Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Oxtail and beetroot pie

Oxtail and beetroot pie II
Originally uploaded by
A Kiwi food magazine, Cuisine, has recently hit the shelves en masse in Australia. I presume that it is only recent because I have never seen it before. I bought the July 2007 issue of Cuisine, and boy, it is good - right up there with Delicious and Donna Hay Magazine. I was so impressed that I subscribed to Cuisine, bringing my food magazine subscriptions to three.

The cover of the July issue of Cuisine features a pile of pastry leaves that have been swept up by a pastry brush. It is really cute! The cover was presumably inspired by the "Upper Crust Pies" feature in the July edition. One of those pie recipes is for Oxtail and Beetroot Pie. As soon as I read this recipe, I knew I wanted to make it. You can find the recipe here.

This pie truly is a labour of love, taking me five or so hours to make all up (including resting and cooling times) spread over a couple of days. It was also not a cheap pie to make, as it contains one whole bottle of red wine and 1.5kg of oxtail, which despite constituting offal, costs as much as ordinary meat. (I cheated and used a slightly lesser quantity of oxtail.)

However, the end result of this expenditure of money and labour was worth it. This pie is rich and flavoursome, and absolutely perfect as a winter meal. The author of the recipe mentions that it is also good to eat cold; however, with the wind howling outside and the temperature dropping below 10 degrees Celsius, I think I will be consuming the entirety of this pie as a hot dish.

If you are feeling up to the challenge, I recommend trying this recipe - this pie is absolutely delicious!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Saturday afternoon treat

Fruit and yoghurt
Originally uploaded by Cakelaw
This post features a picture of one of my favourite easy treats - Greek yoghurt, kiwi fruit and strawberries. Yum! Thanks to Cleo's Deli at Prahran Market for the delicious Greek yoghurt.

Beach Party Fare

Beach Party Fare
Originally uploaded by Cakelaw
We've been suffering from the winter blues at work, so to lift everyone's spirits, our team held an office beach party on Friday afternoon. We wore sunglasses and hats, played ball, sat on blow-up fluoro chairs and filled up the esky with beer, wine, orange juice and Malibu. The food included lots of chopped fresh pineapple and other fruits as well as the usual office party chips. My contribution to the party fare was mini passionfruit cheesecakes and sea and sand patty cakes (pictured).

I made the passionfruit cheesecakes by blending together a tin of condensed milk, a 250g block of cream cheese, the juice of one lemon, two 10g sachets of gelatine dissolved in water and an 80g tin of passionfruit pulp, then pouring the mixture into tart shells made in accordance with the same recipe that I used for the mini lemon meringue pies and refrigerating until set. I used both light condensed milk and light cream cheese - it makes no difference to the finished product, in my view. I made 24 mini cheesecakes, with some cheesecake filling left over (which I just poured onto a biscuit base in an 8" cheesecake pan for myself to eat at leisure).

The patty cakes were made from the recipe in The Margaret Fulton Cookbook. I iced the patty cakes with bright yellow (sand) and blue (sea) coloured glace icing, and topped each with an Allens Naturals Tropical Fish lolly.

Thanks to Racquel and Sam for brainstorming and organising our beach party - it brightened up a grey Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Blogging by Mail - My Favourite Things

When I'm feeling sad, I simply remember my favourite things, and then I don't feel so bad.
Rodgers and Hammerstein, My Favourite Things
Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness has once again organised Blogging by Mail, with a theme of "A Few of My Favourite Things". I have always vicariously enjoyed Blogging by Mail through reading about the surprise parcels jetting around the world between food bloggers. However, this time, I am actually a participant, so I am over the moon! It was fun putting together a parcel to send, and the hardest part was deciding what NOT to include.
Today, I received my parcel from the lovely Katie B at Other People's Food. Just like me, Katie is a relatively new blogger, and this is her first BBM. It was so exciting opening each new treasure, individually wrapped in gorgeous floral tissue. A picture of the contents of my parcel is featured at the top of this post.
In my BBM parcel, I received:
- A copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, which Katie says changed the way she looked at food. I look forward to reading it and hope to be similarly enlightened;

- A jar of apple butter from Toigo Orchards in Shippensburg, PA, which Katie says is made by her friend's family and is her favourite breakfast treat. I am sure that it will taste devine on a warm crumpet on a cold Melbourne morning;

- A box of fair trade chocolates made by Theo Chocolate of Seattle, WA. The flavours sound wonderful - burnt sugar, lemon, peanut butter and jelly, fig-fennel, mint and ivory coast (and I love chocolate!!);

- A packet of Intelligentsia Fair Trade Organic Bolivian Coffee - which will be perfect for my new coffee machine that I won at work;

- A Microplane mini zester - Katie, you must have ESP! I have needed a zester forever so that I stop scraping the skin off my thumb by zesting using the grater attachment from my mandolin without the guard; and

- Katie's favourite blueberry muffin recipe from February 2007 Food and Wine magazine. Katie says that even her husband likes these muffins, despite hating fruit muffins. As I am a fan of fruit muffins, I can't wait to try this recipe.

Katie, thanks so much for sharing this wonderful parcel of your favourite things!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

SHF #33 - Tropical Paradise - Frangipani Pie

Here comes the sun,
Do do do do,
Here comes the sun,
And I say, it's alright ...

George Harrison, Here Comes the Sun
I have been a long time admirer of the Sugar High Friday Event, which this month is being hosted by Alpineberry. She has chosen "Tropical Paradise" as the theme, which fits in perfectly with my last two posts from cookbooks with a summer theme. Alas, in Melbourne in winter, one can only dream of a tropical paradise, and this winter has been one of the coldest in years. However, as I am a native Queenslander, I know what a tropical paradise should be like. Accordingly, I have chosen to make one of the sunniest, sweetest desserts that I know for Sugar High Friday #33 - namely, Frangipani Pie.

Frangipani pie has nothing to do with the almond cream filling used by pastry chefs known as "frangipane". Rather, it is a pie comprised of alternating layers of coconut cream, pineapple and meringue. The resulting white/yellow/white pie resembles the frangipani flowers which grow in tropical regions. I love the delicate looking frangipani flower, and hence have always had a special affinity for the delicious dessert which bears its name. The yellow pineapple in the filling evokes daydreams of sunny, lazy summers at the beach, soaking up the sun, surf and sand. This makes frangipani pie the perfect dessert for this "Tropical Paradise" version of Sugar High Friday.

The recipe is as follows:
Pie shell
1/2 cup self raising flour
3/4 cup plain flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
120g butter, cubed
1 egg
Coconut cream filling
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornflour
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup dessicated coconut
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pineapple filling
440g can crushed pineapple (I used Golden Circle brand from Queensland, just like me!)
1/4 cup cornflour
1/4 cup cold water
2 lightly beaten egg yolks
Meringue topping
2 egg whites
4 tablespoons sugar
Pie shell

Place flours, sugar and butter into a food processor and blitz until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add egg and blitz until the mxiture forms a ball of dough. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Remove from fridge and roll out until approximately 3mm thick and covers a 22cm pie plate. Carefully place the rolled pastry into a greased pie plate, and press to cover the plate. Cut off the hanging edges and press edges around the top of the pie plate with a fork. Line the pie shell with baking paper and fill with uncooked rice, then bake for 10 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Remove baking paper and rice, then return the pie shell to the oven for another 1o minutes or until golden brown. Remove the cooked pie shell from the oven and cool.

Coconut cream filling
Blend the cornflour and water into a smooth paste and set aside. Place milk and sugar in a small saucepan, and stir over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cornflour paste, stirring continuously until the mixture thickens and boils. Take the saucepan off the heat, and stir in the butter, coconut and vanilla. Cool.
Pineapple filling
Place the pineapple and cornflour in a saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring continuously. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and stir in the egg yolks. Cool.
Meringue topping
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then beat in the sugar, one tablespoon at a time.
Place one half of the cooled coconut cream into the pie shell, cover with the pineapple filling, then cover with the remainder of the coconut cream (so you end up with white/yellow/white layers), and top with the meringue. Bake the pie in an oven preheated to 180 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes or until the meringue has browned. Cool on the bench, then refrigerate until set. Cut into generous slices to serve.

Frangipani pie is visually appealing because of its sunny colour scheme. For a Queensland girl stuck in a "long cold lonely winter" in Victoria, there's nothing like frangipani pie to say, "Here comes the sun!"

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ricotta and shallot stuffed chicken

Tonight, I tried Ricotta and Herb Stuffed Chicken from Every Day by Bill Granger. I have always found Bill's recipes to be light and tasty, and this roast chicken was no exception. It involves "spatchcocking" a chicken, and stuffing a mixture of ricotta, herbs (in my case, shallots, because the supermarket was out of chives) and lemon zest under its skin before seasoning and roasting it. As the photographs attest, this chicken turned out beautifully.
I served the chicken with steamed mixed vegetables and honeyed baked sweet potato. This was a great dish to warm up a cold winter's night, even though Bill features it as part of a "Summer Dinner Party" menu.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Strawberry Meringue Layer Cake

Today was Dawn's birthday (our last office birthday for over a month!). I have had enough chocolate cake for quite a while, so wanted to make a non-chocolate birthday treat for Dawn. For quite some time, I had been looking longingly at the recipe for Strawberry Meringue Layer Cake on p202 of Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer. It seems quite ironic that, in the coldest winter in Melbourne in 10 years or so, I would be making something from a book whose title features summer. However, I think you neeed a bit of irony to fight the bitter cold.

This cake is effectively a pavlova and a sponge cake in one. The sponge component was yet another cake from Nigella's books with odd, very thick batter which I was not sure would work, but sure enough, it came out smelling and tasting quite good. The only minor issue is that the sponge batter did not quite seem to cover the bottom of my springform pans, hence there was a slight gap between the edge of the meringue and the start of the sponge in a couple of places. However, once I smooshed the two meringue/sponge layers together with cream and strawberries in the middle, it didn't really matter. The flaked almonds on top of this cake added a nice toasty flavour to the cake. A deep crack in one of my layers (resulting from the sponge/meringue mismatch) also didn't matter - I put that layer on the bottom, and no-one was any the wiser.

Despite the seemingly overtly sweet nature of this cake (300g of sugar and a whole carton of cream!), the finished product was not overly sweet, and many people remarked how much they liked this cake. I was pretty happy with the final result, despite my doubts during the process of making this cake, and think it is one of the prettiest cakes that I have made for a while.

I recommend this cake to anyone who is actually experiencing summer and has an abundance of strawberries, and for anyone who, like me, is pining for summer, and wishes to make it seem just a little bit closer by making this lovely cake.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dinosaur rock chocolate cake

For Ash's birthday, I decided to make Dinosaur Rock Chocolate Cake from p27 of the Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook. The Crabapple Cupcake Bakery has a gorgeous little cupcake shop at Prahran Market in Melbourne. My favourite cupcakes from there to date are the coconut marshmallow cloud cupcakes, with fluffy marshmallow frosting, and the Alice in Wonderland cupcakes, topped with coconut ice and a glace cherry!

I know that Ash likes chocolate, but I didn't want to repeat the pure chocolate indulgence of Friday too soon (you gotta keep people guessing). The Dinosaur Rock Chocolate Cake uses cocoa instead of chocolate for its flavour, and boy, is there a lot of it - one whole cup! The recipe is meant to make 24 cupcakes, and if I had been paying attention, I would have halved it to make the cake - but by the time I realised what a large quantity of batter the recipe made, it was too late. This was one mother of a cake! The batter filled the bowl of my electric mixer almost to the top, which has never happened before. It must also have put too great a strain on the mixer's motor/heart, because after 12 years of faithful service, the motor blew up while I was trying to make the marshmallow frosting on p150 of the Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook to imitate Ash's girlfriend's marshmallow cupcakes. So unfortunately for Ash, I made plain old chocolate glace icing.

My trials were not over yet, because I made the white contrasting icing too thin to pipe properly, and my first effort at piping Ash's name on the cake ended up being an illegible blob. Blind panic set in as I scraped off the awful mess, pulled off the glace cherries decorating the top of the cake, and desperately tried to patch up the chocolate icing before giving the piping another go and reattaching the cherries. These misadventures explain the rather rugged look to the icing, and as you can see, the piping is still rather wobbly. Methinks some practice with whipped cream on a piece of greaseproof paper is urgently needed!

Ash did not come to work today, so this cake is as yet untested and is waiting patiently for his return in the fridge at work. I will update you on the verdict on this cake once it becomes available.
Postscript: Despite its dramatic beginnings, this cake was really good and went down a treat. Here is a quote kindly provided by Sam:
"It was a delicious cake with a rich, moist, chocolatey goodness about it.
It has quite a smooth texture and seemed to go down almost too well!!!
Can I get the recipe?"

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Night In - Music and Lyrics

This post is a divergence from blogging about food, and concerns my night in last night. I watched Music and Lyrics on DVD, and absolutely loved it! I am a sucker for a good chick flick, and this was the best one that I have seen for a while. Sure, Music and Lyrics has some corny bits, and Hugh Grant has aged a little since my friends and I fell for him madly in Four Weddings and a Funeral, floppy fringe and all, but overall this movie was really enjoyable - funny, romantic and with a happy ending (yes, I can hear the guys out there heave a collective sigh of resignation/disgust).

There is also a great quote early on in the film which I wish to share with you. Sophie (Drew Barrymore) explains to Alex (Hugh Grant) why the melody is not more important than the lyrics in the song-writing process. Here is what she had to say:

A melody is like seeing someone for the first time - the physical attraction - sex ... But then, as you get to know the person, that's the lyrics, their story, who they are underneath. It's the combination of the two that makes it magic.

I love this quote, and I leave it with you as my thought for today.

Baked chicken and pumpkin risotto

I love risotto, but have only previously tried to make it twice myself, both while I was living in London about five years ago. The first time, I made a spinach and pancetta risotto using a recipe from a magazine issued by UK Safeway (now defunct), and the results were pleasing. Buoyed by this result, I tried to make Jamie Oliver's butternut pumpkin risotto, with disastrous results. It took forever to cut up a whole butternut pumpkin as required by the recipe, with me fearing that I'd amputate my fingers the whole time, and the end result was such a gloggy, tasteless mess that it went straight into the bin. I have since been shy of making my own risotto.

However, I have recently seen numerous recipes for baked risotto, which eliminate the crucial but tedious task of assisting the rice to absorb liquid via the stove-top method. When I saw Emma's yummy looking baked chicken and pumpkin rissotto at The Laughing Gastronome (the recipe is here), I was enticed to try the culinary equivalent of bungy jumping and attempt to make risotto again - and I am glad that I did!

Doesn't this look fantastic! And it tasted just as good as it looks. The risotto is based on chicken stock, which gives it a nice flavour, and it worked even though I used rose wine instead of white wine as required by the recipe (hey, I didn't have any white!). I am also a fan of the juicy sweetness of japanese pumpkin, which makes me laugh considering that I wouldn't touch the stuff until I lived in a University college and had to eat it or starve.

This risotto is the perfect comfort food for a cold winter's night - I highly recommend giving it a go. And because it is baked, you just stick it in the oven and let it look after itself - no more tedious stirring and coaxing for the rice to absorb liquid on a stovetop. Brilliant!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Nihowera's Mid-winter Christmas Feast 2007 - Christmas Pudding and Other Treats

Nihowera, contributed to by Bron and Emma, is hosting a Mid-winter Christmas Feast. I love Christmas and the festivities associated with it, so an opportunity to experience Christmas twice in one year is too good to miss!

I absolutely adore Christmas pudding, with its rich fruity taste, accompanied by lashings of custard and cream - even when it is a typical Aussie Christmas Day and it is 30 degrees Celsius outside! Given it is so cold in Melbourne in winter, Christmas in July is a much more appropriate time to eat Christmas pudding. Accordingly, for my contribution to the Nihowera mid-winter Christmas feast, I have chosen my adaptation of Nigella's Non-Conformist Christmas pudding, from p69 of Feast. I made this pudding in November last year, but this is its first public appearance.

The recipe, with my adaptations, is as follows:

300g dried figs, chopped
125g dried cherries, chopped
100g dried apricots, chopped
100g sultanas
100ml amaretto
50ml brandy
175g unsalted butter, chopped into cubes
100g fresh breadcrumbs
100g almond meal
50g cocoa
100g plain flour
1 tspn baking powder
1/ tspn bicarbonate of soda
150g brown sugar
2 apples, grated
3 eggs
150ml carton sour cream
1 tbspn vanilla extract
1 tspn cinnamon

Grease a pudding basin. Put the dried fruit in a saucepan with the amaretto and brandy and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Put butter cubes on top of the fruit and simmer for a further 10 minutes. (Note - watch the fruit and stir it often - I let my fruit burn slightly onto the saucepan, which luckily had no ill effects on the taste of the pudding, but made my cleaning up job a lot harder!)

Combine the breadcrumbs, almond meal, cocoa, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and sugar in a bowl. Add the apples and the dried fruit mixture and mix well.

In another bowl, beat together the eggs, sour cream, vanilla and cinnamon until smooth. Pour into the fruit and flour mixture and mix well. Pour the pudding batter into the pudding basin, firmly secure the lid, and steam for 4 hours in a large saucepan of boiling water. (I managed to steam a number of self-adhesive wall hooks off the walls of my flat in the process!!) Check the water levels in the saucepan every half an hour or so to be sure that the pudding doesn't boil dry, and top up as necessary. However, ensure that you don't get water into the pudding - the water should come no further than half way up the sides of the pudding basin.

Take the pudding out of the saucepan and leave to cool and set in the pudding basin overnight. Unmould the cooled pudding, wrap in greaseproof paper and cling film, and store in the refrigerator until required. Leave the pudding flavours to mature for a few days or weeks before serving. When ready to serve the pudding, either resteam it for 1 1/2 hours, or (the easier option!) cut off slices and heat up in the microwave on high for approximately one minute. Serve warm with custard, cream and icecream.

Although she calls it a "non-conformist" Christmas pudding, Nigella does so because she has used non-traditional ingredients like cocoa, sour cream and almond meal in the pudding. It is not a reference to the taste, as it tastes as rich and comforting as any other Christmas pudding that I have tried, and is miles better than a store-bought pudding.

To finish off my contribution to Nihowera's Christmas Mid-winter Feast, I couldn't resist posting a photo of the Christmas treats that I made for work last Christmas. The photo features sugar cookies that have been coated in chocolate or icing, apricot balls, rum balls and miniature Christmas puddings.

Meri Kirihimete in July everyone!

Black Friday & a striped chocolate cake

Yesterday was Black Friday - that is, Friday the 13th - and from my perspective, it truly was a black Friday. The reason for this is that Tim left the building as a work colleague for the last time to move on to other things. In a job that often requires me to turn around results in a short time and for which I rely on good team work from my colleagues to be able to meet the expectations of others, I appreciated Tim's fast and to the point advice. Tim also has a unique sense of humour which often brightened up the routine of a working day for our group. While no-one in an organisation is irreplacable from a functional viewpoint, this doesn't take account of the fact that the individuals who fill each role in an organisation are valued by others for themselves, quite apart from the functional role that they perform. Tim is a fantastic person, and the imprint that he has made on my life cannot be filled by anyone else.

As part of Tim's leaving presentation, he was presented with collective gifts from the team, which included lots of chocolate! It therefore seemed apt that the leaving cake that I chose to make for Tim contained about 400g of chocolate. This cake was a striped chocolate cake, the recipe for which I have to thank Zinnur from the beautiful blog, Our Patisserie. The recipe for this cake can be found here.

I have made this cake once before, and was able to draw on that experience to realise that I needed to make two roulades instead of one to end up with a cake of normal (ie 20cm) diameter. If you only make a single roulade, you will end up with a very small cake, and will have to waste a lot of the chocolate layers. Even when I used two roulades to make the "striped" component of the cake, I still had to trim off a small amount of the chocolate layers to match the diameter of the three cakes. I chose to decorate this cake with grated white chocolate and white chocolate piping to contrast with the dark ganache, instead of with the chocolate curls used by Zinnur. This also enabled me to personalise the cake with a piped message (which is legible even if it is a little wonky!).

Apart from the "heavy duty" chocolate experience that this cake provides, it has the advantage of the "wow" factor, especially if you don't tell anyone that the cake is striped inside before it is cut. It looks a lot harder to make than it actually is - the only tricky parts are ensuring that your roulade strips are approximately even in width so that you end up with a flat middle section for the cake (hence ensuring that the three sections fit evenly together), and that the three sections of the cake end up approximately even in diameter (so that you don't end up with something akin to the Leaning Tower of Pisa!).

I enjoyed eating this cake as much as making it, and I particularly enjoyed the "oohs" and "aahs" from my colleagues when they saw the stripes and wondered how I made the cake. Unfortunately, Tim was rather unwell with a cold on his last day, so I am not sure if he could taste this cake or whether he liked it. However, I hope that he did.

Good luck Tim - I will miss you!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Blog Party #24 Lemon meringue pies and rose spritzer

Blog Party hosted by Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness is turning two this month, and to celebrate, the theme of this month's Blog Party is Blogger's Choice. Brilliant! I had already decided to make baby lemon meringue pies for work this week, so nominating them as the appetizer for my entry for Blog Party was a no brainer.

The recipe that I used for my lemon meringue pies is this one, found on Exclusively Food. In my madness, I started making the pies at 8pm on Sunday night to take to work on Monday morning. Accordingly, this recipe was especially attractive because the pastry is made in the food processor rather than having to laboriously rub the butter into the flour. Making the pastry was a breeze, and took no more than 5 minutes (which was a blessing at that time of night, given that the pastry has to chill for an hour before you can use it). Anyone can make this pastry if they have a food processor, I promise - it is so easy.

Instead of rolling out the pastry to line a pie plate and blind baking it, as you would for a full sized pie, I cut out circles from the rolled pastry and placed them in patty tins to form baby tart shells. Before baking, I pricked the bottom of each tart shell a couple of times with a fork, and baked the tart shells for around 20 minutes (yep, the same time as recommended for the full sized tart shell!).

The lemon curdy filling was also really simple to make - I ended up with a thick, sharp yet sweet, smooth curd, and did not have to sieve out any lumps. The sharpish lemon with the lovely fluffy sweet meringue top is a killer combination. The only part that was even remotely difficult about making these pies was trying to spread a meringue top over each tiny tart to seal it without mixing it into the lemon curd. (I have to confess that around 11pm at night while I was doing this, I was asking myself why!!)

There was plenty of lemon curd filling left over (having made tiny tarts instead of a full sized one), which will go perfectly on crumpets for breakfast on chilly Melbourne mornings.

I managed to make 24 perfect (ah, well, I thought so! As you can see, I ate one!) baby lemon meringue pies, and one bite assuaged my fears that the pastry would be tastless and inedible - it was crisp and melt in your mouth. (I have a mild phobia about making pastry, even though I have in recent years been able to make it successfully - that fear of failure never leaves you!)

For an accompanying cocktail, I looked no further than the wonderful wild hibiscus flowers that I purchased for Wild Weeds, and made a rose spritzer. I placed a hibiscus flower plus a little syrup in which they are stored in the bottom of a champagne flute, and filled the flute half and half with rose wine and sparkling mineral water. Yum!

Happy second birthday to Stephanie's Blog Party!

This post is dedicated to Tim, who likes lemon meringue pie and who inspired this choice.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Tarun's birthday chocolate cake

I love baking and the pleasure that it brings to me and others in equal measure. To satisfy this passion, I have been baking a birthday cake for each person in my group at work. However, this week the tables were turned when Tarun asked if I could show him how to make his own birthday cake. Accordingly, I sought out my inner teacher this week and gave Tarun a baking lesson.

Knowing that Tarun likes chocolate cake, as a friend of mine had already given him a lesson in how to bake a mud cake, I chose Nigella's old-fashioned chocolate cake from p269 of
Feast. Tarun was unconvinced that he was up to the challenge of this double decker beauty, but Nigella promised that this cake was simple to make.

We had a few interesting moments making this cake, because Tarun does not have a food processor or a stand mixer. However, we got there in the end, with Tarun doing the lion's share of the work so that he could learn - but in my case, perhaps it was the blind leading the blind!! I was slightly worried about the cake because the batter seemed very thick, but my worrying was needless - the cake turned out beautifully, with a rich chocolatey smell and a taste to match. Tarun was already an expert at melting chocolate from his earlier baking lesson, so he basically made the icing himself.

Instead of Nigella's enchanting sugared violets, we decorated Tarun's cake with
jaffas - which had the advantage of there being plenty left over to eat later ;).

Everyone at work who tried the cake that I spoke to loved it - especially the very thick, rich, chocolatey icing. Well done Tarun - and happy birthday!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Mulligatawny soup

Mulligatawny soup
Originally uploaded by Cakelaw
I have been fascinated by mulligatawny soup ever since I saw the Soup Nazi episode on Seinfeld, and George ordered mulligatawny soup. "Mulligatawny" is a great word, isn't it? I had no idea what mulligatawny soup actually entailed, so when the July edition of Delicious magazine featured a mulligatawny soup recipe by Jamie Oliver on p36, I had to make it.

Jamie says that "mulligatawny" is an anglicisation of the Tamil words for "pepper water". This seems an apt description of this soup - it has a rich, peppery flavour, which was not entirely to my liking. My soup finished up being very thick, and I had to add extra water to thin it over the one and one quarter hour cooking time. The flavour seemed almost smoky - whether this was because my soup was overcooked (my stove has a mind of its own) or whether this is the way it is meant to be, I do not know.

I probably wouldn't make this soup again, but it gives me great pleasure to have, at least once, tried mulligatawny soup, as seen on Seinfeld.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Chilli chicken

Chilli chicken
Originally uploaded by
It was a miserable day weather-wise in Melbourne today. After a crisp clear start, it became foggy, grey and freezing cold. I spent the afternoon working in front of the heater. To that extent, the terrible weather was a godsend, as there was nothing to distract me from finishing the speech that I have to deliver in a week and a half.

To warm me up from the inside out, I made Chilli Chicken from p74 of the July 2007 issue of Delicious magazine for dinner. The original was White Chilli Chicken, and relied on using white and yellow ingredients for its aesthetic paleness. I was not concerned about the finished product being white (in fact, I prefer it not to be!), so I coloured my onions in the pan, used green capsicums and chillis instead of yellow, and used three bean mix instead of cannellini beans.

While the picture I have taken of this dish makes it look rather unattractive (how do you take an attractive picture of something like this!), it tasted superb. It contains creamed corn, which both thickens the dish and gives it a pleasant creamy flavour. The dish is served with rice for extra body.

I would definitely make this again - it is both filling and tasty.

Hawthorn craft market

Today I visited the Hawthorn craft market for the second time. It is on the first Sunday of each month from 10am to 3pm at Hawthorn Town Hall, and is packed with food, plants, clothes and crafts.

To give you the flavour of the quality of the market, my purchases today were:

Butterfield Farm pumpkin and ginger jam:

Gorgeous cupcake from Hello Cupcake by Sandy:

Baby knitwear for a friend by Susan Pierce:

There are so many fabulous things to check out at Hawthorn craft market - if you live in Melbourne, I highly recommend dropping in to check it out.