Friday 20 December 2013

chocolate snaps

Thank you to Nigel Slater for this ripper recipe. (Isn't he fabulous?)  Chocolate salty snaps are a great little pick-me-up, and a perfect small gift at Xmas time.
So- grab:
200g. dark choc
200g. white choc
nuts and dried fruits- I can't really give a measurement as it depends on how much you like and how many discs you make but I would say a good handful of nuts,  and of fruit
Use any nuts that you like- I like walnuts/pecans or macadamias;  chop 'em up into small pieces and throw into a bowl.   Then add the dried chopped fruit- I used sour dried cherries and cranberries.   Mix them together.
Melt the dark chocolate in a pyrex jug- pour out enough chocolate on a tray lined with baking paper to make a disc spanning about 6 cm, and keep pouring till all the chocolate is used up.  You will end up with about 8 discs.
Sprinkle the nuts and fruit over the discs, then throw on a dusting of crumbled-up organic rosebuds and a wee bit of sea salt flakes (this gives a real fillip to the taste).  Do the same with the white chocolate.  Refrigerate for about half an hour.  Hide them away so the rest of the family doesn't eat them all at once!
white choc ready to melt; rosebuds crumbled up, and fruit and nuts chopped

lovely stuff now on top of the dark choc discs

white choc waiting to be spread out

white choc discs also now topped and ready to pop in the fridge

yummy snaps all done!

very moreish I must say!

Tuesday 17 December 2013

cooking classes at Vanilla Zulu

I have been cooking since I was a wee one. Mum taught me how to make bechamels, cakes, roasts etc from an early age. Now many years later, I am still at it- and loving it- as Maxwell Smart would say.  But it is always good to do a refresher course so I recently enrolled in a chef's skills course at the local cooking school -Vanilla Zulu run by the charming Mel.   She is super entertaining, lively and informative and you won't be sorry if you attend any of her courses.
Classes cover meat, seafood, breads, pastries, desserts and so on.  You get to meet like-minded people, and eat great food that you have helped to prepare and cook.  It is really fun and you learn alot, so if you are keen on food and cooking, one of Mel's many courses on various cuisines including Mediterranean, Thai, Italian and Hawaiian are the go.  Just watch out for the sharp knives!
the lovely Mel handing out the Hawaiian cocktails

this little fella was gorgeous; he looked beautiful and tasted yum!

potatoes all decked out in flowery glory

the hugest prawns you have ever seen!

this pineapple tart was really yummy- except for the bit where I cut into my finger and nearly fainted at the sight of my own blood!

Mel slicing up the tart-  no blood!

Tuesday 10 December 2013

home made vanilla extract

Today was the day to strain and bottle the vanilla extract I first put up some weeks ago.   It has been happily macerating -if that's the right word- on my kitchen bench for weeks and as a friend was dropping by today to visit, I decided I had better get the stuff into a bottle (as it is a Xmas gift for his wife).
It smells divine, and all the vanilla pods and seeds have gone incredibly sticky and almost slimey to the touch; not an unpleasant sensation but I just hadn't realised that would happen.  So it is now bottled up and ready to go- hopefully into some lovely baked goods.  I made about half a litre, so a few more friends and relatives will be receiving little bottles of this dark and delicious potion.
liquid has been strained thru a brand new chux-look at those seeds!

all ready to be bottled

the old Queen extract bottle is being re-used-handy!

here it is- off to its new home.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Black Forest biscuits

Crikey- as a certain crocodile hunter used to the heck did it get this close to Xmas?  So I am now in the baking, wrapping, card writing, gift buying, tree decorating madness mode of December.  As I am sure are the rest of you!  And therefore as the aliens who control my brain instructed me to do,  I made some black forest biscuits on the weekend.  I used damn expensive American sour dried cherries but I reckon you could happily use much cheaper and more accessible craisins (dried cranberries).  You can peruse the recipe- here.  And I had an idea that you could just as easily do this in the food processor rather than beating it by hand as I had to (as I have not got a mixmaster type thingy).  I reckon it would work out just as well.  Anyway my arms got a work out.    So bake and eat with glee!
starting to beat the bejabbers out of the sugars and butter

sifting my dry ingredients to go into the batter

delicious sour dried cherries and choc drops

this is one heck of a dry mixture so keep mixing!

oh yum- biscuits just out of the oven.!  or maybe they were about to go in?!

Wednesday 20 November 2013

lychee lime and coconut sorbet

Summer has started hot and early here this year.  Oh and very stormy!  So ice cream has been on the menu again.  I really love lychees, that nobbly pink-skinned jewel with such creamy white and tasty flesh.  But it is a bit early in the season so I used tinned fruit in this delicious sorbet taken from the blog of Lilac Petals- here.
I added a bit of rum to spice it up!

1 can of lychees in syrup
220g caster sugar
500ml coconut milk
80-90 ml lime juice (it takes about 3 limes to get this much juice)
zest of 2 limes
1-2 tbs of rum-  you could also use lychee liqueur to really increase the flavour!
toasted coconut for sprinkling on top

strain the lychees into a bowl and put the fruit aside
add the lychee syrup and sugar to a saucepan; bring it to a boil while stirring, then leave to simmer for 4-5 minutes.    Cool in fridge or freezer till cold.
Now put the syrup, lychees, coconut milk and lime juice and zest, and rum into a food processor/blender- it made a lot of mixture so you may need to do it in 2 lots.
Whizz till well combined.  I put it into a metal loaf tin lined with freezer liner;  place in freezer till frozen.
Scoop it out and serve with toasted coconut.

gathering ingredients

getting ready to whizz

mixture came up to the very top of the processor!

frozen and ready to  eat

so delish!

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Melbourne trip October 2013

Can I say as an ex-Melbourne girl that there are many delightful aspects of this city and a huge one is definitely the food. Our recent trip down for family events included lots of deliciousness!  We even managed to fit in a quick dinner at George Calombaris's new place Gazi.   The decor was interesting- lots of terracotta pots hanging from the ceiling, and a long bar/bench arrangement where you could sit (rather uncomfortably) and try to make yourself heard over the loud din.  Can anyone tell me why restaurants think it is a good idea to have hard surfaces with no sound absorption making dinner conversation almost impossible?  Well apart from that, we had a fab meal with fresh and delicious flavours, good service, good people watching (I saw Daniel from Masterchef sitting at the bar) and an all round good night.
Highlights were the duck souvlaki, and beet root salad; oh and don't forget the fries!  And the broad bean salad, and the grilled eggplant, and the fried saganaki and on and on.... 
I would love to try some other dishes next time I am down there, and would recommend a visit if you are in the city. 
delish bean salad

duck souvlaki

yummy fries
 and now for something completely different!  love the melbourne laneways.  there are so many hidden treasures including this tiny soup shop which displayed its wares in big pots at the very front of the shop.
pots of soup!

beautiful bejewelled windows full of cakes
 this tea room had a huge queue waiting to indulge in the glorious cakes in the window.  lots of people including myself were busily taking photo after photo of this amazingly gorgeous display in the front window. we went back the next day for breakfast rather than wait for ages for arvo tea, and enjoyed a very pleasant meal in beautiful surroundings. And of course with elegant Melburnians!

wow!  this was so gorgeous to look at!
 we bought the most beautiful macarons you have ever seen with gold leaf on top no less!  and were served by this charming French girl.
lovely French girl with charming accent- tick!

next up- the scrummiest iced chocs you have ever had.
we went-more than once- to koko black for iced chocs-  sooo good.  i had a raspberry choc one and the next time i had rose chocolate.  OMG is all I can say!   this was just after breakfast mind you as it was wet and we had time to kill before flying home.
a ceiling full of terracotta pots
out the front of Gazi- it was very hard to find-typical of Melbourne!  They like to keep their jewels hidden!

Wow!  i luuurve Melbourne!  I am dying to go back as we barely touched the surface of food fashion and fun..

Sunday 10 November 2013

raspberry muffins

Muffins are good whether it be the English or American variety as far as I am concerned!  I got up yesterday and felt that there was a need for muffins in my kitchen.   As famous blogger faux fuchsia often says- the universe directed me to do it.  I concur so muffins it was.
I had frozen berries in the freezer that needed using up, being of the raspberry persuasion rather than the blueberries called for in the recipe but hey let your pantry be your guide.  I have an old clipping from a women's magazine with a really easy recipe which always works, even when you have to add more milk like I did and stir a few too many times.  They were slightly flatter than I would like but still tasty.

dry ingredients all ready for the big mix

adding the fruit and wet ingredients

just out of the oven
this is the old recipe I used!

ready to eat!!  so yum

Saturday 26 October 2013

Brisbane Open House 2013

Brisbane springtime flowering jacarandas architecture history - what's not to love?  A couple of weeks ago this river city celebrated its 4th year with the Open House scheme. And this year I decided to be one of the 500 volunteers who help keep the scheme running.  I spent an afternoon at the Old Windmill on Wickham Terrace, enjoying meeting people and helping them get a taste of Brisbane history and architecture.  The Windmill is the oldest surviving building in Queensland, built in 1828 by convicts.  It has had a chequered life and is currently unused.  It is very popular when open during the Open House weekend each year, and hopefully next year they will be able to allow visitors to check out the old reservoirs at the same location. There were 71 buildings open, 500 volunteers and over 51000 visitors all up.
I managed to fit in a visit to the Old Museum after my volunteer shift.  There was a gorgeous full moon, music, food, wine and a beautiful old building to boot.  I thoroughly recommend the Open House scheme- come one come all. See you there next year!
looking out from the bottom floor of the old mill

from the top of the old mill

gorgeous bougainvillea outside the old museum

looking up at the old museum at sunset

outside the old museum at night

looking up from inside the Old Windmill