Friday, February 27, 2009

Coconut & mango friands

"The coconut trees, lithe and graceful, crowd the beach like a minuet of slender elderly virgins adopting flippant poses."

William Manchester

I have proclaimed my love of coconuts many times I am sure. Whilst I regularly indulge in either the liquid or dried forms, I rarely eat them from the shell; let's face it, if I were to open them like my grandmother used to, with a cordless drill and a machete, I'd most likely lose a limb...or two. And as much as I love them fresh, that's just a little too much effort for me most of the year.

So I satisfy my cravings with coconut milk or cream in drinks or curries, or most commonly with dessicated coconut in baked sweets. One of my wedding gifts was a friand tray, so what better way to have my fix and de-virginise some bake ware by making Coconut & Mango Friands.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 25mins.
total: 31mins. I ended up with 9 friands from my tray of 12.
taste: 4.5/5. They had a buttery almost crispy shell which yielded a moist coconut cake. The mangoes added tanginess whilst the cranberries added a tart sweetness all of which came in and out with the coconut. Great afternoon snack with a cup of tea or coffee.

would I make it again: Yes. I would swirl the mango and cranberries through the mixture next time so they are better dispersed and I get the three flavours with each mouthful. They only made 9 small friands though.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Presley's perfect pancakes

Thank God for sites like Tastespotting and Foodgawker - if it weren't for them I would have completely missed Shrove Tuesday or otherwise known to some as Pancake Day.

Now I generally make pancakes fairly regularly, most often drenched in maple syrup with some sliced bananas or berries on top. However, for pancake day I wanted to make some a little more special.

A favourite snack of mine is sliced banana slathered with gooey peanut butter eaten with toothpicks; it satisfies my sweet tooth and is surprisingly filling. I have made Elvis Presley's favourite fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches before (my God they are sinfully divine) but never Presley pancakes - how can they not be great?

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 7mins for 3 batches of 3.
total: 15mins.

taste: 3.75/5 (my husband and brother made me add the extra .25). The only thing they thought brought down the score is too much peanut butter. I used about 2tbs between the 9 pancakes - so I would recommend a maximum half a tablespoon for each three tier stack. I added 1tbs lemon juice to the milk as I didn't have any buttermilk. They were quite sweet as you would expect with lovely caramelised bananas and melted salty peanut butter. The maple syrup is a must as it helps to unstick the unctuous peanut butter from the roof of you mouth.

would I make it again: Yes
- with less PB.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Well deserved rest

There will be no recipes to post today as I am still recovering from yesterday; my year-in-the-making Wedding Day. Although there were a few last minute hiccups (cupcake company was sold 1 week before the wedding along with a last minute flower change as two types of flowers were destroyed in the heatwave) the day ended up going really well and every one of my 49 guests said they had fun. I have posted a sneak peek with a few photos my dad and his partner took - I shall post some more once the official photographs are ready.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Figs, prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella and vino cotto

Figs are fickle things.

I often hear people complaining about the cost of figs despite it being fig season. The reason for their expense is due to their fragility. It is hard to transport figs without them bursting or bruising. Most often if I do find them being sold they are almost always a little mushy and soft - although the green figs do seem to travel better.

My grandmother used to have a fig tree so I grew up on honeyed figs. As my lemon tree is plagued with gall wasp I am deeply considering replacing it with a fig tree...we'll see.

Whenever I do find some figs that have survived their ferry over to the suburbs I buy them up and decide what to do with them later. Tonight I made a Parmesan risotto (a go-to recipe) and thought a fig salad might compliment the cheesy main well.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 8mins.
cooking time: 1min to mix and drizzle dressing.
total: 9mins.

taste: 2/5. For some reason this didn't taste that nice or go well with the risotto. I used mixed leaf salad which may have been to leafy to work. The figs didn't impart much flavour and the buffalo mozzarella was very watery. I could not find fig vin cotto on short notice so I used grape vin cotto.

would I make it again: No.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Haloumi with basil & tomato

A very belated Valentine's day to all - there hasn't been a post for a while as I have been super busy with last minute wedding errands, BBQ's and organising donations for the current Bushfire crisis in Victoria.

The heat wave caused ravaging fires which destroyed over 750 homes and so far has taken 189 lives in Victoria - absolutely devastating falls short of describing what has happened. Ryan and I have done what we can in terms of monetary, clothing and animal supplies for donations. Victoria is not the only state dealing with natural disasters. Although there are around 14 fires still burning other states like Queensland are experiencing extreme floods.
I am a second generation Australian, and what I love the most about this country and the main reason I want to raise my children here is the generosity, kindness and perseverance of the Australian spirit - in times of great strife and sadness Australians do not hesitate to help those in need whilst managing to maintain a positive attitude; we are a tough bunch, us Aussies.

We nibbled throughout the day so dinner was somewhat skipped. At 9:30pm we felt a little hungry so I whipped up something quick and light, and although initially there were protests ('I hate when you cook cheese like it's meat') the plates were licked clean.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 5mins.
cooking time: 4mins to cook haloumi.
total: 9mins.

taste: 4/5. Really lovely and fresh dish with clean classic flavours. I skipped the lemon as I felt the sumac and vinegar would make it quite tangy and acidic as is - I didn't miss it at all. One 250g hunk of haloumi feeds two well.

would I make it again: Yes.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Orders were on the light side today, so Ryan and I took a leisurely afternoon stroll down Mailing Road in Canterbury. Our first stop was the olde lolly shop where we picked up some Reece's Peanut Butter Cups and a bag of boiled Raspberry Drop lollies.

Our next stop was to a quaint little paperie store filled with gorgeous ribbons, wrapping paper and journals. I purchased a small pink notepad with the Eiffel tower and tiny paisley motifs printed on it to send out Thank You notes for all of the wedding presents coming in (a creme brulee set complete with blow-torch was the first to arrive, so I shall finally get to make a creme brulee). I also picked up a gorgeous journal with a collage of Paris on the cover as I thought I should start afresh considering I am now married (plus my old journal was a little bit too girly for me).

We cut the stroll a little short as Ryan, still believing that Summer should mean it's hot, didn't put enough layers on for today's cool temperature of 18C. As dinner is at my dad's tonight, I thought I'd use my free time to make something for dessert. I had some incredibly stale brioche in the pantry so I set out to find a suitable recipe. I stumbled unto Delicious Days and spent a good hour reading the lovely recipes when lo and behold, a solution to my brioche search. Although cherries are in season, I do not as yet have a cherry pitter, so I used a bottle of morello cherries.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 25mins. 20mins for pudding and 5mins to make cherry syrup.
cooking time: 30mins. Mine was already a little burnt by this stage - it depends on your oven.
total: 50mins.

taste: 3/5. If you like bread pudding type desserts you'll love this, if you don't then you'll hate this like my dad did. It was nice, but nothing special and I wouldn't serve it to guests, home alone in front of the telly it's comforting and pleasant. The cherry sauce is a must otherwise it's a little sweet and bland, the tart cinnamon liquid brings it to life.
I had to use more milk as my brioche was only half soaked with the 200ml. I added a little lemon juice as well as my remaining lemon had already been almost completely skinned. I used one dish rather than individual ramekins as it was easier to transport this way.

would I make it again: No - unless I have stale brioche.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Iced honey mascarpone and almond cake with fig salad

Meals eaten with members of family, especially those you haven't seen in a while are some of the tastiest and most satisfying.

Every Easter and Christmas, one of my father's siblings hosts the get together and we all come over with plates of food and/or gifts. I have never had it at my house, as our old house simply could not accommodate everybody (around 25 or so). After finishing our new place I thought I'd invite everyone down to see it at once. It was also a great chance to see everyone before our wedding in two weeks.

I was stressing over the food a little as I wasn't sure how much to get. I didn't want to spend a fortune and end up with kg's of leftovers (especially meat left overs) and I didn't want people to go hungry either. Thank goodness everyone ignored my request that they not bring anything, as I wouldn't have had enough. I forgot that our family love food and actually eat - a lot. At least I know have a better idea of how much is needed should I have anything at my place again.

Oh, and a big shout out to my three aunts, Helen, Penelope and Roula for all of the times they let me make mud pies in their gardens or stir their sauces. And to my yia yia who had to clean up spilt milk, crushed beans and chocolate sprinkles from my pantry adventures in her kitchen. Thank you for encouraging my curiosity of cooking - my husband thanks you :)

ease: 3.5/5. Takes time, lots of washing and messy.
prep time: 30mins to bake two trays of dacquoise, I did everything else while these cooked and cooled.
cooking time: 8+hours of freezer time, and 30mins in the fridge before serving.
total: 8 hours and 30mins.

taste: 4/5. Everyone enjoyed this - it really does need the amaretto figs and raspberries to add a little more flavour and contrast to the creamy cake.

would I make it again: Maybe - a little time consuming, but it did go over fairly well.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Caramelised pineapple with coconut pain perdu

I was the epitome of Speedy Gonzalez today. The flaming sun and scorching winds forced me to hurry through my morning chores or they would spoil my meats and sour my milk. I wanted to run a few other errands but I couldn't face going outside after I had put all of my groceries away.

To say that Melbournians are looking forward to tomorrow's forecast of a rainy 23C is the understatement of the century. Our beautiful sun burnt country really needs to have a drink and slap on some aloe vera; time to be more Dita von Teese and less Donatella Versace.

Don't ask me why, but I am holding a BBQ so that my family members can see our new place. I also told them to not bring anything, not even a drink. Which leaves me havng to make enough savoury and sweet feasts for 25 people. As I will be cooking all of tonight and most of tomorrow morning I didn't want to make too much for lunch. I picked up some brioche at Leo's and dredged this recipe from the forgotten folders.

ease: 4/5. Decent amount of washing up.
prep time: 5mins to slice and prep everything.
cooking time: 15mins - 5 for the pan fried bread and then 10mins whilst it's in the oven and the pineapple and caramel are frying away.
total: 20mins.

taste: 3/5. I was sorely disappointed with the lack of coconut flavour coming through. This is all about tangy pineapple and buttery brioche, with the odd pistachio managing to squeeze in every now and then. My caramel didn't caramelise so I ended up with a sugar syrup, and my pineapple didn't caramelise much either - I think I skimped too much on the sugar (tried to cut it back as it seemed a bit much for a breakfast meal).

would I make it again: No.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Raspberry buttermilk muffins

I think I am finally getting the hang of my newly acquired DSLR- a Canon EOS 5D markII (I had to wait months for this baby). I have only ever had a point and shoot so manually focusing and the rest took a little getting used to.

The weather has stayed around the 30C mark so far this week, giving us some long needed respite. Although Saturday is predicted to reach mid 40s again, next week will supposedly bring us much needed rain and low temperatures. My poor garden is hanging on by a thread, as water restrictions only allow us 2hours of watering twice a week. I have been using my grey water tank to try and help in between, but with only 4min showers and two loads of laundry a week it doesn't give me much water.

Anyway, along to today's recipe. I love raspberries; 9 times out of 10 I buy them frozen, even during their season. I'm not one for creepy crawlies and in most of the packets I have bought I always find spiders hiding in the raspberries inner core. Turns me right off. Spiders are just plain creepy, all those legs and super quick moves, gah.

I was in the mood for muffins, and as another dish I am making this week called for buttermilk, I thought this would be perfect.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 25mins.
total: 33mins.

taste: 4/5. I loved these. I reduced the sugar to 2/3cup and increased both the nutmeg and cinnamon quantities. Really lovely texture and the raspberries bring a fresh tart burst.

would I make it again: Yes.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Roasted fingerling potatoes, asparagus & green beans

I must vent about something - the state of the green beans being sold in my local supermarket is pitiful. Every time I have bought either pre-packaged or self serve they haven't been very firm at all, and this time around it was no different. Despite it being bean season, if I cannot get to a farmer's market then I would be better off buying frozen. It's a shame considering Australia has many farmers and most supermarkets pride themselves on their 'fresh' produce.

But I only have my laziness to blame. It is far easier to drive only to a butcher and a supermarket within 5mins of home than to a farmers market 15mins away once a month or to an organic chain like Macro Wholefoods, which for me is 25mins away (I might check it out this weekend though).

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 20mins to parboil potatoes, cool and prep other ingredients.
cooking time: 30mins.
total: 50mins.

taste: 2.5/5. Low on flavour, you would really have to salt these to get some flavour. I added a little balsamic post roast which helped. The beans were absolutely fried and inedible and the apsaragus got a little too dry as well. The fingerling potatoes were nice, I would have preferred them on their own in this dish.

would I make it again: No.


Limoncello & blueberry slice

Now, there are good excuses as to why I haven't posted in a while. For starters, the heat wave finally got to me and I just couldn't bring myself to make anything, at all. In fact, I hadn't slept one full hour over 5 consecutive nights, to say I was the walking dead would be an understatement.

Secondly, I got married on the weekend. It was just the formal signing of the papers before the actual wedding in 3 weeks, but it did seem to monopolise my weekend. The impending wedding itself has disposed of any idea of a free night, with dancing lessons, final payments, RSVPs etc I have so little time that it took me a whole 2 DAYS to read the new Donna Hay magazine sitting on my sofa. I cannot wait until I can be a couch potato again, absolute bliss I say.

Tonight I had my father, his partner and my brother over for dinner so I had to make something. I wanted a dessert that was a little more 'adult'; opening my liquor cabinet I grabbed the unopened bottle of Limoncello.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 30mins.
total: 40mins.

taste: 4/5. This was lovelier than I thought it would be (I had some reservations with the custard and liquor combo). I used frozen blueberries as I didn't like the look of the ones at the supermarket. The berried gave a beautiful tart sweetness with their juice, whilst the crumb base was perfect,not too crumbly, not too firm. The Limoncello only vaguely hinted at in the light lemon custard. My dad polished his dish in seconds, and my dad doesn't normally like my sweets, he even took half of it home with him.

would I make it again: Yes - no one hated it and it was fairly simple.


Truffle & white bean soup

"There are two types of people who eat truffles: those who think truffles are good because they are dear and those who know they are dear because they are good."
J.L. Vaudoyer

I remember the first time my tongue tasted truffle. It was at Jacques Reymond in Melbourne, and my husband (first time I said husband, yikes) and I were partaking in our first degustation. I had no idea what was coming and I enjoyed not knowing.
And then, a small bowl of earthy brown soup arrived. Mushroom, I thought. I placed the spoon in my mouth and my eyes widened. Something strange, an all consuming flavour that I had never tasted before. It is a weird feeling to eat something and not know what it is. I had no idea what this flavour could be and it drove me to ask the waiter. Truffle soup madame. Truffles. I had heard about them, but had never been curious to try them. Oh how I had missed out. I loved truffles at first taste. And ever since I am always trying to eat them.

As fresh truffles are a little exxy I compromised (for now) by buying some truffle salt and white truffle oil. Ever since buying the white truffle oil I have been searching for ways to use it. As one of my guests tonight loves soup it all seemed to work out perfectly.

ease: 3/5.
prep time:
cooking time:35mins.
total: 45mins.

taste: 4/5. Once again I made a lot of adaptations as this recipe is time consuming and a little difficult:
  • I used canned cannellini beans, around 240g
  • I added the beans, veg and stock (only 1.5L) immediately, I excluded the pancetta
  • I used 1/2tsp of each of the herbs, dried
  • I cooked it for 15mins before removing the veggies and adding the sweated shallots
  • I then added the cream and cooked for an additional 15mins
  • I blended the soup and added some truffle oil - I did not pass it through a sieve as it was already extremely runny
Everyone enjoyed this (dad asked for the recipe, then remembered I have a *website thingy*).
The truffle oil worked well with the tasty, maybe a little thin, soup. It definitely does not need salting.

would I make it again: Yes - I would add more beans next time though to thicken it up. It would probably be tastier with the pancetta but then I wouldn't be able to eat it - perhaps sprinkle some on top?


Torn tomato salad with goat's cheese

This recipe has been bookmarked for quite some time, always shelved for another day, another meal. As I wanted a few sides to go with the Truffle & white bean soup I thought this dish would finally have its chance.

Summer is the time for tomatoes - it's tomato time. I have a particular fondness for vine ripened organic cherry tomatoes; a perfect sized snack, with loads of flavour in every seed filled burst (just make sure your mouth is sealed shut or you'll have red flecks everywhere).

Sherry vinegar is also a favourite of mine, it adds a sublime dimension to salads, much more so than red wine vinegar. The combination of tomatoes, sherry vinegar and goats cheese was too mouth watering to pass up.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 6mins.
total: 21mins.

taste: 4.5/5. I made a few adaptations:
  • I sliced rather than tore - didn't want to ruin my apron :) and I also thought the texture would be less appealing if they were all squished
  • I only squeezed some juice out of a few slices, about 2 tbs worth
  • I used 1tsp of salt and let it sit for 10mins
  • I could not find a mature goats cheese, so I bought another goats cheese
  • I used regular shallots
This was really lovely; the sweet and tart sherry vinegar sauce melded beautifully with the luscious tomatoes whilst the soft, mellow goats cheese helped to cut through the tartness and added a different sweet note. Perfect combination.

would I make it again: Yes, the same way I made it this time.