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I’d Tapenade That Part II. Or, I’m too lazy to devise a clever title.

21 Jan

I’d like to tell you that the reason I haven’t posted in almost two months is because I’ve spent my summer break in Mykonos, lazing about beside the azure waters of the Mediterranean drinking ouzo and developing a steamy romance with a charming, muscular and deeply tanned Greek boy named Kostos.

But the sad reality is that I’ve actually been watching re-runs of Project Runway and eating cheese. So really, I’ve got no excuse.

Amongst all this laziness, however, my flatmates and I found the time to host an evening soiree (how’s that for tautology?) so we could show our parents our new abode. Now don’t get ahead of yourself here and assume I spent hours in the kitchen preparing. Oh, no. Instead I decided what I was going to make roughly three hours before they were due to arrive.

But the beauty of this recipe is that it only really takes half an hour to prepare and most of the ingredients can be found in your cupboard or fridge. It builds on a recipe I devised a few months back, albeit with a little more pompousness thrown in for good measure. Green olive tapenade* spirals are an easy and cheap addition to any soiree, evening or otherwise (which doesn’t really make sense) and are also quite delicious. Plus you might be able to get away with telling people you learned the recipe off a little old Greek woman on your trip abroad.

*As a side note, my computer tried to auto correct ‘tapenade’ to ‘tapeworm’. Well, I thought it was funny. But I’ve also spent the last two months in front of my television.

Green Olive Tapenade Spirals.

Green Olive Tapenade Spirals

Makes 32

1 quantity of green olive tapenade (recipe found here)

4 sheets of puff pastry, thawed

olive oil to brush

 

1. Preheat the oven to 200C and grease two baking trays.

2. Cut each sheet of pastry into eight strips.

3. On one end of each strip, place a small dollop of tapenade and roll into a spiral.

4. Repeat with remaining pastry.

5. Place the spirals on baking trays and lightly brush each one with olive oil.

6. Bake in the oven for around 15 minutes or until golden brown.

I’d Tapenade That.

3 Nov

Many, many, many apologies for the 9-day hiatus. We finally got a new apartment after relentlessly fighting in the vicious and bloody battleground that is the Sydney rental market. Viewing after viewing, application after application, rejection after rejection; it’s a savage bloodbath. To all you students considering moving out of home: don’t.

OK, so it’s not that bad. We only really applied for five places and some applications I did slightly intoxicated so my experience probably isn’t much to go by. And living out of home, minus the hours spent cleaning and arguing with your flatmate about cleaning, is pretty sweet.

But yep, we got a new apartment. So my time has been spent scouring and scrubbing and sanitising our apartment in time to move out. But we decided to take a quick break from our frenzied clean up to celebrate with a big bottle of champagne (read: $8 sparkling wine) and food. I’ve told you before about my burgeoning love affair with my blender and am about to bore you again with its excellence. Not only does it make fantastic hummus, lo and behold its also a great tool for making olive tapenade. I’ve loved tapenade for as long as I can remember: it’s salty, oily and can be paired with cheese. Perfect in my books.

Normally I’d prefer to use kalamata olives for this recipe, but they’re bloody expensive. Stuffed green olives are a good substitute though, and have a slightly more delicate flavour. Fresh herbs really lift the tapenade but if they’re not available or too pricey, I suppose you could do without.

Keep the tapenade in the fridge for up to a month and use on toast, sandwiches, pasta or with crackers. Whip it out when entertaining or at the end of your rental crusade.

Green olive tapenade.

Green Olive Tapenade

400g stuffed green olives

1 clove garlic

2 TBSP chopped flat leaf parsley

2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

squeeze of lemon juice

pepper

1. Place the olives, garlic and parsley in a blender and pulse until well combined.

2. With the motor running, add the olive oil and lemon juice.

3. Season with pepper to taste.

4. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Food Bloggers, Unite!

11 Oct

It was a scene reminiscent of the most glorious dream and the worst possible nightmare: an endless line of mouthwatering food that spelled both delight and dread. The glut (ha!) in me knew the next few hours would be pure bliss but my (self) conscious female side thought otherwise – hello, potbelly.


Food bloggers from across Sydney gathered on Saturday (which was, wonderfully coincidentally, my birthday) for the Sydney Food Bloggers Mad Hatters Spring Picnic – organised by Billy from A Table for Two and Karen from Citrus and Candy.

It was essentially just like any other picnic gathering: rugs laid out, groaning with various dishes both sweet and savoury and plenty of people digging in and enjoying. But, true to food blogger-form, the cameras were out at every opportune moment, snapping away at the bevy of exquisite food.

 

Mini burgers by Fat Belly Club.

Bacon and olive bread by Sandra.

Sadly Eliza from Boomerang Banquet and I were about two hours late to the picnic and consequently didn’t get to try some of the food, but the excess of dishes ensured we didn’t completely miss out. The mini burgers by Paulina and Liam from Fat Belly Club were absolutely adorable and the bacon and olive bread by Sandra from The French Wench was deliciously salty.

 

Smoked salmon and blini by Jamie.

 

Blue bruschetta by Moya.

A friend from uni, Jamie of From the Dinner Table fame, made blini with smoked salmon – a scrumptious luxury that I actually haven’t indulged in since I moved out. To me the blue bruschetta by Moya from YaYa’s Yum Yums was, despite its bizarre appearance, the savoury winner of the day – light, airy and perfect paired with creamy blue cheese.

Of course the best part of the two-hour eating fest was the dessert. And because, it seems, most bloggers have a serious sweet tooth, the desserts heavily outweighed the savories. But I wasn’t complaining.

 

S’more tarts by Phuoc.

 

Raspberry and lemon curd tarts.

Phuoc from Phuoc’n Delicious made cute little S’more tarts – a crumbly pastry shell holding a rich chocolate centre and topped with marshmallow. The mini raspberry and lemon curd tarts (also by Fat Belly Club) were equally as sweet.

 

Lemon & blueberry ricotta cheesecake.

 

Earl Grey cake and mini macarons.

The lemon and blueberry ricotta cheesecake by Leila from Tablenosh had just the right amount of tart and sweet flavours and it was rich and creamy like a good cheesecake should be. I didn’t get to try the actual chiffon cake by Ayana but the macarons were superb – a crunchy outer shell yielding a chewy and soft centre.

 

Tea-ramisu.

Cake pops.

 

Cookie monster cupcakes by Sook.

The mini tea-ramisu cups by Tammi from Insatiable Munchies – chocolate teacups filled with sweet custard cream and soaked sponge cake – were an ingenious take on the traditional tiramisu. And the cake pops by Sugarlace were a jollier version of iced cake. There were also three versions of cookie monster cupcakes – these ones, I believe, were by Sook from Nommy Nom Nom.

Mad hatter cupcakes.

 

Food blogger mud cake.

I was in absolute awe at some of the skill using fondant. The mad hatter cupcakes (also by YaYa’s Yum Yums) really went all out with the picnic’s theme and were spectacular to look at. But the real star of the dessert show (and the winner for Best Dessert) was the blogger mud cake by Anna from Diary of a Ladybird. It didn’t only look magnificent – the salted caramel mud cake inside was moist, rich and heady with chocolate and salty sweet goodness.

 

Carmen Miranda... sort of.

Chocolate eclair hat.

The costumes and hats were also a sight to behold. The Carmen Miranda fruit hat was a welcome burst of colour on an otherwise drizzly day and the chocolate eclair hat was just plain fantastic.

But this was easily the best costume of the day.

We ate, we dranked, we discussed Masterchef, Adriano Zumbo and Peter Gilmore’s snow egg. It was great to meet other food bloggers in the flesh and see what a close-knit community the blogging sphere really is.

Someone threw around the idea of a Christmas picnic in the coming months. If this is anything to go by, I’ll be fasting for weeks in preparation.

Baking for Mama.

12 May

I loathe doing uni work and will do almost anything to avoid it. Facebook, re-ordering the pantry, scrubbing the shower… You name it, I’ll do it.

But my most preferred method of procrastination? Baking.

The bonus here is that not only does it keep me from doing what I hate, I also really, really enjoy it. To be honest I’m no fan of moving the rice over to the right and relocating the sultanas to the top shelf, but baking? It’s the most enjoyable way to ensure that no work gets done.

This particular baking day, I also had a legitimate excuse to spend time in the kitchen. It was Mother’s Day, which, to me, screams out for a bevy of baked goods.

Originally I had envisaged about four or five different things for my Mother’s Day morning tea, spending the day prior whipping up muffins, scones, slices and the like. But absolutely shocking time management (well, prioritisation skills) on my part meant I was forced to forgo an elaborate sugar-butter-carb-filled feast and instead limit it to two choices. I was, however, amazed I managed to devise recipes, buy ingredients and produce two things within the space of an hour and a half on Mother’s Day morning – and appalled that I couldn’t even apply this kind of determination to my work.

The first recipe comes from my baking bible: The Australian Women’s Weekly mega-tome, Bake. For all you language purists out there, no, I don’t think ‘mega-tome’ is an acceptable English word, but neither are ‘tweet’ nor ‘Yogalates’. And if they’re good enough for Oxford, ‘mega-tome’ is good enough for me.

Anyway, the recipe was for chocolate lace crisps, criminally rich chocolate biscuits that don’t really live up to their name. They’re not crisp at all – ‘crisp’ biscuits seem to imply light taste and texture, a small indulgence that won’t do much to your waistline. A wafer, perhaps.

But these ones were instead loaded with chocolate, butter and sugar, with a dense fudgey texture that seemed more like, well, fudge than anything else.

That’s not to say they weren’t good though, because dayum, they certainly were. They had the most intense flavour and gooey-like-a-pudding centres. I clearly have a penchant for food writing, judging by my fantastic skill with adjectives here.

The second thing I made was chocolate custard and raspberry tarts – a recipe I invented that kind of builds on my previous peach torte idea. These were equally as good, if I may say so myself, but admittedly somewhat pricey due to the raspberries. We were lucky enough to have some (which we didn’t pay for) but I suppose you could make do with any other fruit that goes well with chocolate – banana, strawberries and so on. To make them uber-cheap, you could even just go without.

Again, I made my own pastry and again, you could just use shortcrust. Cut rounds using a cup as a guide and press them into a muffin tray.

This time around I cheated by using bottled custard – which ended up making the whole thing a lot cheaper.

Chocolate lace crisps

Chocolate Lace Crisps

Makes 24 (I managed to scrape together 12)

100g dark eating chocolate, chopped coarsely
80g butter, chopped coarsely
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup (150g) plain flour
2 TBSP cocoa powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking powder)
¼ cup (40g) icing sugar

1. Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat
2. Transfer chocolate mixture to medium bowl
3. Stir in caster sugar, egg and sifted flour, cocoa and soda
4. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes or until mixture is firm enough to handle
5. Preheat oven to 180C/160C fan-forced
6. Grease oven trays and line with baking paper. If you have non-stick trays, just butter should be A-OK
7. Roll level tablespoons of mixture into balls. I think this is where I went wrong – my estimation skills are appalling
8. Roll each ball in sifted icing sugar and place about 8cm apart on trays. Yes, round balls. Not flattened balls. It confused me too
9. Bake about 15 minutes and cool on trays

Chocolate custard raspberry tarts

Chocolate Custard and Raspberry Tarts

Makes 12

For the pastry:
1 ¼ cup plain flour
2 TBSP corn flour
2 TBSP icing sugar
125g cold butter, chopped coarsely
2 TBSP cold water, approximately

For the custard:
500ml bottled custard
100g dark eating chocolate, roughly chopped
1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
2 TBSP cornflour

Plus raspberries (fresh or frozen) to decorate – how many you use (or whether you use them at all) depends on how stingy you are.

For the pastry:
1. Sift flours and sugar into a medium bowl
2. Rub in the butter with your fingers
3. Add enough water so that the ingredients come together
4. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth
5. Enclose in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes
6. Meanwhile, make custard

For the custard:
1. Place custard in a saucepan over medium heat
2. Once warmed through, add chocolate and stir until chocolate is completely melted and well combined with the custard
3. Sift cocoa and cornflour into the custard mixture and beat well to combine. And I mean beat well – cornflour makes lumps of the worst kind
4. Cool completely

Back to the pastry:
1. Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan-forced
2. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin
3. Remove from the fridge and remove the plastic wrap
4. Divide the dough into 12 equal-sized balls
5. Roll each ball with a rolling pin (I don’t have one – a wine bottle is perfect, as any self-respecting student would know)
6. Place each disc into the muffin tin and mould a little to fit
7. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, or until the pastry is just golden. They may shrink a bit (mine shrank a lot) but don’t fear – they’ll still work.

To assemble:
1. Fill pastry shells with custard mixture
2. Top with raspberries… or nothing
3. Place in the fridge for at least half an hour so the custard firms up a little
4. Serve

Both of these are even better a few days later, after being kept in the fridge.

California, Here We Come.

2 May

My flatmate and I, under the pressures of paying the rent and paying uni fees, rarely go out. Who has the money to pay for entry fees at clubs and overpriced drinks? Not us, that’s for sure.

Instead we often spend our Saturday nights watching television. Our latest obsession? Seasons one to four of The OC.

It’s a fabulous show, full of teen angst of the best kind and ridiculously outlandish plotlines. We don’t engage in real teen life, so we live vicariously through Orange County’s finest.

I never expected the show to be a source of inspiration for my culinary adventures but, lo and behold, episode 101 proved a fantastic muse for my next special occasion.

For those of you who clearly aren’t as fanatically obsessed with the show as I, episode 101 contains a scene where Taylor Townsend brings Ryan a peach torte. You don’t really need to know who these characters are. The peach torte (although not really an intrinsic part of the show’s plotline) is the real star here.

I had been thinking of how we could celebrate the impending end of season four and the creation of a peach torte seemed perfect.

Together we reminisced throughout the seasons about the various foods starring in The OC and compiled a sizeable list of edible options for our two-person party.

Shrimp tacos? Too expensive.

Bagels with shmear? Besides not knowing what exactly ‘shmear’ was (or whether it was even a noun), we knew bagels were rather costly and despite constant promises to do so, I was too lazy to make them.

Moo Shoo? Yeah, exactly.

We figured we’d just make the peach torte and eat some sort of American fast food to compensate.

But yet more inspiration came in the form of leftover steaks from a previous dinner party. It was steak of the cheapest kind and consequently tough enough to choke you. I figured it was probably better off being slow cooked to create…

MOO STEW! I know, you must be spewing at this kind of creative genius.

Slow-cooked beef is possibly one of the easiest things to make. It uses the cheapest cuts of meat and often involves throwing whatever vegetables you have left over into the pot. It’s therefore pretty cheap to make as well.

I used fillet steak but admittedly cuts actually intended for slow-cooking would be better. If you have one, ask your local butcher or look at this article on the best cuts to use:

http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/articles/the-best-beef-cuts-for-slow-cooking

For the peach torte I made up recipes for my own pastry and custard (which, admittedly, makes the whole thing a bit more costly) but you can make do with frozen shortcrust pastry and bottled custard instead. Using fresh peaches would have been better, obviously, but when times are tough, tinned fruit is the best thing evah.

Moo Stew

1 TBSP olive oil

1 brown onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped finely

500g fillet steak, diced

2 TBSP mixed herbs

1 400g tin of tomatoes

375ml chicken stock

2 TBSP tomato paste

2 carrots, chopped into thick slices

2 potatoes, cubed

1 stick celery, chopped into thick slices

½ cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

½ cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot (I mean large, like one of those big soup pots)
  2. Add onions and garlic and fry until soft and glassy
  3. Add steak and stir over heat until browned
  4. Add herbs and stir through
  5. Add tomatoes, chicken stock and tomato paste to the pot and stir to combine
  6. Add vegetables and bring to the boil
  7. Add half the parsley and basil and season with salt and pepper
  8. Once boiling, lower temperature to a simmer and leave for two to three hours. You may occasionally need to add ½ cup of water every hour as it reduces quite a bit. Also check the salt and pepper levels and add more if needed
  9. Before serving, stir through left over parsley and basil
  10. You can serve this with pasta, rice or bread. Or, if you’re really strapped for cash and even the thought of spending 70c on a packet of spaghetti leaves you feeling ill, eat it on its own

Peach Torte

For the pastry:

1 ⅔ cup plain flour

½ cup caster sugar

125g cold butter, chopped

1 egg yolk

1 TBSP water, approximately

For the custard:

2 eggs

½ cup caster sugar

1 cup milk

1 cup cream

1 tsp vanilla essence

½ cup corn flour

50g butter

Plus you’ll need either a 825g tin of peaches – or, indeed, any other fruit such as pears, nectarines or apples.

Pastry

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/160C fan-forced
  2. Place flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl and combine
  3. Rub in butter with your fingers until the mixture is like crumbly sand
  4. Add the egg yolk and mix in with your fingers
  5. Add enough water so that the pastry comes together but isn’t too wet. You want it to be kind of like the consistency of play dough. If you add too much, add a tiny bit more plain flour to balance it
  6. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth
  7. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  8. Then roll it out until it’s big enough to line a 24cm round loose-based flan tin. I admittedly don’t have one so used a cake tin with removable sides (there’s probably a technical name. God knows what it is). It seemed to work OK. BUT! Make sure the sides are removable, because you need to be able to get the thing out
  9. If you’re using store-bought pastry, simply cut to fit the tin and follow the next few steps
  10. Line the bottom with baking paper and on top of that, put rice or dried beans. This is to make sure the pastry doesn’t rise when you bake it
  11. Put it in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and take off the rice/beans and paper. Bake another 10 minutes and remove from oven again
  12. Leave to cool

Custard

  1. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a metal bowl
  2. Add the milk, cream and vanilla and whisk to combine
  3. Place this bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t actually touch the water. If you’re lucky enough to have a double-boiler, use this by all means. It’ll make life much easier
  4. Keep stirring so the eggs don’t scramble until the mixture starts to thicken
  5. Once it’s a little thicker, put the mixture into a medium-sized saucepan and put on the direct heat. In simpler terms, put it on the stove
  6. Add the corn flour and keep stirring until the mixture is custardy
  7. Take off the heat and add the butter, whisking until it’s mixed in
  8. Leave to cool

Now it’s time to assemble.

  1. Pour the custard into the tart (make sure everything’s room temperature). If you’re using bottled custard, simply pour it in straight from the bottle
  2. Arrange the slices of fruit on top in an aesthetically pleasing manner
  3. Serve

This was gone from our apartment within 24 hours. It’s especially good the next day, cold straight from the fridge.