Sunday, 28 February 2010

Doing the sweet and savoury swing

On the weekend I tried out this 'Capetown Fruit and Vegetable Curry' from my Sundays at Moosewood's cookbook. Given that the ingredients list included many sweet things like apricots, apricot conserve, apples, raisins and bananas, I was a bit concerned that it would be too sweet for my liking. A bit too extreme. But the vegetables and yoghurt dressing really balance it really well, and it does fall right into the middle of both sweet and savoury, without going too far either side. It was new and different for me, and I was impressed.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

A pickled rainbow

A small selection of our pickles in their Fowlers jars. I think they look gorgeous!

I'm really enjoying the simplicity and of pickling. It's very rewarding to just open a jar of preserved something (chutney, tomatoes, fruit, onions) that I have on hand, it tastes great, and greatly reduces my cooking times, or having to go down to the shops to buy whatever it is. Preserved fruit goes great for desserts, pickled eggplant or onions goes well for an appetiser, and the tomatoes have been really handy for whipping up simple pasta sauces. I love it.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Baby stuff

One of my buddies from undergrad had her first child back in late November. I had originally planned to make a blanket, and thought I had three weeks to spare... but then the little boy decided to come early. And my overlocker decided it didn't want to play nice. So no overlocker, no time... but thankfully my sister-in-law-to-be stepped in with this adorable bunting pattern:

I chose to make B which turned out to be exceptionally quick and easy and I made it in a couple of hours, and it was a hit with the new parents. I was tempted to make C, just so I could laugh at my friend's baby looking like a turd (it's supposed to be a carrot, but it looks more like a turd to me). I do think D is kind of cool, I might have a go at that in the future.

I also made these two little shoes for him as well. Quick and easy and cute and adorable. And well received.

... and isn't he a cutie?

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Taste Sensation: Nacho pizza!

We created the ultimate Taste Sensation at a friend's housewarming recently. The marriage of two delicious comfort foods: Nachos and Pizza!

The pizza dough was made from scratch, and the crust was stuffed with cheese. The base sauce was just plain old pizza sauce...

...topped with a single layer of corn chips...

Then a layer of cheese, salsa and jalepinos...

Baked for 15 minutes until golden and bubbly

And eaten with guacamole and sour cream!

For all of you non-believers out there who don't think that Nacho Pizza can work, you'll be surprised (as I was!) to know that it was a hit and there were demands throughout the night for more nacho pizzas to be made. Even from the people who hated the idea to begin with. The corn chips melded beautifully with the pizza base, but had enough crunch that it was still distinctly nachos. The sour cream and guacamole on top, with a sprinkling of spring onions, is a must. Go on, try it yourself!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Excited by aubergines!

I'm thrilled! A feature on eggplants in today's Epicure (The Age). I'm just making a note here so I know where to find it later. And to remind myself to make the recipes. That relish sounds fantastic. Yum...

Eggplant Bake: From The Age

Sunday, 21 February 2010

When baking and StarCraft meet...

It all started when a friend sent us this picture...

It turned out that there was some sort of awesome competition going on around the time of the StarCraft II Beta release, where you had to bake a StarCraft cake and the best one won a product key. I was stunned at how many other baking and gaming nerds there were out there. Gib was so excited to make his own StarCraft cupcakes just for fun, so at our next StarCraft night we brought surprise cupcakes, icing and lollies to decorate. Here are the results:

Friday, 19 February 2010

Gaming Pants go international

One of Gib's best high school buddies left for Canada last year with his awesome Canadian girlfriend (and they are now engaged too... look what we started!), but while they were still here we used to regularly catch up to play Star Craft and other games. So before they left, as their bon voyage present from us, we awarded them both their gaming pants, for their tremendous gaming efforts.

Gib's friend in Canada, boldly and confidently displaying his gaming pants

We also awarded Gib's cousin, a long-term dedicated gamer around these parts, with a pair of blue pirate print gamer pants, complete with skull and cross bone patch on the pockets. Gib's cousin, however has been a little less bold in his pant wearing, ever since driving home one night at 3am after a good Diablo session with Gib. A policeman pulled him over, breath tested him and asked him to explain what all of the computer equipment was in the back of his car. He explained that he'd been playing computer games at his cousin's house.
"Do you always go to your cousin's house wearing your pyjamas?"
"Umm... well, they're not actually pyjamas. My cousin's girlfriend made them for me. They're gaming pants."
At which point the officer looked him up and down, burst out laughing at him, and sent Gib's mortified cousin on his way.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Engagement Party

Our engagement party: a beautiful day, shared with beautiful people, eating delicious food and vegging out. I can't think of a better way to celebrate!

It has been almost a month since Gib and I celebrated our engagement with family and friends. It was the perfect day: Fine, sunny, 26 degrees. We were out in one of our favourite parks, and everyone was either vegging out in the shade or playing cricket or frisbee or whatever took their fancy. So often at birthdays/engagements/weddings the kids get bored (I do too!) so I delighted that the weather was nice and everyone could do whatever they felt like.

However, leading up to the party, I decided I wanted to wear a pretty dress. At the end of a long day of no-luck-shopping for a dress and feeling kind of desperate, I popped into Lincraft and actually found - quite to my surprise - a fabric that I liked (for a number of years now I have hated Lincraft's range of fabrics, but they are my closest fabric shop, so I was truly impressed!). And then there was a sale on patterns. And then I found a pattern that I liked and it had my favourite word: EASY. It was New Look pattern #6557, and I made D, the yellow one. It was indeed easy to follow, and I even learned how easy it was to insert an invisible zip. I love how it tells you how to adjust the pattern to fit your measurements. I would happily make this dress again. Including the pattern, it came to a total of $50 exactly to make.

Here is an action shot of me in the Engagement Dress, while playing tug of war (Beth vs. Gib). Except the rope broke. I think there will have to be a rematch at the wedding...

My absolutely wonderful cousin, Louise, did an AMAZING job at catering all of the sweets, which you can see wrapped in clingwrap next to the cake, below. Every year she makes the most spectacular Christmas treat hampers, so I asked her if she could do the catering for our party. She went over and above the call of duty on this one, and made biscotti, mini cheese cakes, shortbreads, lady's fingers, mars bar slice, meringues, lemon tarts (ohmygoshamazing), lemon slice...!!

I made our engagement cake. I am so sick to death of chocolate cake, everyone has chocolate cake (apologies to any chocolate cake lovers out there), so I decided to make a carrot cake. You can see Gib in the background threatening to cut the cake with his bare hands.

Recipe for Carrot Cake

And before I forget, here is the recipe I use for Carrot Cake. Taken from my absolute favourite cake book: Family Circle's 'Making Beautiful Cakes' (p. 12). This recipe is brilliant, so smooth, and it smells and tastes fantastic.

150 g self raising flour
150 g plain flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200 ml vegetable oil
230 g brown sugar
4 eggs
125 ml golden syrup
500 g grated carrot
60 g chopped walnuts

- Preheat oven to 160C fan forced.
- Line the base and sides of a 10" tin with baking paper, including 2" collar around the top (although I used a star shaped baking tin!)
- Sift together the flours, spices, and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl. Form a well in the centre.
- Whisk together the oil, sugar, eggs and syrup. Gradually pour into the well, stirring into the dry ingredients until smooth.
- Stir in the carrot and nuts. Spoon into the tins until 2/3 to 3/4 full, giving preference to the cake to be used on the day.
- Bake for 1 1/4 hours. Allow to cool completely before turning out onto a wire rack.
- Wrap in a layer of cling wrap, baking paper and foil and place in the freezer.

A photo of my dad, ever the practical joker, making his speech

And finally, a picture of me, my handsome Gib and Gib's Grandma

Unfortunately, my grandmother (dad's mum) was unable to make it to the party. As we were packing up the party, my aunt came and told me that Nan had just been transferred to the Austin. She passed away the next day, but we were fortunate enough to spend the evening with her, and the next morning as well. Dad stayed with her overnight. She was 89 and her body had finally worn out; thankfully she wasn't sick for long.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Preserving the moment

I was so relieved and excited to discover that another friend of ours (incidentally, the one I made sausages with) is also into pickling and preserving. I was also pleased to read this article in Epicure (The Age) this week that showed that it's not just us (excluding people >60 or in the CWA) that are doing it either.

And this is only a small sample of our preserving efforts.

We made:
  • Preserved lemon (both sweet and salty)
  • Preserved orange (sweet)
  • Preserved tomatoes
  • Tomato relish
  • Pickled onions
  • Mango chutney
  • Pickled cabbage
  • Pickled chilis and peppers
  • Preserved tomatoes with garlic and basil

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Getting a bit carried away

Ok, so this morning I was awake at 6am. I hadn't slept well... I was too excited about making chutneys and relishes. The colours, the flavours, the textures, the simplicty... the whole chuck-a-bunch-of-fruit-and-veg-in-a-pot-with-vinegar-sugar-and-spices-and-see-how-you-go. I love it.

So anyway, I'd planned originally just to make some caramelised red onion relish and orange curd. My list kind of grew to also include cranberry relish, date chutney and spicy carrot chutney. Oops! Before I forget what I did or throw out what I wrote, here's my recipes.


For this one I looked at a variety of recipes for inspiration, and then to the fridge/freezer for inspiration, and kind of made it up from there.

1 large onion, diced
250 g frozen cranberries, thawed
1 granny smith apple, diced
1 stick celery
75 g chopped dried apricots
175 g brown sugar
1/2 tsp curry powder
2 shakes ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
120 g sultanas
1 cup water
  1. In a dutch oven, gently saute the onion in a bit of oil for 4-5 mins until softened. Add spices to the pot, cook for another minute.
  2. Add all other ingredients, bring to the boil and then simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Take off heat, and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes to allow the mixture to thicken.
  4. Transfer to sterilised jars, process for 20 mins in a water bath.


I based this one on this recipe. I think this is my favourite one of the day. The texture and taste was just perfect. Can't wait to try it in a few weeks after it's matured a bit.

1.5 cups dried prunes
1.5 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 sml onion, minced
1 tomato, chopped
2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
cayenne pepper to taste
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
  1. In a container, combine the prunes and water. Allow to soak and plump up while other ingredients are being prepared.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil, add the onion and cook over moderately high heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato and cook until slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Add the mustard seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg and crushed red pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Stir in the prunes and their liquid, the vinegar, brown sugar and salt and simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until jamlike, about 20 minutes.
  4. Transfer to sterilised jars, process for 20 mins in a water bath.

And finally, for the carrot chutney, I actually followed a recipe exactly (for a change). Check it out here. I made double quantity because we had a lot of carrots to be used up ASAP.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Red Onion Relish and Orange curd

Gib is working tomorrow morning, so I think I'll get stuck into the kitchen and do some preserving. I have made red onion relish before, but I think I'd like to try a new version. I'm typing it up here so I can go straight here without having to remember where I put my written out version, which I always lose.

Caramelised Red Onion Relish

3-4 tbsp olive oil
12 red onions, sliced in the food processor
5-6 cloves garlic, crushed
330 ml white vinegar
330 ml apple cider vinegar
330 ml red wine vinegar (or even just red wine is fine)
3-4 cups brown sugar
2-3 bay leaves
~20 crushed black peppercorns
Grated zest of 3 oranges

Heat the oil a large, heavy based pan. Add onions, cook until starting to soften a little. Add garlic, cook for a further 1-2 mins.

Add brown sugar, cook 1-2 mins, then pour in the vinegars, bay leaves, pepper corns and orange zest. Bring mixture to the boil, then reduce to low heat for about 2 hours until well caramelised.

Transfer mixture to small, sterilised 250 ml jars, until mixture reaches 1cm from the top of the rim. Boil in a water bath for 15-20 mins

I have a habit of getting oranges for the orange zest, but never knowing what to do with the rest of the orange (apart from just eating it). Well this time I'm prepared: I'm going to make...!

Orange curd

  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 170g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 2 tsp finely grated orange rind
  • 185ml (3/4 cup) fresh orange juice
  • 125g butter, chilled, cubed
Lightly whisk the eggs in a medium saucepan until pale. Add the orange zest and juice, caster sugar and butter. Place the saucepan over medium heat and whisk the mixture continuously for about 7-8 minutes until thickened. It will continue to thicken upon resting.

Can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Ok. We'll see how it goes tomorrow. Can't wait!

Edit: I think I'll use only 2 cups of sugar in the red onion relish next time! (18/2/10)

Vegetarian sausage-fest

Last weekend I got together with some friends for a sausage making day. The meat eaters made real sausage with real intestines, while the vegetarians banded together to make some gluten free vegetarian sausages (we had some celiacs present). In fact, they go beyond vegetarian: they are vegan. Vegetarian sausages are stupidly expensive, and also impossible to buy gluten free as often the main ingredient is gluten flour, so I was keen to learn how to make them myself. I followed this recipe and instructional video, and went from there for the first one. And for the second variety I based my ingredients on this list. We tried steaming in both aluminium foil and cling wrap, however the aluminium foil gave much better results (they stayed the shape they were supposed to).

Spicy vegetarian sausage

250 g dry soy meat/TVP, purchased from my local asian grocer
1 - 1 1/2 cups chickpea flour, depending on how wet the mixture is
3 tbsp vegetable stock
1 whole onion, minced
2 tbsp fennel seed
2 tsp coarsely ground pepper, preferably freshly ground
2 tbsp ground paprika
1 tsp dried chili flakes (I'd add more of this in future)
3 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground allspice
8 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp salt

  1. Cook the soy meat in about 750 ml water until all the water is absorbed. Drain off any excess water.
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Add more chickpea flour as required until it is a thick mixture.
  3. Scoop out mixture and make little logs to desired thickness. Place onto aluminium foil and roll up, twisting the ends. Steam for 30 mins. Allow to cool.
Your sausages can now be placed on the BBQ, in the fridge or in the freezer until you're ready to eat them.

Makes 8 fat sausages, or 12-14 smaller sausages.

Freshly steamed spicy vegetarian sausages, waiting to be BBQed!

Black bean and corn sausages

1 onion, minced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
3-4 tbsp vegetable stock
1 tablespoon Vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups cooked black beans
3 teaspoons Salt
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp oregano
2 tbsp paprika
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 medium green capsicum
1 small carrot peeled, minced
1 tub (125 g) silken tofu (probably firm tofu is better to use, in hindsight!)
400 g can corn kernels, drained
1 1/2 cups chickpea, corn or rice flour
1/2 bunch fresh coriander (optional)
  1. Mince the onions and garlic, beans, carrot, green capsicum and tofu. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Transfer to a large bowl. Mix through spices. Add whole corn kernels. Add enough flour so it all binds together to a sticky but relatively firm mixture.
  3. Scoop out mixture and make little logs to desired thickness. Place onto aluminium foil and roll up, twisting the ends. Steam for 30 mins. Allow to cool.
  4. To serve, remove plastic and cut on the bias into 1/2-inch- thick slices.
Makes 8 fat sausages, or 12-14 smaller sausages.