Monday, 24 May 2010

gingerbread biscotti

This is the first batch of goodies I have in store for Sunday and well, the rest of it is happening and I'll get round to blogging about it. All I can say is that it'll be a busy week ahead and really, I'm enjoying every minute of it!

I mentioned earlier about my dilemna with my one oven at home. It's great that I have my aunt on board helping me out with the catering (that makes two of us and two ovens) but as much as I can hope to get another oven, I've decided one is all that I have and I'm going to have to work with it. So a week out, I've decided to start with biscotti; once baked, biscotti can keep up to to one month in an air tight container which works out perfectly for me. It means I can get started rather having to do all the baking the day before.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Line a baking tray. 

Whisk 110g dark brown sugar and 1 egg in a bowl until combined.

Sift in 75g plain flour, 35g self raising flour, 4tsp ground ginger abd 1 tsp ground cinnamon.

Add to it 115g coarsely chopped crystallised ginger.

Stir to combine.

Shape dough into a 20cm log; place on the lined tray and bake for 30 minutes. Cool on tray.

Reduce oven to 150 degrees.

Using a serrated knife, cut log diagonally into 5mm slices. Place slices on the lined oven trays and bake for a further 30 minutes.

Turn the biscotti halfway through baking.

Cool on wire racks.

Cooking with crystallised ginger (or ginger for that matter) isn't my usual kind of thing but the catering this weekend has given me the opportunity to try a few new flavours. Apparently there'll be about 150 people there, most of them being adults and I figured ginger is more of an adult flavour and amongst all the people there, some will like it, I hope.

Personally, I don't mind the ginger in this biscotti. The bite of the ginger gives this biscuit a real kick and I guess I'm hoping to produce a few standout items which will get noticed this Sunday and this is probably going to be one of them. I'll do a few good old favourites and well, posts of those will follow!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

banana & berry muffins

It was after reading this post that I thought to myself, it's been awhile since I've made a batch of muffins. I guess I've been a little distracted with all the other recipes that I have and which I'm ever so slowly getting through but well, a batch of muffins was definitely long overdue!

Muffins are probably my mum's favourite out of all the things I bake. They're just the right size as a treat, they come in ever so many combinations (both savoury and sweet) and a dozen of these seem to get us through the week. I tend to bake more sweet muffins than I do savoury but now that I think of it, it's been awhile since I've baked a savoury one (ok, let me add that to the list).

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Sift 250g plain flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Mash 2 ripe bananas and add to the flour mix. In a separate bowl, whisk together 3 tbsp honey, 3 tbsp vegetable oil, 1 large egg and 185ml milk. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and lightly combine. Lastly, fold in about 150g of frozen blueberries.

Spoon the batter into a lined 12 hole muffin pan.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Dig in whilst these are warm otherwise set muffins aside on a wire rack to cool if you're planning to eat later.

It actually didn't occur to me until mum asked me afterwards how much sugar I'd added to the recipe. There was honey but otherwise no caster sugar nor brown sugar. It got me a little nervous because I'm so used to adding sugar into my baking that when I had a bite, I was almost scared that the muffins would be dry and tasteless. The reality? They were fine! The honey gave these muffins just a touch of sweetness and they were light in taste. I could eat a few of these without feeling too guilty and well, I'd like to think I'm being slightly healthier in my baking!

Oh, let me just add that I used a packet of high antioxident berry mix (I forget which brand it was) but it had some sort of blackberry in it which I don't recommend - it left splodges of sourness in my muffins. Do stick with plain blueberries for a sweeter (but healthy muffin).

Monday, 17 May 2010

provence garden cafe @ west parade, eastwood (revisited)

It's been a good while but J&I are back in search of the perfect burger. Yes, I know they're not very good for you and should be eaten in moderation but we do eat in moderation and to be honest, a lot of places actually make a rather wholesome burger. Oh - the chips that go generally go with a burger are probably not very good either but I stress, the boy and I, we eat in moderation so it's ok.

Here we find ourselves on a Sunday afternoon revisiting Provence Cafe in Eastwood. The last time we came here, we came late in the afternoon for coffee and cake. This time it was lunch and a rather big one too!

This photo amuses me because J looks like he's drinking the Iced Coffee through his nose!

J's beef burger topped with bacon and egg. Just wait till you see the next photo...

Here's the beef burger chopped in half. Not sure how he managed to fit this in his mouth but he did.

In comparison, my chicken burger looks rather small.

Both of us were contentedly full - J seemed rather impressed with his burger. Oh, and the boy bought a bonzai whilst we were waiting for lunch. In case you didn't know, Provence Cafe not only serve food but they also sell bonzais. Bonzais are rather pretty and you might be tempted to buy one too. Out of the three times I've been to this cafe, twice I've left with someone that has bought a bonzai. I daresay that next time I'm there, I'll be buying one too!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

classic oat cookies

I've just been asked by a friend to do some catering in a couple of weeks time and I'm in full research and baking mode! Probably went a bit crazy with the post its today, there's no way I can bake everything I've marked up but well, here's to trying! 

To be honest, there's a real art to coming up with a menu and it's actually really hard work! The catering I'm doing is for an afternoon function for 150 people, mainly adults. There's one of me and only one oven and I have just under 2 weeks. I'm extremely grateful to have an aunt just as crazy as me who's offered to be my sidekick; hopefully between the two of us we'll get it happening.

And the catering couldn't have come with any better timing. I've just been testing out a few new recipes at home, including this recipe for Classic Oat cookies. You know what, I think this whole catering thing is going to be ok!

The following recipe has been adapted from Linda Collister's 'Cakes & Bakes'. 

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Place 115g softened unsalted butter, 140g brown sugar, 1 beaten egg, 1 tbsp milk and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract in a bowl and beat well using an electric mixer.

Add 100g self raising flour, 75 dried fruit (I used half cranberries, half sultanas) and 150g rolled oats.

Mix well with a spatula.

Put heaped spoons of dough onto the prepared baking trays, spacing them well apart.

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned around the edges. Leave to cool on the baking tray for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

This recipe would fall in the category of 'healthier baking' which I'm starting to do more of. There's still quite a bit of sugar in this which I reckon you can reduce by at least a third and still get the same result but on the whole, this cookie is a biteful of goodness with the oats and dried fruits. Once these cookies have cooled, they are great to munch on so try not to get too carried away. Unfortunately, they don't seem to keep very well - they had softened by the next day so try to get people to eat them on the day they're baked.

At this stage, I'll probably leave this one out for the catering. And well, more baking posts to follow!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

vogue cafe @ lvl 2, macquarie centre

All the places I've been eating at recently seem to be within a 15km radius from my house. Actually, the boy prefers it if we can actually walk to the place because he doesn't like driving but the main reason, well, he's busy studying for his last lot of exams. I don't have any exams but until the boy is finished, I'm there with him. It's not too bad; cooking aside, I love to read so it's just as easy for me to pull up a novel and sit next to him and do my own reading. Somethings I even pull out a cookbook and read that!

Well, in sticking to eating locally, we've discovered a few new places. These places probably have been around for awhile but it's only recently that we've decided to eat more locally that we noticed that they exist. Vogue Cafe at Macquarie Centre is one of those places; just tucked in the corner of Level 2 outside Myer. 

A mixed berry smoothie for me and a chocolate milkshake for the boy.

Plenty of magazines and newspapers to read! I got myself comfortable with the latest copy of Real Living; I love this mag!! 

J's humungous (is that how you spell it?) chicken schnitzel with bacon and cheese burger with ever-so-crunchy-but-soft-inside wedges. The burger was probably a bit too much for me but I was happy to pick away at the wedges. J thought this meal was just the right size for him.

Here's my smoked salmon, avocado, capers and onion on a slice of sour dough toast. There's an option for 2 slices of toast but I wasn't that hungry and ordering the smoothie, it was just the right amount (well of course, with a few of J's wedges).

Prices here are a tad expensive but I mean I wouldn't call franchise cafes like the The Coffee Club cheap either. If anything, you'll get much more flavoursome food here than you would at a franchise and the serving size is probably a bit more generous. Service here is attentive and where this cafe is positioned in Mac centre, it certainly offers a bit more peace and quiet.

Monday, 10 May 2010

hwa gae korean restaurant @ railway pde, eastwood

I'm really not all too sure where April went but I find myself in the first few weeks of May and I have the  boy making a point that I only blogged six times in April. Argh, I think it comes part and parcel of blogging that you always end up with a backlog of posts and as hard as you try to get up to date, you always fall behind (that's especially the case when you're talking about food - I each much faster than I blog!)

Anyway, planning to keep this post short and sweet. Here's a little place discovered in Eastwood last Friday night when the boy and I were looking for a bite to eat. Having read Mashi's blog, I was planning to go to the restaurant two doors down but looking in, they were full so we settled for Hwa Gae; another Korean restaurant along the stretch of Railway Parade. When I say little, this place seats maybe a max of 25 covers (and really, that would be quite squishy!)

For those unfamiliar with Korean food, you'll be pleased that find pictures of every menu item spanning across the 4 pages of the menu. The one thing I love about eating Korean is the selection of starters!

J thought he'd be adventurous and ordered the Korean Sausage Soup. After this came bumbling to the table, we discovered 'Korean sausage' actually meant a combination of stomach and intestines. I had a few bites and all I can say is that internal organs really aren't my thing. J was a bit better with this dish and ate most of it.

Something you can't go wrong with - Seafood Korean pancake (I reckon I order this one wherever I go!)

My favourite of the night had to be this one - Spicy rice sticks with fish cake and cabbage. Back in the days when I used to watch Korean dramas, I'd always wondered what this would taste like. Well after having it for the first time, I can say that it's just the right amount of spiciness and I love it! It's actually quite addictive so you might consider ordering a plate to yourself!

It's been a good couple of days since my meal here and I can't stop telling people how cheap this place is; all of the above came to a total of $28 for two of us (is that a bargain or what?) The food was fantastic (of course next time we'll know not to order the Korean sausage but hey, that's just me not liking it). Well my brother agrees with me that it's a cheap Korean meal (haha...yes I might've told him at least twice how I thought it was incredibly cheap) and well, despite a limited menu, it's actually a place I really enjoyed eating at. I didn't have to spend ages pouring through the menu, there's enough items on the menu to make it easy to choose and not too few to stop you from coming back again. Food comes quickly to the table and the waitstaff are extremely polite and the restaurant has just the right amount of noise for a pleasant night out. Love it and recommend it!