Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas at our place

Mum's salad of blanched beans with baby tomatoes, boccocini, pine nuts and pesto dressing

Christmas was ultra special for me this year.
My whole family collected in Perth at my parents' house for a fortnight, the house continually overflowing with people, and of course, food.
On Christmas Day itself we decided to celebrate outside, and in the evening. Perth can be extremely hot at this time of year, but we enjoyed between 28 and 30 degrees rather than the 42 degrees they have been experiencing since we came home.

My sister's Nigella-inspired salad of watermelon, lime, spanish onion, feta and black olives

We had a big breakfast in the morning of blueberry buttermilk pancakes and fruit platters, then spending a peaceful day opening presents. The little girl got more presents than she could focus on, but she did seem grasp a little of the concept of Christmas this year. Watching The Snowman on Christmas Eve with all the family was a big highlight.

My salad
 I was happy to be only contributing a couple of things to Christmas Day food-wise. As much as I love spending time in the kitchen, I have no desire to spend the whole of Christmas Day in there.
I simple baked pumpkin in maple syrup and tossed it through a spinach and pine nut salad (yes, there does seem to be a pine nut theme here!).

The main event was my Godmother Susie's Galantine.  Something new for me too. It's a totally boneless chicken stuffed in a duck then stuffed in a turkey. I'd never heard of it before, but apparently it's not new and is very popular in the UK. It was delicious, although I can't say it was always easy to tell which meat I was eating.  

Our festive table

Kevin brought a Christmas pudding that he made himself in the middle of the year. Moist and full of flavour. I only need a little taste of Christmas pud to reach my yearly quota, but I was more than happy to have a few mouthfuls of this. Accompanied by brandy butter.

My dessert contribution was a Donna Hay Cherry Pavlova. Unusually for me, I was forced to take the choice of Pavlova to a full family vote!  As I only made one during our holiday it was quite contentious. The classic mango and passionfruit combo was almost made, but I got a large vote for trying something a little bit more festive. 
Cherries don't exactly add the juiciness of mangoes and passionfruit, so Donna's suggestion of a cherry syrup worked so well. I boiled the cherries in the sugar syrup for 15 minutes until a deep cherry colour was achieved.

We finished up with more than a few plates of chocolates, turkish delight and some gingerbread made by the little girl and I.  A very memorable Christmas and I'm missing everyone so much already.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Great Australian Pavlova Blog Hop - Brown sugar pav with strawberries and blueberries

When my twitter friend 84th & 3rd contacted me about the Great Australian Pavlova Blog Hop I was thrilled. My Kitchenaid and I were brought together to make Pavlovas quite frankly. I love making them, and sharing them. They seem to be the ultimate crowd pleaser for some reason, the sort of dessert that is only worthwhile if you are feeding over 8 people or so, perfect for a weekend barbecue or dinner party, but without looking like you've spent 10 hours slaving in the kitchen to produce it.

This pav was an experiment with brown sugar and trying to find that caramelly but not so sugary sweet perfection.  I went with the lovely Bill Granger's version of the brown sugar pavlova that also combines Greek yogurt with cream that again can counteract the dense sugary layer's sweetness. Keeping it simple and seasonal I scattered over strawberries and blueberries. Bliss.

Numerous ingredients for the meringue

Bill Granger's recipe calls for a number of techy baking ingredients that I'm not that familiar with. Arrowroot, cream of tartar and cornflour. But the combination did absolute wonders for the centre, it was soft and mousse-like and maybe just a little bit chewy. I'll be including them in the mix again.

Kitchenaid doing its thing!
The meringue shell starting to crack...
Pouring the cream & greek yogurt mixture onto the shell
Helping hand from the little cook
Quite decadent for Friday afternoon tea?

The sharing bit

Please make sure you visit a few pages on the Great Australian Pavlova Blog Hop. They are well worth the visit.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Silo, Canberra

Last week we headed down to Canberra for a few days holiday. For Sydneysiders, Canberra is not exactly known as a classic tourist destination.  It's almost the opposite of Sydney's sparkly busyness that is saturated by people, cars and culture.  Canberra is serene, quiet, organised but if I'm completely honest, a little bit lacking in energy.

But truthfully, this change in pace made for a great holiday. Canberra makes things so easy. Nothing is more than 10 minutes drive from where we were in Kingston. There was a superb range of museums and galleries just around the corner, and no need to hop in the car to get great coffee or groceries.

Silo is probably the rose-coloured tint for me. One of the best bakeries/cafes that I have ever experienced. We first went there 12 months ago on the recommendation of Not Quite Nigella, and we're disappointed. This Canberra visit I made sure I could fit more than a few visits in.

This place is constantly busy. Even when we turned up for breakfast before 8am we had to wait for a table. But with good reason. Everything they produce is outstanding and is baked in house.

Unfortunately I only took my camera the one time we went, for a light breakfast of coffee, juice and croissant. On another occasion we had a gruyère omelette, and vegetarian quiches (ooops forgot my camera!)

The croissant was the best I've ever had outside France. The right balance of crunch on the outside with soft buttery inside.

We also sampled Silo's Sunrise juice, freshly squeezed orange and raspberry.  A gorgeous combination which both the toddler and I really enjoyed.

With Good Living to accompany my breakfast, who could want for more. A must if you visit Canberra.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Baking with and for toddlers part 2: banana bread

I have something to admit. This was my first time baking banana bread. Yes really.

Banana bread to me has a slightly evil element to it. It's cake masquerading as bread. And calling it bread seems to make it an acceptable foodstuff to eat at breakfast. Honestly, it's cake, and great cake at that. But I'm not going to be baking this every day so I'm sure I can achieve some sort of moderation with it.

Bananas are practically a foodgroup in our household these days. Even when bananas went up to $14/kilo here in Australia, we couldn't give up our habit.  The little girl says only a couple of words in the morning before she starts shouting 'naannnaaa' and then 'more please'. She normally eats at least one, sometimes two. It will be a sigh of relief for our grocery bill when they come back to $3/kilo.

We found some relatively cheap (very ripe) organic bananas so I decided it was time to try out making banana bread. And I knew that the preparation would keep us busy for an hour or so.  The little girl loved pouring in the ingredients, and mashing the bananas, despite the massive temptation to eat them!  We'll definitely be making this again, it went down a treat just with butter and also toasted. Very dense and moorish.  The little one loved it too.

Link to recipe by Fig and Cherry

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Baking with and for toddlers: Carrot & pineapple muffins

For a while there with the little one I wasn't able to do much baking. We have a fairly old school standup gas oven that gets boiling to touch, both on the front at sides. A major hazard for any toddler who likes to touch everything! She also is far too short to be able to watch what I'm doing on the kitchen work surfaces, and she's too young to stand on a chair. Plus her concentration just couldn't last through the entire process of baking, and we'd have to go and do something else.

Things seem to be changing though, in the last week we've had lots of fun in the kitchen. She has her own Miffy apron, and already knows lots of key words; 'mix', 'bowl', 'cake', 'bake', 'oven', 'chocolate', 'tanies' (or sultanas) 'spoon', 'fork' and 'hot'.  All in all, very helpful words for baking.  We bring her little IKEA table into the kitchen and I kneel down with her.  She enjoys seeing the raw ingredients, I weigh them out and place them in small plastic bowls for her so she can add them, and sometimes taste them. She also loves watching my Kitchenaid work away. Who wouldn't really, it mesmerises me too!

A few days ago we made these Annabel Karmel Carrot & Pineapple muffins. They're reminiscent of carrot cake, with the spices and sultanas, but a big healthier as they come un-iced. I followed a friend's recommendation to halve the sugar, and they could do with even less as the tinned pineapples are so sweet.

We then proceeded to enjoy teatime with all its rituals. The little girl already enjoys pouring, adding milk or sugar and stiring, before passing out cups of tea.

Plastic galore at kids' teatime!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A visit to Eveleigh Farmers' market

One of the flower stalls at the markets
 Yesterday I managed to tick off a Sydney foodie 'must do', and something I've been meaning to do for quite some time - Eveleigh Farmers' markets. It's probably one of Sydney's most well known farmers' markets, and it deserves to be. Not quite as showy and glamourous as the Pyrmont Growers' market on the edge of Sydney Harbour, but bountiful and with an amazing range of produce on offer.

The granny bag appeared to be the Urban market goer's bag of choice! We saw many of them!

It's located behind Sydney University, next to the railway line, and near Redfern. The area is bustling with arts projects like the Carriageworks, student buildings and facilities and small businesses. The market itself is housed in a large covered shed that appears to be part of an old railway yard.

Katie and I met early, after all that is strongly encouraged to get the best of everything at Farmers' markets. It was already buzzing, with lots of families bringing their kids for a morning out. There is lots to see and taste, even if you're not really interested in food.

Some of the entertainment

We headed straight to Billy Kwong for their famous asian breakfasts. Pork dumplings, asian pancakes and green tea were on offer. I've heard that Kylie Kwong is a frequent visitor, unfortunately she wasn't on the stall yesterday.

The lovely Katie
Billy Kwong's Asian pancakes

Katie and I chose the pancakes. They were light and flavoursome, and the large quantity of fresh herbs took us straight back to our travels in Vietnam. We also picked up a coffee from Toby's Estate and settled ourselves down on the communal tables at the edge of the market to feast.

The Eumundi Smokehouse

With so much to see we didn't sit and chat for long. We both looked to make some special purchases, firstly chocolate brownies for our absent husbands.  Then some fresh herbs and vegetables, flowers, and handmade butter from Pepe Saya.  I was also tempted by the Fungi stall selling black truffle oil. There were so many stalls that we had to walk up and down at least three times before we could decide where to purchase even.

The Bird Cow Fish stand

Fare Gourmet with the biggest selection of brownies ever

I thoroughly enjoyed my morning. One of my favourite ways to spend a girlie morning.

My bounty