Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Vanilla Zulu Culinary Adventures

Our mate Mel runs a cooking school, which has recently moved from our local village to a new spot in trendy Teneriffe.  She was asked to run a class for a local tv show last week, so she gathered together some keen foodies like myself to be a part of the 'tv' class.  Mel's classes are always fun and crazy, so I jumped to say yes.  I snuck in a friend too, who had a fabulous time of it, and got herself in some great photos:=)    

wow!  happy days!  Mel holding up her brand-new book

Yep, Mel really is twice my height:=)  Just kidding.  I think we were up to mischief there.  I mean, look at all that flour over my apron.  Well, we were making pasta and focaccia after all.  

heart-shaped focaccia

The dough became a heart-shaped bread, with rosemary (from Mel's garden) and black salt for crunch. Olive oil is splashed over the top, giving it flavour and shine.  This was so delicious, served with truffle-whipped butter.  Are you drooling, my friends?

grating, grating, grating... that parmesan

Mel giving that dough a good seeing-to

There was much grating of cheese and rolling of dough.  I got so excited when kneading the dough, I managed to tip over a glass of water and give the bench a good shaking.  Well, it's fab for getting rid of your tensions, isn't it?:-)  Kneading I mean... 

deelish my friends

How fabulously edible does this look?  Hand-made ravioli, red capsicum sauce, focaccia with truffle whipped butter and some gorgeous prosciutto.

Courtney (the talent) and me looking a bit cheeky 

Courtney is the lovely lady being filmed for the show.  The rest of us just tagged along for the ride, so to speak.  She was so very charming and friendly, it made the whole session a real pleasure.

Mel and my mate M

Look at those equally beaming smiles.  Or are they up to some mischief? :-)  That's Mel's book by the way, in her hot little hands.

Mel showing Courtney the clever way to chop an onion 

yes cheese and wine too

See the cheeses, folks?  And yes there was delicious wine.  I believe VZ has a liquor licence now, so who knows what further delights that will bring? 

well, you can see what this is:-)

Mel was born in Zimbabwe, but her family fled to South Africa when she was a child.  She has run her cooking school in Durban, and now in sunny Brisbane.  So she has a wealth of skills and knowledge and passion to share with those in her classes.  Hop aboard, fellow foodies!  Come visit Mel and chef Jan, and enjoy learning about, and sharing food with like-minded people.

Vanilla Zulu Culinary Adventures
92 Commercial Rd.,Teneriffe 4005
Ph: 0434 220 796

Wednesday, 7 November 2018


Mmm, I pondered what to call these? Strawberry Blondes?  StrawBrownies? No matter, my friends:=)  They are pretty and pink and in aid of the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and that's the important thing.  This recipe is based on a dark chocolate brownie version, from Belinda Jeffery's book Mix & Bake.  My interpretation is made with white chocolate and freeze-dried strawberry powder.  Wow, that stuff is amazing.  The smell, the colour!  So vibrant, so much in-your-face strawberryness.

pretty in pink, and tasty too

None of us wants to do mounds of washing-up, so this is fabulous 'cos it all gets mixed together in one saucepan.  What could be better than that? (thanks Belinda).  That's my kind of recipe.  I made these for a Bakeoff in aid of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.  So of course, it had to be pink!  And they were delicious too, so even better.  

Recipe adapted by Sherry's Pickings:


For the strawblondies:

250g. (8oz.) butter

180g. (6oz.) white chocolate

250g. (8oz.) of caster sugar 

1.5 tsp vanilla extract

4 eggs

150g. (1 cup) plain flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

2-3 tsp freeze-dried strawberry powder

1 tsp cochineal (pink colouring)

100g. (3.5oz.) of white chocolate chunks/drops

For the topping:

200g. (7oz.) white chocolate, chopped into chunks

65 mLs (1/4 cup) cream

2 tsp strawberry powder

a few drops of pink colouring

organic rose petals and strawberry crispearls for decoration


Set your oven to 180C to pre-heat

Grab a 23cm. square cake tin (or a lamington tin) and line with alfoil, pushing it carefully into the corners.  Butter it, and line the base with baking paper

Melt the butter and white chocolate in a medium saucepan over a very low heat, stirring now and then - keep an eye on it, folks

Take it off the heat, give it a good stir and let it cool for about 8 minutes

Whisk the sugar and vanilla into the cooled butter and chocolate mix for about 20 seconds

Eggs go in one at a time, whisking well after each one

Sift the flour and baking powder straight into the pan, and stir well

Stir in the strawberry powder and the cochineal - gently, 'cos you don't want to upset the mixture and bring out its tough side

Tip in the chocolate chunks and fold them in

Pour the batter into the baking tin and give it a wee shake to level out the top

Bake for about 40 minutes till a skewer thrust in the middle comes out nicely moist but not wet

Cool for a few minutes in the tin, then pick up the blondies by the alfoil and put onto a wire rack to cool completely

Give it a couple of hours, then make the topping

Place the white chocolate chunks, cream, strawberry powder and pink colouring into a microwave-proof bowl

Zap in the microwave for about 60 seconds; it may still look like it's in chunks but it should be mostly melted so give it a happy little stir

Zap it for a few more seconds if needed 

Let it cool for a minute, then spread lavishly all over the blondies

Scatter the crispearls and rose petals liberally over the top

Cut into squares however big or small you like

oh yes, it is pink indeedy  


I didn't have a 23cm. square tin so I used a rectangular lamington pan which is 30 x 20 x 3cm. - worked a treat

Use strawberry essence if you don't have/can't get the freeze-dried powder.  Try 1-2 tsp, or more if you fancy; and maybe up the pink colouring

this is what it came in

Looks like a chemist's pill bottle to me:=)  Open it and you will be knocked over by the staggeringly pink, sweet strawberry aroma and colour, folks.  It's like a magic powder.  And intensely sweet.  And did I say pink, pink, pink?

stir the butter and white choc together in the pan 

yep you caught me out here - I put the strawberry powder in before the flour

ever so pretty in pink - pre flour 

it's pink - honest it is:=) 

yep, I coloured my cream pink firstly  

zap the icing in the microwave

throw on the decorations while the icing is still moist 

cut into shapes

yep another photo - just because I want to 

strawberry artwork by sherry's pickings

Thursday, 1 November 2018

In My Kitchen - November 2018

November you say?  No, not possible.  But yes, Christmas stuff has been up in the stores for weeks, along with Halloween things.  Mind-boggling really.  Now don't get mad at me if I tell you this.  The other day, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman dressed in a beige burqa.  That was a surprise - I'd never seen a burqa other than in black.  For a nano second, all I saw were these big black eye holes, and my brain said 'Trick or treat!'  But hey that's just my crazy old Halloween-inflamed brain.  Anyway, moving on ...

October has sped past, and I bet you're all feeling that the year is flying by like greased lightning.  But I absolutely refuse to panic about Christmas this year.  Hubby and I have decided to do a Grinch, and just let it slide on by without us.  Hopefully it won't be like that movie with the Krank's, where they decide they have to do Christmas right at the very last minute, with panic ensuing.  Nuh uh, not these little black ducks.

In My Kitchen:

local chutney from the tiny village of Clunes 

Clunes is a tiny village in the Northern Rivers hinterland.  It has the most fabulous corner store, which sells pretty much everything including booze.  I picked up this beaut local chutney a while ago - good on everything.

unique chocs from Byron Bay

Salted roast pistachio is such an unusual taste.  I really enjoyed this interesting flavour.  But sadly, I can't remember what the pink ones were.  Delicious anyway.

local olive oil

Have I put this up on a previous IMK?  No matter.  I bought it last year and thought it was ok; this year I loved it.  Just a good crop, I suppose.  A wonderfully aromatic and grassy oil.  I love trying new oils, so my pantry usually has half a dozen different bottles.    

yep another cookbook

I really enjoy the sense of community and history that you find in local cookbooks.  This is one put together by the Emmanuel Anglican College in Ballina.  Recipes came from the families of the school, along with their stories.  You may see a dish or two on the blog soon.

another Clarice Cliff piece

I bought this small platter in the Janice Rose pattern at an eclectic little shop in Brunswick Heads last month.  I have a few pieces now, even though my cupboards are bursting.  No more, Sherry:=)

decoration for my strawberry blondies

These looked so pretty on top of the strawberry blondies that I made last week.  It had to be pink, as it was in aid of the National Breast Cancer Foundation.  Blog post coming up soon.

yuzu kosho

As you can see, this is a mix of yuzu and green chillies, yuzu being a Japanese citrus fruit as I'm sure you know:=)  Great in stir-fries.  I've got a bit of a Japanese thing going on at the moment.  I just love trying out new items, even when I don't know what they are.  Which is all the time really, as I can't read the script.

October was busy and I know November will be busier.  Keep your heads above water, my friends, and let it all flow around you.  Or just grab a bottle of gin and let rip.

Here come the options for adding your IMK posts.  In order for me to add your posts (i.e. if you prefer that I do it), I must have your email address.  Inlinkz now demands one!  I used to be able to leave it blank, but no more.  I am happy to do this for you, but just let me know and leave your email address too.

1. Adding via the link button at the bottom of this post.  Instructions can be found on the sidebar of this page,   under Add your IMK link

2. Comment on this post, providing a link to your post so I     can add it to the linky list below

3. Email me: sherrym1au@gmail.com, with your link or any queries about the link process

I would loooove to see your posts my friends, so please add yours by 5pm on 13th November at the latest.


    An InLinkz Link-up


Sherrys Pickings

Monday, 29 October 2018

Barolos Ristorante Italiano - Review

For some reason, I rarely eat in at Italian restaurants.  I guess it's because I'm thinking of pizza and pasta as takeaway meals.  But I was invited by Barolos recently to check out their new incarnation (sans pizza), and wow, I've been converted to dining in.  Mr P. and I headed off to a Friday lunch on a very hot day.  Barolos was a calm and cool haven.    

the front of the restaurant - with tree  

We were seated out on the glassed-in terrace where tables are well-spaced so you don't feel cramped, and the chairs are a good height.  (I don't know how many times I sit in caf├ęs and restaurants feeling like a midget, head peering over the table.)  We were brought sparkling water, which was replenished regularly.  Service was polite and efficient without being effusive. 

We started with a Coke for Mr P. and a glass of NV Belstar Prosecco from Italy for me.  Nothing nicer than a glass of something cold and sparkly on a very hot day.  

As we didn't want to get too full, we tried smaller amounts of different dishes.  We shared a pane di casa with truffled butter, and a bruschetta con funghi - a bit of a mushroom fest you might say:=)  These were just delightful, and this is me the non-bread fan saying this.  The breads were soft and easy on the palate; no razor-sharp crusts, thank goodness.  The mushrooms and goat's cheese were full of flavour, creamy, buttery and very moreish.  As was the pane di casa, which held some of my fave tastes like the sweetly caramel garlic whip and smoked sea salt.  It had a real punch of flavour, and I was glad we had asked for a smaller portion, as I would have kept eating it given the chance.       

delicious breads

From the Primi Piatti menu, we chose calamari fritti and insalata caprese.  One of the owners made sure we knew that the basil was green rather than purple as "purple wasn't good enough today."  My calamari was tender and well-seasoned, if just the teensiest bit too salty for me.  It came with a fennel, rocket and orange salad which was refreshing and well-dressed.  Hubby loved his salad of tomatoes, basil and buffalo milk mozzarella.  He said it was wonderfully fresh and well coated with the dressing, though we both found the dressing a wee bit bland.  He also would have liked a few more basil leaves.  

tender and fragrant calamari

fresh and healthy salad

And we kept eating ... We shared a small serve of fried gnocchi, garnished with fried sage leaves.  It sat in a delicious puddle of pumpkin cream sauce, with some scattered goat's cheese.  The gnocchi had a crusty coating and a soft, pillowy, potatoey inside.  These were delicious, my friends.  I don't think I've ever had gnocchi that tasted so much of potato (and we loved it), and it was amazingly good.

fried gnocchi with pumpkin cream sauce

rigatoni with chicken in a tomato cream sauce

Now I am not usually a big pasta fan, but the rigatoni suited me to a T.  It was al dente, with lots of bite, which I adored.  Mr P. likes his pasta a little less bitey, silly man.  The chicken pieces were breast meat, tender and moist, nestled in the creamy tomato sauce, and finished off with parmesan shavings.  I loved this dish!  And I am also a woman who doesn't usually like tomato sauces, so there you have it.  I have been seduced to the wild side here at Barolos.  

panna cotta with toasted coconut gelato

I often try panna cotta just to be perverse 'cos I know it will be bad, and I want to see how bad.  But if I'm really really lucky, it may be fabulous.  And yes my friends this was super fabulous.  The best panna cotta I've ever had.  See those beautiful vanilla seeds, and the gorgeous gelato sitting on that beautiful plate?  I know it's hard to see here, but it was a beautiful, swirly, rounded plate, showing off this amazing dessert.  The panna cotta was sweet and wobbly, and the gelato gave it a wonderful counterpoint with its toasty bits of coconut.

By this time, hubby and I were full to the brim, and having to hare off to another appointment so we declined tea or coffee.  We had enjoyed a really delicious lunch, and will definitely dine again soon with a couple of friends.  So if you're after a beautifully-cooked meal with delicious flavours, in a calm and attractive setting, this is the place for you, my friends.  

Pickings' Verdict: 9/10

function room

They also have a beautiful function room at the back of the restaurant, apparently an old office space, now a very attractive room.  I think you could have a fabulous time here with all your friends, making whoopee.

looking back into the attractive restaurant from the terrace seating 

red wine decanter

I couldn't resist taking a pic of this beautifully rounded wine decanter.  They have an extensive wine list here with many Italian offerings.  A variety of cocktails are also on offer.  

Thank you to Barolos for the kind hospitality.  (But all opinions remain my own.)

P.S.   Free 2 hour parking is available nearby, either on the street or across the road, and under the next door building.

Ph: 07 3371 5727
41 Sherwood Rd., Toowong 4066
Hours:  12-3pm; 6-11.30pm Mon-Sat

Barolos Ristorante Italiano Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 22 October 2018

Cream-Cheesy Ginger And Lemon Tart

I had some mascarpone and cream cheese in the fridge recently, so I whipped up a tart.  Ooh, that sounds kinda kinky, doesn't it?:=)  I wanted to use some of the naked ginger I had lurking too.  Crikey, this is getting even kinkier.  But it wasn't a kinky tart, honestly.  I first made this with a shortcrust pastry base but Mr P. says he prefers a biscuit crumb version so here we are.  I really like the one that Nigella uses for her Nutella cheesecake, so I've adapted that.  Well, used hers pretty much, but without the nuts, and with added ginger.  The great thing about this tart is that everything is done in a processor - easy peasy lemon squeezy.    

delicious not kinky at all tart

Recipe by Sherry's Pickings:

Serves 8:


For the base:

250g. digestive biscuits or similar plain biscuit (I used McVitie's)

75g. soft (not melted) butter

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 tbs of Nutella or nut paste of your choice - I used Lindt paste

For the filling:

1 x 250g. tub of soft Philly cheese

1 x 250g. tub of mascarpone cheese

4 tbs (c. 50g.) icing sugar/powdered sugar

1-2 tsp of vanilla extract

zest and juice of 1 lemon   (my lemon gave me 45 mLs)

zest of 1 orange

zest of 1 lime

40g. naked/uncrystallised ginger, chopped very finely

30g. dark chocolate drops

For the topping:

2 pears, sliced thinly - or use a 410g. tin of pear slices if you can't get/be bothered with fresh ones

1/4 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 tbs brown sugar

2 tsp butter

2/3 of a Flake bar or 2 tbs grated chocolate



Break up the biscuits roughly, and throw them into a food processor 

Add the butter, ground ginger and nut paste and give it a good whizz

Now pulse till you have  clumps of damp, sandy stuff

Press into a 22 or 23cm. springform pan that you have lined on the bottom with baking paper

Whack it in the fridge while you make the filling


Spoon the cream cheese into your food processor (no need to wash it after making the base), and give it a quick whizz

Now add the mascarpone and icing sugar, and whizz together

Add the vanilla and the zests and pulse briefly

Stir in the ginger and the chocolate drops - do it in the processor bowl and save washing-up:=)

Spoon onto the base and level it out a bit

Refrigerate overnight

The next day, do the topping:

Toss the pear slices with the cardamom, ginger and brown sugar

Tip onto a lined baking tray

Dot the butter over the pear slices and bake at 180C for 12 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 12 mins

Flip and bake longer if not tender

Let them cool completely on a wire rack

Place artistically over the top of the filling

Break up the Flake bar over it all, or sprinkle your grated choc over


Feel free to use a plain nut paste without chocolate if you wish

My tablespoon holds about 12g. of icing sugar.  If you're using a U.S. spoon, it holds about 8g., so use a couple more spoonfuls:=)

I ended up blitzing the ginger till almost a paste, but you can just chop very finely

Just FYI - the filling sets very softly, so you get a lovely, creamy result 

base ready to be refrigerated 

zap the filling and add the zests

level the filling over the biscuit base 

bake the pear slices at 180C

the next day, arrange the pear slices over the top and add the chocolate 

smooth and creamy and a wee bit spicy    

pear artwork by sherry's pickings