Sunday, November 23, 2014

From Paris to Provence - Como House, South Yarra

Yesterday, I went with Vanda, Sandra and Lee to Paris to Provence, a French Festival held in the grounds of Como House, South Yarra.

We went early so that we had an easy time moving about early on:

Believe me, this was packed within a couple of hours. 

There were craft and homewares stalls, and then my favourite - loads and loads of food.

There were crepes:

and macarons and pastries:

and small goods:

and cheese:

and pate:

and alcohol:

Here are some industrious workers making crepes (I bought one with salted caramel and sea salt - yum):

There were also colourful characters roaming the grounds, including this guy (pictured with Sandra and Lee's Yorkie, Zelda), who rode a unicycle:

And these courtesans from Versailles (who were very funny and adored Zelda):

and a Poirot clown on stilts:

In addition to my crepe, I bought this crème brulee from the Choukette stand:

and (L to R from top L): date, walnut and apricot loaf from Brasserie Bread, a fennel infused salami from Salumi, coffee caramel from Caramelicious, an almond croissant for Tim from one of the onsite coffee stands,  mustard and black balsamic cream from Steph's Gourmet Foods, and a from Bean to Bar 70% dark chocolate bar from Monsieur Truffe:

We also picked up a free cheese show bag from President Cheese, featuring camembert, brie, muscatels, lavosh crackers and a slice of date and pistachio roulade:

All in all, it was a fun and fabulous day.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Dan Lepard's Caramel Christmas Cake

Christmas is nearly here - I don't know how the year passed by so quickly, but it did.   It's time to start thinking seriously about your Christmas menu, and of course, your Christmas bakes.

I got organised and made my Christmas cake in October so that it can mature before Christmas.  This year's Christmas cake recipe comes from Dan Lepard via The Guardian - a Caramel Christmas Cake.  The recipe is online here.

The word "caramel" had me in immediately with this cake.  What's not to like?  The fruit component is currants, raisins, prunes and glace cherries.  This makes it slightly cheaper than fruit cakes with the full range of glace fruits.
The cake was a dream to bake, and came out looking and smelling beautiful.  I won't be cutting it until Christmas, so I can't give you a peek inside, but I think the outside is persuasive enough.  If you need more convincing, just read the first paragraph of the recipe - it's got caramel in it!
Are you baking a cake this Christmas?

Friday, November 21, 2014

FFWD - Storzapretis

This week's French Friday with Dorie dish was a bit of an enigma - Storzapretis.  I had no idea what this was, but Dorie has helpfully subtitled it as Corsican ricotta and mint gnocchi.

I had read that this takes a while to make, and it does - you have to make your ricotta, spinach and mint gnocchi then freeze it for a while (not to mention the half an hour it took to make 34 quinelles of ricotta):

I was worried about mine falling apart while being boiled, after reading the other Doristas experiences, so I took a leaf from Adriana's book and just baked mine from frozen for 35 minutes:

It looks like a splodgy mess, but it tastes great!  I was worried about the mint, but it somehow went with the dish.
To see what the other Doristas made of Storzapretis, visit the LYL section of the FFWD website.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Chocolate Cake with Vegemite Caramel Buttercream

As regular readers will know, I have an eye for the unusual, so when I was asked to make chocolate cake, I wasn't going to make any old chocolate cake - it had to be different.  The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook stepped in with a recipe for Chocolate Cake with Marmite Caramel Buttercream.  You can find the recipe online here.

Aussies don't do marmite, so I substituted vegemite for the marmite.  It sounds weird, but think salted caramel, and that's what the vegemite does:

This cake is very tasty, if a tad sweet because of the frosting.  I made only half the frosting which was sufficient to do the cake.  The trick with the frosting is to work with it fast because it sets up quickly - I ended up moulding it around my cake rather than spreading it (which works just fine, in case you were wondering).

If you have chocolate cake fans to please and want to add an element of mystery to your creation, try this cake recipe - it's good. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

WWDH - Balsamic and Tomato Roast Chicken

For Wednesday with Donna Hay this week, I selected Donna's Balsamic and Tomato Roast Chicken from p99 of Off the Shelf.  At the time it seemed like a good idea, then I didn't want to make it.  However, I am glad that I stuck to my guns and I did make it, because it was delish!

This dish could not be simpler to make.  You can find the recipe online here
There is no fussy pre-cooking of anything - it is basically a one pot dish.  Put slices of eggplant in the bottom of a greased roasting dish, put a chicken breast on top of each eggplant slice, and dress with a tomato, balsamic, caper and olive oil sauce.  Put in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes and voila - dinner is served:

Donna suggest serving this dish with an arugula salad - that is not my thing, so I served it with stir fried veges instead.  Nom!

My fellow WWDH cooks are Margaret, Chaya and Sarah - go see if they made it too.

I have been a busy little blogger lately, so I am sharing with you a brief montage of my adventures.  I saw The Rolling Stones in their 14 On Fire Tour at Rod Laver Arena:


I was in awe of Mick's voice and flexibility at age 71, and of Ronnie's glittery red shoes.

I also saw Katy Perry at Rod Laver Arena:

Yep, that's her singing into a sunflower, not that you can see from the photo.  The pretty lights struck me, as did Katy's many costume changes - just like a real life Anime feature.

I also went to see What We Did on Our Holiday at The British Film Festival at Palace Como:


Loved that movie - it makes you laugh and cry, and it features David Tennant - what more could you want?  This cool Union Jack mini was in the foyer of Como to celebrate the Festival.

Enjoy the rest of your week.

Friday, November 14, 2014

FFWD - Pan Seared Duck Breasts with Oranges

French Fridays with Dorie this week quacks me up - it's Pan Seared Duck Breasts with Kumquats Oranges.  Apparently kumquats grow all year round, but I have never seen any where I shop.  Accordingly, as Dorie's inspiration for this dish was Duck a la Orange, oranges seemed like the natural substitution.

I have never cooked duck before either (umm, apparently I have for other FFWD dishes  but forgot!), but after having seen an ad featuring Justine Schofield cooking it, I was happy to give it a try.  However, I was not prepared for how expensive duck is - $18 for two breasts.  Ouch.

Cooking the duck, the candied oranges and the sauce were all easy enough.  As Dorie suggested, I cooked the candied oranges and sauce in the morning and cooked the duck in the evening.

The end result was really, really good.  Judging from the amount of fat that was on the duck and in the pan, it wasn't a low fat meal, but as a treat every now and again, it is worth it.  The oranges were the perfect foil for the richness of the duck, and the only change I would make would be to thicken the sauce slightly.

I served my duck with boiled mixed vegetables and microwaved baby potatoes.

To see what the other Doristas made of this dish, visit the LYL section of the website.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Banana Bread - Jill Dupleix recipe

Last week, The Age ran a Jill Dupleix recipe for Banana Bread with Salted Caramel which looked really good - a deep, dark and seductive loaf.

I had by chance bought some bananas for my mother which she did not eat, so I had the foundation to make Jill's banana bread recipe.  And it didn't disappoint - the brown sugar gave the banana bread some wonderful caramel undertones, which went perfectly with bottled caramel sauce and vanilla icecream:

The banana bread also tasted pretty good on its own.

If you are a fan of banana bread, give this recipe a go - it is a little different from the norm.