Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Tag You're It! Recipe Meme

The lovely Linda of Make Life Sweeter has tagged me for my first ever meme and this one is about recipes. Much like her I tend not to respond to most chain letters/emails, but this one seems a little more kind-spirited than the “send this to 100 people in the next 10 minutes or you will get bad luck” type chain letters. So far no bad luck yet.

From where do you obtain the recipes you prepare?
I take them pretty much from everywhere,
Some from magazines like the
Donna Hay Magazine and Gourmet Traveller;
some from the Internet;
sometimes from watching the
Lifestyle Food Channel;
and also from my meagre collection of cookbooks.


How often do you cook a new recipe?
I like to aim for at least two to three new creations per week. I am very new to food and cooking so 70% of recipes I make are in theory new to me.

Where do you store your favourite recipes?
My favourite recipes are mainly in my cookbooks, which do not have a permanent home. They are all scattered throughout the house. I also have a growing collection of snippets of recipes from newspapers, magazines and the Internet in a clear blue folder which I refer to a lot.

How large is your recipe pile? Is it organized? If so, how?
Like I stated before I have a growing pile of recipes in my blue folder. It started off organised, with everything filed into categories, now I just shove new recipes in there as that it is slowly getting too full.

What is the oldest recipe in your “to try" pile?
My passion for food is only newfound, but since the start I have wanted to make brioche, but have been intimidated by it. So it’s probably been a year of pining for brioche but not having the courage to make it. I like to bake, but breads are not my strong point.

Are you ever going to make those recipes in your to try pile?
I never like to cook just for the sake of cooking; I always cook out of desire. So if I ever get the urge to make those recipes I will definitely do so. Also as time goes by I hope to be a more confident cook so I’m sure I will get around to those recipes that intimidate me now.

Do you follow a recipe exactly or modify as you go?
Most times I try to stick to the recipe, although sometimes I leave out some ingredients that I don’t like or substitute. As long as I am confident in the basic recipe I am quite happy to deviate. But for the first time I usually stick to the recipe.

What is one new recipe that you’re scared to try?
Like I mentioned before I am intimidated by brioche, but mostly yeast breads in general. Yeast scares me.

Tag at least one new food blogger for this meme (“new" as in only blogging a few months).
Kestypes of A Year's Worth of Eating. For making bread so fearlessly, I admire you.

Tag at least one food blogger you visit regularly but never interacted with?

Tania of The Candied Quince.

Tag at least one food blogger you constantly visit and leave comments.
The domestic goddess Suyin of The Jourmal of the Girl who Loves to Cook.

Cupcake Your World: Part One

To date, I have probably visited Cupcakes on Pitt about six times. Two of those six times have been on a weekend and regrettably the shop was closed. Also those two times that I happened to frequent the closed shop, G had been with me. Although not a cupcake enthusiast, both those times he was not only disappointed by the “no-cupcake” fiasco but also by the fact that we had walked so eagerly all the way from Haymarket to Pitt St only to find the shop closed.

So after two failed attempts at sampling cupcakes G was determined and we came back for our third time together, a little disillusioned but nonetheless hopeful. Would they be open this time? Well today was in fact a weekday so I was quite certain they were open, as my successful visits in the past were on weekdays.

When we arrived it certainly did not disappoint, the shop front was filled with their usual array of goodies. Chocolate, Cherry, Peppermint, Vanilla, Strawberry, White Chocolate, Cookies and Cream, Honeycomb, Jaffa, Tiramisu, Passionfruit and Lemon Meringue cupcakes were all sitting ever so prettily in the window.

As a coffee lover G opted for the Tiramisu and I, having already tried many of their other exotic flavours opted for classic Vanilla. We also picked up a Lemon Meringue and a Strawberry to share with family members we were seeing later that afternoon. The cake was moist and spongy and the frosting light and not overly sweet. G’s curiosity for these cupcakes had finally been satiated. He and I are still partial to my own homemade cupcakes; biased I know, but at $3.50 a cupcake the effort of making them yourself is still well worth it. However it's nice to be able to get cupcakes while on the go. I asked the ladies working there if it was all right to take photographs of their lovely cupcakes and they happily consented. Apparently most carry out guerilla-style photography; running up to the shop front quickly snapping away at the cupcakes and then just dashing off. They said that they actually don’t mind people taking photographs of the cupcakes, although most people don’t ask. I’m glad I asked.

We ate our cupcakes while sitting in the small amphitheatre in Ewenton Park, Balmain admiring the view. I love Sydney.

Sydney from Balmain

Cupcakes on Pitt
Shop 2, 323 Pitt St, Sydney

(currently not open weekends)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Chocolate Panna Cotta with Strawberry Compote

Lindt Chocolate

There are three blocks of dark chocolate sitting in my pantry and they have been sitting there for weeks. Well actually there are now only two. Which got me thinking about the countless number of times when I have been inspired to make a dish, so much so that I then go and buy the ingredients and then when I get home I somehow lose all that inspiration that I had in the first place. Where does it all go?

Well the inspiration to make something out of these blocks of chocolate had been lost in an abyss somewhere never to return and those blocks have been left sitting there for weeks, I even forgot what I was so stirred up to make. These untouched blocks of chocolate goodness were staring me in the face and each time I opened the pantry door I would be overcome by guilt, it was all too much. To add to this guilt, I also had a carton of unopened milk in the fridge and a punnet of strawberries that were about to spoil if not eaten immediately. It’s the kind of guilt your parents placed on you as a child, “Don’t waste your food, think of those starving children in Africa.” Well my concern for those starving children in Africa inspired me to make something, if now I could only share it with them.

To avoid gratuitous food-spoilage I decided to make Chocolate Panna Cotta with Strawberry Compote. In most kitchens and restaurants, the underlying intent is to use the freshest ingredients possible, sourced, cooked and eaten that very same day. However the philosophy dictating my kitchen at recent times has been the “cook it before it decomposes” principle. It’s sad, but it’s true. And sadly this recipe was exactly that case. However in my opinion, they tasted just as good as if they were bought and made that day, and technically the milk still had two days to go before it was past its prescribed use-by date.

Chocolate Pannacotta with Strawberry Coulis

I got the recipe for the Chocolate Panna Cotta in Gourmet Traveller’s
Chocolate publication. In my haste I got the measurements for the gelatine wrong so they did not set as firmly as desired, they were barely holding their shape, but this did not affect its taste. The recipe also had an accompaniment of strawberry sauce for the panna cotta, although it required a tablespoon of kirsch, which at the time I didn’t have or let alone knew what it was. (Now I do know that kirsch is a cherry flavoured liqueur made from black cherries.) So due to a lack of kirsch in my kitchen I decided to make strawberry compote instead. It’s best to make the compote while the panna cottas stand, then it will also have time to infuse.

Strawberry Compote

1 punnet strawberries, trimmed and halved
¼ cup fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1/8 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Whisk together orange juice, sugar and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Pour mixture over strawberries in a bowl and set aside to macerate until panna cotta is ready to serve.

SHF: All Spiced Up

Ginger Cake

This is officially my first entry into Sugar High Friday! Ruth from Once Upon A Feast is hosting for the month of May and this month’s theme is ginger. As a new convert who is singing the praises of ginger, I was particularly excited to rise to this challenge.

As a child I never liked ginger, my immature palate had not yet accommodated for its pungent aroma and spicy flavour. And then all of a sudden I get older and see the light, I am converted and for a period of time all I could make were recipes that included ginger. Luckily those days are over and my ginger neurosis is now being carefully managed. However, this single-minded application of ginger helped to increase my repertoire of ginger-related recipes so all I needed to do for this SHF was access my ginger-recipe storehouse and take my pick. What I decided to make was not necessarily my most impressive ginger recipe, if there were any to speak of, but my most favourite one- Sticky Gingerbread.

As mentioned, this gingerbread has to be my favourite hands down. Instead of using molasses to create the stickiness, a syrup using light beer, dark muscovado sugar and bicarbonate of soda is made instead. Using muscovado sugar really gives the gingerbread a depth of sweetness that you would not achieve using other sugars, even dark brown sugar. So really try to source this sugar as that it is definitely worthwhile. Nigella Lawson first introduced me to muscovado sugar with her Peanut Butter Squares recipe, and upon hearing that it was apparently "healthier" than conventional sugar I was sold. Most gourmet food stores and organic wholefoods stores in Sydney stock muscovado sugar, if it is not already available at conventional supermarkets.

I used the gingerbread recipe from Annie Bell’s Gorgeous Cakes, which also shows you how to make a rhubarb fool to fill the cake with. I am, as of now not a rhubarb enthusiast so I simply chose to fill the cake with some whipped cream which works just as well. Likewise, you can have the gingerbread all by itself as it is delicious either way. If you want to dress it up as I have, cut out any shape you like from cardboard or parchment paper and sift icing sugar through the template. Annie Bell also suggests adding some food colouring to the icing sugar if you want other coloured shapes.

Ginger Cake

The bread can become quite rich, expecially if paired with the cream or rhubarb fool, so I would suggest something light and soothing to drink it with. We happened to have some ginger tea in the pantry so it seemed quite appropriate to serve it with a drizzle of honey, but any herbal tea would also be nice.

Ginger Cake


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Pit Stop: Ripples Cafe, North Sydney

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Have you noticed that weddings have become a considerable venture not only for those partaking in the nuptials themselves, but also for guests attending the wedding? There is the preparation of getting dressed, remembering directions, not forgetting the present, taking the camera, getting to the church before the bride, then getting to the reception afterwards. It is quite a scale of operations and that's speaking only for guests. Then there is the issue of what do to in the lull between the ceremony and reception. Whilst the bridal party are off happily getting their photographs taken and basking in the spill of marital euphoria, guests are haplessly left to ponder how to idle away the few hours in between. Catastrophic I know.

Luna Park Ferris Wheel

Herein lied our predicament Saturday afternoon, there were three hours to our leisure between ceremony and reception, so what do in those few hours? Since 2005 I have been to five weddings in total, and this year I am slated in for three so far. So for G and I, this quandary is quite genuine. One of the three weddings took place just last weekend, the reception was in North Sydney, so G and I decided to spend our time with another friend at Ripples Cafe. Located next to the North Sydney Olympic Pool and just a stone's throw away from Luna Park. The view at Ripples is bar none with the imposing structure of the Harbour Bridge close enough to touch. Ripples Cafe is the casual dining venture from the team responsible for Aqua Dining, located just on the other side of the pool.

Our party of three opted only for snacks so as not to divert our focus on what was ahead- a three course dinner at Bel Paese.
Turkish Bread and Dips
grilled turkish bread, baba ghanoush, tapenade and pesto $8.50
Chocolate and Honeycomb Cheesecake with Fairy Floss
chris's famous chocolate and honeycomb cheesecake, fairy floss $12.00
Hot Chips Coffee
hot chips $5.50; cappuccino $3.50; spicy fruit blush and peppermint teas $3.50 (not pictured)

Ripples Cafe

Ripples has to be one of my favourite cafe experiences. The service was friendly and accomodating and the menu equally great. We didn't have the opportunity of taste their main courses but from what they looked like, I have a suspicion they are delicious. We will definitely be making another trip here for either breakfast or dinner. Also it's hard to beat that view.

Ripples Serves Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. and is open 7 days from 8am to 9:30 pm.

Ripples Cafe
Ripples Café
Olympic Drive
Milsons Point, NSW 2061

Monday, May 22, 2006

Got Eggs?


One thing that has irked me in the past are the price of eggs. Yes that's right. Well you might ask what the price of eggs has got to do with anything. Well eggs are one of those versatile ingredients essential to any kitchen; it's necessary for anything between an omelette to a crème brulee. So in essence the point that I’m trying to make is that eggs are a must-have in your kitchen. That said there are so many different ways in which you can get your eggs that it can be rather bewildering standing in front of a selection of eggs at your local supermarket. You can get them, caged, free-range, free-run, vitamin enhanced, biodynamic, organic, Omega-3 enriched to name a handful.

Not only can I be rather bemused by the expansive assortment of the humble egg but the scope in prices also leave me somewhat hoodwinked. I sincerely do want to reach for the healthy and ethical tray of organic free-range eggs but having to fork out $9 for a dozen seems a little like highway robbery. And the $4.30 trays of extra-large caged eggs are starting to look like the better option financially. I’m know there are some honest and justifiable reasons as to why these eggs are so darn expensive, one being that keeping these chicken alive in an ethically acceptable manner and feeding them certified organic feed takes some dosh. But I think I must come to a resolve that I am tightfisted when it comes to eggs.

However, as an animal lover thinking about those poor hens in those cramped cages is reason enough for me to shell out $9 for a dozen that came from chickens living and laying eggs in clean spacious quarters. What price can I put on my health and peace of mind?

In saying this, the first thing I made with my Organic Bio-dynamic Free-Range eggs was a soft boiled egg, served with sprouted wholegrain bread. Healthy or what?


Check out Jamie's The Breakfast Blog for more egg action.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Give a Dog a Bone

Puppy Bones

I don't know how good of a mother I would be, there are some days when I think I would be a shoe in to win a "World's Best Mother" trophy and there are most days where I think that the whole notion of motherhood just eludes me. Luckily I have no offspring of my own. I say this because lately I have constantly forgotten to feed my dog Jack, whom many do consider to be my child. I thought if I could barely maintain life in canine form, how much more dire will it be if I cannot sustain life in human form? Calamitous, I say.

Many would say that forgetting to feed your pet is eons away from forgetting to feed your own child; aka fruit of your loins, offspring of your womb. Yes, there may be some legitimacy there. My mum always reassures me that dogs are much more resilient creatures than children, and babies often cry when they get hungry and when this happens they are harder to ignore. She says that forgetting to feed them (dogs) from time to time ensures they don’t get too lazy. I cannot vouch for the truth of the latter but today I have finally become a candidate for “Best Dog Owner”. All previous mealtime oversights have been expunged by this one act of kindness and consideration.

I made Jack doggy biscuits! They were Beef and Garlic Puppy Bones, made with whole-wheat flour, wheat germ and corn meal, so they were quite healthy for him too. So all has been forgiven and Jack is one happy puppy. He also somehow knew the biscuits were for him because he staked his ground right next to the oven the whole time they were baking. He probably thought it was about time.

Jack’s Beef and Garlic Puppy Bones

2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup corn meal
¼ cup wheat germ
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp beef bouillon powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 large egg
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 cup hot water

In a mortar and pestle, ground the garlic cloves to a paste. Set aside. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and add all the wet ingredients one by one mixing thoroughly. Combine crushed garlic, stir well. Roll dough out on a well floured surface to approximately 1 cm (10 mm) thickness. Use a bone shaped cookie cutter to cut out shapes from the dough. Place the bones on an ungreased cooking sheet and bake for 60-70 minutes at 180°C. You can tell they are done when the cookies are browned and hard. Let them stand and cool thoroughly before giving them to your dog.


Blissfully happy at last

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Asian Invasion: Staving off the Cold


Winter. The very anticipation of its arrival, for me brings nothing more than disappointment. Simply put I somewhat dislike winter, especially winter in Sydney. You see it doesn’t snow in Sydney, we are a city made for summer and sun, we might even be lucky to find a slight dusting of frost on our lawns some mornings but otherwise we are a snow-barren city. If it did snow then I would happily usher in the arrival of winter, but what is the point of it getting cold unless it’s accompanied by snow or something equally spectacular? It’s just futile, well that’s my logic. Silly girl, I can hear you all saying, I’m sure there are lots of things that are great about winter that my myopic-self is failing to see, but you just keep them to yourselves. I am quite happy to stay in the corner and sulk all winter about how cold and miserable it is.

As you can see I have a wee aversion to the colder months and they are (in the southern hemisphere) certainly fast approaching. As I find the autumn chill becoming more and more evident I tend to crave fresh, hearty Asian cuisine. Soups and curries in particular are my choice winter warmers; there is something wholesome and nourishing about them that always stave off the winter blues. This recipe for Chicken and Noodle Miso Soup I found in Donna Hay’s section in last Sunday’s paper. The very mention of miso (fermented soy beans) in the title got me excited. I love the stuff, whether in a soup or slathered on a piece of meat, miso is my friend. Besides I still had fresh miso paste that I had bought from the Pyrmont Growers Market this month.

The recipe called for udon noodles but I chose to use soba (buckwheat) noodles instead because they were already in my pantry. If you decide to do this, cook the soba noodles separately as they come dried and just spoon the soup over the noodles in a bowl. The combination of chilli, ginger and miso is infallible in my opinion; you could translate this soup into so many other variations- with seafood or simply with some fresh bok choy or kale.


Chicken and Noodle Miso Soup
recipe by Donna Hay

¼ cup miso paste
¼ cup warm water
6 cups water
1 large red chilli sliced
1 tbsp finely grated ginger
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 chicken breasts, trimmed and thinly sliced
100g snow peas halved
250g udon noodles
extra 3 green onions, thinly sliced

Place the miso paste and warm water in a small bowl and stir to combine. Place the water, chilli, ginger and green onions in a large saucepan over high heat and bring to the boil. Add the chicken, snow peas and noodles and cook for 3-4 minutes until the chicken and noodles are cooked through. Stir the miso mixture into the noodle mixture. To serve, spoon into bowls and top with extra green onions.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day: Oscar's Lounge Bar and Restaurant

Darling Harbour
It was an unusually warm autumn day in Sydney; the city was bathed in copious amounts of sunlight, bustling with people enjoying the most of these mild autumn days. The bright hues of the city were matched by the sunny disposition of most people in general. Today was of course Mother’s day and many were out to celebrate their mothers, with family and friends in tow.

Our outing took us to Oscar’s Lounge Bar and Restaurant on Union St in Pyrmont, less than a five-minute walk from Harbourside Shopping Centre and the Maritime Museum. Mum, as always wanted something low-key and relaxed so this place seemed rather appropriate as that it appeared contemporary yet unpretentious. The décor was contemporary; the enormous triangular light fixtures on the walls gave a slightly 70’s retro lounge feel to the whole place.
Mum had heard that Oscar’s were offering a Mother’s Day menu of $30pp for three courses or $25pp for two courses, so she thought it worthwhile to check out for the value alone. On arrival she found out that they also offered a free glass of champagne and a rose to all mothers, which she found thoughtful. The service was cheerful and attentive, although they got our drinks order confused with the table next to ours eventuating in an extra $40 being charged to our bill. Our waiter was extremely apologetic and ensured that the mix up was rectified immediately, so all was forgiven. Good, honest service always dispels any mistakes in my opinion, we’re all human.

Chicken Tenders

Parmesan and Herb Crusted Chicken Tenders on a Mixed Salad with Seeded Mustard and Basil Mayonaise.


Pan Fried Salmon Fillet with Fresh Asparagus Spears and Hollandaise Sauce.

Chicken with Vegies

Chargrilled Chicken Breast with Slow Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables, Baby Spinach and Madeira Jus.

Lemon and Raspberry Souffle

Lemon and Raspberry Souffle

Lemon and Raspberry Souflle Chilled, served with Vanilla Ice Cream and Raspberry Coulis.

Overall, the food was typically reliable bar-style cuisine. The pan fried salmon was the standout of the day, fresh and seared to perfection. Oscar's is a great stop for a casual meal, servings are quite reasonable for the price; mains are around $20 and you could easily fill up within two courses. Their specialties include Aberdeen Angus Steaks, homestyle pastas and gourmet pizzas. If you're not hungry you could always stop by for some drinks at the lounge, Happy Hour starts at 5pm everyday.

Oscar's Bar and Restaurant

84 Union St
Pyrmont, Sydney

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Happy Birthday Cupcakes


There is nothing like baking something where one of your ingredients is love. Somehow it manages to taste that little bit sweeter, no doubt the two cups of sugar help the cause, but nonetheless love is the essential ingredient in all good food. These cupcakes were for one of my best friends, she's the one that you would refer to as one of your "bestest" friends, no superlatives could match how good of a friend she is. She's the kind of friend where every awesome, hilarious, sad and shocking memory you have somehow includes her. As far as girlfriends go we are tight.

These cupcakes were for her birthday and I took the recipe from Cupcake Queen's, 52 Cupcakes. They were Magnolia Bakery's famed Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting. I was surprised at how easy it was to make seeing as the end result looked quite impressive. The only problem I had was getting the colours of the icing right. Possibly my brand of food colouring was not concentrated enough. I wasn't really going for lilac and teal but that's what I got. I wanted to have baby pink and aqua but I guess they looked okay, edible at the least. I'm just glad that they didn't turn out a greyish-green colour that would probably render them visually detestable, and we all know that cupcakes are all about aesthetics. Nonetheless I packed them all up for their unveiling in front of the birthday girl plus other girlfriends and they were received with much praise. I must warn you though; excessive quantities of sugar plus females are a precarious combination. Minutes after eating these cupcakes women were literally crawling up the walls and swinging off the proverbial chandelier. So take heed.



In Praise of Yoghurt


When it comes to yoghurt I am quite promiscuous. I have never stuck to one particular brand of yoghurt for any period of time because I was always under the impression that there were better yoghurts out there. So for years I have only struck meaningless short-term relationships with any particular brand of yoghurt. You could say I was a bit of a yoghurt tart, trivially looking for the next kind to satisfy my appetite only to discard the empty tubs looking down at them with disdain. Aside from eating yoghurt for its health benefits I never really liked it, most tasted either too acidic or too sweet, I never found the one that was just the right combination. Other than fulfilling my recommended daily intake of calcium, it had to be delicious, velvety in texture and also not look like an eleven-month old infant had regurgitated it. You might say it is too much to ask but nevertheless I am asking.

However, I am pleased to announce that at long last I have finally found myself in a monogamous relationship with one, yes only one brand of yoghurt. It's an All Natural Yoghurt (full fat of course) from the Barambah Organics range. I have never tasted yoghurt this creamy; also it doesn’t have that extremely tart taste that most unsweetened yoghurts have. As you can see below all the ingredients are natural and it contains five different live cultures! This is as pure as yoghurt can get; as far as im concerned. Barambah also make organic bush honey and strawberry yoghurt, but I still prefer the plain All Natural one as that you can add whatever you fancy be it fruit, muesli or a drizzle of maple syrup.

Barambah Organics also sell other great dairy products such as Quark (similar to cottage cheese), brie, feta and unhomogenised milk. Check out this article by SMH Good Living extolling the goodness of Barambah dairy products.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Vanilla Bean Leche Flan with Creamy Hot Cocoa

Lately most of my cooking has been confined not only to late hours, but also to what ingredients I find in the kitchen at the end of the day. So with the remaining eggs I had in my refrigerator I made a Vanilla Bean Leche Flan. Leche Flan is basically a Filipino version of a crème caramel, usually made with condensed and/or evaporated milk, lined with caramelised sugar and baked in a bain marie (water bath). I used unhomogenised full cream milk as that I prefer the consistency of using fresh milk as opposed to condensed or evaporated milk. Using the latter creates a denser and heavier custard, so using only milk, sugar and eggs creates a soft creamier consistency much like that of panna cotta. Some prefer to use duck eggs or pasturised carabao’s (buffalo) milk instead of the conventional kind. Duck eggs apparently impart a richer golden colour to the flan however I didn’t have six duck eggs sitting in my fridge at the time.

Instead of using vanilla extract I used a vanilla bean. I like the look of the seeds at the top of the flan when they settle to the bottom of the moulds while baking. I also like being able to see the flavour as you're eating it. Aside from aesthetics using a vanilla bean intesified the sweetness, so beware all diabetics and those who don't have a sweet tooth, there may be sideffects. Luckily I quite enjoy sugar in sizable doses and don't mind a sugar induced high.

Vanilla Bean Leche Flan

NOTE: You will need 6 (tin) moulds and metal tongs


6 eggs yolks
¾ cup caster sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 cup full cream milk
1 tsp lemon zest
additional sugar for caramelizing approximately 5-6 tbsp.

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Fill and large baking pan with water, enough so that when moulds are placed inside it reaches a third of the way up. Place this pan in the oven.

Line each of the moulds with sugar, you don’t need to be exact for this, just enough to coat the bottom when it caramelises. Using the metal tongs, hover the tin over an open flame on a stove until the sugar caramelises. Be careful not to burn the sugar, you are looking at getting the caramel to a deep brown colour but not burnt. You will smell it if it gets burnt. Do this for all 6 tins and set aside.

In a mixing bowl place egg yolks and sugar and beat until all the sugar dissolves. Cut the vanilla bean lengthways splitting it in half. Scrape all the seeds and place into bowl. Mix until all the beans are distributed. Add the milk and whisk until incorporated. Now it is important not to beat too vigorously as not to create air bubbles in the custard mixture. Add lemon zest.

Using a strainer, pour the mixture evenly between the moulds filling them 3/4 of the way up. Place the moulds in the bain marie and bake for at least an hour. Check leche flan using a toothpick, if it comes away clean then they are done. Usually a thin skin develops on the top. (pictured below).

Rest at room temperature for 40 minutes then chill for at least 1 hour. To release flan from the moulds run a knife along the perimeter of the custard turn onto a plate and tap the base a few times, the flan should come away easily. Serve with a cup of creamy hot cocoa.

199_9914 199_9918

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Cute presents!

This was a present from my Aunt not too long ago. A set of espresso cups with a giraffe print. I still haven't used it but it's so adorably cute I thought I would share it with you all. Their smiling faces just waiting for you!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

With Neighbours Like These

The lovely Italian lady next door, despite suffering from athritis always manages to make us some of her fabulous tomato pasta sauce. It was perfect timing for us as I was not in the mood for cooking and we were starving.

From what I gather it is basically just a simple tomato sugo, although I am not entirely sure what she puts in it, it is definitely very good. I couldn't improve any further so what else was there to do but cook up some spaghetti and slather it with this beautiful red sauce. I didn't have any fresh parmesan on hand to sprinkle over the top but it did not matter at all. Molto bene, bravissimo!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Giving in to the Cookie Monster: Chocolate Marble Cookies

After much pacing up and down the hallway, I finally decided to give in to the cookie monster. I caved in under its pressure and relinquished all my will to the ever-so strong desire for something sweet. I thought that I had tamed the cookie monster within, but alas I had not, it was still there lurking around like those monsters that live under your bed and only come out when you turn out the lights. Being almost midnight I knew that I was breaking almost all of the cardinal rules of healthy eating (which I do try to adhere to on most occasions). Sugar, butter and the late hour combined were a Molotov cocktail to health and well-being.

Nonetheless I pressed on, and made them. The batter only took fifteen minutes to whip up. Before baking, I drizzled a small dollop of melted semi-sweet chocolate on top of each cookie and used a toothpick to swirl the chocolate through to give a slightly marblelised effect. Because I was in such a rush to have them baked and eaten, the marbleing didn't quite looked marbly enough. But as long as they were delicious I was happy. They turned into giant cookies the size of your hand, the outside edges were sugary crisp and the centre had a beautiful soft melt-in-your-mouth texture.

So at last the cookie monster was appeased and it retired back to its dormant state until the next time it emerges.

Recipe for Chocolate Marble Cookies
adapted from Big Fat Cookies

½ cup semisweet chocolate
1 cup all purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
½ cup butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 extra large egg

Melt the chocolate in a double broiler, set aside. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth, add the egg. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until all dry ingredients are incorporated. Drop approx 3 tablespoons of dough onto a baking sheet and drizzle the melted chocolate on top. Use a knife or toothpick to swirl chocolate to marblelise. Bake the cookies at 180º C for about 11-13 minutes. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes.

Makes 8 cookies.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

10 Things I Love About You

Oh Balmain, with your cafe-lined streets, your al-fresco dining and your trendy organic eateries. What is a foodie supposed to do but succumb to the gastronomic overload that you induce?

These are ten foodie things I love about Darling St, Balmain/Rozelle (in no particular order):

1. Nutella donuts at Bertoni Casalinga. You have the option of having them toast the donut or you can eat them straight away untoasted. I prefer to have them toasted because the coating of sugar caramelises and becomes crunchy while the nutella inside melts and becomes soft. Bertoni also make great coffee and its the place where all the locals go so you know that it's reliably good.

2. Chilli Jam stir fry mussels at Pinto Thai. I haven't tasted a chilli jam stir fry with such depth of flavour; spicy, salty, sweet, sour and herby all in the one mouthful.

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3. Organic shopping at Aboutlife
. Among countless other great wares, they sell Barambah Organics yoghurt which I absolutely love. Also they have a large range of artisan loaves (pictured below).

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4. Everything sold at
Victoire Bakery.

5. Looking at all the goodies in the homeware shop Plenty, especially everything in Robert Gordon's retro pastel range.

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6. The gourmet goodies at
The Fine Food Store. They stock Pat and Stick's Ice Cream and petit fours by Manna From Heaven. Also their cheese room at the back is worth a peek

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7. French dining at La Grand Bouffe.

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The Barn Cafe and Grocery. Aside from having a nice range of homewares, The Barn also stock a great selection of organic olive oils (first pic below) that you can pour yourself. They also sell Pashmak- Persian fairy floss and Dagoba chocolates. You can also have a relaxing lunch out on the patio, they sell salads, soups, and gourmet sandwiches- mainly cafe style nosh.

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9. The breakfast tagines at
Kazbah are a great way to start your day. You can choose between a meat or vegetarian tagine and for only $17 pp. Also the Egyptian Hibiscus tea is exceptional.


10. Pressing my face up against the front window of
Planet Cake. It's not exactly on Darling St, but it's close enough for me.

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I couldn't stop at ten so here's a few more....

Gelatissimo. Milk, sugar and eggs a triple threat!


12. Reliably good Vietnamese restaurant Miss Saigon, they make great sizzling plates where you can make your own rice paper rolls.

13. The duck at Blue Ginger. Also the barramundi with ginger and shallots is good.

14. The lovely lady at Thai Sugar that never fails to give us extraordinary service. For that we love you.

Im sure I could think of a lot more things I love about Darling St, we don't live around the Balmain area but G and I are seriously considering moving there. We spend quite a large amount of our days eating in this area, im sure the total number of hours spent at Balmain would rival that of any local. So I think its only a matter of time before we make the move.

What are your favourite food suburbs in Sydney? Or perhaps in the world?