The boat, the boat, the boat. I remember why I HATE boats. The first stint from Santorini to Naxos was horrendous. I felt so sick. I cried. I wanted OFF. Once we reached Naxos and it became a nearly full boat we had to move to our allocated seats. I tried sleeping on Chris’ lap and luckily that help ease the motion for our next leg to Mykonos. I wanted to kiss the asphalt when we docked. Mwa mwa mwa. Land. Mwa mwa mwa.
We were starving so grabbed lunch at the little café next to the port and as we were about to set off, the owner, a nice little Greek lady asked where we were staying. She said she knew the family and would call them as they normally will pick up their guests. Hallelujah reigned as we did not want to get ripped off again from the monopoly that is island taxis.
I knew the hotel was on the hills overlooking the water, but I had not imagined something so beautiful.
We dropped out bags, turned on the air con so that our room would be nice and cool upon our return form a leisurely stroll into town. The roads are not wide so the pedestrians are sharing with the lunatic drivers and scooter riders. Although I did not get hit, there was one lucky call. Crazy hooligans.
Once we got into town I did not remember the streets from my trip 9 years earlier, so we began exploring. What we found was breathtaking.
A lot of the small shops sold tourist items, beach wear and little nick knacks, none of which we were interested in. I did however find some designer stores none of which I could fathom dropping the amounts displayed on the items shown. Ridiculous. Probably because it is an island and there is nowhere else to shop.
Back to the hotel to get ready for a nice dinner for two. I think I do a good Alfalfa impersonation (first attempt at curling my newly short hair).
The dinner was fine dining which we had not had for a while, and what better way to enjoy such a meal then with a short walk, past a beautiful view of Mykonos by night, to our room. A very impressive table setting instantly make you feel excited for a meal. Look at this unique wood place mat with delicate cutlery and abstract plate. I love every inch of it and want to steel it all, including the light. It may be ugly but it is such a great idea for menu’s and actually give people a chance to read in dimly lit restaurants.
Entrée was saganaki mussels. After a few failed attempts of having saganaki in Santorini I think we have hit the jackpot here. Cheesy + tomatoey + slurpy make for a lot fun, I don’t mind getting in with my hands too. Not the normal saganaki but captures the essence of the dish and makes it even better with the local seafood.
Mains were just as impressive. I had risotto with speck and Chris had the surf and turf. The risotto was nice, very earthy and much richer than all the seafood ones I have had to date on the trip, so it was unfortunate I actually could not finish the plate, not even close. Chris very much so enjoyed his steak, but when you have a well cooked steak who wouldn’t?
Yep no room for dessert, plus the game was starting. Brazil vs Germany. We were excited to watch it in the bar area with at least 20 others. There were a group of girls sitting next to us wearing Brazil bandanas. Germany score One. Two. Three. I cannot believe it, everyone is so stunned, the girls even take all Brazil merchandise off. Four. Five. Half time. Ok I am not staying to watch more, so I left Chris to go to bed, there is no point watching it. I did actually get the tv working in the room, Chris shortly came back after another goal went in, and he watched the rest from the room. We were shocked.
Today we did not really feel like doing anything, our only objective in Mykonos was to go to Paradise Beach, which we decided to do the following day. Plus did I mention that it was State of Origin night, well afternoon? Even if we did want to go somewhere Chris refused to go out before 3pm once the game would be finished. He spent all morning trying to find a website to stream off and finally streamed from the NRL website. I was not going to sit in a room to watch or even listen so off to the pool I went.
I got a cocktail and enjoyed the sun on my chair. I did go into the pool a handful of times to cool off but not for long as I could tell the chlorine was very strong and not something I like to breath in. So the game started at 1pm our time, Chris did not join me until 3:30pm. Little did I know that those 2 hours would be like years in Sun years. We enjoyed a nice lunch together overlooking the pool. I had a deconstructed gyro while Chris had a terrible pizza that tasted like it was frozen and came out of a box.
After lunch I was not interested in more pool so left Chris, showered and went into the town for some window shopping. I was quite pleased when I caught a glimpse of how brown I was getting 😀 happy Trish.
Going for a walk by myself also gave me time to photograph and take my time with them.
The town was fairly busy as it was getting to the end of the week, not that there is much space in the small cobblestone roads anyways.
I also made it my mission to find the infamous Jimmy’s Gyros. I remember eating delicious gyros here at 3am after hitting up the clubs last time I was here. The situation was a bit different to this trip so we may not get a chance for gyros, but at least I can say “I was here 2014”.
I went back to find Chris in the room but suddenly was not feeling well. I led Chris back into town to a little restaurant I found (the picture with the tables next to the water). We walked in and there was plenty of space but as soon as we were told that their eftpos machine was down we also walked right back out only having credit cards with us to pay. So we found another small restaurant along the same strip which overlooked the water and the large Mykonos windmills. Our food was not great, but I also had lost my appetite and was extremely tired…….I think we have a case of heat stroke, and all because of a silly NRL game. We left and I slept as soon as we reached our room. Not a nice feeling that was!
Our final day in Mykonos and we had to experience Paradise.
We found an umbrella fairly close to the water (less hot sand to walk on until you reach water) and set up shop. I was peckish so ordered a baguette, 4 euros thank you very much for not being over priced!
A couple of hours and drinks later, we had swam in the bluest, clearest waters, laid on the nicest beach lounges and walked on the softest sand (possible in Greece). This was paradise, and not a cloud in the sky!
How are we going to finish such a nice day off? Eat what we like best, fresh pasta. I stumbled on this restaurant on my explorations and looked it up after paradise. It had may alterations on seafood pasta so it was worth a try in both our eyes.
I was not game enough to have the pasta with clams and instead opted for a linguine with crab in a white wine sauce.
Chris had to try it, the clams that was, but it just would never be as good as Da Adolfo. Still, it was the best food we had outside the fine dining in our restaurant so that was a good night for us.
Our last morning we slept in and got ready for our boat to Athens. Hopefully it would not be as choppy as the boat to Mykonos. Well it shouldn’t as we have a huge almost cruise liner that is quite slow, 5 hours in fact, so I don’t anticipate that to sway much at all.
The final view from our hotel is just as spectacular as when we arrived. To have experienced Mykonos both crazily and this time relaxed has been good. I have seen different sides to the island, both good and bad. I think the food generally isn’t as good and perhaps more touristy. I think the view is just as, if not more beautiful than Santorini, and on that point the sunsets are great too, there is just no volcano, who cares! The beaches are and will forever be far superior in Mykonos to Santorini. Maybe this is because I am an Aussie and love sand but the rocks just don’t do it for me and if anything hinder my experience of the beach.
We have enjoyed it though, well we have to, the honeymoon is coming to a fast end!
Flying to Santorini was quite the trek. Rome to Athens, stopover, then Athens to Santorini. I did find it amusing during our stopover to listen to Americans trying to say ‘efharisto’, but instead saying ‘f-haaristooo’. I cringed and wanted to correct them but I was outnumbered, there were too many of them, not worth the effort.
Our overpriced taxi drive did not even take us to the door, but I suppose it serves us right for getting a hotel in the little cobblestone alleys of central Fira rather than in a smaller town like Imerovigli. Nothing mattered once we got to our room and patio.
The view makes everything better.
It was already 6pm and we were hungry, but Argentina were about to play Belgium in the quarter finals, a game we did want to watch, Argentina had to win! So we found a nice restaurant which had tv’s and sat down, after a detour to look at the view again.
Dinner was great, lots of tzatziki, greek salad, lamb and octopus. You can’t get much more Greek than that. I was exhausted after the game. Argentina won of course then we headed back to the hotel. Chris returned to the bar to watch game 2 that night while I tried to sleep. I don’t remember so much noise last time I was in Santorini, but then again I did not stay in Fira. We were in the thick of it, but so were the clubs, and what comes with clubs is their blaring music which we could hear all night and morning long. Needless to say we did not sleep that much all night.
Breakfast was served on our rooftop overlooking the glistening blue sea. I was ecstatic to see a plunger of coffee as it had been a good 2 months since I had had some, our Wedding day, I made a huge pot for all the people at my house getting ready. Good thing was that it was made well, and not burnt (as I found out later on a flight serving terrible plunger coffee). We paired fresh coffee with yogurt and honey, watermelon (sooo greek), boiled eggs, bread, orange juice and apple french toast. Healthier than the big buffet breakfasts we had enjoyed up until this point which was a nice change.
We spent the morning looking up our good friend trip advisor to decide on a restaurant for the evening, but in the end just took a recommendation from the hostess at the hotel. So we walked down, along the cliff face to book it in and tried to do the ‘selfie’ with the nice white buildings. FAIL. All we got is my hat and hair in the way.
Our light breakkie was also convenient as it left room for a Gyro lunch. We tested both the pork and chicken gyro. YUM. Fresh meat, salad and crispy chips smothered in tzatziki and wrapped in fluffy soft pita bread. The perfect snack before an afternoon at the beach.
Black beach in Kamari, famous for its black gravel that spans the whole coast.
We set ourselves up under a nice umbrella and it only set us back 6 euros. Compare this to the 15-25 euros they were charged in Italy and this is a steal. After we settled in we wanted a refreshing beverage, so I got us us frappes. Now Chris had become accustomed to this traditional Greek drink, even bordering on the point of liking it.
OF course to make them last longer we topped them up with cold water once we got to the halfway point. It would be blasphemy to finish a frappe in under an hour!
The water was surprisingly freezing and the wifi was not working at the beach so after a few hours we had had enough and went back to the hotel to rest before dinner.
I was able to capture the beginning of the sunset as there are ledges all around our hotel, perfect for setting up a camera on timer. I do love this photo.
Back to the cliff face and we were able to find someone happy to take a photo for us. The result, much better than my efforts.
Lucky we booked as we were given the best table in the house. Well sort of. It did have the best view, right on the edge, but at 7:30pm when we arrived the sun was still beaming strong and there was no shade cover. I suspect other tables opted to be further back so they weren’t as hot as we were for that first hour. Almost too much sun for even me, but we held out and the results were well worth it.
We also had a good view right along the coast and got to see packs of donkeys walking up and down the stairs. I do feel sorry for them having to carry so much so I was glad to photograph these donkeys not carrying anything at all.
Right everyone get your cameras and phones out as it is starting. The famous Santorini Sunset.
People at every restaurant along the cost were watching and celebrating.
Boats were out in packs too.
Once the sun did finally go down everyone clapped and cheered.
A nice romantic dinner, food wasn’t great but it was about the experience. It certainly made us want to sit side by side and cuddle up while we watched the changing colours of the sky.
I don’t think I could get sick of this view. Today many more cruise liners were out and it got me thinking. What a nice way to do the islands as it is calm, you don’t need to worry about choppy high speed boats or turbulent small planes. You don’t need to wheel your luggage up the cobblestone streets and you will always have a beautiful view…..maybe one day, but not today, we still have much more land to cover.
Today’s outing was to more famous beaches in Santorini, Red and White beach in Akrotiri. Incredibly they are just around the corner from each other yet they are so starkly different that you cannot believe they are from the same small bit of coast line.
We caught a boat out to see the three beach options for the afternoon then could dock at whichever one we wanted. First was Red beach. I had visited before but it is always so busy and there are not many umbrellas available, let alone empty beach space. So we gave this one a miss and went onto the next beach.
White beach. Such a view and like nothing we had seen before. So secluded there is no road nearby let alone any amenities. The next beach was Black beach but we had already been to a Black beach so opted for White.
Plenty of umbrellas available, and because it is so secluded it is surely a monopoly, 15 euros for the both of us. Well we coughed it up as we did not want to attempt lying on the hard white pebbles. We experienced them enough getting off the boat. Since the water is shallow closer to shore the boat docked about 15m out from shore. We had to get off the boat in our cozzies and thongs and walk to shore in waist high water, with out bags on our heads and trying not to trip on the pebbles. I did save my bag, but I did trip too, it is so hard to walk on those pebbles.
Once we were relaxing on the beach, and in the warm water, it was bliss – a quiet, calm beach with crystal clear water. Yes please!
All good things must come to an end, and our last day in Santorini had so far been paradise. Back at the hotel we got the good news from the hostess that she got us a booking at her favourite traditional restaurant there, Naoussa. We again got the best table in the house which we felt had an even better view than what we had seen before.
We were hungry so ordered big. Entrée consisted of Greek salad, tzatziki and cheese croquets (which were basically just fried melted cheese). All so delicious and as I am writing this I am salivating over this meal. We washed this down with a small jug of house white wine.
Mains were just as impressive. Moussaka, which I was so glad that they served in a terracotta pot. The waiter told me this was the best moussaka in Santorini and he was not lying. It was delectable. The béchamel was smooth as silk, creamy and the hint of nutmeg gives it that proper greek flavour. The meat, potato and eggplant all rich in flavour and as a whole dish YUM. Chris had slow roasted lamb with lemon potatoes which tasted good but was a tad dry, so disappointing for something that looked so impressive. The potatoes on the other hand were ‘just a-like-a home’ although would never be better than my Grandmothers, ever. But beyond my Grandmothers they were the next best.
Our view. The best ending to a fantastic time in Santorini. We have seen a lot of sunsets on our trip. This would be number one, Biarritz number two, everything else does not matter.
Santorini is just as beautiful when the night sky is out and the lights are on.
Our time has been full of much needed relaxation and tanning. If we are coming back to Australia after 9 weeks we most certainly need a tan, what else would people come to Europe in Summer for?
Rome has been such a different experience for me. I have gone from hating the city to loving it’s vibe, it’s chaos and wanting to come back and explore. In our 3 days all we saw was a check list of monuments and the restaurant outside our hotel, as it had the best pizza and pasta.
If I was doing a list of awards for this holiday, the award for the city I wish I could have spent more time in would be Rome.
We arrive on a Friday afternoon and luckily our hotel was very central located just up from the Spanish steps. We were starving so we had to decide whether to go and find a good restaurant or should we just chance the restaurant outside our hotel, which we got 10% off at. It was busy so that was a good sign, plus we were so hungry that anything probably would have tasted good.
The menu was simple so we settled on fettuccine ragu and pizza with sausage, mushrooms and mozzarella. I had hoped that my small amounts of daily of gluten consumption in France had warned my stomach of what was to come in Italy, I was not going to go without here. We were so excited for this meal and had been looking forward to pizza and pasta everyday for basically the whole of France.
Well let me tell you, we had been there one hour and I knew this pizza and pasta would be hard to beat, this is the evidence.
We debated whether to get another plate of either as we thought we were hungry still, but opted out and set off in the direction of the Trevi Fountain. On the way there we did go past the Spanish steps and decided to sit and relax there on the way back to the hotel. Also on the way to the Trevi Fountain were 2 major shopping streets, the first Prada, Bulgari, Dior, Cartier, Fendi etc etc. Chris was pulling me along and probably wishes he had a leash he could keep me close with so I would not run to each window and admire. Ok I was a good girl and did not go in, we continues on. Then next street Zara 1, Zara 2, Mango (my favourite shops) plus many many more. Again Chris pulled me along reminding me of the prize, ice cream at the fountain. Ok Ok. We got there. Excitement, gone. Disappointment, boiling. Scaffolding, everywhere. Water, vanished.
Chris was so upset, he was saving his two 1c coins for us to throw, he did not want a photo.
There were many coins thrown over the barriers and onto the concrete that once was a pond. No wishes would be happening here! Later we looked up how long the works were taking place as we were returning to Rome a week later for a day, but nope they were to be ongoing until 2015. A multi million euro restoration of the Trevi Fountain sponsored by Fendi. Well thanks a lot Fendi, ruin our night. Next disappointment was returning back to the once excellent gelataria only for it to look sloppy and no Italians ready to serve. Right back out we walked, authenticity lost. We then walked, shoulders dropped, back to the Spanish Steps on the look out for some good gelato. We would have walked into at least 5 places and none looked good, “what is it in these major cities, it was hard to find a good patisserie in Paris and now we cannot find gelato in rome?” we said to one another. It is as if cities have become so touristy that the chance that you will stumble upon a good little find is dwindling. LOOK those people are holding what looks like proper gelato, head in that direction. BAH BAH, success. Actually just across from the Spanish Steps too…..well at least the Spaniards are still guiding us well.
Double scoops were a must which we enjoyed on the steps looking out at the stupid tourists dumb enough to take roses from the man who wait for it, wait for it, there it is, will ask for money. Surely people are aware of these ploys, these men don’t just want to give you a rose, nor do the men in Paris just want to give you a bracelet, all they want is money. We sat for at least 40 minutes watching this occur over and over, still humoured every single time.
Not a bad way to spend a Friday afternoon with my husband, great food, smooth cheap wine and a two scoop of my favourite flavours.
The next morning we tried to leave reasonably early for St Peter’s Basilica as it was a Saturday, and the lines are always long. On the walk up to the Basilica we were asked in at least 5 different languages if we needed a guide as we can ‘skip the queues’. No thank you. Well the line was long but it was moving reasonably fast.
Yes is did stretch the whole way round but was only an hour and quite a bit was under shade. So it was not until we saw scaffolding in the square then ask a staff member why there was all this construction here that we were told tomorrow, Sunday, was St Peter’s Day and not only will the museum and basilica be closing early today but tomorrow would be closed. We are extremely lucky we came TODAY.
So we came, we saw, and we left. It is another extravagant church. Nice but once you have been to Sagrada Familia, no churches are anywhere near impressive, and that one is not even finished.
As we were walking out of the basilica we saw a sign for pre purchasing tickets to the Vatican Museum. It was a bit more expensive, but by now it was midday and getting hot outside. Yes thank you very much we are more than happy to pay tourist prices to skip the lines, please take our euros. I think if you go in with this attitude you will have a happier experience and not think back to all the lines you stood in, but how well spent your money was.
….and lines there were. We relaxed for a little in a café across from the entrance to enjoy our overpriced coffee, gelato and water in full air conditioning before we were ready to start. I did warn Chris before we entered that it is like a maze which if you power walk through the whole thing, and not even look at the art, will take you at least an hour to reach the Sistene Chapel. We did look, but quickly, or as quick as we could with the large groups blocking passage ways.
Just over an hour and we made it. This time more people were talking and not so stealthily taking photos but every few minutes the police would say “SILENCIO”. Without glasses I did find it very difficult to look up and examine all the little scenes so I got over it very quickly as my eyes were burning, but if you have the time there is so much to take in, so many stories told.
[insert photo downloaded from the internet of the sistene chapel]
It is interesting that even the exit has some ‘creativeness’ to it. As you walk down the very steep ramp that has no grip you slowly meet short steps and slowly slowly reach stability and the feeling that you will not fall over somewhere towards the bottom, the only place with yellow strips along the edge alerting people that ‘this is a step’. Odd and definitely would not be allowed in Australia. If this was in Australia there would be a second ugly handrail which is the correct height above the original one, large yellow strips on the edge of every step as the light grey is not different enough to the dark grey of the step and where the ramp is too steep there would probably be perpex steps built over the top to ensure that noone would sue the building for ‘falling over’. I am so glad we are not in Australia right now.
We were met with the same situation as I was when I left the Vatican Museum 5 years earlier, severe hunger. A whole morning of waiting and looking around the smallest country in the world is draining, so we walked through the little alleys hoping to find anything and then tada we hit the Piazza Nuova.
It normally has a plethora of different artists from musicians, jewellers and painters but today seemed rather quiet. We enjoyed people watching from one of the cafes around the edge of the piazza, ours even squirted cold water mist over you to cool you down. This definiely heightened our experience of bruscuetta, salad and Chris’ bolognaise.
Another big attraction is the large fountain with obelix in the centre.
Our last stop for the day was the Pantheon. Walking there I noticed a key difference between Rome and other european cities, well cities we have thus far visited. The combination of sunlight and the colours of the buildings add warmth to the city rather than glimpses of light and cold colours of grey or white concrete. Also the fact that every road is treated like a plaza with masses of people walking along and only moving if a car is on its way, oddly, adds a relaxed nature, people are not running around frantically to move almost as if pedestrians rule.
Well frantic does pick up closer towards the Pantheon. More guides offering there services but for us we thought the information signs around were enough. It is without a doubt my favourite building in Rome. Every time I come here it takes my breath away, maybe this is because every time I visit there is a children’s choir chanting which makes this space just mesmerizing. The light, the shadows on the ceiling, the detail of the interiors and the scale are all so beautiful. No need for our dodgy ‘selfies’ here, it can speak for itself.
A great way to end our Saturday, well almost. On the way back to the hotel I lost Chris to the Brazil v Chile game so I decided to relax with some shopping but made sure I was back by 8, which I did, Chris was not. I got ready for dinner and went to find him, in the bar, not dressed, watching the game. Thanks very much guys why did it have to go to extra time, then penalties, I wanted to eat. Everyone was glued to the screen (this was back when people liked Brazil). They won yay, can we eat now?
We had decided to try the rooftop restaurant in our hotel, little did we know that a lot of Rome had that same idea. It was packed and we did not have a reservation. We were yet to stay in a hotel where people actively seek out the restaurant so it was a shock to us. We had our cocktails and waited. Finally we were seated and ordered as quickly as possible. Entrée was delicious, beef carpaccio with quail eggs, pecans on a rocket salad.
Happy Trish and Chris, but not for long. Mains were a complete disaster. The pasta was so horrible, thick, undercooked and gluggy that they were hardely edible. The things we do when we are hungry, hoping every bite will get better. In hindsight we should have sent them back but hunger does funny things to people. (definitely not photo worthy).
We finishes our wine as quick as we could to get out of that terrible place wishing we had pizza and pasta again. So we decided to at least get some enjoyment out of a few more wines and some live music at the piani bar. It started to get quite busy and before we knew it some americans were up and dancing. It was a funny sight as the girl knew how to salsa but the guy truly did not. After a few wines Chris gets quite proud and wanted to show them how it was done so grabbed me and spin, spin, spin, spin. I am not a good dancer but I would say that I gave a better effort than that guy. Chris was satisfied and sat down for the rest of the night. Before we knew it it was 2am and we had an early train down to the Amalfi. We must have lost time after another bottle or was it the haze of smoke as that everyone was puffing that did it????
Amalfi story will come shortly.
We headed back to Rome for one more night after our fantastic trip to Amalfi as it did take a good 4 hours to travel between them and we needed to rest before another half day of travel to the Greek Islands. So we got back to Rome around 4 in the afternoon dropped our bags and set of for the last item on our checklist, the Colloseum. We looked online and there was a tour which included the space under the colloseum at 4:30. Metro was not going to work so we jumped in a cab and power walked making it just in time. We asked the staff but were informed that the tour we wanted is booked out months in advance and we would not be able to get in this summer. Well ok, that did not go according to plan. This is when anoying people asking if you want to join their tour are welcome. So we joined a group, got straight in and heard this eccentric man go off on tangents and talk about the colloseum, that was until we were told we only had 20 minutes free time in the colloseum before our next tour of the Roman Forum was about to start. Tour suddenly did not seem like a good idea. Who actually liked being rushed? We had paid so we decided to just see what we could then get on with it.
Thankfully the second tour was with a different guide, this guide was an overenthusiastic British ex teacher who was in love with Roman history. Although we were hot and bothered it was a great tour and really informative.
We learnt that the Arch of Constantine here outside the Colosseum was the first arch, built in the 4th century, and apparently the one that the French Arc De Triomph was based around. We also got a great view of the Colosseum without all of its scaffolding. Then saw what would have been the original and grandest basilica (the large building with domed ceilings behind us), which is much much larger than St Peter’s is and what St Peter’s is based on. The Basilica of Maxentius. The only difference between what this would have been and what St Peter’s is is the dome on the top, which the architect added and Michelangelo advised to raise to make it very tall.
So the architect really did not do much except copy a design and add a dome, not dictate the final product.
The Roman Forum used to be under a lot of silt and has taken many years of excavation to discover the remains. What is truly incredible is how old some of these buildings are. The most spectacular I think is the Temple of Divus Romulus church which still has the original bronze doors, lock and key and dates back to the 4th Century.
Tick tick and tick. We were done. Now to get back to the hotel to enjoy some more pizza and pasta. This time we were not willing to share so we got an entrée pizza, potato, rosemary and mozzarella. To be honest I was so excited but I have had sooo much better in Sydney with thin slices of potato, rock salt, even rosemary spread across. Oh well I ate most of it anyways. Our mains were delicious. I had spaghetti with pepato pecorino and zucchini flowers. It was definitely a flavour punch with the cheesiest sauce I have ever had, but I enjoyed it as I do LOVE cheese. Chris got his favourite fettuccine with ragu. It was a good end to a lovely adventure in Rome.
Dinner with my partners extended family. I had only met his Tia and Tio once and I was still trying to make a good impression so I thought what could I take over as a thank you? Their Grandmother lives with the family and is from Uruguay so I was certain dinner was going to be fabulous and I am sure she would have all bases covered, therefore I felt there might be room to impress with dessert, plus I hadn’t baked something worth wild in a couple of weeks.
I did not want to take something too rich or chocolatey, it needed to be simple and delicious without being over the top. I thought fruit was a good place to start and I remember a couple of years ago baking a nectarine frangipane tart which was fantastic. Unfortunately it is the middle of winter now and all the good fruits are out of season. What could I be left with – apples, pears or cherries. The first two are boring and not packed with flavour. Apple is better in a crumble, pear is better with a chocolate frangipane, which is a good mix, but not something I wanted to recreate for this occasion, so by deduction Cherries it was to be.
I was surprised the cherries out, although $15/kilo, were so large, juicy and bursting with flavour, I thought to myself even from the get go this was going to be good. The frangipane itself was surprisingly easy to make, even though once someone commented that good frangipane had to be made a day ahead and left to rest for 24 hours before using it, I think people who believe this have no life and personally I think it would not make any difference as the tart I made turned out fabulous.
I had to make a few little tarts for my Mother who always wants to try my creations, but I had so much mixture that the mini tarts were basically overflowing with filling. One thing I was worried about once it was in the oven was the fruit burning but I was lucky that my oven did not decide to do its own thing and it baked evenly, did not burn and looked amazing. The only thing I forgot to do before I took it along to dinner was use some jam to make the cherries that little bit shiny and prettier, but I was confident they would like it none the less.
The result? THEY LOVED IT. I was soooo happy I have proved my baking abilities and impressed the relatives to be. Now I am sure they will have faith that I can take care of and cook for their beloved nephew. So that was one half of the satisfaction, but the other was my Mother’s reaction. Normally she always finds faults in my cooking, too dry, not enough stuffing, whatever, but her mini tarts were perfect. She could not stop complimenting them. PURE DELIGHT!
So the moral of the story is, this is the perfect tart to impress, serve with some ice cream, doucle cream or dab with some cognac when it comes out of the oven even for an adults only version, and you will be raved about for weeks to come.
Cherry Frangipane Tart
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 1/4 cups almond meal
1. Prepare pastry and bake then leave to cool.
2. While cooling pit all the cherries and cut in halves (you don’t want to bite into seed).
2. Preheat oven at 180 degrees C.
3. Cream butter and sugar until light in colour. Add vanilla paste then eggs in one at a time and mix until well combined.
4. Take mixture off the paddles and stir in the almond meal with a wooden spoon.
5. Pour frangipane over cooled tart shell then arrange the cherries in a nice pattern, but make sure that they are pressed in so they don’t fall off once baked.
6. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Allow to cool.
7. Serve with vanilla ice cream, double cream or dab some cognac over the top (while still hot). Enjoy
So it has been a fair while since I have posted. Lots has happened in the past couple of months including adjusting to my new job, breaking my wrist and trying to do anything with my cast on, and also getting through Greek Easter, graduation and Flaounes making which all happened on the same weekend.
It seemed as though when I cooked it was only quick dinners as time got past me, or the limited time to prepare anything for a party left me feeling ashamed of the non creative plate I was bestowing on the host. Finally though, a dinner party where I not only had time to cook, but also time to prepare something unique and delicious.
I had a week to devise something impressive but also something challenging to myself. Recently I have been going down to my local butcher, Pino’s Dolce Vita, and choosing something new to cook every week. They are specialists in sausages and cured meats but they also have a huge range of meat, poultry and game to whip up. I had a look at what was in the window and there were things like beef cheeks, veal cutlets and other more common meats, but I really did want something less seen, so I asked if they had rabbit……OF COURSE they do, but it is brought in fresh to order, and let me tell you, when I got my rabbit the flesh was so pink that you could tell how incredibly fresh it actually was. I was so excited at the challenge.
Rabbit is an animal I have wanted to cook again since my first attempt, which was a very “good effort” was overcooked and dry as I did not know how to work with this delicate meat. When cooking the meat it requires your full attention because like poultry or other white meats, it is so easy to overcook and be dry and tasteless.
I have continually come across recipes which stated rabbit stew, rabbit terrine or even assiette of wild hare. There are many ways to cook rabbit more than simply applying to a heat source. I really wanted the meat to keep its juices and be succulent and flavoursome. I therefore decided to treat the meat as something I could slow cook, something that can soak up all the flavours from the juices it was in.
So I did just that, cut up the rabbit, threw it into a casserole dish with tomatoes, garlic, sausage, white wine and cinnamon quills. Simple. Lid on. Bake for 6 hours on 150 degrees and ta da! Soft rabbit meat falling off the bone. DELISH!! I was so happy with my dish, I could not wait till my friend tried it. Finally something different I could take to a dinner party, something you won’t find commonly at restaurants and overall a very cheap meal.
The response was fantastic, and we even found a wine that matched perfectly, although a very unexpected pairing, an 2010 Arbois “Trousseau” from Jura mmmmmmmm
Slow Cooked Rabbit
1 rabbit cut into 6 pieces (with bone)
1 can crushed tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 chorizo (or similar sausage)
2 cinnamon quills
2 cups dry white wine
1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C
2. Roast for 6 hours, turning every hour (if there is not enough liquid add some more wine and tomatoes)
3 large parsnip
1 cup milk (use cream for a richer taste)
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
2 bunches dutch carrots
1. Peel parsnip then chip into cubes. Roast until cooked through and slightly browned on outside.
2. Put cooked parsnip into a blender with the milk, butter and Parmesan. I wanted a texture that was not completely smooth, but if you wanted it to be smoother, add more milk. Set aside)
3. Peel carrots then boil until cooked (note that they will not all be the same size so you will have to constantly take out the cooked ones individually as you don’t want some to over cook). Once cooked put in a bowl of cold or iced water to stop cooking them.
4. When ready to serve put carrots into a pan with butter and golden syrup and cook until they start to get crispy.
5. Portion up the rabbit, parsnip puree and carrots onto a plate and enjoy with a glass of Trousseau.
Pino’s Dolce Vita
45 President Avenue
Kogarah NSW 2217
(02) 9587 4818
Mondays to Fridays – 8:00 am -5:30 pm
Saturdays – 8:00 am – 2:00 pm
They have a full breakfast and lunch menu and beautiful coffee and sweets.
For those of you who have stomach problems I highly recommend looking into the FODMAP’s diet. It has saved me and I can assure you it is not a fad diet, but a life changing diet. I used to have stomach pain every day, bloating, indigestion and constant discomfort. I went to doctor after doctor and it wasn’t until I saw a particular Gastroenterologist that he int
For those of you who have stomach problems I highly recommend looking into the FODMAP’s diet. It has saved me and I can assure you it is not a fad diet, but a life changing diet. I used to have stomach pain every day, bloating, indigestion and constant discomfort. I went to doctor after doctor and it wasn’t until I saw a particular Gastroenterologist that he introduced me to this diet. Within a month I was not sore, I wasn’t constantly complaining and I was actually happy and enjoying food again.
There are a lot of foods that must be cut out but I won’t go into that, it is easy enough to find information about it, however what I will say is that I had been searching for a book on FODMAPs written by Dr Sue Shepherd who is a specialist in this area. Recently I found it while holidaying in QLD and had to buy it. The great thing about this book is that is explains clearly what FODMAPs is, how different foods affect different peoples and then it gives suggestions on how to make such a diet part of your life even if you are also gluten intolerant, lactose intolerant, vegetarian or vegan. There are a range of great recipes at the back which I really wanted to try out.
So this easter I thought I would make a dessert so I could enjoy it without feeling sick and decided that the items I had on hand were sufficient to make the lemon bars. It was really easy to make and actually didn’t require as many as I expected.
It is as easy as making the base then pouring over a lemoney mixture, baking and cooling. Done. Easy peasy! It is even a great one for the kids to help with!
Gluten Free Lemon Bars
(recipe slightly adapted from “Food Intolerance Management Plan, Dr Sue Shepherd)
3/4 cup rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 tsps grated lemon zest
125g unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
6 tbsps lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
3 tbsps rice flour
1.Preheat oven to 160 degrees C.
2. Mix flours, sugar and zest in a food processor to combine. Mix in butter until it starts coming together in a ball.
3. Press into a lined tin and bake for 10 minutes or until slightly browned on top.
4. In the meantime beat eggs and sugar in an electric mixer then add lemon juice, zest and flour and mix until well combined.
5. Pour over the top of the base and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned on top.
6. Let cool then dust with icing sugar to serve.
In recent months I haven’t been cooking as much as I have started working full time and have not had my own space to experiment without interruptions. I knew that my whole family would not be home this Valentines Day so it was the perfect opportunity to satisfy my huge desire to cook up something special. Last year I had to work on Valentines so I haven’t cooked up a celebratory dinner like this for a while, and I know post Valentines it will have to wait until September until we move into our own apartment with our own custom designed, absolutely fabulous kitchen (now christening that kitchen will be a dinner to remember). But we are not there yet so I just have to make do with my electric cooktop in the crowded kitchen I currently have at home.
I have been dying to cook Waygu every since a friend of mine made it for me at his house, although his was from Victor Churchill’s in Wollahra and costs ~$180/kg. I could not afford this yet, but one day, so I shopped around and found another well known butcher, which has a huge meat market in Glebe. Glenmore’s is just next to Wentworth Park and has been there for years. As it is a wholesaler the meat is ridiculously cheap, I mean I was able to get waygu for ~$55/kg, and although this was the lowest level of waygu I did not mind as I could handle having to work of that amount of fat but not a piece or fat with meat through it as some of the higher levels seem to resemble.
I had also planned to get some oysters for entree but the thought of buying them from David Jones after work and transporting them on the train home seemed like a less than pleasant experience, and not only for me but all the other train goers. SO I resorted to something very simple and quick to prepare which everyone loves, fried cheese mmmmm My family had bought a large wedge of Kefalograviera, which is a hard and salty Greek cheese traditionally supposed to be made from sheep’s milk, but the stuff we get here does not taste like sheeps milk. It is traditionally used in Saganaki which is a dish that has so many variations but basically is a thick chunk of this cheese fried and sometimes topped with prawns. It works well as it does not melt easily but goes stringy like mozarella.
We both enjoyed this entree and it only wet our appetite for the dish to come. I was not sure if the flavour would be enough to enjoy, as it hung on the fact I’d cook the meat perfectly and this was something I was scared I would not achieve. 10 seconds to long could be fatal and result in overcooked meat. I have had a lot of practice recently and learnt how much meat continues to cook off the pan, so I was confident but just in case I also made some paprika chips, green beans and diane sauce (on the side, this is not blasphemy with waygu).
My complete concentration was on the meat as it cooked and because one steak was thicker than the other it was easy to achieve medium rare and medium steaks. One thing I must say right here is that recently I have started cooking steak in butter rather than oil, I just find that the flavour is a little richer, and really a little butter wont kill anyone, but you will enjoy the meal a lot more.
While the steak rested I plated up the sides, the sauce and pouring the wine. We enjoyed a Katnook Estate 06′ Founders Block Cab Sav which was aired for hours, super super smooth and paired perfectly to this delicious piece of meat.
Here is just another one to tease you because it was INCREDIBLE, and you know you have done it to perfection when your partner who is not the biggest foodie but loves a good steak continually compliments you and says it was the best dinner ever and because it was so good now feels bad he hasn’t contributed to dinner. Of course he knows he couldn’t have helped as I would have been a complete Nazi telling him he was doing his task wrong, probably after he was distracted by something else. Cooking is not his thing, as as I tell him, it makes me so happy to cook for him…..so really the way into my man’s heart I have learnt over the years is a good steak and then a nice simple dessert, like ice cream!
A couple of months ago I introduced my partner to Maggie Beer “Burnt Fig, Honeycomb and Caramel Ice Cream”. Big Mistake! Whenever he is left with a container it disappears withing a couple of days so that I am not able to enjoy it. Well this obsession with ice cream had led me to in the past learn to make passionfruit semifreddo, ice cream millefuelle and chocolate strawberry ice cream cake. This year I wanted to try a recipe my Thea whips up for all family funcitons, and it is quite funny that now ice cream sandwiches are in fashion at many restaurants! It only required 4 ingredients and is very simple, so I thought, well I did manage to stuff it up by getting the quantities wrong so that the mixture was not dense enough to keep the biscuits on the bottom when poured over, they rose to the top and so I don’t have a sandwich but rather an ice cream slice with all the heavy chocolate bits sunk on the bottom.
Did we really mind? NO. It still tasted delicious and the best bit were all the crunchy pieces of “malt o milk” cookie, violet crumble and chocolate. We gobbled it up very easily and were now very very full.
I was so happy at how the dinner turned out as it was perfect and my partner was really in awe as he could not stop saying thank you thank you thank you. Definitely one of the best dinners I have ever cooked and the best Valentine’s meal we have had together. See no need to go out to restaurants, eat not so good food in a bad atmosphere, probably 1m away from the next table and with a long drive home. I much prefer home cooked dinners anyways which are simple and with good produce.
Happy Valentine’s Day mi amor.
For recipe of Steak Diane click here
Ice Cream Sandwiches
1 can condensed milk (400mls)
1 x thickened cream (600mls)
2 x crunchie bars, crushed
Malt o milk buscuits
1. Line a dish with baking paper at then line the malt o milk cookies flat so they resemble tiles (remember the direction you have placed them)
2. Mix the rest of the ingredients and pour over cookies.
3. Place remaining cookies in same tessellation pattern as on the base then freeze overnight.
4. To serve lift the baking paper out and cut off rectangular sandwiches.
I have been wanting to make Crack Pie for such a long time. We have all heard the rave about Momofuku even before it hit Sydney with their famous Pork bun’s and crack pie, but now Sydney ciders are lucky enough to experience it all on home turf…..at a price. For me, I am not that into asian cuisine, but I do have a very very sweet tooth and this pie is known to be the epitome of sweet pies and one that you will become addicted to. I think it is something about the base, it is basically a cookie that you bake then make into a tart base, similar to cheesecake (and if you wanted to cheat you could just do so with pre made cookies). The filling is somewhat like a custard or creme brulee as it is smooth and thick but rich. I assure you, if you give this pie to kids they will be running around for hours and not sleep that night, that is how much sugar there is in this tart.
The perfect opportunity arose with the 18th birthday of a close friend from work. Not only does she love desserts but is a huge chocaholic. I did end up finding a recipe for Crack Pie with a twist or nutella and thought it’s a done deal….Sure some people would this this would bastardize the original recipe but isn’t everything better when you add nutella??
I have seen some versions of this recipe which required days of cooking, cooling and setting, and during the week I just didn’t have time for that so this version is perfect as you can do it in one night, over 3 hours and then cool it overnight and it will be perfect the next morning. The only thing that you need to consider is how you will transport the pie to your destination as it needs to be kept cold. I was lucky and it was a particularly cold Summer’s day in Sydney town so it did not melt even though it was nearly two hours between fridges at either end.
Once it came time to cut the tart it came out of the fridge at the last minute as it must be served chilled as it does melt and goo all over the plate after a while. In the end was it a success? DEFINITELY but one thing I noticed is that once it did start to warm up it tasted sweeter which was a little bit too much. If I made it again I think you would get away with no brown sugar at all. Nutella is sweet enough as it is and with the amount of sugar in the filling and brown sugar it is a little sickening, so omitting brown sugar all together would be fine….there was so much filling left over that you don’t need it.
But now I am so happy I can say “I have made Crack Pie” and even if people did not know what you were talking about the name is still pretty cool, give it a try!
See ShowFood Chef’s recipe here. (but remember no brown sugar in the filling)
I have wanted to try something from the Adriano Zumbo cookbook released only a couple of months ago. We have all seen his crazy cakes on Masterchef and in his stores but to actually make one, I am sure many of us would not even dare. For me it is a challenge that will test me and these are the types of things I love giving a go. I know it will not be perfect and like he would do, but for your average run of the mill kitchen I think I did ok.
I wanted to give this cake a try as it involves many layers of chocolate, which I love, and it has so many contrasting textures I thought it would be really interesting to eat. I must admit that I only ‘got’ the idea of the cake half way through cooking it. Although you created each layer and froze it individually to set, it ended up being a sort of ice cream cake. The thing I did not get was how 7 layers of frozen goodness were supposed to merge into one cake…..
The first time it was served it fell apart into its layers, but after a few times it had melted a little then was refrozen it set into one form. It was very hard to cut the bottom three layers but all in all a success. The result for the best layer was unanimous too….creme brulee was so delectable, perfect by itself or with some of the chocolate mousse, which does look more like choc chip mousse as I did do a boo boo while making it. The recipe states that when you have the melted chocolate and the cream you must cool the melted chocolate so it does not melt the whipped cream, but too cold and it will set into chips rather than turn into silky chocolatey creme……so cold melted chocolate equals what I produced. I actually like the look though as it breaks up the rest of the intense chocolatiness and makes it look not as rich.
So three days and seven layers later I used up 2 dozen eggs, 4 blocks of chocolate, over a litre of cream and blocks and blocks of butter……do you still want a piece?
There is one layer which I made but did not include in the cake which was a chocolate meringue. Since the cake had not moulded very well at first the meringue layer would have just completely separated the cake in two. It was very tasty and took the longest out of every layer to prepare (nearly 4 hours) but it did not go to waste and was subsequently eaten by my family. The mirror glaze would have been the trickiest as it depended a lot on temperatures and having particular ingredients which I did not have, so I made do with what I had and it was shiny, but a little thick. The rest were all straight forward and just required patience. Overall I do think it is a marvellous cake, and definitely the best ice cream cake I have ever had…..would I ever make it again? Probably not, unless a close friend requested it for a special occasion.
Was it worth it you ask? YES I made a Zumbo cake and it nearly worked, that is an achievement in itself!
[I have decided not to put up the recipe as it is extremely long. If you would like a copy, email me and i’ll send it to you.]
Mum’s birthday. What do I cook??? She has recently deemed a new cake cookbook she purchased as her favourite thing since sliced bread….well maybe not that much, but she is very excited, so I thought I would do something out of that for her. I did think however maybe the choice should be her’s and I am glad I did as she told me to make one of her favourite cakes which I forgot I was saving to bake for this day.
I lie actually, I made it a couple of weeks ago but that recipe was stupid, or maybe I was the stupid one to listen, as it instructed to put a springform tin into a waterbath to cook the cake. It is evident that the bottom half of the cake was absolutely soaked! Straight to the bin it went….
I researched and found many recipes for souffle cakes which did not require a waterbath and decided on one. The key to this cake is creating as much air as possible and being very delicate and careful when you do finally fold everything together as you want it to be as light and airy as possible, so if you are too rough or stir rather than fold, you will get rid of a lot of the air bubbles.
Once you pout it into the springform tin (no waterbath this time) you bake it slowly for a long time. If you cooked it fast the outside would cook and the inside would remain raw, so be patient and it will turn out like this…..
Crusty on the outside and soft and fluffy, to the point of it melting in your mouth, on the inside. It is for this that it is so appropriate for any event as it is rich yet light and wont leave you feeling like you just ate a brick, you might even go back for a second one.
When I served this to my Mum she was just in heaven and did, like most girls, continue to cut slithers to make themselves feel better about not having a second slice. My twin brother was convinced it was just too rich and did not understand why I was putting a large scoop of ice cream to have with mine….some boys just don’t know how to enjoy decadence!
All in all Mum loved it, which is the most important thing. We had a simple do for her birthday this year, but I know she did not mind as she got exactly what she wanted…..the best chocolate cake in the whole wide world.
Chocolate Souffle Cake
(slightly altered from Dolcetto Confections)
400g dark chocolate, chopped
175g unsalted butter
7 large eggs, separated
¾ cup sugar
ice cream to serve
Finally the day had arrived. I organised a lunch with my capoeira girlfriends at least a month ago, although admittedly I cancelled and rescheduled twice, so in a way it is my fault, but it worked out for the better as today was a beautiful day and really the start of summer!
I woke up early for anyone’s standards of a sunday morning, 7am, and was out of the house by 8:30 for a morning coffee and to buy groceries. By the time I got home I had already prepared the pasta I had planned, which worked out quite well considering I had never made a flavoured pasta before, and by 11am all prep was done. Now at this stage I would have been stupid not to swim and tan in my pool since the sun was out and I hadn’t gotten any vitamin D in a while.
Once I was a lightly darken shade of brown and the girls were almost here I finished the ravioli. I had wanted to make a beetroot pasta for a while as the colour is quite pretty and I flavour goes particularly well with goat’s cheese, which I love, and I was certain the girls would love it too. To prepare the filling I just mixed a marinated goat’s cheese with a goat’s chevre and powdered sage, but I left it until just before they arrived to finish as I did not want to leave the pasta in the fridge to toughen up, but did not want to leave the cheese out in the heat to ruin.
The girls actually timed it perfectly and arrived all at once not too long after I had finished the ravioli. I heated the water, made the sauce and then we served up and sat on the balcony where the sunny Sunday afternoon turned into a stormy, thundery afternoon. It did not dampen the lunch though as it made sitting out on the balcony, overlooking the water that bit more relaxing…..especially with a glass of wine or two.
The one thing I love about burnt butter sauces is that they go with so many fillings, and do not have to be heavy as many people might think, you only need a drizzle and the beautiful nutty flavours go through the pasta beautifully. I also this time bought fresh sage which fried while the butter was cooking away and really enhanced the dish. All in all I got the thumbs up from the girls and showed them that fresh pasta is not so daunting to make, you just need a good pasta maker, strong arms and patience because if the dough is not springy enough, it will rip in the pasta maker or your pasta will be tough and not enjoyable. A key I would say is to allow at least 10 minutes for constant kneading, and I’m talking full elbow grease, not just wimpy kneading, and your pasta will be delicate silky strips of pleasure.
Beetroot Ravioli with goat’s cheese and sage butter
400g ’00’ flour
2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
100g beetroot puree
1. put flour in a large bowl and make a well in the centre.
2. Put eggs and puree and beat lightly with a fork to combine.
3. Using your hands mix to form a dough and knead until springy and silky. Leave to rest for half an hour.
4. Separate the dough into6 balls. Using the largest flat setting on your pasta machine, then close the gap by 2 notches and feed the dough through again. (each time coating the dough with a little flour so it does not stick and rip)
5. Put the setting to the thinnest you can get and slowly and carefully feed the dough through. Lay flat on a towel (do not fold over, I did this and they all stuck together even though I had rubbed flour onto them. In the hot weather they just fused)
6. Repeat with all the dough and lay flat.
300g marinated goat’s cheese (drained weight)
300g goat’s chevre
4tsps powdered sage
1. Mix all ingredients together until a smooth paste.
parmesan (to finish)
1. To make the ravioli add dollops (about a tsp) along the dough leaving at least a 5cm gap. Put a sheet of dough over the top and press around the filling to make the dough stick together. Using a ravioli cutter cut into squares and place on a clean tea towel until ready to cook.
2. Once all done and ready to cook, boil a large pot of water and add some salt. Carefully place the ravioli into the water and cook for approximately 2-3 minutes. Do not overcook as the sauce will continue to cook it.
3. While cooking make the sauce by melting the butter in a pan and add the sage leaves. Cook until the butter is bubbling, has turned brown and the sage leaves and fried.
4. Once cooked strain and make sure you get as much water off as possible.
5. Plate up and then using a spoon pour the burnt butter over the top of the ravioli and then place the fried sage leaved on top.
6. Grate parmesan over the top and serve immediately.
I love making fresh pasta! I just have to state that, and until I went to Italy two years ago and learn from my friend who lived in Milan, I did not realise how easy it is. Super easy, but you really need to have patience once you form the dough and knead like crazy. I’m talking at least 10 minutes to make a super springy, glossy, smooth ball of dough. Once rested for half an hour it is all steam ahead and you will have fresh pasta in no time.
Your pasta maker will have a whole heap of different size profiles but once you start you need the flat profile open to the widest, this is to start the flattening process. After this is done close the gap two notches and then afterwards 2 notches again until you have quite a thin sheet of pasta. (throughout this whole process you must continually wipe the sides with flour to avoid it sticking on the pasta maker and ripping. Disaster!
If it has not ripped and is thin you can decide on the type of pasta you would like to make, for this recipe and most seafood or light sauced recipes spaghetti is a great option. Slowly feed your pasta sheet through the spaghetti profile and wind until it is all cut up then add more flour and with your hand grab the pasta lift up and drop, lift up and drop so that the pasta separates. Put into bundles and let it rest while you prepare your sauce.
This sauce is one that I just whipped up with a mystery bag a friend bought over, so you can use an type of seafood you like, including shellfish, bugs, prawns, mussels etc. Just remember with seafood the one thing that is a must is fresh parsley. I am very lucky we have an abundant supply in my backyard so it was just a quick trip downstairs and not up to the shops for half dead stuff. Other ingredients that are complimentary with fresh seafood pastas include chilli and garlic, but today we were adding some truffle oil to finish, so I went without as I did not want them to overpower. Instead I just added some fresh truss tomatoes and a whole lot of mushrooms.
One thing I do stress is that once you make the pasta it MUST be undercooked slightly as you need to stir it through the sauce for at least a minute so it can absorb those flavours, hence it will continue to cook, so if you want perfect pasta don’t hesitate and take it out.
NB: one last thing….. fresh pasta will always taste better the day after as it has had all that time to absorb the flavours of the sauce.
Fresh Scallop & Prawn Spaghetti
fresh pasta (serves 8)
600g ‘oo’ flour
1. Put the flour in a bowl and then make a well in the centre. Crack the eggs in the centre and then using a fork lightly whisk the eggs together.
2. Start combining the flour then use your hands to form the dough. Knead until the dough is very springy, shiny and smooth (approx 10 mins).
3. Let dough rest for 30 mins before cutting it.
4. Cut the dough into eight small balls and using the largest setting on the flat profile of your pasta maker, push the balls through. Dust discs of dough with flour.
5. Close the gap by two stops then put the dough through again. Dust discs with flour.
6. Close the gap to the thinnest or second thinnest setting (whichever you prefer) and slowly pass the dough through without ripping it. Dust with flour.
7. Using the spaghetti setting pass each disc through then sprinkle with flour. Using your hands separate the pasta by picking it up and dropping it, then leave the eight piles to rest until the sauce prep is done.
8. Cook pasta in salted water, take off and strain just before ‘al dente’ (as it will continue to cook in the sauce and you do not want soggy pasta). Set aside to cool.
600g baby scallops (frozen is fine, just thaw before using)
600g whole green prawns, shelled and cleaned
3 large truss tomatoes, diced
500g mushrooms, diced
2 large handfuls of parsley (although you can never have enough)
truffle oil to drizzle
1. Before using the seafood pat it dry as it will release a lot of liquid which you do not want.
2. Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat and add the mushrooms. Cook until soft. Add the tomatoes and cook until softened.
3. Add the scallops and cook them for 3 minutes then add the prawns. When the prawns are nearly done add the parsley and stir through.
4. Add pasta and stir through for a good couple of minutes so the pasta absorbs the flavours of the sauce.
5. Serve then drizzle with truffle oil.
This is a long time favourite in my family and a great, much healthier alternative to ‘banana bread/cake’, but I will warn you, make 2 loaves as it goes very quickly. This version is not super sweet like some store bought varieties so you can take it for breakfast morning tea, afternoon tea or something to finish off dinner, and for that reason it does not last in my house.
I also add spices to the mixture which you do not have to do, like cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, as I love this combination. We can see a similar combination of spices and fruit and nuts in Moroccan foods such as the spice mix ras el hanuot which contains cinnamon and nutmeg, and many tagines that use ras el hanout have prunes and almonds, so although this is just a basic loaf which has chucked a few ingredients together, it could be a mix that can be translated also into many other moroccon dishes. You could substitute the flour for pastry, add almond meal and make a phyllo snail roll with nuts, dates and spices, which would be a variant on their almond and cinnamon phyllo roll.
Anyways back to this loaf. It really is not a hard loaf to make, it just takes a bit of time to prepare and cook, but the only way to fast track this is to make the loaf in a very small tin so it cooks quicker, but noone will prefer a small slice to a large thick slice!
Spicy Date & Walnut Loaf
250g dates, chopped
1 tbsp bi-carb soda
1.5 cups boiling water
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1 cup plain flour
1 cup self raising flour
200g walnuts, roasted
1. Put the dates, bi-carb and boiling water in a bowl and leave it stand for 15 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 170 degrees C
3. Cream butter and sugar then add eggs and mix until smooth. Add spices then remove from mix master.
4. Add flours, walnut and date mixutre to the butter mixutre and stir until just combined. DO NOT over stir otherwise it will not be light and fluffy but dense and hard.
5. Cook for 1 hour 20 mins or until cooked through. (I usually have to cover the top with alfoil after 40 minutes to avoid the top burning as I want the inside to cook, even in my weird fan forced oven)
My Mum recently purchased a cookbook of the most simple cakes you will ever come across. This one is no exception, and features in the ‘food processor cakes’ section. With the exception if boiling some fruit, everything is thrown in, blitzed and baked. Easy peasy!
Cakes which use almond meal commonly are paired with oranges but we had just been given a bag of homegrown mandarins from the elderly couple next door, so of course I feuded to substitute these as the flavour of these mandarins were so intense, they were juicy and sweet, Much nicer than those dry ones you buy in the supermarket!
The benefit with this recipe is that it is not only gluten free but also completely dairy free, no butter, no milk zilch! Great for people with intolerances and this cake although it has a little but if sugar is high in protein and fibre. For those who can have dairy it is great with some natural Greek yogurt, but it is still delicious just plain.
The texture is so moist and light so great for any time of the day, if you wanted to make it an adult version you can pour 2 tbsps of galliano or cointreau over the top once it cones out of the oven.
Overall I give this cake 5/5, it is light, tasty ad super easy to make. I’ll let Mum gloat now and tell Me that cookbooks do not need to be expensive or have celebrity chefs to be good. How right she is!
Flourless Mandarin & Almond Cake
1/4 cup galliano
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 cup almond meal
1 tsp vanilla essence
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1. Boil mandarins in a pot full of water for 40 mins or until the skin is soft.
2. Cut off any bad bits of skin and then quarter mandarins. Allow to cool.
3. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
4. Once cooled slightly blitz until quite a smooth purée. Add galliano, sugar and baking powder as blitz again.
5. Add among meal and pulse until just stirred through then add eggs and pulse until just combined. (do not over mix it otherwise it will be dense and heavy)
6. Line a springform tin with baking paper then pour mixture in. Bake for 50 mins.
7. Allow to cool in tin then when ready to serve dust with icing sugar.
I have wanted to cook something from my Movida Rustica cookbook and have been eyeing this cheesecake out for a long time. It is a Spanish baked cheesecake, not an Italian baked ricotta cheesecake that everyone knows well, and unlike those “Cheesecake Shop” styles, it is light and fluffy, how I like my cheesecakes. Best of all this recipe is gluten free!
Cheesecake has been one of my favourite cakes since I was a little girl. I always used to request a baked cheesecake from a particular bakery in Bardwell Park for my birthday which was as light as a marshmallow, it just dissolved in your mouth and was dangerous if you were left alone with it and a knife. Within half an hour you would just notice the cake gradually getting thinner and thinner as I took thin slithers stealthily, knowing I had overindulged but enjoyed every bite so much. I must admit though, I loved the base of that particular cake, but now since discovering my gluten intolerance, such past times are not so enjoyable and that is why this recipe is so promising, Light and fluffy but that caramelized crust on top just giving it that little extra that you do not even need a base.
This ridiculously easy recipe originates from San Sebastian in the north of Spain and once cooked in a hot oven sugar is sprinkled over the top and finished off with a blowtorch to caramelize the sugar. It when served whole it could even look like a crema catalan due to this similar finishing technique, but once you take a spoon you will discover the soft luscious texture which dissolves on the tongue. Look away and it will be gone before you know it!
Today however was one of those days when you don’t quite have enough of anything and due to the gloomy cold weather you can possibly fathom venturing outside to the shops so make do and improvise, which I do actually love. Every recipe can be pulled and tugged here and there to produce a nearly the same if not better outcome. So I had a little less fresh cream, I used thickened cream. I did not have goat’s curd so in went more philli. No lemon rind, but a touch more lemon juice was added. Finally my large circular springform tin was lent out, as something always is, so out came the tart dish, a mini springform tin and 2 ramekins.
5 minutes after it started cooking I walked past the oven and almost jumped out of my socks as they had risen a lot and I was worried they would overflow, but as I discovered when I pulled them out to sprinkle the icing sugar on top for the last stint, they just sunk. It was kind of depressing as this beautiful, velvety cake, which almost looked like a souffle does what is the fear of all cooks and ‘lets off some steam’. I knew it probably was supposed to and I was to cook it for 10 more minutes but no cook likes to see something sink down in front of their eyes.
I had also lent out my blowtorch to a friend when I delivered a creme brulee last month and have forgotten to collect it, so I had to use an alternative method for the caramelization of my crust. A HOT HOT grill will do the trick, as it will to make Naan bread, I discovered once. They are very handy and can be used to do many great things. Of course the result is not as pretty as the one in the book, but I am sure Frank Camorra would be impressed for a quick effort.
butter, for greasing
plain flour, for dusting (for gluten free dust with almond meal)
500mL (2 cups) cream
155g (2/3 cup) superfine caster sugar
300g (1 1/4 cups) soft cream cheese – Philadelphia is the fine
180g goat’s curd
125g (1/2 cup) thick plain yogurt
grated zest of 2 lemons
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp icing sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
2. Lightly grease a 25cm springform tin with butter, the dust with flour, shaking out the excess.
3. Place all the ingredients except the icing sugar in a food processor and blend until smooth. (about 1 minute then it will be thick and all combined). Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes or until just set.
4. Carefully remove the cheesecake from the oven, sprinkle the icing sugar over the top and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and using a kitchen blowtorch, brown the top until it is very dark. Alternatively, brown the cheesecake under a very hot grill (broiler). Allow to cool before serving.
I have never read Dr Seuss, but I don’t need to have grown up with it to know the term “green eggs and ham”. In Sydney today it is currently 18 degrees C and a time to grab the jumpers, pull out the heaters and eat comfort food. I have been working away at home all day looking outside at a gloomy scene. No sun glistens off the river, no birds are chirping and I could not be further from wanting to be out there. I would much prefer to stay inside, in my pajamas and have breakfast for lunch as you would on the weekend.
I have been craving baked eggs for a while now but it wasn’t until last weekend when I purchased my first packet of gluten free puff pastry from Harris Farm Market that I decided, this week is the week I will do it. I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed a plate of pastry without worrying that my stomach will hurt afterwards. Of course I have the occasional nibble but to sit down and know this will not make me sick is something I am looking forward to tremendously!
So this is a chance I decided to pay my dues to Dr Suess and make my own “green eggs and ham”. My green was the salsa verde I made last week as a topping on some steak and my ham will be some Calabrian nduja which is hard to come by in Australia. I got this one from Pino’s* in Kogarah. Pino is the king of curing in Sydney and his nduja will not let those die hard fans down. It is spicy, smoked in house and available in a sausage or in a paste.
The one thing I hate when I used to bake eggs in pastry is that the pastry on the bottom was always soggy, not matter if I baked it for a little first or in a water bath it never crisped up so I was not going to be disappointed by this GF pastry even before I started. The base of my ramekin would be juicy, sweet vibrant red capsicum topped with my salsa verde then some nduja. The pastry will go around the inside of the ramekin and then the eggs will sit inside. Finally it will be topped with some marinated feta and more salsa verde.
The result? Only a little sogginess on the base of the pastry but the rest was absolutely delicious. The capsicum had softened but still had some crunch to it and the feta had softened all over the top. What about the pastry you ask? Look I will not sugar coat it for you, gluten free tastes nowhere near the real thing, EVER. I don’t care who says they can make a product that you would not know as you will. The flavour of rice flour is so strong in every combination you can think of and the texture was thick and more like a shortcrust than a puff, but did I enjoy it? I enjoyed it enough to satisfy my curiosity and add some diverse textures to my green eggs and ham.
Green eggs and ham
1/2 sheet gluten free puff pastry, thawed
1/4 cup salsa verde
3 slices nduja, broken up
1 capsicum cheek
2 tbsp marinated feta
1.Preheat oven at 180 degrees C.
2. Spray the ramekin with EVOO.
3. Break the pastry into thirds and fit around the inside of the ramekin. Slice the capsicum in the shape of a circle to fit on the base of the ramekin inside the pastry.
4. Top the capsicum with some salsa verde and the nduja. Crack the eggs inside then top with the feta.
5. Bake for 17 minutes or until the egg just sets.
6. Remove from oven and put a few dollops of salsa verde on top. Serve.
7. Use the pastry to scoop up the filling!
* Pino’s Fine Foods
45 President Ave
Kogarah NSW 2217
(02) 9587 4818
This dip is a favorite in my family. Whenever there is a tub at home you can be assured it will not be there 2 days later, it is highly addictive and can be put on anything (some might say). That is how much we love it.
My Yiayia (grandmother) is a legend. Everything she cooks tastes amazing and no one can cook her dishes better.
I have been determined to learn how to make taramasalata for a long time and document these recipes she has stored in her head as I want to pass them down to my children one day and keep the passion of particular dishes alive. Also because I know she would be so proud of me.
My Yiayia came out to Australia in the 1960’s with two young boys. Of course assimilation was hard and the strength or the Greek network in the inner west was at it’s peak. Unfortunately in the early 1980’s she lost her husband and both sons had left home and gotten married, so learning English was not something she really got a lot of help with. Luckily has many friends who she catches up with everyday but until recently I did not know how much of a social butterfly she is. Coffee with friends 3 days a week, shopping 2 other days a week and then seeing her sons twice a week. You really need to plan to see her as dropping past is not always a successful plan.
As a grandchild who does not speak Greek it does make it hard to converse, but the more time I spend with her the easier it is for us to understand each other and learning her recipes brings us both so much joy. I want to share this recipe with you all as it is very unique and not many make Tarama in this way, but that is why it is so good, the best. I know you will agree with me.
3 large potatoes, Boiled and mashed
200g tarama paste*
1 3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup lemon juice
1. With a hand blender mix the tarama paste and onion together.
I always get excited when I find something my Mum really enjoys and asks me to make again, believe me there have not been many! So when I got to use yogurt (tick) in some muffins (tick) and some coconut (tick) I was very positive as each of these things she enjoys. I must admit though my Mum is obsessed with yogurt, and in these muffins it gives them quite a sour flavour which is beautiful with the fruit and coconut, but can I just set a scene? My Mum puts yogurt on nearly everything she eats, any rice dish, salads, even once she put it with Osso Bucco despite my pleads to tell her not to ruin my rich 4 hour slow cooked meal. She continued with happiness. I have accepted it now, but if it floats your boat then why not enjoy it with as much as you can. No that does not mean pouring nutella over everything to make it taste better, but it probably would!
It is an easy one bowl recipe which is quite foolproof, once you cream the butter you just throw it all in and mix. It is not restricted to strawberries either, I have used blueberries which are also a great mix with the coconut but any seasonal fruit would work well. Apart from the complete easiness of this recipe is the texture. They turn out so soft and fluffy, I was surprised to see how well they keep after couple of days, they are still extremely moist.
Strawberry Yogurt Muffins
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup natural Greek yogurt
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup milk
2 cups SR flour
1 punnet strawberries chopped (or 1 1/2 cup blueberries)
1) Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
2) Cream sugar and butter. Remove from mix master and stir in the yogurt, milk and eggs until well combined.
3) Add coconut and fruit and mix well then add the flour and mix until just combined. It should be quite a wet mixture so if it is too dry add some more yogurt.
4) Bake for 25 minutes or until cooked through.
I have never been the hugest fan of Creme Brulee. I like it but there are things I would order over it…….this was until 3 weeks ago when a friend had prepared some at his house for a dinner party. I remember I was completely absorbed by the creamy, thick, smooth texture which was so enjoyable. For that minute I completely forgot I was lactose intolerant and what lovely stomach cramps I had to look forward to. It did not matter, life it too short to not enjoy simple things like this lovely dessert.
So the opportunity came for me to devise two desserts for a dinner party I was attending yesterday. Firstly chocolate fondant popped into my head but then I decided to give this one a go too. I did however need a blowtorch for the event which I mentioned to my Mum and she said I should ask my Dad, who of course in his large workshop downstairs had a more than appropriate piece of equipment for me. (I appologize for the ugly photo, but it is not something I wished to style, but just take note of the size of Moccona in the background – not mine by the way)
When it was ready to torch I got a little excited and turned it up quite high and slightly burnt my brulee. The second ramekin was much more successful, but this did not deter us from completely devouring them. And again for that moment I was completely oblivious to what was going on around me, only concentrating of flavours, textures which left me with a very large smile.
(Yes this camera shake is the result of a kiwifruit cocktail, beautiful gamay and Napa Valley Cab)
2 cups cream
5 eggs yolks
100g caster sugar + extra for toffee
2 tsp vanilla extract
1) Preheat oven to 120°C.
2) Put the cream and vanilla into a pot and bring to the boil. Take off heat immediately.
3) Cream yolks and 100g sugar until thick and very pale. Pour cream into the yolk mixture and mix until well combined. Pour into 3 large ramekins.
4) Boil water in the kettle and prepare a waterbath to cook the creme brulee. Place the ramekins in the waterbath and cook for 45 minutes or until the top is set (do not let the brulee start to bubble)
5) Cool for at least 4 hours then when ready to serve sprinkle a generous amount of sugar on top of the brulee and using a blow torch evenly caramelize the sugar so that toffee is produced. Serve and enjoy!
This dessert has travelled all over the word, passed by so many of my friends and brightened up dinner parties. It all started back in 2008 when I had a dinner party with uni friends and prepared the gooey chocolatey dish. I was surprised it was so easy to make and realised it is perfect for such instances as you can prepare them ahead of time.
I then went to France and made this for my friends Laura and Elwyn, in both dark and white chocolate, and after that requests from friends for the recipe poured in. Last weekend I decided it was revisit this decadent pot of goodness for a dinner party with my partner’s bestfriend and his girlfriend. It was actually quite fitting as Laura is the biggest chocoholic I know and since her birthday was only two days ago it dessert for the dinner had to be spot on.
I had forgotten how easy this is to make, the only part that is slightly hard is the whisking eggs and sugar over a double boiler for 8 minutes. I don’t like to use electric mixers so my arm got a huge workout, let me tell you, but once they are done they can last chilling in the fridge for weeks, and since they only take 12 minutes to cook, what really could be easier for a dinner party?
Nothing else needs to be said. Laura enjoyed it. So did I.
Dark Chocolate Fondant
70g dark chocolate
60g unsalted butter
20ml espresso coffee
100g caster sugar
50g fine almond meal
1) Over a double boiler melt the butter and chocolate until mixed together. Take off heat and then stir in espresso.
2) In a seperate bowl over the double boiler combine the eggs and sugar then whisk for 8 minutes or until thick and pale. Remove from heat.
3) Fold chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and once combined sift the almond meal in and stir lightly until just combined. Pour into 2 large ramekins. Refrigerate for minimum 2 hours.
4) When ready to cook, preheat oven to 180 degrees and cook for 12 minutes or until the top has just set. (The longer you cook it, the more like a pudding it will become) Serve immediately with come ice cream on the side.
Basically this is ‘my’ tart. The one that I have made more times than any other. The one that I am most confident in, and the one that I have spend more time developing the recipe than any other. This is the signature of Trish.
My journey with this tart started way back in 2002 when I used to make Chocolate Caramel Slice, a cheat of this tart really, which was easy and something I could cook with my eyes closed in 1 hour flat without fail. It used condensed milk instead of a pure caramel and a biscuit base rather than pastry. It is very much loved by my family, and some even prefer it to this tart, but once you learn to make pure caramel, nothing tastes as good.
My first attempt of this tart was for my Cheese Room Xmas party in 2008. It took all day long and I was so proud by the end that it had worked. The only problem was that while making this caramel, for the first time, a bit of hot toffee squirted up and onto my thumb burning it extremely badly. It ended up being a second degree burns and it took a very very long time to heal, but now is a war scar I say, which I quite like as it has a story to it, but it just shows you the dangers of hot toffee.
Now I am much more aware and can see how the toffee is progressing so I am ready for the addition of butter, cream and salt. I do have to say that if you want salted caramel DO NOT BE SCARED to put a lot of salt it, you need to otherwise you will not get the desired result.
The second most important thing, after the caramel, is the pastry. I sourced this recipe from a great source who you could not fault, none other than Adriano Zumbo himself. Long story, if you want to now ask me, but he gave me the recipe and it is faultless every single time. MY tip? Once you make the pastry put it in glad wrap and flatten it out in a similar shape to your pan. It will make it easier to roll out after. For help on rolling it out thin, look at my link to ‘perfect pastry’. Now I use this recipe for most of my tarts as it is so easy and tastes great!
Ganache! OH how I love thee. The only thing I can say is INVEST in good quality chocolate as you can taste the difference. For this instance I was using 57% single origin chocolate from Trinidad and Tobago and it was so fruity and bright in flavour. mmmmm If you think I sound crazy please go and do a chocolate tasting course and then come back to me.
The final product. There is nothing left to say but eat quickly as it will ooze everywhere. (if you did not want it to ooze so much though, once you have made the caramel continue to cook it over a very low heat for another 20 minutes and it will thicken up)
1 1/4 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup water
135g unsalted butter
110ml pure cream
2tbsp sea salt
265g Valrhona Dark chocolate (between 55-75% cocao)
100mL pure cream
65g unsalted butter
1. Prepare the pastry and blind bake. Cool.
2. For the caramel, over low heat mix the water and sugar in a pot and then let it simmer away until it goes through all the sugar stages and finally starts to turn brown. At this stage do not take your eye off it as it is so easy to burn.
3. Once it starts to turn a rich golden brown take it off the heat and mix in the cream, butter and salt. Be careful as it will splatter, but mix thoroughly until it is all combined. Put it back on the heat for 2 more minutes. At this stage if you want the caramel to be gooey, take it off, otherwise for a firmer caramel leave it on for another 20 minutes.
4. Pour the caramel into the cooled tart shell. Refrigerate for 5 hours at least.
5. For the ganache, heat the cream over a double boiler until just warm then add the chocolate in and mix until combined. Add the butter and watch the shine really come up now. Cool it slightly and then pour it over your ‘firm’ caramel’ (N.B. If the caramel is not set the chocolate will push through and end up underneath the caramel)
6. Leave the ganache to set for at least 2 hours and then serve and devour in one sitting. I would not expect it to last for 2 anyways.
This dish is one of those dishes that Peru is known for. “Seco” means dry and “Cordero” is lamb, so this dish is translated something like a dry lamb stew. Its main ingredient is coriander which makes a colourful and flavuorsome sauce. It is one of those stews where you can use those tough cuts of meat and slow cook them all day and although shoulder is the most common cut used, I have chosen to use lamb shanks as I find this cut incredibly tender.
If you are one of those people who do not like red meat, not to worry, this recipe is also able to be used with poultry and fish. You would just have to adjust the cooking time and maybe start cooking the sauce for an hour before adding your meat.
The test came when my partner sat down to eat. He started by telling me how his Mother usually makes it, with a salsa on the side of onions in lemon juice with chilli on it. Then alerted me to the fact that there was not enough liquid and usually a lot more coriander (I have added extra to the recipe below)…….but other than that pretty good. Meat was soft and juicy (tick), flavour was correct (tick tick) and just for the record he has never seen his mum use beer as many traditional recipes state (well I didn’t so that is another tick).
I have altered this recipe so that it is gluten free and easy on sensitive stomachs, but I have noted the changes.
Seco De Cordero
6 large lamb shanks, frenched
3 cloves of garlic
3 stalks celery halved and chopped
1 tsp cumin
2 tbsp aji amarillo
5 large coriander bunches
2 cup dry white wine**
3 cup chicken stock
10 small potatoes
2 cups rice
1. Brown the lamb shanks and set aside.
2. In a mortor and pestle grind up the coriander with some olive oil, in batches and set aside.
3. In a large pot sweat the garlic and onion until translucent, add the cumin, 1 tbsp of aji paste, the coriander paste lamb shanks and liquids. Stir and simmer for 2 hours, sitting occasionally so that it does not stick.
4. Once the stew is almost done boil the potatoes in water with the remaining aji paste until tender. Chop in cubes to serve. Cook the rice in plain water until cooked.
5. To serve plate up the meat, some rice and potatoes in a bowl then spoon the liquid over.
* I used celery instead of onion which may irritate some peoples stomachs.
** Traditionally beer is also used in the recipe so that there is 1 cup beer and 1 cup white wine, but I have removed this so it is a gluten free dish.
Yesterday was my best friend Kelly’s birthday. Happy 24th! We started celebrating the night before with dinner at Intermezzo Restaurant at GPO which was fabulous……and last night we continued with a bowling party. Although I am a terrible terrible bowler, it is surprising how much fun you can have when everyone has not done it for such a long time, I was not as bad as I thought….although compared to my competitive bowling family, scores of 82 and 75 would be shunned upon, they only get scores over 200. I might be bad at bowling but I knew that I would redeem myself with the birthday cake I baked for Kelly.
The cake is called Dobos Torte is a traditional Hungarian cake which consists of layers of sponge and chocolate butttercream with discs of toffee coated sponge on top. I appreciated that it is great in the traditional way, but I wanted to change it up a bit. I based the cake around the recipe from Canelle et Vanille, however I altered my creams a little. I decided to ditch the toffee pieces on top as I thought the cake was rich enough. The buttercreams were a bit different too, the inside being brown butter salted caramel buttercream, and the outside is that buttercream with dark chocolate and cocoa.
I must admit I was quite worried when I presented it that it would be too rich, too buttercreamy and noone would like it. This was her only birthday cake so I could have possibly ruined her birthday. Luckily EVERYONE loved it and were so impressed by it, especially Kelly. Phew! Just over 4 hours to make and it was gobbled down in 5 minutes. Definitely worth making, you just need lots of bowls and to be patient when making each component, it is worth it in the end.
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups icing sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
195g plain flour + 17g cornflour, sifted together
pinch of salt
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.
2. Line 2 flat baking trays with baking paper.
3. Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup of icing sugar, and the vanilla with a mixer until pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon in the mixture (approx 3 mins).
4. In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining icing sugar and beat to form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the rest.
5. Combine the flour and salt then sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.
6. Spread the batter amongst the sheet pans as flat as you can and bake until lightly golden on top (approx 7 mins) Let the sponge cool.
NOTE: To make the sponges a consistent flatness put a piece of baking paper over the top, just as they have come out of the oven, and using another flat tray gently press it down so that it becomes flat and even.
Burnt butter Salted Caramel buttercream
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for “stopping” the caramelization process)
1. In a small saucepan mix water and sugar and then leave over high heat to start caramelizing. (KEEP AN EYE ON IT) Cook until it is a deep golden brown colour then remove from the heat immediately.
2. Very carefully pour in one cup of water, being mindful that it will splatter so pour slowly and step back.
3. Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. (approx 10 mins)
Caramelized Butter Frosting
2 x 170g butter, softened
4 cups icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
5 tbsp caramel syrup, heaped
sea salt, to your taste (I used about 2tbsp)
1. Cook butter until brown. Pour through a sieve then cool.
2. Put cooled butter into a mixer bowl and slwoly whisk in the first 2 cups of icing sugar. The mixture will start to get thick so add some of the caramel and cream, then continue to add sugar. Repeat until it looks like below and then add salt to your taste.
NOTE: You will have left over, use it for the chocolate buttercream after you have laid out the layers of your cake.
leftover caramel buttercream
200g dark chocolate, melted
1 cup cocoa
1. Cut the sponge layers into thirds and place on your serving plate which is lined with some baking paper. Place the first layer of sponge and using a knife, spread an even layer of the caramel buttercream over the top.
2. Repeat with other layers until you have placed the last layer of sponge on top.
3. With the remaining caramel buttercream make the chocolate buttercream then using a knife spread the chocolate buttercream around the edges of the cake, covering it well.
4. Decorate with sprinkles or smarties etc. Refrigerate until 30 minutes before you want to serve it.
This year I was asked to be one of the contributors to Eating & Drinking Sydney, a new comprehensive food guide for Sydney and surroundings. I wrote for the restaurants sections which meant I got to try a whole lot of new restaurants, hpi and funky places that have been there for a while and also some that are just plain institutions (which I liked the most!).
The other sections throughout the book are Cheap and Cheerful, which was edited by the popular “Grab Your Fork” blog creator, Helen Yee, and then the lucky Anna Fedeles edited all the bars around town, but I think the hat has to go to Elizabeth Meryment who read through and edited, not to mention, dined at many of the 300+ restaurants featured (is anyone wishing you had Liz’ job?…..I do!)
The book will be released September 1, 2011 and will retail for $29.95 BUT I have 2 copies to give away.
How do you enter? Just tell me, in the comments below, your favourite dining experience. This does not mean just the food, the view or the service, it is the whole shebang. Tell me Sydney! The best two comments will get a copy of the book sent to them.
For more information on the book, check out the facebook page here.