Tuesday, November 29, 2011

TWD - Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie and Normandy Apple Tart

The last set of recipes for Tuesday with Dorie for November are truly fall delights (for those in the US), chock full of pumpkin and apples.

Our first selection came from Judy of Judy's Gross Eats, who chose Dorie's Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie:

There was an option to make a banana version by placing sliced banana in the base of the tart shell - I took Dorie up on this, as I had an aged banana to use up:

There was too much filling for one pie - I filled a 9" tartshell, and made two smaller 4" tarts, and still had filling left over.  I recommend cutting down on the filling quantity by half.

I enjoyed this pie - it was smooth and sweet.  However, as Australians are not familiar with pumpkin pie, it caused quite a stir in the kitchen at work.  Someone called out, "Has anybody tried some of that cake in the kitchen?  It looks weird."  Hmmm, the poor boy has trouble identifying the difference between cakes and tarts, let alone identifying that it was pumpkin.  One clever girl did identify that it was a pumpkin pie, and someone  else worked out that there was banana in the bottom.  It was very entertaining for me. 

Our second dish was Normandy Apple Tart, chosen by Tracey of Tracey's Culinary Adventures:

This tart was quite unusual in that the filling was apple puree, rather than sliced apple, and sliced apple was then arranged decoratively on top.  The end result was rather pretty, like a sunray:

This tart was nice (hey, how can lots of sweetened apple be bad?), but I prefer a traditional apple pie filled with apple slices.  Here's a peek inside:

I hope you enjoyed this week's recipes.  To see what the other TWDers thought, visit the LYL section of the TWD website. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

A foodie's tour of Airlie Beach, Queensland

I have just returned from a four day trip to Airlie Beach on the Whitsunday Coast in Queensland.  It was absolutely marvellous, and I wasn't keen on coming back.  I have posted some of the lovely scenic shots here on my travel blog. 

Here, I will share with you some of the great places that Tim and I ate at while at Airlie Beach.

The first establishment of note is the Whitsunday Sailing Club, where you eat out on a wide shaded wooden verandah with the view at the top of this post, overlooking the water and the boats.  This place was so good, we went back twice.  Both times, I accompanied my meal with a glass of Wirra Wirra Mrs Wigley Grenache Rose:

It was cold, pink and fruity - what more could a girl want? 

You order here by choosing from the menu and going up to the bar to order.

My favourite meal of the trip was this calamari salad ($17.50) at the Sailing Club:

The calamari is lightly spiced and seared, and rests on a bed of salad with a tangy dressing.  On the side comes a pot of spicy, chilli flavoured sauce.

Tim went the beer battered fish and chips option:  

It apparently tasted as delicious as it looks, and was very generous in size.

On my second trip to the Whitsunday Sailing Club, I ordered the minute steak with salad and chips ($11.50):

The steak was cooked to perfection and was also delicious, although it did not beat the calamari.  (Tim went for the calamari on our second visit.)

On our second night at Airlie Beach, we dined at Airlie Thai, again overlooking the water at Airlie Beach.

For starters, we ordered the coconut prawns:

These were crisp and crunchy, and were served with a side of sweet chilli sauce.

For main course, I ordered the ginger and shallot stir fry with chicken:

and Tim ordered the Thai green curry:

Both meals were quite good.  The Canadian waitress wins extra points for being so friendly and attentive. (This was in stark contrast to the Chinese establishment across the way, where I had to approach the girl behind the counter to get her to look up from her texting to ask for a table, and who gave us such a lacklustre and disinterested response that we left without ordering.)

A great place to eat at Airlie Beach is Mangrove Jacks Cafe and Bar, attached to the Airlie Beach Hotel.  The food here was also good enough for us to eat here twice.  There are no water views at Mangrove Jacks (it overlooks the road), but it had the advantage that we were there during Queensland Schoolies Week; unlike southern schoolies, Queensland schoolies are mostly under age, so we were not competing for space and atmosphere with the schoolies, as Mangrove Jacks is a licensed establishment where the schoolies could not enter unaccompanied. 

Mangrove Jacks is proud of its wood fired pizzas.  Although we did not order pizza, we  ordered a close cousin, the tomato, basil and cheese bread (~$8.00): 

This was a great starter, as it was tasty but light, leaving room for the very generous mains.

On my first visit to Mangrove Jacks, I had the pasta puttanesca ($19.90) - I didn't take a photo of it, but it had a lovely rich tomato sauce and was generously studded with olives. 

On our second visit, Tim ordered the barramundi, served with potato mash, tartare sauce and salad (~$27):

All I can say is wow!  This serve was enormous.  Tim managed to get through it, but we had been on a half day hike that day, so had worked up an appetite. 

I ordered the Thai beef salad (~$19.00): 

I loved the sesame beef with crunchy noodles, salad and tangy lime-based dressing.

If you still have room, Mangrove Jacks serves coffee and cake for $7.50.  They had a very nice looking cheesecake that I eyed up wistfully.

The service was prompt and attentive, although this is another establishment where, after being shown to your table, you order at the bar.

For breakfast each day, Tim and I ate cereal and fruit on the balcony of our apartment overlooking the marina at Port of Airlie:

Not bad, eh?

You don't go to Airlie Beach for the food, but there are certainly some great places to eat there - just watch out for the schoolies at this time of year! 

Whitsunday Sailing Club
Club House - Airlie Point
Airlie Beach Qld 4802

Ph: +61 7 4946 6138

Airlie Thai
Beach Plaza
The Esplanade
Airlie Beach Qld  4802

Ph: +61 7 4946 4683

Mangrove Jacks Cafe and Bar
16 The Esplanade
Airlie Beach Qld 4802

Ph: +61 7 4964 1999

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Daring Bakers - Filipino Desserts - Sans Rival Cake

This month's Daring Bakers takes us to the sunny Philippines to try some cultural delicacies from that nation.

Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert – the delicious Sans Rival cake! And for those of us who wanted to try an additional Filipino dessert, Catherine also gave us a bonus recipe for Bibingka which comes from her friend Jun of Jun-blog.

I only made the Sans Rival Cake - at this time of year, getting time to make anything is a bonus, and I made this early on in the month to make sure that I got it done.

The Sans Rival cake is made up of 4 layers of nutty meringue, sandwiched by lawyers of smooth sweet chocolate buttercream, and decorated with crushed cashews.  I made the non-traditional chocolate version:

My quirky oven made hard work of firming up the meringue layers, but I conquered it by flipping the layers over towards the end of the cooking time.  The thinner layers crisped up well, but the thicker lawyers unsurprisingly stayed slightly chewy.

I am not normally a buttercream fan, but this version of buttercream was fabulous - not at all oily or greasy:

I'd definitely make this again - it was good.  Thanks to our host, Catherine, for introducing us to this dessert.  To see how all the other Daring Bakers fared with the Sans Rival cake, visit the slide show at The Daring Kitchen once it is posted.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

TWD Rewind - World Peace Cookies

You know that you are getting old when you can't remember having made something ...

For the life of me, I swore that I hadn't made World Peace Cookies before, the chocolatey ones with the much hyped name, so I decided to make those for TWD rewind week.  They were delicious - I loved the fudgy softness and the gooey chocolate bits. 

But you see, I was not trying anything new - I had already made them!  I put it down to the fact that it was another life ago since I made them, and they are definitely worth another shot.  Besides, my photo is better this time ;)

These are slice and bake cookies, and although you need to get out the electric mixer to make them, they are pretty easy.

To see what everyone else made for Rewind weeek, visit the LYL section of the Tuesdays with Dorie website.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pink rose cupcakes

My colleague, Linda, is having a bridal shower for her daughter today.  She asked me to make some cupcakes for the shower.  I had made some basic Vanilla Daisy Cupcakes for Pink Ribbon Day, and Linda liked those, but wanted me to tone down the colour to pastel pink.

I wanted my challenge on this one to be the decorating.  I normally couldn't be bothered putting much effort into decorating, but this time, I had a reason.  From this video, I learned how to make fondant roses without cutters.  What I loved about this technique is that the lady uses plastic to stop the icing from sticking instead of icing sugar or cornflour - which is so much less messy.  I didn't make as many petals as her (I am not that patient!), but I think the roses look pretty good: 

I used ready rolled fondant from the supermarket and coloured it baby pink with gel colour.

The next challenge was making the roses look as if they belonged on the cakes.  I made simple buttercream icing using the Crabapple Bakery recipe (online here - I only needed half for 24 cakes), and coloured most of it baby pink with liquid colouring, reserving a small amount which I coloured light green with gel colouring.  To ensure that the majority of tastes were catered for, I used vanilla extract to flavour the icing.  (Rose water would have been nice too, but some people find it "soapy".)

After icing the cakes and setting a rose atop each one, I piped on leaves using the green icing in a handmade paper bag with a V cut into the tip:  

So easy and so pretty!

Here is my rose garden:

I hope Linda and her daughter enjoy eating them as much as I enjoyed making them.

Happy Sunday!

Friday, November 18, 2011

FFwD - Braised Cardamom-Curry Lamb

This week's French Friday with Dorie recipe is Braised Cardamom-Curry Lamb.  As the name suggests, it is lamb cooked with curry powder and ground cardamom, with potatoes, raisins and figs thrown into the mix.

It doesn't look pretty: 

but it was tasty.  I like fruit with my meat - it's the sweet and salty thing.

To see what the other FFwD participants thought, visit the LYL section of the FFwD website

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

TWD - Alsatian Apple Tart and Bittersweet Brownies

It's another double header at Tuesdays with Dorie this week.  Our first tasty recipe was chosen by Jessica of Cookbook Habit, who selected Alsatian Apple Tart.

This tart comprises creamy custard and sliced apple sitting prettily atop a sweet pastry base.  I  glazed mine with blackcurrant jelly for instant glamour: 

What can I say - I loved this one!!!!  Custard + fruit = devine.  I'd definitely make this again, despite the extra effort involved in making a tart.

Our second recipe was chosen by Leslie of Lethally Delicious, who selected Bittersweet Brownies:

I had some issues with these.  Dorie quoted 22 minutes to bake - at 22 minutes, my brownies had a wet shiny layer on top, so I kept checking - and checking - and finally at 50 minutes they looked about right ("dull" on top, to quote Dorie).   Even after all that baking time, some bits of the brownie were still distinctly "fudgy", and contrary to popular belief,  these were the crumbliest parts.

These brownies were very deeply chocolatey - perhaps this is not surprising, as they contain 250g of chocolate!  That's a whole family block plus 50g more, for the benefit of non-chocolate loving folk (like my blogging bud and fellow TWDer Kayte).

As with nearly anything chocolate, these brownies went like hotcakes - in less than half an hour in the work kitchen, they were demolished.  They must have tasted good! 

Thanks to Jess and Leslie - they will have the recipes for this week on their respective sites when it's Tuesday their time, or buy Dorie's book.  And to swoon over some more baked goods, visit the LYL section of the TWD website

Monday, November 14, 2011

Moroccan quinoa soup

Although I confess to not being a huge soup fan, there are definitely some soups that I enjoy, particularly those of the thick, hearty variety.  The soup in this  post, Moroccan Quinoa Soup, came about because I thought I had lentils, chickpeas and cannellini beans to use up in the pantry. The recipe is from All Recipes, at this link. As it happens, I was wrong about the lentils - I went to make the soup and found that the lentils I thought I had were not there.  By that stage, I had mentally committed to making this soup, so my brain immediately went to the red quinoa that I have had in my pantry since a French Fridays with Dorie recipe called for it.  Why not substitute quinoa for the lentils?

I made the recipe exactly as stated, except that I used quinoa in place of the lentils.  The end result was a thick, rich, texture-ful soup that was hearty and filling.  I loved it!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Preserved lemons and homemade vanilla extract

Happy lazy Sunday to all!  I can't be lazy today, as due to the bump and grind of corporate life, I have not had a chance to get my part of a tender submission for a tender due this week done in the normal working day, so I am sentenced to spending part of the day doing it.  The fact that I am sitting here blogging demonstrates that I am not in that headspace yet :) 

I thought that for today, I'd give you two easy projects that are useful for home cooks. 

The first project is preserved lemons - great for Moroccan tagines, stir fries etc, and awfully expensive to buy for some inexplicable reason.  There are a number of slightly different ways to preserve lemons, but I used a recipe from p17 of Fresh Moroccan.  It is easy peasy - you need:

8 unwaxed lemons
5 teaspoons seasalt
juice of 1 large lemon

Scrub your lemons under running water, then soak in cold water for an hour.  Rinse and dry the lemons with paper towel.

Cut the lemons into quarters lengthways from the top to 3/4 of the way down, elaving them joined together at the biottom.  Place half a teaspoon of salt into each lemon, then pinch the sides together to close up the gap.  Placve the lemons upright into a large preserving or other glass jar that has been sterilised, pour in the remaining salt and lemon juice, and cover the lemons with warm water. 

Seal the jar and leave in a dry dark place for 4 weeks.  Now your preserved lemons are ready to use!

The homemade vanilla is also easy - split open a vanilla pod, and place it into a small glass jar.  Fill up the jar with vodka, and leave it in a cool dark place for 8 weeks.  And presto - you have homemade vanilla!  (I have vodka at home that I don't drink, so this was a great use for my vodka.)

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Friday, November 11, 2011

FFwD - Spiced Squash, Fennel and Pear Soup

On my walk into work from the station this morning, I saw the loveliest little girl walking with her Mum.  She had brown curls, the longest ever eyelashes, silver sandals, pink leggings trimmed with lace, a long white spaghetti strap dress trimmed with silver sequins, and a white T-shirt underneath, and she was twirling just like the dancing man.  It made me happy just to look at her carefree abandon, which was such a contrast to her well-dressed but harried-looking Mum beside her.

This week's French Friday with Dorie recipe allowed me to recycle ingredients from a couple of weeks ago when we made Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good.  Even using just half a pumpkin, I had a lot of pumpkin to use up, so I was delighted when I saw that this week's recipe, Spiced Squash, Fennel and Pear Soup, could also be made using pumpkin instead of squash.

This soup is really different to anything I have ever tried before.  It is quite thick, and has fruity, citrus overtones from the orange peel that you cook with the soup.  The spices give the soup a pleasant zing, and overall, it is a rather delicious soup:

This from a girl who isn't a huge fan of soup!

To check out what the other FFwD members thought of this soup, visit the LYL section of the website for this week.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Two Good Eggs Cafe, Surry Hills

Way back in May, when Tim and I went to Sydney for the football, we had brekky one morning at a great little cafe that I think deserves a write-up for being so fab. That cafe is Two Good Eggs in Surry Hills.  Two Good Eggs was a chance find when I did a Google search for places to eat breakfast, which brought up this Sydney Morning Herald review.  It sounded perfect and was in easy walking distance for us, so off we went to give it a go.

This is a shot of the interior, which appealed to my girly heart - after all, who could not love allusions to Paris, the city of love: 

Tim ordered a fresh mixed juice, which tasted suitably refreshing:

Tim is also the world's biggest porridge fan (and eats it every day), so naturally, he ordered the porridge with pear and rhubarb:

It  looks pretty good, doesn't it.

I am a sucker for baked eggs, so although I was tempted by the "goats on toast" (goats cheese with honey and walnut on sour cherry fruit toast), I went for the Spanish Baked Eggs with Spicy Salami, Black Olives and Manchego with Sourdough:

It tasted as devine as it looks - rich, meaty and filling, the kind of brekky to put hair on your chest and give you energy for the rest of the day.  I loved it!

I hate cafes where the staff think they are too cool for school.  However, the staff at Two Good Eggs were nothing of the sort - they were friendly, helpful, happy to answer my questions (including whether to choose the goats on toast or the Spanish eggs!) and amused rather than offended by my photo-taking. Oh, and the coffee is good!

If you happen to be near Surry Hills (I used to work there a long time ago), do give Two Good Eggs a go - the staff are lovely and the food is devine.

Two Good Eggs Cafe
Shop 2, No. 148
Corner Goulburn & Brisbane Sts
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Phone: (02) 9283 9694

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

TWD Double Up - Depths of Fall Butternut Squash Pie and Mini Madeleines

It's double trouble on Tuesdays with Dorie this week.  Our two recipes are Depths of Fall Butternut Squash Pie (pictured at the top if this post) and Mini Madeleines.

I have been away all weekend, so ran out of time to make the pie, chosen by Valerie of Une Gamine Dans Cuisine.  However, I have made it once before, and you can read all about it here. It is absolutely gorgeous, just the kind of pie I like, and I highly recommend that you try it.

The Mini Madeleines became maxi madeleines for me, as I don't have a mini madeleine pan:

This recipe was chosen by Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook. I think that these are the best madeleines that I have ever made.  The shapes are rather shell-like, despite baking slightly outside the moulds, and they have terrific humps:

The madeleines were also light and fluffy, and just devine while still warm out of the oven.  Perhaps these madeleines have persuaded me to give them another go ...

Valerie and Di respectively will publish the recipe, or you can obtain it for yourself from Dorie's wonderful book, Baking- From My Home to Yours.  Thanks to our hosts this week.  To see how everyone else went with these recipes, visit  the LYL section of the TWD website. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

FFwD - Twenty Minute Honey Glazed Duck Breasts

This week's French Fridays with Dorie dish is Twenty Minute Honey Glazed Duck Breast.  Sounds delicious, right?  Well, it is - even if you ask the poultry shop for a breast and get sold a Maryland.

This dish comprises a duck breast, with the skin scored, then each side cooked until just browned, then making a sauce of honey, balsamic and lime, in which the duck is finally coated after resting in a slow oven for five minutes.  Easy peasy!

I served my duck with pak choy stir-fried in honey and soy, and ate it for a weekend lunch.

To see what the other FFwD cooks thought, visit the LYL section of the FFwD website.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

TWD - Far Breton

This is recipe number two for this week's ramped up Tuesdays with Dorie schedule.  It was chosen by Nicole of Cookies on Friday, and is a Far Breton.

Now don't be put off by the dog's breakfast appearance of my Far Breton - it is actually a rather delicious custard and brandy-soaked fruit (prunes and raisins) concoction, that I could eat by the bucketload. 

My Far Breton looks like someone sat on it because: The only 8 inch pan (required by the recipe) that I own has a removable bottom.  At the twenty-minute baking mark, I looked into my oven and made a face like Munch's The Scream, as all of the custard had leaked out of the  pan and into the baking tray beneath.  Not wanting to start again, I scooped all of the par-baked custard into a 9 inch springform pan, and plonked all of the fruit back on top, and hoped for the best.  At the end of the baking period, I ended up with a rather flat but intact Far Breton.

While my Far Breton is less attractive to look at than if all had gone well, it tastes fab, and I have been happily scoffing it since I made it (as I am on leave at present). To see what it should look like, visit Nicole's site.  Nicole will also have the recipe, or do yourself a favour and buy the book.

TWD - Honey Nut Scones

There has been a major ramp-up of Tuesdays with Dorie recipes to two a week so that we can finish the book by the end of the year.  I am not sure that I am going to be able to continue at that pace, but for this week, I am doing it. 

One recipe for this week was chosen by Jeanette of The Whimsical Cupcake, who selected honey nut scones.  These are scones containing wholemeal flour (I used buckwheat flour instead) and walnuts (I used blanched almonds).

They are quite delicious:

I spread mine with Burch & Purchese Strawberry and Rose Petal Jam:

It must have been good jam, as I scoffed the entire jar in a week.

While I was at their shop in South Yarra, I also bought a White Chocolate, Honey, Raspberry and Lychee Cake:

which looks like this inside:

It was very tasty, but the $9 price tag is rather steep to make this anything but a special occasion indulgence.

Visit Jeanette's website for the scone recipe, or buy Dorie's book - I have been baking from it for over three years, even before I joined TWD, and it is good.