Tuesday, August 31, 2010

TWD - Expresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Just like a shot of expresso with a teaspoon of sugar, this post will be short and sweet.

This week's Tuesday with Dorie is hosted by Donna of Life's Too Short Not to Eat Dessert First. She chose Dorie's Expresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies.

These cookies are easy to make and taste good; however, I am not a particular fan of shortbread, so they won't be appearing on my rotation list again any day soon.

Thanks to our host, Donna, who will have the recipe. To check out some more of these cookies, visit the
TWD blogroll.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Daring Bakers - Baked Alaska

When I was at Uni, I used to love Northern Exposure - you know, the show about Dr Joel Fleischman, who much to his dismay, had to practice in Cicely, Alaska as a condition of his medical school scholarship. My friend Jen was so hooked on it that she refused to take phone calls while it was on (she was a med student, after all). I thought Fleischman was kinda cute, and that Maggie was mad not to just fall head over heels for him. I was so caught up with Fleischman that I didn't take much notice of the delightful John Corbett, who these days is much more my cup of tea (check him out in Sex and the City or The United States of Tara and you'll see why). I never did understand Ed, or why Marilyn had such a babyish voice - those are mysteries that will remain unsolved.

The Alaskan theme segues nicely into this month's Daring Bakers challenge:

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of
17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

I made the Baked Alaska - primarily because I am still rather time poor and I could make one huge Baked Alaska rather than numerous cute but fiddly petit fours. Besides, I've always wanted to make a Baked Alaska - it intrigues me how icecream can go into the oven and survive without melting into oblivion. The trick is to freeze it until it is very hard.

The browned butter pound cake smelled amazing and tasted good on its own the first day, but it was little hard and tasteless in the Baked Alaska, and didn't taste like much the next day. I also feel that I should have halved the cake for use as a base for the Baked Alaska, because you have to admit, it looks a little out of proportion here:

I made David Lebovitz's vanilla icecream as per Elissa's instructions - simply because I love it. Like I said last month, this is the best icecream I've ever tasted (even better than Baskin Robbins Toffee Praline, which is pretty damn fine).

I then piped meringue all over the hardened icecream/cake combination until it looked like a jester's hat, and baked it in the oven - and voila, we have a Baked Alaska that did not, to my relief, end up as a puddle on the floor of my oven.

Here is a peek inside:

Delicious, yeah? Unfortunately, that cake did not do it for me - but with all that yummy icecream and meringue, who cares?

Thanks to Elissa for hosting us this month. You can check out a veritable parade of Baked Alaskas and petit fours by visting
The Daring Kitchen.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

William Angliss Shop and Cook Tour - Queen Victoria Market

On Saturday, I went on a Shop and Cook Tour to Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne with William Angliss Institute of TAFE. The tour was led by Lucinda Macdougall, a chef of over 35 years experience. There were 9 people in our group, including two guys - which is very rare for cooking classes in my experience. Our cooking experience ranged from Lucinda, an experienced chef, to one of the guys, who said he had no cooking experience and wanted to learn.

At the market, we didn't buy much that we were going to cook that day, as William Angliss had already bought all the ingredients. The market aspect of the tour was really just to get some tips from Lucinda about what to look for and what to buy (eg buy fresh, buy seasonal). For morning tea, we all had a coffee and bought our own snack (in my case, cherry cheese streudel - yum!).

Back at William Angliss, we cooked up a storm, learning new techniques from Lucinda. The group was divided into two for the purposes of cooking the various dishes on our menu - the squid group and the beef group. I chose the squid group, as I had never cleaned or cooked a squid, and Lucinda showed us how to do it. After cooking for a couple of hours, we got to enjoy the fruits of our labour with a glass or two of wine.

The dishes were:

Grilled spiced squid

Roasted fillet of beef (served with skordalia, a very garlicy mashed potato) on a bed of braised French lentils with gremolata

A delicious mayonnaise - meant for a celeriac remoulade, but there was no celeriac to buy on the day - which tasted devine with the beef and slathered on fresh bread

Shaved fennel with blood orange salad - I can proudly say that my experience with segmenting oranges when making the orange tian for Daring Bakers came into good use here, surprising Lucinda

Beetroot with goats curd and walnuts (we also cooked up the beetroot greens, not shown). A tip for young players - wear gloves when peeling beetroots, or else have plenty of lemon juice at home to get the stain out of your hands! I got lots of curious looks on the train home because of my purple hands.

And the finale - cardamom and saffron marscapone with a blood orange and honey syrup ...

served with shaved apples.

It was all delicious, but my favourites were the beef (which was cooked with anchovies and garlic for extra flavour), the beetroot salad and the dessert.

Straight after the tour finished, I had to run to the polling booth to vote in our federal election (as it is compulsory to vote in Australia).

It was a fun day. I learned some new techniques, and I am now eager to buy my own squid to practice on, and to try garfish, a bright silver, pointy-nosed fish we saw at the market.

Thanks to Lucinda for imparting her wisdom to us, and for designing and helping us to prepare such a delicious menu!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

TWD - Crunchy and custardy peach tart

On this morning's weather report, the weather reporter was presenting live from Seaworld in San Diego. It was 1.30pm on Monday afternoon there, the sun was shining brightly, and everyone was dressed in their casual summer clothes. In that instant, I really, really wanted to trade places with the weather reporter, or in fact anyone who was there, because it looked like my idea of heaven. Sadly, I turned off the TV, hauled on my bulky winter coat and hat, and trudged out the door to the train on my way to work.

Peaches are summer incarnate - sunny, bright and sweet. This week's Tuesday with Dorie challenge, hosted by Rachel of Sweet Tarte, brought a little summer into my wintery Melbourne kitchen by virtue of Dorie's Crunchy and Custardy Peach Tart. Because peaches are wise enough to hibernate for the winter, there were no fresh peaches to be had, but I could still make this tart using canned peaches that I drained and patted dry. (Refrain - Peaches come from a can, They were put there by a man ...)

Other than the tinned peaches, I made this recipe as written - and it was devine! Dorie's superb sweet tart dough encases sliced peaches, which are then swathed in a delicate, creamy custard, and topped with a contrasting, crunchy almond streusel topping. OMG. This one I had to take to work to ensure that I could continue to fit all of my clothes, because frankly, left alone with this tart, it would be gone in a flash. If you think it looks good - you are soooooooooooooo right.

Thanks to Rachel for choosing this week's recipe (which will be on her site when it is Tuesday NYC time). To see how the other TWD members went with this tart, visit the
TWD blogroll.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Taste and Create 3 Year Anniversary - Devils Food Cupcakes

Taste & Create has turned 3 years old. Taste&Create was started as a food event by Nicole from For the Love of Food to create a community of bloggers who test each others’ recipes and share links. It has also been to help new and not so well known bloggers get their foot in the door of the foodie community. This is my first Taste & Create event.

To celebrate Taste & Create's third birthday, we have been asked to create a dessert from our allocated partner's blog. My blog partner for this event is Becky of Baking and Cooking, A Tale of Two Loves. Becky has a lot of cupcakes on her site, so I chose to make one of her cupcake recipes as my dessert. My selection was the Devils Food Cupcakes that Becky made for her granddaughter's 17th birthday. You can find the recipe and Becky's post here.

These cakes are meant to be triple chocolate - chocolate cake, chocolate morsels and chocolate icing, but I ran out of cocoa and couldn't find any more at the supermarket, so my buttercream frosting is vanilla instead of chocolate. I also found that I needed roughly a cup more flour than stated in the recipe (perhaps because I used gluten free flour?), and my cupcakes needed to bake for around 35 minutes rather than the 15-20 minutes stated in the recipe (perhaps a combination of my slow oven and the fact that my cupcakes were probably bigger than the recipe stated, as I only got 18 cupcakes instead of 24). I otherwise made the recipe exactly as written.

The beauty of this recipe is that it is pretty much a one pot job - everything goes in together, with only two steps. This makes them quick and easy to make. They are also chocolatey enough to please any chocoholic (although the cake flavour comes from cocoa, not chocolate). I especially liked the fluffy buttercream frosting - it wasn't greasy at all.

Thanks to Nicole for hosting Taste & Create, and to Becky for her recipe. It's always fun to "meet" other bloggers. Happy third birthday Taste & Create!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

TWD - Oatmeal Breakfast Bread

Don't you just love it when you find a hidden gem? It could be a long lost ring, a new novel, or a great place to eat in your local area. The rush of endorphins when you realise you've stumbled on a hidden gem give you a warm inner glow, and it makes you happy whenever you think of it.

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe, Oatmeal Breakfast Bread, chosen by Natalie of Oven Love, is a hidden gem. Despite its rather prosaic, homely name, this "bread" (which would be a cake under the Australian classification system) is a stunner. It has a sweet. crunchy brown sugar and nut top and a light, fluffy, fruity interior. Delicious!!!

I made my bread as muffins (because the loaf tin still hasn't appeared out of the boxes), and used dried pears as my fruit of choice for the batter. This bread is so swoon-worthy that this week, I am not sharing - these are all mine. In muffin size pieces, it is perfect for my morning tea at work.

Here's a peek inside:

Thanks to Natalie for hosting us this week - you can find the recipe in Dorie's book or on Natalie's site. And if you'd like to see what the other TWD members did with this recipe, check out the TWD blogroll.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Strawberry and rhubarb crumble

Don't you love going to the markets and picking up fresh produce? I could live in Queen Vic Market in Melbourne - it has the most amazing array of all kinds of foods, and other things that defy categorisation. I am very shortly doing a shop and cook tour through the market to learn more about its hidden secrets, and I cannot wait.

During my last visit to the market, I bought some gorgeous ruby red rhubarb. Unfortunately, it became a little broken and sad before I got it home because I lost my purse at the market, and the poor old rhubarb got thrown around while I looked for the purse in a mad panic. I was very lucky - a nice lady found my purse and handed it in to a market staff member, who brought it into the office while I was shakily trying to cancel my cards. I only ended up having to cancel one card, and I got my purse back intact. One of the joys of having a blog is that I can get a message out there, so I want to say a big THANK YOU to the anonymous lady who found my purse at Queen Vic Market a couple of weeks ago and handed it in - you have restored my faith in human nature, and I wish I knew who you were so that I could thank you properly.

Back to the rhubarb ... I also had some strawberries living in my fridge that were getting a little long in the tooth, so I was keen to find a recipe that used both rhubarb and strawberries. Matthew Evans, a well known Australian food writer who left the big smoke of Sydney to start his own farm in Tasmania and televised it, came to my rescue. He has written a marvellous book called The Real Food Companion, which aims to teach us how to source, cook and eat "real" food. It is divided into ingredients, and has wonderful prose that accompanies each chapter, and a short paragraph accompanying each recipe. In an ideal world, I would love to do exactly what Matthew has done, but I just don't think I have the skills. However, I love his book, and I can at least make some of his wonderful recipes.

In The Real Food Companion, there is a recipe for strawberry and rhubarb crumble - exactly what I was looking for! The poor battered rhubarb and the ageing strawberries were given a new lease of life courtesy of this wonderful recipe. The end result is pictured at the top of this post - don't you just love the rich red juice staining the crumble topping? Matthew used rosewater geraniums to flavour his crumble; I do not have those, so I just used rosewater.

To make this crumble, you will need (with my adaptations):

200g plain flour
120g cold butter, cut into small pieces
120g sugar
250g rhubarb, cut into small pieces (approx 5cm long)
250g strawberries, hulled and halved
3-4 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon rosewater

The first job is to make the crumble. For this, put the flour and sugar into a medium bowl, and rub in the butter until you get a crumb-like consistency. Refrigerate the mixture for half an hour.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the fruit with the honey and vanilla until well combined, then press it into a greased 25cm square cake or pie pan. Sprinkle the rosewater over the top of the fruit:

Doesn't that look great?

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Sprinkle the crumble over the top of the fruit, then bake the crumble in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the crumble is golden brown on top.

Serve with cream, icecream or custard. Yum!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

TWD - Chocolate ganache icecream

I have never been much of a chocolate icecream fan - I am the one who eats the strawberry and vanilla flavours out of the Neopolitan icecream and leaves the chocolate. Accordingly, I am not a reliable judge of this week's TWD recipe, chosen by Katrina of Baking and Boys, being Chocolate Ganache Icecream.

Love chocolate - check. Love dessert - check. Love icecream - check. Just not chocolate icecream.

This icecream tastes OK - it is very rich, and if you are a chocolate icecream fan, you'd probably love this.

I had fun making it, and I think it looks cute in my Coney Island icecream cups. It looks a little soft as I chose to photograph straight after being churned, because once it goes hard in the freezer, I just don't have the patience to wait for it to be scoopable.

Thanks to Katrina for hosting us this week. You can check out the recipe in Dorie's book or at Katrina's site, and you can see what the other TWD bakers thought of it at the TWD website.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Maple and date syrup cake

One of my favourite ways to relax is to sit down with a food magazine full of beautiful photos and read through the recipes. If a recipe is well written and beautifully photographed, you can almost taste the dish without even making it.

Unfortunately, I am never as diligent about making recipes out of the food magazines that I subscribe to. However, I was flicking through my friend Craig's May 2010 edition of Donna Hay magazine, and found a wonderful selection of maple syrup dishes. The meatloaf that I made a while ago was one of these recipes. However, I took note of a few more recipes to make at a later date.

One of these recipes was a maple and date syrup cake, on p84. This golden spongy cake is topped with warm maple syrup, like pancakes on steroids. I decided to make this cake for work, hence skipped the maple syrup on top, but it absolutely delicious without. The cake is surprisingly light, despite the pureed dates and sultans that it contains, and is just the right level of sweetness for my taste.

It doesn't matter if you hate sultanas or raisins in baked goods - they are pureed, so add sweetness and texture without being noticeable in the final cake.

Here is a peek inside the cake, which reveals its sponge-like texture:

To make this cake, you will need:

1 cup chopped pitted dates

1/2 cup sultanas (I used raisins)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3/4 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups sifted self-raising flour*
3/4 cup brown sugar
150g melted butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs

*Or add 3 teaspoons baking powder to 1 1/2 cups plain flour, like I did.

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius, and grease and line a 9" inch cake pan. Put the dates, sultanas and bicarb of soda into a medium bowl, pour over the boiling water, stir it to combine, then leave it sit for 10 minutes. Next, puree the softened fruit using a food processor or blender, and set aside.

Combine the flour and sugar in a large bowl, then add the melted butter, syrup, vanilla, eggs and pureed fruit, and mix well together to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, then bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes or until cooked through.

Remove the baked cake from the oven, and allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it onto a wire rack to cool completely.

If you like, you can serve the cake as is, or as Donna suggested, smothered with warmed maple syrup. Either way, it is a delicious cake, and a keeper in my books.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

TWD - Gingered Carrot Cookies

I am intrigued by the many books that are available where Mums profess to be able to get their children to eat vegetables by hiding them in other foods like cakes and biscuits. When I mention to colleagues that I have just made a chocolate and zucchini cake or a beetroot cake, or even a pumpkin and prune cake, they look at me aghast. I can therefore only surmise that the "vegetables hidden in treats" trick only works for children because their mums don't tell them that there are vegetables lurking in there. I'd love to hear if you have had any success in tricking fussy eaters into eating their veges by hiding the vegetables in another food.

This week's Tuesday with Dorie challenge is a vegetable-hidden-in-a-cookie creation. It is gingered carrot cookies, and was chosen by Natalia of Gatti Fili E Farina. Dorie says that when she was creating these, she wanted to make a carrot cake in cookie form. I like carrot cake, so I was rather looking forward to these. I even invested in raisins and pecans for the task, neither of which I had to hand at home.

The cookies were easy enough to make, once you got through peeling and grating the carrot. Dorie recommends three carrots to get one cup of grated carrot - I only needed one large carrot.

These cookies are pleasant tasting - just like any other raisin cookies that I have tasted. They are chunky and soft, and the raisins are a standout flavour in them. Although I liked these cookies, I probably won't make them again, because there are easier raisin cookie recipes around that taste just as good.

Thanks to Natalia for hosting us this week - she will have the recipe, and it of course appears in Dorie's book. To see what the other TWD members thought of these cookies, visit the TWD blogroll.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lunch at Red Spice Road

Last Friday, I went along with a group of former colleagues and friends for lunch to farewell one of their team and to welcome a new member of their team. The venue was Red Spice Road in inner city Melbourne. Red Spice Road states on its website that its cuisine is "inspired" by South East Asia. The head chef is John McLeay.

The venue is quite funky - the ambience is dark and smoky, with slashes of red lighting up the interior like so many lightning bolts.

On the back wall of the restaurant in the "Lantern Room", the art work at the top of this post is the main feature. Arranged beneath this backdrop are semi-circular dining tables and a circular water table, which arrangement forms the logo of Red Spice Road. Pretty clever, yeah? There are also two long tables lined up side by side lengthways at the front of the restaurant for more diners, known as the Long Room. All dining is communal, but that said, there was a lot of space between groups when we visited, so it meant that we had perfect privacy.

Here is the place setting, with a rather cool tear-shaped bowl through which the chopsticks are threaded for a change from the usual round bowl with chopsticks on a rest at the side:

Dominating the back half of the restaurant is an enormous red lantern, positioned beneath a sky light:

You can also peek at the kitchen staff preparing food through small windows cut into the side walls:

There is a small bar off to the side of the restaurant if you fancy a drink while waiting for your friends.

Our chirpy and friendly waiter gave us marvellous service throughout the meal. I was served water (still and sparkling are available) promptly on arrival, and asked if I wanted a drink at the table while I was waiting for the rest of the group. The waiter also had no problem when I asked if I could take photos during the meal.

We ordered the $30/head banquet, for which you get five different dishes to share. You only need two people to order the banquet, which is fantastic if just you and your beloved are having a meal. As a special, you can get a glass of wine with the banquet for an extra $5. I took them up on this!

The appetiser was Betel Leaf with Chicken, Spanner Crab, Lemongass, Chilli and Kaffir Lime:

These little morsels were very tasty, and easy to eat because you just scoop up a leaf and fold it around the filling before popping it into your mouth.

Next came the five main dishes. The first was a Burmese style lamb shoulder, a type of curry:

The next dish was Chicken Ma Po- Minced Chicken Wok-Fried with Tofu, Sichuan Pepper and Chilli Bean Paste :

My second favourite dish was this Prawn Vietnamese Slaw - instead of having just two prawns in the whole dish, as is usual and disappointing in so many restaurants, this slaw was studded with many large pink prawns, and dressed with a zesty, light vinegarette:

My favourite dish, and the one of which I have the worst photo, was a Crispy Five Spice Pork Belly with Chilli Caramel, Apple Slaw and Black Vinegar. This dish was superb! The pork melted in the mouth, releasing the beautiful, spicy caramel flavour, and the apple slaw complemented it beautifully:

The final dish was Beef Salad with Cucumber, Herbs, Peanuts, Chilli and Shallots:

Red Spice Road has three recipes, including the five spice pork, on its
website. They have also just launched their recipe book, with over 70 recipes - I am tempted to buy it!

The ambience, the setting, the service and the food make this one of the best restaurant experiences that I have had in a long time. If you are in Melbourne and like Asian food, I highly recommend Red Spice Road. The details are:

Red Spice Road
27 McKillop Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: + 61 3 9603 1601