Sunday, 25 January 2015

An Aussie Treat!

Ah Australia Day! The day everyone wraps themselves in Aussie flags, gathers with friends and spends the day drinking, eating at watching fireworks. 

Celebrated annually, Australia Day is the anniversary of the arrival of the first fleet on the shores of New South Whales in 1788. These days, the day is marked by a public holiday filled with community celebrations, historic reflections and citizenship ceremonies across the nation. 

As I plan to spend the rest of the day with friends by the river, I thought what better way to celebrate than whip up a traditional Aussie treat! 


Lamingtons

Delectable sponge squares coated in a generous layer of chocolate and dusted with shredded coconut. 


I have decided to use a genoise sponge; a delicate Italian sponge with the only raising agent being whipped eggs. 

Preheat the oven to 190degrees Celsius. 

Whisk together 8 eggs and 250g of caster sugar in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water for 5-10mins. You want to keep whisking until pale and frothy, and reaches roughly 40C. 

Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to a stand mixer and continue whisking for 10 mins until the mixture has tripled in volume. 

Carefully folding in 250g of sifted plain flour.  Just before you add in the last batch, fold in 30g of melted butter. 

Divide the mix into two 20cm square tins and bake in the middle of your oven for roughly 20mins (or until a skewer comes out clean). 

Remove from oven and let cool in the tin for 10 mins, before removing onto a wire rack and allowing to cool completely. 


Slowly melt 600g dark chocolate with 300ml of think cream, in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Once melted remove from heat and set aside.


Scatter shredded coconut in a separate tray. Cut each sponge into 4 to 5cm squares. Dip each square in the melted chocolate, cover completely and allow the excess to drip off. Roll each square in the coconut and place on a wire rack (sitting over a tray). 

Stand for at least an hour until the chocolate sets. 

Enjoy! 

 

Ingredient List:

8 eggs
250g Casta Sugar
250g Plain Flour
30g Butter (melted)
600g Dark Chocolate
300ml Thick Cream
300g Shredded Coconut




Saturday, 20 September 2014

A French Feast

If you haven't noticed yet, I love to cook for people. I will take any excuse to flick through recipe books, whack on an apron and share the joys of good food with great friends. 

After all "People who love to eat, are always the best people"
~ Julia Child



Since we were kids, weekends would often consist of at least one dinner with family friends. They were never anything overly fancy, but whenever it was our turn to host something mum and us kids would spend all afternoon/evening experimenting in the kitchen. This tradition has truly stuck, and is something I always look forward to. 

Unfortunately I am not able to have people over as much as I would like to, but last weekend I was fortunate enough to have a couple of my dearest friends over for a well deserved catch up! 


With recipes chosen I hit the local farmers market to collect a bundle of fresh vegetables for what was to become a decedent French feast! 

A couple of years ago I spent a week in Paris taking cooking lessons at the incredible cooking school Cook'n With Class. (seriously, if you are ever in Paris you must check them out!) Ever since, French food, particularly deserts and pastries, have stuck with me and take me nostalgically back to a distant summer wandering the streets of Paris. 

  

I know I usually only write about desserts and baked goods, but today I thought I would share with you both the main and desert! Each equally decedent and simple enough for anyone to recreate at home. 
Unfortunately I don't have too many photos of the main course, but hopefully the recipe will intrigue you enough. 

 


Veal Faci 


Take 4 thin slices of veal and pound the meet until very thin between two pieces of plastic wrap. Lightly season each piece with salt and pepper.

With butchers string at the ready, add 1/4 of your sausage meet in a small line in the middle of one of your veal pieces. Roll the veal around the sausage making into a tight tube resembling a burrito. Wrap the butchers string around the veal a few times and tie tightly. 
Repeat with the remaining veal pieces.

In a large frypan, heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil. When the oil starts to smoke, add the veal. 
You should hear a sizzle when the meat hits the hot oil. Saute on one side until golden brown and then flip (this should take 5-6 mins, depending on its thickness). 

When they are ready and warm all the way through, add 2 tablespoons of butter, 1 clove of garlic (crushed) and a quarter of a bunch of thyme. Move the veal continuously ensuring an even coating of sauce. Cut of the string, carve and serve.

I served the veal on a layer of lightly roasted asparagus and tomatoes (each lightly seasoned with salt, pepper and a dash of olive oil before going into a 180degree C oven for roughly 15mins) and a generous serving of Mimi Thorisson's Potatoes à la Lyonnaise  - a recipe I will share soon. 



Ingredient List: 
4 thin slices of veal
250g fresh sausage meat
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove of garlic (crushed)
1/4 bunch of thyme
salt and pepper to taste. 



Moelleux au Chocolat
(Chocolate Lava Cake)


This beautiful, velvety chocolate cake is filled with a decadently gooey molten chocolate centre. Sounds pretty good right? It is fairly foolproof to make, and is bound to impress the socks off your guests. 

What is even better about this dish is that you can make it up to a day in advance with the batter left in its moulds in the fridge, only to be taken out and put in the oven to cook when desired. Meaning you have the evening to actually spend time with your friends, rather than spending the evening locked away in the kitchen. 


In a double boiler, slowly melt together 170g good quality dark chocolate with 170g of unsalted butter. In the mean time mix together 85g plain flour, 170g light brown sugar and a pinch of salt. 

Once the chocolate and butter have melted together, transfer to your stand mixer (or a larger bowl) and beat in 6 eggs, one at a time, until well combined and smooth. Add the flour and sugar and mix well. 

Grease 6 individual moulds with  a layer of butter before pouring the mixture in and placing in the fridge to set. As I like to have my cakes out of the moulds I use aluminium panna cotta moulds, but I have seen this desert cooked and served in small ramekins as well. 


Leave the cake batter to rest for at least 2 hours (or over night). Just before you are planning to serve dessert, preheat the oven to 180degrees C, and cook your cakes for 10-12mins. Briefly let rest before turning out your cakes and serve hot to your waiting guests, leaving them to discover the hidden lava surprise. 


Ingredient List:
170g Dark chocolate
170g Unsalted butter
170g Brown sugar
85g Plain flour
1 pinch of salt 
6 eggs




A perfect collection of recipes to complement any evening with friends. 


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Flourless Orange & Chocolate Cake

Rich, moist, smooth and packed full of orange and chocolate - this flourless chocolate orange cake is fast becoming a favourite! 


I first created this recipe whilst house sitting two weeks ago. I had a whole bag of beautiful oranges (that I picked up from a country town on my way back from Karijini) and I knew I wouldn't be able to get through them all on my own, so needed a recipe to use a couple before they went bad.

There are tonnes of chocolate orange cake recipes around, but this one is slightly different as I had to make do as I wasn't in my own kitchen at the time. I think it turned out perfectly and couldn't wait to come home and replicate it to share with you all! 

It is a little time consuming as you need to boil the oranges for 2 hours, but once that is done you simply throw everything into the food processor (or blender in my case) and voila! A beautiful gluten free cake batter!

     



Flourless Orange & Chocolate Cake

Place 2 oranges in a saucepan and fill with water until covered. Bring to the boil and then reduce the temperature and leave to simmer for roughly 2 hours. You could do this step a day in advance if you need to.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius and lightly grease your cake tin.

Take oranges out of the water and leave to cool slightly before placing into your food processor (or blender). I would recommend breaking the oranges up slightly and checking for any large pips. 

Blitz the oranges slightly before adding in the rest of your ingredients. Throw in 200g of almond meal, 250g caster sugar, 60g good quality cocoa powder, 3 teaspoons of baking powder and 6 whole eggs. 

Blend the mixture until smooth and poor into your prepared cake tin, bake for 45mins - 1hr or until a skewer comes out clean. 

Leave to cool in the tin for 15mins before taking out and placing onto your cake rack. 


Decoration

This cake is beautiful on its own, but I couldn't resist zest-ing it up a little (pun completely intended!) and candying a little orange peel for a delectable garnish.



Thinly slice a couple of slices of orange (circular sections) and cut into triangular segments (like you would a cake). Remove the rest of your orange zest and slice into 3mm strips.

Place all orange into a small saucepan with 1.5cups of water and roughly 3/4cups of sugar. Leave to simmer, stirring regularly, until the majority of the liquid has evaporated. Remove the candied orange onto a sheet of baking paper to cool and set slightly.


Do keep a close eye on this as you do not want the sugar to burn! 



To decorate this cake I pipped a circle of dark chocolate ganache (melted dark chocolate with a little cream) and piled it high with a crumb of roughly chopped pistachios, dark chocolate and the candied orange pieces, before draping with the remaining zest slices.

Delicious!! 



The house always looks better with an irresistible cake on the table!



Ingredients:

Cake:
2 whole oranges
250g caster sugar
200g almond meal
60g cocoa powder
6 whole eggs
3 tsp baking powder

Decoration:
Orange pieces and sliced zest 
100g caster sugar
1.5 cups water
Dark chocolate
50g Pistachios 

Monday, 21 July 2014

Karijini National Park

For the past 3 years I have spent my Perth winters gallivanting through the European sumer, viola in hand taking classes, working at festivals and wining and dining with some of my dearest friends. This year however, due to the financial decision to purchase a new viola (yay!), I unfortunately couldn't keep up with tradition and thought it best to stay in town and rug up for the winter. 

This did however mean that I was now free to escape the city with the family and head north for 10 days of driving, hiking and playing cards under the stars in the incredibly magical Karijini National Park. 


"Wirlankarra yanama. Yurlu nyinku mirda yurndarirda" 
"Go with a clear, open and accepting spirit, and the country will not treat you badly."

Located in the Pilbra (1400km north of Perth), Karijini is Western Australia's second largest national park. Five breathtakingly rugged gorges cut through the Hamersley Ranges where water has worn the banded iron formations for centuries leaving exquisite waterfalls and sparkling rock pools in its wake. 


With cars packed, snacks organised and audio books at the ready, we left rainy Perth and hit the Great Northern Hwy where we would continue straight for the next 3 days.

As we had the time, we decided to split the drive into 3 days. There are various towns you can stay in or you can set up camp in the 24hr stopping points on rout. On the way up our nights were spent in Mount Magnet and Newman. 



I always love a road trip, being out there and really having a sense of the vegetation changes as you enter different climates. Although I have travelled a lot of Australia, this trip was a first for me, I have been to the top of the country before, but this distance north I haven't touched so it was wonderful to get a real sense of the beauty Western Australia has to offer. 


Although I love a big drive, it was great to finally turn off and enter Karijini itself and set up camp for the next few nights with our friends at Dales Gorge. 


From here on in we became explorers. 


Many of the gorges contain walks of varying length and difficulty meaning there is something for everyone. Wether you are up for clambering up, under and through the rock formations, wanting a long leisurely walk with spectacular views, or simply enjoy the scenery from the assigned viewing platforms there is more than enough to keep you happy. 


With hiking boots on we started our first full day and explored Kalamina Gorge - a ruggedly cut gorge with a track that leads you along the river and rock pools until you reach the final clamber up to end archway. 



   



After a lazy lunch, we strapped the boots back on and headed to Dales Gorge. Starting at Fortescue Falls (The parks only permanent waterfall) ....

 



... along the creek bed, examining the various rock formations...







... and towards the hidden garden of circular pool.



                    
           
Although the walks are quite accessible, do take note of the level of difficulty of some of them. The climb out of Circular Pool for example is straight up, and somewhat challenging. 







The next day we tackled Weano Gorge. There are two walks at Weano, the first is just through the pleasant surroundings of the gorge, and the second involves wading through absolutely freezing water (although the days were beautiful in the sun, around 24 degrees C, the water was ice!) Along the rocks and down the narrow and steep decent into Handrail Pool. 






Just next door to Weano, is Hancock Gorge, possibly my favourite.c Hancock involves a steep decent "into the centre of the earth" before making your way through the rock pools, along the rock walls  and down spider walk (where you are walking hands and feet either side of the narrow path above the stream) towards to vibrant green Kermit Pool. 





During the wet season the north of Australia is subject to incredibly heavy rainfall. Over the centuries, this rainfall has caused huge amounts of water to force its way through the narrow pathways and polish the rocks into the beautiful formations we see today. 







With our days taken care of, our evenings were left to resting and relaxing in the campgrounds. With everyone stuck into their chosen novel, I would take the quiet opportunity to pull out the viola and practice in the setting sun.


Although we were blessed with beautiful, crystal clear warm days, it was of course still winter. As soon as the sun would start to set, the temperatures would drop - fast. (The nights got down to -2!) We would cook dinner in the last minutes of sunshine, before layering up and huddling around the table for an evening of cards and star gazing.

The following day we headed over to the spectacular Joffre Gorge.


A spectacular gorge with one of the biggest waterfalls in the national park. With a steep decent you can clamber down the marked route to meet the bottom pool and really feel the scale of the towering rocks around you. 



   



On our final day in Karijini, my family and I decided that instead of going down we would head up and get a different view of our surroundings. We headed for Mount Bruce, WA's second highest peak.





As we weren't quite prepared for the 5hr return walk, we didn't make it to the peak, but the views were still incredible.




I have been fortunate enough to travel a lot, and one of the things that always gets me about Australia is its size and expansive landscape. You really have to experience a drive, or see the views to be able to fully understand just how vast and varied this country actually is. But it is moments like this, standing at almost 4000 ft with the golden shimmer of spinifex reaching as far as the eye can see, where i remember just how special this landscape is.







Unfortunately all good things have to come to an end and with work to return to, it was time to get back on the road and head back to Perth. 

I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to explore yet another part of this incredible landscape, and love that I am able to show you just a glimpse of this beautiful country. Karijini National Park is such a magical space. One of the few places where the forces of nature take control of the landscape reminding you that you are just a visitor observing its creations. If you ever get the chance to visit, I can't recommend it enough as I already look forward to returning and taking in its magic.