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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Christmas tarts


What you see here is our Christmas dinner entree (what we call entree here, is what Americans call appetiser), which was served a few days ago at Christmas dinner at my house, on a beatiful sunny day here in Melbourne. This light dish was a perfect way to begin a big meal on a warm day.
I am very proud of my pastry. Like Clothilde, at Chocolate & Zucchini, I used to think that frozen packaged pastry would do just fine for anything that called for pastry, but after reading her entry where she was in raptures about her "real" pastry crust, I decided I would try my own pastry for my Christmas tarts. I'm so pleased I did; the texture and taste is indescribable, and it really was so easy to do. I can't think of any reason, apart from extreme time constraints, that would stop me making my own pate brisee for tartlets again. The recipe can be found here on Clothilde's site, and I followed it exactly, apart from adding about 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme to the dough.
To fill the tarts I had bought a small tub of basil pesto and another small tub of black olive tapenade; both very strongly flavoured tastes, and perfect to be paired with some mild flavour underneath. I decided upon some soft, creamy mascarpone, mixed with salt and pepper for the tapenade. I felt the milder taste of the mascarpone would complement the strong, salty tapenade. For the pesto I decided upon some creamy goats curd. The pairing of the goats curd and the pesto was perfect - the combination of the tapenade and curd would have been too strong together, so these combinations were perfect.
I baked the tart cases a few days before Christmas and filled them just before we sat down to our enormous meal. We served them with some perfectly steamed slender asparagus, and I sprinked the basil tartlets with some cracked black peppr, and the tapenade tarts with some fresh thyme - just for presentation's sake!
And did I mention the pastry? Ohmygawd it was good!

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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

A very decorated Christmas

Christmas table
Our table, decorated by my talented mother, set for Christmas dinner.

I hope everybody out there had a wonderful Christmas, whether spent in the cold of the north, or the heat of the southern hemishphere. For me, as we live in a very famous street that draws visitors in the tens of thousands during the weeks leading up to Christmas, I had a fairly busy time. See below for one section of our decorated house and here to read more about this mysterious "famous street of dreams" where we are fortunate to live. (or here for my German readers! I found this odd article when searching for myself on Google! A. tells me their use of the subjunctive is very impressive! ;-) ) Yes, I was interviewed for this article, and yes, my name is spelled incorrectly!


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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Spiced wine cookies

Spiced wine cookies sitting in the intense Melbourne summer sunshine!

Last year I began a self-imposed tradtion to make cookies as presents for many people. You know, the people to whom you aren't really close enough to buy a present (people from church, members of choirs etc.), but would like to give them something at Christmas. Each year after midnight mass I would watch everyone hand out little parcels of chocolates and trinkets to the crowd, and decided it was something I wanted to do as well.
Last year I made about a million lebkuchen, or German gingerbread biscuits in the shape of stars and Christmas trees. I thought they were just ok and threw out the recipe...later on I found that everyone who tried them though they were fantastic and has requested them again this year. Oops! I tried very hard to find the recipe again (if anyone has a December 2003 copy of the New Zealand magazine, Cuisine, I would be most appreciative!), but when the latest IMBB Cookie Swap revealed Cook Sister's Dutch/South African Spiced Wine Cookies I knew what I was going to try this year.

I made a double batch of the mixture and have made up about 40 packages with three cookies in each. They actually weren't nearly as chewy as the description described; they are more dense and cakey and I think I could add even more spices to really make them taste Christmassy - but they are certainly excellent as they are. I wonder if they'll be as popular as last year's effort? Time will tell...

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The BEST brandy sauce!

This is really, without a doubt, the best brandy sauce in the world; and if you discount my previous entry where I ruined my first batch, it is incredibly easy to make. It is rich, thick, sweet and very, very alcoholic. From the 2 cups I make each year, 1 cup of that is pure brandy and port. This is now the third year I've made this sauce and I believe it's become a tradition for me now; I plan to do it every year I am able. It really is *that* good - I totally urge you to try it yourself.
The recipe comes from a reader's contribution to a 1997 edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine and was passed onto me by a former work colleague who urged me with the same amount of passion that I HAD to make it for Christmas that year. I did and haven't looked back!

Marjie's Brandy Sauce
(I usually halve the recipe below, as it makes a very large amount)

125 grams of butter
1 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup port
1/2 cup brandy
1 cup cream

-Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
-Add the egg yolks and beat well.
-Mix in port, brandy and cream.
-Transfer to the top of a double saucepan and cook over simmering water*, stirring constantly, until mixture is the consistency of warm, thin honey. -Cool and store in sealed jars in the refrigerator.
-Serve cold over hot Christmas pudding. This sauce will keep for months in the refirgerator.

*I usually just use a very heavy based saucepan rather than faff around with double saucepans, simmering water etc.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Brandy sauce and plum icecream

This very rich, tasty and alcoholic icecream is the product of me totally stuffing up my usually brilliant recipe for brandy sauce. Instead of using a heavy saucepan and cooking the sauce very slowly, I was impatient and had the heat up too high.....so the eggs curdled and it all seemed bad. Christmas was now surely ruined, wasn't it?!
However, I am loath to throw good food away, even if it is curdled. Surely something about it could be redeemed? It *did* have 1/2 a cup EACH of brandy and expensive old Port, so that made me even more determined to do something with it. I had the idea of mixing the sauce through some leftover vanilla icecream and folding some chopped, tinned plums through it all, then freezing it; a bit like the frozen Christmas puddings so popular for Australians. This worked extremely well and the icecream tastes rich and alcholic, albeit a little grainy from the afore-mentioned curdling incident. But I can thoroughly recommend this idea to any of you looking for an icecream alternative to Christmas pudding - folding mixed, dried fruits and peel through it would also make it a great Christmas dessert.
The recipe for the fabulous brandy sauce will come in a following post...a following post detailing my more successful attempt at creating it!

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Saturday, December 18, 2004

Duck Confit

Duck confit

From the Thomas Keller Bouchon recipe so kindly sent to me by Derrick of An Obsession With Food.
I have had 2 duck breasts sitting in the fridge (vacuum sealed!) for quite a while and just wanted to use them up. I had all kinds of ideas to use them, but as my family don't like duck and A. and I are so unbelievably busy with music commitments leading up to Christmas I couldn't find a day to schedule in a pleasant, duck dinner. So, when I read Derrick's account of the best duck confit ever I knew what I had to make. By making confit I would be able to keep the duck for much longer, and enjoy it at our leisure, when things quietened down a little more.
However, the experiement nearly came to a grinding halt when I couldn't find duck fat anywhere I searched. Some poultry places (in produce markets, for heaven's sake!) looked at me like I had two heads. Finally I went to our local butcher who told me he did stock it, but wouldn't have any for a couple of weeks. Well, by this stage my duck was thawed and more than ready to be cooked ASAP. Any longer and I wouldn't be keen to consume any ducky goodness from my fridge. So, a little internet research revealed some duck confit recipes made with olive oil - the advantage to this method being the wonderfully duck-flavoured oil created at the end of the long cooking process (I'm going to use some of this excellent oil for the roast potatoes on Christmas day).
Duck confit
I followed the method desribed to me by Derrick, which I will not reproduce here for copyright reasons - but in essence you create a herbed salt to cover the meat, refridgerate it over night and then cook it in a heavy pot for 10 (yes, ten!) hours on very, very low heat. The duck meat becomes cooked through and very tender.
I enjoyed my duck as shown above, with a helping of Dutch red cabbage and apple (yum!) which really helped to cut through the almost overpowering saltiness of the duck, and a serve of my fantastic crash-hot potatoes. A very excellent meal, many hours in the preparation!

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Thursday, December 16, 2004

Himmel und erde

106_0623 Koln

Also known as "she ate blood sausage?!?"

Mmmm....doesn't this look appetising? This was my meal one Sunday afternoon in Cologne, Germany back in September. In each city I visited with my vocal group I wanted to eat something uniquely local; in Odense, Denmark I had a plate of raw herring with curried potato salad and salty capers, washed down by a Danish wine. In fairly remote Bavaria I had a plate of venison and boar, with the local weissbier. And here in Cologne, I had a plate of blutwurst with mashed potato mixed with cooked apple, and a hefty dollop of fiery German mustard. I believe the himmel (heaven) in the name refers to the white mash, and the erde is the earthiness of the blood sausage - quite evocative!
The blood sausage was quite enjoyable though extremely rich. What is shown in the plate is what I couldn't finish, and for me not to finish something on my plate is a rare occurance indeed. It was a very fully flavoured sausage, with lots of spices, a smooth interior and a wonderfully crispy crust. The mashed potato was quite heavy, but the apple added to it lightened it quite a lot; I enjoyed it. The mustard was certainly needed to cut through the richness of the sausage. I actually thought a big plate of sauerkraut would have been perfect with this.
When the waiter, who expressed some mild doubt that a non-German young woman would enjoy such a erm....'unique' meal returned for our plates, he looked at my few remains sadly and said "Ja, it is very....special, no?". I had to quickly clarify that I really enjoyed the meal, but found there to be just a little too much for the middle of the day!
This meal was washed down with a very local beer from Cologne, a Dom Kolsch, which is served in quite small glasses, but has a very high alcohol content. We ate this meal, sitting outside in a pedestrian-only street just opposite the Cologne opera house; a great memory!

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Monday, December 13, 2004

Crash Hot Potatoes

Crash hot potatoes

This is a much-loved, much discussed roast potato recipe of Jill Dupleix's making; Jill is an expat Australian food writer, now living in London as cookery editor of The Times newspaper. She is sorely missed back here in Australia, particularly Melbourne, where she is from. Jill has published some excellent cook books; Take Three, Simple Food (from whence this goodly recipe came), Very Simple Food etc and her website http://www.jilldupleix.com has a recipe section with a good selection from her various books and newspaper columns.

I didn't have any small potatoes, as the recipe requires, so cut up some larger potatoes into chunks. I encountered some difficulty when crushing them with the potato smasher as they kept getting all caught up in the prongs, and making a big mush. This wouldn't happen if using small potatoes. Next time....
These are just SO yummy. They're still soft and fluffy inside, but outside they're really crisp and tasty. The thyme and salt make excellent flavourings.

Crash-hot potatoes
Jill Dupleix - Simple Food

This is one of those crazy little recipes that once tried, is immediately incorporated into your own repertoire. It's what you want when you want a crisp, roast potato, only better. And all you have to do is boil a few small potatoes, smash them flat and blast them in a hot oven until they are terminally crisp. Serve with lamb, pan-fried fish, grilled sausages, or even on their own, or topped with smoked salmon and creme fraiche, with drinks.
Serves 4

16 small, round potatoes
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp fennel or caraway seeds
1 tbsp thyme or rosemary sprigs

Heat oven to 230 or 250C - yes, hot. Don't peel the potatoes. Just bung them into a pot of salted water, bring to the boil, and simmer for around 15 minutes until they'll take a skewer without too much resistance. They should be just about cooked, without being soft.
Drain, and arrange on a lightly oiled baking tray or sheet. Use a potato masher to squash each potato flat, until it is twice its original diameter.
Brush the tops with olive oil, and scatter with sea salt, pepper, fennel seeds and thyme.
Bake on the top shelf of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until terminally crisp and golden. Serve hot.

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Sunday, December 12, 2004

Banana, apricot & chocolate chip ring cake

I've been trying to keep myself occupied the past few days, due to some distressing family news, so when I found myself distracted and aimless on Friday night I decided to make a cake for A and his father, who is staying with him for a few weeks. Each night, when their paths cross, they sit up in his lounge room and have a long chat about the day they've had, and how to solve the world's problems. They're really living the life of 2 bachelors, as evidenced by the lack of food in A's fridge. So, I decided to occupy myself by making them a cake they could enjoy with their evening cup of tea, or take to work in slices, for morning tea.
I've been keeping Nigella's Domestic Goddess on the coffee table recently, so I've had it within arm's reach and have been flicking through it a lot. I searched through until I found a simple looking cake, for which I had most of the ingredients, and could be made with little fuss. This cake is made in one saucepan, which makes it a breeze to whip up quickly!
The original recipe is for banana, dried cherry and white chocolate cupcakes. But I didn't have cherries, only apricots. And no white chocolate, but milk chocolate chips. Nor did I have any sour cream, but lots of milk. Also, I didn't want to make cupcakes, but a serious, hearty looking cake for men....so in reality I only used Nigella's recipe as a launching pad for my own creation. But, I must stress that this method of making cakes in one saucepan is really to be recommended! So easy!

Banana, apricot & chocolate chip ring cake
125g butter
200g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 ripe bananas
4 tablespoons or milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
300g plain flour
handful dried apricots - chopped finely
50g chocolate chips

-Preheat the oven to 180C
-Melt the butter in a saucepan, then, off the heat, add the sugar, vanilla and soft bananas, mashing them with a fork in the pan.
Stir in the milk and the eggs and - still using your fork, or wooden spoon - beat to mix.
-Add the bicarb and baking powder, and stir in well, then finally stir in the flour, apricots and chocolate chips.
-When the mixture's just blended pour into a greased ring tin (or loaf pan, or regular cake tin...whatever you choose. Muffin tins as well, if you want cupcakes).
-Cook for ~40 minutes, or until you stick in a skewer and decide it's ready.

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Friday, December 10, 2004

SHF #3 Orange jelly with lemon and cardamom

Orange jelly with lemon & cardamom

Today is the third installment of Sugar High Friday, where participants are asked to create a sweet dish using the topic of the month.This edition is hosted by Zarah Maria from Copenhagen, my new favourite European city, where I recently spent some time performing with my vocal ensemble and has the exciting theme of spices; specifically allspice, nutmeg and cardamom. I love all of these, and enjoy my cooking endeavours with spices so was overwhelmed with choice! I thought of dozens of items I could create, however, as much as I would love to make gooey, sweet, baked goods in the lead-up to Christmas I have to take one important aspect into account; the weather. Here in Melbourne it's HOT. And to compound this it's HOT and HUMID; my least favourite weather combination (it turns my hair into a complete frizzball!). So, whilst I would love to make all kinds of baked, spicy, boozy, mince-meaty rich dishes, I really can't justify it just this week.

Such weather is a bit unusual for Melbourne which has quite a dry climate during its Summer heat; this type of sticky humidity is more typical of Sydney or Brisbane summers (and they're welcome to it!) so I'm feeling a bit wilted and none too happy about it all; therefore my quest was to find something light and refreshing I could create, which still included one of the spices on the list. I knew this would probably be cardamom, due to its use in Middle Eastern cookery, so I decided to focus my search on that.
I leafed through all my cookbooks, and focused particularly on Nigella, but her recipes were all a bit too heavy for what I had in mind, so I turned to the internet and found just what I was looking for. Nigel Slater, the British chef and writer wrote a column in early 2001 in praise of oranges and alongside a recipe for a steamed orange and jam pudding (I don't think so!) was a recipe for a cardamom-infused orange jelly. PERFECT, I thought! Only recently I had bought some gelatine, with the intention of experimenting with making my own jellies this summer. This recipe sounded light and refreshing, easy to prepare, headily spiced with cardamom and a jelly to boot! My decision was made.

It was quite simple to prepare, and I managed to get it all done very quickly, even running upstairs for a quick shower while the grapefruit and lemon juices were infusing. When I tasted it, just before putting in the fridge to set, I felt it needed a little sugar (well, it is Sugar High Friday...I obviously had to include it somewhere!) to lift the taste a bit, so added a few spoons of icing sugar and stirred to dissolve. I decided to take Nigel's advice and use the lesser quantity of gelatine, and therefore, to serve it in a glass. But the idea of serving the jelly in a martini glass, with a blanket of fresh cream on top is straight out of Jill Dupleix's Very Simple Food (her cranberry juice and port wine jelly is going to be my next jelly experiment). I love the presentation of the shimmering orange layer lapped by the smooth cream in the elegant martini glass; it'd be just perfect at a dinner party, as long as you weren't serving martinis earlier in the night!

The taste is excellent; light and refreshing, with a subtle hint of cardamom scent lingering throughout. I think it wouldn't hurt adding even more cardamom to really accentuate the flavour, but I do have some troubles sticking to a recipe...! Also, I think it'd be even better using the more tart, sour oranges available in winter; I could only get Navels imported from the US which were a milder, sweeter flavour, but I'm certainly not complaining about it!

It's going to be just perfect later tonight, sitting on the balcony in the sticky, steamy heat, listening to the cicadas chirping, watching the lightning flash over the Melbourne skyscrapers (I just know that's what will happen...it's been happening all week!). It reminds me of the lyrics of one of my favourite Australian rock songs, "Sounds of Then", written about the singer's childhood growing up in the tropical sugarcane growing town of Bundaberg (also home of Bundaberg Rum!):

That certain texture, that certain smell,
brings forth the heavy days,
brings forth the night time sweat

Out on the patio we'd sit,
and the humidity we'd breathe,
we'd watch the lightning crack over canefields
laugh and think, this is Australia.

"Sounds of Then" Gangajan (1985)

Hopefully regular, dry, sunny weather programming will be returned to us in time for Christmas but until then.....

Orange jelly with lemon and cardamom
Nigel Slater
Sunday January 28, 2001
The Observer

(I halved the quantities to make enough for 4 people.)
"I get a childish kick out of serving jelly to adults. But they always enjoy it, and especially after a spicy meal. Use as little gelatine as you can get away with, so it shimmers, barely set, on the spoon. I use 7 sheets of gelatine to 1 litre of liquid, which means the finished dessert is too fragile to turn out, and I usually serve it in wine glasses. I add the extra one (leaf gelatine comes in packets of 8) when I am offering it to people who prefer their jelly to have a distinct wobble. The addition of cardamom is a subtle one and, I suppose, gives it a faintly Moorish tone. Enough for 8."

12 large and juicy oranges (to give just under 1 litre of juice)
1 unwaxed pink grapefruit
1 unwaxed lemon
6 green cardamom pods
7-8 sheets of gelatine

Squeeze the oranges. You need just under 1 litre of juice, so stop when you have enough, or do a few more if you stop very short of a full litre. Much will depend on the size, type and age of your fruit.
Squeeze the grapefruit and the lemon, but keep the juice separate from the orange, then remove 3 or 4 strips of zest from each with a short sharp knife. Pour these juices into a small stainless-steel or enamelled saucepan with an equal quantity of water and drop in the pared zest. Split open the cardamom seeds by pressing gently on them with the flat of a large knife, then add them to the juice and bring it almost to a boil. As soon as the juice is about to start bubbling, cover it with a lid and turn off the heat. Leave the juice to cool a little - about 15 minutes should be long enough.
Now slide the gelatine sheets - one or two at a time, rather than in a big lump - into a bowl of cold water, and let them soften for 5 minutes.
Remove the lid, stopping for a second or two to breathe in the wonderful smell of citrus and cardamom, then pour through a sieve into a large, scrupulously clean bowl. Reserve the cardamom seeds. Lift the softened gelatine sheets from the water (they will be just short of dissolving), and stir them into the warm grapefruit and lemon juice. The gelatine will dissolve in seconds.
Pour the orange juice into the grapefruit and lemon juice and stir thoroughly, making certain that every bit of gelatine has melted. Add the reserved cardamom pods into the juice - they will float around, apparently pointlessly, but will in fact discreetly give some of their flavour to the jelly as it sets. Refrigerate for a good 4 or 5 hours.

Orange cardamom jelly

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Thursday, December 09, 2004

Banana white chocolate cheesecake

Banana cheesecake

This effort is something I made for an Advent Sunday brunch recently. We had quite a few very ripe bananas, some of which I used in the chocolate banana bread, but I wanted to use the rest. We also had quite a few cinnamon biscuits (speculaas) that were starting to go a little soft, so I decided to create a type of banana cheesecake.
I crushed the biscuits with much enjoyment; they were much easier to turn into fine crumbs than the butternut snaps the other week. For the filling I adapted a recipe I found online, and now cannot find again. No matter, it wasn't really that wonderful and I adapted it to use the cottage cheese I had, rather than cream cheese. It came out lighter, and with a less intense flavour. Not exactly wonderful, to be honest.
I decided at that point that it needed a type of top layer, or icing. I remembered I had a container in the freezer of white chocolate ganache I had used previously on some cupcakes. I desfrosted that and mixed it with some lime juice to give it a little more zing (white chocolate ganache tends to be a bit cloying and heavy). Finally I dry toasted some shredded coconut and then put the whole thing in the freezer. We ate it at the lunch semi-frozen, which was perfect for the weather.

banana white chocolate cheesecake

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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Hands-free Spiced Berry Jams

Berry jams
Strawberry-Mint Jam
Spiced Berry Jam

Whilst having another read through Nigella's Domestic Goddess, I found her recipe for Hands-Free Raspberry jam and decided I had to make it right then. Sadly fresh raspberries are outrageously expensive at the moment (actually, for all of their short season they're far too expensive) so I decided to buy some frozen berries and try the recipe that way first. If it was a success, I would invest in some fresh berries and perhaps make a few small pots of jam to give as Christmas presents (I'm short of money this year...that's what going back to study will do).

The method for this jam is incredibly simple.
Pour 250grams of fruit into a dish (flatter is better so they can spread out i.e. a pie dish) and 250grams of caster sugar into another dish. Put both dishes into a preheated 180C oven and leave for ~25 minutes, until both get really very hot.
(A squeeze of lemon juice added to the fruit in the dish is also a good idea)
Remove both dishes from the oven and (carefully!) add the hot sugar to the hot berries. The sizzling sound created here is quite impressive! The fruit will turn into a molten river of hot jam. Stir thoroughly, and pour into a clean 250ml jar. Fasten and leave to cool.
The jam is very fresh tasting and must be kept in the fridge.
Makes 1 250ml jar.

I decided to separate box of frozen berries into strawberries, and "others" (blackberries, blueberries & boysenberries). I also decided to experiment with flavours a little. To the dark berry dish I added a stick of cinnamon and 2 small star anise, stirring every 10 minutes or so during the heating process. The spices were very effective in scenting the jam, and have created something that I consider is a perfect Winter jam; spicy, dark and sweet. I can imagine this jam on scones, eaten by the fire on a blustery winter's afternoon.
The strawberry jam, on the other hand is just perfect for the Summer sunshine. After removing the dish of strawberries from the oven, I decided to add a handful of chopped fresh mint. The taste sensation this created is absolutely incredible. I am really taken with this idea and can't stop going back for more taste tests. I cannot recommend this combination enough! This jam would be perfect with meringues and pavlovas or sandwiched with fresh cream on a light sponge cake.

The only criticism with this recipe is that the jam doesn't have a chance to reduce, and is quite runny; it's more of a preserve than a jam. This may also have a lot to do with the fact I used frozen berries -the water content was probably quite a bit higher, so I will try this recipe again with fresh berries and see if there is a difference in consistency.

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Monday, December 06, 2004

The Aussie Beach

Nothing to do with food, but here are a few photos I took of my time down on the Great Ocean Road this weekend. For those who have always been interested in the idea of the great Australian beaches, here's an (almost) first hand picture-experience for you!

Early evening deserted beach.
This is a family cooking their dinner of just-caught fresh fish, whilst sitting on the beach. The smells coming from their cooking-pot were stomach-rumblingly delicious, and I was taken with what a romantic idea it was to eat fish just caught from the ocean, sitting the sand dunes with one's family. The lighthouse in the background will no doubt give away my location to those who know the area. :-)

Me being artistic on the beach....

Two friendly, very Australian birds on our balcony. A rosella on the left, and a sulfur-crested cockatoo, with enormous yellow crest on the right. Apparently we could be nice to the rosellas, but had to chase away the cockatoos as they had a habit of trying to chip away the walls of the house with their beaks!

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Mussels by the sea

I've just spent the last couple of days at a friend's beach house down on the Victorian surf coast. It's in a small town about 20 minutes past Torquay and Bells Beach; the centre of Australian surfing culture. However, we didn't see a single surfer, mainly as we spent most of our time at the house reading, cooking and sunning ourselves, emerging early each evening for walks along the quiet section of beach near us. It's too early in the Summer season to be spending lots of time in the midday sun on the beach, especially as we're all so fair skinned and the Australian sun is ferocious. I actually ended up with a severe case of Truckie's Arm (sunburnt right arm) from the drive down in the fierce sun, so was quite happy to spend the hottest parts of the day quietly reading.
The day I arrived the others had already been to the seafood market in Lorne to choose our dinner. They found mussels for $5 a kilo or $8 for 2 kilos. I'm told the decision was easy...we had 2 kilos of mussels to eat that night! They were steamed in a sauce of tomatoes, onion, lots of garlic and at least half a bottle of white wine; we used a Tahbilk Marsanne we found open in the fridge, much nicer than what I would use at home! We served our meal over rice and enjoyed the salty smells of the sea in our bowls, our appetites raging after our evening walk through the waves.

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Thursday, December 02, 2004

Lemon Yoghurt Babycakes

This recipe was taken from Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess. It is her recipe entitled Baby Bundts, but as I don't have a mini-bundt tray, nor have any desire to go out and buy one any time in the near future, (I mean, really!) I decided to make them in my muffin tray. I quite like the smaller size cakes produced in a muffin tin anyway, so it wasn't too much of a decision to make.
I still have my large carton of natural yoghurt sitting pretty in the fridge, and also have a large bag of excellent lemons from a backyard tree; a kind present from my friends mentioned in earlier posts (thank you!). As I was flicking through Domestic Goddess last night, in search of cardamom recipes for the next Sugar High Friday my eyes caught on this recipe. My mind did the quick mental checklist and confirmed that I had all required ingredients, so the next night I got to work (starting at 11pm.....well, it was too hot to go to bed!).

These are very light but incredibly moist little cakes, scented with lemon and given quite some zing from the lemon icing. Perfect for a little summer sitting-on-the-balcony with a cool, sparkling drink party.

Lemon Yoghurt Babycakes
From: Baby Bundts - How to be a Domestic Goddess

125 ml natural yoghurt
75g butter, melted
2 large eggs
zest & juice 1 lemon
150 g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
125 g caster sugar
200 g icing sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Makes 10 muffin sized babycakes, if using a muffin tray (otherwise, 6 baby bundts).

-Preheat oven to 170C.
-In a measuring jug, mix the yoghurt, melted butter, eggs & lemon zest & juice.
-Put flour, bicarb, salt and sugar into a large bowl
-Mix the wet ingredients into the bowl, folding everything in well, then fill the moulds with the mixture
-Cook 25-30 minutes.
-When they come out of the oven, leave to cool a little before turnign them out, otherwise they'll break - but don't let them get too cold either, as they will stick.
-Cool on a wire rack.
-To make the icing, sieve the icing sugar into a bowl, and add enough lemon juice to make an icing thick enough to ice the tops and drizzle down like snow-capped peaks.

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