Friday 31 January 2014

Couverture & Co Red Hill

Sea change, tree change or sweet(s) change?  How about chucking in your job and starting over as a chocolatier?  And how about starting it in hot, humid Brisbane- a bold step you might say.
Jessica from Couverture & Co in Red Hill was woman enough to do just that.  Throwing off the shackles of her regular job, she invested herself in a new life and opened up her chocolate shop in a cute little store in Red Hill.  I asked her how all this came about and here is what she said:
What was your previous working life before becoming a chocolatier?
Previous to working as a chocolatier I worked as a journalist in Oman. I wrote for a number of publications, but my main area of focus was the oil and gas industry – quite the opposite to the chocolate industry!

Was there a pivotal event that made you decide to change/become one?
There was no light bulb moment that made me decide to switch vocations. If you were to ask my friends and family, I think they would say that I’ve always had a bit of a preoccupation with cooking, so it came as no surprise to them when I made the change. From the get go I was in the kitchen, I loved to watch my parents cook and to be involved in the process.

How did you go about becoming one?
I approached my favourite chocolatier in Brisbane –Bittersweet. I used to visit their previous store called Hot Chocolate when they were located on Latrobe Terrace, Paddington. After gaining some work experience I was fortunate to be offered a job. For anyone interested in the industry Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School in Melbourne offer some great courses. 

Is it as satisfying as you hoped?  (you don’t have to answer that oneJ
It definitely is, however I don’t think I was prepared for how all-consuming running a small business is.

Is it difficult in this brissie climate to make chocolates?  What with the humidity and heat...
It can be very trying at times to make chocolates in Brisbane’s humid and hot climate. There have been a number of days when I’ve had to throw in the towel because of it. When the temperature gets to a certain point and the humidity is high the tempered chocolate will not set hard and the chocolate coating on the exterior of the truffle can turn dull or whitish instead of glossy.

Have you travelled to suss out other chocolatiers?
Whenever I travel I always have a chocolate shop itinerary! However, I haven’t travelled for the soul purpose of visiting chocolatiers. I would love to do a chocolate and champagne trip!

Did you find any that were particularly brilliant/inspiring?
On my first trip to Paris, within hours of getting off the plane, I stumbled across a small old fashioned chocolatier. It was my first Parisian chocolate experience, and I think I fell in love a little. 
As for inspiration, there are so many talented chocolatiers and pastry chefs out there. If you ever get a chance to watch the World Chocolate Masters I highly recommend it. It’s a great insight into the processes involved in working with chocolate. The creations the competitors come up with are amazing.

Your signature chocolate/s?
I’m still working on that one! I hope to add more chocolates to the range throughout the year. I’ve already received quite a few requests from customers for particular flavours.

I’ll be in the kitchen over the next few days experimenting with one or two new flavours for Valentine’s Day, so keep a look out in the coming weeks.
cute entrance!

delish chocs

Jessica with some of her lovely chocs


don't these look gorgeous- good enough to eat!
Couverture & Co can be found at 19A Enoggera Tce Red Hill 4059
Ph- 07 3367 3000

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Savoury bacon ravioli

For some years now I have been making fruit mince ravioli at Christmas time.  It always goes down a treat and is dead easy to make if you use ready-made pastry and a jar of fruit mince.  Of course this is a bit of a cheat and you could go to the trouble of making your own pastry and mince but this is Christmas time remember so you are not going to look for trouble.  (Though I do suggest checking out the recipe on Snig's Kitchen-here).
We have just had the Australia Day long weekend here and our lovely neighbour invited us over for a drink on the public holiday.  So for something completely different as Monty Python would say, as my contribution I decided to make a savoury version but with all the same ease as the fruit mince one.
So take 2 sheets of frozen short crust pastry out of the freezer and let them thaw
in the meantime, fry up 250g diced bacon (I got this already diced from the deli) and a small diced onion and a large clove of garlic chopped finely.   Saute till lovely and browned and making your kitchen smell like heaven.  Cool the mixture right down.
Then spread the mixture over your first layer of pastry which has been placed on a lightly greased baking sheet.
Throw on a few thyme leaves and some seasoning to taste.  You won"t need a lot of salt as the bacon is usually pretty salty already.
Chuck the second pastry sheet over the lot like a comfy blanket,  and taking up your ravioli cutter you run it both ways over the entire doonah-like creation.
Sprinkle on some paprika, and add a few more thyme leaves and a bit more pepper and throw in the oven at about 200C for 15-20 minutes till golden brown.
This goes really well with drinks and your neighbours will thank you.
onion bacon garlic and herbs about to be fried

the cooled mix being spread over the pastry

just getting started with my cutter

all cut up and ready for baking

the scrumptious end result 

Monday 20 January 2014

Cheese, herb and olive bread

They say love is a many-splendoured thing and the same can be said about bread!  Mr Pickings loves bread in all its forms, and could eat it all day every day, so when I made this savoury cheese and herb bread (from Mix and Bake by Belinda Jeffery) it did not last long.  This gorgeous and tasty loaf can be refrigerated or frozen but we never got to that point as it disappeared pretty damn quick.  And I have to say I ate my fair share!  Especially nice slathered with French butter which I confess I did.
I have a copy of this fabulous cookbook, but you can easily find the recipe online as many foodbloggers seem to like this fantastic, yeastless bread as much as I do.  I ended up adding a whole teaspoon of dried mustard by mistake but I think it went well.  And the suggestion of one blogger to add grain or Dijon instead of powder would be worth a try.   I also added a wee bit of dried chilli powder (the chillies were from a friend's garden and sundried by me (and the sun), which gave it a lovely kick.  I am going to try it next time with sundried tomatoes too.
the recipe from her fab cookbook

ingredients laid out ready to mix-look at that gorgeous thyme!

in the mixing bowl waiting to be anointed with lovely buttermilk etc- (sorry for upside down photo)

dry ingredients and wet ones ready to be amalgamated!

all mixed up and ready to bake

the beautiful herb-flecked cheesy bread out of the oven and already being devoured by Mr Pickings at this point in time. All we have left are the memories! 

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Cherry compote

Well what is Christmas time known for in Australia?  Yes mangoes and cherries!   I am not a big fan of mangoes but I surely do love cherries.   How could you not?  Luscious sweet little globes full of cherry juice- oh yum!    After the Xmas rush of cooking and entertaining, I discovered some frozen cherries in the freezer and since I had a tub of vanilla ice-cream in there,  I thought I would make up a batch of cherry compote. This goes really well with breakfast yoghurt also.   So you can feel all virtuous after stuffing yourself with Christmas goodies for ages, add a little All-Bran on top of your yoghurt/cherry bowlful in the morning to feel extra healthy.
I found a great recipe for it -here- by Smitten Kitchen which I used as the basis for my take on it.   Last night when a friend was over, we had the vanilla ice-cream plus the compote plus one of my personal faves (also from Smitten Kitchen)-chocolate sorbet which I have blogged about previously. ( I can barely stop myself eating that whole tub of sorbet!)  These 3 things went together so well!

Cherry compote ingredients:

2/3 cup water
3-4 tbs of sugar (I used vanilla caster sugar)
3-4 tbs lemon juice (depends how tart you like it)
1/4 tsp of vanilla extract
1 tbs rum or brandy
500g cherries (this is the weight after being pitted- I used frozen so thankfully I did not have to pit them myself)


place the water, sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil while stirring and dissolving the sugar.  Then simmer without stirring quite vigorously for about 7 minutes, then add the cherries, vanilla and rum.
boil but not too ferociously for about 15 minutes till it starts to thicken a bit.  It will still be runny but will thicken a little as it cools down.

syrup ingredients in the saucepan and ready to simmer

cherries added

all finished and about to go in the fridge


Thursday 9 January 2014

Eggnog for Christmas

I know it is a bit late, but now that the Christmas madness is over I have a bit of time to add a new post.  So here is my tried and true recipe for eggnog that I make every year on demand.  It is actually from an old magazine clipping that I cut out many years ago when spending the holiday season in the States with a Quaker friend.  I have managed to find it also on the Net which really surprised me as it was so many years ago.  It is very rich and very delicious and very heady if you add lots of rum like we do!  The recipe calls for 3/4 cup of rum but we tend to double it- and then some!  Oh and sprinkle lots of nutmeg on top- a must!
eggwhites beaten, and mixing yolks and sugar together till creamy

adding 2 litres of ice cream!

and lots of vanilla into the mix

splashing in copious amounts of rum

mixing it all together-gently- as it is cascading over the bowl in a snowy flurry

oh boy!  now to drink it on down- the first glass of many!

Saturday 4 January 2014

Happy new year to all!

Hoping everyone had a great Xmas and wishing that everyone enjoys a marvellous 2014.