Saturday, December 30, 2006

Christmas Baking Part 1 - Christmas Baking makes for good gifts

Christmas    goodies box

I decided this year that I would put my new baking skills to good use and make some of my favourite cookies and chocolate as christmas gifts. Not because I'm too lazy to think of what to get them, just because I thought that it would be a more personal gift from me not to mention to share with them my love of baking.

I had this idea that I would pack them all up in takeaway noodle boxes with a bit of coloured paper and some nice ribbons. It was simple, quick and cute. :)

Xmas Gifts Boxes

The big boxes would be filled with some pistachio biscuits and some Lime and Honey chocolate truffles;

Big boxes w/ Pistachio cookies


whilst the little boxes would just be filled with the chocolate truffles.

Little boxes w/ Lime and Honey Truffles


Dark Chocolate Truffles w/ Lime & Honey
*The Cooks Book, Desserts by Pierre Herme. p.575

For coating:

Finely grated zest of 1/2 lime
120g caster sugar
120g cocoa powder.

Prepare coating in advance (at least 1 day) before it is required.

Combine lime zest and sugar and rub sugar and zest together with the palm of your hands and spread the sugar mixture thinly onto a non stick baking tray. Leave to dry overnight at room temperature.

The following day, mix cocoa powder with the lime sugar.

For ganache:

95g of butter
440g best quality dark chocolate (60 - 70% cocoa)
325ml creme fraiche
zest of 1 lime
50g lime juice
50g acacia honey (I used Manuka Honey)

Cut butter into walnut-sized pieces, place in a bowl and leave to soften to room temperature.

Chop chocolate into small pieces and place in a large bowl.

Bring to boil, creme fraiche and lime zest. Remove from heat, cover and let the zest and creme fraiche to infuse for about 10mins. Return pan to heat and bring it back just to the boil and remove. In another saucepan, pour in lime juice and honey and warm without boiling.

Pour half of the infused boiling cream over the chocolate and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. It is recommended that you mix the chocolate and cream by starting from the centre in small circles, moving outwards. Add the remaining creme and repeat stirring process, then add the lime juice and honey mixture and stir until ganache is smooth.

When ganache is smooth, slowly add the pieces of butter, stirring them gently into the mixture.

At this point, if you have a pipping bag and a No. 9 plain nozzle, you may choose to only refrigerate the ganache for 30mins and then pouring chocolate ganache into a pipping bag and pipe balls of ganache onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Then chill piped balls of chocolate for 2 hrs before rolling them in the lime-sugar and cocoa mixture.

Alternatively, you could either:
a) pour ganache into a thin shallow pan lined with baking paper, then refrigerate for 4hrs before cutting up the ganache into squares or

b) refrigerate ganache in the same mixing bowl for 4hrs. After which, you could use a melon baller to scoop up the ganaches into balls or roll ganache balls with your hands.

After preparing balls of ganaches, remember to return to the fridge to chill for at least 2hrs. Then roll ganaches in the cocoa/lime-sugar mixture, place in asieve to remove excess coating and store in the fridge in an air tight container.

Lime and Honey chocolate truffles

Friday, December 29, 2006

Christmas 2006 - Part 1 - Xmas Lunch is a Roasted Affair

Christmas this year has been big for me! Big in the sense that I whipped up two big meals (the second one was dinner on christmas day.. post to follow). As it has been the last two years, Alv's mum jetted off to Singapore again and left us 'orphaned' for christmas.

Alv's mum decided that we would have a family lunch early this time round as she wanted to catch up with the family before leaving on another 3 month holiday. As part of the family celebrations this year, I was asked if I would cook christmas lunch because: a) Little B could only stay up til 7pm every night; b) his mum was a tad lazy. And so the family celebrated christmas a week early on 17 December.


Christmas Deco

Xmas Lunch was a Roasted affair

Roasted rack/s of lamb w/ rosemary and thyme
Roasted pumpkin w/ onions
Crunchy roasted baby potatoes*
Green Beans and Broccolini salad*
Roasted tomatoes
<>
Almond and Blackberry Tart


Lunch was a

When coming up with the menu for lunch, it was suggested that lamb be part of the menu. I wasn't too keen on roasting a leg of lamb for a small lunch so I decided to go with racks of lamb like we did some months ago at FLim's.

In my cookbook, a roast meal is never complete without any pumpkin, onions or potatoes, so it was only natural that I'd be roasting all three things together with the lamb and to finish off, I had the beans and brocollini salad from the current issue (Dec/Jan 07) of Donna Hay magazine and the accidental roasted tomatoes. (hehe.. sigh)

I have to say though, cooking christmas lunch is hard work. I applaud all the mums out there who does all the cooking every year at christmas. I was about an hour late with lunch. Even though I prepared mostly everything the day before. Sigh.. one man band cooking is hard work. I got up at about 10am and did the rest of the food prep whilst everyone else went off to church. I think the hardest part was waiting for the food to cook. Whilst I manage to get mostly everything into the oven by 1:15pm, waiting for it to cook felt like forever....

It was almost 2:30 by the time we sat down to eat and because I was so busy cooking I didn't even get much of a chance to snap any photos. (The above photo courtesy of Alv)

Roasted Rack of Lamb w/ Rosemary and Thyme

Just a simple marinade of chopped rosemary, thyme, olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper. Mix everything together and rub onto the lamb. Cut slits in the meat and insert left over herb from the marinade into the slits. Marinate for a minimum of 2hrs or overnight for extra flavour.

Heat some oil on a medium sized saucepan and pan fry the lamb rack for about 2 mins on each side to seal in the juices and roast in the oven at 200 deg C for about 25-30mins for a medium cooked lamb. (Add another 10mins for well done)

Crunchy Roasted Baby Potatoes*
Issue Dec/Jan 2007 of Donna Hay Magazine

Clean and dry baby potatoes and cut thin slits into the potatoes without cutting all the way through. Toss potatoes with some olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and bake at 200 deg C for 35- 40mins until golden and crunchy.

Green Beans and Broccolini salad w/ bacon balsamic dressing*
Issue Dec/Jan 2007 of Donna Hay Magazine

300g green beans
180g broccolini
50g butter
1/4 cup olive oil
2 eschallots
3 rashers bacon
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Trim and blanch green beans and broccolini and set aside. Chop up bacon and eschallots and fry them over medium heat in the butter and oil until bacon is golden. Add lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and cook for about 1 min. Add beans and broccolini and cook for another 2-3mins until beans and broccolini is warmed through.

Serves 8.

Roasted Pumpkin w/ onions

I used the kabocha I purchased from Prahran market for this. Slice up or chop up pumpkin to your liking, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and place in a baking dish on top of some chopped onions and scatter a few knob of butter on top of the pumpkin. Roast in the oven for about 30mins at 180 deg C or until the pumpkin is cooked yet firm.


"Accidental" Roasted Tomatoes

Originally I had intended to make the spicy tomato sauce from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries as the sauce for the roast lamb. But in my haste to prepare everything, I forgot all about the tomatoes. When I finally remembered about it, it was way too late as the sauce requires the tomatoes to be roasted for at least 45mins. In the end, I took it out of the oven after 20mins and simply served it as a side.

Nigel's recipe for spicy tomato sauce is simple yet delicious:

950g tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
2 small chillies
olive oil

Set oven at 200 deg C, peel and finely slice garlic and finely chop chillies. Cut tomatoes in half and drizzle tomatoes with oil and season with salt, pepper, garlic and chilli. Roast for 45 - 50mins until tomatoes are soft and flecked with black. Rougly chop tomaotes to give a coarse 'sauce' and serve.


Almond and Blackberry Tart

For dessert, I decided to make an Almond and Blackberry tart from Skye Gyngell's A Year in my kitchen. Essentially, it's a tart filled with frangipane and blackberries. Unfortunately this was the most underbaked tart I have ever made. Sigh... Makes me wonder if the oven turned off on me again. The tart filling was absolutely delicious... once it was properly cooked through. The sweetness of the frangipane was well balanced out by the slightly tart blackberries.

Though it looks absolutely well done in the photo above, the tart was under cooked and when I served it, the filling all oozed out.... it was disappointing, but we ate it anyway. LOL and no, none of us got sick from eating under cooked tart. Although, I did stick it in the oven again to cook it thoroughly.

Almond and Blackberry Tart
*Skye Gyngell's A year in my Kitchen

About 250g or 1 quantity of your favourite sweet pastry/pate sucree

200g blanched almonds or almond meal
200g caster sugar
200g unsalted butter
1tsp vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
250g blackberries

creme fraiche to serve

Roll out pastry and line onto a tart pan (I used a 25cm wide x 2.5cm depth) and refrigerate for about 30mins before baking blind in oven at 180 deg C.

If using blanched almonds, roast the almonds in the oven for about 3 - 4mins. Allow to cool and then crush almonds coarsely by pulsing it in a food processor.

Cream sugar and butter with electric mixer in a bowl until smooth. Add vanilla extract and continue to mix until combined. Add one egg yolk at a time, ensure the yolk is well mixed before adding the next yolk. Finally, fold in the ground almonds.

Pour almond filling into the tart case and stud evenly all over with blackberries and bake in the oven for 30mins or until the filling is golden brown. Set aside to cool and serve at room temperature with creme fraiche or ice cream.

Tips:
  • Place tart pan on a cookie tray for easy handling.
  • Try not to over fill the tart as the filling may rise during cooking and over flow out of the case into the cookie tray.
  • If the filling appears to be undercook, carefully cover the top of the tart with aluminium foil before returning it to the oven for another 10mins or so.
I found that I had to bake my tart for about 45mins as oppose to the recommended 30mins. It could well be that my oven was acting up again or perhaps being a 'fan forced' oven had something to do with it? I haven't quite worked out this bit yet, but another recipe which also uses the frangipane filling also recommended a cooking time of 30mins and theirs looked fine. So, maybe it was another oven mishap, or perhaps overfilling the tart had some dire consequences to it after all.. nevertheless.. it all went into the tummy and we all survived ;)


Placemats
Alv's mum doesn't believe in placemats. These were made out of some coloured paper I bought from Spotlight in my attempt to make lunch feel a bit more christmassy.

After all was fed and the dishes were done, Alv and I played santa and gave everyone their pressies. wheee......

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas




May this holiday season be full of good food, friends and happy returns.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Menu for Hope III - Give a gift this Christmas


You may have already heard about A Menu for Hope.

Guess what? You're going to hear about it again! It's the least I could do since I forgot all about it. (and of course I am going to buy me some raffle tickets!)

Give a gift this Christmas, buy a raffle ticket and support "A Menu for Hope", the Annual World Food Blogging Event organised by Chez Pim. This year, donations raised will go to support the UN World Food Programme the UN body providing food relief to refugees, countries with food crisis and emergency food aid in events of natural disasters. (Remember the earth quake in Kashmir, Tsunami crisis and drought crisis in Niger?)

If your 'good will bank' only credits one good deed per year, this IS the one deed you should be using it on.


What is 'A Menu for Hope'?

A Menu for Hope is an online Food Blogger fundraiser organised by Chez Pim. This is the third year the event has been running. Last year's event raised a total of US$17,000 for UNICEF.


What do I get for a raffle ticket?

Food bloggers worldwide have sponsored a number of gifts to encourage and entice you to participate. A list of gifts can be found here on Chez Pim's website. You may select which prizes you are interested in. (Don't forget to write down the code of the prizes that you are interested in! Eg. EU 07, or AP09)

You can also view prizes from specific regions:

US West Coast: Becks and Posh
US East Coast: The Amateur Gourmet
US (the rest): Kalyn's Kitchen
Canada: Cardamom Addict
Europe and UK: Davidlebovitz.com
Asia Pacific/Australia/New Zealand: Grab Your Fork
Wine related prizes: Vinography


How much is a raffle ticket?

Raffle tickets are US$10 per ticket and and each ticket gives you one entry into the draw for the prize of your choice. Your $10 will feed more mouths than one - so do it!


How can I help?

Tell your friends, in fact tell everyone you know and buy a raffle ticket! In fact buy two or three, even four raffle tickets .. the more the better. Not only are you helping raise money for the UN WFP, you are helping to fight the war on hunger!


Where can I buy raffle tickets?

Go to: http://www.firstgiving.com/menuforhopeIII

Don't forget to select a prize and write down the code in the personal message section.


Donations are accepted until this Friday, 22 December 2006. And the prize winners will be announced on Chez Pim's blog on 15th January 2007.


If you think this is a hoax, check out the donations page. They have raised over $24,000 so far and check out the prize's regional blogs. It's the real deal! It's as real as the World Vision ads you see on tv.

So click here now!


Have I convinced you if not bullied you into buying a ticket? ;)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Happy Birthday Uncle Alvin!!

Uncle Alvin and Bethany

Celebrated on: Saturday, 18.11.2006

Almost a month late, but... better late than never!

This is actually my second attempt at writing this post. My first attempt was after the party on the day of his birthday. 3/4 into writing the post, I was greeted by the my old friend the 'blue screen of death'! After that, I just threw my hand in disgust and gave up.. until now.

The reason: well... my friend M (who's currently at home enjoying motherhood) reads my blog fairly regularly. In fact she tells me that she checks out this place almost everytime she logs on to check her emails etc. I was strictly advised last Thursday when I saw her at the office xmas party that I "need to update my blog more regularly" so that she has something new to read.

So M, if you're reading this... I updated today.. just for you!! :D

For Alv's birthday, we had some friends and family over for the occasion. As usual, the family arrived first, the friends, an hour later. Alv's Mum and I had a bit of a misunderstanding about the food. I was under the impression that I was taking care of all the food for the day but it turned out that she went out and bought some meat as well the day before so we ended up eating "leftovers" for about 3 days after the bbq.

In typical bbq at Alv's fashion, (we had a bbq last year for his 25th birthday) he does all the cooking and we do all the eating. These were some of the things we served up that day:


BBQ Fare:
Sausages: Plain BBQ sausages, Organic Lamb sausages,
Organic pork sausages and some Kransky
Chicken tenderloins marinated w/ Sumac and Paprika
Scotch steaks
Grilled pork balls
Rocket, sundried tomatoes and goats cheese salad w/ balsamic dressing
Cheese, Cucumber and cherry tomatoes platter
Potato salad

For dessert:
Raspberry Semi Freddo
Black Forest cheesecake

BBQ Fare

The chicken, pork patties and salads were my contribution to the bbq. The pork patties (not pictured) were from one of Jill Dupleix's recipe on The Times Online, Food & Drink section. It is absolutely delicious! I've made it once before and had the lot with rice paper, mint leaves, lettuce and the sauce. I love how the fish sauce brings out the sweetness of the pork and the fresh taste the mint and lettuce brings to the meal. Plus it smells heavenly when grilled on the barbie. It's probably better when served as per Jill's suggestions, but I still enjoyed it despite the lack of mint, lettuce and the sauce. Kinda brings something different to the whole bbq affair. You can find the recipe here.

The chicken tenderloins, (also not pictured) here was a bit of a disappointment, they were from the AWW Low Fat cookbook that I purchased a few months ago when I was really gung-ho about low fat eating. (Not anymore now, can't eat low fat food because I haven't been doing the cooking.. Alv's mum has been doing all the cooking since I moved in, and (I'm generalising here but..) asian mum's don't really do low fat cooking..?) It looked pretty good and the ingredients were fairly simple to make. It looked so good that I marinated about 1kg of them.

The disappointing thing was the taste, it ended up leaving a sour taste in my mouth. Had to lace it with sweet chilli sauce for some extra flavour and zing. Guess who had to eat it all up?? Sigh.. maybe it just wasn't well marinated enough? After all, I was making like double the amount the recipe suggested? I might give it ago next time, in smaller dosage. (SOMEONE suggested that I had a case of dyslexia that day and couldn't read recipes properly!) Humph.. the nerve..

Rocket, Sundried Tomatoes and Goat's Cheese salad
Rocket, semi dried tomatoes and goats cheese salad.

Looks kinda oily here, but I assure you it wasn't. A packet of rocket leaves (approx 150g), a small tub of semi dried tomatoes from the deli (approx 1 large scoop) and fresh soft goats cheese (as much as you like); a few splashes of good extra virgin olive oil, a generous splash of balsamic vinegar (because I like balsamic vinegar); tossed together and served.

Cherry Tomatoes and Cucumber

Someone ate all the cheese on this platter! Just plain old cucumber and cherry tomatoes, but I love the colour contrast on the plate, so I took a photo of it (Can you see the 'Made in Australia' kanga symbol on the top right corner?)

The potato salad is one of my favourite "throw everything together" recipe. Boiled baby potatoes, pan fried bacon, boiled eggs and parsley. Chop them up into small pieces, throw everything together and mix with some mayo (about 1/4 cup), sour cream (about 1/4 cup), 1/2 tbsp of dijon mustard, salt, pepper (to taste) and lots of parsley. I don't really have a proper recipe for this, it's just something I throw together with whatever's in the fridge. I sometimes add dijonaise into the lot too if I have any in the fridge.

<>

Raspberry Semi Freddo

Raspberry semi freddo, from the cover of the latest issue (Issue 30) of Donna Hay magazine. It doesn't look as good as the cover, but tastes awesome! Awesome like, Bulla Frozen Yoghurt because it tastes like ice cream, but is yoghurt and it's 97% fat free! So says the packaging anyway.

If you read the current issue, Donna serves her in a small cup and wraps baking paper around the cup to give it an extra height. I couldn't be bothered with that, found these takeaway tubs at a party stall in Prahran Market and in typical takeaway container fashion, they even comes with a cover for easy storage! So I can just stick them all in the freezer, covered and not have to worry about odour contamination. Imagine your ice cream tasting like frozen fish..(eww)

Raspberry Semi Freddo
*Issue 30, Donna Hay Magazine, 2006

Ingredients:
3 eggs
2 egg yolks (extra)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup (225g) caster sugar
500g frozen raspberries, crushed
1 + 3/4 cup single/pouring cream

Place eggs, egg yolks, vanilla and sugar in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk the ingredients with a hand-held beater for 4-5minutes or until heated, thick and pale. Remove from heat and continue whisking until cool. Gently fold in crushed raspberries through the egg mixture and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold in the egg mixture into the cream until just combined.

*Donna suggests that you wrap a piece of bnaking paper around 6 x 1cup capacity serving glasses, ensuring that it stands at least 1cm above the rim of the glass. Secure paper with sticky tape.

The containers that I used were less than 1 cup, probably about 2/3 cup and I ended up filling about 14 of them up to 0.5 cm before the top.

Spoon mixture into glasses and freeze for 4-6hours until firm. (Remove the paper before serving.)

Serves 6 x 1cup glasses/containers.

Actually, my only criticism of Donna's recipe was that she didn't mention that it needs to be thawed slightly before serving. Otherwise the texture becomes that of 'ice-cream' not semi-frozen which is what a 'semi freddo' is suppose to be. So I suggest you remove it from the freezer and leave it in the fridge to thaw a bit (say 15min?) before serving.

<>

Black Forrest Cheesecake

This Black Forest Cheesecake is from the Australian Women's Weekly (AWW) Food We Love cookbook. For his birthday cake, Alv wanted a strawberry cheese cake (like the ones at Cafe Greco at Crown) from The Cheesecake shop. Now, I don't know about you, I am not that big of a fan of the cakes from The Cheesecake shop and I don't think paying $20+ for a cheesecake is worth it when your girlfriend/boy-friend (*wink* I am talking about you TH!) can make you one for less than the price and effort to drive all the way to Clayton from Glen Waverley to get one. Plus, it would be even more embarrasing for 'the girlfriend' if the friends go, "How come you didn't make him a birthday cake, like how you made one for V??"

No, I wasn't really looking out for my reputation LOL. I just thought it was silly and was very insulted when he "suggested" that I "couldn't" possibly make a cheesecake that is like the ones at Cafe Greco. (ie. unbaked cheesecake with a layer of strawberries and gelatiney topping)

I went home and stuck about 10 different cookbooks with various similar cheesecake recipes under his nose the day before until he gave up and picked this Black Forest Cheesecake because it was: a) Black Forest and b) resembled the cake that he wanted the most. *rolled eyes*

Nevertheless, it was fun making this cheesecake. It's a fairly simple recipe and has easy to follow instructions. My only obstacle was pressing the crushed biscuits into the tin to form the crust and mould for the cake. I modified the recipe for the crust a bit.

The original recipe asks for chocolate biscuits, but I substituted the chocolate biscuits for digestives and maltesers. I saw one of Jamie Oliver's live stage shows on tv once when he made a New York Cheesecake where he crushed a packet of digestives biscuits and a packet of maltesers and used them as base for the cheesecake. Always wanted to try that combo since I saw it done on tv and I finally got the chance to do so.

Funnily enough, I have never really made a cheesecake before this cake... ever! Especially not the unbaked kind. The only cheesecake I have ever made was a Japanese cheesecake recipe I got from a friend's mum. I'm not sure it even qualifies as a cheesecake if it wasn't for the cream cheese that was in it. The texture of the cake is so light and fluffy that when I first tasted it it, I racked my brain for a whole 10minutes trying to figure out what was in it.

Black Forest Cheesecake
*Adapted from AWW Food We Love cookbook.

Ingredients:

Biscuit base:
250g plain chocolate biscuit**
or
250g digestive biscuits
200g maltesers (feel free to use more if you like maltesers ;) )
125g butter, melted

Pre-heat oven to 180 deg C. In a food processor, blend/crush digestive biscuits until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Crush maltesers in a glad bag or sealed plastic bag. Combine butter, maltesers and crushed biscuits in a large bowl and mix well. Press mixture into the bottom and sides of a 25cm springform tin. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. (this is so that the chocolate melts into the mixture)

Cheesecake:
3 tsp of gelatine powder
1/2 cup (125ml) water
250g packet cream cheese, softened
3/4 sup (165g) caster sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
300ml thickened cream
425g can pitted black cherries
3/4 cup of reserved cherry syrup

Sprinkle gelatine over water in a small heat proof jug and stand jug in a small saucepan of simmering water. Stir until gelatine dissolves, remove jug from the saucepan and let cool.

Beat cream cheese, sugar and juice in a small bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Transfer mixture into a large bowl. In another bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form and fold the cream mixture into the cheese mixture in two batches. Then fold in the gelatine mixture.

Drain the pitted cherries and divide cherries into two portions.

Spoon 1/3 of the cheese mixture into the biscuit base and top the first layer with cherries. Repeat with the remaining cherry and cheese mixture. Refrigerate for about 20 - 30minutes until the mixture is firm.

Topping:
1 tbsp corn flour
1 tsbp caster sugar
1 tbsp dark rum (optional if not using rum, replace with 1 extra tbsp of cherry syrup)
3/4 cup reserved cherry syrup
Remainder of the cherries

Blend cornflour and sugar with reserved cherry syrup (3/4 cup) in a small saucepan. Stir mixture over low heat until it boils and thicken, stir in rum, turn off the stove and let it cool for about 10minutes.

When the cheesecake mixture is firm, spread cooled topping over cheesecake, swirling gently into the cheese mixture. Top with remainder of the cherries. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Note: The original recipe uses all of the cherries in the cheesecake mixture. I decided that it would look prettier with some cherries on top, so I divided the cherries into two portions. Feel free to do otherwise :)

**As suggested in the original recipe

Black Forrest Cheesecake


The digestive + malteser combo makes a lovely crust for the cheesecake. I probably should've put in the whole bag of maltesers because you could only taste some of the chocolate and malt in the crust. Definitely worth trying. :)

So, I stayed up til 3am on Saturday night making desserts and marinating the food and woke up at 8:30am the next day to do the salads and last minute pressie shopping. Totally plastered by the time everyone left at 5:00 - 5:30pm. Without any alcohol assistance, crashed on the bed and slept til 8pm that night.

The things we girl friends do for them boys. Hummph!


>>Some photos from that day

Friday, December 01, 2006

I love the place where I work....


Have I ever mentioned how much I love the area where I work??

My office is in the same area as the Organisational Development Unit (OD) and they hold staff training workshops on this floor all the time. Most of the workshops are uncatered for but occasionally we get ones that they cater food for and whenever there are those workshops, there's always bound to be leftovers. There's a meeting room here that gets booked for use all the time too, and sometimes those meeting are held over lunch, so lunch is catered for. Hehe.. when there is catering, there is leftovers... So we basically get free food all the time. (I should mention the bikkies tin too.. but it's only Arnotts Bikkies, the standard workplace fare)

Today they had like two huge leftover platters of food from one the events that the OD organised. It was the Vice Chancellors Awards for Excellence. Everyone was too busy taking photos with the Vice-Chancellor after the ceremony and forgot all about the food. So where does it end up? Right here in our office tea room.

I love my workplace. I may not always like the work that I have to do/am doing. But I love my office.

View from my desk

ps. Have been busy lately that I haven't blogged much. Three more weeks til our office shuts down for the year, so hopefully I'll have more time to catch up with blogging. :)

Friday, November 24, 2006

SHF25 - Matcha Chocolate Truffles

TGIF!!! Ie. Thank God It's Friday. Not to be confused with the US food chain TGI Friday's.

I am a slave of short cut writing. Where 'You' becomes 'U', 'You are' becomes 'UR' and 'In my humble opinion' becomes 'IMHO (not to be confused with I am a Ho.. NOT). We (my friend Bec and I) have become accustomed to starting off each Friday morning by emailing the one liner :'TGIF!!' Such are the days where 'Google' has become synonymous with the word 'Search/ing'. It's a bad habit I know, I try not to do it when I'm commenting on other people's blogs. So I always make sure I proof read my comment before posting it.

Anyway, moving on.. it's Friday and it's also Sugar High Friday, 25th Edition, hosted by Johanna of The Passionate Cook. Johanna decreed that this months mission, should we food bloggers choose to accept it is to:
1) Go out and buy the best truffles in the market.
2) Over indulge on them truffles and then
3) Make your own!
Which was exactly what I did! The Saturday after the theme was announced, I took a trip down to Prahran Market and bought myself some Monsieur Truffe! Monsieur Truffe makes the best handmade truffles I've ever had in Melbourne. I believe Ed of Tomato discovered it, shared it with his friends, who somehow ended up sending some to Deb of The Food Palate up in Sydney and that was how I discovered Monsieur Truffe. (Incidentally, I believe I may have met the man himself on my first trip. Ed describes him as 'the real deal with the full French accent)

So this was my second visit to Prahran to pick up some truffles. On my first visit, I picked up some marzipan filled truffles, chocolate covered with hazelnut praline truffles and some kalamansi lime truffles. This time round, I was intent on sampling his regular chocolate truffles. I mean, the flavoured ones are great and a must but I can't 'NOT' try the normal dark chocolate ones, how else would I know the difference? So I left the Monsieur's stall with $20 less in my pocket, two a small pack of chocolate truffles - dark chocolate and passionfruit; and a pack of caramalised chocolate almonds. I couldn't wait to get home, so I opened then bag of almonds and munched all the way home. LOL! Since I was sharing some with Ellie, I was only able to gobble half of em. Yum yum.. let's just say it was yummilicious! (Ellie: Don't worry, I still have your half !)


Monsieur Truffe chocolate truffles
(Unfortunately, no pics of the chocolate truffles I bought. In my haste to consume, I kinda forgot all about it, so you'll have to be content with one of the old shots)

So after over indulging on some MT, I set about preparing the ganache for my own chocolate truffles. I have probably mentioned a few times (like here, here, here and here) of my love for Matcha. So it was only logical that I would one day try and come up with my own version of a Green Tea Chocolate Truffle.

My inspiration for these truffles are from these lovely Japanese chocolates called Melty Kiss in Matcha flavour made by the famous Japanese confectionary company Meiji. They are little cubes (about 1cm x 1cm) of cocoa dusted candy with a matcha flavoured ganache like center. They litterally melt in your mouth as the cocoa powder dissolves in your mouth and reveals the bittersweet matcha center. A friend's mum brought a large box of these back from HK and since then, I have always associated chocolate and matcha to those chocolates. So with that in mind, I modified the Claudia Fleming's Earl Grey Chocolate Truffles recipe by substituted dark chocolate for white chocolate to make the ganache centre and added some matcha powder into the equation. The result was:

Green Tea ganache

Ok, so the green's doesn't look quite as appetising now, but it was really bright green when I made it about 2 weeks ago? I have been busy with the boy's birthday and moving houses that I didn't really get around to taking a photo of the truffle until a few days ago. :( I guess there's a reason why FRESH is always THE BEST. It's just a tad darker than it was before but it still tastes awesome!

This photo will probably not do it any justice, since I took it at night in bad lighting and bad focus, but it should give you an idea of what it looked like two weeks ago.

DSCN1553

If I was to compare it to the Melty Kiss, there would be no comparison of course. Whilst both would melt in your mouth, the Melty Kiss had a stronger matcha flavour, whilst my truffles have an extra coating of dark chocolate and was a bit more creamier and sweeter due to the white chocolate. But no doubt, with a bit of tweaking and practise I am sure I will be able get it right one day. :)

Truffles in a box


Matcha Chocolate Truffles
*Adapted from Claudia Fleming's Earl Grey Chocolate Truffles

Ingredients:
1 & 1/4 cup Double Cream (Heavy Cream)
140g White Chocolate, chopped finely
4 tsp Matcha powder*

250g Dark Chocolate (35% - 60% cocoa)
1 cup unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder

*to your taste, I used 4 tsp because I prefered a stronger taste)

Heat cream gently until boil (be careful as heating it too quickly may cause the cream to split). Add matcha powder and stir until the tea powder is dissolved. Remove from heat, let the mixture sit for 2mins. Place chopped white chocolate in a medium sized bowl and pour the cream mixture onto the chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

At this point, you can either choose to: a) cover the mixture and chill for a minimum of 4hrs until the mixture is set. or b) pour the mixture into a lined rectangle or square shallow container before chilling. The first time I made truffles I followed Claudia's recipe to a T and ended up with chocolate covered hands when I was rolling the truffles with my hands into rounded balls. I think I had to wipe my hands clean 3 times throughout the rolling process and I ended up wasting quite a bit of chocolate there, not to mention making a mess on the table.

This time round, I decided to pour it into a shallow rectangular plate that I have. By lining the sides, I was able to remove the ganache from the plate and cut square pieces of ganaches, there by solving the dirty hands issue. I think I got the idea when I bought some truffles from Koko Black once. Come to think of it... Monsieur Truffe's truffles are rectangular in shape too! Why didn't I think of that sooner... anyways.. Your choice. I know some people use a melon baller to scoop it up into perfect round balls. I'm not that skilled with the melon baller, so I chose the latter :)

After shaping the truffles, return to the fridge for 15 - 20mins to firm them.

Meanwhile, melt two thirds of the dark chocolate for the truffles coating using a double boiler or simply by suspending a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Once the chocolate is melted, remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the remaining chocolate and stir continuosly until the chocolate is melted, smooth and is at room temperature.

(This is where I erred, and I think that is why my chocolate ended up with a funny white streak when it cooled. :( Something to do with chocolate tempering.)

Place the cocoa powder into a bowl and like an assembly line drop the truffles into the melted chocolate (use a fork to foat them with the chocolate) and when well coated, lift the truffles out of the melted chocolate and drop them into the cocoa powder and roll them until they are well coated with the cocoa powder. Repeat with remaining truffles.

Makes about 24 chocolate truffles.

Note to self: Do not make truffles on a warm day. The ganache filling oozes out of any available cracks. (See the above close up photo)

Green Tea Chocolate Truffles

Friday, November 10, 2006

To Melly, With Love

Sweet Melly

This is my dear friend Mel. A week and a half ago Melly walked down the aisle and became Mrs W. Damn, I can't call her Mrs W, she's younger than me! As I write this, she's enjoying (I hope) her two week honeymoon in Vanuatu.

Young Mel and I have been friends for almost 10 years now. You wouldn't guess where we first met.... Route 57 West Maribyrnong/City Tram! LOL Is this starting to sound like a love story or what? Mel and I used to live down the road from each other, she on the Flemington side of Racecourse Road and me on the Kensington side of Racecourse Road.

St Aloysius (Girl's) College was where Mel went to and where her mum Cathy was educated too; and I joined St Al's (as we call it) in 1997 when I migrated to Melbourne from Malaysia. Route 57 was the tram that we travelled on to school everyday.

Mel's house was located on a street that was between two tram stops and for some reason or other she used to board the tram from the stop before mine and her elder brother Ant would board the tram from tram stop where I would get on the tram. We used to joke that it was: (a) so that his friends wouldn't know that she was his little sister and (b) so that the girls from our school (lots of girls from our school on the same tram) wouldn't know that she was his little sister because all the girls would sneak peeks at him when he'd get on the tram, for you see big Ant was a probably the cutest boy on the tram. (Tall, fair and handsome LOL)

Anyway, Mel would get on the tram from the stop before and stand at the front of the tram behind the driver so when I get on the tram the first person I would see is her. Since we both had the same school uniform on, we'd smile and say hi to each other every morning. Me, being a newbie, would move into the middle of the tram because "that's what the tram conductor says to do" so that people from the following stops could get on the tram easily and proceed to the next stop in time.

One day, the tram arrived late (probably because the previous tram broke down), packed like a sardine can and Mel and I ended up standing next to each other at the front of the tram, behind the tram driver. We said our regular hi's and somehow or rather started chatting and I found out that she was in the same year as I was but in a different home room. We discovered that we both share a passion for netball and sports and that we literally lived 5mins from each other. To cut a long story short, from that day onward we became friends and Mel started catching the tram from 'my' tram stop.

Then one day I told Mel about the cute guy who always catches the tram from our stop but he'd be on the tram before us, she was curious and wanted to see the cute guy too so we arranged to meet up earlier so that we could 'check out' the cute guy that I was talking about. That was when things went downhill...When the cute guy turned up, Mel couldn't stop laughing! (I thought she was going mad) She went over, said "hi" and gave him a peck on the cheeks. I was like totally shocked! There I was trying to comprehend the situation, my brain struggled in that 1 long minute to understand: 1) Why was Mel laughing so hard, 2) she kissed him!!!???!! I was like, OMG this girl's got guts!

It turned out that the cute guy was her brother Anthony who was in the year above us. I was like OMG.. need a place to hide! LOL. We had a good laugh about it though. There I was thinking Mel's got guts and turns out it's her brother. Could've fooled me! and she did!

We both graduated Year 12 in 1998 and sort of went separate ways for a little while as I enrolled in Monash University in Clayton and she went to Victoria University in Footscray, a bit closer to home. It was our passion for sports that brought us back together when she invited me to play basketball with her family friends and later on we played netball together and still did until earlier this year when we both injured ourselves (and her Mum banned us from netball until after the wedding!).

Anyway, Mel is a very dear friend (and like a little sister) to me and I felt very priviledge that she thought the same of me when she asked me to be her Maid of Honour at her wedding (that occured a few weeks ago). ... By now you're probably wondering.. so what does this have to do with food? ;) This is how it's related:

For Mel's hen's party celebrations, we arranged for a weekend away at her parent's holiday house in Ocean Grove, VIC. The party was to start on Friday night with cocktail party, nibbles and lots of Singstar and to finish up with some Mini Golf and Dinner on the Saturday night. In the weeks leading up to the hen's weekend, Mel became very unsettled and stressed (as all brides would/might?) so I decided to make a little change to our Friday plans by ditching the nibbles and arranging an intimate dinner for those of us who started the celebration that day. I had the day off work on the Friday to go up earlier with Cathy so that we could decorate the place and get some food and drinks before Mel and her friends arrived; Mel was to drive down after work (about 1 1/2hrs drive from the city).

I figured, if I was Mel, and I was driving down after work, the last thing I would want to do is sit around eat nibbles and drink cocktails/champagne. So I decided that I would cook the 6 of us a nice 3 course meal and I was sure that we'd all appreciate that more than nibbles after a long day of work. In my books, a good solid meal is always better than lots of nibbles when you're exhausted.

As I know Mel was on a semi restricted diet due to 'have to fit into wedding dress' syndrome* and I was looking out for myself too, having not exercised for months because of the foot injury; I decided to go with something low fat and healthy and made the following:


Entree:
Kathy's Chicken Meatballs w/ Mango Chutney and Redcurrant Sauce

Main:
Baked Fish w/ Herbs, Grape Tomatoes and Parmesan Cheese
sides: Baked potato stack and brocollini

Dessert:
Roasted Strawberries Meringues


Chicken Meatballs w/ spices and a Mango Chutney/Redcurrant Jelly Sauce

Kathy's Chicken Meatballs, so called because I first tasted these meat balls when one of my bosses Kathy made them as part of a farewell maternity leave party we held for one of our colleagues at work. These meatballs are superb! The ingredients are fairly simple and not too fancy yet they pack a great punch served with the mango chutney and red currant sauce. Spicy (because of the spices), sweet, tangy and juicy all together. The capsicum and lettuce was my touch as I wanted to serve them in lettuce cups - Sang Choy Bao style but since we didn't want to waste food unnecesarily^, I decided to just serve the meatballs on a slice of lettuce for a touch of green.

^Cathy (Mel's mum) told me not to get another lettuce because she was already getting some for the bbq lunch the next day.

Kathy's Chicken Meatballs w/ Spicy Sauce

Ingredients:
500 – 750 g minced chicken
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 small onion
1 small can water chestnuts
¼ cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 egg
2 teaspoons sweet chili sauce
½ teaspoon cumin )
½ teaspoon ground coriander) optional use any spices to your own taste
Salt & Pepper
Oil for frying

Using a food processor or stick blender process onion, water chestnut and coriander until roughly chopped. Put minced chicken, breadcrumbs, onion mixture sauce and spices in a bowl and add beaten egg. Mix for about 3 minutes until mixture comes together then form into small balls. Heat oil in pan then fry balls until golden. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel.

Sauce:
½ cup sweet mango chutney
½ cup red currant jelly
Juice of small lemon (use ½ then add to taste)
small red capsicum (or yellow) diced.

In frying pan heat chutney, red currant jelly and lemon juice and mix together. Add in diced capsicum. Place meatballs in sauce over a low heat and shake pan to cover in the sauce. This takes about 5 minutes to heat the meatballs through (may be heated from frozen but allow more time)


Main - Oven baked Basa fish w/ grape tomatoes and parmesan

This dish, I came up with by combining Tobie Puttock's Roasted Milk Potatoes and a baked fish variation from one of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks. I can't remember which now. At first, I was a bit skeptical about how the parmesan cheese would go with the fish, but surprisingly they go really well together! I think it might have been the sharpness taste in the parmesan cheese that actually gave the fish a bit of more flavour since it was only seasoned with olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper. And we all know how well cheese and tomatoes go together :)

Apologies in advance for the sketchy instructions because I kinda just made it up and went with whatever I remembered.

Baked Basa Fillets w/ Grape tomatoes and Parmesan Cheese

Ingredients:

Basa fish fillets (or you could use any white fish fillets)
1 punnet Grape tomatoes or Cherry tomatoes
Parsley, chopped
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Parmesan cheese (to your taste)
Garlic, finely chopped

Lay fillets in a large baking tray and season with garlic, olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper. Ensure that the fillets are well coated with seasoning. Slice tomatoes in halves and drizzle a bit of olive oil onto the tomatoes and mix well before scattering them onto the fillets. Bake for about 12-15mins (ensure that the fillet is cooked) and grate parmesan cheese onto the top of each fillet (amount to your preference) and grill under the griller until cheese melts and then serve.

Note: Cooking time may vary depending on the type of fish used and if your fish is not well thawed it might take a bit longer than 10 -1 5mins. My problem is that my fish was still quite frozen and I actually had to cook it for a while longer than 15mins.

Roasted Potatoes with milk

Ingredients:
Potatoes
Rosemary
Salt and Pepper
Milk (enough to cover the potatoes)

Wash, peel (optional) and slice potatoes into 0.5cm thin slices. Place potatoes in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and rosemary and toss well to combine. Fill bowl with enough milk to cover all the potatoes and leave aside for about 30mins.

Preheat oven to 180 C. Arrange potato slices onto a baking tray lined with baking paper or an oiled tray (which ever is your preference) and bake until potatoes are crispy. I think it took about 15mins or so.

I decided to stack my potatoes into a small stack and served the fish with some blanch some brocollini, drizzled with the pan juices from baked fish.


Roasted Strawberry Meringues


Donna Hay lovers would recognise this recipe! It's from the current edition of DH Magazine. Roasted Strawberries meringues. I have never made meringues before and was a bit nervous about it but they looked so pretty in the magazine, I just couldn't resist! I premade the meringues the night before we left of course :)

Roasted Strawberries Meringues served with a dollop of cream and roasted strawberries, drizzled with left over syrup.

Ingredients:

150ml egg whites (approx 4 eggs)
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
1 1/4 cup thick (double) cream to serve

Preheat oven to 120 C. Beat egg whites in with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and vinegar and beat until the mixture is thick and glossy. Place spoonfuls of mixture onto baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper. Make a small dent on the centre of the meringues to creat a nest and bake them for 25minutes or until the meringues are crisp on the outside. Turn off the oven and allow the meringues to cool in the oven for 30mins.

Roasted Strawberries
16 strawberries, hulled and halved
1/3 cup caster sugar

Preheat oven to 200 C. Place strawberries in a small baking dish and sprinkle with caster sugar. Roast for approximately 10 - 15mins or until strawberries are soft and syruppy. Remove and set aside.

To serve, simply spoon strawberries into the centre of each meringue and top with cream.

Makes about 30 - 35 meringues.

Roasted Strawberry Meringues


I kinda played a bit with the left over syrup from the roasted strawberries, somehow got the idea to make these semi circles on the plate. I thought it was pretty cool. :)

So we spent the rest of the night boozing on Midori splices and some funny cocktails that the other girls concocted, the three girls from Mel's work got absolutely smashed and was outta batteries the next day when we went mini-golfing. We had dinner at a restaurant in Ocean Grove called 13 Steps. Nothing to blog about there. I was so disappointed with my order I didn't bother taking photos of it. But we had a fabulous weekend nonetheless.

I was wrecked from the weekend, but nevertheless, nothing gives me pleasure more than cooking for a friend and Mel is more than just a friend.. who deserves a little spoiling every now and then :)


Coasters

*The dressmaker told Mel that the dress would fit better if 'they worked together' and she lost a bit around the waist, rather than get the bigger size and alter it to fit her.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The morning after

Ok, so maybe I was a bit buggered and over-reacted last night. Not so sure now..

It's still an ugly looking tart.

Dressed it up w/ some icing sugar to cover up the 'scars' and bought some cream and strawberries at coles this morning to serve it with.

I'm going to hold my thoughts on it until it passes the taste test..

EDIT: 10/11/2006

It passed the taste test! laced with strawberries of course. But yeah.. I'm so disappointed that it turned out that way. Might have to find a new recipe.. or a new oven!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

*Bawl* The oven that killed my tart


I'm so depressed.. the blasted oven has done it again.. *bawl*

I've been slaving the whole night to make a lemon tart for morning tea tomorrow. It's a special occasion, my boss is turning 60. A few of us were going to bring something for a special morning tea to celebrate her birthday.... not anymore!!! Look at what it's done:...



The blasted oven has ruined my tart :'(

What's wrong with it? Well.. it's quite burnt around the edges, the lemon custard/curd surface is in patches (it's not suppose to be this way.. it didn't do it to me the first time). Just when I thought I had the temperature controlled at 160 c in the stupid oven, I opened the door to check the tart and it'd sky rocketed to 190 c, boiling the bloody custard instead of slow cooking it and left it in messy patches. (can you hear my cries of anguish??)

I'm desperately trying to think of ways to save it, It's already 11:30pm.. way past my bedtime and unless I slave the night away there is no way I am going to be able to bring something decent into the office tomorrow.. damn oven. I was so looking forward to it too. As if it wasn't bad enough that I had a mini disaster the first time I made this, now it's happened again .. bah....!

Am I ever going to get this right...??

Thursday, October 26, 2006

SHF24 & Happy Birthday Mum!

Chocolate Pistachios petit fours, opera cake style


When I first discovered that Jeanne of Cooksister had put out the call for entries for the 24th edition of Sugar High Friday (SHF24), I panicked! I really wanted to participate but I wasn't sure whether I would be able to find the time for you see, my dear friend Mel's wedding is this weekend (28.10.2006) and I'm in the wedding party.

The last two weeks have come and gone very quickly and with the Hen's Weekend, Kitchen Tea and work etc, I've not had a free weekend since the start of October and wasn't sure if I could find the time to participate. Then I realised, crap, it's me Mum's Birthday on Tuesday, I had better make time! So in the end I decided to kill two birds with one stone and made a teeny version for SHF and a bigger version for mum. :) Brilliant!

Being a big fan of canapes and petit fours, Jeanne declared the theme for SHF24 to be "Little Bites of Delight".

Hurray! I am a sucker for little food things and am more than happy to oblige. I started off wanting to make little white chocolate pistachios cupcakes that I know Mum really liked when I made it for a family dinner back in August. Then when I got sick early this week, I spent some of my recovery time ticking off items in my pantry (in my head) and realised that I didn't have enough rosewater for the recipe. Then I decided that I wanted some butter cream to go with it instead of a white chocolate ganache (which was what I did last time) and I wanted to top them with pistachios and dark chocolate ganache to counter the sweetness of the cake.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I started off making white chocolate pistachios cupcakes and ended up with this, an operaish cake. I am constantly adapting recipes and finding shortcuts to baking, so I guess it came as no surprised to me that I ended up with this cake (and a lot more work than I had intended to begin with).

I made and assembled this cake over three days. Part 1: The pistachio cake layers was made on Tuesday night, Part 2: Assembling the cake (cutting and slathering the butter cream and chocolate) was done on Wednesday night and Part 3: The toppings and cutting the cakes to size was done this (Thursday) morning.

Hurray to me! I made it and posted in time!

Petit fours


Chocolate Pistachios Layered cake (petit fours style)

Ingredients:
60g white chocolate chopped roughly
175ml water
45g pistachio nuts
100g butter, softened
220g brown sugar
2 eggs
100g self raising flour
2 tbsp plain flour

Part 1: Cake
Melt white chocolate with water in a small saucepan and set aside. Process pistachio nuts until fine. Beat butter, sugar and eggs in a small bowl with electric mixer until combined. Fold in sifted flours, ground pistachios and warm chocolate into the mix. Divide batter into two portions and pour one portion of batter into a small cookie pan (I used a 33.7cm x 22.5cm and 1cm deep) and smooth into flat layer. Bake in the oven for about 6-8mins. Cool and remove from pan and repeat with remainder portion.

Makes 2 layers

Part 2: Assembling the cake

Butter cream
125g butter, softened
240g icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsp milk

Beat butter with an electric mixer until smooth and beat in sifted icing sugar and milk in two batches.

Makes more than enough cream for this cake.

Chocolate Ganache
120ml cream
200g dark chocolate, chopped

In a small saucepan, bring cream to a boil and pour over chcolate in a small bowl, stir until smooth. Cover the bowl and stand at room temperature until ganache is spreadable.

Makes enough ganache to cover both cakes and extra.

Caramelised pistachios
1/4 cup caster sugar
2tbsp water
5g butter
1/4 cup pistachios

Roast pistachios at 180 deg C until browned (approx 5mins). Melt sugar and water in a saucepan without stirring and bring it to a boil. When the sugar starts to change in colour add in pistachios and ensure the nuts are well coated. Stir in butter towards the end. Pour onto a foil/non stick baking paper lined plate and separate the nuts.

This recipe makes more than enough for decorations.

Assembling the cake:
To assemble the cake, first divide each layer into four portions. Assemble the cake by sandwiching butter cream and cake. Once you've assembled the cake, spread chocolate ganache onto the cake and smooth the ganache with a palate knife.

*For the petit fours, I only spread the ganache on the top layer of the cake.

Part 3: Cutting and decorating cake to size

This is the part where I stuffed up. I should've done Part 2 and 3 on the same day. But since I didn't, I wasn't able to decorate the cakes properly.

What you should do, is divide the cake into two portions. Decorate Portion 1 with crushed pistachios and set aside. To serve, cut the cake to approximately 1" x 1" squares with a hot knife.

Crushed pistachios topping

Topped w/ crushed pistachio nuts

With portion 2, cut the cake to 1" x 1" with a hot knife and top with a caramalised pistachio.

Caramalised pistachios top

Topped w/ Caramalised Pistachios

The verdict: This cake needs to be served with a warning. It is a great sugar hit and I'm glad I went with the dark chocolate ganache because it definitely helped a lot with moderating the sweetness.

The disaster: You might notice that the dark chocolate ganache has a distinct oily dull shine on it. I'm not sure whether it was the quality of the chocolate (I used 63% couverture) or if the bowl/saucepan wasn't cleaned properly. The ganache ended up being really oily and wouldn't hold together when I was stirring it. It was fine once it had set, but if you look closely, there are blotches of 'oil' residue on the surface. :( Hmm..

The lessons learnt: never do this unless you
have plenty of time to spare and never wait til the ganache has cooled before topping it with crushed nuts. They don't stick very well.. (dohh...!)


Chocolate Pistachios cake - Large version


The larger version I made for my Mum looks more like a large mudcake topped with pistachio nuts. But do not be fooled! Beneath the ganache lays 4 (not so thin) layers of cake sandwiched with butter cream.
Happy Belated Birthday Mum! (and to T and Rox too)


Sugar High Friday is an International Food blogging even created by Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess.

DMBLGIT #11 Entry - Hosted by Spittoon Extra

Welcome Back and Catch up party for Alicia

Appetisers:
Mini tarts two way:
Garlic Mushrooms and Parmesan;
Roasted Cherry Tomatoes w/ Balsamic Onions

Entrees:
Tori Karaage
Beans Salad w/ prosciutto and Roasted pine nuts
Spaghetti w/ Garlic Prawns

Desserts:
Lychee Jelly
Assorted Biscuits from Marks & Spencer (courtesy of Ali)
Earl Grey Tea truffles
Camembert Cheese w/ crackers & muscatels

Special Drink:
Pims & Lemonade Cocktail (courtesy of Ali)


After chomping down the club sandwich at Cafe Fiori, Ali and I strolled down Chapel Street and did a bit of shopping before we headed to Richmond to stop by Richmond Hill Cafe & Larder for some cheese and muscatels and then braving peak hour traffic back to the 'burbs to do some shopping for the dinner party that we were hosting that night at my place.

Ever since she moved to Sydney to pursue a career at Qantas, we have always had catch up brunches, lunches or dinner whenever she comes back to Melbourne for a quick holiday. So even though she changed status from Sydneysider to a 'Londoner' this year, it was only natural that the little catch up party routine remained unchanged. We had a farewell dinner in the city before she and Ange left for London, so I suggested that we should have a dinner at my place for a change as that would be a more intimate and private affair plus it would give her a better chance to 'flirt' amongst the crowd . :P

She was quite happy with the idea and (Ali being Ali) even wrote down a list of food she wanted me to make: Fried chicken, Baked Potatoes Ala TGI Fridays and I added the Lychee Jelly because I knew it was also one of her favourites. (Baked Potatoes never made it to the table because we forgot about it)

So the call went out and in less than a week we had a firm 10 to attend, 1 for tbc and 1 gate crasher who didn't RSVP (;p).

As I was cooking for about 11 people, I decided to go with only well tested recipes to avoid any unwanted disasters from happening. The appetisers were the same ones that I had made for HHDD#5, the recipe for the Tori Karaage was one that I have made a number of times from Jane Lawson's Yoshoku, my favourite Beans salad was adapted from Marie Claire's Kitchen and the Spaghetti with Garlic Prawns was straight out of Bill Granger's Bills Food (plus the pasta of course).



Roasted cherry tomatoes w/ balsamic onion tart

Mini Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Balsamic Onion tarts

Tori Karaage

Tori Karaage w/ Kewpi Mayo and Sweet chilli sauce

Beans salad w/ prosciutto and pine nuts

Beans salad w/ prosciutto and roasted pine nuts

Spaghetti w/ Garlic Prawns

Spaghetti w/ Garlic Prawns

For dessert, I chose to make the Lychee jelly, which is a party favourite of mine and we bought some camembert cheese from Richmond Hill Cafe & Larder. The Earl grey truffles was probably the only first timer in the list. It was pre-prepared Sunday night when I got home from our Sydney getaway. I found the recipe on a November 2004 Christmas Edition of Vogue Entertaining, not realising that the recipe was infact from Claudia Fleming's Last Course. My mum had picked up the magazine from her workplace and gave it to me on one of the weekends that I went home for dinner. I only realised that the recipe was in fact from the Last Course when I went through the 'parcels' my courier from London brought back for me :)

Desserts


It was like Christmas in September that Monday, I had received my Swedish BBM parcel from Clivia of Clivia's Cuisine and Ali brought back all the gifts that she and Ange had bought me on their weekend trips away and their shopping trips BUT most importantly, she also brought back ALL the books I ordered from Amazon UK via free delivery hehe. (It worked out to be too expensive to have them delivered to Australia so I hired a courier and paid her wages by hosting her party hehe)

Ali also brought back a bottle of famed English liquor Pimms and a box of assorted biscuits from Marks & Spencer to share. She and Ange had both been raving on about Pimms and it was only natural that they bring me back a bottle hehe. Ali's contribution for the night was to make the Pimms cocktail and oh.. did I mention she funded the dinner party??

Pimms and Lemonade


Dinner was a bit slow that night (I'm sorry everyone!! I blame Ali and shopping) but it turned out well because everyone was too busy chatting away (had to be ordered to eat before the food got cold) but once I got the appetisers out of the way I managed to concentrate on the rest of the cooking. All in all a great success! A belatd "Welcome Back" Ali!

(Recipes to follow)

Ali's "Best Club Sandwich"

Club Sandwich from Cafe Fiori


Sometime ago I lamened that I have never had a club sandwich that I would considered one of the best sandwiches that I have ever sinked my teeth into. Ali, commented that the best club sandwich in Melbourne was at Cafe Fiori in South Yarra. So when she came back last month for a quick holiday and her brother's wedding, I made sure we slotted in a lunch date at the cafe into her busy schedule.

We both ordered the club sandwich and I have to say, one serve of this was more than enough to feed the both of us. Three layers of toasted bread layered with greens, bacon, tomato, avocado, turkey slices and cranberry sauce with a side of chips and tomato sauce, was definitely heavenly, but I would go as far to say that it totally wowwed me.

Club Sandwich from Cafe Fiori


I would certainly recommend it if you're in the area, but I probably won't travel all the way out to South Yarra just for Club Sandwich.



Cafe Fiori
Level 1, Como Building
Corner Toorak and Chapel Street
South Yarra

Monday, October 23, 2006

What is your biggest/worst foodie nightmare?

Warning: The following post contains no foodie adventure and if you're in the middle of eating lunch, I suggest you come back later.

I can think of a few things like hideously burnt cookies, extremely dried, overcooked cake or a souffle that flopped when it came out of the oven. The first two has happened to me, the souffle hasn't, because I haven't worked up the courage to venture into that arena yet. Every time I think of souffle I have this vision the flopped souffle that Lucy Liu's character Alex in Charlie's Angel made. You know the scene, where she survived getting pelted by millions of bullets in her boy friend (Matt Le Blanc's character .. whatever his name is) trailer by hiding/holding herself up against the roof of the trailer. When the bad guys left, she was safe and sound and ecstatic because her freshly baked souffle survived... only to see it flop before her eyes.

I think my worst/biggest foodie nightmare happened yesterday and nope, it ain't the souffle. I caught the worse case of gastro I've ever had. I know my own body and I've had mild cases of gastro before but you know it's bad when any whiff of cooked food makes you want to regurgitate.

The story went like this.. We were helping a friend of Alv's brother move houses on the weekend. His brother was suppose to meet us at the new place and we thought that we would all go out to lunch after the inspection and all that was done. A big misunderstanding there, because they (J, D and Lil B) had already had lunch and didn't arrive until 2pm. During that time, I had gone down to the nearest liquor store and bought a pack of Kettle's Bacon and Sour Cream chips which would be the death of me. Ok, I exaggerated a bit there. But it sounded good, 'the death of me' as oppose to 'my down fall'.

Clearly those chips and my stomach didn't go well together because no sooner than I had finished the chips did I felt sick. Think woozy, need to lie down kind of sick. I didn't think much of it at the time, just shrugged it off as low blood sugar thing, although I did complained loudly that I was going to die if they didn't feed me soon. <-- I get grumpy when I don't get fed LOL hence the name of this blog.

It was about 3pm when I finally got fed; poached eggs, with smoked salmon and mushrooms on english muffins slathered with a mountain of hollandaise sauce. Somehow, I still managed to eat that, walked the South Melbourne markets, duck into Chef's hat and Made in Japan store and warehouse before we headed home. (It's amazing how the 'shopping' mode takes over and overwhelms the sick mode)

Snoozed all the way back to Alv's and snoozed for 2 hrs after we got home, still felt sick but still didn't think much of it until I got to mum's and had to park myself on the couch. Had no appetite. Poor mum. It was meant to be her birthday dinner and she cooked all these food (my favourite food tooo!) and I couldn't eat a single thing. Ended up having a few spoons of rice and stir fried asparagus.

When I got home it really hit me. Opened the front door and the smell of food overwhelmed my senses to the point that I nearly turned around and headed straight for the garden. My housemate'd had a dinner guest and had cooked lamb cutlets with mashed sweet potatoes or something. (Shell: IF you are reading this, what did you marinade those lamb cutlets with??) I don't know what it was but it sure did it. I love lamb, but obviously yesterday was not the day. In and out of the shower and straight to bed, I did not utter a single word when I got home beyond, "hey.. feeling sick and what..?"

Whilst I was lying in bed it got me thinking.. this has got to be the worse thing that could ever happen to someone who loves food like me. If you think about it, burnt cookies or overcooked cake can be rectified by just making another batch. Heck, if you didn't have time to make another batch, you could just go out and and buy some good biscuits to substitute the failed ones. A souffle that sinked could be rectified by just making another one or if all else fails, just go to your favourite restaurant that makes a mean souffle and order it there to satisfy the craving. Even if you served sinked souffle (your foodie pride might get dented here), everyone's just going to have a laugh and still say it's still good.

But imagine not being able to smell food. Our sense of taste and smell must be two of the most important things to a foodie. Just because it looks good, doesn't mean it tastes good? Just because it smells good, doesn't mean it will taste good? Of course, if it looks good, then it must taste good too right?? I guess here lies the conundrum of visual taste vs real taste.

Anyway, I'm rambling.. If there is one plus of not being able to smell food without upheaving, it is being able to think about food without the urge to upheave. The funniest thing for me about this whole gastro thing is that I can still think about food without the urge to chuck. Can't smell it.. heavens no.. but I can still think about it. LOL I caught myself thinking about food last night, about what ingredients I have left in the pantry and what I could make for SHF24. LOL

Let's just say the irony of the situation did not escape me..

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A recap on the visit to Sydney

Sydney Travel Map


Just a quick recap of Sydney. This was the map we had in our pocket the whole time we were in Sydney. I decided that I'd note down the places that we'd visited and walked so that I can work out later how many kilometres we walked in Sydney on Saturday. If I had to take a guess I'd say we walked about 10kms or more on the Saturday. Back and forth from the apartment. We stayed at Hyde Park Regency Apartments which is not on the map but right next to Hyde Park Hotel (37) which I have circled on the map. If you're curious, just click on the above photo and look for spots marked with numbers to indicate where we went to.

In order travelled:
  1. Darling Harbour, Cockle Bay - Breakfast at CMC
  2. Sydney Fish Market - Lunch
  3. Haymarket - Shopping
  4. World Square - Puffy
  5. Hyde Park - Walkabouts
  6. Circular Quay - Sight seeing
  7. The Rocks - Sight seeing
  8. DFS Galleria - The only thing that was opened after 5pm (on the way back to the Apartment)
  9. Dining Bar Musashi - Dinner
  10. Back to Hyde Park for night scene
  11. QVB Building (which we also went to on the way back from Haymarket)

Things I went to Sydney for and missed out on:

  1. Cupcakes from Cupcakes on Pitt <-- not opened on the weekend. I was crushed when I found out. My sole purpose for going to Sydney and it wasn't opened for business.
  2. Jimmy's Recipes for Laksa <-- I read about this at Deborah's of The Food Palate
  3. Ramen from Ichiban Boshi <-- read about this at Helen's of Grab Your Fork
  4. Victoire Bakery <-- read about this at Jen's of Milk and Cookies

I know I probably couldn't have fitted in anymore food after all the eating that we did in those two days, but a girl can have a wish list right?

Places I want to go the next time I visit Sydney:

  1. Billy Kwong
  2. Breakfast at Bills
  3. Cupcakes from Neutral Bay
  4. Beard Papa's (if they're not in Melbourne by then)
  5. Pyrmont Grower's market
  6. Good Food Show in Sydney

So there you have it, I am proud to announce that I ate my way (as much as I could) around Sydney and I admit (shamefully) that the whole trip was planned around food. It's not that we don't have food and good places in Melbourne, just that when you plan a trip with another foodie, we'd tend to get a bit over excited about food. LOL

My next mission, (should I wish to accept it) will be to find the best of my favourite food in Melbourne. Eg. Best Mocha, Best Caesar Salad, Best Okonomiyaki (was at Daimaru) etc.

Note to self: First you need to get 100% and start exercising again, before you go eating! :)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

My BBM Package arrived.. almost a month ago!


Monday 25 September, back from Sydney and totally buggered.

I'm glad I foresaw the conclusion of my quick weekend getaway to Sydney and took a couple of extra days off, with intention to recover from the early mornings and late nights that we imposed on ourselves just so we could get as much out of the short time we had in Sydney.

Supposedly a day off to spend with my dear friend Ali who's back. A day to go eating and shopping and cooking for the catch-up dinner party I had hosted for her.

Finally dragged myself out of bed, got ready and as I was pulling out of the driveway I saw a bump sticking out of the mailbox. At first I was thinking..."Great, more junk mail and a big one too this time". So I got out of the car, opened the mail box and what do I see.... my BBM Package!! My heart sang with joy as I took the package out of the mailbox and got back into the car.

I reckon I spent a whole 10 minutes contemplating in the car with the engine running trying to decide whether I should go back into the house and open it or wait til a bit later because I was already running late to pick up Ali for lunch.

I decided to wait because I wanted to unwrap the parcel and spend time oogling each item... even though what I really wanted to do was to tear it up and dig into the package.

Umm.. as you could probably tell from the picture above, I tried "really" hard to contain my excitement but I couldn't resist taking a photo of it in between traffic lights. A bit dangerous I know. I was lucky there was no coppers around to pull me over or anything.


To cut a long story short (because I'm going to post about my friend's idea of the BEST CLUB SANDWICH she'd ever had and the dinner later), my BBM package is from Clivia of Clivia's Cuisine all the way from Stockholm, Sweden.


IKEA!! Was my first thought when I saw the blue and yellow package and when I turned it over to see who it was from it was marked clearly from Sweden. (Sorry Clivia, I hope you're not too offended):)

I didn't get to open my package until close to 12midnight (after everyone left) that day hence the quality of the photos.

BBM package

Clivia wrote me a lovely card introducing herself and telling me a bit about Stockholm and the season they're currently in as well as the recent elections held in Sweden. She mentioned that visited Australia about 4 years ago and visited Queensland, Sydney, Wilson's Promentary and Melbourne.

A lovely apple tree card w/ an apple shaped cut out

In her lovely package, she's included:

A Book on Stockholm

A multilingual book on Stockholm in English, German and Russian. She had even marked out a few pages in the book indicating the building where she works and the part of town where she works. :)

Also included were some candy (lollies as we call them in Australia) and chocolates:

Bilar

Bilar which is a car shaped marshmallow candy. Clivia mentioned in her car that Volvos are not the most common cars in Sweden but these are! Hehe

Swedish chocolates: Daim and Marabou

Marabou Fruit and Nut chocolate: Clivia, I LOVE FRUIT AND NUT CHOCOLATES! I haven't opened them yet as I'm trying to be really good and eat healthy foods at the moment but OMG when I saw that it was fruit and nut I nearly tore the package apart. LOL

Daim: I wasn't sure what Daim was so I googled it and found that it's actually a caramel chocolate. Clivia says that these are one of her favourite chocolate. I can't wait to sink my teeth into them.

Jams: Lingonberry Jam and Cloudberry Jam

Jams: Lingonberry Jam and Cloudberry Jam. I've had Lingonberry Jam before, with my Swedish Meatballs from Ikea. They're delicious and somewhat akin to cranberry jam but less sugary. Clivia tells me that the lingonberry jams often accompany some savoury food in Sweden. Cloudberry Jams on the other hand are a very exclusive and special. They're delicious when melted and served with vanilla ice cream. I was like WOW when I saw the cloudberry jam. (Clivia: I will try them, soon I hope. As soon as my friend's wedding is over!)

Dala Horse Serviettes

Dala Horse Napkins: Clivia tells me that the Dala horse is usually carved in wood and decorated traditionally with flowers and ornaments. A little bit of investigation on my part found that Dala horses are a symbol of Swedish dexterity and frugality. They originated from when a soldier in a war waged by King Charles the XII of Sweden carved a wooden horse in exchange for food and warmth (because it was during winter) provided by the owners of the home where he was temporarily staying. The soldier painted and decorated the horse before presenting it to the child of the couple and the preceeded to make a horse for every meal he ate.
Read about the history of Dala Horses here.

To Clivia, thank you for sharing the wonderful things about Stockholm and Sweden. I still have yet to taste any of the wonderful things you've sent me, but I promise to dig into the bar of Daim as soon as these next two weeks are over!

To Stephanie, I'm sorry it took forever, but I've finally got my act together and posted about the lovely package from Clivia. Thank you again for organising the swaps and I look forward to your next BBM event.

Blogging By Mail (BBM) is a global parcel swapping event hosted by Stephanie of The Happy Sorceress.