Friday, December 28, 2007

This Christmas...

Christmas lunch setting

Last Christmas, we had 2 separate christmas celebrations. We had an early christmas lunch on the 17th Dec and then a Christmas dinner with our friends on Christmas Day itself. This year, thankfully, we only had one Christmas celebration that lasted the whole day from 1pm to 11:30pm.

What a perfect way to celebrate Christmas away from home than with your second family - your friends. :)

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1. Our posh Christmas set up - with plastic knives and forks to make up for the lack of serving ware


Christmas lunch setting


2. Our hosts this Christmas

Ali & Ange


3. The makeshift Christmas tree

Make shift Christmas tree :)
(See that notebook there? It blared christmas carols throughout the whole day)


4. The grog

The grog opener



5. Food, Glorious Food!

Appetisers, Entree and Main
Appetisers: Rosemary Infused "Pigs in Blanket" & Smoked Trout w/ Creme Fraiche on crackers (not pictured), Entree: Seared Scallops w/ Orange Butter Sauce, Main: Turkey w/ Wild Mushroom, Bacon and Sausage Meat stuffing, Hampshire Breed Pork Loin Joint w/ stuffing and all the trimmings.


6. What's a Christmas without some caroling?

Christmas carolling


KK
Photo courtesy of B.Wong


8. And last but not least

Chocolate surprise

Dessert:
A chocolate tasting plate -
A trio of chocolate delight - dark chocolate mousse, white chocolate and dark chocolate infused with orange and cointreau. Chocolate biscotti (with pistachios and cherries), Pistachio and cranberry biscuits and Matcha Truffles. (not in picture)

And that was our Christmas. :)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas 2007

Seasons Greetings & Merry Christmas

It's 6pm (London Time) on Christmas Day and we've just finished our Christmas lunch for 2007.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2007

London, thus far...

London postcards (cropped)

Dear Diary,

It's been over a month since we arrived in London and how quick time has flown! We haven't done as much as we'd thought we would've but it just seems like after the first week, days just seem to go by and sometimes we feel a little uninspired and lack luster?

Days are shorter here too. The sun sets early here. Before you know it, the room becomes dark and the lights all come on and you start thinking it's night 7pm at night when it's only 4pm in the afternoon.

We're staying with friends at the moment, in Central London. Free loading is great, except you feel bad so you start cooking (actually that was a requirement for free loading here) and cleaning and doing the laundry for them. Before you know it, you're someone's full-on maid! Hey isn't that great, your best friend is also your maid. Ah.. I digress.. life's too short to complain about that.

Did you know the Brits love their sandwiches? There is a sandwich bar/pattiserie-cum-sandwich bar at almost every corner offering sandwiches (duhh..), pannini and baguette rolls for breakfast, lunch and dinner. According to one of our friends, most Brits grab a sandwich for lunch and a packet of crisps (English for Chips!). No wonder subway does so well here and get this, you know those subway meals that we used to get with a cookie and a drink? The meal deals offered here are with cookie or crisps. Wow! It must be true!

So what have we done in the last 4 weeks? Umm... not much London wide - strolled across the London Millenium Bridge and Hyde Park, did some window shopping from Oxford Street down to Piccadilly Circus, stopped by Leicester Square and had dinner in Covent Garden. We also took a trip down to 2 of the most famous London Markets - Borough and Portobello in our first 2 weeks and since then we've also made our first 2 trips to Europe! Yay... We spent the weekend (just past) in Bremen, Germany and the weekend prior in Luxembourg.

Will write about Bremen and Luxembourg at a later time, for now here's a peek of some of our London photos.

Portobello Markets:

1. Hummingbird Bakery

hummingbird cupcakes


2. Cakes, Olives and Bread

bread cakes and olives

3. Others

antique101


portabello

Borough Market

borough

borough1

Ok. Gotta go. I'm so buggered. Am sick again (2nd time now) and have been baking christmas cookies all day. Til next time..

xx iL

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Menu for Hope IV 2007


Have you been a naughty blogger this year?

Why not get into Santa's good books this year by doing your good deed and supporting Menu for Hope?

Give a gift this Christmas, buy a raffle ticket and support "Menu for Hope IV", the Annual World Food Blogging Event started by Chez Pim. Last year, Menu for Hope III raised US$60,925.12 for the UN World Food Programme.

This year, donations raised will again support the UN World Food Programme specifically the school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa.


What is 'A Menu for Hope'?

A Menu for Hope is an online non-profit Food Blogger fundraiser organised by Chez Pim. This is the 4th year for the fundraiser which started in 2004.


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 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:


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 your chances to win! You are helping raise money for the UN WFP and more importantly you are helping to fight the war on hunger.


Where can I buy raffle tickets?

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

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

Donations are accepted until Friday, 21 December 2007. And the prize winners will be announced on Chez Pim's blog on 9th January 2008.

Need more information? Visit ChezPim.com for updates on this years Menu for Hope or any of the above regional organisers.

So, have you done any good deeds this year? :)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A blondie for all occasions

Bite sized blondie stack

There was a time (before I started paying attention to what I ate) that the word "Blondie" conjurs up only 2 images in my mind.
  1. Tsk! She's such a blondie! - ie. a clueless blonde person.
  2. And so I wake in the morning and I step outside... to the tune of "What's Up" by 4 Non Blondes. (not to be confused with the Blondies)
That, fortunately was many moons ago. Nowadays, there are 3 things that come to mind when someone utters the word "Blondie". At the top of the list, is:

"A white chocolate Brownie" :)

I have to say, it took a while for me to start appreciating the quality of white chocolates. I've always avoided white chocolates not because I'm a chocolate purist and don't think they "count" as chocolate, but more for the taste or sweetness of it. It used to give me toothaches for days on end whenever I have a piece of white chocolate - the bigger it is, the longer the ache lingers.

So imagine my own surprise when I found myself craving for this creamy confection one day after listening to my boss/colleague Kathy's weekend dinner party stories about the white chocolate and mascarpone cheesecake she had served up to her dinner guests. I remember her telling me that it was superb and it was the only cheesecake that her daughter (who is a little bit of a fussy eater) would ever eat. It contained a large amount of white chocolate, loads of double cream and mascarpone cheese. It was full of cheesey and creamy goodness and so rich that she had to serve it with a raspberry compote to tone things down a little.

To this day, I do not recall what was going through my mind that day, but I remember stopping by the supermarket for those 4 items (white chocolate, double cream, mascarpone cheese and frozen raspberries) on the way home that day with grand ideas of making that same cheesecake that very night.

With all the ingredients stacked up in the fridge I was confident of reaching the doorsteps of cheesecake heaven that night until I couldn't find the recipe for it! :( It was one of Bill Granger's recipes and I have almost every single publication that he had ever released... except for one. It turned out that the recipe was in THAT VERY BOOK that I didn't have. Boo... I lost interest after that, the whole cheesecake craving went straight out the window and the white chocolate and raspberries sat forgotten in the pantry and freezer.

Until one day when it was announced we were having a social function at work and everyone was to bring a dish to share. I had left it to the very last minute and a quick survey of the pantry the night before revealed the white chocolates I had bought a few months ago. The white chocolate brought back memories of the frozen raspberries and little bit of digging later I found some macadamia nuts and the idea came to me that I should whip up some sort of blondie/brownie with the ingredients.

So I turned to my then new acquisition Donna Hay's chocolate book and this was the result of that little pantry-digging/recipe-searching expedition.

A whole block of blondie

Blondie
adapted from Donna Hay chocolate

180g white chocolate
125g butter
385g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
250g plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 punnet of raspberries
100g macadamia nuts

  1. Preheat oven to 160 deg C.
  2. Melt butter and chocolate in a small saucepan and stir until smooth.
  3. Place in a bowl with the sugar, vanilla and eggs.
  4. Sift over flour and baking powder and mix to combine.
  5. Fold in macadamia nuts.
  6. Pour mixture into a 22cm square tin (I used a rectangular sized slice tin) lined with non-stick baking paper.
  7. Lightly stud the top of the mixture with the raspberries (click here to see example).
  8. Bake for 1 hour or so until set.
  9. Remove from oven and set aside.
Serve by either: cutting into small bite sized squares using the raspberries as guide or into bigger slices if serving as a dessert.

Optional: dust with icing sugar before serving.

My Verdict:

Remember how I said I didn't like white chocolate?? Can a girl be fickle and change her mind?? Of course! What else is new!? I love this blondie recipe. The tartness in the raspberry helped cut the sweetness of the white chocolate whilst the macadamia nuts added a great texture to the dense slice.

At first, I was a little worried when I brought it to the social gathering because there were soo many desserts and mine was parked right at the corner out of line of sight. My worries were unfounded, because by the time I went back to the dessert table to collect my leftovers and plate more than 2/3 of the plate had disappeared! I almost had to scramble for the leftovers.

Not satisfied that I was left with so little to take home, I made another batch of it on the weekend and since we had visitors over, I cut up a bigger slice of the blondie and made some raspberry sauce to go with it. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it turns a simple slice into a decadent and classy finish to a meal. :)

So, cut it into small squares to share or big slices for a simple dessert. Is this a blondie for all occasions or what? ;)

Blondie as dessert w/ raspberry sauce

Edit: Doh! I was going to bring this to Peabody's House Warming Party. But since I was so disorganised, I missed the submission deadline yesterday. Bummer. Hope you have a fabulous party Peabody!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Waiter! There's some pears in my topless tart!

Pear Bourdaloue in pan

Have I told you how much I miss my kitchen back home? If I haven't,

"I MISS MY KITCHEN!"

I miss my kitchen full of gadgets. My favourite measuring cups, my favourite measuring spoons, my new electronic scales which measures liquid and dry ingredients with a single touch of a finger, my "on its last legs" Kambrook food processor, Alv's mum's Sunbeam mixmaster (which she has never used), all my baking tins and even the not so favourite temperamental gas oven.

What's that I hear you say?

"Chill out dude, it's not like they're irreplaceable?!"

Well, I know they're not irreplaceable. In fact, I did consider bringing some of my "I can't live without you" gadgets with me to keep me company. But I have sooo many of them, I didn't know where to begin and then there was also luggage space to consider. I mean really..it's not like it's forever...??

Sigh, I know I'm being really silly. But it's just that, I miss turning around knowing that I could just grab my Nuscup measuring cups stuck on the freezer door, rummaging through the utensil drawer for my favourite spatula and making tart pastry the quick and easy way. *sulk*

Now that I think about it, I can't believe how much kitchen gadgets I've accumulated since I moved out from home 5 years ago. (And this is from someone who has never cooked anything beyond instant noodles back when living at home with the parents!) They've all become a part of my kitchen routine - measuring spoons and pastry brush on the first drawer, Nuscup on the freezer door, the good spatula in the third drawer by the kitchen stove. I can almost recite the location of every piece of equipment that I have - except when it's been misplaced by someone...

Anyway, thank you for putting up with my kitchen rantings. With that out of the way, let us get down to some serious food talking. :)

Pear Bourdaloue

So, HOW on earth did I make that tart pictured above if I haven't got my tart pans and my precious food processor?? Hehehe.. The real question should be WHEN?! I actually made this 7 weeks ago in the midst of the final weeks panic in Melbourne. What a surprise it was to find that Jeanne has actually picked "tarts" to be the theme for the monthly "Waiter! There's something in my.. " event. I for one am thankful, because it means that I can join in the fun!

The above tart is the Pear Bourdaloue from The Cook's Book. It's one of the few recipes that I tagged when I first bought the book all those moons ago. When we made the decision to relocate to London, I made a list of recipes that I had to try before I left and this was at the top of the list. So I made sure I cleared my schedule for one of the weekends before I left, just so I can make this. :)

When I first saw the original recipe in the book it was made using pear halves in a 22cm round pan. For some reason, whenever I think of this particular recipe, the image morphs into the shape of a rectangular sized tart and it is topped with pear slices instead of pear halves. Since pears aren't exactly at the top of my favourite fruits list, I decided to take the suggestion as a sign and went ahead and made it the way it appeared in my head.

The recipe below is for the original tart of 22cm round pan. So if you're thinking of trying a different sized pan, you might find that you'll end up with some extra pastry and pear slices at hand. (Sorry, it's been a while since I made it and I can't quite remember the exact measure of ingredients left to give you a guide to my rectangular sized tart.)

The only other change I made to the recipe was to use the remainder of my cloudberry jam as the glaze instead of apricot jam.

A slice of pear bourdaloue


Pear Tart Bourdaloue
adapted from this book.

Original recipe makes a 22cm tart

Pre-preparation required for:-
1. Pears
2. Pâte Brisée or your favourite shortcrust pastry recipe

Ingredients
1.1kg firm, ripe pear
6 tbsp lemon juice
1 litre water
1/2 vanilla pod, halved and grated
300g quantity of Pâte Brisée
280g quantity of Almond cream
1/2 pot of Apricot/Quince jam (I used cloudberry jam)

Day 1: Pre-preparing the pears
  1. Peel pears and remove cores.
  2. Place the pears in a non-metallic bowl and coat them with 3 tbsp of lemon juice.
  3. In a large saucepan, bring to boil 1 litre water, 3 tbsp lemon juice and vanilla.
  4. Add in pears and place a cartouche on top.
  5. Simmer for 10 - 15mins.
  6. Cover and let cool/infuse over night.

Day 2: Pâte Brisée & Almond Cream
  1. Preheat oven to 180 deg C.
  2. Roll out pastry 3mm thick and line pan.
  3. Spread almond cream evenly onto the tart shell and place strained pears* on top.
  4. Bake tart for 30mins.
  5. Allow tart to cool to lukewarm and the remove from tart pan and let cool on rack.
  6. Before serving, warm jam in a pan or microwave and brush surface of tart with melted jam.
*I sliced my pears before placing them on top of the almond cream

Pâte Brisée
Makes 1 kg of pastry

375g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
2 scant tsp salt
1 egg yolk
2 scant tsp caster sugar
100ml full-fat milk, (at room temperature)
500g plain flour, sifted.
plus extra for dusting.

Using a food processor:
  1. Place butter, salt, egg yolk, sugar and milk into the food processor and process until the mixture becomes a smooth and cream like.
  2. Add the sifted flour into the mixture.
  3. Pulse until the mixture just starts to come together.
  4. Stop pulsing as soon as the pastry has formed a ball.
  5. Remove the mixture from the processor and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Almond Cream
makes 800g

135g butter
165g icing sugar
10g cornflour
165g ground almonds
2 eggs
1 tbsp dark rum (I used cognac)
200ml creme fraiche
  1. Cut butter into pieces and place in a bowl.
  2. Cream butter with with spatula to soften.
  3. Combine icing sugar, corn flour, almond in a bowl and sift into butter mixture and mix well
  4. Add the eggs into the mixture one at a time, ensuring that the first egg is well mixed before adding in the remaining egg.
  5. Add in the rum and creme fraiche and combine until smooth.
  6. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate. If not using within 36 - 48hrs freeze until required.
My verdict:

The recipe is a tiny bit complicated but it's do-able with good time management. The strangest thing was that this recipe did not require the tart shell to be blind baked. I was very intrigued by this as I have never made/eaten tarts that have never been blind baked. In fact the main reason tarts appeal to me is because of the crispy tart shell!

The pears were soft from poaching but it wasn't mushy after being baked which was good. Taste wise it had a hint of vanilla but other than that the pear taste remains and the cloudberry jam glaze didn't really over power the taste of the pear.

The pastry itself wasn't as crispy as your blind baked tarts, but as you can see from the photos the top was still quite crumbly and because it wasn't blind baked, the almond cream and the pastry sort of melted together (as it cooked in the oven) and so the first bite was as though the pastry and almond cream was the one layer.

I had a cold slice of the tart but I reckon if you actually warm it up a little before serving, it might just melt in your mouth!

Has this tart changed my perception of tarts with non-blind baked shells?

You bet!


Zig zagged Pear tart slices

Friday, November 23, 2007

New York City, USA

NYC New York

It is said that Americans love New York so much that they name the city and state twice - New York, New York or so says one of the many travel shows I remember watching during the 20+ hour the flight from Melbourne to New York.

I can’t quite remember the name of the show, but a little bit of googling later I found out that the famous New York, New York phrase was actually coined from a song by singer, song writer, composer Gerard Kenny who was born and raised in New York. So good, they named it twice. And they’re right about that. I love New York!

We only spent 4.5 days in New York, but in the short time that we were there, we managed to cover a fair bit of New York. Amongst the places that we visited were: Central Park, 5th Avenue and walked from Brooklyn Bridge all the way to (the wrong side of) the former World Trade Centre site to pay our respects. We also made a side trip to do some shopping at Woodbury Common Premium Shopping, walked the streets of SoHo, Times Square and did some last minute shopping at Macy’s.

Central Park 1
Central Park
Top, Left to Right: Strawberry Fields, View from Lake, Autumn in Central Park,
Bethesda Fountain and Terrace and Tricycle rides throughout Central Park.


5th Avenue
Top, Left to Right: 5th Avenue, Atlas Statue at the Rockefeller Centre,
The Apple Store and New York City Times Square


If you ever visit New York, you must make a trip to the Empire State Building. The New York city view from the top of the Empire State Building is amazing. A friend suggested that we go in the day and at night, unfortunately, due to time constrains we only manage a visit in the night time. We still managed to get some really great shots but I so wish I had my tripod with me that day..

New York
Top, Left to Right: New York City Skyline from
Empire State Building, GE Building at the Rockefeller Centre and M&M's World


When we told our friends that we would be stopping by New York on the way to London, we received loads of suggestions from friends who had been there about places to eat, places to visit etc. Seeing that it was our first trip to New York, we decided against packing our schedule with touristy things that everyone suggested and instead took an easy approach and just went with the flow.

I did manage to tick off a few things off my “To Eat” list:
I know I know… it’s a pretty lame “To Eat” list, but I love bagels and fresh blueberry bagels with pinkish hue on the bread, not purply grey hue due to the use of frozen blueberries and I can't go past a street side hot dog that seems to make an appearance in every cop series on tv that is based in New York. ;)

I even managed to convince Alv that we should have Bagels for breakfast twice during our stay in New York, so I got my Blueberry Bagels TWICE! :D

We mostly ate on the go during our trip but we did make sure we ate a proper dinner. W took us to dinner at a nice little Italian restaurant called Celeste on Amsterdam where Alv ‘reckons’ we saw Milena Govich from Law & Order a few tables from us.

The menu suggests traditional Italian fare where the pasta sauces are primarily tomato based sauces with a rare creamy sauce on the daily special. If I remembered correctly, Alv had their mussels and tagliatelle special with a creamy tomato based sauce, W had their ribbon pasta with a ricotta and tomato sauce and I had the Penne with a classic tomato sauce and little chunks of torn fresh mozzarella. (I got suckered in by the mozzarella). One thing I did notice was that if you asked for parmesan cheese, they would bring out the knob of cheese and freshly grate it on the spot! How awesome is that! Not the stinky parmesan powder that you get at some of the restaurants in Melbourne. Eech!

Anyway, it’s an excellent little spot that is always packed with customers queuing for a table even at 9:30pm – which I’ve been told is quite standard for dinner time in New York. Service wise, it was a little rushed, almost as if they are trying to turnover as many table as they could in the hour and we did have to wait for a while for table service but other than that it was a nice meal.

That unfortunately, was pretty much the highlight of our meals in New York. On the other nights, when we were exhausted from a big day of walking, we dragged ourselves home and ordered take-out (delivered) Thai from Land Thai Kitchen and a huge medium sized pizza delivered from Caesar’s Palace pizza.

For our last dinner in New York, on W’s recommendation, we took a quick stroll in the rain to the nearby Vietnamese joint, Saigon Grill. The eatery proved quite popular with the locals too as the restaurant was packed! Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long to be seated. Saigon Grill has an extensive menu ranging from your favourite little spring roll and pork kebab appetisers to your favourite fried rice and main dishes. I can’t quite remember what we ordered, according to Alv, he thinks we shared an appetiser for one between the two of us and ordered a stir fried prawns and lemon grass pork chop for mains.

And what would travel eating be if we did not indulge in some junk food eating at McDonald's and Subway. Yep, my junk food junkie boy even wanted his dose of KFC but unfortunately, we ran out of time.

To complete our eating experience in America we lunched on our last day at a little diner called the Three Star Coffee Shop. It’s a small little diner on Columbus between 86th and 87th Street in the Upper West. It’s what a diner should be, with small booths and classic diner décor – the blue (or was it red?) seats and brown/parquet walls. The menu is atypical of diner meals - burgers, salads, triple deckers, sandwiches, bagels, spaghetti, parmigiana, steaks and breakfast served all day.

For Alv’s benefit - because he loves "You've Got Mail" and "Serendipity", we were intending to try out Café Lalo and Serendipity 3 too! But unfortunately, due to renovations at Café Lalo and the lack of time, we had to give the 2 café’s a miss.

Cafe Lalo

To summarise, New York, my favourite spot would have to be Central Park. I really enjoyed the walk we had through the park. It was serene amidst the chaos of New York City and I just love seeing autumn leaving its touch throughout the park.

Central Park 2

I also really enjoyed our walk from Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan. It was just unfortunate that the day we chose to visit the Brooklyn Bridge was a rainy and over cast day, hence our terrible photos. Before getting there, I had this image of Brooklyn Bridge at sunset, with the orange blue sky in the background but alas, all I have to show is grossly grey skies which I turned into black and whites to suppress the gloominess of the entire experience. : (

Clockwise: Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge & Staten Island Ferry
Top, Left to Right: Manhattan Bridge, Staten Island Ferry and Brooklyn Bridge.

All in all, New York’s fantastic, we’ll definitely be back again next time for a better view of the Brooklyn Bridge if not just for the shopping!! :)

Halloween and M&Ms
Top, Left to Right: Remnants of Halloween and M&M's! all 10,000 different colours of them!

Ed: OH! and I think we saw Seal at B&H. Could be wrong. But if it was him, we were only about 1m away!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Goodbye summer days and Hello Autumn in New York!

Apologies for the severe lack of posts. We've had a fairly hectic schedule in the last 6 weeks: tidying up things at work - handover and all, baking and cooking all my favourite foods/recipes, catching up with friends, families and eating out at all our favourite places. It's not all done without reason (well, maybe the eating out bit), for you see, as I write this we are no longer in Melbourne and will be 'homeless' and living out of our suitcases for the next few months.

We're joining the flock of expat Aussies in London, trying to make do on a Working Holiday Maker visa and relishing the opportunity to travel around Europe for the next year or so. Hence, the post title, "Goodbye summer days" - for it is now approaching summer in the southern hemisphere and "Hello Autumn in New York!" - for we are now in New York, or will be until tomorrow anyway.

Puddle of water @ Central Park
(Central Park, New York)

Rockerfeller centre
(The Rockefeller Centre, New York)

The last 2 months has been a race against time, documenting my job, organising our visas and tickets and me, baking/cooking all my favourite recipes from my large collection of cookbooks (all of which I will sorely miss) that won't be coming with me to London. The idea was that I would cook/bake them and then create a post for it on my blog for future references. The only problem with that now is that, I have cooked/baked them, photographed them and ate them. BUT forgot to type up the recipe for them. Argh... silly me.

I'm so going to miss summer. I love summer because it reminds me of my childhood home in Malaysia. Sure, summer in Melbourne is a bit harsher and dry compared to the sunny tropical weather in Malaysia, but it does have it's plusses - longer days, thongs/sandals, skirts, ice creams and my favourite part of summer - stone fruits. To cut a long story short, I found some early season peaches and apricots at the grocers the weekend before I left. I looovee stone fruits and couldn't resist snapping up a few of each even though I knew they were early season fruits.

Apricots and peaches

I've never been a big fan of apricots but as a last summer hurrah, I convinced myself that I should give it another go since it will be at least another 6 months before I will be able to gorge on any stone fruits :(

With the pantry and fridge all cleared out for our impending departure, I decided against making anything fancy with them and just melted the remaining bars of chocolate that I had in the pantry. Served with some strawberries and melted dark chocolate, it was a perfect farewell to the upcoming summer... for me anyway. (The peaches, on the other hand, were far too ripe and didn't make it to the platter)

Fruits and chocolate dip

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My little Italian adventure - Part 3: Lime Panna cotta

Lime panna cotta (from above)

Here's one from the vault! A few months ago I started a series of postings entitled "My Little Italian Adventure". I think I promised three posts. Well, two of them has long been posted but this little one was lost, buried under the tons of draft posts that I have sitting in blogger.

Not anymore! Here is the final installment on "My little Italian adventure" series. We kicked off the series with an entree of a caprese salad. My first ever home made lasagne was served as the main and finally to polish off the meal, I present to you "Lime Panna Cotta".

I know, lime's not exactly a very Italian ingredient, but I was hooked when I saw this delicious looking Lime panna cotta recipe in the September 2006 issue of delicious magazine that had a lovely caramel coating on it. Very creme caramel like.

The recipe in the magazine makes 2 large panna cottas. That's a lot if I had to finish it by myself! Luckily, I found a vanilla panna cotta recipe of a smaller portion in Sophie Bambridge's Simply Italian (which I had been using as a guide throughout this series). So I decided to adapt the ingredients to the smaller recipe instead - just in case I had to finish it myself.


Lime panna cotta

Lime Panna Cotta
adapted from Sep 2006 issue of delicious and Simply Italian

Ingredients:

- Caramel
220g (1 cup) caster sugar
60ml water

- Panna cotta
Pared rind of 1 lime
2 kaffir lime leaves
450ml cream - pure or thick/double (Note: See verdict for suggestion)
4 tbsp caster sugar
3 leaves or 1¼ tsp gelatine powder

- Passionfruit caramel strawberries
125g caster sugar
40ml water + another 60ml water (for the caramel)
250g strawberries
juice and seeds of 3 passionfruit
3 kaffir lime leaves thinly sliced

Method:

- Caramel
  1. Place water and sugar in a small saucepan and stir over low heat to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Once dissolved, increase heat to medium, and without stirring, let the sugar cook for 5 - 6 minutes until the colour resembles toffee. (If required, you can use a wet pastry brush to brush down the crystals stuck on the side of the pan)
  3. Divide the caramel into 125ml capacity metal or ceramic ramekins and set aside to cool.
- Panna cotta
  1. Place cream, lime rind and lime leaves and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring as you go to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Once sugar has dissolved, let it simmer for about 3 minutes then remove from heat and set aside to infuse for approximately 10minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, (a) if using gelatine leaves, soak them in cold water for 5 minutes to soften and then squeeze out any excess water and add gelatine to the warm cream, stirring to dissolve. (b) If using gelatine powder, simply sprinkle it over the hot cream in an even layer and allow it to sit for a minute before stirring it into the cream until it dissolves.
  4. Strain cream mixture into a jug, discard the lime leaves and rind and then pour into the pre-prepared ramekins.
  5. Cover and chill overnight.
  6. To serve, dip the bases of each ramekin briefly into hot water (don't let the water get into the ramekin/mould) and then invert onto serving platters.

Note:
You might end up dipping the bases a few times before you are able to invert the panna cotta out of the ramekin. If there is trouble unmoulding it, use a small knife, toothpick or cake tester, run it around the outer edge and then tip it quickly into your serving plate.
- Strawberries
  1. Place sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until sugar dissolves.
  2. Once dissolved, increase heat to medium, and without stirring, let the sugar cook for 5 - 6 minutes until the colour resembles toffee. (If required, you can use a wet pastry brush to brush down the crystals stuck on the side of the pan)
  3. Remove from heat and carefully add passionfruit juice and seeds to the pan with 1/4 cup of water.
  4. Return to stove and stir on low heat for 2 - 3 minutes until warmed through. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  5. Place in a bowl with strawberries and kaffir lime leaves and toss to coat.
  6. Serve as side to panna cotta.


lime pc polaroid

My verdict:

The panna cotta was surprisingly very very rich and had a coconutty flavour to it. (Not sure why?) As I had never had panna cotta before, I wasn't sure what to expect re: the taste or texture but heck, who cares, as long as it tastes good right? ;)

I suspect it had to do with the fact that I used double cream for the panna cotta. Certainly, the richness of this dessert has a lot to do with the type of cream (thin or double cream) you use to make this dessert.

I saved one for Kathy (my boss) and Jules, both who are very well versed in cooking and baking and they said it was delicious. Kathy reassured me that it's the right texture and confirmed that it was the double cream that was the reason behind the richness.

As for Jules, she just wanted more!

Oh and the strawberries, they were bellissimo! =)


Lime and Kaffir Lime leaves

Previously:
- My little Italian adventure - Part 1: That salad
- My little Italian adventure - Part 2: The recipe, the ingredients and the woman

Monday, October 08, 2007

Accidental semi freddo

Double chocolate mousse

I think that old age is finally catching up with me. LOL!

Ok, so I'm not that old. But, seriously, if I didn't know any better, I'd think that:
  1. I am going senile

  2. I am suffering from brain farts

  3. I am just having a bad day

  4. ALL OF THE ABOVE
especially after what happened to me last weekend. I must have offended the gods or something because for some reason or another, everything that could go wrong, went wrong on the weekend when I made this.

It started out fairly innocently, I wanted to make a 3 layer chocolate mousse 'cake' for dessert, but I couldn't find any fair trade white chocolate. So, I scratched the white chocolate layer and decided that I could make a raspberry jelly layer instead - like the strawberry mirror cake that Peabody had selected as the Daring Baker's challenge for July.

I had the image of Max Brenner's tear drop (triple layered mousse cake) in my mind when I decided on making this. To do that, I knew that I would need some rather special moulds. But when I went searching for these cake rings that I remember buying sometime ago, they were no where to be found. So in desperation, I had resorted to layering them in a loaf pan.

All went well until I got this "superb" idea to fast track the chilling process for the mousse by sticking them in the freezer for a little while. I somehow convinced myself that it would only take about half an hour. "It's only half and hour, it'll be fine and I'll just set up the timer on the microwave and I'll take it out after 1/2hr and it'll be a piece of cake to get it out of the cake tin." half an hour later.....
.
.
.

Now, would you like to take a stab at what happened after this "half an hour"?? I let you in on a little secret....

N.O.T.H.I.N.G

Suffice to say, I had FORGOTTEN about the mousse. The timer on the microwave was set, but it was never 'started'. Somewhere between the mousse going into the freezer and me brain floating in my "I'm a genious state", I had forgot to press the start button(!). So I happily went away pottering around the house doing bits and pieces here and there.

It wasn't until later that night when I was feeling peckish that it occured to me.. - "Oh Shit! My Mousse!" It was rock hard when I took it out from the freezer. :(

I could've cried. But I didn't. I stuck it back into the freezer and went straight to bed. Woke up the next day with an even better idea. The mousse that was not meant to be can now be a semi-freddo!

So I present to you, my Double Chocolate mousse that was not meant to be Semi freddo with Raspberry jelly. (I love Bill for this inspiration that gave me the idea to turn this into a semi freddo)

Double chocolate mousse

Kids, please don't try this at home.

To assemble this, you'll need:

2 x of your favourite mousse recipe (Milk & Dark Chocolate - I used Green & Blacks)
1 x strawberry jelly layer (you can use this recipe)
strawberry/raspberries
dessert glasses or bowls (trust me it will work better this way)
Melted dark chocolate for drizzling.


What is fair trade produce/chocolate?


Fair trade products refers to products made as a result of economical, ethical and environmental practices; meaning the key ingredients was not sold/purchased at a ridiculously low price, it was not produced using unfair labour practices such as using child labour and low wages were paid to those who harvested the raw ingredients and environmentally healthy farming methods were used in the growing of the crops.

Fair trade chocolates are chocolates produced by the above means.

Fair trade chocolates are not easily available in Australia. Brands like Dagoba, Cocolo, Alter Eco and Green & Blacks are generally only available in special ingredients stores, some delis and organic supermarkets. Though, there has been progress in the stocking fair trade chocolates in retail supermarkets. Some of the local Coles and Safeway/Woolworths stores now stock Green & Blacks in their confectionery aisles.

Links:

Rachel of Rkhooks.net is hosting a "Stop The Traffik" chocolate competition inviting bloggers to start becoming more aware of fair trade certified chocolates and submit a choctastic post with the key ingredients being fair trade chocolates.

I have to confess that I never knew that my favourite chocolates could/would/may have been made with produce that is not Fair Trade certified. It pains me to think that whilst I'm happily chomping down my favourite chocolate truffles, some kid out there is being worked to death in some horrible conditions just so I could keep having my favourite chocolates.

One good thing that has come out of knowing this is that I'm glad that I almost only exclusively buy Green & Blacks Organics chocolates. Especially since they started stocking them at my local retail supermarkets. Fair trade chocolates are hard to come by in Australia. I've decided that I will do my bit and buy fair trade certified chocolates whenever possible but if I can't find it, I may have to resort to other means of supplementing my chocolate fix. (*hides behind a rock*)

Support Stop The Traffik campaign and swing by Rachel's blog to see what it's all about.

G&B chocolates

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Another puff pastry goodness

Asparagus and pumpkin tart

She unlocks the front door and stepped into the cold and silent house. "Honey, I'm home.." she muttered sarcastically.

As she closes the door behind her a series of continuous and annoying beeps breaks the silence. It was the burglar alarm beeping away, greeting the unknown presence in the house.

With a huge sigh, she turns around and entered a series of combinations onto the key pad and just like that, the beeps died and the sound of silence returns to the household.

For what seemed like an eternity she stood at the front of the house and stared past the living and dining room into the kitchen and the back yard. "Ahh.. paradise...pfft", she knows it won't be for long as she looked at the clock on the wall. It was 12:30pm on a Saturday afternoon. The boy's off at on another skiing adventure in Hotham and his mum was due back at 7:30 that night. That left her 6 hours to get the house back in order under his mum's standards.

She heaved another big sigh and headed straight for her room. The handbag was dumped on the floor next to the door and a few strides later, she was by her bedside plugging the power pack back into the laptop as she flipped it on.

Might as well get started now, she thought. The sooner I finish the cleaning the more time I'll get to soak up the nice weather outside.

As soon as Vista was up and running, she loaded up iTunes, clicked on the play button and cranked up the volume to Victory by Bond.

How ironic,
she snickered and headed into the laundry to load up the washing machine and get the wash underway.

Before long, the house was filled with the sound of violin+upbeat+sometimes technoey music blaring away, the washing machine chugging along on its various cycles and the sound of water being squeezed out of the mop and splattered onto the floor. She worked away until her stomach started growling. When she finally looked up at the clock on the wall, it was 2pm. No wonder she was hungry, the last meal she had was breakfast at 9am. It was time to feed.

The fridge was almost bare. The boy's mum had emptied it the week before she left for Perth and they had only shopped enough for 3 meals during the week. The boy has been at the mountains since Friday and since she was by herself, she had spent Friday night at the cousin's. Boozing and drowning the week's sorrows away with beers, pimms (and lemonades) and baileys (on rocks).

A few minutes of rummaging later, a small bowl of roasted pumpkin (left over from Wednesday night's dinner), a bunch of asparagus and a packet of shaved parmesan ended up on the kitchen counter. A slab of puff pastry was removed from the freezer and was parked next to the rest of the ingredients.

asparagus & chilli oil

Hmm... she thought as an idea quickly formed in her head. She remembered a recipe she came across a while ago on Tami's blog and decide that she'd put her own spin on it with the left over pumpkin. She opened up the pantry for the bottle of chilli oil when STELLAAAA cried up to her. She picked Stella up along with the bottle of chilli olive oil, closed the pantry door and parked Stella in the freezer whilst she got to work on lunch.

In went the pumpkin in the microwave for about 7mins and then mashed with a fork. The oven was set to preheat at 180 degrees C and the asparagus was snapped off the bases, washed and dried.

She took 1 sheet of puff pastry from the slab and returned the rest into the freezer. Folded the puff pastry sheet in 1/2, halved it again and started cutting and slicing away until she ended up with what looked like a square photo frame on puff pastry.

The photo frame like pastries were basted generously with egg wash and baked for about 5-7mins in the oven just to get the puffs rising, then removed from the oven.

The mashed pumpkin was spread inside the "frame" and topped with the asparagus, basted with the garlic and chilli oil and placed into the oven again for another 10mins (or so). Once the time was up, it was removed from the oven and topped with the parmesan cheese, cracked salt and pepper and placed under the grill until the cheese started melting and the frames of the pastry started to brown.

"WoohoO! Lunch is served!" She declared. On the way out to the backyard, she picked up the tart and Stella from the freezer and sat outside under the sun with her laptop, still blaring away - on Linkin Park now, accompanied by some nice and light reading material.

She took one large gulp of Stella and said to herself, "AHhh... now this is paradise.."

Ahh paradise....

Ed - 28/9: Just discovered that its HHDD time again. The theme this round is "tarts" of all sorts of flavours hosted by Sarini of TriniGourmet . Don't forget to head over to TriniGourmet and check out the rest of the entries next week.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Intermission

Intermission


I have done the unthinkable!

I have allowed work take over my life in the last few weeks. Well.. plus some family and friend time in between. Things have been made and digitally recorded but there has been no time for blogging!

Please bear with me for now. Normal transmissions will resume in about 1.5weeks.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Maaate! There's something on me barbie!

Springy weather


As far as Saturday goes, you could almost say winter has long deserted us and Elvis spring is in the house baby! The weather forecast for this week is very springy - Monday: mid 20's [°c], Tues: 20, Wed: 18, Thu: 22(!) then it's back to 15 on Friday and 18's on the weekend.

I was considering participating in this round of WTSIM (Waiter,,there's something in my ... meatless barbecue) at Jeanne's by sticking something in the oven (because it's just a bit silly to be bbqing in winter). But the weather on Saturday (22°c) convinced me that dragging out the barbie(cue) wasn't such a bad idea after all. I figured, it's highly unlikely that anyone can accuse me of insanity seeing that it's absolutely fabulous weather that day - if there was anyone at home to see me that is.

Alv was lanning at a friends the whole day, his mum was out and about with her mahjong crew so it was just me, myself and I the bbq.

Table for 2

This round of WTSIM as the title suggests is a meatless affair, but Jeanne loosened her definition of "meatless" to allow the inclusion of seafood. Woohoo... I love meat but if I have to become a vegetarian I would be a seafood-eating-vegetarian. Which sort of defies the point really... Since seafood got a tick from Jeanne, I decided to go with prawns and since no meal of mine is 'complete' without some veges, I added some asparagus to the menu bbq.

Table for 2

For the prawns, I made a quick marinade of sumac and chopped coriander/cilantro. Sumac is one spice that I've never really quite work out how to use. I remember buying a bottle of the spice because a friend of mine was raving on about how good it was and how I should try it. So I bought a small bottle of it and only used it once on some chicken for a bbq we had last year. It didn't really impress me that much then, and it just stayed in the corner of my cold dark pantry for the last 10 months, until now.

Out it came from the little nook in the pantry. Twas about time to give it ago again.

Sumac has a mild berryish-lemony-tangy sort of flavour. So I thought that it would suit a seafood type dish better than the chicken I marinated with last time. I paired it with some coriander in reference to a lemon and coriander marinade that goes really well with seafood. Marinated (about 30mins) some prawns (300g) with 1.5 tsp of sumac and 1/4 cup of chopped coriander, a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Skewered it and cooked it on the barbie for about 10mins on each side.

Grilled Prawns with Sumac and coriander

The asparagus was grilled and divided into two portions. On one side (left) it was simply served with a few dots of Jaden's lime, cilantro and wasabi butter and the other half (right) was drizzled with a balsamic and olive oil dressing. It was meant to be topped with some de-seeded and finely chopped tomatoes (ala bruschetta) but at the last minute, the tomato that I thought we had in the fridge went missing. (mind you, I just found it today behind a whole bunch of other vegetables)

Grilled asparagus. Two ways

My verdict:
The asparagus was superb! or I should say Jaden's butter and the simple balsamic dressing was superb. The prawns however, were totally unimpressive.

This sumac herb still baffles me! I'm not sure I will ever use the remainder of my bottle of sumac because the prawns was just totally disappointing. Maybe I didn't put enough sumac in or I didn't put in enough coriander. There was barely any taste to the prawns except for the excessive amount of salt and pepper that I added in (I'm nuts about s&P). Sigh. Even the extra sprinkling of sumac before serving didn't do anything to justify the herb's place in my kitchen pantry. I'm afraid, this girl's never going to buy another bottle of sumac...


Sumac experiment no 2 was a failure. Oh well.. at least I had the daffodils to brighten up my day :)

Daffodils

For a super late entry to Waiter, there's something in my meatless bbq. Don't forget to head to Jeanne's for the round up! :)