Archive | June, 2010

A Touch of Heaven

26 Jun

So my Dad is an avid amateur photographer.

He is also a complete gentleman, and appreciates beauty in life.

On his current three month whirlwind, romantic trip of Europe, with the love of his life, who also happens to be my Mum (high-five for 28 years of crazy in love marriage) he has taken some photos which have taken my breath away.

It is no secret that I adore flowers. Anyone who knows me even remotely knows I have a love for anything floral, and dream about owning my own little florist one day, overflowing with pretty blooms and foliage.

These photos were taken by my Dad in Monet’s garden in Giverny, France.

I hope they take your breath away, as they did mine.

 

See more of my Dad’s photos, and read his blog here – http://nicholasdixon.wordpress.com/

Advertisements

My Happy Place

26 Jun

Headboard Happiness

24 Jun
One of my favourite websites ever, www.younghouselove.com is a wealth of knowledge in the DIY home maker realm. Although our little home doesn’t need much done to it, there are a few projects I’m dying to tackle. See the How To page for inspiration www.younghouselove.com/how-to

On my list of to-dos are

  • Paint our front door red
  • Transform an ugly mirror
  • Paint chic and subtle horizontal stripes in our downstairs bathroom
  • Pimp our laundry
  • Upholster our dining room chairs
  • Add luxe bedroom lighting

The list goes on… But have to start somewhere!

One day a few weeks ago, I had a Friday off and I decided to upholster us a headboard! Our room is quite big, and we had a queen ensemble just kinda shoved up against the wall. Functional, yes, pretty, HELL no.

I searched the internet for days, reading up on how to best upholster this said bed head. Everyone had a different opinion. There were so many options! It could be square edged, round edged, ornately shaped, it could be minimalistic, it could be overstuffed, it could be pillowed with buttons or rhinestones. Your imagination really is the limit when it comes to something like this.

I found my inspiration in my best friend’s wedding magazine! It was an advertisement for Domayne, and it showed this picture

I fell in love with the three separate panels working as one, I thought it was really clever, and much more interesting than just one piece. I also really liked the height, and its proportions. I liked that it was wider than the bed and that it jutted out behind the bedside tables. I also really loved the print. I love anything paisley (except when my mum tries to wear it… sorry mum).

I got all excited, thinking I’d just simply go to Domayne and purchase my perfect headboard. Then I looked at the price. $699.00 per panel! That is $2,097.00 for the set.

Um, that’s a neg. So I decided to make one myself!

The first step was to find the material. I wanted to try to achieve the inspiration picture as much as I could because I really liked the colours, and Mark didn’t mind them either – winner!

First of all, I went to Warwick Fabrics in Glebe, where there are so many beautiful fabrics, but nothing that I  LOVED, and it is hard to decide how much you love it, when you can’t see the price (they are a wholesaler). Next, I went to Rushcutters Bay… the suburb alone rung alarm bells to me, but I ignored them – big mistake! I found one fabric that I LOVED, and two that I was pretty happy with. The one I fell in love with was typically, extremely out of my price range, although Brooke, my brother’s girlfriend was able to get it for me at wholesale price. Even at wholesale price, it was a mere $216/metre!

I then found two other fabrics that I quite liked, but again, out of my price range!

With all of these fabrics out of my league, I headed to good old spotlight at Castle Hill where I stumbled across this fabric for $16.99 per metre! That’s more like it!

It caught my eye as it was actually stretched over a canvas, and hung as a decorative wall hanging in the store. Clever!

I was sold. While at Spotlight, I bought some batting from the quilting department for $5.99 per metre, and bought enough that I could use two layers per panel to make it nice and cushy looking.

I then went to Bunnings and bought some particle board. The nice men there helped me by cutting it to my measurements for no extra cost. Who doesn’t love Bunnings! Luckily my Dad had both a manual staple gun and an electric staple gun, but if you are going to try this, in the words of my friend from school Karen – “You will need a good staple gun. Not just a cheapy from Spotlight… I’m talking about an industrial-dont-mess-with-me type of thing… Bunnings have them and they are not expensive”.

I brought everything home, laid out my materials on our tiny kitchen bench (as we don’t have saw horses or anything like that!) I first stapled the batting to each piece by laying the wood on top of the batting and then I pulled it tightly around the back and stapled around the edge every 5cm or so. Once I was happy with the thickness of the padding, I did the same with the material. It is important to pull the material quite tightly, but evenly the whole way, so that you don’t get any uneven pulling or slackening of the fabric.

Within about an hour we had our headboard! We haven’t secured them at all, they literally just sit on the ground, and our bed is pushed up against them. They don’t move, and there is no damage to the walls with brackets or anything.

I think the grand total for this project was around about $110! This means I could change the material seasonally if I wanted to, and if I get sick of the colours, I don’t have to feel guilty about wasting $216/metre fabric!

The finished result…

Donna’s Pavlova

23 Jun

My mother-in-law is crazy.

I would go so far as to say that she is insane.

Crazy loud, crazy busy, insanely loving, and insanely generous.

I was watching MasterChef one night, and it was the episode where they had to make Donna Hay’s pavlova. As I often do, I thought out loud via my Facebook status, and typed something along the lines of “MasterChef is makes me want a mix-master!”

The next week at Sabbath lunch, my sister-in-law Linzi said to me “What colour mixer do you want?”  

Helene was at it again. Crazy and insanely generous.  

So, disguised as a present for Mother’s Day, Helene bought Linzi and I a Kenwood Mixer each – yep, a present for her daughters, on Mother’s Day – go figure!  

  

The combination of a  very new, very shiny, very cool mixer and nightly MasterChef viewing, has inspired me to make several (many) pavlovas from scratch.  

They really ARE the easiest of easy desserts. And they are cheap too.  

I use the Donna Hay recipe off the official MasterChef website.  

Donna Hay’s Pavlova

Ingredients
  • 150ml egg white (approximately 4 eggs)
  • 1 cup (220g) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn flour (corn starch), sifted
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar

NB: I usually double the recipe. When Linzi makes hers, she follows Donna’s exact amounts. Both our pavs are marvellous!  

 Method
  • Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F).
  • Place the egg white in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, whisking well, until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Add the corn flour and vinegar and whisk until just combined. Shape the mixture into an 18cm round on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper.
  • Reduce oven to 120°C (250°F) and bake for 1 hour 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and allow the pavlova to cool completely in the oven.
  • Decorate with your desired toppings.

  

Linzi's magnificent pavlova! Definately the prettiest thus far!

   

My very first pavlova - not the prettiest, but my favourite!

 

  

What not to do - Do not let your husband lick the perfect stiff peaks!

 
 

Linzi's beautiful pavlova waiting to be dressed

 My top tips for a successful pavlova
  • Use room temperature eggs
  • Make sure you get your eggwhites to STIFF PEAKS before adding any sugar, otherwise you just end up with royal icing
  • GRADUALLY add the sugar, don’t rush this part
  • Allow to cool SLOWLY
  • Top with the most decadent of toppings!

   

   

   

  

Intrigued by Zucchini Flowers…

16 Jun

 I am incredibly intrigued by the pretty and delicate flowers of the zucchini plant.

MasterChef seems to use these regularly, and the are often featured on the menus of fancy restaurants!

Has anyone ever cooked with these blossoms?

Have you ever eaten them?

Share your thoughts, experiences and recipes with us!

 

The Diva of the Kitchen

13 Jun

Last night was a cold, wintery night here in Sydney, and after having our lovely friends Vanessa and Marcus over for lunch (see Vanessa’s fab blog here http://vanessajanephotography.wordpress.com) Mark and I found ourselves with a quiet night ahead! While Mark was happy playing PS3, I decided to tackle what I like to call the Diva of the Kitchen, the macaroon.

Now, to be honest, I didn’t find her to be too much of a prima-donna, but she definitely has that reputation, so I learned whilst pouring over the hundreds of recipes on the internet! There were basic recipes, variants on basic recipes, lists of what to do, lists of what NOT to do, discussions on how long to age egg whites, how long to let rest before baking, what special mats to bake them on – I got tired of reading – so I just decided to give it a go!

My friend Tamara came over and helped me with my mission (see Tamara’s pretty blog here http://tamarabell11.wordpress.com) When we returned from Woolworths with the ingredients, I realised that I had made the same mistake I always make – I had not read the recipe from start to finish before beginning to bake! I learned that I should have separated my egg whites and had them resting at room temperature DAYS AGO, and I needed to have at least 3 hours up my sleeve for resting time! I had not aged my egg whites, nor did I have hours up my sleeve – and they still worked! So don’t be scared, fellow bakers, just give them a go!

 

French Almond Macaroons

Ingredients
  • 225g icing sugar
  • 125g almond meal
  • 110g egg whites aged overnight or longer, at room temperature
  • 30g white sugar
  • Pinch of salt
Method
  • Use a pencil to draw golf-ball sized circles about 4cm apart onto a piece of baking paper. 

(Note: You only have to draw circles on the baking paper if you want absolutely even-sized macaroons. If you’re skilled with piping and don’t mind eyeballing the amount of batter per biscuit, skip this step).

  • Double sift almond meal and icing sugar. Mix the almond meal and icing sugar in a bowl and set aside.
  • In a large, clean, dry bowl whip egg whites with salt on medium speed until foamy. Increase the speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar. Continue to whip until stiff, firm and shiny peaks form.

(Note: If you choose to colour your macaroons, add food colouring at this stage. Take care not to over-beat eggs and lose the peaks in the process).

  • With a flexible spatula, gently fold in almond and icing sugar mixture into egg whites until completely incorporated. The mixture should be shiny and ‘flow like magma.’ When small peaks dissolve to a flat surface, stop mixing.
  • Using a piping bag, pipe the batter onto the baking sheets onto the previously drawn circles. Tap the underside of the baking sheet to remove any air bubbles. Let dry at room temperature for 1 or 2 hours to allow skins to form.

(Note: When making these myself, I baked half of the biscuits straight away, and let half of them rest for one hour. They both worked, and tasted fabulous, although the ones that I allowed to rest, definitely had better ‘feet’).

  • Bake in a 160’C fan forced oven for 10 to 11 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to keep the oven door slightly ajar, and rotate the baking sheet after 5 minutes for even baking.
  • Remove macaroons from oven and transfer on the baking paper to a cooling rack. When cool, slide a knife underneath the macaroon to carefully remove from paper.
  • Pair macaroons of similar size, and pipe your filling of choice onto one of the macarons. Sandwich macaroons, and refrigerate to allow flavors to blend together. Bring back to room temperature before serving.
A Few Tips
  •  Sift your dry ingredients at least twice – multiple times if necessary. You want your ground nuts to be powdery, no lumps. Almond meal and icing sugar mixture may be pulsed in a food processor to make finer.
  • Use old egg whites. Everywhere I read said to leave them out for three days at room temperature if you don’t mind waiting for that long. Using fresh egg whites is more likely to result in macaroons that are too fragile and flat.

(Note: My egg whites were fresh, and I bought them that night straight out of the fridge at Woolies. I brought them down in temperature by letting them sit in a bowl of tepid water for 10 minutes to remove the chill of the fridge).

  • The final macaron batter should have the consistency of magma. What’s the consistency of magma? Not too liquidy, nor too stiff. If you form a peak, it should slowly and completely sink back into the batter.
  • If the cookies form peaks on their tops after piping, flatten them with a wet fingertip.
  • Prevent your macarons from burning by using a double layered baking sheet (stack two sheets on top of each other) and by propping the oven door open with a wooden spoon for the entire baking period.

I ran out of time to make a proper ganache filling – I must admit that! I used Betty Crocker frosting – which was nice, but WAY too sweet for my liking. There are a million ganache filling recipes online that I am dying to try. The first one being white chocolate and raspberry! But that will come – another day, another blog post!

 Here are my pretty macaroons, photographed by my beautiful husband!

 

A Greedy, Needy, Life-changing Love

12 Jun

I have been devouring the latest issue of the Donna Hay Magazine over the last few days. This morning, I turned the last page, and was pleasantly surprised with what I saw featured on her “Things I Love” page.

Here she writes lovingly about the macaron. This caught my eye as my husband loves macarons, and I’ve been wanting to try cooking them for a while. This may just be the little push I needed. In the interim, enjoy how Donna waxes lyrical about her favourite biscuit.

“When I was 24 years old, I visited Paris for the first time and fell deeply in love. It was a greedy, needy, life-changing love and it was with a petite Parisian more beautiful than any I’d ever seen. I fell in love with the macaron. From the moment I locked eyes on the colourful pods in neat rows, their crisp shells back to back, it has been an ongoing ardour. I know it’s true love, because I can never fault them and I never tire of them. My hunt for the perfect macaron has seen me enter every patisserie from Sydney to Soho. Their softly chewy fillings and myriad flavours drawing me in every time. I love the way their fragile crusts form little peaks on top that look as if they’ve been kissed before they were baked. And, although I still covet these heavenly confections from Pierre Herme in Paris, I’m delighted my love for the macaron is no longer restricted by a long haul flight. Now I keep the general store’s confiserie stocked with an array of delectable macarons, and indulge in my sweet affair as often as I like. But the most exciting thing about this love is that it’s best shared, so that everyone can enjoy a little joie de vivre” (Donna Hay Magazine, Issue 51, p.170).

Cooking for Love

11 Jun

I am a family girl.

Family is the most important thing in my universe.

In November I was blessed with a second family to call my own. When I married my beautiful husband Mark, I inherited his Mum and Dad (Helene and Gerald), two older brothers (Brett and Peter), and sister in law (Linzi). Since then, the magnificant little Lily Josephine has joined our family, and enriched it beyond imagination.

Today is a sad day for Linzi and Brett, they are attending the funeral of Linzi’s dear friend’s mother. Funerals are exhausting things, I always leave them feeling incredibly flat and making dinner is often the last thing I feel like. And I don’t have a 3 month old baby either!

I am fortunate enough to have four days off work over the long weekend, and because i’m oh-so-organised (!) I had my housework all done quite early today, so I turned my attention to making Linzi and Brett (and baby Lily) a comforting, wintery, home made meal. I think cooking for someone is such an easy, but pleasureable thing to do. It is something we can ALL do, meaning that we can’t take the sadness of a friend dying away, we can’t make a baby sleep through the night, we can’t make a mother’s exhaustion disappear, but we can make food. 

My Mum often cooks this recipe, and I feel warm and cozy whenever I eat it.

Ultimate comfort food!

Cottage Cheese Loaf

Ingredients
  • 500g lite cottage cheese
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 large finely chopped brown onion
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vegemite
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Sprinkle of mixed herbs
Method
  • Simply mix ingredients together using your (freshly washed, ringless) hands
  • Spread mixture into a greased oven proof dish
  • Bake for 40 minutes at 200’C
  • Serve with any vegetables your heart desires!

I would serve this with boiled baby potatos with butter and chives, lovely green asparagus and anything else I had in the fridge! 

A little tip on boiling potatoes – or anything starchy! If you add a splash of olive oil to your water, you won’t get that horrible starchy foam which boils over and makes your stove look dirty!

Clare and Bill’s Chocolate Self-Saucing Pudding

10 Jun

One of my new pleasures in life is swapping tried and tested recipes with girlfriends…

This is my friend Clare’s version of a Bill Granger recipe.

Clare is the quintesential wife and lady – minus the pathetic connotations which sometimes are associated with both of those labels! Clare is the girl you can always count on to give good food advice, and is always baking new and yummy things! I’m sure we’ll have the pleasure of seeing a lot of Clare’s culinary adventures on Eat Your Heart Out… I’m keen to share her beautiful hot crossed buns we enjoyed this year!

Back to Bill and Clare.

Chocolate Self-Saucing Pudding

Ingredients

Pudding

125g plain flour

  • 1 pinch salt
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 250mL milk
  • 85g unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • double cream or creme fraiche to serve
Topping
  • 185g soft brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 250mL boiling water

Method

Pudding
  • Preheat oven to 180’C or 350’F
  • Sift the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and cocoa powder into a bowl
  • Add the milk, butter, egg and vanilla extract and mix with beaters until combined
  • Pour into four 250mL (1 cup) greased pudding moulds
Topping
  • Stir the brown sugar and cocoa powder in a bowl to combine, then sprinkle it over the pudding batter
  • Pour boiling water carefully over the puddings, then bake for 20-25 minutes
  • Serve with thick cream

Stay tuned for my attempt at this beauty!

Welcome to Eat Your Heart Out! Care for some nougat?

9 Jun

So I have been reading blogs for a long while now… I started off with the beautiful, inspirational ramblings of Style Me Pretty, The Bride’s Cafe, A Cup of Jo, just to mention a few. Once I had finished planning our wedding, I moved on in a rather natural progression to blogs which feature beautiful homes, fabulous interiors and DIY projects… I became obsessed with Young House Love, Colour Me Happy, A Room for Everyone.

Following our beautiful wedding in November of 2009, I found myself to be a wife – who had to produce a meal most nights. What to cook?? My mum is a beautiful cook, and has always had yummy, nutritionally sound meals on the table for us – every night of my entire life. So apart from the half-hearted sitting-at-the-bench-chopping-what-she-told-me-to-whilst-chatting-about-our-days, I really had/have NO skills in the kitchen!

So in my quest to solve the never-ending question of what to cook, I began buying cook books.  Slowly but surely, I have completely fallen in love with cook books, food styling, food photography and generally making tasty, pretty treats.

This blog is a place where I hope to showcase the pretty food I make, the food that my friend’s make, recipes we come across, handy tricks of what to do (and what not to do!) and anything else my heart desires.

So what better way to start a blog, than with a piece of nougat and a cup of tea?

Cranberry, Pistachio and Almond Nougat

Ingredients

  • 3 sheets edible rice paper
  • 1/4 cup glucose syrup
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 cups caster sugar
  • 1  egg white
  • 1/2 cup pistachio kernels, toasted
  • 1 1/3 cups blanched almonds, toasted
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries

Method

  • Place glucose syrup, honey, sugar and 1/3 cup hot water in a heavy-based saucepan over low heat.
  • Cook, stirring, for 10 minutes or until sugar has dissolved, brushing down side of pan with water to remove sugar crystals.
  • Place a candy thermometer in pan (don’t let it touch base). Increase heat to medium. Bring to the boil. Boil, without stirring, for 12 to 15 minutes or until mixture reaches 150°C on thermometer (see tip).
  • Remove pan from heat.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat eggwhite in a large, heatproof bowl until soft peaks form.
  • Gradually add syrup in a steady stream, beating to combine.
  • Working quickly, fold through pistachios, almonds and cranberries.
  • Spoon mixture into prepared pan. Using a wet spatula, smooth top, pressing down firmly.
  • Top with remaining rice paper, trimming to fit. Press down firmly.
  • Stand at room temperature until set.
  • Lift from pan. Cut into squares. Serve.

The next time I make this recipe, I will soak the rice paper first. I’m not sure if I should have, but I didn’t, and the rice paper was crunchy and snappy. Not soft and melty like it should be. I’d also use slightly less honey, as the balance of flavours was definitely overpowered by the honey.

Other than that, a winner!