Food! Lists! Crossing food off lists!
(but no buckets)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Whole lotta hubris goin' on

That, friends, is Alex's First Sponge. The hubris comes from the fact that, well, it wasn't hard. I'm sure my next one will rise more, but I'm quite happy with this one. I forgot to measure it before I split and filled it (with cream and Kate's aunt's "qunicalade"), but I'm claiming a height around 45mm.

It looks a little funny around the sides because I was initially putting cream around the sides as well as on top, and then I realised that might be a leedle bit too much. Clutterpunk's oven having done some... interesting... things over the last week, we're not having pizza tonight, so it will be takeaway of some sort. Some filling sort. Hopefully we'll leave room to sample Alex's First Sponge. Hopefully it will be worth it...

Recipe: "Jackie's mum's sponge", from Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion.

A cross-section. Turns out that even with quantities of Thai food, we were still able to polish off a fair chunk of the sponge, which was indeed quite spongey.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I have crossed two more things off my list in the last little while, which just goes to show that having a list is actually the way to make me do things. There are no pictures, however, because one of them was too ugly for a picture and the other just wasn't very photogenic.

Firstly, I made puff pastry. Tragically this means that I now know how much butter goes into such pastry. (Answer: the same amount as flour.) My motivation in making it was my beloved promising some workmates that he would make them Beef Wellington. This dish is basically his signature dish, and he's working on fine-tuning it. I made a fairly large amount of pastry because he wanted to trial the Wellington on just the two of us before unleashing it on people he actually wanted to impress - and who was I to complain?? I froze the rest of the pastry, and thawed it out in the frig overnight before the Real Thing, and it worked a treat. It was so short! I was very pleased with myself, and didn't require nearly as much effort as I had expected.

The other thing I have made is ravioli, using a trusty recipe from the Women's Weekly Italian Cooking Class recipe book. I did however halve the recipe, which may have been the start of where things went a little pear-shaped. I used a different filling too - theirs was just too fiddly; I went for fetta and spinach instead. Anyway, making the pastry for the ravioli was ok, and again not as fiddly as I had expected; but I don't think I divided it into two equal halves, and I know I didn't roll them out as well as I might have. As a consequence I struggled a bit to make 'proper'-looking parcels, and in fact had to apply emergency bits of pastry so that they wouldn't disintegrate in the water while cooking. I was fairly disappointed in their appearance - oh, and I made them too big, too, which didn't help. They actually tasted all right, though, which was a relief. I think I will probably make them again, and this time I'll just make the correct-sized recipe; they can be frozen, I'm sure, after cooking.

Monday, August 9, 2010

How'dya like THEM apples - er, macaroons?

The first time I made macaroons, they kind of looked like fried eggs: they spread at the base, and went crispy, with a bit of 'proper' macaroon in the middle. It was a problem with the oven temperature. This time, I made a few changes. Firstly, I bought a new piping bag, which is easier to use than the cheapo plastic one I had. Secondly, and I don't know how much this helped, but I sifted the whole lot - about 400g worth of almond meal, icing sugar, and cocoa - three times!! This was a suggestion from Mel, who I believe stole it from Masterchef. Oh, and thirdly I allowed my darling to pipe them for me; I actually had little choice, he just started doing it after helping me to fill the bag.

I realised halfway through the cooking that I had made the same mistake, temperature-wise, as last time - because I didn't realise I made this mistake last time. The recipe says to cook for 10-12 minutes, and after 5 minutes turn the temperature down. I read that as cook for 10-12 minutes, and then cook for another 5 minutes at the lower temp. Ah well. I adjusted the temp for the last couple of minutes, so these aren't a complete disaster. A bit less chewy than might be ideal, but still awfully moreish.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Middle Eastern Tiramisu

I'm not a huge tiramisu fan, but that's mostly because I am anti-coffee. La Clutterpunk, however, is an extreme devotee. We have a standing date for Sunday nights, to which Mel has recently been granted admittance, and it was Clutterpunk's birthday last Saturday, which was the excuse for my Syrian French toast. She announced that she was delegating dessert responsibility for Sunday night to my shoulders, then bounced a few ideas around about what she might like, mentioning tiramisu. I knew I had a Middle Eastern variation in my Moroccan book, and when I looked it up I realised it wasn't nearly as hard as I had expected. And, of course, that you can make half of it with chocolate rather than coffee. So that's what I did.
What makes it Middle Eastern? The creamy bit is made with marscapone. It has orange blossom water in it; it was meant to have brandy, sherry, and Marsala, but I used sherry and Grand Marnier instead. The syrup which went over the top was meant to be pistachios, but I used toasted almonds instead and I think they worked out just fine. And when I say syrup, I mean that I made a sugar syrup, added the almonds, and all of a sudden I had praline.

I'm very pleased to have finally discovered tiramisu. This may become a signature dish for me as I experiment with different alcohols, etc. One idea I had yesterday: paint the sponge biscuits with melted chocolate, wait for it to set, and then dip them in the marinade. I wonder if that would work? Anyone want to invite me over for dinner so I can try?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Syrian French toast

Where: Gingerlee, Lygon St
What: Syrian-style French toast, with orange blossom syrup, honey labne, stewed rhubarb and pistachios.
Why: who needs a reason?? In this case, though, it happened to be a dear friend's birthday, and we stole her away from her family for brunch.

Mel and I both chose the Syrian-style French toast. In the top photo you can see part of what the other two chose - they were in a savoury mood, and so went with poached eggs, avocado, field mushrooms and Persian fetta. I mean, yes, awesome choice, but... against THIS??

This may win as one of my all-time favourite breakfasts ever. I am unconvinced that there is egg involved in the toast; it's too transparent, and more candied than eggy, I suspect because of the orange blossom syrup. The rhubarb is stewed perfectly, and its tartness cuts through what might otherwise be slightly cloying. The honey labne adds a delicious creamy note, and the pistachios - well, they're pistachios. Most meals are improved by pistachios.

In between gazing into the far distance in rapture over this meal, Mel and I decided that perhaps we need to investigate all of Melbourne's French toast opportunities. This was sparked by the birthday girl's revelation that she is a savoury French toast person, which is... something that needs to be investigated.