasure, she can’t find it.
Is this uncommon behaviour? If not, where do you keep your secret stash of goodies?