Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fuji apple spice cake with cream cheese frosting

Apples are the Cinderella of fruits.

They are often overlooked and under appreciated, lying forgotten in the fruit bowl; they aren't flashy or exotic and are most often neglected or passed over. However, given a chance, they shine when baked into sweets or when paired with meats and salads. Give them a chance and you will be rewarded, trust me. I was guilty of being an ugly stepsister, labeling apples boring and not interesting enough for my trolley. Everything changed once I baked them into my first apple crumble, since then they have become the jewel in my fruit bowl.

It is no secret that I have more than a mere fondness for the acid green Granny Smith with its luscious tartness to rival any amount of sugary sweetness.

Oh no, I've done it again.

I guess I have forgotten my lesson and been quite snobbish to other apple varieties that should also be deserving of my attention. It might be a little late, but at least I can rectify the error of my ways and give some other apples a go, who knows, there might be an apple dearer to my heart than my lovely Granny Smith.

Today it's Fuji's day to shine, let's hope this cake allows it to.

ease: 4/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 1 hour (includes 15mins cooling time)
total:1 hour & 25mins.

taste: 3/5. Surprisingly this wasn't very moist. I was also wishing for more apple chunks as no one realised it was an apple cake by taste alone.
The spices were too subtle and the cream cheese frosting super sweet. It was like carrot cake's ugly stepsister. Poor Fuji got locked in the cellar :).

would I make it again: No.

recipe: Fuji apple spice cake with cream cheese frosting

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Chamomile, peach & ginger smoothie

Spring cleaning for me means emptying fridges and flipping mattresses, for some family members it means overhauling their diet most likely beginning with a detox for a 'kick start'.

As I mentioned a while back I had a yukky bout of gastritis which my doctor hypothesised might have been due to my highly acidic diet (read: sweets, grains & starches). In my attempt to try to eat more alkaline I discovered that my father and my father-in-law were both attempting to also eat alkaline (albeit to a much higher extent than I - sugar and flour, we shall never part).

For them this included a mother load of vegetables, fruits, green drinks, certain minerals and tonics. Maybe in the future I might show their devotion to truly 'cleanse' my body, but in the mean time, I will stick to eating fewer sweets, and attempt to implement healthy meals/drinks such as this smoothie.
ease: 5/5.

prep time: 5mins.
total: 5mins.

taste: 3/5. As the smoothie was hot from the tea I added some ice cubes to cool it down quickly and it made it a little watery so hubby didn't like it at all.
If you have time I suggest putting it in the fridge to cool rather than using ice cubes so you don't lose the flavour and texture.
The chamomile is the main flavour in this followed by the subtle peach before the strong ginger comes through. It was nice, but too much like a tonic than a smoothie for me (plus Ryan won't drink it again).

would I make it again: No.

Chamomile, peach & ginger smoothie - from delicious. - February 2005, Page 62

Monday, September 28, 2009

Chewy ginger cookies

Strange things were happenin' last week down under.

Firstly we had the September equinox and I was inundated with girlfriends telling me they all had a 'weird feeling' and were afraid to trust their own judgments.

The next morning people in Sydney (and then Queensland) woke up to eerie vermilion skies, unable to see anything, locked indoors fearing it was 'Judgement Day'. The Bureau of Meterology claimed, "An event like this is extremely rare," Mr Hanstrum said. "It's one of the worst, if not the worst." Comforting stuff...

Ont he other hand in Melbourne, our weather has been quite tame, we may have had more rain this past week than we did most of Winter, but nothing out of the ordinary really.

My phone has gone back to hibernating, common sense has returned to my girlfriends and the red dust storm has cleared to glorious blue skies that bring a sense of safety and familiarity. All of this normalcy gets my fingers twitching for a nice cookie dough.

Cookies, as you may already know, wouldn't make the 'favourites' list on my mobile phone. Their number is rarely dialed, but once in a while, I will think of them and pick up the phone. The family member I call most would be ginger - my favourite type of cookie is laden with ginger, warm spices and more often chewy than crumbly. I am still on the search for the 'perfect' ginger cookie and this family recipe looks promising.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 15mins for two trays.
cooking time: 8mins.
total: 23mins for 24 cookies - additional 8mins per two trays.

taste: 4/5. This batter made over 100 cookies for me - huge amount!
These are really buttery and chewy with a hint of spice. For some reason I had two jars of golden syrup when I thought I had one jar of molasses and one of syrup,so I had to use golden syrup instead - my cookies were lighter and probably didn't have that depth that molasses has.
I would have definitely loved these spicier and would double the amount of spice for next time.

would I make it again: Yes - with more spices and molasses, but I would halve the recipe.

recipe: Chewy ginger molasses cookies

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Grilled vegetable burger

Short post today as I have too many other things to cook!

Grilled vegetable burger
adapted from Donna Hay Magazine
change amounts to suit serving size

eggplant slices (I bought some pre-grilled from a deli)
tomatoes (I used semi dried tomatoes)
onion, sliced
olive oil
baby spinach
burger buns
1tbs harissa paste
4tbs mayonnaise

Heat oil in pan and cook sliced onion over medium heat until caramelised put semi dried tomatoes and eggplant sliced in pan to warm up. Set aside. Brush haloumi with olive oil and fry in pan until golden, should only take a few minutes.
Meanwhile, brush split burger buns with oil and place under griller until browned on top.
Mix harissa paste and mayonnaise together until combined, spread over burger buns. Top one bun with baby spinach, grilled eggplant, semi dried tomatoes, haloumi and caramelised onions then top with other half of bun. Serve with extra baby spinach drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
20mins to do onions and assemble burger (if you grill your eggplant and roast your tomatoes it may take longer).
total: 20mins.

taste: 4.5/5. Super tasty, Ryan even loved it despite the lack of meat. Great flavours.

would I make it again: Yes.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sicilian orange cake

Only tinkling tweets from happy birds and guttural whines from my furry boy bounced through the house today. It seems that my husband brought the boisterous atmosphere, and without him the house is very still, almost meditative. I find that I seem to echo the house's mood, and without someone else's energy to affect my own, I am quite chilled and un-hurried.

Of course, I did stop by the shop to bring my husband a burger for lunch as well as a slice of cake to brighten his day and satisfy his tummy. Apart from that I have been home, furiously cleaning with some baking in between. It has been a productive, peaceful and pleasant day - I am quite pleased with myself. There was a tiny part of me that predicted nothing but moping on the couch, eating ice cream and popcorn, bored out of my brain waiting for my husband to come home. I did miss him terribly but I also managed to find some energy to start the mammoth task of Spring cleaning the home. I am about 1/3 of the way through the house, another two days and I should have it sparkling and singing with pride.

As I have said before, there is no nicer ending to a hard day's work than a nice slice of something sweet.

ease: 5/5.

prep time:
cooking time: 1 hour.
total: 1 hour & 10mins.

taste: 4/5.
This was a slight disaster for me - my cake looked more like a fallen souffle on top. It took an extra 15mins to cook at which stage the top had risen and then deflated upon being taken out. It was also super dense and soft (which I didn't mind) - perhaps my eggs were too big? Aside from the fact that it looked nothing like the recipe it still tasted nice, but more like lemon than orange. I used Seville oranges and I felt that I could only taste them slightly in the icing. I would have loved a more concentrated orange taste.

would I make it again: No - might try my luck with another recipe.

recipe: Sicilian Orange Cake

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Harissa chicken & sweet potato with baby spinach & tzatziki

Short and sweet today as I am absolutely exhausted from moving all weekend. Good news is that my husband only has a few boxes left to sort on Monday, but other than that everything is ready for running the store come Monday.

Harissa chicken & sweet potato with baby spinach & tzatziki
adapted from Donna Hay No Time To Cook
serves 2

4 chicken thighs, de-boned
1 sweet potato, sliced to around 3mm thick
2 handfuls baby spinach leaves
3tbs harissa paste
3tbs olive oil
2 tsp sea salt

Combine chicken thighs with 1tbs harissa paste, 1tbs olive oil and 1tsp salt.
Combine sweet potato with 2tbs harissa, 2tbs olive oil and 1tsp salt
Heat grill and grill chicken 15mins or until cooked through and sweet potato around 4mins per side or until semi-soft.
Scatter spinach leaves unto plate and top with chicken and sweet potato, serve with a dollop of tzatziki.

ease: 5/5. prep time: 5mins.
cooking time: 15mins.
total: 20mins.

taste: 4.5/5. Great flavour for a super easy and quick meal. The slightly wilted spinach leaves give way to sweet but spicy sweet potato and succulent chicken, the heat is then soothed by the tangy, creamy tzatiki. The simple, clean flavours go together beautifully in this healthy dinner.

would I make it again: Yes.

Friday, September 18, 2009


As bright as the sun might be, in all its glorious splendour, there hangs a dark cloud today.
Unfortunately I am no stranger to funerals. I have attended four of my family members and each time was more painful than before. I am not the strong type who is able to keep it together. I fall apart like flour from an unclenched fist, scattering into a million particles that I am never able to completely piece together again. My husband on the other hand, has never attended a funeral as he has only his parents and sister in this country. He never understood why the pain is still so raw for me whenever he mentions my deceased loved ones, or why I cry whenever I see a funeral scene in a movie. It's hard to understand if you have never been around that kind of powerful, soul wrenching grief.

Today he will be attending the funeral of an old school friend. What pulls at my heart is that I will not be able to stand with him, clenching his hand, supporting him - I have to be here for work, as it is still only the two of us. It doesn't feel right, and I'm not sure how he will be upon experiencing this sad moment. My thoughts will be with him, and with those who lost their dear friend and daughter, and I shall be here, arms open wide, when he returns safely home to me.

It's jarring to realise that we are all human, and therefore only shortly on this Earth. No matter how hard I try there times where I fall prey to daily life and partake in trivial arguments, not appreciating the greater value in the person with whom I am arguing. Although this week, with its dark cloud, has been a little silent, we found ourselves being more affectionate and slow to anger, taking the time to appreciate each other and those we love whom are still with us.

The author of this recipe had it handed down from her father, which I thought made it all the more precious.

ease: 5/5.

prep time: 2mins.
cooking time: 25mins.
total: 27mins.

taste: 4/5.
Overall Ryan enjoyed this dish although he found the meat a bit chewy (I used beef shin). He said that the sour cream is absolutely necessary for super enjoyment. It has a tiny kick which is offset by the cream and fresh herbs with a mellow tomato base. I made the following adaptations:
  • I quartered the recipe (used a little less stock though and upped the meat to 200g)
  • I cooked the onions for 5mins
  • I browned the beef in the same pan as the onions for 2mins
  • Once everything was added I cooked it for a total 20mins rather than 1 & 1/2 as stated

would I make it again: Yes - this is the second time I have made it. The first time I halved the recipe and it worked out a little better.

recipe: Goulash

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Walnut & Armagnac tart

Doorbells frighten me.

The shrill, penetrating racket of a doorbell makes my spine tingle. It might seem like a weird phobia to you, but to me a doorbell signals that someone is actually standing on my doorstep, most likely peering in through whatever crack they can in their efforts to spot a moving figure.

I was 14 years old when I discovered my phobia. 'Why so old?' you might ask. Well before that particular age, to even get to my front door you first had to be let in through the steel door on our 7ft tall solid concrete fence. The doorbell, which was connected to a video monitor that allowed you to see who exactly was on the street, ringing your bell, merely signified that I had to press a button, whilst still indoors, to unlock the street door. After that they had to walk up 10 large steps to get to our actual front door which I would then unlock and open. If someone I didn't know rang our doorbell, I would be able to see them, via monitor, without them seeing me at all, and I could easily ignore it and go on with what I was doing, happily knowing that there were TWO doors separating us. I felt safe and I was phobia free.

Then we ended up moving (which we did frequently during my teenage years) and we no longer had a fort-knox style house that kept people comfortably away. The first time I was home alone and the doorbell rang I almost gave myself a heart attack. I couldn't get to the door to see who it was, without the person at the door seeing me (there was an extremely large rectangular window beside the door which never got a blind *thank you mum and dad for mocking my phobia*). Thus I would try to crawl to another room (and yes I actually crawled) which allowed me to sneak a peak through a window to see who was there.

I still do this whenever the doorbell rings when I am not expecting anyone; I stealthily creep towards it like a cat to a mouse, and then try to catch a glimpse undetected before unlocking the door. Even when I am expecting someone, I will wait by the front window so that I can see them coming and open the door before they arrive. Doorbells = panic attacks.

I only realised today that with my husband at work all day, should the doorbell ring, I will have to answer it everytime. Maybe I will get used to the sharp, piercing sound and not feel like hiding under my blankets. And perhaps I will learn to not be as shy (which is where this phobia probably stems from), as it does hinder me somewhat socially.

As you know, I have been spoiling my husband this week, I tell him it is simply because I love him, but truthfully, I want him to realise how wonderful it is being around me 24/7 so that he won't want to stay back at work; being at home = yummy food (and awesome company :). Today I used some of the Armagnac that was purchased for yesterday's Chicken dish to make a simple tart to go with creamy vanilla ice cream.

ease: 4.5/5.

prep time:
1 hour & 40mins (to blind baking stage).
cooking time: 30mins.
total: 2 hours & 10mins.

taste: 3.5/5. The Armagnac really stars in this tart. The first taste you get is that deep, alcohol which eventually evaporates to the crunchy walnuts, plump raisins (substitute for muscatels) and slightly chocolate-y crust. You don't really taste the custard-like filling which is really weird .
I made one tart rather than 6 individual ones and I did not have enough filling, even when I added 40ml Armagnac to the filling mixture (which may have increased the Armagnac taste further).
I didn't make the ice cream to go with it, but I have a feeling it may have improved the overall taste of the tart. It does seem a little 'lacking' on its own.

would I make it again: No.

recipe: Walnut & Armagnac tart

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Chicken with shallots, prunes, & Armagnac

This week is the final week that my husband will be working from home.

Monday sees him off during the hours of 10am-6pm Monday through Friday with a couple of hours on Saturdays. I'm excited for the possibilities the new change will afford us, but I am also a little sad as we won't be together. Perhaps it is because we have only been together for 5 years, and that we are still young, but I have a little separation anxiety (or maybe a lot) when it comes to being without loved ones, especially my husband.

Time will no doubt get me accustomed to the change, but in the meanwhile I am trying to savour every minute I can with him and as a result I am spoiling him rotten (and overfeeding him) with meals and snacks. I can't help that I show love by cooking, but I think his belly may not appreciate the inevitable expansion from this week long feasting.

My husband seems to have a taste for French chicken recipes, so I thought I'd give another one a try as it's always nicer when a new meal is liked, rather than disliked, and as I've tried to tell him, I can never tell which ones will transfer well from recipe to reality as it's all in the eating. Tonight's dish is that little bit special due to some Armagnac, not something I'd use often.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 20mins.
total: 40mins.

taste: 5/5. Hubby absolutely loved this - 'I would pay $50 for this'. I ummed and ahed over whether to use a regular Brandy or go out and purchase the Armagnac, after looking at some comparisons on the internet I decided that I would get the Armagnac (and find some other recipes to put it to good use since we aren't drinkers). I am glad I bought it, I'm not sure how big a part it played in the overall enjoyment of the dish, but I wouldn't make this dish again without it. The chicken was succulent, Ryan particularly liked the shallots, and the prunes added a nice gritty texture. He could taste the alcohol and felt it brought everything together.

would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: Chicken with Shallots, Prunes, and Armagnac

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Savory Parmesan pain perdu with poached egg & greens

Results are in: I had gastritis and low iron. Good news is my voracious appetite is back and my tummy no longer hurts when I eat. So of course I have lined up some tempting sweets for this week, but I shall start off with a savoury, filling breakfast.

ease: 4.5/5.

prep time: 20mins to soak.
cooking time: 25mins.
total: 45mins.

taste: 3.5/5. The egg was at the forefront in terms of taste. The runny yolk gave way to bitey, acidic vinegar with bitter greens, whilst the crunchy and soft cheesy bread came in last. Overall this was nice, nothing super special though, but nothing wrong with it.

would I make it again: No.

recipe: Savoury parmesan pain perdu with poached eggs

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sofia's Kitchen - Coconut rice fingers

Yesterday was a wonderful day for many reasons.

I got to see my grandmother after her return from her 3 month holiday in Greece. I also got to catch up with my beloved aunts, uncles and cousins. But most importantly I got to watch and eat the results of my grandmother's recipe. For the first day of a new tradition, it really was wonderful.

We started off Sofia's Kitchen, installment 1, with a delicious sweet treat from her past in Greece.
Coconut rice fingers are finger long tubes of crisp filo pastry filled with unctuous, coconut rice as creamy as creamy can be which are then drizzled with a sticky lemon sugar syrup before being dusted with snowflakes of dessicated coconut. Sweet but not overly so, perfect portions that leave you licking your fingers with glee.

The story behind the dessert, retold my Aunt Helen:

Mum was in the city with a friend (Evlambia) and bought a dessert from the Zaharaplastio (Sweets Store).. liking the dessert she purchased, she asked the baker how he made it – he replied he could not tell her as it was a secret.. is that so my mother thought, determined to find out how it was made she started to decipher what ingredients were used as she continued to eat the dessert. She came home and made the dessert according to how she thought it was done and what she thought the ingredients were according to her taste buds.. right or wrong – her taste buds came up with a wonderful recipe.. one we all love and enjoy and call Coconut rice fingers. This original recipe of mums will continue to live on from generation to generation, as on Sunday 13th September 2009, we all had the privilege of mum showing us how it was done, which was recorded and noted done for future reference.

With my gorgeous, little Yia Yia Sofia.

Coconut rice fingers

makes around 25

INGREDIENTS: (you may have left over rice depending on how many filo sheets there are in your packet)
1 cup medium grain rice
4 cups water
pinch salt
1 cup milk
¾ cup white sugar
2 tsp vanilla sugar
1 cup desiccated coconut (also extra 1 cup later for topping)
1 packet filo pastry
250G unsalted butter

1 cup white sugar
1 cup water
1/2 lemon juice and peel

Preheat oven to 200C fan forced.

Melt butter in pan and place aside till needed.

Rinse rice until water runs clear and boil in water with a pinch of salt over medium heat. Once water has reduced to about half the consistency, add milk and boil a little more. Add sugar, vanilla sugar and 2 tablespoons of the melted butter and mix well. Add the coconut and mix well. Using a potato masher, mash the mixture until rice is blended with all other ingredients. Take off stove and set aside to cool.

Open filo pastry out on a bench and cut down the centre vertically, to make two parts. Brush two sheets with the melted butter and lay on top of one another. Cover rest of filo with damp cloth until required. Place one heaped tablespoon of the cooled rice mixture at one end of the filo and roll like a cigar until mixture covered, fold the edges in to avoid the rice mixture spilling out and continue to roll till the end of the pastry. Place on a lightly buttered tepsi (large round tray with 3cm edge). Continue this until all the filo pastry is used. Should fill one 40cm tepsi, approximately 25 fingers. Place in preheated oven for 15-20min or until golden brown in color.

While the fingers are cooking, make your syrup by boiling the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves. Once boiled and water reduced add the lemon juice and the rind and boil until liquid thickens to a watery honey consistency. Set aside to cool.

Once fingers are golden in color, take out of oven and immediately drizzle syrup over each finger with a tablespoon (syrup should be cool). Sprinkle coconut on top of fingers as syrup is being absorbed. Serve once have cooled down.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fruity breakfast eggflip

Pockets of french rose pink, periwinkle and heliotrope blooms border the dull cement pavement, offering splashes of saturated vibrancy.

Walking the dog is one of my favourite activities, especially on warmer days with subtle winds. Normally I chat idly to my husband but today I brought my camera along to photograph the plethora of colourful, textural plants of each neighbours gardens. I am lucky to live in a leafy suburb alongside people who value nature and strive to create beautiful and mostly native gardens.

Apart from the aesthetic appeal, having so much flora and fauna attracts a multitude of birds, all of which I love to watch as they burrow in between leaves and play tag with each other, deftly soaring in between branches.

It is the early dawns and lingering twilight that I love most about the warmer weather. Spring has managed to occupy the sun that little bit longer, allowing us to eat our supper just before the darkness descends. Another warmer day results in a cooling smoothie enjoyed outdoors.

Yoshi loves a smoothie.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
total: 5mins.

taste: 3.5/5. This was quite sweet for me, very fruity with a nice hint of nutmeg. Blueberries are the strongest flavour.
I made the following adjustments:
  • increased the frozen blueberries to 1/3cup
  • used 1 frozen banana
  • 1 dried fig
  • substituted oat bran for oats
  • used 1 cup milk and 1 cup soy milk

would I make it again: No.

recipe: Fruity Breakfast Eggflip

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Gigantes Plaki: Greek baked beans

tra⋅di⋅tion - [truh-dish-uhn]–noun

1. the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, esp. by word of mouth or by practice: a story that has come down to us by popular tradition.

Whilst we may have many old traditions, we are starting a new one tomorrow.

The first Sunday of each month, my aunties, mother-in-law and I will meet at my grandmother Sofia's house for a cooking lesson and the chance to record her recipes that have been passed down to her, and now unto us. I don't visit my grandmother as much as I want to as she lives over an hour away and when I go I like to spend half the day there, so I rarely see her besides holidays and family functions. Getting to see her at least once a month as well as being fed and getting a great recipe is a wonderful idea. Tomorrows recipe is one of my favourites, Coconut rice filo pastry dessert, I can't wait.

Tomorrow's event has inspired me to cook a rustic Greek lunch, this one is not a family recipe, but something I have eaten before as a child.

ease: 4/5 - lots of prep time but technically easy.
prep time: 12hours (overnight soaking, you could prep the rest of the ingredients the night before.)
cooking time: 1 hour & 15mins.
total: 13 hours & 15mins.

taste: 3.5/5. Ryan found this too 'vegetarian'. I however enjoyed the soft beans with tangy tomato, sweet carrot and aromatic garlic dotted with dill. Really moreish and filling.
I made the following modifications:
  • I used 1 tin of 400g diced tomatoes
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 bunch dill only
  • Once the carrots were soft I cooked the tomato part for only 15mins before adding it to the beans
  • I cooked it for 20mins at 180C and 10mins at 200C

would I make it again: No - hubby doesn't like baked beans much,

recipe: Gigantes Plaki: Greek baked beans

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sumac lamb & ruby red grapefruit salad

Spring has quite certainly sprung and brought a big-ass wind of change with it.

Apart from some health concerns which I should have figured out by Monday (in the mean time I have been told to eat 'alkaline' foods), my husband and I have been as busy as bees getting our new store ready.

For the last 2 years we have run our online business from home which has allowed us to save on outgoings and be able to work as we need to. The downside is that it means we have customers coming into our home (something I still haven't gotten used to) and if we want to go on a holiday, we have to halt the business until we get back. Another reason is that the business takes up all the spare rooms in our house (and sometimes the main ones), and although we aren't planning to yet, someday we will be trying to have a child, and that child will need it's own room.

The store will provide us with the flexibility to be able to travel, and our home to be only a home. The downside is that I will no longer be working with my husband and therefore be with him 24/7 as we will need to train someone else so that we can both leave (we are planning a one month European vacation next year, hence the extra push to find someone to run the business for that month).

I'm not going to lie, I don't think I will like being away from my husband 8 hours a day when we haven't been separated for most of the 5 years we have been together. It will however be much easier to keep the house in order now that he won't be here all day to mess it up (and I will have a fuller head of hair now that I won't be pulling it out as much). I will also have more time to cook (big +) and do all those things I don't, like yoga, reading for fun, stock market trading, dancing around the house like a dork with a facial mask on (I just can't 'let go' when my husbands around, much too embarrassing, takes me out of the 'zone') etc. And at least I have my dog Yoshi for company so I won't be lonely.

Overall, the feeling in the house is one of excitement and anticipation, we are bouncing around like bunnies getting everything ready for the 'big move'. To keep our energy levels up I have been trying to get more 'healthy' food into us, so the sweets and heavy dinners loaded with cream and butter have taken a back seat lately. Salads have been something we rarely eat with our dinner so I have put a big emphasis on eating some this week. I can happily eat a substantial salad for dinner and feel satisfied, hubby though needs something meaty to go with it otherwise he feels slightly cheated.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
3mins - do salad whilst lamb is cooking and resting.
cooking time: 15mins - includes resting for 5mins.
total: 18mins.

taste: 4/5. I couldn't get watercress so I substituted with some gourmet leaves. I imagine it would give the dish a more pepperyness taste. The crisp salad gives way to sour, sweet and lastly bitter, juicy grapefruit which is counterbalanced by the smooth, creamy avocado. The taste of the pistachios is lost but they do add a nice crunch. I didn't care for the onions (but I'm not a fan of raw onion). Ryan said the lemony sumac lamb went well with the flavours of the salad. Overall this salad is quite sour.

would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: Sumac lamb & ruby red grapefruit salad

Coconut French toast with caramelised pineapple

Halfway through! I am halfway through cleaning, and I cannot wait until this week is over and I can spend the ENTIRE week after, doing almost zero cleaning and lots of reading and baking. Bliss!

Today I recruited my mother-in-law to help with some weeding (how fast do those nasty green monsters come back!) As you can tell by the excessive use of the exclamation mark, I am in high spirits and buzzing with energy. The house's cleanliness is directly tied to my happiness, so I am halfway to ecstatic as well.

With Ryan being at work from 10am-6pm I wrote a list (I adore list-making) and scheduled everything from breakfast to dinner and snacks in between. This is a big change for us as I used to only plan dinners and desserts, the new food planning has resulted in bigger, and more varied breakfasts. Whilst I have steered more towards savoury, there are still two or three sweet breakfasts per week.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 10mins.
total: 15mins.

taste: 3.5/5. I could not get pannetone so I subbed raisin bread and it became so soggy that it was falling apart. The flavours went well together, but it was a little strange for breakfast, I think I would prefer the pineapple fresh and on its own. The soggy texture is what ruined it for us though.

would I make it again: No.

recipe: Coconut French toast with caramelised pineapple

Monday, September 7, 2009

Dark Chocolate Tart with Gingersnap Crust

Photo taken when tart was cold from refrigeration - when warm the chocolate looks like mousse.

Where have I been? Five days since my last post is quite a stretch for me, I like to post regularly, daily if possible as I am always churning something out of my kitchen so the chances of one being lucky enough to have it's photo taken is quite good.

The lack of posts has been due to the lack of enjoyment in my food lately. My blasted digestive system is not playing ball with me at the moment. I haven't had much of an appetite, which for me is absolutely horrible as I love to feast.

My stomach is still quite grumpy, but that hasn't stopped me from making something sweet for Father's Day. I could not simply have my father over for tea without offering him something to glide his fork through in between sips. To counter the tummy aching effects the chocolate would no doubt cause me, I found a recipe that included ginger, which for me is an effective digestive aid that settles my tummy and satisfies my appetite.

Blood test results should be back soon, I hazard a guess that I might be lacking in some trace mineral or perhaps my refined sugar intake is just too high. I may just have to limit myself to making one sweet, not-so-healthy treat per week *sigh*.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 10mins.
cooking time: 30mins.
total: 40mins.

taste: 4/5. This tart is to be eaten warm or at room temperature. It is lusciously thick and densely mousse-like in texture and only the purest of creamy chocolate in taste. The crust juxtapositions this by being incredibly crunchy, crumbly and with a ginger kick. I did find however, that the crystallised ginger almost overpowered the chocolate, and most definitely smothered the crust's subtlety. I love to eat chunks of the sugared rocks, but with this they are a little too rough in their robustness.

would I make it again: No - and only because I feel that the Triple chocolate praline tart has simply ruined me for any other chocolate tart.

recipe: Dark chocolate tart with gingersnap crust

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Roast ocean trout with white bean purée and fennel salad

Lately I have been having some stomach pain whenever I eat (I do eat a lot of sugar so this may be the cause). With a blood test scheduled I thought that perhaps I should ease off the sweets today and try to eat healthier. I must admit that I did have a little bit of sesame brittle, but nothing else except yoghurt and a passionfruit, which for me is a unbelievably healthy (and minimal) half day of eating.

By the time dinner came around I was actually craving something light and healthy. I did have a leek and aged goats cheese tart lined up for tonight, but I just wasn't feeling it. So instead I swapped it with baked fish, cooked beans and raw fennel (fennel is my favourite vegetable to eat raw).

So far my tummy is feeling alright, but I think perhaps it is a signal for me to overhaul my diet - more veggies, less sugar (and by less I mean I will cut out all manufactured sweets but there is no way I can stop making desserts myself, perhaps a limit of three different home-made sweets a week would be fair). What is it about a change of season that tends to bring about changes in your life?

Is anyone else feeling a need to change their eating habits?

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 4mins.
cooking time: 18mins.
total: 22mins.

taste: 4/5. The first taste you get is the tangy lemon followed by the herbed fennel and then the creamy, garlicky beans and lastly, the soft ocean trout. Some of the capers gave a nice salty bite, but I found that most of them were too salty and overpowered the other softer tastes. Perhaps a vinegar caper would be nicer, or actual caper berries.
I didn't bother pulsing the beans (I used cannellini), I just squished them a little in the pan and they were lovely (I did have to drain some of the stock out though).
Overall this was a lovely dish with clean simple tastes that all complimented each other nicely - the fennel provides the crunch and crispy wateriness to counteract the other heavier soft textures. I cooked the fillets for 8mins to get them medium as that is what hubby likes (they still flake beautifully with a fork).

would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: Roast ocean trout with white bean purée and fennel salad

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Pork belly stuffed with Calvados prunes

This lunch dish was destined for a lovely dinner, but at the last minute it was shelved for some greasy vegetable noodles in a paper box.

I feel a little ashamed in how rushed this dish was, as it really deserves care and appreciation - however I had an appointment and it was made to fit in with my schedule, photos taken whilst halfway out the door. None of this took anything away from the end result as it was still delicious.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 50mins.
total: 1 hour.

taste: 4/5.
Ryan enjoyed this and didn't find the belly too fatty, the pork meat was soft and the skin was crackling crisp. I used a 700g pork belly and so halved the recipe. I didn't have any string but everyone still cooked well. My dad said you could definitely taste the Calvados with the prunes. It was enough for 3 with a side dish.

would I make it again: Yes - it was easy and tasted nice.

recipe: Rolled pork belly stuffed with Calvados prunes