February 29, 2008

hope Suzanne had a laugh...

Be very specific when ordering a cake...


We had dinner in the city last night before seeing Keating! The Musical. We love Kuni's for its consistently good food and efficient service.

First course was iwashi karaage (deep-fried sardines).

Next (what a terrible photo - I was in a rush to eat!) was asparagus gyu-maki (asparagus rolls in thinly sliced beef with teriyaki sauce). We shared this dish last time we ate at Kuni's and fought over the last piece so this time we both ordered it. Delicious.
You can order dessert without guilt. This was mango icecream and mango.

The service was faultless as usual so we were able to enjoy a no-rush dinner and be out of there in plenty of time to see the show.

February 28, 2008

early donna v recent donna

We had this great Donna stir-fry for dinner the other night. The recipe's from Marie Claire flavours which was published in 2000. I've had this book since it came out and I reckon practically every recipe in it is really good.

Last night we had a Donna beef stir-fry that was in the H/S on Sunday and it was pretty ordinary. And a few things I've cooked from the mag lately haven't been that good either. So I'm thinking the early Donna recipes were much better than her recent ones.

Here's the yummy pork recipe :

Donna Hay's Pork ginger and lime stir-fry

1 T peanut oil
2 T shredded ginger
1 t cracked black pepper
6 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
2 cloves garlic, sliced
600g pork fillet, trimmed and sliced
3 T lime juice
2 T brown sugar
3 T sweet chilli sauce
bunch bok choy

Heat oil in a frying pan or wok. Add ginger, pepper, lime leaves and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add pork and stir-fry for 5 mins. or till well browned. Add lime juice, sugar and sweet chilli sauce and fry further 3 mins. or until sauce has thickened slightly. Toss through the bok choy and cook 1 min. Serve with steamed rice.

February 27, 2008

mini cakes!

I saw these adorable toy cakes on paris breakfasts a couple of weeks ago and had to have some too! I've just unpacked them - they took just 10 days to arrive from Hong Kong.

They satisfy two of my passions - cakes and all things miniature!

The macaroons bring back memories of Laduree in Paris where we first bought some real ones and Georgie and I thought we'd died and gone to heaven. Jeff and I had them again in London when we had afternoon tea in Laduree Harrods, and again in Tokyo where we tried two or three different kinds - including Pierre Herme's - from the wonderful department store Isetan Shinjuku.

I nearly got thrown out for snapping the pic above in Harrods! So when we sat down I took this one just to spite them...

How cute are these cheese straws...

The bears wish they had a pot of tea to have with their cakes...

Now I gotta find me a little bakery display case.

February 21, 2008

the foodie blogroll

I've been added to the Foodie BlogRoll! (see logo at the bottom of the sidebar). This is a comprehensive list of people world-wide who blog about their interest in food and cooking/baking/eating. It's the brain-child of The Leftover Queen and is a great resource for food discussions and recipes. If you have a food blog you too can join. Just click on the logo to find out how.

February 19, 2008

I wish I was taking salad...

I've spent the morning baking and frosting two dozen chocolate cupcakes for the choir dinner tonight and now the kitchen (which was already pretty hot before I started) is 34C according to the temperature gauge thingy on the wall. And I'm thinking HOW COME I HAVE TO BAKE CAKES AND OTHERS GET TO MAKE A SALAD??

Ok, I've had my whinge. The good news is I now have a great chocolate cupcake recipe. Someone has recommended it on Rose Levy Beranbaum's website which I checked out to find an answer to yesterday's "flat/peaked cupcake" mystery. It seems that leaving the batter to sit for a while results in a "domier" cake. Anyway, the recipe is one from Rose's The Cake Bible. I've had my copy for years - it's practically falling to bits - and the thing Iove about it is that the recipes list the ingredients by cup measure and by weight. I've found most American recipes use only cup measures which are not nearly so accurate. The cakes turned out perfectly light and moist and not too sweet.

Rose Levy Beranbaum's Chocolate Fudge Cake(s) (makes 24)

All ingredients should be at room temperature.

85g Dutch process cocoa powder
354g boiling water
3 large eggs
1 1/2t pure vanilla extract
300g sifted cake flour (I used plain)
434g light brown sugar
2 1/4 t baking powder
1 1/4 t bicarb soda
3/4 t salt
227 unsalted butter (must be softened)

Preheat oven to 175C. In a medium bowl whisk together the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Leave to cool to room temperature.

In another bowl lightly combine the eggs, 1/4 of the cocoa mixture and vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl combine the remaining dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and remaining cocoa mixture and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high if using a hand mixer) and beat for 11/2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake's structure. Scrape down the sides of bowl. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition.

Measure into 2 paper-lined muffin tins and bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in tins for a minute before turning out. Leave until completely cool before frosting. **

Chocolate Ganache :
Heat 120 ml/g of thickened cream until boiling. Add 160g grated dark chocolate and leave to stand a minute or so until melted. Stir until smooth, add 1 Tab butter and stir until smooth again.

**I had enough mixture for a few small patty cakes as well and most of these separated from the paper liners while they were cooling. Will have to check that website again. This isn't baking - this is SCIENCE!

February 18, 2008

choir cupcakes

The choir's having its annual startofanewyear dinner tomorrow night and I've been asked to take cupcakes. There are still a whole lot of leftovers from last week in the freezer all wrapped up in separate foil packages but I was too lazy to unwrap them to see if there's enough. So I decided to start afresh and make 2 kinds - carrot and chocolate - rather than make 2 batches of the same flavour (boring). I've never made carrot cupcakes before - only carrot big cakes. I used a Martha Stewart recipe I copied from somewhere or other. I didn't bother to convert all the U.S. cup measurements to ours and they turned out fine:

Carrot Cupcakes (makes 24)

All ingredients should be at room temperature.

1 cup pecans
3 cups plain flour
2 t baking powder
1 t bicarb soda
2 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1 t salt
500g carrots
3 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
1t pure vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 175C. Spread pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast for 10 mins, turning them once halfway through cooking time. Cool and chop finely.

In a medium bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients except the sugar. Peel and grate the carrots finely (the food processor is perfect for this.) Place grated carrots, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, sugar and oil in a large bowl and whisk until combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the carrot mixture with the chopped pecans.
Spoon mixture into 2 paper lined muffin tins and bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from tins and cool completely before frosting.

There was a bit of leftover batter (I'll make the 24 a bit bigger next time) which was enough for another 3 when the first lot came out of the oven. The one on the right (below) is the one of the 2nd batch left to stand for 25 minutes. See how it's peaky and the other one flat? No doubt RLB knows why that happened - will check out her site/book later to try and find the answer.

I topped them with the same cream cheese frosting I used for the Red Velvet cupcakes - recipe here.

I'll do a bit of searching tonight to find a nice chocolate cupcake recipe using cocoa. The kitchen is now pretty hot so I'll make them first thing tomorrow.

And just between us ... I nipped down to the corner to buy a takeaway coffee while the cakes were cooling. I left the house in (floury) cut-off tracky pants and thongs and with my bra straps showing. I realised, sadly, that after just 12 days of being retired I'd completely let myself go.

February 17, 2008

lazy sunday afternoon

We had a bit of a walk around St Kilda on this glorious sunny afternoon and stopped for coffee at Il Fornaio . We shared one of their yummy lemon meringue pies so I thought we should be good and have a light dinner. The recipe had to be one I've cut from delicious (and I'm feeling pretty smug as this weekend I've done lots more culling...there's only 12 months' worth left) so I chose a light and healthy Jill Dupleix salad.

I'd guess it's probably from her last book Lighten Up although it doesn't say. It was very good, but no wonder poor old Terry's lost all that weight. The recipe says it serves 4, but when I'd dished up two medium sized bowls for our dinner there was only a bit left over for my lunch tomorrow. Here's the (slightly altered) recipe:

Glass noodles with chicken, lime and mint (serves 4?)

4-5 chicken tenderloins
200g rice vermicelli
10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 small cucumber, thinly sliced
2 spring onions, sliced
1 large red chilli, thinly sliced
100g bean sprouts, rinsed
handful mint, basil and coriander
2 T unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped

2 T lime juice
2 T fish sauce
2 T sweet chilli sauce
1 T olive oil
1 tspn caster sugar

Fry chicken in non-stick pan until cooked through. Slice against the grain. Cook noodles according to packet instructions, drain and snip through once or twice with scissors. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and toss through all ingredients except the peanuts. Divide amongst bowls and scatter with peanuts.

February 15, 2008

red velvet cupcakes

Recipe as promised yesterday....

Red Velvet Cupcakes (makes approx 24)

All ingredients should be at room temperature.

300g sugar
125g butter
2 eggs
250g cake flour or plain flour
2 T dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 t bicarb soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 t pure vanilla extract
1 t white vinegar
red food colouring (enough to colour the batter bright red. The amount depends on what kind you're using. I used about 1 teaspoon of Wilton's "Christmas red" concentrated paste)

Preheat oven to 175 C. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs singly, beating until each is incorporated. In a separate bowl sift together the dry ingredients. In another bowl whisk together the buttermilk, vinegar and vanilla. Mix in 1/3 of the dry ingredients, followed by 1/2 of the wet, repeat, then finish with dry. Stir in red food colouring as above. Scoop into paper-lined cupcake tins and bake for about 20 mins or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool 5 mins in tins before turning out.

These are yummy topped with cream cheese frosting :

250g Philly cream cheese (I read it should be used straight from the fridge - creamier result??)
70g butter at room temp.
1 t pure vanilla extract

Cream together. When smooth gradually add 21/2 cups pure icing sugar.

February 14, 2008

thank-you cupcakes

Today I took cupcakes to each library branch as a thank you for my wonderful send-off last week.

See the creamy coloured ones? They're Red Velvet - a flavour I keep reading about in U.S. cake blogs. I found a million recipes for it one the net and from them made my own version. They taste very good with cream cheese frosting. I'll post the recipe tomorrow. I'm a bit over cakes right this minute. If I ever had the teeniest thought I might like to make cupcakes for money, today I knew I could never do it.

February 10, 2008

little cheesecakes

I've resolved that now I'm a lady of leisure one of my tasks will be to go through the years of cookery mags I've accumulated and clip out the recipes I want to make. Today I ploughed through a year's worth of delicious, and by the end I had a bit of a system going. I read through the readers' letters and any recipes they said they'd made and enjoyed from a previous month, I looked back and cut them out. As well as the ones I liked the look of. Starting tonight I'm making the effort to cook all the recipes I've cut out. So for dessert tonight - individual cheesecakes with raspberry toppping.

For the base :

Process 55g plain sweet biscuits in food processor, add 1/3 cup almond meal and 30g melted butter and process until combined. Press into a paper-lined muffin tin.

For the topping:

Preheat the oven to 200C. Place 150g frozen raspberries in a shallow oven-proof dish, sprinkle with 1/2 cup sugar and bake for 15 mins, stirring once or twice. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Lower oven temp to 140C.

For the cheesecake:

Process 500g cream cheese until smooth. Add 3/4 cup sour cream, 2 eggs, a scant cup caster sugar and 1 tspn vanilla and process until smooth again. Pour over bases (I only had enough filling for 8 so I had to discard 4 of the biscuit-lined papers - next time I'll slightly decrease the amount of base ingredients) and bake for 30 mins.

Allow to cool in the tins, remove and chill. Spoon over raspberry topping to serve.


February 9, 2008

needed - a decent cupcakery in melbourne

Today I was going to tell you about a new cupcake shop in Melbourne that I'd read about. Not sure when they opened but I think not that long ago. Anyway I tried out their cupcakes yesterday...they looked really great and the nice girl who served me assured me they were all freshly baked. I bought 4 different flavours and we all had a bit of each. Disappointingly all but one of them (the carrot) was crumbly and stale. Looks like we still need a good cupcake bakery in Melbourne.

February 7, 2008

the 'R' word

I don't like the word retirement much. It sounds like something old people do. I certainly don't feel old enough to do it. So I'll just say yesterday was my last ever day working at the library.

My last couple of weeks have been spent frantically pinching everybody's off-desk time trying to get everything up to date for my replacement...whoever that may be. I cleared out my desk, filling up 3 wastepaper bins in the process. I sent farewell messages to all my Interlibrary Loan buddies from other library services, and got lots of replies from them wishing me all the best, good luck, telling me I'd be missed etc, which was lovely and very heart-warming.

My last day was simply fantastic. There was a lovely afternoon tea with speeches and gifts and flowers. And there was singing too! Sweet gorgeous Katie had written a farewell song to the tune of Hey Jude - what else? - and everyone sang ... it was hilarious. Then after work there was a dinner with a dozen close work mates. But it all felt a little surreal too. The library has been a big part of my life for 16 years which adds up to a lot of good times and a million laughs. I felt very sad to be leaving all my workmates. There have been so many special people I've worked with over the years. A few of them have become lifelong friends so of course I'll still see them.

I have no definite plans for the future. I'll have more time to spend meeting friends, reading, patchworking, knitting, exercising, and practising my choir music, and hopefully there'll be some worthy cause that could use another volunteer. But who am I going to make cakes for?

February 3, 2008

coconut chilli chicken

I loved to cook when I was young, especially sweet stuff. I can remember making endless batches of chocolate eclairs when one of the Girls' Annuals I used to be given every Xmas featured the recipe. So when my kids were growing up I kind of expected them to start hanging around the kitchen wanting to help. It didn't happen, but sometime between leaving home and now, they both turned into great cooks. Nick is a bit of a curry expert, while Georgie likes cooking modern style food, especially with Thai flavours, and rarely makes anything twice.

Here's the absolutely scrumptious dinner she cooked tonight .....

coconut, lime & chilli chicken (serves 4)

1Tab peanut oil

2 red chillies, seeded and chopped

finely grated rind of 2 limes

1Tab sugar

12 chicken tenderloins

100g baby spinach

300g beans, blanched


1 red chilli, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/4 cup coriander leaves

juice of 3 limes

1 Tab fish sauce

Heat oil in pan. Fry chillies, rind and sugar for 1 minute. Add chicken and cook 2 mins each side until golden. Mix dressing ingredients to combine. Place spinach leaves and beans in serving dish, top with chicken and pour over dressing.

I said it looked far too much for the three of us but we polished off the lot.