Thursday, 23 August 2012

French Onion Soup

Recently we were invited to friend's French theme dinner party, and a good portion of the courses came from Julia Child's recipes, which was one set of books we didn't own, so a trip to Books for Cooks the week after had us 2 vintage editions of both volumes in our hot little hands. 

It's fair to say that we are a little obsessed with French Onion Soup at the moment. We had a great one (omittidely steaming hot) at the Station Hotel in Footscray, the recent dinner party and previous home made batches. So time again to test a new recipe French Onion Soup from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1. This was made in our large Le Creuset as we needed to travel with this batch.

Underestimated how much bread was required for the Le Creuset for the bulk cook.
Onions were sliced on a mandolin, sweated in oil and butter until caramelised, flour was added, beef stock and vermouth to simmer for a couple of hours. Cognac added just before ready to serve, and croutons and swiss cheese grilled vin the oven to finish.

Verdict: Delicious, I could eat this all day. I prefer the onions sliced a little thicker, but now we are getting nit picky.
Would we make this again?: It's a time consuming one, but so worth it. nothing like if you have a couple of hours free on a cold Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


Cassoulet from The Butcher. This book is part of a Providore series, so we have a couple of the other books in the series, The Dairy and The Green Grocer. They all are pretty great, but to be fair we have  yet to cook anything out of them .. until now. Enter cassoulet - this was one of those French dishes that were on our must eat in France last year, as well as our Champagne a day rule (tough rules we set ourselves). Unfortunately towards the end of the trip cassoulet was still on the 'to try' list.

We ignored all of the locals restaurant recommendations and strolled into an authentic looking tourist trap in Bordeaux.

Now for future references we will know the correct terminology.


It came complete with gingham table cloths, rude etchings on the menu and copper pots swinging from the walls. Not the most delicious restaurant, the cassoulet here was heart burn inducing.  I much prefer the version we made.

So we are lucky that this one here was a winner. Four meats, toulouse and french boiled sausage, confit duck and lamb, with some haricot beans for good measure.

Verdict: Great winter meal, very warming.

Would we make this again?: Yeah, I can imagine making this to impress my Dad. Four meats and beans, I'll just have to be sure not to sit too close to him on the couch after dinner!

Parsnip chips

Recently we had a little shuffle around the kitchen, ended up moving the microwave out into the laundry (we were only really using it to soften butter anyway) to give ourselves a little more bench space. It was a day before that the suggestion of getting a deep fryer was put forward by a bright spark -perhaps it could fill the microwave shaped gap on our bench? A deep fryer is really not necessary, but we could forced to reconsider our stance considering that Troy's little parsnip chips from Mr Wilkinson's Favourite Vegetables were delightful.

Some baby beets were added in the mix with the parsnip sliced thinly, and fried in canola oil. They were served as a garnish on our dinner of lamb terrine, cauliflower puree, quick pickled cauliflower (also from this cookbook) potato and chorizo gratin and the crunchy chips on top.

Verdict: Yum.
Would we make this again?: All fried foods to be in moderation, but I wouldn't turn down a bowl of these with a couple of beers to wash them down with.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Brussels sprouts you say

I grew up hating Brussels sprouts. I think this was maybe the fact that they were always overcooked (sorry mumsie...), and I unfortunately carried this dislike for these cute little fairy cabbages into my 20s. It was only earlier this year when some the topic came up when spotting them on the menu at Gorski and Jones with some work friends that I plucked up the courage to revisit them once more. I feel like an idiot for not trying them sooner, they were really delicious.
So this winter, we have a crazy little community of these baby sprouts sprouting up all over the garden. Seeing as they look like freakish cartoon trees, it only seems fitting that we try something a little freaky: this raw brussel sprout salad from My Kitchen: Real Food from Near and Far by Steve Parle.

Brussels sprouts were sliced on the mandoline and then shocked into crispyness in an ice bath. Teamed with parmasan, olive oil, lemon juice and some seasoning we had a really great salad.

Verdict: Crispy, good acidity, generally delicious.
Would we make this again?: Sure, it would be a great side or would be excellent on it's own as a fresh starter or salad course.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Steamed buns - ah Momofuku

The Momofuku book has been a bit of a bible to us, it caught us on the start of our ramen obsession, which has lead us to visit nearly every restaurant in Melbourne that has ramen on offer.  Then it lead us directly to the cinema to watch the cheesy Brittany Murphy flick Ramen Girl.  What we've drawn from this sensory ramen overkill is that nothing beats David Chang's ramen recipe.  This however is a wildly under-researched statement to which I think only a couple of trips to Japan, and then New York will sort out.  Only then will it be fair to make our verdict on our best ramen.

Enough about the AMAZING ramen.  This post is about the steam buns we made.  Another of our regular recipes in the momofuku cookbook.

At their happiest - steaming away.

A little different from the filled steamed buns in that the dough is rolled flat and folded, a little duck fat is smeared in between, so when steamed it is easy to pull them apart to fill.

Filled with some slowed cooked pork belly, spring onions and hoisin sauce.

Ahh, just dreaming about the day we get to go to Momofuku in New York.  Even though they have just opened a restaurant in Sydney, it feels like cheating on the experience by visiting the distant cousin.  We would way rather save it up for the David Chang foursome in New York.

Verdict: Amazing, always good.  And such a versatile thing to mix and match the fillings.
Would we make this again?: Yes, all the time. And as it makes such a large batch its a good thing to freeze some down, just to re-steam at a moments notice.  If only we had more freezer room!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Roll me up Scotty!

It's hard not to resist any of the delicacies from Peyton and Byrne in London or their take home goods, as I am a sucker for good packaging. So it was pretty exciting when they released their book Peyton and Byrne British Baking from which we chose to bake Chocolate Swiss Roll. This is one of the many recipes that we have tried from this book.  So far so good -we can recommend the spiced ginger bread and the marshmallow tea cakes.

A basic chocolate sponge, filled with cream and raspberry jam before being rolled. Topped with a layer of piped chocolate ganache.

Verdict: The ganache icing was delicious, I would say that the sponge was a little on the dry side, but I think that is my baking not the recipe. 
Would we make this again?: This weekend perhaps. There is no better time to perfect the swiss roll other than the Queen's Jubilee.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

French night

We really worked for this one, completing a record five recipes in the one night. Really getting through the cookbooks here. We've cooked from around 40 (maybe a third of the way there).

Unfortunately we couldn't make it to our friend Mark's birthday dinner at Eau de Vie.  So we invited him and a few others around for a dinner party on Friday night.  We have a few theme menus up our sleeves so we gave him the option of French or British.  Being a man of distinction, Mark of course chose French.

On the French menu was Croque Madame from Bill Granger Everyday, Lyonaisse Terrine from Professional Charcuterie, Canard de l'Orange from Classic French Cooking, Gratin Dauphinois from the Pleasure of the Table and Saint Honoré from The Art of French Baking.

Painstakingly placing what seemed like the smallest potatoes
in the worldin to a pretty arrangement (not just on the top layer either!)

A lack of foresight meant that Thursday night after work was spent making Veal stock (which would be the start of the sauce for the canard de l'orange), the Lyonnaise terrine and preparing the dauphinois potato.  This all meant that our Friday was slightly less frantic.

Always been a big fan of anything small (or big for that matter) so the Croque Madame's made with baguette and quails eggs were a hit in my eyes.

Canard de l'orange -A really tasty dish.  Full of butter -we all felt our arteries tighten a little that night. Probably has something to do with the book being published in the 1970's (a simpler time before calorie counting and low GI).  The food styling was our attempt at replicating the glamorous over the top vibe of the book.  It looks a little amateur, but I can assure you the taste far exceeded the look -and that's what really counts right?

The birthday boy with his Saint (dis)Honore cake.
1. Croque madame -We made as canapes with quails eggs and sliced baguette for our arriving guests.  They went down a treat.  Everyone likes mini stuff though!
2. Lyonnaise terrine -Pork, veal and chicken livers encased in crepinette.  Great textures and flavours.  We served it with toasted challah and some homemade chutney.
3. Gratin dauphinois -The decision to use kipfler potatoes was a bit of a time kill, but it looked great! Surprised by the lack of cream or any kind of liquid in this dish. 
4. Canard de l'orange -The hero of the night.  We made 2 for ten people.  It could have been significantly less, it was so rich that only a small amount was needed.  The flavour of the sauce amazing, but seeing a pound of butter being casually whisked in was not.
5. Saint Honore -A few melt downs over the choux pastry ring, the saint honore cream and the overall presentation but everyone seemed to enjoy it.  It was the perfect ending to a night of excess.
Would we make this again?:
Yes, maybe, yes, yes with half the butter and yes to get it right.

Friday, 18 May 2012

The deconstructed sandwich

Intrigued a little by deconstructed sandwich? What if I say lettuce soup? Uh-oh, now you've lost interest.  Apologies.

It was a couple of weeks ago when we realised that we didn't own a single Italian cookbook.  Maybe this is because we are self proclaimed pasta experts (not really).  This sudden actualisation then spurred on the purchase of The River Cafe Cookbook -I know, ban right?
When doing the obligatory look through our recipe list to figure out what to eat I always kept going back to Lettuce Soup au Gratin The Silver Spoon (re-released last year).  It first caught my eye in the initial recipe selection because of the belief that when something sounds so unappealing, it's got to be good.  Or at least if there is a recipe for it, how bad can it really be?
Thursday night was the night.  When picking up The Silver Spoon, it turns out its purely an Italian cookbook, over 1000 recipes -who knew? It's just too bad that The River Cafe Cookbook had already been ordered.

Lettuce ... lots of lettuce. I thought that I would try to mix up the flavour a little bit by using 3 different types.  I guess its comparable to mixing glacier water, purified still water and tap water - you can tell the difference.

It shows here who is the messiest in the kitchen.
The recipe reads like French Onion soup, but substituting the more flavoursome ingredient onion for lettuce. The lettuce was simmered for a while, then in slow stages the beef stock was added.

After the soup simmered away for 30 minutes it was put in ramekins with some toasted baguette and gruyere cheese then grilled.

Verdict: The soup alone, pre bread and cheese was not the best, but once combined with the other staple sandwich ingredients it all gelled together rather nicely.
Would we make it again?: Let's just say it's not going to be a soup that I crave, but the more I think back on it, we'd talked it down so much that don't think we gave it a fair chance.  If it was served up to me again I would be really happy.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Eccles Cakes

St John's Eccles Cake from Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Eating by Fergus Henderson.

Troy tried these last year at St. John Restaurant in London. We were a little apprehensive about a strange looking pastry to be served with cheese, but there was no need. They were really incredible! It is always nice when you get caught by surprise. We did have a photo of these wonder's, but this was before our camera got 'stolen' / fell out of my bicycle basket while joy riding in Paris.

Puff pastry filled currants mixed with sugar, spice, and all things nice (..butter).

Unfortunately we didn't have any Lancashire cheese to accompany them, but we did have some aged goats cheese.  Perfect with our nightly glass of vino.

Verdict: Next time I will roll the pastry thinner than this book recommends.  8 mm was a little too thick for the pastry to cook through properly.  A little background research into Fergus' recipe showed that he'd modified the execution from book to book.  We brushed cakes with egg whites then coated them in sugar, where a new recipe calls for egg yolks, no sugar and thinner pastry.  I must say, the newer models look a lot more delicious.
Would we make this again?: Yes, Great Britain night is coming up and these are certainly on the menu. This will be our chance to perfect them to the St. John standard.  Watch this space!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Christmas take THAT

In preparation for last Christmas Troy tested his boning skills and made a monstrosity of a roast to take to a family dinner over the ditch in New Zealand. The beast was ten birds, each one painstakingly de-boned then stuffed into the larger one.  You may have heard of the Turducken (turkey, duck, chicken), this was more of a whatthefacken (turkey, goose, duck, chicken, pheasant, guinea fowl, partridge, poussin, squab and quail). After the disappointing news from New Zealand customs that any aerial birds are not allowed in to NZ our whatthefacken spent 10 days in the MAF freezer at Christchurch. We argued that this was probably the longest flight the turkey had ever been on (why deny 10 birds their final flight), next we tried to pass it off as a rabbit.  All in vain.  New Zealand customs was however able to leave it in their freezer at the airport for us to pick up on our return to Melbourne.

A few months later we defrost the birds for Christmas take two. A quick pop into the local Asian store on Chapel Street and we are sorted with tinsel, Christmas crackers and a Santa sack full of presents (including a boob for Uncle Gary).
Because it was a bit of a mish mash of families everyone provided there own little Christmas traditions and games along the way.  Every ones favourite Christmas songs were included in the play list, even some of our favourite non-Christmas songs surfaced.  A high point was when Brittney sang an inspiring Whitney Houston song at the top of her lungs -just like Christmas all over again!

We had to add a challenge dish to our Christmas so a Celeriac Salad from Turquoise by Greg Malouf was chosen. This was one of the books we got from Greg when we had a dining experience at Momo for Troy's birthday, and he signed this book to Lowrider (this was before we got him, but already owned a cookbook, does that mean that Lowrider was meant to help on this one?). Also on the menu was Claire and Nuffy's beetroot and feta salad, twice cooked potatoes, Jill's broccoli salad, Caroline's stuffing balls, and roasted carrots and pumpkin.

We really did overestimate how much food we could actually eat.  The recipe in question -Celeriac salad that Mum made is in the top right corner.

The BEAST. Complete with layers of honey roasted pumpkin, bacon and caramelised onion, bird, and more bird and a little dodo bird.

Everyone had a lot of amusement with the presents given out.

The finale - Bombe Alaska, dessert fireworks. Like we hadn't already eaten enough, but there is a bit of theatre to the dish so everyone seemed to regain a little more room.
Bailey's soaked sponge, 2 layer of ice attack, Salted caramel semifreddo with praline and chocolate and hokey pokey semifreddo, with the Italian meringue and a fiery flame of Grand Marnier.

Verdict: I'm going to say the overload of salads made it a bit of a blur, but so tasting notes on the Celeriac salad was lost in the moment, but the extravagance of it all was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.
Would we make this again?: We would recommend second Christmas. It was really relaxed -great fun to belt out Christmas carols, it was also great to bring a few families Christmas traditions together. Oh, but back to the salad, it was hard to decipher with all those other ones on offer, but it was yum. Celeriac is a favourite with us all.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Asian afternoon

Steamed Pork Buns from Asian Dumplings by Andrew Nguyen and Beef and Prawn Laksa from Thai Street Food by David Thompson.

It's been a while since we've had a weekend at home, and a chance to spend a chunk of the day in the kitchen. Thanks to daylight savings we had an extra hour up our sleeves - we had cooked baked eggs for breakfast, dug up and planted our winter garden, checked out the Richmond Weekender market and bought a new Texas barbeque while still allowing enough time for a afternoon cooking session.

Hot and steamy - our steamed pork buns

The bun dough wasn't quite a success.  It's always hard with a new recipe knowing how much the dough should rise.  Caroline singing to the dough in bread puns doesn't help either, the likes of 'I want you, I knead you..' doesn't help when you're trying to concentrate.  Making the filling was a bit more of a success.  Doing our own char sui sauce and barbeque pork was definitely worth it.

For the Laksa the paste was made from scratch, cooked off with coconut cream and meat which simmered for about an hour. 

Verdict: Pork Buns have always been Troy's weakness, so we were pretty excited to try mastering these at home. Which we didn't quite do, but the filling was more to my taste than the standard of the ones bought down Victoria Street.
Would we make this again?: We need to master the dough, but next time we would use the sweet dough from the Momufuko book (which is always a success) but with this filling. And would make the Laksa again.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Am I a fat duck? No I'm a cook at home!

Heston is that creepy scientist dude. Often I get scared of his thought process, other times I am in complete awe.  It really amazes me how he can look at an one thing or process and turn it completely on its side, this is what Heston is known for.  The recipe chosen is quinoa sushi from Heston Blumenthal at Home.  In this book Heston Blumenthal is not so sideways, but still a good step ahead of the general norm.

How to make 'sushi rice' from quinoa you say? By blending half of the cooked quinoa, that's how. It turns in to this gluggy mass, and when mixed back through, a sticky 'sushi quinoa' is created.

Quinoa is also mixed with some toasted sesame seeds (black in this case) and ponzu sauce.

The flavours we created were rare beef with shitake mushroom and spring onion, then house smoked salmon (Troy's first attempt at smoking salmon) and spring onion. Served with a ponzu sauce and some wasabi mustard.

Verdict: It was a really nice change from the usual sushi.  The smoked salmon was really good, actually.. it was all good.
Would we make this again?: We don't make enough sushi at home, considering how easy it is. So this would be a healthier and more interesting alternative to rice. The ponzu sauce was delicious too.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Happy Easter

Yay for Easter and the Easter Bunny.
We can't really complain about our lead-up to Easter.  We had Hot Cross Buns on tap from the moment the bakers commenced production and a stream of chocolate bunnies starting to filter through the door a week (or two) up to Easter.
I have always wanted to attempt making eggs so I made mad dash to some cake shops the day before Good Friday to find some chocolate molds and my Easter challenge was set.

Adding a little excitement to the mix - 3 salted caramel filled eggs were
sealed in the larger egg.  On the bottom left a lolly cake molded egg too.

Pierre Herme Pastries was pulled out again for the salt caramel filling and adapted lightly with some additional salt for a salted caramel.

Caroline's eggs were left with a little note on her bed.  Troy received his on Easter Sunday when we were away for the weekend at the Royal Mail Hotel.

Verdict: We'll it turns out I can temper chocolate, but my finishing skills need a bit of work. Not quite ready to switch careers to be a chocolatier.
Would we make this again?: It was nice being able to mix up the norm and customise my own eggs.  I am currently taking pre-orders for next year

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Getting serious - dog party.

Our latest dinner party was a for a group of friends and their dogs. 
Apertif: White Wine and Mint Granita from Easy Growing. There are also great recipes in here flowerpot cornbread which I would like to try, cooking something in a flowerpot - genius! The people drank these and struggled through severe brainfreeze while the dogs (Archie Oneman the Wonderman, Janet and Lowrider) played at sniffing each others crotches.

Entree: Broccoli and Egg from Your Place or Mine? by Gary and George.  I don't like to think too much about what the title of this book is insinuating.  But it's nice to see that the lovely couple are able to reep in more rewards post Masterchef.

Main: Lamb Farcie from Jacques Reymond Cuisine de Temps.  Troy's masterpiece.  Double lamb cutlets with a chicken and sweetbread farce (mousse) wrapped in creppinette. Lamb cutlets were baked on rock salt. Served on silverbeet, with a tamarind and ginger dressing.

Dessert: Ginger Brulée Tarts and Rhubarb and Almond Tarts from Bourke Street Bakery

Verdict: Apertif was good.  Someone (they shall remain nameless) didn't read the recipe properly and the mix turned out brown instead of a mint green.  Still delicious, but really it's just watered down sugary wine.
Entree - OK quite simple, but about as exciting as a night out (or in) with George and Gary.
Main - A show stopper.  Every mouthful was delicious.  Definitely worth all of Troy's hard work the night prior.  Big thanks for working tirelessly. Sorry you had to clock up an epic 20 hours on your feet that day!
Dessert - We were all very full by this stage but managed to push through. Ginger brulee tarts were the favourite.  The rhubarb and almond tarts were a little dry.  This will be because we opted not to make a pastry cream to fold into the frangipane.  The pastry used for these tarts was very good.  A light, flaky and sweet pastry which really worked with the brulee tarts. 
Would we make this again?: Would we - No, No, Yes (if Troy's happy to scarifice another a whole night of prep), Yes - these tarts are too good not too.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Pierre Herme "The Picasso of Pastry"

This is a new addition to our book shelf since the challenge has begun.  To say that it's made it to the bookshelf is a bit of a lie, it's still open on the table at the ready for us to flick through and drool over the marvelous creations.  You may remember that an all out ban on cook book purchases was placed on our household, but how could we resist when we heard Pierre Hermé was bringing out a new book? One pre-order and Pierre Hermé Pastries was at our doorstep a couple of weeks later - it's all too easy this day in age to be a cook book addict!

Needless to say, we want to cook A LOT from this book.  He takes classic recipes from around the globe, explains the history behind it then goes ahead and creates a new and glorious recipe inspired by the the first.  We found it hard to pick just one, but Brittney decided our first recipe would be the Apricot and Hand of Buddha Financier which was baked for a workmate (Alainnah) on her birthday.

There were a couple of deviations from the recipe
1. We couldn't locate any Hand of Buddha for its zest (this has now moved up the ranks on the list of trees we would like to buy for our garden). 
2. The search for apricots was fruitless (excuse the pun) so we substituted apricots for plums.

A baked financier made with burnt butter, plums, chopped almond and sugar syrup. The almonds caramelized the top and this was decorated with a caramel mascarpone cream and some toffee pieces - delish!

Verdict: Yum, the mascarpone caramel was amazing, well it was all good. It did have a bit of a slide around in the top box of the Vespa, so it didn't arrive to work like this, but it's all meant to be about the flavours, right?
Would we make this again?: Yes, before the mascarpone was added to the caramel it was mouth watering, add a couple of teaspoons of salt and we think we have found the perfect salted caramel, jar it up and maybe it may give Burch and Purchese Salted Caramel a run for it money. This is on the Easter's holiday to do list.

Can I peel your peppers amigo?

Basque-styled Baked Eggs from Alain Ducasse Nature.

Peeled peppers, tomatoes (also peeled), red onion, garlic, jamón and eggs. Seasoned with salt and pimenton.

A fancy little little weekend brunch for two (Caroline had work).  Finally a perfect excuse to get some use out of our small frying pans!

Our limit of jamón was restricted to one 100g packet, nothing like the extent of our over eating in
Spain last year.

Verdict: Delicious, and so easy!
Would we make this again?: Yeah, for sure.  Our love of Spanish food has now extended to breakfast.  Perfecto!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Muffins with just as much sugar as flour - I think you're a cupcake!

Rhubarb and Ginger Muffins (cupcakes) from 500 Muffins and Cupcakes by Fergal Connoll.

Wow, 500 muffins and cupcakes. This was a Christmas present from my mum, Caroline has 500 cupcakes - so there are still more of these bite sized morsels on the way.

Following the recipe vs not reading the recipe properly, the latter is my general downfall.  In this case, you were meant to add cooked rhubarb in a hole made in the cooked muffin.  Our version had raw rhubarb in the mix which surprise surprise also cooked in the 20 minutes it took to cook the muffins.  Let it be known.. there are always more ways than one to make something.

How do you make muffins look good when they come out of the oven? Add a dog to the mix.

Verdict?: These were taken around to a friends BBQ.  The barbie was a smorgasbord of salads with a healthy side of meat, so the muffins were well received.  The verdict from everyone was delicious.  The frosting was sweet, and the 'muffins' were really light and fluffy.
Would we make this again?: With 500 recipes in the book, wouldn't you want to make something different?

Stuff those bad boys

Banana Chillies stuffed with Crab and Chicken in a Green Curry Sauce from Spirit House. Really love this book, everything that has been made has been a success. There is a great section at the start of all different curry pastes, which are great to make and freeze down into ice cube trays to use at a later date.

We used our joe's long cayenne chilli from the garden, they grow up to 30cm and are wrinkly and creepy looking. They're not that hot so added some green chillis too.

We first saw these chilli  at Heronswood Gardens down the Mornington Peninsula and needed the seeds then and there. Their chilli plant was 7 years old, which for the first time our chilli plants are staying around instead of composting them every year.

I did cheat a little with the green curry paste, and use the food processor which blitzed the onions and made them a little watery - a little less love in this curry paste, but it still tasted great!

The banana chillies where stuffed with the chicken and crab mix, and topped with a green curry sauce.

Verdict: The sauce was nice but stuffing could have done with some more flavour.  Caroline says salt, but we don't all have salt addictions.
Would we make this again?: Yeah, we have a few more 'stuffing' recipes to look forward to, so once that's over with I wouldn't rule out a repeat. Next time we would add some of the curry sauce with the meat mix before stuffing.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Crumping up the crumpets

Crumpets have always been one of those things that I've never really thought about how they come about.  Growing up, they came in the packet, dose it with golden syrup, and that was that.

Fast forward 15-20 years and I came across them on a breakfast menu at a local cafe. When they came out they looked amazing, not at all like their better known processed counterpart.  In that instance I knew that I needed to know how these were made. Thanks to mobile internet a quick Google check managed to calm my burning desire for knowledge. Fast forward several months and here we are. This recipe is found in the book Breakfast by Greg Duncan Powell -must admit that it was purchased purely because it had a crumpet recipe in it.

When Dad comes to visit Melbourne the crumpet cafe is on the top of his list to visit. So it's fitting that at Christmas time, Dad gave Troy and I some egg rings that he had made from stainless steel tubing. Perfect for crumpet production.

Made from a yeasted batter, the recipe needs around a hour for it to rise - just to get that crumpety air-pocket lightness.

Verdict:  Pretty good, we had the whole pan/heat ratio not quite right, so the first couple were a little doughy.
Would we make this again?: It would only be fair to make these for my parents when they are visiting in a couple of weeks. A really easy recipe, just requires some perfecting in the pan.

Friday, 23 March 2012

It's Tomato time.

It's always fun when you're told to go and look on the doorstep .. ooh a new parcel? No, a 15 kilo box of tomatoes.  Well, at least it wasn't a another amazon package with yet more cook books!
This bought back memories of the same time last year, when we spent a nice day together in the kitchen making tomato sauce.  Then a not so nice solo Monday -a full 14 hours over a spluttering stove top, followed by 23 bottles of tomato sauce.

Sauce requires company.

We still had a couple of bottles of sauce let over from last year, so we thought this time we would make a couple of different varieties. Our recipe is Roasted Tomato Passata from Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No. 2, which also has a recipe for Roasted Tomato Sauce using the passata. We have a smoker oven so we thought we could adapt the recipe slightly and make a smoked tomato passata, use that to make a smoked tomato sauce then pump out a casual tomato chutney on the side.

All tomatoes were laid out on baking sheets with fresh
herbs, garlic, shallots and salt and pepper.

Before and after shots of the tomatoes in the smoker with fresh Oregon wood chips.

The passata is getting passed through a sieve on the right. Meanwhile the sauce ingredients
are ready to cook up on the induction plate on the left.


We sieved all of the tomatoes for the passata. For the tomato sauce we kept the smoked tomatoes, shallots and herbs whole as we are fans of chunky tomato sauce.

Passata, tomato sauce, chutney and Troy's pickles stored for the winter.

I wonder how long these bad boys will sit unlabeled. It's on the to do list, but I guess it comes down to blog posts versus sauce in our laundry looking pretty.

Verdict: We made a simple pasta for dinner with some of the passata and some extra smoked tomatoes and its a really lovely base to work from.
Would we make this again?  It's time consuming, but really rewarding. It's always nice being able to pull a preserve out of the cupboard to use for a recipe, knowing exactly where it came from, or even better, to give to friends in exchange for some of their creations.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Crossing the Ditch, a Milestone Event

Going global this weekend, the butcher, baker and tea towel maker went off shore and took their cooking challenge with them.
We headed to New Zealand for my Grandma's 90th surprise birthday, and there wasn't a more perfect occasion to bake one of their amazing creations from Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi.

We had to withstand New Zealand oven conditions (although anything can be better than our crappy oven) and a double recipe, but the task was set.

Carrot cake is one of Grandma's favourite, so we chose the layered carrot cake - but this just isn't any carrot cake. I wouldn't say any recipe in this book are too difficult as such, but when the recipe involves 5 different components, there is 5 more chances that something could go wrong. But not here my friend, this cake was a huge success.

The bits:
Carrot cake, Liquid Cheesecake (half baked cheesecake, so still spreadable), Graham frosting, which a graham crust had to be made first (we used digestive biscuits), and a milk crumb.
Triple layer carrot cake, with layers of liquid cheesecake, a biscuit frosting, and
milk crumb.

The cakes fate is in Troy's hands.

The stack:
Cake, Cheesecake, Crumb, Frosting, Cake, Cheesecake, Crumb, Frosting, Cake, Frosting, Crumb!
What's that? 11 layers of love!

Frozen overnight, and refrigerated 3 hours before serving.

We blew up 90 helium balloons prior to the arrival of Grandma, including a few
chipmunk impersonations.

90 balloons were let off by all great grandchildren and grandchildren, lets hope there were no planes flying over.
The cake in question - Happy Birthday Gram!

Verdict: It was well worth the time to make, and a bit of a show stopper. Was it the recipe or my baking skills?
Would we make this again?: If you are getting comments "this is the best cake I've ever tasted - ever!", I wouldn't pass up that praise any day. Maybe for Grandma's 100th!