Soup of the day

Soup of the day

 

Worst. Soup. Ever.


Wedding cupcakes

Wedding cupcakes

I made wedding cupcakes! These were for two really good friends who had one of the loveliest (and most fun) weddings I’ve ever been to. I was pretty proud of myself for these cupcakes, and I’m so happy for my friends. It was so exciting being able to contribute to their big day by way of baked goods.

I’ve blogged about this recipe before – Joy the Baker’s red velvet cupcakes. It really is just about the best cupcake recipe ever.

One day I’ll share the (slightly less elegant) cake I made for the hen’s party…


Easter eggs

Easter eggs

Happy Easter! Here are some Easter eggs I made – hard-boiled eggs, decorated with crayons and coloured with food dye. I made these purely for my own entertainment. They weren’t a ‘fun activity to do with the kids’. (Cause I don’t have any, or associate with many of them. Also, as a kid I thought these Easter eggs were lame – seriously, hard-boiled eggs, that’s it? Meh.) I didn’t even share them with anyone or take them anywhere. I just decorated my own hard-boiled eggs so that I could enjoy looking at them for the few seconds before I peeled them and ate them. Yep. There’s really not a lot more to say about it than that.


Awesome sauce

Tabasco chipotle sauce

People bandy about the term awesome sauce all to readily these days. It’s a pity, really, because it cheapens the term. And it makes it harder to convey just how awesome the Tabasco chipotle sauce is. It’s the definitive sauce. It wins. It doesn’t come in the standard Tabasco bottle, you know, the little one. It only comes in the big bottle, which makes sense; if someone gave you a small bottle of this sauce it would be almost like they gave you nothing. It would be a tease. It would be an insult. This is the kind of sauce you want to slather, not delicately sprinkle, over food. And you want to know that if you need more, there’s more there. Actually, come to think of it, it should only be sold in a twin pack, so you always know there’s more… No, wait, it should be pumped to your house through a chipotle Tabasco sauce tap right next to the water tap… instead of the water tap… no, scratch that, water, while not chipotle Tabasco sauce, does have its own merits.

The photo above didn’t capture the halo that is usually around the bottle. And it’s hard to express the immense sense of well-being that comes from having a full, unopened bottle in your hand. The possibilities! Everything becomes a vessel for sauce. You start planning meals based on what you can put the sauce on. Apparently, people even put it in their coffee.

Anyway, the point is, if you see this sauce, buy it. According to legend, it’s ‘the pride and joy of Paul McIlhenny, president of McIlhenny Company’, the makers of Tabasco sauce (and other things, apparently). He used to only share it with family, and now he’s given it to the world. What a dude.

In the interest of full disclosure, I purchased this bottle myself, and I do not represent the sauce industry or work for the McIhenny Company. But I totes would – they could pay me in sauce and I’d be happy.


Christmas ice-cream

Christmas ice-cream

The first post I put on this blog was a recipe for panna cotta that I made last Christmas, so this post for another Christmas dessert seems to be a milestone of sorts. I guess more than anything I’m surprised I’ve managed to actually blog as much as I have (and I know it’s not a lot), given that my food blogging talents lie more in lurking on other blogs than actually writing my on my own.

I had the idea for this recipe ridiculously early, like in about July or something. I worried that I would forget it for some reason so I wrote it on a post-it note and stuck it on my wall. Next to the notes for the important things I need to do, like write a thesis… It came to me when, strangely enough, I was drinking the key ingredient for this ice cream – Pedro Ximénez sherry. I’ve never been a fan of sherry, but Pedro Ximénez is different – it’s thick and sweet and tastes like Christmas pudding. Because I’m a crazy genius, I came up with the idea of putting something that tastes like Christmas pudding into ice-cream and calling it Christmas ice-cream.

This isn’t the most practical recipe to share on the blog because you really need an ice cream maker, which isn’t exactly a common piece of kitchen equipment. I don’t own one either (and I own other single-use appliances such as a pasta maker and a yoghurt maker), but luckily I could borrow my brother’s. Actually, I borrowed from all over the place for this recipe. I wasn’t sure of the best way to get the sherry into the ice-cream, and what other flavours to put with it, so this recipe is very much an amalgamation of many other ideas. For example, the ice-cream itself is the vanilla ice-cream recipe from David Herbert’s The Really Useful Cookbook (it really is, really useful). Then, I searched the internets for dessert recipes with Pedro Ximénez. I thought about adding some chocolate to the mix, but decided that was too complicated or something, and also thought about caramel and raisins, until I remembered that raisins are rubbish. Finally, I decided the best way to incorporate the sherry was to soak dried cherries (even though dried cherries are stupidly expensive) in it for a day or two, based on Joy the Baker’s recipe for cherry bourbon ice cream. Somewhere along the line, flaked almonds also got thrown in the mix.

I think for Christmas day we’ll have this with fresh berries and chocolate truffles. The best thing about it as my contribution to Christmas day lunch is that it’s already done. The worst thing about it is that I made four batches, well, five including the test one, and as a result I have a stupid number of egg whites in the freezer. And I refuse to eat egg white omelettes because the thought of them makes me depressed. First world problems can be such a drag.

Pedro Ximénez, sour cherry, almond and vanilla ice-cream
This recipe makes about a litre of ice-cream.

1/3 cup dried sour cherries
about 1 cup Pedro Ximénez
500 ml full-cream milk
1 vanilla bean
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup + 1 tbs caster sugar
250 ml thin cream
1/3 cup flaked almonds

Put the cherries in a jar with a lid and cover with sherry. Put the lid on and leave for a day or two. I left mine for a day, because I’m impatient, but I think two would have been better.

On the same day you cover the cherries with sherry, you can make the custard base for the ice-cream (it needs to cool completely before you can churn it in the ice-cream maker). Place the milk in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half and scrap the seeds out into the milk. Put the pod in the milk too. Heat over a low heat until it almost simmers and then remove from the heat.

Whisk the eggs yolks and caster sugar for 4-5 minutes until thick and pale. I used a food processor with a whisk attachment to do this. Add the milk and vanilla mixture in and whisk until combined.

Put the combined mixture back in the saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until it thickens slightly. It’s done when it covers the spoon (you should be able to run your finger down the back of the spoon and leave a path for a few seconds). Be careful not to overcook the custard, or let it boil, as it will curdle. It will take about 20-25 minutes, and you really can’t leave the kitchen in this time.

Strain the custard into a bowl, let it cool to room temperature and then put it in the fridge overnight. Discard the vanilla pods.

When you are ready to churn the ice-cream, lightly whisk the cream and then whisk it in to the custard. Churn it in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions (these are different for different machines so not worth noting here). While the ice-cream is churning, lightly toast the flaked almonds and let them cool. Strain the cherries (reserving the sherry), and chop roughly. When the ice-cream is almost set, add the almonds, cherries, and 2 tbs of the sherry.

The ice-cream will still be quite soft after it’s churned, so you will need to freeze it for a while before serving. Homemade ice-cream can be a bit hard and need to be warmed slightly before serving, but the alcohol in this keeps it soft and you can serve it straight from the freezer.

Sweet Adventures Blog Hop - Festive Favourites


Nobody knows the truffles I’ve seen

Chocolate truffles

I’ve been doing a lot of reading of food blogs for my masters (speaking of which, if you want to help me out by completing my survey of food blog readers, that would be most excellent), and one of the things I’ve noticed is how food bloggers like to talk about being food bloggers. There are numerous posts on food blogs across the world that start with statements like ‘you know you’re a food blogger when…’ or end with ‘…because I’m a food blogger’. To be honest, I think it’s endearing, but I guess I have a bias.

I didn’t really think I was a proper blogger until I went to the Eat. Drink. Blog. conference and Tammi, the MC, opened the conference by saying it was a ‘caveat free zone’ – we were (are) all, one way or another, food bloggers.

Since the conference, I’ve thought about the things that make me a food blogger. Other than, obviously, having a food blog. For example, most of the photos on my camera are of food. It seems I don’t take photos of people anymore. Maybe cannibal food bloggers have cameras full of pictures of people? It certainly would be a niche audience. The other thing that makes me think that perhaps I’m a real food blogger after all is how often I rate things to cook in terms of their blogability (totally a word). For instance, the other week when my friend asked if I would make 120 chocolate truffles for her mum’s wedding, I thought, ‘that would make a good blog post’, rather than ‘no’. What’s more, I didn’t just think it, I went ahead and made them.

Chocolate truffles have been on my list of things to blog about for a while anyway, and the blog really did need a new post. Also, buying 3kg of chocolate is kind of fun. See:

chocolate, 3kg

And here’s how it looks melted:

melted chocolate, lots of

Orange chocolate truffles
I’ve based this recipe on Luke Mangan’s recipe for white chocolate truffles in the October 2002 issue of delicious. I guess that means I’ve been making them for nine years. I used to make them for birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Easter and any other reason. National holidays. Flag days. Tuesdays. Now I just make them for Christmas. And the occasional wedding. You’d think I’d be able to make them neater by now, but I’ve always had a problem with getting them nice and round. These were no different, which is why I tarted them up with some gold foil. I kind of hoped people would be so impressed/distracted by the pretty, shiny gold leaf that they wouldn’t notice how amateur the truffles looked.

For the wedding I quadrupled this recipe, so this should make 30 or so, depending on how big you want to make them. These ones have orange liqueur in them, but I’ve made them in the past with coffee, amaretto, rum and ginger, cherry liqueur – you can really put any flavour in you want.

900g dark chocolate (around 70% cocoa), chopped
60g unsalted butter, chopped
110ml thick cream
70ml orange liqueur (I used Cointreau)

Place 500g of the chocolate and butter in a bowl, and melt over a saucepan half-filled with simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water).

Heat the cream and liqueur in a small saucepan until almost boiling. If it does boil it will likely spill over, so be careful. If it does spill over, get the person who asked you to make the truffles in the first place to clean it up.

Combine the melted chocolate and butter mixture with the cream and liqueur mixture. Pour this mixture, which, incidentally, is a ganache, into a dish and freeze for a few hours.

When the ganache is firm, scoop small balls out and place them on a tray covered in foil. Freeze for several hours or overnight – you want them to be really hard so they don’t melt when you coat them in chocolate.

Take the frozen balls out of the freezer and, if they’re particularly misshapen, you can roll them between your hands until they’re smooth(er) and round(er). You might then need to freeze them again.

Melt the remaining chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Using a fork, dunk the balls in the chocolate until covered. I sort of rest the ball on a fork, rather than pierce it, and dip it in the chocolate and then wait until the excess chocolate drips off. Then I carefully place the ball on a foil covered tray. Repeat until all the balls are covered and refrigerate until the chocolate is hard. You can dust them with cocoa powder, or sometimes, just before the chocolate is set, I top them with candied orange peel. Or, if you’re feeling fancy, gold leaf.


On grapefruit…

Grapefruit

Recently, I found myself in possession of a grapefruit. Not a lovely pink or ruby red grapefruit, mind you, a regular ol’ yellow grapefruit. It must be tough being a yellow grapefruit these days, living in the shadow of your pink and ruby red cousins. Needless to say, I wasn’t particularly enthused by the grapefruit. Had there been gin in the house I may have been more enthused, given that my favourite way to have grapefruit is in a gin and tonic with a splash of Campari. But, my lack of enthusiasm was trumped by my hatred of wasting food, so I set about finding a way to use the grapefruit. I guess, at this point, it could have occurred to me to just eat it, but I’m really not a massive fruit fan. And why does such an ordinary tasting fruit have to be so comically large? Grapefruit are all like ‘Yeah, I’m bitter, but there’s HEAPS of me’. I don’t know… do they want to be eaten or not?

Grapefruit cake

If I can’t combine fruit with alcohol to make it palatable, I usually try to find a way to bake it. And this is what I did with the grapefruit. Remember my lemon yoghurt syrup cake disaster (of course you do, I know how religiously you follow this blog!)? Well, I swapped the lemon for grapefruit. Revolutionary, I know. Swapping one citrus for another has NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE. Until now… It’s probably a bit early on in the life of this blog to start rehashing recipes, but I can’t think of anything else to write about this turned out so well I thought I’d put it up. Anyway, I’m not reposting the recipe because I didn’t really change it, I just used a bigger pan, which I greased AND lined with paper, and I put grapefruit zest and a couple of tablespoons of grapefruit juice in the cake mixture, and grapefruit juice and some orange peel in the syrup, because I’d used all the grapefruit rind by that stage. The cake is actually really nice with the grapefruit, the vast amount of sugar cancels out the bitterness, and it goes splendidly with a cup of tea and a hangover. Obviously, it would be even better with a pink or ruby red grapefruit.

Grapefruit cake and tea


A crunchy salad and a kitchen injury

celery, asparagus, walnut and fetta salad

It’s Heston Blumenthal’s fault that I burnt myself making this salad.

In The Fat Duck Cookbook, under the recipe for ‘Salmon Poached in a Liquorice Gel, with Black Truffle, Asparagus, Vanilla Mayonnaise and Manni Olive Oil’ (totally on my list of things to make and blog about…), Heston notes that asparagus is best cooked in oil, rather than water, because of the hydrophilic – that is to say, water-soluble – nature of the asparagus’s ‘aroma molecules’. So, in short, cooking asparagus in oil retains more flavour than cooking it in water.

I don’t habour any delusions of being able to cook like Heston, but when I read this I figured it was a tip I could easily employ. And it makes sense – when you cook asparagus in water the water does take on a very strong asparagus-y smell. The problem for me was that when I first made this salad, I threw the asparagus in a pan and didn’t realise how hot the oil was. Well, to be fair, I’d been cooking some zucchini fritters in the pan and the oil didn’t seem that hot. But when it splashed out onto my wrist, I realised that it was, in fact, quite hot. If it weren’t for Heston, I would have cooked the asparagus in water and probably just scalded myself…

Injuries aside, the salad was a success and was surprisingly tasty. To be fair, the common element of most things I find ‘surprisingly tasty’ seems to be cheese, which may go some way to explaining why I liked this salad so much… The first time I made it was to use up some sad, floppy celery stalks and a bunch of asparagus that was threatening to go slimy at the tips (hence why I felt the need to add cheese). The second time I bought the ingredients for it specifically, and it was better. It also stays fairly crunchy for a few days, so it was good to take for lunch.

Celery, asparagus, walnut and fetta salad
Serves 4

olive oil
1 bunch of asparagus
2-3 stalks of celery, chopped
handful of walnuts, toasted and chopped roughly
handful of fresh parsley and basil, chopped
splash of white balsamic vinegar, or a squeeze of lemon juice (I understand most people don’t have white balsamic vinegar, but I have a slight obsession with it)
cracked black pepper
about 50g fetta

Snap the woody ends off the asparagus. Chop into 2cm pieces.

Heat some olive oil in a pan that has a lid over medium heat. Heston says 2mm of oil… I just pour a splash in. Add the asparagus and cover the pan with the lid. Cook for about 5 minutes, then drain on a paper towel. Leave to cool.

When the asparagus is completely cool, combine in a bowl with the celery, walnuts and herbs. Add the white balsamic or lemon juice, pepper (however much you want) and a splash of olive oil and toss until combined. Crumble the fetta over the top. Jamie Oliver would tell you to do this ‘from a height’, and I have no idea what the benefit of this could possibly be. But now I always think it whenever I crumble fetta on things. The only benefit I can imagine is that it makes you feel like you’re on a cooking show. Anyway, that’s it, and when you serve the salad you can mix the fetta through a bit more evenly.


Mushrooms!

Well, this is an exciting development:

Mushrooms

It doesn’t look like there’s mush-room in there!

I bought this mushroom growing kit two weeks ago, so it’s pretty exciting to see some mushrooms coming through. I feel an immense sense of achievement, even though I didn’t really do anything – the mushrooms really did all the work. Yesterday morning these mushrooms were tiny, and today, bam!, full-sized, all grown up and ready to be eaten. Apparently mushrooms can double their size in 24 hours. 24 hours! That is crazy. I wonder how big they’ll get if I leave them… I could end up in a situation like this:

I don’t know, they seem like a bunch of fun-guys to me.

Yep. I went there. People wish they were this funny.


Apple crumble cheesecake

Apple crumble cheesecake

This cake is basically the best thing I make. I made it as a birthday present for my boyfriend, back when he was just a friend. It was possibly a turning point in our relationship… His favourite desserts were apple crumble and cheesecake (this cake is now the favourite), so I decided to combine them. To be honest, I expected it to be a novelty dish more than anything, so I was surprised when it turned out really well. The apples cut through the rich creamy-ness of the cream cheese, and with the base and the crumble topping the whole thing is encased by crunchy-ness.

This year he was at Burning Man for his birthday, so I made it before he left. The night before he left, actually, and I didn’t take any pictures of it. Ostensibly, I forgot. In reality, I figured it would give me a good excuse to make it again. He was already disappointed in how little of it he got to eat before he left (BTW, he did manage to get through about a third of it, and I did pack him some to eat for breakfast on way to the airport). My housemate Bec and I were left to eat the rest of the cake, and we were happy when it was gone because it wasn’t hanging over our heads any more. It was like some terrible chore – we knew, each night, that we’d have to eat some… First world problems are the WORST.

In an attempt to curb my depression resulting from not being able to go to Burning Man (read: to try and stop being a sook), I decided that I would make the cheesecake again for when he got back, but this time I’d make it from scratch. Well, scratch-ish because I didn’t make the sour cream, or mill the flour, or grow the apples… But, I did make something that approximates cream cheese and the biscuits for the base. While I think this went some way towards distracting me from not being on a crazy adventure in the desert, I don’t think it’s really necessary. The cake is better with store-bought cream cheese, although admittedly I didn’t make proper cream cheese, which would have probably been better but more work. The biscuits were good, but again, it doesn’t make much difference. The only reason you’d really bother is so you can say you did. I’ve included the recipes anyway, but don’t feel like you need to do this much work.

For the cream cheese: strained yoghurt

Upon some internet investigation, I discovered that a sort of cream cheese could be made by simply draining yoghurt. I wrapped a litre of yoghurt in some canvas and hung it over a bowl for about 12 hours:

Straining yoghurt

Yep, sophisticated. The end result is really just a thick yoghurt. It works fine in the cheesecake, but it’s lighter and not as creamy as cream cheese, and I don’t think it’s quite as good. But you can also use strained yoghurt in dips and as a spread, and turn it into labna if you want to marinate scoops of it in oil and junk.

For the base: digestive biscuits

I thought I’d make graham crackers (who calls a cracker Graham? Was he white? Is that racist?) for the base, just because I have a book with a recipe for them in it, but then I realised that while I’ve seen them used in recipes, I’ve never eaten them – they seem to be one of those American foods that I know about but for some reason has never reached our shores. So instead I decided to find a recipe for digestive biscuits, my biscuit of choice for cheesecake bases. I love digestive biscuits, in no small part because of their humble name. They don’t claim to be anything other than digestible, which one would hope all biscuits are. Good for them I say, you don’t want people to start expecting too much from a biscuit, that’s bound to end in disappointment. I based my recipe loosely on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe for River cottage spelt digestive biscuits. I say loosely because I didn’t have spelt flour or the inclination to source some, and I used half as much butter because I read the recipe incorrectly (I was tired – earlier that day I read ‘Optus’ as ‘Octopus’, making for a very confusing news headline).

But they came out pretty well. See if you can pick which one is homemade:

Digestives

Mine is the one on the right. Don’t feel bad if you got it wrong, I am pretty awesome. Anyway, here’s the recipe:

2 2/3 cup wholemeal flour
2 cups of oat bran
125 g butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 cup milk

Heat oven to 150°C. Combine flour, oats, butter, sugar, baking powder and salt in a food processor and blend until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add the milk a bit at a time until the mixture comes together. Roll the mixture out between two sheets of baking paper. Cut into large circles, about 8cm in diameter, and place on a tray lined with baking paper. Bake for around 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Apple crumble cheesecake

250g digestive biscuits, homemade or otherwise (or other sweet plain biscuits)
100g unsalted butter, melted
3 granny smith apples
Juice of half a lemon
3/4 cup caster sugar
500g softened cream cheese, or strained yoghurt
2 eggs
250g sour cream
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed firmly
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
60g unsalted butter, chopped
2/3 cup plain flour

Lightly grease a 23cm diameter, round, springform tin, and line the base with baking paper. Sprinkle the base and inside sides with flour. Dust off excess.

Finely crush the biscuits in a food processor. Mix in the melted butter. Spoon mixture into tin and press firmly to cover the base and sides evenly. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes, or until ready to assemble the cake.

Peel and core apples. Cut roughly into 2cm pieces. Put in a heavy-based frying pan with 1/4 cup of the caster sugar and the lemon juice. Cover and cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Strain and set aside, allowing to cool slightly.

Mix the cream cheese and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in food processor until light and smooth. Scrape down sides to ensure all is combined evenly. Add eggs and mix until combined. Add sour cream and mix until combined. The mixture will be runny and smooth.

To make the crumble, mix brown sugar, baking powder, and ground ginger in a small bowl. In a large bowl, rub butter into flour with your fingers to form pea-sized pieces that resemble bread crumbs (they don’t need to all be the same size). Add sugar mixture to flour and butter mixture and toss gently with your hands to combine

Preheat oven to 150°C.

Remove the base from the fridge to assemble the cake. Spread apples evenly over the base. Pour cream cheese mixture over the apples. Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the top of the cream cheese – gently so that the crumble doesn’t sink too much into the cheese. Cover the cream cheese evenly to the edges.

Bake the cheesecake for an hour or until set (feels firm, with only a slight wobble when you take it out of the oven). Cool in tin, and refrigerate overnight.