Sunday, June 26, 2011

And the winner is ...

The results are in.  Thanks to all who posted comments on your favourite baking experiences, and for your ongoing interest in my modest little blog.

I'm pleased to say that the lucky winner of "the baker" cookbook giveaway is: Emma.  Congratulations Emma!  I will be in touch to arrange postage of your spanking new, hardcover bakers book.

Thanks again for your support.  :-)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cookbook Giveaway "the baker"

It was the shortest day in Melbourne yesterday.  The start of winter solstice.  I've been blogging for the last year and a half.  I'm having a baby.  I took the day off work today.  The fridge is stocked full of delicious fresh food.

Whatever the reason.  Let's celebrate.

To thank those of you that take the time to read my blog and post comments, I'd like to reward you with a cookbook giveaway.  Just because.

I bought myself a copy of "the baker" by Leanne Kitchen.  It's a wonderful cookbook full of simple recipes plus some lessons thrown in on baking techniques, history of ingredients, and beautiful pictures of good old fashioned food.  It's so lovely, I just had to buy two.

So readers, if you'd like a copy, just tell me what your favourite thing to bake is.  Be sure to leave your email address or another way for me to contact you!

** Open to Australian residents only.  One entry per person.  Entries close 5pm AEST Sunday 26th June 2011.  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lunch at Fenix

Yesterday I enjoyed a long anticipated lunch at Fenix with sis J.  We had the 10 course luncheon, which turned out to be incredibly popular with the restaurant filling up fast.

It's a bit of a surprise - as in, you're not sure what you'll get because they use "the best produce of the day".  It's also a "sharing menu"; several plates are placed on the middle of the table to share.

Always good to start off with some sparkling mineral water.  Cleans the palate!  I may have also had a cheeky sip or two of sauv blanc, but I promise J drank most of my glass.  It just felt nice to order it.

The first three courses were light, great for picking at and building an appetite.  This first one appeared to be a cured salmon with some radishes and seaweed.  In my current preggo-state, I couldn't eat this one, but J assures me it was scrumptious.

This, I could eat.  Baba ghanoush with tomato/chickpeas and toasted flat bread.  Smoky eggplant was a nice contrast to the zingy tomato.  There was also some type of oil sprinkled over, if I had to guess, I'd say smoked capsicum.

Again, something I couldn't touch - but again, J assured me it was delicious.  An assortment of cured meats and baby pickles.

Next up, three of "the first main course".  Gorgeous roated chicken atop sauteed baby brussels sprouts.

A bowl of the most divine assorted green olives...

And one of the best (albeit very simple looking) tomato & basil spaghettini I'd ever tasted.  A definite lemon flavour in amongst the tomato and basil goodness.

Next up, the "second of the mains":  swordfish with a goats cheese, watermelon and caramelised onion salad.

Damn.  I'm not a roast pork lover.  However, this looked so divine I did have a taste, and it was quite nice!  Roasted pork, crackling, atop creamy polenta (I think with ricotta or some sort of cheese melted through).  Plus a lovely creamy gravy on the side.

Next up, desserts.  The first one was a vanilla bean panna-cotta (absolutely perfect in texture and flavour), alongside two chocolate quenelles, fresh raspberries (where did they get those!??), and a caramel and biscuit base.

And finally, cinnamon 'donuts' with apples roasted in a caramel sauce.

What a revelation.  The food was incredibly simple, but at the same time very well considered.  Everything was fresh and delicious.  At $59 a head, extremely good value for an experience at one of Melbourne's best.

Food Processor Cake

Don't get me wrong, I love using my Kitchen Aid mixer, but sometimes I just want to whip up a quick cake with minimal effort.

That's where my food processor cake base mix comes in handy.

Basically, you can put anything into this and make it into what ever kind of cake you like.  Berries, fruits, nuts, chocolate chips - anything!  


125g unsalted softened butter
¾ cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1½ cups self-raising flour
½ cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla essence


Put all ingredients (except any fruit or flavourings) in food processor and mix until combined.

Take out the blade and stir through any flavourings.  I used a cup of frozen raspberries, but you could also try orange zest + chopped dark chocolate, blueberries + slivered almonds, sliced apple + walnuts.  Use your imagination - just remember to add a little more milk if you're using drier ingredients like cocoa or a lot of nuts.

Smooth into a lined cake or loaf tin.  I sprinkled over a few more raspberries because I just love them so much.  Bake in a 180c oven for 35 minutes (or until golden and risen).

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Falling out of love with Donna

For all her brilliant food styling and too-easy recipes, there's a big part of me that can't stand Donna Hay.  There, I said it.  It's not her personally; but the ridiculous and blatant commercialisation of all things "Donna" is cringe-inducing.

Beneath the facade, I'm starting to see some serious flaws to Donna's picture-perfect lifestyle-empire.  First there's the magazine.  It's very, very pretty, but packed with advertising and an unnecessary quantity of food porn.  Then there's the books.  Equally as pretty as the magazines and with some lovely simple recipes and seriously clever domestic catering ideas, but also a shameless promotion of her many (over-priced) kitchen products.  And of course, the new TV show, "Fast, Fresh, Simple".  Which is generally true to it's name, with plenty of nods to busy home cooks by providing family-friendly recipes, utilising simple and cheap pantry fare, and lots of shortcuts to make the whole experience a lot quicker and painless.

This is all fantastic and something I'm a huge advocate for.  But, there is also some pretty terrible self-promotion by Donna, including numerous camera shots of her beautiful multi million dollar Sydney apartment, complete with harbour views.  This is palatable; but then she suddenly breezes in, looking out the window, then, flicking her long glossy hair, she smugly looks back into the camera, says - "doesn't this AH-MAAAYZING view just MAKE you WANT to cook ALL DAY?" - before pulling out a Donna Hay pan, Donna Hay mixing spoon, Donna Hay chopping board, Donna Hay shower curtain, Donna Hay dildo, Donna Hay cat scratching post, Donna Hay ... well okay.  You take my point.

I think I could almost overlook all of these things, except the sticking point for me is that you have to BUY everything Donna offers.  In Donna-land, nothing is for free:  the show is even on pay-TV.  Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but for someone with so much damn cash you'd think that at least she could throw the recipes from her show on the website every once in a while.  A-la "The Cook and the Chef".  Maggie and Simon's somewhat experimental but very honet and heart-felt recipes are still up on the good old ABC site for all to see and use.  Free.  And Maggie has a little empire of her own up in the Barossa, but she never pushed her products or rubbed our noses in the fact that she lives in the lap of luxury while the rest of us mere mortals toil away in cramped, inadequate kitchens with non stainless steel appliances and mismatched crockery from the '80's.

Now, honesty time.  I'm airing my frustrations because, upon watching Donna's latest show (yes, I'm still a begrudging fan), she made what looked to be a a pretty easy and clever oven baked pumpkin risotto.  But I didn't write down all the ingredients or the method, assuming I could visit her website and refresh my memory.  No dice, it turns out that ALL the recipes featuring on her show are just a demonstration of the recipes that are in the latest mag.

Well, this time I'm taking a stand.  Donna, given the opportunity, I would happily acknowledge your good work by referencing it in my blog post, but unfortunately I'll have to resort to posting up my own dodgy, sub-standard work instead.  Who likes a good pumpkin and sage risotto?  One that's baked in the oven and doesn't require standing and stirring for half an hour?  See below for this week's FREE recipe from, that's right, yours truly.

Pumpkin and Sage "no stir" Risotto:


One butternut pumpkin, skin removed and chopped into big cubes
2 cups arborio rice
6 cups chicken stock
8 cloves finely sliced garlic
1 diced onion
pepper to taste
1/2 cup white wine (leave this out if you don't have any)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
handful of fresh sage leaves
50 grams salted butter
splash of olive oil


Grab a big casserole dish with a heavy lid (I got mine at Harris Scarf for about $40 bucks), and throw in the pumpkin, rice, stock, garlic, onion, pepper and wine.  Shake it around a bit to combine, then put the lid on and place in a pre-heated 200 degree oven for 40 minutes.

Take it out and take off the lid.  Add the parmesan and give it a gentle stir so the creamy starch comes out of the rice, it's also ok if some of the pumpkin breaks up as it adds to the lovely colour of the dish.  It will look a little watery at this point but trust me, it shouldn't need any more cooking.  Put the lid back on and set aside, then put a frypan on medium heat on the stove top.  Add butter, olive oil and sage leaves, and fry the leaves, shaking the pan while the leaves cook.  Do this for about 5 minutes or until they start to curl slightly (or just as the butter starts to brown).  Pour the butter/oil and sage over the risotto.

Serve with a little extra parmesan.