Monday, May 31, 2010

Win tickets to the Melbourne Good Food & Wine Show!

It's that time of year again when Melbourne gears up for what it does best - the Good food & Wine show is in town this weekend 4-6 June at the Convention & Exhibition Centre (Jeff's shed).  This year promises to be an event to remember, with celebrity demo's, book signings & tastings, Cheese & Chocolate masterclasses, wine sessions at the Riedel Decanter Bar and the Gourmet Garden Cooking School where you can try your hand at tasty recipes. 


I am giving away TWO DOUBLE PASSES to this year's show.  All you have to do is:
1.  Be subscribed to this blog
2.  Write a comment below explaining what you'd like to see at the show, and your email address.

This competition must end by MIDDAY TUESDAY 1st JUNE so we can get the passes sent out to you in time for the show this weekend, so get your entry in NOW and good luck!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The two week birthday celebration with a boeuf bourginon finale

<---- Chocolate Guinness cupcakes with marshmallow "head" (Nigella recipe)

Where to begin?  Almost two weeks ago I turned 33; since then it's been a series of highs and lows.  High:  a long anticipated night with my husband in Arthur's Seat at an amazing B&B with views over Melbourne.  Low:  aforementioned husband coming down with food-poisoning an hour after arrival at the B&B, which lasted five days.  High:  friends, food and cocktails around an outdoor fire with perfect weather on a Saturday evening.  Low:  learning about some dodgy U.S. food practices via the movie "Food Inc.", leading to general household paranoia about the food we buy, source, eat (but on further reflection, this is probably a good thing). 

Rather than post up two weeks worth of recipes, here are some highlights and pictures, let me know if you'd like any recipes and I'll post it up:

Sitting around the fire while our neighbour Greg tries to coax one of the local, very fat, possums down from a nearby tree with a banana (he was later successful, at a cost of one inadvertently gnawed finger).

A lovely Sunday evening spent with hubby and our friend K; citrus glazed poached chicken resting on a bed of steamed beans and butter-roasted fennel.

One lazy Sunday morning, I threw together a damper loaf using ginger beer - very crumbly and crunchy outside crust; lovely and soft inside.

Today started with some fresh organic leeks pulled from the garden...

...and ended with a lovely, rich, boeuf bourginon (recipe below).

I made this lovely garlic and rosemary studded foccacia to mop up the bourginon gravy, which complimented the garlic and rosemary flavours in the stew.

Boeuf bourginon using mum's relish:

1 kg diced steak (you can use a cheaper cut - the cooking time will ensure it becomes soft)

two smashed garlic gloves

three leeks, washed and sliced (white only)

four medium carrots, chopped into big chunks

7 chat potatoes, halved (unpeeled)

handful of large sized button mushrooms, quartered

olive oil

one cup red wine

a jar of random relish or chutney from your pantry - I used one of my mum's many contributions, a sweet plum relish (you could buy one from the supermarket or local farmer's market if you don't have any)

2 cups beef stock

salt and pepper

plain flour

3 tsp cornflour mixed with water to make it a paste

two stalks rosemary


Coat the beef in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, brown it in a heavy bottomed casserole dish with a splash of olive oil and set aside.  Saute leeks, then add beef and all other ingredients back into the pan.  Put the lid on and place it into a 160C oven for 1 & 1/2 hours.  Take it out and give it a stir, add the mushrooms and the cornflour mix, then put back in the oven for a further 20 mins.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Vietnamese cold noodle salad with chilli & mint dresing

Using last night's leftovers, I made a cold Vietnamese salad.  I arranged the rice noodles, bean shoots, torn mint leaves (from our garden) and chopped chicken on a plate, then made a tasty dressing.  Start with 1/4 cup sweet chilli, then 'layer' those typical Vietnamese ingredients until you have the right flavour.  As a general guide, add to the sweet chilli sauce: 2 tsp sugar, 1 spring each chopped mint and coriander, 1 tbs light soy sauce, 2 tsp fish sauce, 1/2 tsp sesame oil, 1 small chopped red (de-seeded) chilli, juice from 2 limes or lemons.  Chopped peanuts would have made this dish, but in lieu of those I sprinkled over some sesame seeds which tasted fine.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Home made prawn and chicken rice paper rolls

On those days when I'm in a hurry and happen to run past an asian takeaway, I'll scoff down some rice paper rolls as a healthy and delicious option.  For the first time tonight, my husband and I made our own - and they were just like the ones you buy in the shop (although perhaps not quite as pretty).

Rather than tell you how to make them and what ingredients to use, the best thing is for you to just buy some rice paper wrappers and wing it yourself.  Look in the asian food section of your local supermarket - usually the pack will have some suggestions and folding instructions on the back.  Good luck!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sparkling Citrus Cake

For the last 10 or so months, I've managed an extremely stressful, political, and high profile project at my workplace.  Stressful in that it involves real lives - communities who depend on and look to my organisation to provide information at crucial times.  Political in that it's a government organisation and it's an election year.  High profile in that our work regularly appears in the media; discussed and dissected over talkback radio, critiqued every day and covered in the evening's news.  I've lost count of the number of times I've been bailed up at a party, subjected to general ignorance, misguided opinions or "why don't you just ...?"  I won't bore you with the details but it involved long days, back to back meetings, repeated trips between multiple workplaces, and the goalposts changing day by day, hour by hour. 

Working in such an environment under such testing conditions can expose the very best and worst in human behaviour.  And so while I've experienced some fairly shoddy treatment from members of the public and even colleagues; I have also had the honour to work with some pretty amazing people too.  People who put ego and personal agendas aside, who geniunely care about the communities they serve, dedicated to making a difference and helping to keep others safe - often at great personal expense, sacrificing time with loved ones, putting on hold plans for holidays or families, or taking care of their own backyards.  One person in particular - T, who worked closely with me on the project - showed amazing dedication and worked absolutely above and beyond the call of duty.

Now on the eve of wrapping up the project, we may not be working in such close confines anymore, but the friendship lives on.  Our shared passion for good food will surely endure as well.  Today as I experimented in my kitchen with some sparkling wine, I created a birthday cake for T my fellow Taurean:  the "Sparkling Citrus" - bubbly, zesty, sweet but with substance. 


1 cup plain flour, sifted
5 large eggs, separated
80g caster sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
150ml sparkling sweet wine (I used Omni citrus)
Grated zest of two navel oranges; plus juice of 1
1 tsp baking powder


Prehead oven to 180C, grease a round springform cake pan and dust with flour.  Whisk egg yolks and sugar with electric beaters until pale and creamy, then stir in oil, wine, zest and juice with a spoon, then add flour and baking powder and combine. 

Beat egg whites until stiff, fold into mixture then pour the lot into prepared pan.  Bake 25 mins, then turn oven down to 150C and bake another 20 mins.  Turn off oven and open door slightly, cool cake in the oven.  It will sink down in the middle but it's meant to - the texture will be fluffy and airy inside but with a nice brown crust on the outside. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tarta De Santiago

I promised I would post up the recipe for the delicious "almond lemon cake" I made as part of the "spanish birthday feast", so, here it is!


2 2/3 cups ground almonds
3/4 cup Flour
1 1/4 cup Sugar
4 Eggs
8 Tbsp butter at room temperature
1/2 tsp baking Powder
1/2 cup Water
zest of 1 Lemon
icing sugar to decorate
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 180c, grease and line the bottom of a round springform cake pan.
Beat eggs and sugar until pale and creamy, add butter, sifted flour, baking powder and water, and beat again until well combined.  Stir almond meal into batter, gently fold in, together with lemon zest and cinnamon.  Bake in oven for approx 50 mins until risen and lightly browned on top.
To decorate it the traditional way, a paper cross is put on the top of the cake and icing sugar is sprinkled over, then the paper is removed to reveal the cross pattern.  This cake is made in honour of "Saint James" the patron saint of Spain. 

To really make the cake "zing" - serve it with a lemon sauce.  You could use heated lemon butter, or do as I do and combine a mix of one part lemon juice, one part water, two parts sugar; heat in pan until sugar dissolves, then simmer for a few mins to reduce.  Pour over the cake, or serve to be tipped over each individual slice.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Spanish Birthday Feast

I'm lucky enough to have such amazing friends, family, and friends who are like family.  On Friday I hosted a shared birthday dinner celebration for three mates plus one husband and a small child.  Us girls have known each other since going to school together in a small country town; all very different in personality, looks and tastes.  We sat on the fringes of high school's usual mix of bitchy popular types, the geeks, dorks, athletes, artits, outcasts, suck-ups and so on.  We were initially drawn together because we didn't fit in anywhere else.  Then we realised we had branded our own "crowd" - smart but not top of the class, shy but not reclusive, straight but also prone to the occasional sneaky drink and pash.  We left school and followed different paths (although three all became nurses); we all chose different areas to live - one close to where she grew up, another close to the city, one in the hills, another near the ocean, and one interstate (who sadly was not able to make Friday's dinner).  To have all of us in the same room together more than once a year is impossible.  But, as with many things in life, when we do manage to catch up as a group, it's done over good food, wine, and conversation.


I decided to make it a Spanish theme for the evening, and wrote up a "simple" tapas menu, which I printed out and used as disposable placemats.  This was obviously taken towards the end of the evening, which explains the stains!

When you read over the list of tapas, it seems very simple and easy to prepare.  But there were two complicating factors: I made most of it from scratch (right down to things like pastry, marinades, and fillings), and it was a Friday night, so it was a workday for me.  I was lucky enough to be able to work from home for most of it, which enabled me to get in a horrendously early trip to the city to visit Vic Market and Casa Iberica in Fitzroy (I left at 6.30 and was home by 8.45am - not bad considering it takes around a 45min drive each way from my place).  I was able to do a little preparing in between emails, phone calls and my usual workday tasks, but by and large I didn't start seriously preparing until about 6pm.  So, little surprise that I found myself frantically rushing around the house late Friday afternoon with an hour to spare before guests were due to arrive: cooking, vacuuming, tidying, setting the table, doing my hair/makeup, getting changed, feeding the cat, throwing logs on the fire, making up beds in spare rooms, child-proofing the house, lighting candles and wiping down surfaces.  To top things off, D arrived over half an hour early but I took advantage of this and put her on Sangria duty.  The whole thing miraculously came together at the absolute last minute and I was able to sit down and enjoy the food and company without being chained to the kitchen all night.

I did realise one thing - I take my husband's party assistance skills for granted.  He was away interstate that night and I had grossly under-estimated how long and tiring the process of preparing the house + food + looking after five guests would be without him.  That said, the night was a huge success, the food was amazing (if I do say so myself!), and most importantly of all, the looks on people's faces as they ate, talked and laughed around my kitchen table was enough to make me want to do it all over again. 

A nice bonus was that I was able to whip up a quick 'n' tasty pasta dish the next night, using leftover tapas ingredients and my friend E's home made pesto, which she kindly left in my fridge.  A few wine fairies also kindly left an assortment of my favourite wines and champagnes in the laundry drinks fridge, which I only discovered after everyone had left the next day.

Here's a nice Sangria recipe, which was practically inhaled by the girls and went very well with all that salty food: 

In a punch bowl, combine two bottles of red wine (cleanskin shiraz or similar will do), a litre of lemonade and about two cups of orange juice.  Add chopped fruits - I just used a can of mixed fruit in juice - slices of lemon/orange would be good too.