Saturday, 29 January 2011

chocolate cherry cakes

As part of my birthday celebrations in December, I finally made my way over to Donna Hay's General Store in Woollahra to check it out. It's a really gorgeous little store, I wanted to buy too many things in there and in the end, left the shop with some pie moulds, a baking tin and a jar of grapefruit marmalade which I've been eagerly digging into.

Mum went and got me Donna's latest cookbook for my birthday, 'Fast, Fresh, Simple' and so far have made a reasonably good effort to try out the recipes. I mentioned this awhile back but I do have a whole 60L container at home dedicated to Donna Hay magazines and cookbooks and out of all the cookbooks I have, Donna's are ones which I go back to time and time again.

Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Place 125g chopped dark chocolate and 155g unsalted butter in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until smooth. In a large bowl, place 3 eggs, 75g caster sugar, 100g plain flour, 1/4 tsp baking powder, 120g almond meal, 60mL sherry (actual recipe calls for brandy which I didn't have at home) and chocolate mixture and stir to combine. Spoon the mixture into cupcake holders and press a cherry into the top.

Bake for 12-15 minutes. Check with a skewer to see if the cakes are cooked. Makes 12.

The photo in the book got my attention and I was glad to find that they came out of the oven just as cute.

These cakes are a cross between a cupcake and a friand. Not quite as crumbly as a friand and not as sweet as a regular cupcake. The addition of the alcohol make its quite a festive treat and even for those who don't generally like alcohol in their food didn't mind it too much, said that they couldn't taste it. The alcohol does give it a certain richness though and methinks I should head to the bottle-o and get myself a bottle of brandy. I keep coming across recipes with brandy in it!

Anyway, so here's recipe number 3 with cherries in it. I have one more to share!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

cherry & hazelnut friands

I received a handful of food related gifts over Christmas and the one that I've dug into very quickly is my copy of 'Poh's Kitchen' which mum bought me in conjuction with 3 Poh DVDs. I'm not that big a fan; there's just that something about Poh which makes me love her and well it's great to see how happy she is whilst she cooks. It's uncanny how she laughs at everything and it turns out her recipes are actually rather good!

'Poh's Kitchen' is half split between savoury and sweet recipes. I've tried three sweet recipes from the book now and they've all turned out really well. My first recipe was the cherry & hazelnut friands which earned me a handful of brownie points from the boy; he absolutely loves friands.

Preheat oven to 170 degrees. Grease a 12 hole friand pan with melted butter. In large bowl, combine together 60g plain flour, 185g sifted icing sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 110g hazelnut meal, 180g unsalted butter and 6 lightly beaten egg whites. Stir with a whisk until there are no lumps.

Distribute the batter into the friand tin (I only managed to get 11). Then poke in 4-5 drained morello cherries into each friand (about 400g drained). Bake for about 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the friand comes out clean. 

Rest for 5-10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. Try not to be too anxious and pry these out when they first come out of the oven. After resting, you'll find that the friand falls away from the sides making it a lot easier to turn out.

Have a taste and see what you think!

This is probably the first friand recipe I've made at home where the friand hasn't stuck to the pan or burnt to a crisp on the sides. Loved the colour on these friands as they came out of the oven and you know what, they taste bloody good too! 

You could say that I'm a little addicted to cherries as a couple of days later I went and made another recipe with cherries in it! 

Saturday, 22 January 2011

dried cherry cheesecake muffins

Over the Christmas & new year break, I soaked up every opportunity to bake and it worked out perfectly well that family and friends would pop in every now and help me do some eating. I did my fair share of eating also and like it happens every year, January has been a month of being good, eating well, lots of salads and more than average visits to the gym. 

Out of all the things I baked over the Christmas, the one ingredient that featured prominently in all my baking was cherries. They weren't quite in season at the time (I find that you can get much plumper cherries in January) but I still had my packet of dried cherries sitting in my pantry calling out to be used ( does seem to talk to me!)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Line a 12 cup muffin pan.

Chop up 100g dried cherries.

Melt 150g unsalted butter and cool slightly. In a large bowl, whisk 200g cream cheese and 150g caster sugar together, add 3 lightly beaten eggs one at a time until well combined Stir in the melted butter. Stir in 300g self-raising flour and add in the chopped cherries to the mixture. 

Spoon into the prepared muffin tin.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

I personally think that muffins taste best when warm so I tend to dig in when they come straight out of the oven.

Usually recipes with cream cheese can taste quite heavy and filling but this particular muffin is surprisingly light to the taste.  For me, I knew I put cream cheese into the recipe but for anyone else eating, you would hardly suspect it. So I guess if you're after your cream cheese fix and don't want to feel too guilty about it, I guess this it!

Monday, 17 January 2011

cafe topiary @ rawson st., epping

I mentioned awhile back that I have that mental list of restaurants/eateries that I want to go (I probably will never get to the end of it cause it just gets long and longer) but it comes in real handy when when I'm stuck for a place to eat! One of the places on that list is Cafe Topiary on Rawson Street (just across the road from the Coles carpark in Epping) which has been on that list for over a year now and it was great to finally pay a visit. 

There's a small outdoor area for those wishing to catch a bit of sun but otherwise there's aircon and TV inside. The latter worked out better on this visit as the boy was keen to keep an eye out on the cricket score.

They serve campos coffee here but I'm finding it a little too warm at the moment for a hot coffee so had their Iced Coffee instead.

Both the boy and I found the meals here rather large. This was the boy's beef burger which comes with a rather glorious looking sunny side egg.

The Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado & Tomato on Turkish is really quite a treat but also quite filling at the same time.

Like I said, the boy was keeping his eye on the TV screen.

For me, the greatest thing about Cafe Topiary was the size of their chips/wedges. Here's one of the chips that was wider than my face! (As you can see, I'm easily amused!)

We were here for  Sunday lunch but the cafe offers a very extensive breakfast menu also. When I first read about Cafe Topiary, it was a mention of their breakfast menu so will need to work on getting up that little bit early to get in for breakfast. There were lots of people here when we were there at 1pm on a Sunday so suggest you get in early if you're keen to grab a table. Note that they do start closing off sections of the cafe to clean on a Sunday so you might get turned away if no tables are available.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

bar angolo @ la piaza, top ryde shopping centre

I'm eagerly awaiting the opening of Kazbah at Top Ryde Shopping Centre (I wonder what's the delay?) but in the meantime, there's actually quite a lot of dining options to whet the appetite. Hurricane's is also due to open up and well, it almost makes sense that they've staggered the opening of the restaurants so that you can actually try them out one by one. The thing I love the most is that now we have all these new restaurants which makes dining in my area so much more fun. So far, I've tried two of the restaurants at Top Ryde and well on my way to try the third with the buy one, get one free main voucher that got handed out the other night for Citigrill.

Anyway, just a quick post of a weekend lunch at Bar Angolo where the boy and I were keen to check out their pizza and pastas. Here's a thirst quenching House Made Lemonade to start the meal.

Introducing the Porkstar - that's the pizza. All things pork on a crispy thin pizza base - yum!

Surprisingly there are only 2 pasta options on the menu, either these meatballs or a Carbonara. Discovered an extra option on the specials menu but still a rather small selection. Not something to complain though because these meatballs and pasta were awfully tasty!

I eyed the desserts cabinet which housed a good selection of Italian sweets. With the outdoor seating, would be good to come back here for a coffee and a bite of something sweet. What I find interesting is that right next door is another pizza and pasta place. Anyway, will have to get round to try the one next door and let you know which one is better!

Monday, 10 January 2011

almond pear tart

I always have the intention to bake things from scratch and things like kneading dough, whipping cream, piping icing are things I look forward to doing and probably cross my mind every other second of the day (clearly baking is a much more fun activity to do than things like work, taking out the garbage, waiting for the train, walking to work!) I actually don't even mind the fact that after a day's worth of baking something might not even turn out quite right because at the end of the day, you've achieved something and there'll always be someone to tell you you've done a mighty good job of it. I guess it makes you feel good!

So despite good intentions, most of the time I resort to speed baking which is my term for using pre-prepared ingredients and combining them to make a recipe. Take this almond pear tart recipe for example  which I thought was rather tasty and earned me several compliments from the friends that helped me eat it.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Roll out 1 pack of Careme shortcrust pastry between sheets of baking paper to 3mm thickness and line a lightly greased 22cm tart ring. Trim the edge, line the pastry with baking paper and fill with baking weights. Bake for 10-12 minutes, remove the weights and paper and bake for a further 10 minutes until a light golden brown. Cool

To make the almond filling, place 75g softened butter and 110g caster sugar in a bowl and beat with a hand mixer until light an creamy. Beat in 1 egg, then fold in 150g almond meal, 2 tbsp flour and 1 1/2 tbsp sherry. Spread the filling over the pastry. 

Arrange 1 can of sliced poached pears across the almond filling. Bake the tart for 50 minutes or until golden. Let the tart rest for about 10 minutes before attempting to remove from the tin. Dust with icing sugar. Serve at room temperature.

This tart was hardly any effort and tasted great (and to be quite honest, likely to be better tasting than if I'd made everything from scratch). I served this tart with vanilla ice cream and it worked a treat!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

potato salad

The amount of potato I eat is actually quite frightening and I'm surprised that I haven't quite turned into a potato yet. Well if I go missing one day, you'll more than likely find me in a potato sack cause I've turned into one! I love my crisps, hot chips dusted with chicken salt, baked spuds piled high with melting sour cream, mashed potato, roasted potato, potato gratin, have yet to try duck fat roasted potatoes (but the sound of it is already quite tasty) and last but not least, potato salad.

I came across this potato salad recipe just before Christmas and ended up making it for two separate Christmas parties. In both instances, the salad was completely gobbled up and I had several people asking me for the recipe. Well the recipe comes from Hamlyn's '200 super salads' by Alice Storey and here's how I made it...

Peel and rinse 1kg brushed new potatoes and cut into walnut sized pieces. Cook in lightly salted boiling water until tender (you should be able to slide a fork into the potato without any effort if the potato has cooked through). Rinse under cold water and let to cool.

Meanwhile, slice 250g smoked streaky bacon into thin strips. Heat 1 tsp oil in a frying pan and cook the bacon until gold, drain on kitchen paper and allow to cool. Finally dice 10 spring onions, reserving some for garnish.

Put the potatoes, finally sliced spring onions and bacon in a large salad bowl. Gently stir in 175mL mayonnaise ( I recommend S&W Delikatessen Mayo because it tastes absolutely scrumptious). Season to taste with cracked salt and pepper. Garnish with the reserved spring onions and serve.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

sorrenzo @ bay drive, meadowbank

So onto Part 3 of my birthday celebrations in 2010, the boy took me for dinner at Sorrenzo - a fusion Japanese restaurant just by the wharf at Meadowbank. I had no idea there were even restaurants by the wharf and well, I gave the boy a thumbs up for a good choice. We enjoyed a rather lavish meal looking over the water and finishing dinner, it was just a short trip home. (Call me lazy but lately I've taken to dining local and it's great to find that there are a number of fantastic local options now compared to a couple years back.)

Greeted by birthday wishes as we arrive at the restaurant.

One of their sake based cocktails which were ever so easy to drink!

Complimentary Amuse Bouche. 

Steamed Abalone with Foie Gras, Sumiso - one of the boy's colleagues had recommended him to try this and it was definitely one dish I would also recommend. It probably doesn't need all that sauce though but once I started dabbing at it, it got rather addictive. In general, you'll find that with most of the dishes here, they are quite heavy handed with the sauces; by all means jam-packed with flavour but might overpower the dish it comes with so suggest you dabble at the sauces in moderation.

 Sushi Combo.


Green Tea Smoked Surpreme of Duck with Cumberland Sauce. You don't see it in this picture but there's another bed of risotto sitting on the other side of the plate making this a rather filling dish. The duck was perfectly cooked with just a slight tinge of pink.

 Wagyu Rib Eye Steak with Assorted Vegetables. Can't go wrong with wagyu.

Had my stomach let me, I would've loved to try dessert but after a full day's worth of eating, my stomach was well stretched beyond its limit. Sorrenzo is open for lunch so no doubt I'll be back to try some more items off their menu and I think the view would be even more stunning during the day. The great thing about the location is that after a filling dinner, you can take a stroll by the wharf to walk it off and that's exactly what we did!

Monday, 3 January 2011

black star pastry @ australia st., newtown

Recently, the boy has been looking at cars and whilst he has yet to settle on a model that he wants to buy, the one that he's about to settle on seems to always follow him. Whether we are in the car, walking along the street, there's that car again and I kid you not, this has probably been going on for at least 2 months. Then again, this is not unlike my relationship with Black Star Pastry. First it was an article in the Australian Gourmet Traveller, then it was a write up in the SMH Good Living, then it was a conversation with a friend, then another friend mentioned it and finally, a good couple months later, I made my way over there to check out what it was all about.

Serrano Ham with Olive Rustic Bread. Lemongrass & Ginger Iced Tea - I highly recommend this!

Chicken & Avocado Sandwich (my favourite of our two sandwich choices).

The place was a lot smaller than I expected it to be but I suspect most of it is actually the kitchen out the back. What you see in this photo is pretty much it in terms of the shopfront. There's the one table inside which were lucky to snap up, the rest of the seating is a bench and some stools outside the shop.

Lots of really yummy looking desserts in the Black Star Pastry cabinets but with a boxful of macarons already under my belt, I settled for the chocolate eclair and custard flan. Must go back to try out the rest!

So there you have it, Part 2 of my 2010 birthday celebrations. Minus the size of the place, Black Star Pastry was everything I thought it would be - simple, no fuss yet tantalising food and desserts which I could quite easily gobble up at any time of the day. It was a tad hot that particularly day for a coffee but seeing all the people coming in and out of the shop just to grab a coffee or two, I think it'd be safe for me to say that they make a mean coffee too. Anyway, will report back when I try it out.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

adriano zumbo cafe @ terry st., rozelle

First post of 2011! I've been busy enjoying the Christmas & New Year holidays and can't believe another year has come around already. The last month was a bit of a whirlwind starting from my birthday, then it was Christmas parties, friends being back in the country and catching up, a mini trip to Kiama, New Years Eve and of course plenty of food and drink along the way! Hope everyone had a good Christmas and Happy New Year!

Couldn't decide where to start the year on this blog so figured it would make the most sense to start where I left off. It's been a good month since my last post and looking at my photos, a LOT of food appears to have been consumed along the way. 

My birthday breakfast @ Adriano Zumbo Cafe. I had the day off work and spent it with the boy traipsing around Sydney eating and eating.

 The boy's Berry Brioche.

The view from where we were sitting. Don't underestimate how long it takes to assemble a macaron tower - probably takes a good 30-40 minutes. Every now and then, I was tempted to knock on the window to tell the girl where she had left a gap but I think she had it under control.

 The boy was feeling peckish and grabbed a lamb sausage roll to top of his brioche. Loved the buttery and flaky pastry!

 I probably looked a bit stupid to passerbys but hey, it was my birthday and a picture with the Zumbo wall was more than appropriate.

 A box of macarons for the road. Do not leave these in the car on a hot day; ended up having a few melting macarons by the time we got home - all the more reason to gobble them up quickly.

I guess you would call this Part 1 of my birthday adventures. Plenty more eating that day and then the birthday celebrations somehow carried themselves across to the weekend and beyond. Anyway, posts to follow!