Tag Archives: cookbook

Walking on a cake dream

Let’s face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me.
~ Audrey Hepburn

The cake aliens have arrived with one mission: to turn me into Planet Cake. Will I retaliate, escape my fate, and live to tell the tale? We shall see…

Right now, I have three kinds of cake in my kitchen – (1) fountain mini no-bake cheesecakes in the fridge, (2) Smitten Kitchen’s strawberry summer cake, and (3) Ottolenghi’s chocolate fudge cake (currently at stage two in the oven).

This is the fountain cheesecake, so named due to its consistency. I made it without a recipe, just for fun, from due-to-expire cream cheese, sour cream and cream in the fridge. I added honey and an egg to the cheese mix, poured it on an impromptu base of biscuits and melted butter, and topped it all with Hakanoa ginger syrup and a slice of green kiwifruit. Not bad taste-wise, according to my sweet flatmate, but the texture needs some work!

We’re having a bake off at work tomorrow, and from serving as Guest Judge at previous bake offs, I know I’ll be up against formidable competition. So I turned to a blog that has often inspired me – Smitten Kitchen.

I haven’t tried this cake, but I can tell you that it is a minimum-fuss, sweet-smelling cake involving pretty fruit… also, when it is a Smitten Kitchen recipe – you don’t have much to worry about :-)

I did use less sugar than what the recipe stated though. One cup looked like a bit much!

And now, chocolate fudge cake. This is a birthday gift for E, a person whom I am so grateful exists. E is truly herself, bold, bearer of truth and love… I respect her as much as I love her.

Among my favourite memories is the one where we dressed up as cows and went to a party when we were in uni… you know, even if you find a person who is willing to do this with you (and I promise you I haven’t met many such courageous folk) – not everyone makes the experience gigglingly fun.

Now she is wife to a great man and mother to a baby who actually, miraculously, awakens my mostly dormant maternal instincts… I use the word “miraculously” because most babies do not manage to do this.

This cake is a twice baked, dark chocolate cake (I used both 50% and 72% cocoa content Whittaker’s chocolate) which is decadent in every way – rich, deep, extravagant and sweet, the way E has been to me.

And of course the recipe is from Ottolenghi – The Cookbook (page 196). I made two modifications to the recipe: (1) having no light muscovado sugar, I mixed dark muscovado and caster sugar, and (2) I had to set up an impromptu bain-marie to melt the butter/choc which I should have cut into “small pieces” as listed in the recipe.

I don’t have a picture of the final cake as it’s still baking in the oven… but it will be dusted with cocoa tomorrow, and I will try to take a picture then. Just for you.

P.S. Beware of the cake aliens. They don’t like being told to go away.

In other (non-cake) news:

    NZ bloggers who are attending the inaugural NZ Food Bloggers’ Conference this weekend – I hope you have a SUPER time and wish I could join you! I’ll look forward to reading all about it.
    Auckland readers – eat well and do good this Saturday – see Garden to Table. A portion of the $ will go towards supporting programmes in NZ primary schools to teach children to grow, harvest, prepare and share food through gardening and cooking.
    “It’s more expensive but your budget is tight, you believe in supporting sustainable products but what does that ‘Go Green’ sticker actually mean?” – from ‘Greenwashing’: consumers beware. Interesting read, and one that begs more thought… does sustainability matter to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts/point of view.

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Thank goodness for hungry boys

A full belly makes a dull brain.
~ Benjamin Franklin

I met Annisha in my first few weeks at university, and somehow we stayed friends despite our awkward first conversation in class (I was shy and not so good at reading faces; she was having a “don’t talk to me!” day). 6 years later, I am sooooo glad we can roll off the couch in laughter, cook together in the kitchen, attempt singing French songs while in our pyjamas… you know those people with whom you can sit at a bus stop waiting for a late bus, and have fun the whole time? She is like that for me.

Wellington was blessed with warm sunny skies today and we made the most of it! We had coffee with Haidee at Espressoholic, then spent the afternoon strolling past the buskers on colourful Cuba Street, eating a late lunch, traipsing in and out of shops…… ahh, perfect! No urge to buy much however, except a very CUTE secondhand book “Accommodating Brocolli in the Cemetery – or why can’t anybody spell?” by Vivian Cook :-) On the back of this book is printed: “It is a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word.” (US President Andrew Jackson). Ahhhh, language, words, English, I love you, even though you are one of the craziest languages in the world.

Passed this cute wall and window by Swonderful (a funky Wellington shop) and couldn’t resist snapping a photo of it:

Nish and I made dinner tonight for 3 boys (2 of them my flatties) and ourselves.

The cookbook project continues… from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
#26 Greek-Cypriot Salad – Page 188
#27 Moist Chocolate Cake – Page 374

From the talented cook Nish:
Baked chicken with lemon, chilli and herbs
Potatoes

Salad: ‘generous’ is the way I would describe it – feta, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, oregano, onion, garlic, red wine and vinegar (the recipe had called for red wine vinegar which I didn’t have… oops)… for some reason I could imagine a large Greek family huddled around a table eating this.

Chicken: wonderful, fresh and flavourful with the lemon and chilli, browned and just yummy.

Potatoes: always the perfect complement to food, spuds. These were salted and herbed… heartiness.

Cake: butter, sugar, eggs, chocolate, flour, rum (used in place of brandy, which the recipe called for)… and a thickened sugar syrup poured on the top of it when it was cooled, to moisten it. I found this ok, but certainly not the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had ;-)

Sure glad the boys were here to help eat everything. Nish and I were way full from our 3pm lunch and could hardly stomach our food – and the glorious 3 boys sat eating, even saying the food was delicious, while it all disappeared into their skinny selves.

I’m typing this in the dark, while watching cricket

After eating chocolate you feel godlike, as though you can conquer enemies, lead armies, entice lovers.
~ Emily Luchetti

At this hour, I can’t remember why I am doing a cook-through-a-cookbook project and worse, blogging about it now, at midnight when the lights are off and I am touch-typing while John and Jono are sensibly sleeping and Matt is sleepily watching cricket here.

On account of my current sleepy brain, swiftly curtaining eyelids and strange inclination to blog anyway, I can’t come up with a smart sassy title or promise a coherent post.

Twas a busy day at work – and I was well ready to start cooking in the kitchen by the time I came home! I invited Jian & Nish round, and Char came too – so we bustled around in the kitchen and Jian helped me to take photos before we all sat ourselves down for dinner with my flatties and the things you talk and laugh about while eating fish, then chocolate. Tonight’s attempts from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:

#24 Triglie Al Pomodoro (Red Mullet with Tomatoes) – Page 312
#25 Baked Chocolate Puddings – Page 370

Made the puddings first. Dessert first is just a novel way to go about things… especially when there are chocolates and ramekins involved…

I still struggle to know when beaten egg whites have reached the stage of being “soft peaks”? Mine emerged frothier than my last bubble bath and as they folded in to the chocolate mixture like ugly rubble I was disheartened. Spooned the mix into ramekins anyway and popped them into the oven, toes and fingers crossed…

(Oh, and with no caster sugar at home, I used a little muscavado sugar and normal white sugar instead.)

40 minutes later, they emerged a little like chocolate-flavoured creme brulee, soft, mellow and slightly custardy within with a very slight crust on top. Sweet. A good conclusion to dinner. Nearly perfect… I think I would make these again.

(And yes, we were good kids and ate them after dinner)

Icing sugar carpets do make all things better too.

As for the fish, it ended up looking nothing like the picture, of course. I had to substitute red mullet (which New World had none of) for monkfish. And besides the capers, olives, tinned tomatoes and garlic the recipe called for, I added some sugar, basil, oregano, more salt & pepper – resulting in nicely flavoured monkfish with a good sauce that could coat pasta or bread nicely.

Dinner was served with pesto-ed pasta and a side salad of mesclun, spinach, orange + red capsicum, red onion, orange zest, orange cubes and kiwifruit slices.

Fun times… always so, with cooking and friends and sun streaming through the windows. And now it really is time for bed, since I am getting up early for a nice Saturday day-trip… good night!

Dinner for 10

If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony.
~ Fernand Point

At my friends’ wedding a few weeks ago, a few of us came up with the idea of having a dinner party sometime. And it happened tonight! In a way that these well-intentioned “we should do…” discussions often never lead to. :-)

Thank God for the power of words, and super friends.

We had an amazing dinner party tonight. 10 of us for dinner, 4 of us to cook (Tim, Matt, Claire, myself). Nice, modern, sleek apartment kitchen to cook in & lounge to dine in (thanks Tim!).

7 dishes were cooked and served, all from the cookbook – 1 repeat (gotta stop repeating the oven-baked fish) and 6 new attempts.

Oven-Baked Fish with Tomato & Parsley – Page 105 (repeat)
and
#18 Chicken, Coconut & Cashew Nut Curry – Page 352
#19 Rice with butter & lemon – Page 356
#20 Carrot Salad with Cardamom, Ginger & Lemon – Page 357
#21 Prawns with Lemon, Peri Peri, Garlic & Feta – Page 102
#22 Lachmajou – Page 159 (topping only, as I have made pitta before)
#23 Lemon Creme Brulee – Page 262

We all did bits and pieces of everything, but I admit I stayed FAR away from the creme brulee, because the recipe was just a little intimidating… so full credit for the wonderfulness of this goes to Tim and Claire (the only thing I dared to do was separate some eggs for the 16 egg yolks required). Matt made the fish tonight, and it looked better than the picture – I certainly did not manage this in my last two attempts of the recipe!

Getting rid of prawn excrement for around 1kg of prawns was probably the most tedious part of the entire cooking process for me. Above is a picture of a prawn sitting perched on the grater…

We decided on who would do what pretty quickly, and then it was a flurry of chopping, frying, whisking, etc…

So it all went well, and time went by fast but not too quickly. And there were moments of relaxation, spilling a few things on the cookbook, laughing, feeling tired… and eating of course. All things necessary for life.

I feel like I want to write so much, about the sound of my friends’ voices and laughter, the sunset outside the window, the way the pools of rainwater splashed the car windows from the ground as we drove through town today, my fear of making creme brulee, the way it felt crumbling feta between my fingers (onto the prawns), the nice focus this cookbook project brings, the way I feel like my friends support my madness of cooking through a book…

About the earthquake that’s happened in Haiti, about the world at large, about the way it makes me feel alive each time I drink plain water, about the seductive nature of cooking, about the great satisfaction I find in feeding people…

About art, psychology, womanhood, books, walking, nature, dreams, thoughts…

But it is getting quite late… and this post already looks so long.

I am gratified to have received a few comments, online and in-person, about this blog – and to see on the blog stats page that I have around 20 readers on average daily!

I was going to share my (slightly modified) version of Tessa’s prawns… but I think I might fall asleep here on my laptop, sitting on the ground – so better roll into bed…

Good night! And have a splendid Sunday.

PS. Re last post, the milk tart turned out OK. :-) Almost like Dan’s.

Milk Tart

Pleasure is the flower that passes; remembrance, the lasting perfume.
~ Jean de Boufflers

Back in 2006 when I was at uni, a talented baking boy, Dan, lived next door to me. He lived on copious amounts of jelly planes and white bread, and churned out all sorts of weird & wonderful in his kitchen – things like dessert dumplings, irresistible and always rather surprising.

One day, he made something really charming for one of our habitual neighbourly potluck dinner gatherings… “it’s milk tart,” he said. I still remember it. It bore a very slight resemblance to custard… only it was a hundred thousand times better.

My eyes saw a pie dish which contained what appeared to be a silky milk pudding dusted with sugar and cinnamon. What came to my mouth was an even better surprise – a bit of crumbly pastry and… a cluster of spiced sweet whispers which brought to mind: Babies’ milk. Comfort food. Sweetness. All things bright and heavenly. I think I might have floated off the couch in that moment… I can’t remember now. I told him how much I admired it; I must’ve made his ears fall off his face by the time I finished my ode to his milk tart.

One night a few weeks later, he came up to my flat and gave me a whole milk tart; just randomly, for fun. It’s one of the best gifts I’ve EVER received in my whole life. I’ll always remember it. (And yes, I did share it… What do you think I am, greedy?!)

I thought of him tonight while I attempted Tessa Kiros’ version of milk tart…

#17 Milk Tart – Page 252

So here we are, egg whites whisked, pastry made, cinnamon sprinkled. I made a silly mistake with including unnecessary sheets of baking paper in between the layers of my milk tart – it’s a little too tedious to elaborate on that now, but let’s just say I won’t be rushing through cooking without reading the recipe properly again!

Haven’t tasted it yet, still full from dinner and hideously tired from a long and busy day at work. Goodnight!

Cypriot Flat Dinner

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.
~ Julia Child

This evening saw the making of 2 Cypriot recipes from “Falling Cloudberries”:
#15 Pitta Bread – Page 183
#16 Sheftalia (Mince Meat Parcels) – Page 179

served with tomatoes, lemon wedges, tzatziki, and tomato-sauce-for-Jono.

Pretty tired right now, so I do not have much to write – but I saw and worked with yeast for the first time ever today in making the pitta bread, and it was fun. The feel of warm foamy yeast and flour running over my fingers was simply amazing. I think I understand why, in this day and age of relatively affordable commercial bread, some people never give up baking their own.

The beginnings of pitta bread dough

Pitta bread dough! All cute and puffy.

Watermelon juice (Matt made this)

Dinner is served – and, big yay for John, Jono & Matt who make dinner more fun.

Leg of lamb, and others

I tried to commit suicide by sticking my head in the oven, but there was a cake in it.
~ Lesley Boone

Today I set myself to play in the kitchen again to prepare dinner for 6 of us – it took around 2.5 hours including cooking time, but there were no complex procedures involved. And the obedient, intelligent oven did most of the work.

I do love ovens, they simplify life so.

Tonight I decided to do 1 new recipe from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries” (leg of lamb), 2 repeats of Tessa-recipes (fish and tzatziki), 1 impromptu salad, 1 impromptu potato dish. The new dish was:

#14 Leg of lamb with oregano & lemon – Page 111 (pictured below)

Bread & tzatziki not pictured here, but this was the main part of our dinner. The lamb was easy enough, marinaded simply with oregano, lemon juice, salt, pepper – browned quickly then baked for 2.5 hours with the potatoes for company – it emerged brown and victorious, but not soft as they make it in good restaurants in New Zealand where the meat is just falling off the bone like clouds in heaven. Hmmm! Will have to work on that one.

This simple salad consisted just of orange zest, orange cubes, watercress & lettuce leaves, cucumber slices. Served with balsamic cream and olive oil on the side. A good mix, I conclude, and an excellent side dish which won’t overpower your main – but I don’t think I’ll try eating watercress salad again (frightful). It reeked so much of ‘grass’ I felt like I was a cow.

These babies… red potatoes, peeled, cut, boiled for around 10 minutes, then dressed with a little olive oil, orange zest, rosemary, black pepper & salt. This tasted light and refreshing. I think it is a good side dish (especially for lamb/chicken) when you are out of ideas and need to make something quickly.

The ling fish fillet was most wonderful – white and innocent, a delight to prepare. This is what it looked like with parsley and a tiny drizzle of olive oil before the rest of the sauce went on it…

The fish was a repeat of the oven-baked tomato, celery & parsley-dressed fish I did not too long ago – except I had to reproduce it from memory, since I do not have my book with me here. I think it tasted better today!

    Recipe adapted from Tessa Kiros’ ‘Falling Cloudberries’:
    Ingredients:
    4 stems celery – would’ve included the leaves, but we had none left
    700g firm white fish – cut into squares/size of your preference
    1 can tomatoes – chopped
    2 fresh tomatoes – chopped
    a handful of fresh chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
    juice of 1 lemon
    4 cloves garlic (adjust this to your preference), finely chopped
    1 shallot, sliced
    salt & pepper to taste
    olive oil
    Simple, simple method:
    Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C. Lay a deep baking tray with foil, and coat it thinly with a little olive oil. Lay the fish out in a single layer.

    Combine all other ingredients in a bowl, stirring it gently until it combines in an even mix. Pour this over the fish.

    Cover the tray with foil, and bake for 15-20 minutes.

    Remove the foil, and bake uncovered for another 15-20 minutes. It should smell very fragrant and the fish should be juicy and very tender.

    Serve with crusty bread/salad/both.