Monday, May 30, 2011

The Best Chocolate Cake Icing

Impressive huh. 

It wasn't! It was dry! And a bit boring! It wasn't great.

I had such high expectations too, since it was a What Katie Ate recipe, and her pictures always look so amazing. Maybe there's something to be said for pretty pictures that hide a not-so-pretty tasting result. I also know it may have been my fault, and not the recipe's. But a friend also baked it on the same day (coincidentally, great minds etc etc.) and she said the same thing, the cake lacked 'welm'.

I may be biased, since cake and me definitely don't have a friendly past. You're all privy by now to my sponge cake phobia, or maybe I should just stop making excuses for it.

After all that complaining (sorry Katie!), we can finally talk about the cake's savior. That icing. It's the icing to end all icings. Icing icing icing, I can't stop thinking about it. You can keep the cake, but I'll take a tub of the glossy, richly dark, espresso-spiked icing any day, and another to keep spare for desperate moments. 

The icing is almost like a mousse. It takes not one block but two blocks of 70% dark chocolate melted with a fantastically exorbitant amount of butter, vanilla and some espresso, it whips up into something transcendent. Yum. You'll love it, use it on cupcakes, or banana cake. Actually, yes! I would definitely slather it on a banana cake. Why didn't I think of that earlier!

A Chocolate Icing To End All Icings:
adapted from a Katie Quinn Davies recipe

200g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids, I use Lindt)
1 1/4 cups (280g) un-salted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tbsp pre-made instant coffee

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and icing sugar together in a medium bowl.

In another metal bowl, melt the chocolate over a pot of just simmering water, making sure the chocolate doesn't touch the water.

Add the vanilla and the coffee to the melted chocolate and mix to combine, the chocolate will seize up but don't worry. Add the chocolate mixture to the butter mixture and beat with electric beaters until glossy and smooth.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Good Food Crap Drawing

Gourmet Traveller's ex-Senior Designer, and friend, Anna Vu moved to NYC at the end of last year and we have just discovered her cuter-than-cute website good food crap drawing which is SO not crap.

She has been eating her way through NYC's Greatest Eats including Momofuku, various diners in Williamsburg, The Breslin, Egg and more, all the while drawing her conquests in texta. It's gorgeous and makes me wish I could draw, and be in NYC.

Vuvu, we miss you.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Homemade Ricotta

This is dangerous. I'm slowly learning to make the one thing I love the most. If things start moving any faster down this road you will soon have to direct all my mail to:

Miss Sophie McComas:
Number 1, Died-of-Cheese-Overdose Lane, Heaven. 2000

Oh, wait! I'm already in heaven. Cheese heaven. You can join me! It's seriously easy. All you need is some beautifully fresh, preferably organic whole milk, some citric acid and a medium-sized piece of muslin cloth. 
Voila, my lovers, FRESH RICOTTA CHEESE. 
Right at your fingertips and tonguetips.

This particular batch was whisked with some finely chopped mint, a shiver of chili flakes and a squeeze of lemon, was stuffed into a batch of zucchini flowers and baked until it was piping hot and oozing out the petals. A perfectly fitting Sunday night snack.

What's a girl to do when a vast chunk of her girlfriends are swanning around Argentina (jealous) and her boyfriend is playing with that thing called YouTube, engross herself in a bowl of perfectly fluffy, soft ricotta, that's what. 

Homemade Ricotta Cheese
Recipe from Spicy Ice Cream

1 liter fresher than fresh organic whole milk
1/2 a teaspoon of citric acid 

Line a medium-sized sieve with muslin cloth and place over a bowl. Set aside.
Heat the milk over a medium flame in a large saucepan. When the milk is warm, turn off the heat and gently stir in the citric acid. The milk will separate and the curds will rise to the top. Leave for 10 minutes. When all the curds have risen, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and spoon into the muslin-lined sieve, that's the ricotta! Leave ricotta to drain for 10 minutes for a creamy texture, or 15 minutes for a drier ricotta (I like mine creamy and loose).  Place the drained ricotta in a container in the fridge and eat within two days.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sparkling Rhubarb Royale

Today we're talking pink drinks.

What's the common stance on pink drinks these days? I know you shouldn't necessarily judge a beverage by its colour, but there must be a special form of categorization reserved for drinks that sizzle with the (faux) colour of an Australian sunburn.

Do you love to sip on a big, frosty strawberry daiquiri? Do you like your soda creamed and coloured a kissable tinge of ruby? Or do you reckon pink drinks are completely lame-assed in general?

I tend to think of daiquiris as my idea of sugar-coma hell. Rosé however, aka my sexy summer fling (our love will never die), is a whole other ball park. A bucket of barbecued prawns and a glass of crisp, blushing rosé is pretty high up there on the ever-expanding ream of dishes I would include on my last-supper-list.

This is a cocktail for the bitter lemons out there. The people who dig sourness over sweet. The colour isn't out of a bottle, it's a syrup collected from snap-fresh autumn rhubarb, mixed with a dry sparkling wine and cut through with this ingenious rhubarb bitters that I found in Camperdown Cellars in Darlinghurst. Have you tried flavoured bitters before? There are so many different sorts! I think all drinks in this house may be spiked with rhubarb bitters from now on. Fact.

So, the conclusion on pink drinks? Think we've found a winner.

Sparkling Rhubarb Royale
an original recipe
Makes a pitcher of cocktail

1 bunch fresh rhubarb, rinsed and chopped
1 1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons caster sugar
1 bottle dry sparkling wine (I used Chandon NV Brut) chilled
rhubarb bitters (Fee Brothers was the brand I found)

Place the chopped rhubarb and the water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Place the lid on the saucepan and gently simmer until the rhubarb softens, stirring frequently so the fruit doesn't stick.

When the rhubarb is soft (about 10 minutes) strain the rhubarb over a bowl and reserve the syrup, (keep the stewed rhubarb in the fridge to have over your breakfast muesli!) Rinse the saucepan and return the strained syrup to the pan. Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time to your taste, it should be quite sweet like a cordial. Heat over a low heat and simmer until all the sugar has dissolved. Ta Da! Rhubarb cordial! Pour into a bottle and refrigerate until needed.

Pour the cordial and sparkling wine into a jug and stir. Pour into glasses while still frothy and top each glass with 3-4 drops of rhubarb bitters.

You did it, you won at pink drinks.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Nail It

This is my new favourite colour for my fingertips; a soft, Alexander Wang-esque minty green from Essie that looks pretty against grey, the depressingly-grey winter sky that is.

What is your favourite nail polish colour at the moment?
Divulge your secrets!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Kim Boyce's Pear and Buckwheat Pancakes

I went on a little Book Depository spree a while back, and the purchases have gradually trickled into our mail box. First, Heidi Swanson's perfectly beautiful Super Natural Every Day showed up, David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop, and finally Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain, stuffed full of baking ideas using alternative grains and flours. Bye bye wheat flour... helloooo buckwheat.

Buckwheat has a dark, full and earthy flavour. Stirring up the grey-ish batter was a tad alarming but they fried up well in a pan that had been rubbed with butter, their edges golden and crisp with a fluffy centre, flecked with slivers of grated pear. It's hard not to be sold on these, for better or for worse.

My Grandmother owns a little piece of land in the Southern Highlands of NSW, which is shared between all of us. In a corner of a far paddock, the gardener there keeps beehives filled with bee's that circle Sutton Forest, dipping in and out looking for flowers. Every once in a while he gives us all a few jars of the deeply floral, amber honey that he collects from the hives and a generous drizzle (or puddle) was smothered over these pancakes this morning, talk about bang for your buck... wheat.

It's mother's day tomorrow, I think she would like these.

Pear and Buckwheat Pancakes
adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup whole grain plain flour
3 tablespoons caster sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 1/4 milk
1 egg
2 ripe but firm pears, peeled

Sift and combine both flours, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk the melted butter, milk and egg together in another medium bowl until well combined. Using the largest grating side of a box grater, grate the pears over the bowl of wet mixture so the pears and juice fall into the bowl. Add the pear mixture to the dry ingredients, and fold in gently with a spatula to combine. Be careful not to over-work the mixture. The batter should be slightly thick flecked with shreds of pear. The batter is best when used immediately, if you leave it overnight in the fridge it will be very thick and you will have to thin it out a little with a tablespoon at a time of milk.

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat, and rub it with butter (the butter is key to lovely crisp edges). Dollop the batter into the pan, cooking two or three at once. Once the mixture starts to bubble, flip them over and cook on the other side until they are golden, about 5 minutes all up. Keep warm while you cook the rest of the batter, eat immediately drizzled with honey.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Orto Trading Co. Surry Hills

Gosh darn it I love getting free snacks from bars and restaurants. Is it really that hard to give patrons a little pre-dinner nibble while they wait, drink in hand? A complimentary roasted nut here and there? A stick of grissini perhaps? Orto Trading Co, from the brains of Redfern's popular Baffi & Mo cafe and currently Surry Hills' newest sprout, understands this yearning. A mini bucket of hot truffled popcorn is placed ever so sweetly in front of us as we wait for our seats at the bar. Huzzah!

The entrées are interesting, and it's nice to see a good spread of vegetarian options available to match the meat-heavy list of hearty mains. The date, pine nut, pumpkin and sage parcels (they looked like ravioli to me) are sweet, buttery and flavoursome, the slippery casings topped with crisp fried sage.

The mains come served on huge wooden serving boards and are absolutely massive, designed to share; each dish showcasing pristine, seasonal produce. The slow roasted pork shoulder is served with crisp Brussels sprouts, carrot purée with hazelnuts and a toffee-dipped pear, each element matched perfectly to the juicy, succulent meat, ribboned with crunchy, salty crackling. We spied a particularly inviting dish of glistening quince-glazed duck with pancetta, radicchio and figs on the next table over. Cue order envy.

The chocolate mousse with salted caramel sauce was unavailable when we went, although the quince and pear crumble topped with ginger ice cream and warm vanilla custard was a ship-shape replacement. The ceilings are high and the windows are large, the space is well-lit with vintage milk bottles strung up over the bar, pots of herbs and gardening paraphernalia are placed around the room and outside, giving the impression you're dining in a particularly well-furnished greenhouse serving a pretty smashing dinner.


Guess what, you can book here too! Finally, a restaurant where you can book.


Orto Trading Co.
38 Waterloo St, Surry Hills
Lunch: Thur-Sat from 12pm, Dinner from Tues-Sat 5pm-10pm