Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Recipe reviews, chasing lyrebirds and more octopus cakes

I've come down with the flu. I spent the day reading and sleeping (mostly sleeping) and now it's 2am and I'm wide awake. Needless to say I'm now regretting not getting my flu vaccination this year - I'd forgotten how horrid it is! So I thought I'd share some adventures I've had in the kitchen the past week.

Edit: Oops in a haze of flu, I forgot to add the bit about lyrebirds... see below!

Recipe review #1: Beer baked beans

I finally gave the Stove-top sweet and spicy beer baked beans a go (as mentioned in a previous post). After making the recipe exactly as it said, I found it was far too sweet. I ended up adding 500 g chopped tomatoes to the pot as well to make it less sweet. I'd probably halve the amount of sugar and add a 400 g tin of tomatoes in future. I could not find navy beans, but great northern beans were the best substitution (they're virtually the same size and shape anyway). And I decided on Coopers, a nice strong beer taste. I've been taking it to work and getting some envious looks in the lunch room.

Recipe review #2: Maggie and Simon's mushroom and leek calzone

Calzone are delicious. Often I'll make up a batch of 6 for Gib and I to take to work during the week, or for a quick, filling meal after training. When I saw this recipe featured on the Cook and the Chef last week, I had to give it a go. Mushroom and leek a favourite food combination of mine, and I was intrigued to see how the non-pizza bread dough turned out. I made the dough in the food processor, and the dough was quicker and less messy to make than pizza dough is (which sped up the calzone making process substantially). I substituted the fontina for gouda. Oh boy, it was delicious. I'll definitely be making this one again.

Sarah's octopus cake
Friday night I helped my friend Sarah bake a blue ring octopus cake for her friend who she goes scuba diving with every weekend. Sarah doesn't bake very often and we were a little pressed for time having to do it all in the one evening (usually I make my cakes in advance) so we decided to go with the classic packet chocolate cake and ice with butter cream icing. We discovered that Betty Crocker's chocolate cakes only make 8 cups, and the octopus cake is a 10 cup tin. The cake mix just filled the legs but not the base of the tin. It still worked out fine. The blue rings are made from candy necklaces and the eyes and beak (Sarah, like me, clearly also has an appreciation for anatomical correctness, even in cakes) are made from mini licorice all sorts. Congratulations to Sarah for her first ever character cake!

Chasing lyrebirds

I took the day off last Thursday to hang out with Gib to coordinate with his work hours, and I worked Saturday. We took a picnic lunch and headed for the Dandenongs. From Grant's picnic ground in Kalista we took the eastern loop (about 7km) and on the way spotted four lyrebirds! The first was a female just scurrying across the path and scratching about. We heard lyrebirds the whole way around though. We started picking their calls by thinking "Gee, that kookaburra sounds a little close to the ground" and then "Hmm.. that bell bird sounds a little flat, don't you think?". About half way around the track we spotted two males hanging out together (brothers?), practicing and strutting their stuff. Then another male came along and started up this massive repertoire, much more impressive (better mimicry). The three of them proceeded to have a bit of a sing off until the two boys scurried away. This is a poor quality video I took with my camera, but I took it for the sound. You can hear the more impressive male and see the other two scratching, strutting about and then finally scurrying away. The only bird you can hear on the video is the lyrebird, but my favourite is when he does the kookaburra. Exciting stuff. Lyrebirds can be very hard to spot so we were extremely fortunate to see not one but four of them!


katiecrackernuts said...

MMM, yummm. The calzone looks great, but you're far more adventurous than I. There's a market stall where I live that makes great calzone and I have one of theirs whenever I see it. They do spinach, cheese, nuts, mushrooms .... all in one. Yummmo.

kt mac said...

ooh I've always wanted to try making calzones!Looks so yummy that I may just have to try this recipe.

Also good to see you are getting lots of use out of the octopus tin :)what a great cake. i love the little lollies with holes as suckers :)

Also when do we get to see the apron you made for the swap? :)

Hoppo Bumpo said...

What delicious looking recipes. I especially like the look of the beans ... always on the lookout for the perfect homemade baked bean recipe.

The cake is a masterpiece. Its good to hear a bit of info on how many cups a packet mix makes up! I like the idea of using a packet mix for my Nordicware tin; anything for the shortcut!! (I think there is some formula for determining cups from the ingredient measures, but I'm yet to find it.)

How beautiful would it have been to see lyrebirds. They are one of my favourites - I love their pretty faces. And its a bonus that you hear twenty birds for the price of one!

cindy said...

That is the coolest cake ever and a first attempt - She should be proud.

Sas said...

Thanks for the nice comments on the cake :) Beth helped me a lot to make it though!

katiecrackernuts said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog. The banana cake recipe is from one of those old preschool books where everyone contributes a recipe and they're all typed up and bound together. It's a good one.

keredren said...

I wasn't going to warn you ... but I think I must. I am your partner for the fall sassay apron swap. I sent it off at the beginning of last week from the US, so I'm not sure how long it will take to get there. So this is what to expect ... and extremely U.G.L.Y. potholder - I'm no good at them and I can't believe I sent it to you. At least you maybe can use it without caring if it gets dirty. 2nd thing to expect ....a teeny box. I asked my husband to bring a box from work, he brought a small one and insisted everything would fit in it. We had to wrap it tight with tape so the contents would not explode out of it. So everything will be squeeshed and wrinkled ... you can expect that, too. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy it. Don't go to my blog if you want to be surprised.