Monday, 30 April 2012

The joys of baking... well not quite...

Some people, find baking joyful, therapeutic even... I just find it frustrating!!! (I'm more of an ad-libbing cook!!)

I wanted to thank my team for the past 2 years by putting on afternoon tea. What a perfect way to spend my ANZAC day... So my tips for baking:

1. Before serving to others, try the recipe first!!
2. Read the entire recipe and understand each step, rather than as you go (yes thats right, I mixed the wet and dry ingredients a little too early!)
3. Weigh and measure accurately. Baking is a science.

Lemon meringue cupcakes - thanks to BBC food

Ingredients (Serves 8)

For the cupcakes
  • 100g/3½oz butter, softened
  • 100g/3½oz sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out using a sharp knife
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 100g/3½oz self-raising flour
  • lemon, zest only
  • 75g/2¾oz ready-made lemon curd
For the meringue
  • 2 free-range egg whites
  • 100g/3½oz sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C
  2. Cupcakes - cream the butter, sugar and vanilla seeds together in a large mixing bowl until pale, fluffy and well combined. 
  3. Crack in the eggs, one at a time, and beat until both are fully incorporated into the mixture.
  4. Fold in the flour and lemon zest until well combined. 
  5. Place 12 paper or foil cupcake cases into the wells of a muffin tray, then spoon in the cupcake batter. Add a teaspoonful of lemon curd to the top of each cupcake.
  6. Bake the cupcakes in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until they are pale golden-brown and spring back when pressed lightly in the centre.
  7. Meringue - whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed. Gradually add the sugar, whisking continuously, until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed and the mixture is thick and glossy.
  8. When the cakes are cooked, turn off the oven and preheat the grill to its highest setting.
  9. Spoon the meringue over the cupcakes and tease it into spikes using a fork. Place the cupcakes under the hot grill for 2-3 minutes, or until the meringue is golden-brown.

       (Gluten free baking is always fraught with flatness... So i picked an easy recipe from

Ingredients (serves 8)

  •   Canola spray, to grease
  •   50g (1/2 cup) cocoa powder
  •   80ml (1/3 cup) hot water
  •   2 tsp instant coffee powder
  •   2 tsp boiling water
  •   1 x 100g pkt almond meal
  •   100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
  •   3 eggs, separated
  •   Strawberries/Raspberries, washed, sliced, to serve
  •   Thickened cream (yes the full fat variety, because the skinny    
  •   just doesn't whip!)
  •   Icing sugar - to make it look pretty!


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush a round/square (whatever tickles your fancy) 22cm (base measurement) cake pan with canola spray to lightly grease. Line the base with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Combine the cocoa powder and hot water in a medium bowl.(Avoid mixing cocoa in tin and spraying all over your face, like I did!) Combine the instant coffee powder and boiling water in a cup. Add the coffee to the cocoa mixture and stir until combined.
  3. Add almond meal, sugar and egg yolks to cocoa mixture, and stir until well combined.
  4. IN A SEPARATE BOWL (yes don't get carried away like me and put in the same bowl)- Use an electric beater to whisk egg whites in a clean, dry bowl until soft peaks form. Use a metal spoon to fold a spoonful of egg whites into cocoa mixture until combined. Gently fold in remaining egg whites until just combined.
  5. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Place cake pan in a roasting pan. Pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to reach two-thirds of the way up the side of the cake pan. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven. Remove cake pan from water bath and set aside for 20 minutes to cool. Turn cake onto a wire rack and remove paper. Set aside for a further 20 minutes or until cooled to room temperature.
  6. Whip thickened cream until it thickens and the cream can hold the shape of the whisked cream, like a ripple. Add berries on top and dust with icing sugar to look pretty!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Perks of conferences

One of the perks of living regionally and attending conferences is...
accommodation in Melbourne for the night!!
My colleague and I took this as an opportunity to check out High st, Thornbury.
Trying to navigate with google maps, we found cafe cinquecento

A fairly large, open spaced establishment fit with their own pizza oven. The walls are bare, red brick and there is a cute little fiat in the entrance. The entrees are more than your standard bruschetta and garlic bread, we ordered calamari in a tomato and garlic sauce and was cooked to perfection. Not stringy or chewy, perfectly soft! 

The menu is the type, where you are stuck between a couple of options for mains... I went for the veal. Delicious layers of juicy veal, with a tomato sauce and eggplant on top. Each mouth was exciting, because there were many layers of flavour, every mouthful was different.

What I liked about this place, is the attention from the staff, even the chef came out to brag about the pan fried spaghetti used as decoration. 

However... I know that the Italians are big on the slow food movement, eating their main meal over a couple of hours.. and this place takes on that feeling of slowness with food service.
It took longer than expected to bring out each dish, that unless you are with your best friend, you will quickly run out of interesting dinner topics...
What made it more frustrating, was being able to see the chefs in the kitchen discussing something of importance, but dammit i wanted my veal!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Something a bit different...

Rose River Ginger Beer
Ginger beer without the bitterness, but full of sweetness. Mucho refreshing!!!
Unfortunately it only comes in one size... MCMASSIVE... So hope you are thirsty.
Rose River has also developed some unique flavours, I am keen to try...
Honey, Lemon, Banana Mango and Strawberry... 

Monday, 16 April 2012

Home for the holidays - Part 2

Sydney always has something to offer to salivate the taste buds, to attract the eyes with beauty and art and pique your interest with new pop up cafes and bars that are a buzz.

I was meeting a friend in Surry Hills for lunch one day, and I was strolling down Bourke St.. the temperature was about 23 degrees, light dappled on the pathway through the maple trees and I found this old police station built in 1895. It was no bigger than an old 1 bedroom Victorian house but it was so majestic made from carved sandstone.

Me-hi-co amigos!

Strolling down King street, Newtown my bestie and I fancied a quick bite and what better to satisfy our craving then a burrito. We had our hearts set on Guzman and Gomez, but being a public holiday, sadly they were closed :(

The next best thing was, Mad Mex - the Mexican version of Subway. We entered with a little hesitation, but i was intrigued about what the fuss has been about!
Anywho you walk in, look at the board and have your selection of type of bread, sauce, filling and other condiments. I went with the quesadilla thinking it would be small - oh mighty this is a big  quesadilla for you $10 something dollars. Flavour is ok, but you can't beat having a quick bite with a corona with your best mate. 

Wagaya - brilliant concept, only the Japanese would think of...

Trying to do my best at getting in as much asian food as possible, I dragged my friends to one of my favourite Japanese restaurants in Sydney.
This restaurant is usually packed out, they even have a little waiting room.
The place is poorly lit, whether this means they don't want you to see the food or you want to use your other senses to be enhanced to experience the food - I'm not sure. I guess what I really like about this place, is the convenience of ordering, there is a touch screen menu... WITH PICTURES!! (yes this is an essential for all asian restaurants, plus all items are numbered!)
You can swiftly, order what you want, know where your bill is at and have things brought out very promptly.

This place wouldn't pride itself on building customer relationships, but it is quick, speedy and brings out some pretty yummy food. Sashimi is ok, but the soft shell crab sushi is perfectly crispy and tasty!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Holiday back home - part 1

Typically Easter is thought of as being filled with chocolate, more chocolate and so much chocolate that it is coming out of your ears!!! This festive season, I planned it to be filled with catching up with family and friends and of course this meant all meals, breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert were all eaten out! Rest assure, fortunately I haven't ended up the size of a house.

Being in Shepparton - good coffee is hard to come by. At home, its only a few buttons and bits away...

The first of Jamie's Italian restaurants to hit Australia has settled in Wynyard, Sydney. I was lucky enough to dine with one of the chefs to introduce me to the culinary experience that is Jamie's Italian. (hehe, it helps when she is my amazing cheffy sister!)

Its a cozy, lengthy little spot. The walls are lined with dark, spotted mirrors and over hanging lights. The opposite wall is rustic, with wooden walls and cupboards filled with wine. The lighting is dark (oxymoron as that sounds), but it gives a sense of cozyness, and you are surrounded in a sea of fellow food wankers. (yes thats right, there is every tom, dick and harry out with his DSLR to take food photos, i had to take my incognito).

We got the crispy polenta chips with parmesan cheese - I've converted to the belief that no potato chips come close to the delectable smooth, dreamy texture and crispy outside. Seriously, no chip compares.

Meat plank - cured meats, bocconcini cheese, pickles and crispy salad. Although this looks like some creepy body parts in the picture (last picture in the set), it is yummy. Who knew you could get cured wagyu beef - just like prosciutto! Annnnd the bocconcini cheese - hello minty goodness and chilli jam!

Fish in a bag - pretty simple right? Well this en papillote was... different. It had a soft white fish (snapper I'm guessing) with clams, mussels, fennel, chilli, anchovies and Sicilian cracked wheat (like cous cous) with some pine nuts. It was well cooked and balanced with the fennel, but like with most Italian food - every mouthful can be monotonous after a while. For a moderate sized dish, it certainly became a little boring 3/4 of the way through.

I guess if you are looking for that real, Italian food that makes you feel like you are eating with Nonna in the village you might not get it here, but the standard is set high. Jamie's Italian prides itself on maintaining consistency with every meal served. Every dish that is served will be exactly the same down the the last grain of salt!!

Monday, 2 April 2012


late night treats and indulgence- Passionfruit custard, meringue, crummy vanilla biscuit and vanilla bean icecream. This reminds me of the old tins mum used to keep biscuits or coffee in. 

Obsession comes to my house - aspiring to become tre cool with my own macaroons I thought I would start at the bottom. Donna Hay has pre-mixed macaroons, all you need is extra thickened cream to make the chocolate ganache filling. I almost got the feet, but sadly didn't get the perfectly smooth and glistening tops. Back to the drawing board! x

Sunday, 1 April 2012

quick snacks

You know when you get home and you just want to eat something satisfying, but can't be bothered making anything. Like when you know that a piece of fruit or a muesli bar or biscuit just aint gonna cut it!
My fave little snack to make it mini quiches - its so quick and simple to make, keeps for a couple of days (if it doesn't get eaten first) and useful when you need something balanced, filling and quick, like when you don't get time for a proper lunch or after work.

Chicken and mushy mini quiches! (makes 18)

* 2-3 large eggs
* 1.5 cups low fat milk
* 3-4 button mushrooms
* 4 asparagus
* 1 leek
* 3-4 garlic cloves (feel free to add more for extra garlicky goodness)
* 1 chicken breast sliced length ways in half (to make more even thickness)
* Low fat grated cheese
* 2 x sheets coles brand puff pastry made with canola oil (this is a healthier fat to have in the diet, helps reduce your cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease/stroke)
* Canola spray oil

1 small pot and steamer
Fry pan
Oven set at 180*C (fan forced oven)
Muffin tray
Knife and chopping board
3 x small bowls to put prepared ingredients in
Egg ring
1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon
1 egg beater

  1. Heat oven to 180* C and start to boil water in pot with steamer on top.
  2. Spray the muffin tins with canola oil
  3. Keep the puff pastry in the freezer until step 6. This will keep it moist.
  4. Slice leak and crush 2 garlic cloves. When steamer is ready, place about 1/4 of the leak and 1/2 garlic in steamer and lay the sliced chicken on top. Add about another 1/4 of the leak and other half garlic on top. Replace lid and let steam on low heat. Cook for about 10 minutes. This time will vary with the size and thickness of the chicken breast. Keep an eye on it. 
  5. When the chicken is ready. Take out of the steamer and let it rest on a chopping board for a few minutes until warm. Shred chicken with a fork. You want this to be soft.
  6. Whilst the chicken is cooking, cut up asparagus into 3cm sections, slice the mushrooms and crush the remaining garlic. In a pan, spray some canola oil and sautee the remaining leek, garlic, asparagus and mushrooms. 
  7. Whisk eggs and milk in small bowl. Add some pepper for flavour. (I don't add salt, because the pastry will already had some salt in there)
You should now have your mis en plus (or stuff ready to cook)
1 x bowl of sautéed vegetables
1 x bowl of whisked eggs
1 x bowl of shredded steamed chicken and leak
2 x sheets puff pastry

  1. Using your egg ring, cut out your pastry. You should be able to get 3x3 circles. Place these into the muffin tins, creating a little cup.
  2. Add about a tablespoon of chicken and 1 teaspoon sautéed vegetables to each quiche. You want to have more filling than egg, so fill as much as you like to fill the 18 cases.
  3. Fill the remaining volume with the whisked eggs and a sprinkle of cheese. 
  4. Place in the oven and cook for about 10 minutes or until pastry of golden brown.
and Voila - chicken and mushy mini quiches!!