Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Baked Risotto with zucchini, tomato & parmesan

For our first home cooked meal in a while we had this lovely Risotto from Bill Granger’s Bill’s Food. Up until now other people have been feeding us or we have lived off food I cooked & froze in the last couple of weeks. I have to admit that Michael actually made it & not me, I have turned him into quite the chef it seems as this was delicious & the fact that it is baked rather than having to stir continuously for ages while it cooks makes it perfect for when there is not much time or energy to be found.

Baked Risotto with zucchini, tomato & parmesan

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
180g (1 cup) Arborio rice
275ml (1 ½ cups) chicken stock or water
400g can chopped roma tomatoes
3 zucchini, finely sliced
60g freshly grated parmesan
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
shavings of parmesan, for serving

Preheat oven to 200c. heat a 3 litre (12 cup) capacity oven proof dish (with a lid) over a medium heat. Add the olive oil, onion & sea salt & stir for 5 minutes or until the onion is soft & translucent.

Add the rice to the dish & stir for another minute. Add the stock or water and the chopped tomatoes and bring to simmering point. Stir in the zucchini & sprinkle with parmesan & black pepper. Cover the dish & bake for 30 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Scatter parsley over the top, sprinkle with parmesan shavings & serve.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Welcome Baby Chloe - Quick Apple Cake

For those of you that follow this page you are probably guessing that the reason I haven’t been around for a week or so is that yes I finally made it to the hospital & now have a gorgeous baby girl – Chloe. Both Michael & I are over the moon & loving every minute together as a new family. Today she is one week old & to celebrate I thought baking a cake was only due. As I haven’t really been up to any cooking yet, only having got back home on Saturday I kept things very simple & made a bit of an apple cake using yet again more Granny Smiths from the tree out the back.

This recipe comes from Stephanie Alexander’s ‘The Cooks Companion’. Very easy & was in the oven before Chloe cook utter a whimper of neglect. A nice cake to have with an afternoon cuppa.

Quick Apple Cake

2 cups peeled & chopped eating apple
2 tablespoons apple brandy, brandy or rum
140g unsalted butter
160g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
120g caster sugar

Soak fruit in spirit for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 200c. Butter a 24cm ring tin or 22cm round cake tin. Melt butter & allow to cool. Sift flour & baking powder. Beat eggs & sugar until thick & fluffy & fold in flour mixture gently. Drizzle in melted butter, then fold in. Fold in apple & any juice. Spoon into tin & bake for 40 minutes until ckae is golden brown & tests clean.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Simple Apple Tart

Another very simple recipe to use up some of my Granny Smiths, this recipe comes from Stephanie Alexander’s ‘The Cooks Companion’. Very easy, hardly seemed like cooking as just a couple of ingredients thrown together. A very nice & light tart which we had with some ice cream while it was still warm out of the oven.

Simple Apple Tart

1 quantity Shortcrust pastry
4 tablespoons apricot jam
3 eating apples, peeled & thinly sliced

Line an 18 or 20cm loose-bottomed flan tin with pastry. Blind bake at 200c for 20 minutes or until golden (note mine took much less time). Remove from oven, allow to cool for a few minutes & reduce temperature to 180c. Warm jam & brush some over case. Arrange apples in slightly overlapping concentric circles. Bake for 15 minutes. Baste with remaining jam & cook for 15-20 minutes until apple looks a little caramelized on the edges.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Scrambled Eggs - Bill Granger Style

While spending yet another tortuous day lying around dying to have this baby I decided to cook breakfast to try & keep myself busy. As I'm no good on my feet too long these days I wanted something simple so thought it was about time I sampled Bill Grangers Famous Scrambled Eggs. As I'm not going to be in Sydney any time soon luckily the recipe is in his 'Sydney Food' Book. This dish has been placed on a list of definitive Sydney flavours by the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Living section & has been raved about my seemingly millions. I can see why with 1/3 cup cream for every serve it is wicked & anything that bad generally tastes pretty damn good! Bill also suggest using free range eggs & a good non-stick frypan. Following his instructions to the letter I think I did a pretty bloody good job of reproducing what he must serve up in his cafe's. They were oh so light, creamy & fluffy & just melted in the mouth & if you do what he says there really is nothing to it & it's a lot cheaper than a flight to Sydney so try them, they are definitely the best I have made by far.
Srambled Eggs
per person
2 eggs
1/3 cup cream
a pinch of salt
10g butter
Place eggs, cream & salt in a bowl & whisk together.
Melt butter in a non-stick frying pan over high heat, taking care not to burn the butter. Pour in the egg mixture & cook for 20 seconds, or until gently set around the edge. Stir the eggs with a wooden spoon, gently bringing the egg mixture on the outside of the pan to the centre. The idea is to fold the eggs rather than to scramble them. Leave to cook for 20 seconds longer & repeat the folding process. When the eggs are just set (they will continue to cook as they rest) turn onto a plate & serve with toast.
Note - If making more thn 2 serves, cook seperate batches so as not too crowd the pan

Friday, February 16, 2007

Apple Charlotte

For a lovely Valentines day dessert (using apples of course) I turned yet again to Nigella for this classic British recipe from Nigella Lawson’s Feast, it falls under the Wedding Feast chapter which is close enough to Valentines day for me. Now this is no ordinary Apple Charlotte & therefore I had to do a bit of shopping before I started this one. Firstly the recipe called for Calvados which I had never heard of before so looked it up using good old Google to learn that it is a fine apple brandy coming from the Normandy region in France, so off to Dan Murphy’s & now have a whole bottle of the stuff which is quite tasty by the way. Next I needed a brioche or challah loaf. Living in Brunswick I had no clue where to find a challah so instead went in search of a brioche. I tried 5 bakeries before I was successful, ended up buying it at Dench's Bakery Cafe, 109 Scotchmer Street, North Fitzroy which by the way looks like a lovely place & think I will be back there for a coffee soon. Normally I would just substitute with the ingredients I had but wanted to make this special for a change & of course to see how good the original recipe is. The end result was nice though as you can see from my picture I didn’t quite get the bread to hold together, don’t think it impacted on the flavour though. The buttery goodness of the brioche definitely stood out over using ordinary bread too. I served this with a bit of double cream though don’t think it really needed anything with it, in fact I enjoyed it plain & cold the next day even better than warm out of the oven when freshly baked. So all in all it was nice to try something different though I found it quite fiddly & probably wouldn’t bother to go to the effort again.

Apple Charlotte

75g golden sultanas (or normal ones)
3 tablespoons Calvados
about 8 Cox’s apples-I used Granny Smiths from my tree (approx 1.35kg)
175-250g unsalted butter, (depending on the staleness of bread)
75g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 brioche or challah loaf, sliced as thinly as possible & left to become dry but not hard
3 egg yolks (retain the white separately of one of them)
2-3 tablespoons Demerara Sugar

Preheat oven to 180c and at the same time slip in a baking sheet to heat up – or wait to do this while the apples are cooling if you prefer. Put the sultanas and calvados into a small saucepan and bring to the boil, then turn off the heat & leave the fruit to plump up in the liquid while you get on with the puree.

Peel & core the apples & cut each in half, then each half into 6. Put the apple into a pan with 30g of the butter, 60ml water, the caster sugar & the cinnamon stick. Cook over a fairly high heat with the lid on for about 10 minutes or until the apples are soft, then give a good beating with a wooden fork or spoon and transfer the rough puree to a bowl to cool.

Melt the remaining butter and paint the bottom & sides of a 21 or 23cm springform tin. Line the bottom & sides with dry sliced bread, painting it with butter first to mould into a neat jigsaw puzzle of pieces with no gaps, save some slices for the top. Paint the joins with the egg white to help it adhere well & stick together.

Beat the egg yolks and plump sultanas into the cooled apples & then fill the bread lined cake tin with them. Layer the top with buttered bread slices & then butter the top again, before sprinkling over the demerara sugar. Cook on the preheated baking sheet for about 30-40 minutes until the top & sides are crispy & brown.

Remove to a wire rack, and leave to reach the warmer end of room temperature before springing open. Or even safer, unclip in on your serving plate.

Nigella suggests to serve with custard or crème fraiche.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Spaghetti with Spicy Meatballs

To please my man on Valentines Day I made this hearty dish of spaghetti & meatballs, what man doesn’t like this dish? The recipe came from Bill Granger’s Bills Food and was a big hit with Michael. I used the oven method of cooking the meatballs & they held together perfectly as well as using less oil & being less fiddly, ie no turning, standing over the pan watching them cook.

Spaghetti with Spicy Meatballs

80ml (1/3 cup) milk
1 slice of bread, crust removed
500g beef mince (or pork or veal)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 egg, lightly beaten
25g freshly grated parmesan
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 fresh red chillies, finely chopped
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
60ml olive oil
2 x 400g cans chopped roma tomatoes
50g (1/2 cup) fresh basil leaves
500g spaghetti

To serve
A handful of fresh basil leaves
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Put the milk & bread in a small saucepan and place over a low heat. When the bread has absorbed the milk, remove from the heat & mash with a fork. Allow to cool.

Combine the meat, onion, parsley, thyme, egg, parmesan, garlic, half of the chilli, the bread mixture & lots of salt & pepper in a large bowl. Gently mix with your hands, then shape into small balls. I find wetting my hands makes this easier.

Heat the oil in large frying pan over a medium heat & when hot, add the meatballs. Brown the meatballs on all sides, turning carefully. Alternatively, you can toss the meatballs in oil in a roasting tin & bake them at 220c for 10-15 minutes. You may find this easier because the meatballs wont break up. Drain off any excess oil (if you’ve baked the meatballs transfer them to a frying pan) and add the tomatoes, remaining chilli, basil & salt & pepper. Stir the meatballs carefully to coat with the tomatoes, then simmer for 20 minutes.

While the meatballs are cooking, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil over a high heat. Add the spaghetti & cook according to packet instructions.
Serve meatballs over drained spaghetti with extra basil leaves & freshly grated parmesan

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Chicken Tikka Masala

Another delicious curry, this one from Jamie Oliver’s Jamies Dinners. Great flavours, though surprisingly on the hot side for a Tikka Masala which is all ok by me but be warned if you are expecting the normal mildness of this dish.

Chicken Tikka Masala

6 cloves of garlic, peeled
7.5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled
2-3 fresh red chillies, deseeded
olive oil
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
3 tablespoons garam masala
200g natural yoghurt
4 medium chicken breasts, skinned & cut into large chunks
1 tablespoon butter
2 medium onions, peeled & finely sliced
2 tablespoons tomato puree
a small handful of ground cashew nuts or almonds
sea salt
115ml double cream
a handful of fresh coriander
juice of 1-2 limes

Grate the garlic and ginger on the finest side of a cheese grater and put to one side in a bowl. Chop the chillies as finely as you can & mix them in with the ginger & garlic. Heat a good splash of oil in a pan & add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add them to the ginger & garlic mixture along with the paprika, cumin, ground coriander & 2 tablespoons of the garam masala. Put half of this mixture in a bowl, add the yoghurt & the chicken pieces to it, stir and leave to marinate for half an hour or so.

Melt the butter in the saucepan the mustard seeds were in & add the sliced onions & the remaining half of the spice mix. Cook gently for 15 minutes or so without browning too much. Add the tomato puree, the ground nuts, half a litre of water and ½ teaspoon of salt. Stir well and simmer gently for a few minutes. Let this sauce reduce until it thickens slightly and then place to one side.

Put the marinated chicken on a hot griddle pan or barbecue & sear until cooked through.

Warm the sauce and add the cream & the other tablespoon of garam masala. Taste & correct with seasoning if necessary. As soon as it boils, take off the heat & add the grilled chicken. Check the seasoning again & serve sprinkled with the chopped coriander & the lime juice & some steamed rice.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Ricotta & Tomato Tart

For brunch with the girls the other day I made this tasty Tart from Bill Granger’s ‘Bill’s Sydney Food’. To save time I made the pastry the day before & even though when I took it out of the fridge the next day it was rock hard & I thought an absolute disaster, after leaving out for quite some time I was finally able to roll it out, it did break up a bit & needed some squishing back together but in the end it was light & buttery & fantastic, not bad for my first attempt at puff pastry I must say. As you can see mine was a very rustic looking pie indeed. The filling was really yum too & the tart made for a nice morning/afternoon with some salad, bread, prosciutto & cheese to accompany it.

Ricotta & Tomato Tart

2 ripe tomatoes, finely sliced
sea salt
2 cups ricotta
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup cream
¼ cup finely grated parmesan
a pinch of ground nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup finely shredded rocket
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten, for glazing
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Rough Puff Pastry
200g plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
200g chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons chilled water

Place flour & salt in a bowl, add butter & rub through with fingertips until the mixture resembles large breadcrumbs. Add enough cold water, cutting in with a knife, to form a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap & refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll out dough into a 30 x 15 cm rectangle. Fold in the two short ends to meet in the centre, then fold in again. Roll the pastry into a 30 x 15cm rectangle again, then repeat folding process. Refrigerate as a small rectangle for a further 30 minutes before using.

Preheat oven to 200c. Place tomatoes in a colander, sprinkle with salt & leave to drain. Place pastry dough on a lightly floured surface & roll out to a circle about 35cm in diameter & 3mm thick. Place dough on a lightly floured baking tray.

Place ricotta, eggs, cream, parmesan, nutmeg, salt & pepper in a bowl and mix well. Add rocket & stir to combine. Place this mixture in the centre of the dough, and spread filling over the dough leaving a 5 cm border around the outside. Using your hand, lift & push the border onto the filling. Arrange tomato slices over the top of the filling. Brush pastry with egg yolk & bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley & freshly ground black pepper. Serves 8

Gingerboy, Melbourne

Saturday night I finally made it to Gingerboy with my very nice $150.00 voucher kindly arranged by Ed at Tomato that I managed to win in this years Menu for hope. With less then 2 weeks until D Day this was probably my last opportunity for a nice meal out for quite some time. Firstly the décor is fantastic, black bamboo lines the walls & ceilings with little fairly lights scattered through them so its all very magical, dark polished tables & very different clear plastic chairs for those sitting opposite the ‘couch wall’. The background music was funky & not too loud to be a nuisance & the place was packed & had a great vibe about it.

With all that money to spend Michael & I decided that we better try a bit of everything. The menu is divided between snacks & street food, and main courses, all designed to share. From the snack section we had the Steamed half shell scallops with green chilli sambal, these were delicious & definitely my favourite starter, the sambal serving quite a kick yet the flavour was still subtle enough to go perfectly with the scallop. Next we had the Son in Law eggs with Chilli Jam & Asian herbs that I have heard so many good things about. They certainly looked impressive yet as I am not allowed runny egg yolk at the moment & had to have them more on the well done side I don’t think I quite got the right flavour hit this way, oh well next time I will try them properly. Next up was Pork nam prik ong with shredded lettuce and herbs, this was minced pork in a sauce which was a bit on the sweet side for me though still good. Salt & Pepper Chicken spare ribs with a green chilli & soy dipping sauce came next, really very good, the rib is such a tender & meaty part of the chicken that most people don’t know about, Michael was especially pleased with this dish as for him it was a fancy & of course much superior version of the dreaded KFC. Lastly was the Prawn dumplings with chilli sauce, sticky soy & lime, these were delicate little parcels full of goodness, another one of the favourites for us.

Now my only complaint about this first part is that they all came out on top of each other & despite our waiters assurances that they were all quite small & would not be too much we were getting quite full at this stage & we still had a main to follow! Luckily they gave us a bit of a break before bringing out the Mussaman Duck leg curry with kipfler potatoes & shallots, we also had a serve of corn cakes which the waiter insisted on. Let me tell you this dish was fantastic & the corn cakes although sounding strange were great & you have to try some if you ever make it here.

And of course lastly we had to have some dessert, I did have high hopes for the sharing platter but of course there was no way this could even be considered so we shared the Steamed pandan dumplings with spiced pears & pure cream, loved these as well & they were the perfect end to a great meal.

All in all despite some mixed reviews of this place we had a great night, the staff were very friendly, attentive & helpful, food was very good, our glasses were always full & all in all service was very efficient, (even a bit too much to start with). Would be keen to go again & try out some more of the menu & some of the wicked sounding cocktails that sadly were off my list last night!

27-29 Crossley Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: +613 9662 4200
Fax: +613 9662 4250

Saturday, February 10, 2007

White Chocolate & Pistachio Biscuits

Taking a break from apples I made these scrumptious biscuits for the girls to snack on after brunch with a coffee. The recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. It is surprisingly quick to make, the only time consuming part the shelling of the pistachios – though you can buy them pre-shelled to save time if you want. The end result is a slightly chewy biscuit made quite rich & tasty thanks to the brown sugar, with chunks of white chocolate & pistachios that are incredible. Anyway as you can tell I love them, hope the girls do too. I made exactly 36 as the recipe suggested with 12 to a tray, think this should be cut down to 9 a tray & done in four batches as they did melt into each other with this many per tray.

White Chocolate & Pistachio Biscuits

100g soft unsalted butter
125g caster sugar
100g soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
150g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100g ground pistachios
125g whole pistachios
125g white chocolate, chopped
2 baking sheets, lined

Preheat oven to 180c.

Cream together the butter & sugars until soft & almost moussy. Add the vanilla & the egg, then the flour and bicarb. Don’t worry if the mixture looks almost curdled after you’ve beaten in the egg. When you’ve got a smooth, thick dough, add the nuts & chocolate and mix to combine.

Pinch of pieces of dough & roll them into walnut sized balls in your hands. Place these, generously spaced, onto the baking sheets, and put in the oven for 10-12 minutes, by which time the biscuits should be a pale gold around the edges.

Leave to set for a couple of minutes on the baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Makes about 36

Apple Latkes

Another apple recipe from Nigella Lawson’s Feast. It appears under the Festival of Lights chapter, another celebration I know nothing about though the book informs me is properly called ‘Hanukkah’, its of the religion Judaism & they make a lot of latke’s. The variety I’m trying are sweet rather than the more traditional savoury variety. The recipe is supposed to make about 20 x 5-6cm latkes, as I was making just for the 2 of us for brekky I made about 10 giant ones. Having never had these before I thought they would be more like an apple flapjack however I was very wrong, they tasted very much like a doughnut & very wicked, absolutely delicious!

Apple Latkes

1 egg
100ml Greek yoghurt plus 75ml semi-skimmed milk or 175ml natural yoghurt
150g plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon bicarb soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons caster sugar
250g apples (about 2)
vegetable oil for frying
maple syrup or icing sugar & ground cinnamon for serving

Beat the egg with the yoghurt and milk or just the yoghurt if you’re using the plain normal variety, then set aside. Combine the flour, baking powder, bicarb of soda, cinnamon & sugar in a bowl. Peel, quarter & core the apples, then grate them.

Pour the egg-yoghurt mixture into the flour bowl, tip in the apples & fold together.

Pour enough oil to come to about 5mm up in a frying pan and put on the stove to heat. Dollop spoonfuls of the batter into the sizzling oil, a rubber spatula will help you scrape the batter off the spoon & press down the little latkes in the pan. Don’t worry about making them perfectly round. Fry for a minute or two, until golden brown on the underside, flip then fry for another minute on the uncooked side. Remove to a tray lined with kitchen towel to blot excess oil & continue to cook until all the batter is gone.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Damp Apple & Almond Cake

Over the next couple of weeks I will be bombarding you with apple recipes as my Granny Smith tree out the back has a huge crop for a change, here is the first, a very interesting flourless cake from Nigella Lawson’s Feast. It appears under the Passover section and seeing how I don’t even know what or when Passover is & therefore am unlikely to ever celebrate it, what better time to make this cake then right now. I prepared the apples the day before & with that done the cake is incredibly easy to make, you just chuck everything in the food processor & whiz, no sifting, beating separate ingredients, etc.
The end result was a very moist (damp) cake indeed though in no way did it taste undercooked. The flavours all blended in beautifully & you couldn’t even really taste the apple flavour, it had a nice tang & reminded me almost of orange cake, strange as there was nothing orange flavoured to be found in the ingredients at all. Definitely repeatable.

Damp Apple & Almond Cake

Apple Puree
3 tart eating apples (or 4 small as I found I needed)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons caster sugar

Almond oil/flavourless vegetable oil to grease tin
8 eggs
325g ground almonds
275g caster sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
50g flaked almonds

To Decorate
1 teaspoon icing sugar

Peel, core and chop the apples roughly. Put them in a saucepan with the lemon juice and sugar, and bring pan to a bubble over medium heat. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes or until you can mash the apple to a rough puree with a wooden spoon or fork (You should have about 285g of puree). Leave to cool.

Preheat oven to 180c. Oil a 25cm springform tin with almond oil or a flavourless vegetable oil & line bottom with baking parchment.

Put the cooled puree in the processor with eggs, ground almonds, caster sugar & 1 tablespoon of lemon juice & blitz into a puree. Pour & scrape with a rubber spatula into the prepared tin, sprinkle with the flaked almonds on top & bake for about 45 minutes. Check after 35 minutes as oven temperatures vary. Put on a wire rack to cool slightly, then spring open. This cake is best served warm though is still good cold. Before serving, sieve some icing sugar over the top.

Spicy Tomato and Fennel Soup

This soup from Bill Grangers Bill’s Food is quite unusual in that you don’t add any stock or water, it is pure roasted veg with some olive oil thrown in, all pureed up. It has a very rich & intense flavour that is quite nice though I would be tempted to water it down a bit next time as it can beceome a bit overwhelming halfway through your serve.

Spicy Tomato and Fennel Soup

2kg vine ripened tomatoes
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 small carrot, diced
½ small fennel bulb, finely chopped
60ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin oil
2 tablespoons sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Basil leaves to serve

Preheat oven to 200c. Place the tomatoes, garlic, carrot and fennel in a roasting tin. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Cover with foil & bake for 1 ½ hours. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes or until the vegetables are well cooked.

Transfer the vegetables to a food processor or blender & blend until combined. Serve with basil leaves sprinkled on top

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sultana loaf

For my first day at home I couldn’t wait to do some baking. As this was a just because I felt like it cake for Michael & I, I tried to pick something not too wicked & ended up with this lovely Sultana loaf from last years Spring edition of Donna Hay magazine. Packed full of sultanas (fruit is healthy right?), it is delicious spread with a little butter, sometimes the simple things can be underrated, this is one of them.

Sultana loaf

25g unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 cup milk
2 cups plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon bicarb of soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 ¼ cups sultanas
butter to serve

Preheat oven to 180c. Place the butter & sugar in a small bowl & beat with electric mixer until light & creamy. Stir in the egg, golden syrup & milk. Add the flour, cinnamon, bicarb of soda & cream of tartar & beat well to combine. Stir through the sultanas. Spoon the mixture into 2 x 17cm lightly greased nut loaf tins (or you could use a loaf pan as I did). Stand the tins upright on a baking tray & bake for 40 minutes or carefully remove one end & check that the cake is springy to touch. When the tins are cool enough to touch, turn the cake out onto a wire rack. Slice & spread with butter to serve.

At The Heads, Barwon Heads, Vic

Yesterday being such a glorious Melbourne Summers Day Michael & I decided it was probably our last chance for a while to have a nice day trip down to the coast. So we drove down to Barwon Heads which is a bout a 1.5 hour drive for us – not too long & well worth it when you get there.

As we left our start a bit late, by the time we got there it was lunch time, I wasn’t complaining & decided to eat at ‘At the Heads’ as the views are spectacular & the food isn’t all that bad either. The restaurant has been built on an old jetty on the Barwon River Mouth, very picturesque. We had a sharing plate of salt & pepper calamari, grilled prawns & some deep fried fish bites, served with a tartare & seafood type sauce. It was all delicious, the calamari, nice & tender & full of flavor, the fish not too oily, the batter was nice & light, & the simply grilled prawns gorgeous as you would expect. We had a side salad of local leaves, tomatoes, fetta & red onion which was also lovely, fresh & the perfect side. Oh and of course we had to have some fries too.

After lunch we headed down to the beach at Ocean Grove, drove around for about 20 minutes before finding parking, then the wind had picked up so much that I decided the beach was too cold after all, so we headed back to the river which was nice & protected, Had a bit of a lie down & read some trashy mags, then wandered in to the water, think I made it to about 10cm past my ankles – I am a big wuss when it comes to getting wet & was quite happy just dunking the feet. All that was left to do next was have an ice cream & head home, the perfect relaxing Sunday arvo.

At The Heads
The Jetty, Jetty Road
Barwon heads Vic 3227
Ph: +613 5254 1277
Fax: +613 5254 3221

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake with Sour Cream icing

A very simple & yum Chocolate cake from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess, good for those that don’t like anything fancy about their cake. I'm trying to make & consume as much chcolate as I can before the very soon to be birth of junior Miss Vicious as I have heard some terrible tales about having to completely cut out chocolate from your diet when feeding as my good friend Rachel has had to do, that would be an absolute disaster! So this cake was very easy to make, & the icing in particular is spectacular, the sour cream really did lend it a lovely subtle tang, though as with most of her recipes I found there was way too much icing so a hell of a lot was consumed straight out of the bowl – Fantastic! Also I don’t know if ‘golden’ icing sugar is anything special – I just used the regular kind?

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake with Sour Cream icing

200g Plain Flour
200g Caster Sugar
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon bicarb of soda
½ teaspoon salt
200g soft unsalted butter
40g best cocoa
150ml sour cream
2 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 x 20cm sandwich tins, buttered & lined

80g milk chocolate
80 dark chocolate
75g unsalted butter
125ml sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon golden syrup
300g golden icing sugar, sieved (plus more if needed)
½ teaspoon hot water

Preheat the oven to 180c/gas mark 4.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a large bowl. Then, using an electric mixer, add the butter. In a wide-mouthed measuring jug, whisk together the cocoa, sour cream, eggs and vanilla, then slowly add this cocoa mixture to the ingredients in the bowl, beating until thoroughly mixed.

Pour the batter into the prepared tins and bake for 30 minutes; when they’re ready the cakes should be starting to shrink back from the edges of the tins. Leave for 10 minutes in their tins on racks, then turn out to cool.

To make the icing, melt the chocolate and butter in a microwave, or in a bowl over hot water. Let cool a little, then stir in the sour cream, vanilla and syrup. Add the sieved icing sugar and a little hot water, blending until smooth. When you’ve got the texture right – thick enough to cover but supple enough to spread, adding more icing sugar or water as required – you can ice the cakes.

Cut four strips of baking parchment and make an outline of a square with them on a flat plate. Sit one cake on top of the paper pieces, spread with icing, sit the second cake on top and use the rest of the icing to cover the top and sides. Leave spatula-smooth or swirl with a knife as you wish.

Serves 6-8.