Lemon and blueberry cupcakes with lemon cream cheese icing

Lemon and blueberry cupcakes

Practice run 2 in preparation for the Cupcake Challenge – lemon and blueberry cupcakes with lemon cream cheese icing.

I really liked these ones. They were moist, fragrant with the lemon, a bit tart from the blueberry and not too sweet. The sweet and tangy cream cheese icing topped them off perfectly – and look how pale the icing is! Yay!

But while they were tasty, they’re probably not a cupcake challenge winner. Still, they were pretty moreish and let me practice my atrocious piping skills.

Lemon and blueberry cupcakes

Lemon and blueberry cupcakes

Adapted from this recipe.

Makes 24 small cupcakes

Cupcakes:

1 & 1/2 cups of plain flour + an extra 2 tablespoons
135 grams caster sugar
1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
55 grams butter, melted
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
Finely grated rind of one lemon
3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed

Lemon cream cheese icing:

110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
1 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease 2 x 12 cup muffin pans or line the holes with paper cases.

Sift together the 1 & 1/2 cups flour with an additional 1 tablespoon flour and baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Add the caster sugar and salt and mix to combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter and egg. Whisk in the buttermilk, milk, and the lemon rind to the butter mixture.

Add the buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Toss the blueberries with the remaining 1 tablespoon flour and fold the blueberries into tge batter.

Spoon the batter into the prepared cupcake cups – filling about 1/2 way. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Icing:

Beat together the butter and cream cheese until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the icing sugar. Stir in the juice, rind and vanilla extract. Spread or pipe over the cupcakes.

Soup Sunday: Mushroom soup

Mushroom soup

I bought a soup recipe book recently, and it has given me tons of soup ideas! Most of the soups have been easy to put together, and this mushroom soup was no exception.

This soup relies heavily on the mushrooms for flavour – there’s not much else in it! I used big flat brown mushrooms, and they made the soup rather intensely, super duper mushroomy.

When I was younger, mum made a lot of soup at home, but it was always Chinese style soups. One of the only exceptions was mushroom soup, and it was pretty good. It was very similar to this one, but I suspect she added a lot more cream to hers! I was happy with the smaller amount of cream in mine though. It gave the soup just a bit of creaminess at the end but wasn’t enough to make it feel heavy and rich.

Mushroom soup

Mushroom soup

Adapted from Soups

1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1kg of flat brown mushrooms, wiped and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 litre vegetable stock
2 tablespoons (or more to taste) pouring cream
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large saucepot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about five minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes.

Add the mushrooms and fry for another 5 minutes, then add the stock. Increase the heat and bring to the boil, before turning down to a low simmer.

Let it gently simmer until the mushrooms are soft, and blend using a stick blender until smooth. Stir the cream in and season well with salt and pepper.

The Brasserie by Philippe Mouchel: Bastille Day dinner

On Bastille Day last week, we joined Benisa for dinner at the brasserie by Philippe Mouchel. A four course set menu was being served in celebration of all things French (or so the promotional email stated!). When we arrived, the first thing we saw was a guy in a beret playing the accordion. Is an accordion particularly French? I don’t know! It was kind of funny though and fortunately he was pretty good (insert disparaging accordion joke here), since he played the entire evening.

Bastille Day dinner

The first course were snails wrapped in cabbage, on top of a poached liquorice bouillon. The snails were diced and mixed with finely cut vegetables inside the cabbage leaf. I think that even people who would normally have issues with snails would have no problems with this dish. I couldn’t really taste the liquorice in the bouillon, but the broth was very nice and worked well with the sweetness of the cabbage. The snail meat reminded me of the texture of paua/abalone – which wikipedia says is a sea snail. That would explain the similarity!

Bastille Day dinner

For the second course we received sautéed scallops with couscous and vegetables and Argan oil vinaigrette. Look at those scallops – they were lovely, perfectly cooked and flavoured with ginger and chives. A small amount of cous cous and a couple of little vegetables were on the plate, but the scallops were really the star.

Bastille Day dinner

Next course was a slow-braised wagyu ox cheek with carrots and mashed potatoes. I’ve had a larger version of this dish before, when Alastair and I went to the brasserie for lunch a while back, and was happy to eat it again. The meat was very, very tender and braised in that dark, rich sauce. It was on the verge of being too salty, but when eaten with a bit of the smooth mashed potato it was fantastic.

Bastille Day dinner

Dessert was chocolate fondant with vanilla anglaise and pistachio ice cream. Hard to go wrong with chocolate fondant, especially when it was -

Bastille Day dinner

Mhmmm, gooey……

Bastille Day dinner

And finally some petit fours to finish off. Bro and I made everyone wait while we had a cup of tea (served in a very cute little teapot) and finished our petit fours. Yum.

Read about a previous visit to the brasserie here.

the brasserie by Philippe Mouchel
Riverside at Crown,
8 Whiteman Street,
Southbank
Phone: (03) 9292 7808

Crepes!

Crepes!
Last weekend’s breakfast – banana crepes with maple syrup

We’ve stopped eating out as much this year, particularly for brunch. Last year we would have brunch at a cafe almost every weekend, while this year we have been very good and have cut it down to once or twice a month.

During the weekend I try and make something more interesting than toast or cereal, and one thing I’ve been making a lot recently is crepes. I love that they’re pretty quick to prepare and cook.

Crepes!

I use this basic crepe recipe from taste.com.au and if I make savoury crepes (ham and cheese!) I just leave out the sugar. The recipe is supposed to make twelve crepes, but the most I’ve ever managed to get out of a batch is six. I obviously need to practice my crepe making technique to get them thinner, but otherwise I’m pretty happy with them!

Soup Sunday: Spicy lentil, potato and spinach

Spicy lentil, potato and spinach soup

Gak! I’m being slack with posting Soup Sundays. After this one I still have two to post – plus I’m sure I’ll have a new one this Sunday. Better get on to it!

Spicy lentil, potato and spinach soup

This soup was made on one of those freezing cold evenings we’ve been having lately. I say this every year around this time – I can’t wait until summer!

On this particular evening I felt like something spicy, filling, and it had to be vegetarian because I didn’t have any meat around. Lentil soup seemed to fit the bill, and because I wanted something fairly quick to make I opted for red lentils.

Spicy lentil, potato and spinach soup

It was another one of my “throw stuff in a pot” soups. In a dry pan, I gently toasted a teaspoon each of ground cumin, ground coriander, ground turmeric, chilli powder and cumin seeds for a few minutes until all nice and aromatic. Into a pot with a splash of oil went a diced onion, a couple of diced carrots and a couple of diced celery sticks. To that I added a cup of rinsed red lentils, a 400g can of tomatoes, a couple of peeled and diced potatoes and enough water to just cover everything. It simmered for 20 minutes and then I added four cubes of defrosted frozen spinach and seasoned it with salt and pepper and let it cook for another 5 minutes.

It wasn’t bad for about 30 minutes worth of work and helped warm me up a little. I still can’t wait until summer though!

Red velvet cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes

My workmate / almost twin Jennie has organised a cupcake bake off in August to raise money for the RSPCA as part of their cupcake day. A bake off? Naturally I’m participating! However, I’m not very good at doing decorative, fiddly things, so I thought I’d better get some practice in beforehand.

And when I found out that another one of my workmates had her birthday on Monday and was going into work even though she wanted to take the day off, it was the perfect opportunity for cupcake practice.

I decided to make red velvet cupcakes. I’ve never eaten one before, but I love the name and I’ve seen plenty of photos and loved the distinctive red colour. Well, do you know how red velvet cupcakes become red? Originally the colour was due to unprocessed cocoa having a chemical reaction with buttermilk. Nowadays though, it’s mostly due to red food colouring…. and a shitload of food colouring at that.

In fact, the recipe asked for so much food colouring (2 oz or 1/4 cup !) that it kind of scared me. I couldn’t bear to put the full amount in and only used half the amount, topping it up with water. Even that seemed like a lot and my batter was still very vibrantly red. It was so red that it coloured all the tips of my fingers and I struggled to stop it staining everything in the kitchen.

I had intended to bake something else after I had put the cupcakes in the oven, but after struggling with the bright red batter, I ran out of steam and had to sit down!

After the cupcakes came out of the oven (and I had rested) I turned to the cream cheese icing. The icing is normally white, but the recipe called for butter…. which naturally turned the icing yellow (Update: thanks to Maria and Rilsta who suggested that beating the butter for longer would help make the icing whiter!). I had to hurriedly pipe it on top of the cupcakes, because the light was fading fast and I wanted to take photos. I admit that my piping skills need practice, but the pressure did not help.

But the positives? Well… they could possibly be the best cupcakes I’ve ever eaten (admittedly I’m not a big cupcake eater). They’re not too rich, or too sweet, and have a really nice crumb. I also loved the cream cheese icing, even though it was the wrong colour! They went down rather well at work.

I would definitely make these again but next time I think I’ll leave out the food colouring. I don’t mind a small amount of colouring, but that seemed a bit much!

Red Velvet Cupcakes


Red Velvet cupcakes

The recipe below is from recipezaar.com but I have adapted some of the measures to metric and cut down the amount of food colouring.

2 & 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
115 grams unsalted butter, softened
1 & 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/8 cup red food colouring + 1/8 cup water
1/4 cup water
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

Cream cheese icing
225g cream cheese, softened
115 grams unsalted butter, softened
1 & 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease 24 cupcake cups or line with paper liners.
Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until combined.
In a separate bowl, combine the cocoa, food colouring and water to make a paste. Add to the butter mixture.
Sift the flour and salt into the butter mixture. Mix until just combined.
One at a time, add the following ingredients and mix until just combined: buttermilk, vanilla, and water.
In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and the baking soda. Fold this into the cake batter, making sure it’s well incorporated.
Spoon the batter into the cupcake cups. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until they spring back when touched.
Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes, then turn out of pan and onto a rack to finish cooling completely.

Cream cheese icing:
Blend together the softened cream cheese and butter until smooth. Then add the icing sugar and vanilla extract and blend until combined. Pipe on top of the cooled cupcakes.

Soup Sunday: Beef and black bean chili

Beef & black bean chili

So this is technically not a soup – it’s a stew – but I figured that soup and stew are so similar that it could still count for Soup Sunday.

I was actually looking to buy puy lentils when I came across dried black beans. They don’t seem to be very common here (I could be wrong but it was the first time I’d seen them) so I left the lentils behind and picked up a bag of black beans instead. I knew immediately what I wanted to make with them – chili!

Now apparently chili purists have a saying – “If you know beans about chili, you know chili ain’t got no beans.” So my chili is in no way authentic, but it was super tasty! The beans are so hearty and rich that it would be a shame to leave them out.

Beef & black bean chili


Beef and black bean chili


Makes a massive pot

500g dried black beans, soaked overnight
900g beef shin
6 tablespoons flour
4 teaspoons cayenne pepper (use less if you don’t like things too spicy!)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons chilli powder
Olive oil
4 carrots, peeled and diced
3 celery sticks, diced
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced into chunks
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
800g canned tomatoes
Salt + pepper + sugar if necessary
Juice of a lemon/lime

Drain and rinse the black beans. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine the flour, cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander and chilli powder. Toss the meat in the flour mixture to cover. Heat a splash of oil in a frying pan over medium heat and fry the meat in batches until brown. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

In a large pot, heat another splash of oil on medium heat, and add the onions. Cook for a few minutes until soft. Add the carrots and celery and cook for five minutes. Add the garlic and any left over flour mixture and cook for another minute.

Cut the beef into 2cm chunks and add to the vegetable mixture. Add the drained black beans, the canned tomatoes (crush them if you’re using whole ones), and enough water to cover.

Let it come up to the boil, and then turn down to a simmer. Cook until beans are soft, stirring occasionally, this will probably take an hour or two (I did it in my magic pot so I don’t know exactly how long).

When the beans are soft, season to taste with salt and pepper (and a teaspoon or so of sugar if necessary). Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon/lime juice.

Serve with sour cream and japalenos. I like to have a bit of crunchy salad with mine so I topped it with shredded cabbage and lettuce.