Friday, October 29, 2010

Jasmine & Ginger Cordial

I got this recipe from a friend named Alice, who got it from her boss, who said that you could make a syrup from any kind of edible flower; jasmine, roses, honeysuckle, lavender, violets, the entirety of your neighbours perfectly manicured garden could be cordialised and bottled if you wanted.

Spring has exploded around here, the jasmine vine at the bottom of our garden has puffed out into a plume of fragrance that reminds me of twilight bbq's and beers in the pool. Summer's a comin' lovelies and it's time to catch up!

The process of infusing the flowers in the sugar syrup kind of reminds me of that movie Perfume, you know that part where Jean-Baptiste travels from Paris to Grasse to learn how to capture the essence of flowers to make perfume? This is the same deal, minus the serial killer undertones. I added some sliced ginger to the mix to add a little heat, I wanted the jasmine to be subtle, and to not taste like the contents of Grandmas soap dish. I bet you can see or at least smell jasmine right now, it's everywhere, go pick a few bunches.

Jasmine & Ginger Cordial
adapted from Alices recipe (merci beaucoup!)

2 cups caster sugar
1 cup water
1 cup picked and rinsed jasmine flowers
1 knob of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat and stir with a wooden spoon until all the sugar has dissolved (this is called a simple syrup for future reference). When all the sugar has dissolved and has a syrupy consistency, remove from the heat and add the jasmine flowers and the sliced ginger. Leave to infuse for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. After 1 hour strain the syrup into a jar or bottle and seal. Will keep for ages! the syrup is great mixed with sparkling mineral water and a slice of lemon on a hot spring day.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

You're Starting to Grate On My Nerves

Got a giant carrot, or hunk of Parmigiano you want to grate? Head down to the Sculptures By The Sea exhibition at Bondi until the 14th Nov. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Women's Weekly Train Cake

(Photo by the lovely Amy Robinson)

Remember back in the good ol' days when every year on your birthday your Mum would pull off the shelf the Women's Weekly Kids Birthday Cake cookbook (which they are reprinting next year FYI) and you were allowed to thumb through the well worn pages and pick out the cake you wanted for your birthday? Be it the farm cake, the barbie doll princess, The letters one to nine decorated with sliced marshmallow flowers and liquorice racing tracks, the swimming pool, the lion or the best one of all, the train?

We had a surprise party for a friend of ours on Saturday. It was a good old fashioned party with streamers, balloons on the front door (semi giving away the surprise), sausage rolls and lava-hot party pies. I re-ignited my deep-seated fear of people popping balloons with their bare hands and got all misty-eyed over the nearly forgotten birthday cake, usually replaced these days with the apparently more fashionable macaron tower or cupcake tier. What could be better than a chocolate train cake filled with a cargo of marshmallows and mini m'n'm's? Nuffin mate.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pork and Fennel Meatballs with Eggplant Ragu

In the last couple of weeks I have...

Argued with my hairdresser for 45 minutes about whether to cut my hair short or not (did it)...

Had nightmares about the mountain of wine bottles I needed to source for work...

Had a life-changing burger experience at PorteƱo (pulled pork with coriander and smoked paprika aioli, a glimpse of a burger-fuelled Argentinean heaven)...

Jumped into Sydney Harbour without thinking about how I would get myself out again...

Ate a cake shaped like a train...

And made meatballs.

This all might sound like mundane stuff to you, but in fact, it's been glorious. Except for the oyster cuts on my knees, jumping in the harbour on a whim in my knickers should have been planned a little better. Oysters; tasty on the tongue, rough on the knees.

This dish was somewhere up there in the fun stakes next to the train cake, which will be featured here soon, and FYI that means super-fun. I love squidging raw mince with my fingers.

The eggplant ragu was bookmarked immediately when I came across it on Luisa's luscious blog over at The Wednesday Chef (go visit RIGHT NOW, she was the complete inspiration behind Stovetop Revolution). She called it "let my eggplant go free! sauce" and was totally right (as always). The eggplant is let out of it's cage, it is melted down into an ugly, albeit fabulous, brown swamp, which coats the meatballs and soaks into the spaghetti like a light fog.

Pork meatballs need fennel, there is no room for query here, it is a must. They sing yet don't scream with each bite. The process of rolling up the balls of meat must also be accompanied with a glass of crisp white wine, you look like you need it.

Pork and Fennel Meatballs with Eggplant Ragu:
Eggplant sauce adapted from The Wednesday Chef

serves 3

1 slice fresh white bread, shredded and crusts removed
1 teaspoon milk
250g pork mince
2 garlic cloves, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds crushed in a mortar and pestle
1 egg
2 tablespoons finely shopped flat leaf parsley
2t tablespoons olive oil

eggplant ragu
1 large eggplant sliced into 2cm slices
sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup chicken stock (or water)
2 sprigs oregano, chopped
1/2 a can of diced tomatoes

Lightly salt the eggplant slices and stack back together. Leave to drain for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the meatballs; soak the torn bread slice in the milk until is is all absorbed. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix together using your hands until all combined. Season with salt and pepper. Roll out about three tablespoons of the mixture (or however big you like) into balls. Heat oil in a large saucepan and cook meatballs, turning occasionally for about 5 minutes or until cooked through. Set aside and cover with foil to keep warm. 

Dry eggplant slices with paper towel and chop into cubes. Heat the oil with the garlic in a large saucepan. When the garlic starts sizzling add the eggplant and toss to coat in the oil. Saute the eggplant until soft and translucent, add the oregano and stir. Add the stock and bring to the boil. (at this point put on the spaghetti!) 

When boiled, turn the heat down to medium low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes or until all the stock has pretty much absorbed. Mash it up with a fork until it's well... saucy... add the tomatoes and stir until it comes to the boil. Let simmer for 5 minutes.

Add meatballs and spaghetti to the sauce and toss to coat. Serve with freshly chopped parsley and grated parmesan.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Burger Baby

source unknown (sorry!)

Dear Halloween Fairy,

May I please have this to wear trick-or-treating and/or for general wear and tomfoolery.

Sincerely yours,

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Polenta Crusted Herb Fishcakes

Is it too obvious to pair fishcakes with a fish plate? Do you wish I were more subtle and crafty? Well I'm not. And I like this plate. The colours are pretty.

These are the easiest, most wonderful fishcakes in the world. The best bit is the crunch from the polenta on the outside. The new love of my life, Green Goddess Dressing is the perfect match for them. The ginger hums underneath the flavour of the herbs and sets the fish off with an almost Japanese-style flavour.

Super easy.

Super quick.

Super healthy.

Polenta Crusted Herb Fishcakes
Adapted from Good Taste Magazine (Feb 2000)

Serves 4

375g boneless red snapper fillets, roughly chopped
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 tbs chopped fresh continental parsley
2 tbs chopped fresh dill
2 tbs chopped fresh mint
2tbs grated fresh ginger
Sea salt & ground black pepper, to taste
juice of 1 lemon
120g (2/3 cup) polenta
1 egg, whisked
1/2 a cup peanut oil

Serve with Green Goddess Dressing recipe here
Add fish, onion, herbs, ginger, salt and pepper and lemon juice top a food processor and pulse until combined but not too smooth (about 6 pulses).
Scoop about 4 tbs of the mixture out and shape into patty shapes. Dip into the egg, and then dip into the polenta to coat, and set aside.
Heat peanut oil in a large frying pan and when hot, add fishcakes in batches of 4, cooking for 2 minutes on each side or until just cooked through.
Serve immediately with Green Goddess Dressing on the side.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Ardbeg Whisky Committee's 10th Anniversary Rollercoaster Party

Remember the Easter Show? With showbags, fairy floss, rollercoasters, animals and sideshows? Remember that time when you ate two whole showbags and threw up on the ghost train? Well this party was something like that, minus the cow manure, the deep fried dagwood dogs, the carnies and the vomit.

There were Ardbeg whisky cocktails abound, including my favourite of the night, The Barry complete with apple juice, Ardbeg 10 year old whisky, bitters, lemon and apple slices to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Ardbeg committee, the coolest club going around it seems. Ardbeg released the Rollercoaster, an exclusive whisky released just for committee members which samples and showcases rare casks from the past decade. Chin chin!

The Flinders Hotel was decked out a-la-carnival, complete with a wooden sexy strongman manning the door, coloured lights and the only southern style carnival food you want to remember, stuffed potato skins, popcorn chicken, hot dogs, fairy floss, the works, prepared by ex Tetsuya's chef, Thomas Lim, (who knew you could make hot dogs Tetsuya-style?)

Guests were meandering about with little plush puppies poking out of their purses that they had won on the laughing clown game. Yours truly included, I tried my hardest to win the hip flask or the mini bottles of whisky but to no avail, the puppy is now called Allan, thanks for asking! 

On the way out, bypassing the fake tattoo artist in the corner who was busy adorning women's necks with sketches of birds, I got all up in a sticky, glorious mess thanks to the cloud of fairy floss that was devoured for dessert, turning a blind eye to the distorting carnival mirrors that make your bum look wider and your head shrink.

Thanks for the party, Ardbeg. Hope that's not my bra hanging from the bar...

all images courtesy of BLACK Communications

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sydney Food Bloggers Spring Picnic 2010

So.... this was my nicely smooth and glossy triple ginger cake with honey marshmallow icing that I baked for the 2010 Food Bloggers Spring Picnic last Saturday... All perfectly plated and ready to be transported to the event.

Turned up to centennial park, saw the group of people standing around wearing funny hats, marched up to them feigning confidence in my cake-baking skills and blushed in horror when I figured out that not only had I forgotten a box/cover for my extra-sticky cake, but upon putting it down, someone plonked their jacket on top of it and had smooshed the icing all over the place. The glossy marshmallow exterior was no more! What was left was a dirt and grass be-speckled embarrassment, hardly worthy for a food bloggers event! Oh the shame.

Lucky I took this photo before the carnage.
It really is a spectacular cake, inspired by this absolutely beautiful blog trotski & ash that I have recently stumbled upon.

I changed the recipe a little, omitting the sultanas and adding the icing and crystallized ginger on top. The icing LOOKS pretty but it really is too chewy and sticky to be appropriate for a cake, when I make this cake again (which will be in the very near future let me tell you), I think I'll make cupcakes instead, the icing would be seriously easier to deal with when there is only one person eating it.

The cake is fresh and zingy with a plume of heat at the end. The three types of ginger round it out and intensify the flavour. Make it the day before and wrap it in foil to let it "mature", I promise you it will be worth the wait.

Here are some pics from the picnic, it was so lovely to meet you all and taste your fantastic food!

Triple Ginger Cake with Honey Marshmallow Icing:
adapted from Trotski & Ash

250g self-raising flour
2 level tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
a pinch of salt
200g golden syrup
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp finely chopped crystallised ginger
125g butter
1 thumb sized nob of fresh ginger, grated
125g dark brown sugar
2 large free-range eggs
240ml milk
2 bags of vanilla marshmallows (approx 200g)
squeeze of lemon juice
2 tablespoons of honey

Grease and line a square cake tin around 20-22cm.
Preheat the oven at 180 degrees C. Sieve the flour with the ground ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and the salt. Put the golden syrup, the honey and the butter into a small saucepan, and warm over a low heat. Dice the crystallised ginger finely then add it to the pan with the fresh ginger and brown sugar. Let the mixture simmer on low heat for a minute, stirring occasionally to keep everything moving. Watch the mixture doesn't bubble over, take off the heat if it looks very frothy.
Break the eggs into a bowl, pour in the milk and whisk together. Remove the butter and sugar mixture from the heat and set aside to cool slightly. Pour the hot mix into the flour, stirring smoothly and firmly with a large metal spoon. Mix in the milk and eggs to this mixture. The mixture should be sloppy, with no trace of flour.

Scoop the mixture into the non-stick or lined cake tin and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a skewer, inserted into the centre of the cake, comes out clean. Unless you are serving it warm, leave the cake in its tin to cool, then tip out on to a sheet of greaseproof paper. Wrap it up again in foil and leave to mature for a day or two before eating.

When the cake has cooled completely, place the marshmallows in a microwave bowl and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds (check it every 10 seconds) until all melted. Whisk in the honey and the lemon juice until the icing is smooth and glossy. Let it cool a little then spread on top of the cake, working from the centre, letting it drip down the sides. Garnish with some chopped crystallised ginger on top in the middle.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Chocolate, Hazelnut & Coconut Ice Cream

Check it out I made you a big bowl o' ice cream.

I even let my toes sneak into the picture for a giggle.

This particular ice cream was conceived as a bet, the kind made over a few beers at the pub, mingled in with conversation about whether or not it's considered grotesque to consume a tub of frozen cream a day.
(P.S. it's not if it's homemade)

I'd apparently promised ice cream before and had never brought it over, and so it started.
The Ice Cream Wars.

The battle to create the perfect ice cream.
This here, is exhibit A.

This ice cream was devoured after a long night of trivia at the Four in Hand. We discovered they weren't serving any dessert that night, straight after we discovered that we had come fifth last. Who bloody knows the seven nations in the world with the word 'and' in them anyway?

This ice cream made up for all that. And I didn't have to pay up the $10 bet money. Phew!

Back to The Ice Cream Wars, keep your eyes peeled for weird and wonderful flavour combo's as the weather heats up.
It's on.

(p.s I have put back up the followers gadget for a little while, apparently people were not able to follow without it, so get in quick!)

Chocolate, Hazelnut & Coconut Ice Cream:
A stovetop original recipe
1 x 180g block of good quality dark chocolate (I use Club)
250ml coconut milk
250ml thickened cream
100g brown sugar
100g hazelnuts, roasted, skins removed and roughly chopped
Melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a simmering pot of water. When it has melted, remove from the heat and whisk in the coconut milk until smooth and combined. Cover the chocolate mixture and place in the fridge until completely cool (or in the freezer to speed up the process).

Once the chocolate mixture has cooled (but not hardened), remove it from the fridge. Whip the cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Sift in brown sugar and stir to combine. Stir in chocolate mixture. Churn in an ice cream maker for 20 minutes or until firm. Transfer to a freezer-proof container, stir in the chopped hazelnuts and freeze for four hours.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Do You Eat It?


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Lemon Ricotta & Poppy Seed Cake With Fresh Lemon Curd

Once, I had this weird poppyseed scroll thing, and it put me off poppy seeds for about four years. It was Hungarian, I think? And was stuffed with millions and millions of poppy seeds that tasted stomach-churningly foul and reminded me of millions of little black ants spilling out of the pastry and scurrying around. I feel nauseous just thinking about it. I figured it was time to change my poppy seed fate and turn over a new leaf.
This cake is a fine place to start.

One of the girls at work was testing this recipe and brought it into the office around 3.30pm on a wednesday afternoon (I don't think i'm ever going to get over having a desk near the test kitchen), smack bang in the middle of prime eye-droop time.

The cake saved me from an embarrassing energy slump that would have resulted in me face down in a puddle of drool for the rest of the afternoon. It is stunningly moist, with crunch from the seeds. The lemon curd adds the zing you need to combat the creamy lactose overload this cake has got going on.
I had never made lemon curd before,
winner winner chicken dinner!

Lemon Ricotta & Poppy Seed Cake With Fresh Lemon Curd:
Recipe from the Pickles Sisters Cafe in Wahgunya via Gourmet Traveller

Lemon curd

250 gm butter, chopped
250 gm caster sugar
6 eggs, beaten
Finely grated zest and juice of 6 lemons


50 gm firm ricotta
250 gm softened cream cheese
200 gm caster sugar
6 eggs
395 gm (1 can) condensed milk
200 gm poppy seeds
For dusting: plain flour

For lemon curd (make sure you do this first because half has to go in the cake, the other half to serve) melt the butter in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. When it has melted, add the sugar and stir until smooth and dissolved. Add the eggs, stir to combine, then add lemon rind and juice. Stir continuously until the curd thickens and coats the back of a spoon. (In the recipe it said this took only 3-5 minutes, but I was standing there for about 20, in the end I got so sick of it that I just poured the mixture into a saucepan on med-low heat and it sped it up a lot. Although watch out it doesn't get too hot or your eggs will scramble.)
Cover the surface with cling wrap and place in the fridge to set.

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C. For the cake, whip the ricotta and the cream cheese in an electric mixer until very smooth. Add sugar, beat to combine and add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add condensed milk, poppy seeds and half the lemon curd. Mix to combine. Butter and lightly flour a 26cm diameter spring form cake tin and pour the cake mixture in, give it a gentle tap to remove any air bubbles.

Bake in the oven for 1-1 1/4 hours or until there is just a slight wobble in the middle. Cool completely in tin and serve with lemon curd.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Cabbage, Broad Bean and Fennel Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

I promised you the dressing and now i'm dressing down and delivering you the dressing. 
Wearing a dressing gown. 

I snapped broad beans for the first time this weekend. As thrilling as it sounds, podding beans turned out to be a chat stimulant, it kind of felt like we were old school Victorian maids sitting and gossiping in a scoured clean scullery, podding beans for the master's supper or something. 
Even though we were sitting on the couch drinking a particularly fresh lychee and mint white wine sangria with scruffy hair and painted nails with the football grand final in the background.

A kilo of broad beans turns out to be about 200g of shelled beans once you have done podding and shelling them. They look so naked once you have plucked them from their cosy, furry beds and popped them out of their shells, revealing their luminous green hearts. If I had such a cosy bed I wouldn't be happy either.

Green Goddess Dressing. Such a glamorous title for such a simple combination. Handfuls of the freshest green herbs you can find, yoghurt, mayo and lemon juice. Could there be a better salad to welcome the first taste of spring? 
Doubt it.

Cabbage, Broad Bean and Fennel Salad with Green Goddess Dressing:
dressing adapted from a Bill Granger recipe

serves approximately 7 people as a side

half a head of purple cabbage, very thinly shredded (preferably on a mandolin)
half a head of white cabbage, very thinly shredded
1/4 head of fennel, very thinly shredded, almost paper thin.
1kg broad beans (ends up being about 200g once shelled)


large handful of watercress sprigs
100g natural yoghurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
large handful of mixed herbs (such as dill, basil, mint and parsley, chives)
2 spring onions, chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Combine shredded cabbages and fennel in a large salad bowl. Pod the broad beans and boil in a pot of salted water for one minute, drain and refresh in a bowl of iced water. Remove the outer shell of the broad beans by pinching the bottom of the bean and popping out the inner bean. Drain and toss with salad. 

For the dressing, place all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Pour over salad and toss to coat. 

Dressing will last approx. 1 week in a jar in the fridge.