Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Top 5

As we reflect back on the year that has passed, I thought it would be sweet to cap off the year with my pick of the Top 5 recipes of 2011. Have a great new year everyone!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pork with strawberry balsamic sauce

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

Christmas is almost upon us; it is at this time of year that I am scurrying around trying to ensure everything is organised for the big day, well two days for us (with both of our parents divorced we celebrate twice over the eve and on the day with the parents separated). As my tiny cherub is not too fond of long car trips we will be hosting both days here, with very, and I stress the word very, casual lunches and suppers. Meals that require little hands on time, such as sweet layered trifles for dessert or roast lamb and potatoes to tuck into, are the picks of the day for me. With two days to spare I have dressed the tree in her finest jewels and tied each of the presents with silken bows. The fridge is stocked and pantry full, with very little else to do.

In the lead up to the big days I am also opting for quick and easy dinners so as to 'save' my energy for the packed weekend. Meals like this are heaven-sent, and when they turn out to be finger-licking good as well, it's just the icing on the cake.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 15mins.
cooking time: 10mins.
total: 25mins.

taste: 4/5.  Hit with the hubby.

Unfortunately I cannot tell you what it tasted like, as I didn't eat it, but hubby loved it.
I added and extra handful of strawberries.

would I make it again: Yes.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Salivations

Inspired by other blogger's recipe roundups of other blogger's posts I thought it would be grand to join the fun. Starting today I will be linking FIVE tempting creations you may have missed from them, every Sunday. Enjoy!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sweet potato pancakes with spiced pecans & peach butter

Short and sweet today as my little one is teething and finds solace only within my warm embrace.

ease: 4/5.
prep time: 2hours to overnight.
cooking time: 10mins.
total: 2hours & 10mins.

taste: 4/5.  Razzle dazzle pancakes.

I won't lie, these pancakes take a lot of preparation, but if you are organised enough you can do it all the night before for an easy peasy morning that's worth the work. I was a touch worried these would be too sweet for me but alas they were just the right level of sweetness. The potato makes the pancakes deliciously moist with pizazz from the warming spices. The pecans add crunch and kick with the peach butter bringing a blast of summer tang. I would definitely recommend serving the pancakes with the peach butter as they make the dish.

I halved the amount of butter and subtracted a tablespoon of sugar as I wanted more peach, and I would do the same the next time around.

would I make it again: Yes.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

French nectarine cake

With sunset coloured skin a firm nectarine is a sight to behold.

A peach with a 'Brazilian' (or as some say, shaved or fuzz-free) the nectarine does not get the quantity of poems or songs written about it as the typical peach inspires. I am one of the few who turn their nose up at the furry peach and instead would rather sink their teeth into a nectarine's smooth flesh. I am also one of the even fewer who prefer their nectarines as hard as the stones that lie at their heart. I adore tearing out chunks and crunching audibly beneath the shade of leafy tree, no ambrosia juices flowing down my chin please...

If a nectarine strays too far into the realm of softness I scurry to find other culinary uses and in the past have found few. Thanks to the internet and food bloggers in particular who are always finding ways to salvage fruit whose toes are edging past ripeness I stumbled upon this beauty which instead of burying my stone fruit, redefines it as a baked good triumph. Now I can happily buy more nectarines than my mouth can eat knowing, should they become as soft as my daughter's cheek, they will not go to waste, instead being reborn into something scrumptious.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 15mins.
cooking time: 50mins.
total: 1hour & 5mins.

taste: 4/5. Buttery, bright sweetness.

Nectarines are my favourite fruit so rarely do they last long in my home. With baby however I have been ordering my shopping online which means someone else has been picking my fruit. I prefer my rosy-blushed orbs to be extra crunchy, so when a bag arrived with extremely ripe, juicy nectarines I had to find a recipe to use them up pronto. At first I was dubious about nectarines working in a cake, but let me tell you, they WORKED IT, big time.
The cake itself is a buttery delight and sweet with a gorgeous crumb. The nectarines work their magic by adding fresh tartness and making the cake a perfect sunny afternoon treat.

The original recipe uses 4 small nectarines, I would use 5 or 6 as I wanted more pockets of delectable tanginess. I also used half a lemon zest as my lemon was rather large and I wanted the nectarines to shine.

would I make it again: Yes.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

French onion soup

In Spring I glimpse the year.
Some days are cloaked in Winter's frosty chill, and others bask in Summer's skin-tingling warmth or mild Autumn breezes; and then there is the typical Spring day of humid heat with drizzles of both clear sunshine and warm rain. All of these days can be found within Spring's domain.
This week has had me reaching for porcelain bowls to ladle luscious, steaming soups into their snow-white bellies. Sometimes a soup may feel a little sylphlike and need a some added heartiness. For me, thick slices of fluffy bread smothered in bubbling golden-edged cheese do just that.

ease: 4/5.
prep time: 15mins.
cooking time: 1hour & 20mins.
total: 1hour & 35mins.

taste: 4/5. Great for warming the coldest cockles.

I love a hearty soup so I let this simmer down until it became like a drizzling caramel in thickness. The onion bring a savoury sweetness that is mellowed beautifully by the salty, gooey cheese and subtle bread. DO NOT skip the cheese toasts, it truly is what harmonises this simple soup.

My soup took longer than 20mins to reduce to my desired level of thickness, I also used vegetable stock rather and doubled the butter. The original recipe is linked below.
*Gluten-free if you use a gluten-free bread

would I make it again: Yes.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Egg in the basket

Some mornings find me with fresh eyes and a spring in my step, others have to beat through the cobweb of sleep with fists of savage sunshine and splashes of water so cold that I can feel each pore contract with a shiver. Today I was not only woken by sharp rays of light but also by my child's tiny hands as they kindly, and exuberantly, slapped me awake...and then slapped me some more for good measure. It's days like these I need a 'pick-me-up' breakfast; something cheerful, filling and most of all EASY.

My great-grandmother hailed from Britain, and this meal was something she made for my mother, and in turn, what my mother made for me. We refer to it as Egg in the basket, but I think it's more commonly known as Egg in a hole. I attempted to use my artistic licence by creating a heart-shaped hole, however my generously sized eggs overflowed and hid the heart beneath their egg-white hems.

To make this simple dish a little more 'top drawer', I sprinkled it with truffle salt which is, in my opinion, truly meant to be paired with the humble egg.

(For a gluten-free dish use gluten-free bread, pictured above is wholemeal sourdough spelt).

Friday, November 11, 2011

ANZAC biscuits & a happy birthday to moi

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

I've always felt fortunate to have been born on this date.
In honor of the fallen, Lest We Forget... 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Zucchini with herbs & goat's cheese

Too many moons have passed since my last post, and this time a tiny child is not to blame. After two faithful years my trusty laptop began to struggle with the vigorous tasks of photo and video editing. Programs like Photoshop and Vimeo became too much to bear so I had to say my farewell and welcome a new addition to my life. Whilst I was methodically searching the online marketplace my darling husband was doing the same and surprised me with an early birthday gift. To his credit my new black beauty (yes, I decided to name it after my favourite dessert, la bete noire) not only satisfied my 'specs' criteria but actually exceeded them, and despite its heaviness (just over 4kg, but with my newly acquired mummy arm-strength, it's fine with me) I am head over heels in love with it. What sold me? I was running actions that would cause my former-laptop to crash in one second! Click and hey presto, action complete. Ah, twas love at first edit...

So once again I will hopefully be back to my regular weekly posts. I am also contemplating spending more time on the photography-styling aspect, but of course, that depends on whether baby permits. In the mean time, please enjoy this easy, summer side dish in which the humble zucchini stars. I forgot to measure whilst throwing it together so the recipe is more like a 'guideline', feel free to ad lib :)

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 8mins.
cooking time: 10mins.
total: 18mins.

taste: 4/5. Best way to get zucchini into the husband.

The zucchini in this dish is a mere whisper on a breeze, so even those who object to its subtle taste should find no reason to grumble here. The creamy goat's cheese offers tangy-ness to the sweetness of the garlic, coolness of the mint and grassy anise of the dill. Hubby actually requests this side dish.
If you'd like some crunch I recommend adding toasted pine nuts.

would I make it again: Yes.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cherry tomato pizza margherita

and her smile brings light to even the darkest corner...

I have become a 'collector' of sorts; not of winged creatures nor paper stamps, but of my child's smiles. Their worth is un-quantifiable and their effect undeniably enigmatic, as somehow, despite even the roughest colic-riddled night, one brief grin from her in the morning when I awake seems to pale every frustration in comparison. I fear, I truly would forgive her anything for the price of a single smile.

My days literally revolve around my daughter, she has become the Sun to my Earth and I have barely a moment betwixt to do anything other than cater to her whims. I did however find myself with the tiniest slice and relished the chance to visit my lonely kitchen covered in a dust of neglect. I can't tell you how wonderful it felt to be dicing tomatoes and plucking leaves of emerald basil whilst fragments of spring sunshine fell upon my shoulders. And as this recipe only took ten minutes of my time I soon had my little one back in my arms, bestowing upon me more of those precious smiles.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 10mins.
cooking time: 15 (I used a storebought base).
total: 25mins.

taste: 4/5. Best margherita I have had.
I love pizza. And just like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles my favourite pizza is a cheese pizza (or as we call them down under, Margheritas). To me, nothing beats cheese and tomatoes with a hint of herb on a bread base. This recipe takes it up a notch.

The tart sweetness of the cherry tomatoes and garlic (which I cooked with the tomatoes to soften its bite) works beautifully with the gorgeous aniseed-hit from the fennel seed, fiery chili pepper, fragrant basil and finally the salty, stringy cheese. I served mine atop a gluten-free base (storebought to save time), but I imagine it would be even better on a homemade one. I loved this so much I was death-staring my husband like a hungry dog whilst he was eating his last piece.

I only had 250g of cherry tomatoes and it wasn't enough, the recipe calls for 350g which sounds about right. I would double the garlic though.

would I make it again: Yes.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

S'mores chocolate pots

It is astonishing how quickly one learns to adapt to being one-armed.

As my little bundle seems to wake every time I try to lay her down I have had to complete errands one-handed whilst she happily sleeps in the other. Granted, this rules out quite a few tasks, but some, such as stirring a pot, are very do-able; typing this post with only my left-hand is another.

Having reached the point where all my nightly dreams revolved around the consumption of epic portions of every kind of dessert imaginable I knew I had to make something before I'd wake up to a half eaten pillow...

The moment I saw this recipe I knew it was the one to break my dessert-sabbatical. There was something about whipping the eggwhites into satiny peaks that felt like slipping into a pair of comfy jeans. As I ran a fingertip through its billowing clouds and licked my 'snowcapped' finger I thought to myself -  'it's good to be back.'

ease: 4/5.
prep time: 30mins.
chilling time: 2hours.
total: 2 hours & 30mins.

taste: 4.5/5. Like a campfire at home.

These pots of silken chocolate laced with espresso topped with fluffy, sweet meringue kissed by the flame are incredibly delicious. The sweet meringue truly is reminiscent of creamy soda-ish marshmallows and balances out the seductively dark smooth chocolate; the touch of smokiness from the scorching tops it off perfectly. Eat beneath a woolly blanket, in front of a fireplace, under a full moon's light for the indoor-campfire experience.

I would skip coffee next time as I used a 70% chocolate which when paired with the coffee added a bit too much bitterness for me.

Because of bubs I didn't have enough time to make the graham cracker -  next time!

This made 4 servings.

would I make it again: Yes.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mushroom, spinach & feta pies

As the gossamer morning light drapes over me I find tiny hands sprawled across my chest as eyes the colour of the Milky Way, and just as vast in their depth, slowly open to stare into my mine. The silence between us is filled with wonder and curiosity; I kiss the tips of her fingers whilst the flickers of light and shadow catch her eye, transfixing her to their fluttering dance. I do not know for how many ticks of the clock we lie silently together, as we are both content to exist in our stillness. Time has lost all linear structure and instead falls together in pieces. Moments of sleep. Moments of play. Moments of nourishment. Each moment its own individual world. And each just as precious.

Although my body has mended enough to allow me freedom of movement, I find it harder to gather enough minutes together to be able to cook or bake. It seems even in her sleep, my Valentine notices my absence and wakes from her slumber to call for me. I could swaddle her in a sling close to my chest whilst I cook, but I don't feel comfortable having her so close to open flames and scalding water, so instead I am choosing meals with short preps or steps that can be paused to allow for cuddles or feeds in between until I can find larger blocks of time to spend solo in the kitchen.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 20mins.
cooking time: 25mins.
total: 45mins.

taste: 4/5. Moorishly good.
These golden puffed and flaky parcels with their belly of meaty, flavoursome mushrooms, creamily salty feta and mineral-esque spinach satisfy even the canine tooth of a carnivore. I practically inhaled two within minutes. Simple yet suitably satisfying.

I increased the feta to 100g.

would I make it again: Yes, quick and tasty.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New arrival

On Monday 5th September at 3:27pm we welcomed our beautiful daughter


into the world in the peacefulness of our home.
She weighed 7lb 2oz (3.26kg) and made every second of my 34hour labour worth it.

Unfortunately on her way out she dislocated my coccyx bone so my recovery is taking a little longer than expected. But I have no doubt that soon enough I shall be back in the kitchen baking up a storm, this time with my daughter by my side. Xxx

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hazlenut, chocolate & brown butter cake

I believe Winter may be having an identity crisis...

I expected frosty mornings and rain drenched nights with nothing but leaden gray smothering the sky. What I got instead was, for all intensive purposes, Spring. I'm not the only one who thinks so, the blossom trees were in full bloom weeks before Winter's end and fruit that normally ripens in September's embrace are already lining grocer's shelves. I feel I may have to change my thoughts on what a 'season' is...

The fact that the last weeks of Winter have been nothing but blue skies and sunshine - the kind of days where a t-shirt will suffice for warmth and an ice cream savoured on a park bench seems the thing to do, sent me into a 'Winter baking' frenzy. Recipes I'd decided were best eaten on cold nights with hot drinks were pulled out and lined up ready to be transmogrified from paper to plate before the last drop of rain dried on the pavement and the first blackbird laid its eggs. There was one recipe that found its way to the top of that pile. A cake made of luscious vanilla-flecked browned butter, toasty hazelnuts and seductive dark chocolate; a cake meant for Winter...

ease: 4/5.
prep time: 30mins.
cooking time: 35mins to cook plus 30mins cooling.
total: 1hour & 35mins.

taste: 4/5 (hubby says 4.5). Chocolate & hazelnut bliss.

I cannot described this cake any better than the quote pictured above - it is all those things in one.

The cake itself flirts with sweetness without diving in. The hazelnuts give it character and adds a wonderful slight crunch to the moist cake that is laced with vanilla-kissed browned butter. The draping dark chocolate with a hint of coffee adds depth and a little bitterness that gives this cake an edge. It's a cake a man can enjoy as much as a woman without feeling he is eating something that's too 'girly.'

would I make it again: Yes. Everyone enjoyed it, even those who don't normally like cakes. It also kept quite well unrefrigerated.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Salted caramel & vanilla baked cheesecake

It was 'drool' at first sight for me and this recipe. As soon as I spied its glorious butterscotch-coloured center with its cloudlike topping and ooozy caramel dripping on the cover of the latest Donna Hay magazine I knew I had to make it. In fact I ended up making this a day early as I just couldn't wait another moment to dive into it with a side -turned spoon. A gigantic dessert side-turned spoon.

I had two slices (well, slice is putting it lightly, more like slabs) straight after each other and had to practically bind my wrists not to have a third before dinner. After hearing my moans of gastronomic pleasure, my husband, who has never liked cheesecake, was so curious as to what could elicit such happiness from me asked to have a try. Alas, he still doesn't like cheesecake, although he did say it was the nicest cheesecake he didn't like...

If you like cheesecake then I have three words for you; GET. ON. IT.

ease: 4/5.
prep time: 2.5hours until cheesecake rests in fridge.
cooking time: 3hours chilling time.
total: 5.5hours.

taste: 5/5. Possibly the best cheesecake I have eaten.

The flavours are simple; caramel, vanilla, salt and a touch of sour cream. Together they create a perfect whole. At first I thought the sour cream topping would be too sour but it balanced the sweetness of the crust (which I had a slight crumbling problem with upon cutting) and the delicious caramel tones of the cheesecake. For my caramel sauce I added 1/4-1/2tsp fleur de sel salt, instead of sprinkling actual salt on top of the cake. The sauce was to die for, great balance between sweet and salty and the perfect accompaniment to the cake. The texture of the cheesecake layer was smooth and almost fluffy.

Next time though I would use a vanilla bean for the cheesecake part rather than vanilla extract.

As I couldn't eat a whole cake by myself (hubby finds cheesecakes too rich) I gave some to family and they absolutely raved about it. I even had my dad come back for seconds.

would I make it again: Yes. At first I was going to say no as I am the only one in our house who eats cheesecake, and making a whole cheesecake just for me to eat is asking for trouble. But after all the raves from my family cheesecake-eaters I will be keeping this recipe for when I need to bring a dessert.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Chocolate brownie cookies

Not more than a few days ago I had my Mother's Blessing.

The women in my life gathered to share their stories of motherhood and to give me strength (and many freezer meals) when the time comes that I too will experience the journey of birth. We talked and laughed over mugs of hot chocolate and bowls of plump, cerise strawberries. We each decorated our own gingerbread men with a rainbow of lollies and added our artistic touches to tiny white jumpsuits for the baby (thanks to Claudia for the wonderful idea). The end of the day was marked with a bead ceremony, where each woman gave a bead that represented them, along with their own blessing for the baby. Those beads now lie together in a bracelet, for my child to wrap their fingers around whenever they feel the need to be comforted by the love of all the women in its life.

My husband and I also gave a bead and the following blessing to our unborn child;

I wish for you to find strength when days seem dark. To draw upon all those who came before you, who may no longer be here but whose blood runs through your veins. Remember that our strength is your strength and that you are never alone.

I wish for you to be warmed by happiness as the Earth is warmed by the sun. To remember that happiness is a choice, not a set of circumstances. So dear child, choose to be happy and allow yourself to be filled with positive light even when shadows seek to smother it.

And lastly, I wish for you to find love as your father and I did. A love that makes you want to live an eternity with them so as never to be apart. A love that allows your soul to reach its highest form of being and your heart to burst with joy. A love of a best friend and a true beloved. Those are our wishes for you my sweet.

After a day filled with sweetness, it ended with a glass of milk and the most delicious morsel of a cookie.

ease: 4/5.
prep time: 25mins.
cooking time: 8mins.
total: 33mins.
taste: 4/5. My go-to chocolate cookie.
I first made these beauties almost 3 years ago and yet I never forgot them, and am quite uncertain as to why I waited so long to make them again! I prefer to make larger cookies which yield a chewier, fudgy center that compliments the crunchy meringue shell beautifully. These cookies are dark and sweet and completely addictive. With the larger cookie size I ended up with 24 cookies.
would I make it again: Yes, this is now the second time and only the beginning.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Chocolate ice cream

I must remove my hat and bow my head in apology for my tardy post. This week has seen me dusting and cleaning with a vengeance in preparation for my baby shower this weekend. With limited mobility, it has taken double the usual time to shake out the house and make it sparkle. The good news is I am on the home stretch with only a few items left unchecked on my to-do-list. The even better news is that the ice cream I began on Monday has finished its bloom and is now ready to consume. Despite making me wait five full days I don't resent it one bit as it, like your one true love, is worth the wait.

ease: 3/5.
prep time: 40mins.
freezing time: 4-5days.
total: Approx 5 days.

taste: 5/5. Nothing compares to this dark beauty.

The raves for this ice cream are too numerous to mention, which piqued my interest but still left me slightly dubious as to their legitimacy. Well, in this instance, the masses were right. This ice cream is enigmatic and deeply chocolaty with a rich, creamy texture that leaves you struggling to decide whether it's yummier straight out of the freezer or left to soften around the edges. I used Amarru's Nero to make mine, as the type of dark chocolate you use will determine the flavour.
I added a pinch of sea salt to mine to further sharpen the chocolateness.

would I make it again: Yes - already have :).


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Carpaccio of beetroot, blood orange, walnuts, feta & baby herbs

I find myself pottering about the kitchen, bare feet upon the floor and nose deep within cupboard doors searching for morsels to temper my hunger. My belly is now rotund enough to balance mugs of ginger tea or the spine of a book, although I exercise caution should the little one within decide to abruptly squirm, causing whatever may be resting above to be catapulted into the air like a geyser.
As Spring approaches, along with my due date, I treasure the days I have left to myself where I have only my own whims to tend to (when my husband is at work). Before long my hours will be filled with the needs of my child and long durations spent in the kitchen making time-intensive dishes will fall a few rungs on my ladder of desires no doubt. So it is in these moments before the impending change that I take pleasure in a sunny afternoons stretched out with pots and pans and sinks filled with the remnants of a not-so-simple meal which makes the sitting down to eat it all the more enjoyable.

ease: 3.5/5.
prep time: 10mins (prep everything else whilst beetroot cooks and cools).
cooking time: 50mins.
total: 1hour.

taste: 4/5. A salad to get excited about.

The earthy sweetness of the beetroot touched by woody time, peppery ginger, bitter orange and warming spices with the depth of red wine pairs beautifully with the creamy saltiness of goat's cheese, crunchy walnuts and vibrant blood orange. I didn't have any micro herbs but I can imagine they would only create an even more complex flavour combination that would be delicious; your taste buds will never get bored.

I peeled my beetroot before boiling them. My beetroots also took at least 40mins before they were tender all the way through.  I also didn't bother whipping the feta and used a lot more than 60gm (perhaps 100g?) and I also doubled the amount of blood orange segments.

would I make it again: Yes.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rhubarb & strawberry buckle

The moment I laid my eyes on this cake in the June 2011 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller I pulled on my raincoat and snatched my car keys to visit my local grocer in order to obtain lovely scarlet stalks of organic rhubarb and ruby strawberry morsels. Shaking droplets of rain from my hair, leaving a trail of mist in the kitchen I set about chopping and stirring and pouring and sprinkling, waiting patiently for the oven to bask the mixture in its warmth and bring it to life.
The moment I pulled it from the oven, its comforting scent enveloped me and seemed to part the clouds spilling sunlight unto my hands as I cut myself a rather generous slice, my knees buckling unto the sofa and my cheeks colouring from the first mouthful.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 30mins.
cooking time: 1hour & 30mins.
total: 2 hours.

taste: 4/5. Moorishly good.

The tart rhubarb, sweet strawberries, caramel-esque rapadura sugar, warming cinnamon and giner and toasty hazelnuts combine to make a perfect remedy for cold weather.

would I make it again: No. It was lovely but it really didn't keep well even with refrigeration.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lemon verbena, chamomile & lavender creme brulee

Custard looks more liquid because of the heat from the torch moments before.

Names have been swirling around my head, projected unto closed eyelids as I try to slip into Dreamland. With the baby's impending arrival the search for possible names has scaled the Ladder of Importance. I've left no country behind nor floral or literary category unchecked as I amass a list that hopefully will yield at least one or perhaps two names that are also to my husband's liking. The biggest challenge so far has been finding names we BOTH like; I highly recommend discussing baby names early on in the relationship to save yourself the trouble caused later on if you find out that you prefer classical names like Alexander or Emily whilst your baby's father prefers the uncommon Ozimandias or Astrix...

Books are not the only place I have searched for inspiration. I have been re-watching my favourite films in case a suitable name lurks within their midst. One such film, Amelie, sadly did not bestow any names deemed suitable to my husband (even though I loved quite a few of the melodic French names) but it did stir within me a craving for one of my favourite desserts, creme-brulee.

Alas we yet to agree on names, but in the meantime, I can at least enjoy a great dessert whilst my search continues...

Lemon verbena, chamomile & lavender creme brulee
adapted from here

500 ml organic heavy cream
5 organic egg yolks
100 grams sugar
2 grams lemon verbena leaves
2 grams chamomille and lavender buds

In a small saucepan, place the cream and the herbs and bring to a boil. Turn the heat off and let the herbs steep in the cream for 20minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Temper the warm cream into the yolks and whisk. Strain the custard through a fine sieve.

Place ramekins on a sheetpan. Pour custard into ramekins and bring the pan into a 300 degree oven. Once the sheetpan is on the oven rack, pour some boiling water on the pan to create a water bath. Bake the creme brulee in the 300 degree oven in a water bath for about 20-40 minutes. When lightly shaken, the center should jiggle slightly but not appear liquid.

Refrigerate the baked custards for at least 4 hours. Sprinkle some demerara sugar on top and burn with a torch or under a hot broiler.

ease: 3.5/5.
prep time: 35mins.
cooking time: 35mins plus 4 hours chilling.
total: 1hour & 10mins plus chilling.

taste: 4/5. Dainty floral-scented perfection.

The floral medley carries wonderfully upon the silken smooth custard with its toffee shards. I would have loved the floral notes to be even stronger and will efinitely increase the amount next time around.

would I make it again: Yes.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tapioca porridge with brown sugar bananas

My bulbous belly has not only brought me sore ribs and a sleep cycle that is more akin to a wash cycle than sleep, it has also awakened in me a new found appreciation of citrus. Pre-baby bump I was not particularly impressed by the dimpled coral skin of Oranges and even less so by its less eaten cousins, Lemon and Lime. In fact, unless a recipe called for their bitter skins or mouth-puckering juices, they rarely mingled with the other fruits in my bowl. Until now.
At first it began with a slice of lemon in my water. Then my fingers found themselves tearing mandarin segments apart to nibble with my morning toast. It wasn't long before I was squeezing chartreuse droplets over my salad leaves and grating orange zest into my pancake batter. Before I knew it, I was a citrus-holic; my vitamin C levels have never been better.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 6mins (but you need to soak the tapioca overnight).
cooking time: 10mins (I cooked bananas whilst tapioca was cooking).
total: 16mins.

taste: 4/5. Amazing melding of asian flavours.

Overall this flavour combination is complex and exciting. The porridge itself has the smooth notes of vanilla, creamy tropical coconut and the fragrant fruity kaffir lime. When paired with the sweet caramelised banana and sharp tang of lime juice it really makes a winning combination. The tapioca pearls add a nice chewiness to the dish. Whilst I loved it, hubby had one mouthful and decided it wasn't for him, blaming the coconut and texture of the tapioca. But his bowl didn't go to waste, my dad happily polished it off for him.

would I make it again: No, only because hubby won't eat it.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Orange chocolate muffins

There are times that call for darkness; not the kind where monsters lurk or the corners of your mind where you do not tread, but the sultry darkness of chocolate. Times when the saccharine sweetness of white and the caramel child-friendly milk will not do. In those moments it is those squares of deep mahogany, all crimson robes and heady wine, that call to you. In mere seconds you find your fingers gently snapping off a shard, your tips already tinged with melted cocoa as you place it softly upon your tongue where it begins its enigmatic melody within your mouth, causing you to swoon and dream of dancing by firelight under an indigo moon.

Today, I indulged my 'dark side'.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 10mins.
cooking time: 18mins.
total: 28mins.

taste: 4/5. Vibrant orange and seductive dark chocolate - need I say more?

The fragrant bittersweet of the orange zest paired beautifully with the dusky bittersweetness of the chocolate, together they only amplified each other's flavours more.

would I make it again: Yes.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lemon buttermilk pancakes with blackberry syrup

"I'd like Winter if it had more days like this."

Those are the words my husband sighed as he closed his eyes and lifted his head toward the sunshine. Despite dwelling deep within Winter's embrace we have been blessed this week with enough intervals of sun-drenched blue-bird skies to forgive the stretches of pewter-cloud rainfalls.
There is something about an unexpected sunny day that makes you cherish it that little bit more. It lifts your spirits and bestows a much needed energy refill allowing you to accomplish what you wish with a spring in your step. I was not the only one who threw open doors and banished the slumbering dust from their home today, but I was perhaps the only one who was luckily enough to taste these lovely pancakes this morning, fit for a day like today.

Lemon buttermilk pancakes with blackberry syrup
adapted from here

Makes 7 small pancakes.

Lemon pancakes:
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 tbs sugar
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk

Blackberry syrup:
1 cup frozen blackberries
1/4cup sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, lemon zest and salt. Add the egg and buttermilk. 
Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat with a little butter.  Add 1/3 cup of batter to the pan and cook a few minutes on both sides, until just lightly golden brown. 

Meanwhile, combine blackberries, sugar, lemon juice and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, cook until syrup reduces to desired consistency. Syrup will thicken upon cooling.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 5mins.
cooking time: 15mins to make all pancakes.
total: 20mins.

taste: 4/5. Sunshine for your tastebuds.

The fluffy citron-hued pancakes filled with the summery sharpness of lemons pair beautifully alongside the wine-coloured blackberries bursting with rubicund berry sweetness.

would I make it again: Yes.