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

Monday 14 October 2013

Homemade vanilla extract

Wow when you do a fair bit of baking, the vanilla essence/extract bottle seems to disappear like nobody's business!  I had been thinking of making up some myself, as it will also be great for Xmas gifts.  And you need to get started now, as it takes up to 8 weeks of steeping to mature.
So I split some beans, and threw them into a jar with some vodka; some recipes suggest bourbon or other hard liquor, but I think watching the clear liquid turn beautifully brown over the weeks is more fun!  I can't believe how much it has changed after just one day;  it is already looking mysteriously and sumptuously golden brown. 
You need to give it a shake a couple of times a week, and then after 6-8 weeks, bottle it and give some away to lucky friends and family for Xmas. 
6 plump moist vanilla beans
500 mls (2 cups) of vodka (or other liquor of your choice)
Slit the beans in half horizontally after cutting into 2 or 3 pieces 
Place them in the bottom of a jar
Pour over the vodka
Let it steep for at least 6 weeks
Strain it and bottle it
You can place a piece or 2 of the beans into each bottle for extra flavour.
slitting the beans

pouring in the vodka

ready to steep for 8 weeks!

after one day!

Tuesday 8 October 2013

chocolate and potato cake

I love a moist chocolatey chocolate cake and this one from Belnda Jeffery's book Mix and Bake is a beauty.  (just follow the link above and hit the look inside button and then go into the second page and the recipe comes up).   It is so easily made- just chuck everything in a food processor, then whizz it and bake it.  Easy peasy!  For a bit of a change, I replaced 40g of the chocolate with caramel chips (drops, bits-whatever they are called) which gave it a slightly chewy, fudgy texture.  And instead of icing or ganache, I smothered it in Nutella mixed with cream, and spread it liberally over the top.  I actually whipped this up in the morning as a birthday surprise, and we were eating it by early lunch time.
Belinda Jeffery is definitely one of my food heroes (along with Nigella, and Not Quite Nigella, and Annabel Langbein).  Her recipes are easy, fabulous and delicious.  You can't go wrong if you buy her marvellous baking book!

adding the ingredients to the processor

mixture all ready for the oven

the result- ta da!

Thursday 3 October 2013

Lemon curd icecream

Ok you'll be thinking- not only is she a chocolate nut, she's also freakily obsessed with lemons. True on both counts! I am never without chocolate of some sort and lemons in my fridge.
So this week I decided to make up a batch of lemon curd icecream; recipe here from the blog Spicy icecream. It is actually a recipe for blueberry cobbler with the icecream but I left out the cobbler part!
I used my regular recipe for lemon curd-here- then I followed Spicy Icecream's instructions.
250 mls lemon curd
1 can condensed milk
500 mls thickened cream
Simply whip the cream in one bowl till you have soft peaks
Empty the condensed milk into another bowl
Fold the cream gently but firmly into the condensed milk
Grab your loaf tin lined with freezer liner
Spoon some of the creamy mixture into your tin, then some of the curd and swirl!  Keep going till all the cream and curd are finished up
Freeze for at least 8 hours. 
This would be lovely with fresh strawberries or other fruit on top. I am thinking candied lemon slices would be great also. And maybe finely chopped into the icecream before freezing. Or you could even try the cobbler!
ingredients in the saucepan

curd all ready to go!

swirling and layering

all done!