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A Few of My Favourite Things!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Wattleseed Pecan-Crumble Espresso Cupcakes

I had recently come across some wattleseed at my not-so-local supermarket. This bushfood which is harvested as a seed from a plant member of the Acacia species, was originally used by Australian Aboriginines as a valuable, nutritious food source. They ate it raw, dried or incorporated it into their baking. Roasted and ground, wattleseed has a nutty flavour with coffee undertones.

As I don't often come across native foods, unless it's sold as a speciality item at markets, I wanted to make something with it. I decided on cupcakes and wanted to pair it somehow with pecans because I think the flavours match really well. In the end, I made a pecan crumble to sprinkle on top and for the surprise part, I would fill the cupcakes with an espresso frosting to enhance the coffee flavour.

I used a basic cupcake recipe from Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess and added about 2 tablespoons of this native spice. Chopped up pecans mixed with some raw sugar on top then into the oven they went. Once cooled, I made an espresso then used it to mix some icing sugar into a paste. This went into a piping bag with a sharp nozzle and was piped in through the base of the cupcakes. This is not a particularly fluffy cupcake so it took some effort to get the icing in. If you look carefully at the photo, you will see that I didn't end up with much of the frosting inside but this turned out quite well because it wasn't overly sweet.

These babies were really good. An unusual flavour that reminds you of coffee but not quite as strong as coffee/espresso cupcakes. Can anyone enlighten me on why my cupcakes have a little hump in the centre though? I've never had this happen before.

Head over to Alanna's for all the surprises in month's Sugar High Friday round-up!

Wattleseed Pecan-Crumble Espresso Cupcakes

125g SR flour, 125g butter, 125g sugar, 2 large eggs, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 tablespoons wattleseed, 2-3 tablespoons milk. Crumble: chopped pecans and a sprinkle of raw sugar. Frosting: Espresso and icing sugar

  1. Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs and vanilla extract
  2. Add dry ingredients and mix.
  3. Add milk to form a batter with a 'soft dropping' consistency
  4. Spoon into muffin tin, sprinkle pecan/sugar mixture on top and bake at 200C for 20 minutes.
  5. Mix the espresso and icing sugar into smooth paste and pipe into middle of cupcakes through base

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Spring Steak Sandwich

Spring has sprung here in the southern hemisphere and the weather in Melbourne this week has been especially lovely. Sunny blue skies and warm breezes beckon our pale, warmly bundled bodies to spend more time outdoors enjoying the blossoming trees and green grass. Ah, I love spring...

Of course, the change in season also signals a change in the type of food that we want to eat. Our favourite foods in the last couple of weeks have leaned more towards picnic fare.

Slashfood's Sandwich Day is giving us yet another opportunity to indulge in this spring fancy of ours, allowing us to celebrate the humble sandwich. We choose to use rib-eye steak rounds (upon recommendation of the butcher) sand a cute little ciabatta roll, both from Queen Victoria Market, spreading the lightly toasted roll with Olio Bello's tomato jam and serving it with tomato and lettuce.

We sat with the balcony door flung wide open (if you can fling a sliding door!) and had this sandwich with a side serve of salt & vinegar chips. Finally, wash it all down with an Asahi.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Blog Party #14: Kid's Party

The only kids running around our place are our two darlings. Well, sometimes A & I behave like kids too so I figured that we could legitimately join the Kid's Party that Stephanie is hosting for Blog Party #14. The idea is to create cocktail foods, by which Stephanie has described as finger foods, dippers or mini meals. I guess this would count as finger food as this wouldn't make a meal for anyone whatever size it came in.

I've been waiting for an opportunity to use my new cookie cutters and what better way than to create puff patry animals that kids would love. After cutting out the shapes, I sprinkled smoked paprika and grated gruyere over the top before baking. Very moreish even just by themselves but if I had to suggest a drink to accompany these little bites, can I suggest something we made as kids? Cold lemonade with fresh cherries bobbing on top!

I suppose I should call them Puff Pastry Animals & Boys but as boys can sometimes be little animals too, I've just lumped them together. Is that bad? ;-)

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

HHDD #5: Alsation Onion Tart

Our friends, P & S, who moved to Australia from Strasbourg about 2 years ago recently returned home. But before they left, S gave me her mother-in-law's recipe for making tarts. The recipe for the pastry listed 250g flour, 125g margarine, 1 egg and in a post script, S instructed me to add some sugar if I wanted a 'sweety pie' instead!

Tami announced that this 'Hey Hey It's Donna Day' theme as savoury tarts, I rummaged through my folders to pull out the handwritten sheets. I also remembered the Alsatian onion tarts that we enjoyed on our trip to Strasbourg, so it didn't take long to decide what filling to make. Caramelised onions, bacon, creme fraiche with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

We brought this along yesterday when we went for a drive through the Pyrenees region - mmmm, perfect picnic food!

WCB 67: The Queen is Served...

Weekend Cat Blogging is being hosted by Amar at Cat Synth this week.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Celebrity Splogger?

Ed and Matt have (separately) written about a certain, self-claimed 'celebrity' chef who has sent unsolicited emails to many of us. Have a read here and here - what are your thoughts on this? Did you recognise it for what it was immediately? Maybe I'm just a little naive but I really thought he was being friendly in letting me know about his articles but there was just this niggly little feeling that this wasn't going to form into the usual blogger friendship...anyway, have a look at the more articulate ramblings of these guys ;-)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Funtastico is Fantastico!

While in Perth a couple of weeks back, the concierge at our hotel recommended that we dine at Funtastico. 'An unusual name' we thought. Well, we wanted to check out Subiaco anyway, so why not!

We ordered the Spaghetti Marinara al Cartoccio,which consisted of fresh fish, clams, calamari, prawns, scallops and mussels with Napoletana sauce, baked in a “cartuch” and served in the “cartuch” at the table. Basically, this required them to bring the bag that the pasta and seafood was cooked to our table and emptying it into the plate in front of us. Bold, strong flavours and we relished every mouthful of it. We also had another smaller dish which I cannot for the life of me remember now, but I do remember that it was good too ;-) We finished up with the sticky date pudding recommended by our waitress but the pudding got zapped for a little too long in the microwave.

Nevertheless, we had such a lovely meal at Funtastico that we dropped by again for lunch the next day! We had been eyeing the wood-fired pizzas that we saw delivered to tables surrounding us the night before, so we selected the kervella pizza - rocket, kalamata olives, goat’s cheese and cherry tomatoes on a puffed up, thin base. This was accompanied by a rocket & radicchio with walnuts and a blue cheese dressing. The rocket was still gritty from not having been washed thoroughly so this was sent back to the kitchen. Our pizza arrived not long after and it was FUN-tastic. Unlike the salad, the rocket on the pizza was fine but a beetle deposited on one of our pizza slices probably landed there when the rocket was scattered on at the end.

The manager (or possibly owner) absolutely refused to allow us to pay for the pizza despite our argument that we had enjoyed the rest of the pizza. That's unusual indeed!We're going to be back.

12 Rokeby Road, Subiaco, Perth

Phone Number: 9381 2688

Fax Number: 9381 8492

Email: eat@funtastico.com.au

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Taste of Slow: Abbotsford Convent Weekend

This morning saw us down at the Abbotsford Convent as part of the first national Slow Food, A Taste of Slow - Australia 2006, festival. First off, our usual stop at the Collingwood Children's Market on what was forecasted to be an overcast day with showers. As you can see however, the sunny blue sky held sway. Get ready now for loads of photos!

The animals at the Collingwood Children's Farm always has lots of young visitors:

You wouldn't think by looking aroudn that we were just 5 minutes drive from the city centre:

Brightly coloured pasta:

Green eggs with ham anyone? (or is that duck egg blue?):

Golden and dark sultanas, currants, almonds, pepitas:

The BEST butter made fresh at The Dairy Shop. They cut it like cheese for tastings!:

Try the 'Dark Nut Cove' with roasted hazelnuts, pistachio, caramelised sugar & fine dark couveture chocolate from Cocoa Rhapsody:

Get yourself a coffee here but don't be fooled into joining the queue for the pancakes next door. The high demand often has them churning out golden brown pancakes that are uncooked in the middle:

At the Abbotsford Convent, we started with freshly shucked oysters. Mmmm:

The Convent Bakery with delicious artisanal breads baked in the woodfired masonry ovens built in 1901:

Egg and bacon roll with relish!

Cheeses & honey from Tasmania:

We picked up a jar of tangy, piquant Desert Lime Jam which we are hoping to put to good use in a jam drop cookie soon:

Stephanie Alexander signing copies of her new children's cookbook:

The spring market garden planted by children from Stephanie's Kitchen Garden. The produce was harvested and turned into salads for this weekend's activities:A gentle giant - bull mastiff:

If you were not able to make it today, come down for the final day of the Abbotsford Convent Weekend tomorrow from 10am - 5pm to enjoy some great food.

Abbotsford Convent, St Heliers Street, Abbotsford. $12 entry fee.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

WCB 65: Soaking up the Sun

Spring is finally here and Bella is following my example in taking in the warmth on the still occassional warm days when the sun's rays are getting through.

Thanks to Bonnie for hosting WCB this weekend!

Shoya Wanna Eat There?

Our friend waved to the maitre d' who was at the next table with another waiter standing next to her, wanting to ask about a dish on the menu.

Maitre d': (abruptly) "Wait! I'm busy here."

Probably not a good start to our night here but we persevered with our order which was taken by the maitre d' herself. After that, we were left with trainee waiters as she spent the rest of the night playing the sycophant to the guest at the next table, who appeared to be a food critic or restaurateur from Singapore, and his friends.

Don't they train wait staff during the week anymore? It was the second night for one of them and his hands were trembling so hard when he was placing our plates and condiments down that I thought I was going to end up splattered with soy sauce.

We were presented with a amuse bouche of overcooked fried fish to whet our appetites... The sashimi moriawase, petit awabi sashimi (abalone) and salmon toro sashimi came out one after another. I had been looking forward to their sashimi all week, understanding that it's meant to be of top standard at this establishment. I don't think I'm being harsh by saying that I've had as good if not better at food courts.

The next dish turned out to be the gyu-tan koshu-ni, an ox tongue stewed in Japanese seasoning and red wine. However our waiter did not have a clue what it was when we asked him. There was no "I'm not sure but I'll find out for you" -

Waiter: I don't know...
Us: Is this the ox tongue?
Waiter: Maybe

Anyway, it was sliced thickly and eaten as a sandwich between a mantou bun was the best dish of the night - with or without the mantou. The scampi kinokoyaki, grilled scampi topped with some thinly sliced shitake and anoki mushrooms, was garlicky and sweet. Pretty perfect too. We were also delivered a plate of mapo lobster which we had decided against, but figured it was too much trouble to let them know. Deep-fried lobster pieces (slightly overdone) with cubes of tofu surrounding it, it wasn't spicy enough for our tastes.

We even went so far as to order dessert -

P: I'll have the black sesame and green tea ice cream
A: The black sesame and green tea ice cream as well, we'll share (waving in my general direction)
T: The pannacotta please.

The four scoops of ice cream came out on a big platter, garnished with three slices of pannacotta. Silence. Then a request for the desserts to be separated. 10 or 15 minutes later (I think they were waiting for the ice cream which had already started melting, to harden up in the freezer again) two plates came out with two scoops of ice cream and only one slice of panncotta each. Sigh...it felt like a long night. The maitre d' served us some complimentary plum wine at the end of the night but somehow this didn't go very far in helping us feel better. So, my question is SHOYA you wanna try this place?

SHOYA Nouvelle Wafu Cuisine
25 market lane melbourne 3000 vic
tel: 9650 0848 fax: 9650 0950

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Food Bloggers Guide to the Globe

When I first read Melissa's post calling for foodbloggers around the world to compile a list of 5 things they would recommend everyone to eat, all these great food thoughts came tumbling into my head. Even though there was no need to be tagged before posting this meme as everyone was invited to make their contribution to this list, I really, really wanted to be tagged! After waiting and waiting and waiting (yes, I'm impatient by nature), Julie was generous enough to pass the baton on so now I can finally post my list.

In the making of this list, my husband had to be consulted because (a) I am the least decisive person in the world and my list would consist of at least 15 or 20 or more of some of my favourite foods in the world and I would be utterly helpless when it came to whittling them down to just five and (b) it's not just what you eat but who you eat it with that counts for me and my ultimate companion for trying new things and exploring new places is of course, my husband.

So, here is our list of five things to have before you die:

  1. Macarons from Pierre Herme - Yes, I'm sure that this is going to get quite a few mentions but we could not leave it off the list, especially the caramel à la fleur de sel ones that A. would make a special trip to Paris for.
  2. Indonesian Layer cake from Amsterdam - we came across a bakery/cheeseshop that sold wedges of this rich butter cake spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cardomom, cloves. Can't tell you the address I could probably find it again when we are next in Amsterdam.
  3. Salted-butter Caramel crepes and Blue cheese Saracen - there were many many stalls selling crepes at the Christkindelmarkt in Strasbourg. One of the smaller stalls had just two people behind the stand, a stout, moustached gentleman making the crepes and his daughter helping with the hot drinks. They were taking a short break when we went by but something about the stall compelled us stop and wait for them to return. What a great decision that was - the most amazing salted-butter caramel crepe. Pity we didn't get the chance to have another. We have been searching for salted-butter caramel crepes since but it's like finding a needle in a haystack!
  4. Prosciutto pizza with egg in Etoile, Paris - On our first trip to Paris, we met up with friends at a little pizza place between conference sessions. He was having a pizza that we had never seen before, just thinly sliced prosciutto with an egg cracked into the middle just before taking it out of the oven. So simple but mind blowing. We have returned to this pizza joint every trip since but always at the wrong time - either too early or too late.
  5. Tea from Mariage Frere - you just have to try the tea blends from this place. There are just so many choices but I have no doubt that each is as enticing as the next.

I'd love to hear from: