This year, we had our usual Orphan’s Xmas with the Kiwi Kensington Crew – me and the Boys, plus Dany, Scott, Ben, Lisa and honorary member Nate.
Previous years have taught us we never have an appetite for a full meal, so everyone bought a selection of nibbles. As you’ll see, there was a fair amount of food, but considering the small amount of leftovers, we catered rather well.
There were ribs, smoked salmon on toasts, devils on horseback (prunes wrapped in bacon) and ham.
There were also chicken wings, chicken nuggets, cheese, olives, peperonata, roasted cherry tomatoes, marinated mushrooms, and leek and sundried tomato empanadas. PLUS, there were spicy koftas, a couple of dips, sweet & salty nuts, candied pecans and more cheese (most of which hasn’t been opened and will probably be eaten on NYE!).
Moving on to the sweet stuff – gingerbread cookies, cherry tarts, almond crescents, chocolate dipped strawberries, plus fruit (cherries, grapes) and pavlova (not pictured).
After a couple of rounds of eating, there was “cricket” in the park.
As well as some board games – Operation and Cranium.
The mess we created on the floor was VERY impressive. This wasn’t even half of it.
Hopefully everyone else had a great Xmas too! Recipes for some of our Xmas food to come.
As mentioned previously, it was my birthday last weekend. It rained allllll day but despite the rain, I had a pretty good day. It started off with brunch at Plum (which was great, as always), and then afterwards Alastair took me shoe shopping as part of my birthday present. Those who know me in real life (particularly my colleagues) know that I have a shoe obsession, so it was a particularly good gift!
What’s a birthday without cake though? Before the weekend my colleagues surprised me with a gorgeous chocolate mousse cake. I wish I had thought to take a photo of it! Then on Friday I baked (yes, I made my own birthday cake) and made a cherry coconut mud mud cake. Good cake, but oh my, it’s certainly not one for those on a diet. Check out some of the ingredients! 250g butter, 2 cups of sugar, 200g chocolate, a can of coconut milk, plus two king-size Cherry Ripe bars.
I’m not a Cherry Ripe fan, so I thought about using real cherries. But I didn’t want to go to the market on my birthday and I refused to pay supermarket prices for cherries, so Cherry Ripe it was!
Fortunately, despite my dislike of Cherry Ripe bars, I liked the cake! It was delicious but very sweet and rich. Good in small slices only! If you try it, I would recommend warming it up a bit before serving. The original recipe included a dark chocolate icing as well as dark chocolate panels, but I left the icing off. Thank goodness I did, otherwise it would’ve been incredibly sweet! I decorated with white chocolate panels and coloured shredded coconut and I think this was fine although I must admit I didn’t eat the white chocolate.
Preheat oven to 150°C fan-forced. Grease deep 22cm round cake pan, line base and sides with baking paper.
Melt butter in a large saucepan; add coffee, coconut milk, chocolate and sugar. Stir over heat until chocolate melts and sugar dissolves; cool to room temperature.
Whisk in sifted flours and cocoa, then eggs and extract; stir in half of the Cherry Ripe. Pour mixture into pan. Top with remaining Cherry Ripe; bake for about 1 & 3/4 hours. Stand cake for 10 minutes, turn, top side up, onto wire rack to cool.
Meanwhile, make chocolate panels: Stir chocolate and oil in a medium heatproof bowl over medium saucepan of simmering water until smooth. Cute two 6cm x 50cm strips of baking paper. Spread chocolate evenly over strips; lift strips to allow chocolate to drip off paper. Allow chocolate to set, then, using ruler as guide, cut chocolate into 4cm panels with sharp knife. Carefully peel away baking paper and place chocolate panels around side of cake.
So it was my birthday in the weekend. I organised a low key BBQ to mark the occasion – and of course it was the wettest day this year. It rained ALL FREAKING DAY. Nevertheless, I sent Alastair out in the rain to tend the BBQ.
Whenever we host a BBQ, I prefer not to cook raw chicken. No side of food poisoning for me thanks! So if I do chicken – normally wings – I poach them beforehand in a soy sauce mixture.
This is my favourite way of doing wings because they are sooooooooooooo good. The poaching ensures that the meat is tender and slides off the bones, and the soy sauce and star anise gives it a wonderful flavour. The wings don’t have to go on the BBQ either – whenever I make a batch I always eat a couple that have just been poached. I can’t resist them!
The poaching liquid can be reused and will develop more flavour as it ages. To store the sauce just boil it for about 5 minutes afterwards, cool completely, and store it in the freezer. The recipe calls for rock sugar (you can buy it from an Asian supermarket) but if you don’t have any you could use brown sugar. I would recommend tracking down rock sugar though, it seems to have a different sweetness (or maybe that’s just in my head…).
Soy sauce chicken wings
Adapted from the Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen
About 2 kilos of wings (or you could use a whole chicken if desired) 3 cups thin soy sauce 2/3 cup black/dark soy sauce 2/3 cup Chinese rice cooking wine 500g yellow rock sugar 1 & 1/2 cups brown sugar 1 heaped teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns 8 star anise 3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
Rinse the wings under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
In a large pot, combine all the other ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
When the rock sugar has completely dissolved, taste it. It should be fairly salty, but also have a touch of sweetness. Add more sugar if necessary.
Add the wings (do this in two batches if you can’t fit them all in the sauce) and return the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as it boils, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
Cover and cook for about 20 minutes (longer for a whole chicken – approximately 40-45 minutes. A whole chicken will also need to be turned halfway through).
If not doing another batch, turn off the heat and let the wings sit in the sauce for another 20 minutes. They can now either be eaten or cooled and saved for a BBQ.
A wee while ago now, Alastair and I went over to the lovely Jo’s place for lunch along with our usual dinner/lunch group. She made a delicious Moroccan lamb stew on cous cous, and I contributed dessert.
Since I hadn’t flicked through the Australian Women’s Weekly “Bake” in quite a while, I allowed myself to have a look at it again. I found a recipe for a blood orange and syrup polenta cake and made a couple of adaptations.
The resulting cake was rather interesting. The addition of the polenta, and this may sound strange, gives it a different but pleasing grainy texture. While it sounds weird, it actually was good! Unfortunately I broke the cake turning it out (check out that large crack!) hence my trying to cover it up with icing sugar and pistachios.
Pistachio and polenta cake with orange blossom syrup
Adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly “Bake”
125g butter, softened 1 cup (220g) caster sugar 300g sour cream 2 cups (300g) self-raising lour 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda 2/3 cup (110g) polenta 3/4 cup (180ml) water 2/3 cup (100g) shelled pistachios
Orange blossom syrup
1 cup (220g) caster sugar 1/2 cup water 1-2 teaspoons orange blossom water
Preheat oven to 160C/140C fan forced. Grease a deep 20cm round cake pan; line base and side with baking paper. Beat butter, sugar, sour cream, sifted flour and soda, polenta and the water in a large bowl on low speed with an electric mixer until combined. Increase to medium speed, beat until mixture changes to a paler colour. Stir in the nuts. Spread mixture into the pan. Bake cake for about 1 hour. Stand cake in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn out on to a wire rack to cool. Serve cake warm or cold with the warm orange blossom syrup.
Orange blossom syrup
Stir the sugar and water together in a small saucepan; bring to the boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes or until the syrup thickens. Stir in the orange blossom syrup to taste.
One sunny but slightly chilly Sunday, we went looking for a good brunch option. We came across Sugarbeat, a small (or intimate, if you prefer an euphemism) café in Ascot Vale.
Bro had the Catalan eggs ($13) – fried eggs topped with chorizo and corn salsa. The chorizo had a fair kick to it! And check out that yolk just about bursting out of it’s skin.
I had the Bedouin eggs ($13). These were poached eggs with green harissa, spinach, feta and dukka on top of toasted Turkish bread. The harissa was pretty spicy, which I LOVED but I think some people would find it a bit much. The egg yolks were still nice and oozy – I love letting the yolk soak into toast. Yum!
Alastair had a toasted tortilla wrap ($11) – filled with egg, bacon and a bit of spinach and some salad on the side.
On the whole we had a nice brunch, but I do have one small criticism – our food was a bit cold. It didn’t help that we were sitting outside in a bit of a breeze, but the food didn’t seem very warm to begin with. But apart from that, we enjoyed it. As an added bonus, even my Bro thought that Sugarbeat was good. He is very picky about our brunch options, as it’s hard for cafes to measure up to our favourite, but Sugarbeat received a tick of approval. Hooray!
Sugarbeat 5A North St Ascot Vale 3032 VIC Phone: (03) 9372 7118
Our first night in Hobart, we wandered around acquainting ourselves with the city. For dinner, we walked down to the waterfront and decided to eat at a seafood restaurant.
I had blue eye fillets, marinated in soy, honey, garlic, and ginger, char grilled and served with stir fried vegetables and potatoes ($31.50). It was okay – not great, not bad.
Dad had fish and chips ($29.50), and choose to have his fish grilled. It was served with chips and salad. Mum had the baked blue eye served on borlotti beans, roast zucchini, eggplant and capscium with sweet corn puree and pappa di pomadoro sauce ($33.50).
Mako Seafood Constitution Dock Hobart, Tasmania
My Dad seemed to be obsessed with fish so the following night we had fish and chips. We went down to the waterfront again, and ate at Mako Seafood, which is actually a floating two level pontoon. Along with the fried stuff, you can also purchase fresh fish.
I had a mini fish basket – for $8.50 I got a piece of fish, which was trevalla, a prawn, scallop, calamari and small chips.
Mum and Dad shared a fish feast – fish, 2 prawns, 2 calamari, scallop, chips and salad.
On Saturday, after visiting the Salamanca Markets, we stopped for lunch at Say Cheese. I felt like eating bits and pieces, so I ordered an antipasto platter ($23). It was massive! The plate was loaded with cheese, smoked turkey kransky, button mushrooms, smoked octopus, eggplant, peppers, olives, sundried tomatoes, and dolmades.
I also received a large bread roll and crackers. It could’ve easily fed two people. Look how many crackers there were!
Fortunately, Mum and Dad had smaller meals so they were able to help me out with mine! Mum had a smoked chicken salad and Dad had a smoked salmon salad.
New Sydney Hotel 87 Bathurst Street Hobart, Tasmania
Nearing the end of our trip, we had dinner at a random pub. I had a MASSIVE peppered steak pot pie ($20). This thing was seriously gigantic, and it was all big chunks of meat. It was also quite salty, and I only managed half because I got rather tired of eating nothing but meat chunks. The chips were good though.
Mum had a small seafood and tomato pasta with rocket ($13) while Dad had fish AGAIN. He had the fish of the day ($28). Mum also ordered us a caesar salad ($10) to share – and thank goodness she did! I was grateful for the lettuce to break up the tedium of my pot pie.
In November, Alastair and I also made a quick trip to Blenheim. Last time we were there, we had breakfast at Raupo. On this trip, we found ourselves at a loose end and went to Raupo again for cake and coffee. We had a chocolate torte with white chocolate mousse and raspberries ($7.50). It was a sponge like cake, so wasn’t too heavy, and it was yuuuuuuuum.
We returned again for breakfast on our last day. I wasn’t feeling particularly hungry (I’m not sure what was wrong with me – it’s very unusual!) and just had a couple of mini croissants with butter and jam (normal toast wasn’t on the menu).
Alastair had pancakes with fresh fruit and yoghurt.
That’s it for this edition! I have been a tad slack with posting recently, but I have a couple of half written posts that I will try and finish this weekend.