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A Few of My Favourite Things!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

My NEW Cookie Press!

A very good friend of mine, P, who just recently got engaged - CONGRATULATIONS!!! - came by to visit our new place last weekend. Can you believe that she not only brought along a birthday present for me, but asked if I would be her bridesmaid. Are you kidding? I've been looking forward to this day forever and now I'll get to be a part of it too!

The present was an item that had been on my wish list for some time now - an Avanti Cookie Press and Icing Set! Of course I wanted to put it into action straight away but had to wait until this weekend - what a long week it was. It wasn't that easy to use initially - or maybe that's just me! - and I had trouble getting the first few cookie shapes to stick to the cookie sheet. I ended up trying out two other templates and managed to work out the right amount of dough to push out to get some decent looking cookies. With the flower-shaped cookies, I stuck some diced glaced apricots in the middle partway through baking to prevent them from burning. These are for a coworker moving into our building and for three gorgeous girls who are turning six this week. I also made some loveheart cookies for P to thank her for the great present.

Here's myrecipe - a combination of the recipe presented by Avanti and one that I found on the Better Homes and Gardens website:

Spritz Cookies
340 g butter, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 egg, 1 tbsp milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 3.5 cups plain flour
1. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy
2. Add egg, vanilla extract and milk and beat until combined
3. Stir in flour
4. Pack dough into cookie press and push dough out onto cookie sheet
5. Bake at 170C for 8 - 10 min until edges are firm but not brown

Saturday, August 27, 2005

WCB12

Each week, food bloggers around the world share pictures of their favorite felines. To be included, just send your permalink in a comment to Clare at Eat Stuff and add a "Weekend Cat Blogging" tag to your post.

This photo was taken last summer on a swelteringly sticky day. Our air conditioner was on full-blast trying to keep the heat out of our bedroom, which has a tin roof. I guess Tasha was trying to create more surface area for the cool air to reach! How lady like, huh? (giggle)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Amsterdam & Romantic Brugge 2

This is a continuation of the post on our Amsterdam/Brugge trip. We came across so many delicious looking cheeses and pastries whilst in Amsterdam that it's a pity that we couldn't try EVERYTHING (tempting though it was!). In one of the cheese shops, we came across a slab of Indonesian Layer Cake. Also known as Specot or Spekkoek, this deliciously spicy cake is made up of many, many thin layers and is highly time consuming to make (it used to take mum about 2 hours in front of the oven to bake one). Each layer of batter is grilled for 2-3 min before the next layer is spread on top of the baked layer and grilled for another 2-3 min. Unfortunately I don't have a photo of this but you can check it out on one of Adam's posts. This particular Indonesian Layer Cake was spicier and more delicious than any other that I had ever tasted before. (Final photo is of Antwerp station).

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Onion Tart

Along with everyone else, I've also volunteered to do some recipe testing for the Good Home Cookbook. The first recipe that I tried was pretty straight forward - Glazed Onions (cooked with dry sherry). They suggested it aa topping for steaks and burgers but as this is not really normal fare at our place, I decided to use it for an onion tart instead.

Now, I'm really not into making pastry at all. I tried it once in a baking class about 12 months ago, but it seems like too much work to lazy ol' me! Unfortunately, the only casing I could find at our local supermarket was labelled pastry flan. There was a recipe on the back of the packaging for a spinach and feta tart, so I didn't realise that it was actually a sweet pastry. After mixing the glazed onions together with some eggs and cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg and pouring into the tart casing, I baked it at 170C for about 15-20 min. I thought it looked pretty wonderful and brought some into work for everyone to try. I didn't mind the taste cos I have a sweet tooth anyway, but the overall feeling was that it was too sweet for a savoury tart.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Coconut Macaroons

I made some coconut macaroons on the weekend for a friend, B, who was celebrating his 30th birthday. Years ago, I made these for him as a Christmas gift and he still remembers them. When he received his party bag of cookies last week, he asked if they were the macaroons I used to make.

There was a toss-up between 2 recipes: the Donna Hay recipe consisted of only 3 ingredients- shredded coconut, sugar and egg whites- whilst the Nigella recipe also included almond meal and coconut essence (or vanilla). I liked the thought of adding almond meal and so chose to go with Nigella's recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess. I didn't have any almond meal in the pantry so I actually ground some whole almonds using my food processor. WOW, what a difference in aroma from the usual bland, store-bought stuff! I also didn't have ay cream of tartar, so I used about 1 tsp of lemon juice as a substitute. The cookies turned out beautifully - dense and flavoursome. I would definitely use this recipe again.

Coconut Macaroons
2 large egg whites, 1/4 tsp cream of tartar, 100 g caster sugar, 30 g ground almonds,
pinch of salt, 1 tsp vanilla extract or coconut essence, 250g shredded coconut
1. Beat egg whites until frothy then add cream of tartar and carry on beating until soft peaks form.
2. Add the suga, one teaspoonful at a time, and whisk until shiny peaks that can hold their shape form.
3. Fold in almonds, salt, vanilla extract/coconut essence and shredded coconut. Mixture should be sticky and clump together.
4. Form small balls of mixture and place on baking sheet.
5. Bake at 170C for 15 min until golden.

Friday, August 19, 2005

WCB 11

This is my favourite photo of Bella and Tasha. They were only about 5-6 months old at this stage and when I used to (try and) work at home, they would crowd in front of my notebook and stick their heads in the way so I couldn't see what I was doing. They learnt not to walk over the keyboard, which is why they are both sitting quietly on either side with their heads tilted like that.

Cat food bloggers unite every weekend and share photos of your gorgeous kitties with us! If you would like to join us, leave a comment with Clare at Eat Stuff together with your permalink! and add a "weekend cat blogging" tag to your post.

Check out Kiri at Eat Stuff;
Kelly at Anne's Food;
Gideon Greve A Cat in the Kitchen;
Smudge at Farmgirl Fare;
Miles at My Adventures in the Breadbox;
Indrid at Tigers & Strawberries;
Neighbourhood kitten at Masak Masak;
Tsar at Cook & Eat;
Abe at Restaurant Widow;
Callie at Sweetnicks.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Goodies from Victoria Street

We took a detour through Victoria Street last weekend, on our way home from the Collingwood Farmer's Market. Of course, I then had to detour during our detour into the grocery stores, which turned out to be a good thing as I discovered something new - hickory kernels. These came in handy little snack packs and resemble miniature walnut kernels. We don't have many hickory-flavoured products here, so I guess I found their taste a little unusual - sweetish, but flavoursome.

The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Mooncake Festival, falls on the 18th September this year and the shops have already started selling mooncakes. Traditional mooncakes are filled with lotus seed paste and can contain one (or more) salted yolks in the middle. My favourite part of the mooncake is the 'skin', but as it would be terribly rude to eat just the skin from mooncakes and leave the filling, I've found another solution- the little pig! This is made with just the skin and has no filling in the middle. Perfect!

Food Bloggers Global Map

This is great, fellow-foodbloggers! Please visit this site and place a marker. I'm sure there are more of us down under than what's showing at the moment (three).

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Cheesy Rounds

For my birthday celebration, I made some chocolatey chilli-chocolate shortbread biscuits to fill some party bags with. To complement these cookies, I also baked some Cheesy Rounds which were based on Nigella's recipe for Cheesy Feet in Feast. As the chilli-chocolate shortbread were chilli-flavoured (hence the name), I also added some chilli powder to Nigells' recipe. I didn't have any small cookie cutters (let alone one in the shape of feet!) so I just rolled the dough into a log and cut rounds from it. I didn't bother refrigerating it first (too impatient), so it was a little crumbly but I just used a sharp knife and it turned out okay. Here's the recipe, Niki:

Cheesy Rounds
100 g grated cheddar cheese, 25 gm soft butter, 50g pl. flour, 1/4 tsp baking powder, chilli powder to taste
1. Put all ingredients into food processor and vlitz until dough comes together
2. Roll into log and refrigerate for 15 min if you have time
3. Slice into 4mm thick rounds
4. Bake for 10 min at 200C. Take out while still soft in middle as they will continue to crisp as they cool on the rack.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Birthday Clebration

I came home on Wednesday to find that A sitting in our living room next to this display holding a lovely bouquet of flowers and a present for me! I knew what the present was already because the purchase was made when we were in NY and had been sitting quietly, all wrapped up, on the top shelf of my wardrobe just waiting for this day to arrive. In fact, it had been sitting so quietly that I'd almost forgotten it was there, let alone what was in it!

On Saturday night, we had some friends over for a housewarming/birthday celebration. Mum, who is a fantastic cook, offered to prepare everything for us so A and I didn't have to lift a finger. I even called her up that morning to ask if she could boil some rice for me - terrible, I know! She made curry puffs, dahl, chicken and potato curry, beef rendang, fried mee hoon, pandan chiffon cake and a very old favourite of mine, a Black Beauty cake. Mum learned how to make this when she first got married and didn't really know how to cook. She is now an amazing cook and still this cake remains a prized recipe of hers. I haven't had this cake in years but I have now been reminded of why it was my favourite. Hmmm, I think I'm going to have to alternate having this and a Black Forest cake for my birthday each year!

Of course, I couldn't resist making SOMETHING, so we bought some roast duck from Victoria Street and made some peking duck wraps. I also baked some chilli-chocolate shortbread and cheddar cheese biscuits to give away at the end of the night. The chilli-chocolate shortbread, which I went straight into the kitchen to prepare after reading Niki's post about them, were outstanding. A would be polishing them off right now if we had any left - alas, they were all given away. I think I've become a fan of ice-box cookies now. I even rolled the dough for the cheddar biscuits into a log and cut the slices instead of rolling out and using a cookie cutter.

Finally, congratulations to B and SJ on your engagement!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Collingwood Farmer's Market

A drizzly start to what turned out to be a fine and sunny Melbourne day, but this did not deter many from making their monthly visit to the Collingwood Farmer's market. We brought our shoping trolley along to wheel our purchases home, and boy did this come in handy! We hit the Hope Farm bread stand first because they ran out of the sticky malt sourdough last time and I was determined not to miss out this time! Luckily for us, there were plenty of loaves left at the stand and we ended up getting not just the malt loaf but also a fruit loaf densely filled with plump sultanas, dates and apricots then generously covered in poppy seeds. We also bought some duck eggs to try, spices from the Spice Bazaar, the best tasting Nicola potatoes, organic chicken, and leafy watercress and lettuce amongst other things. We didn't spend long at the market but, as always, well worth the visit. It is a lovely setting and, looking around, you wouldn't even believe that you are only 5 minutes away from the city. Hope that you made it there too, Plum.

On our way home, we took the route that led us down Victoria Street so that we could pick up some roast duck for the party tonight. Victoria Street is lined with Vietnamese restaurants and grocery stores. Best of all are the Vietnamese bakeries where we can get banh mi and sesame mung bean balls. We have only recently discovered banh mi, having tried one a few weeks ago in Footscray (yes we have been a little slow on the uptake, haven't we?) and could now easily have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A ordered a banh mi bi from our favourite Victoria St bakery. It was pretty good, but the one we had in Footscray is still the best so far. Think this has something to do with it being the first?

WCB 10


Cat food bloggers unite every weekend and share photos of your gorgeous kitties with us! If you would like to join us, leave a comment with Clare at Eat Stuff together with your permalink! and add a "weekend cat blogging" tag to your post.

It was my birthday on Wednesday and as part of my surprise, A had bought a balloon for me, tied it to a little cow soft toy and placed it on the rug. Bella and Tasha both started attacking the cow straight away then Bella got it into her head to try and swallow the streamer tied to the balloon. Here she is in action. Tasha is sitting behind her so all you can see is the tip of her left ear!

Sorry for being late again for weekend cat blogging. I'll be more organised next week, I promise!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Markets

The Collingwood Farmers Market is on again this weekend! A & I try to get to this on the second Saturday of every month. We make it part of our Saturday morning stroll to drop by, but if we buy lots of goodies, it's not always as much fun getting home! Fortunately, my lovely husband never lets me carry much of the heavy stuff - even the not so heavy stuff :-) .

Also, a reminder that there will be an Artisan Producers' Picnic being held at the Abbotsford Convent, St Heliers St as part of the Slow Food Festival on the 10th and 11th September. You will have the chance to meet the producers directly and to purchase food from them to create your own picnic - YUM! See you there!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Weekend Cat Blogging 9

Bella and Tasha just have the best view from their scratching post, don't they? Sunshine and city views - no wonder they love it up here...

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Shopping Spree

I've been doing some shopping on Amazon (well, my birthday IS coming up soon, so I told A that these could be my presents) and received my FIRST delivery (out of two) this week. I already have two of Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid's books, Hot Sour Salty Sweet and Homebaking, and love the travel writing as well as authentic, well-researched recipes (see below for recipe for Beirut Tahini Swirls). Although the covers of Seductions of Rice and Flatbreads and Flavours are not as good-looking (yes, I will judge a book by its cover), they are just as well-written and I'm looking forward to trying some of these recipes. I get so excited about trying new recipes!!!

A and I went on our usual Saturday morning walk today and enjoyed some glorious sunshine - very unusual for Melbourne at this time of year. Just two days ago, it was pouring with rain, but the sky has been blue-as-blue-can-be today. We stumbled upon Casa Iberica, a well-known Spanish grocery store, on Johnstone Street in Fiztroy during our stroll. A bought some delicious jamon, chorizo and manchego whilst I stocked up on some smoked paprika, paella seasoning and tins of sardines, cockles, cod and...fish roes (sic) with lemon, something I've never seen before. I can't say that I know a lot about Spanish food, but I love trying new things and browsing in grocery stores. A knows this, of course, and upon spotting Casa Iberica, pulled me into the store and made sure that I had time to wander through slowly - isn't he wonderful!

I wanted to try the paella seasoning straight away so I whipped up some mouth-watering cheddar cheese twists seasoned with oregano, dried parsley and paella seasoning for A.

Beirut Tahini Swirls

Bread: 1/2 tsp active yeast, 1 cup lukewarm water, 2 1/2 cups flour, 2 tsp sugar, 1 tbs olive oil. Filling: 3/4 cup tahini, 3/4 cup sugar (I replaced sugar in both the bread and filling with honey but didn't measure amounts -sorry)

1. Dissolve yeast in lukeward water then stir in 1 cup of flour followed by sugar and oil. Incorporate 2nd cup of flour, turn dough out and knead for 5 min, or until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 2-3 hours until doubled in volume.

2. Divide dough into 6 equal portions and work with 3 at a time while keeping the others covered. Roll each portion out into rectangles (5 x 10'') on lightly floured surface. Spread almost to edges with 2 1/2 tbs of tahini and sugar mixture then roll up rectangle from long side into cylinder. Coil bread around itself, flatten with palm of hand then set aside to work on other 2 portions.

3. Roll first portion out gently then let rest while rolling out other 2 portions before coming back to the first until you have rolled each to about 6-7'' in diametre. Don't worry if some filling leaks.

4. Bake at 190 C for 15 - 20 min until golden brown and flaky. Serve warm or at room temperature.

A prefers them at room temperature because you can taste the flavours better.