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Steamed Cheesecake 2I’m back! Sorry for the prolonged absence, but I do have a good reason, I promise! I am pregnant with my first child which is just wonderful. Unfortunately along with the pregnancy came severe “morning sickness”. I have to say that whoever named it “morning sickness” is just cruel, as for me it was months of 24 hour sickness where I struggled to eat anything, let alone cook, think or write about food.

Although not completely gone, I am feeling a lot better and am able to finally cook and think about food again, so it’s time to get back to blogging, starting with the last cooking class I went to.

In November last year, I attended the Café Style Cakes cooking class at Sweet Artist Academy that I had booked before I was pregnant. I had organised the timing of the class so that I could then take the cakes in to work for morning tea for my birthday. Seeing as I was in the early stages of my pregnancy and trying not to tell anyone, and everyone in my team knew I had booked the class to provide for my birthday morning tea, I still went to the class. I have to say it was a struggle, but Patrick was a great help when the smell and nausea got too much for me (I told a little white lie and said I had eaten something the night before that made me feel sick). I did do most of the cooking and decorating myself, however Patrick helped me cover the mud cake with ganache as well as get the cakes out of their tins etc. Thank you Patrick!  Click here to read more

 

Carcassone

Carcassone

First off my apologies to my regular followers for my absence. I recently returned from a two week trip to France (to visit Jerome’s family) and though I thought I had been so organised by preparing posts to go up while I was away, I hadn’t counted on getting sick when I got home. Between jetlag, heading back to work and succumbing to one of the winter bugs that have been doing the rounds, I didn’t get around to cooking or writing for my blog.

I’m back and recovered now, and ready to get cooking again (after tomorrow’s rent inspection that is). Just in time for The Great Australian Bake Off tonight, which I have been looking forward to for months. I hoping to try to replicate some of the dishes they bake in the weeks to come so if you like baking look out for that.

But for now, I thought I’d share some of the food highlights from my trip to France. The first was a highlight of the whole trip and was a private cooking class with Chef Jean-Pascal Vallee at his cooking school/holiday retreat and spa Domaine du Lac de Sorin. The location (in the Vendee region) was beautiful and if you are ever looking for somewhere to stay, the cabins looked gorgeous. But I was just there for a cooking class; with Jerome to translate (the classes are held in French).

Kitchen where class was held

Kitchen where class was held

Click here to read more

I have been looking forward to the Australian version of the Great British Bake Off ever since I heard it was being filmed. However I am starting to wonder if, when they advertised that it would air after Easter, they meant Easter 2014!

While waiting, I have been revisiting the original British version and discovering the blogs of some of the past contestants. One of the things I have wanted to try for some time are Mary-Anne’s (Season 2) apple rose tarts. I found Mary-Anne one of the most interesting contestants on The Great British Bake off, with her recipes utilising unique techniques based on a lot of research and historical recipes (and a collection of over 900 cookbooks, which puts my 200 to shame). I thought these tarts were beautiful so I decided to try the apple rose component today while I was making a batch of Lemon Tarts from my second pastry making course (with Sarah Brigden from babyCakes).

Lemon tart

Lemon tarts

I won’t repeat the instructions here, as they are already provided so well by Mary-Anne on her site Time To Cook – Online. As I just wanted to try the roses today, I made the sweet pastry that I learnt in class, and a crème patisserie recipe that I had previously learnt from Sarah (which I will post in a few weeks). I followed Mary-Anne’s instructions to make the apple roses (although without returning them to the oven to bake). Although they are a little fiddly, they are very effective and I’m sure they get a bit easier with practice. I quite liked the freshness of the apple after poaching them in the apple syrup and not baking them further.

As long as you chill the pastry well before rolling it, I think this pastry is quite easy to work with. I like adding some orange or lemon zest to the pastry for an extra citrus hit. The citrus filling is beautifully creamy and tangy and I certainly recommend giving these a try. And the apple rose tarts look beautiful and very effective, and are not too difficult to achieve. Next time I will give Mary-Anne’s apple custard filling a go as well and bake the apple roses.

apple roses

Click here for the recipe

quicheIf you have read my blog before you will know that I love going to baking classes run by Sarah Brigden from babyCakes. Classes I have  previously gone to include cupcakes, decorative chocolate, desserts and high tea. This year, Sarah is only running classes through Tuart College, with the classes being held at the Mirrabooka Hospitality Training Centre. Her second series of 6 week classes (one night a week) this year is on pastry making, something I really wanted to learn more of, and after enrolling in the class last year (and convincing my friend Kelly to come along with me), I was really looking forward to going to the first class. 

The Mirrabooka Hospitality Training Centre is located at Mirrabooka High School and was only recently constructed to provide students with the opportunity to complete certificates in hospitality while still at high school. The centre includes a café/restaurant, barrista/bar area, seminar/function space, commercial kitchen and ancillary support and storage facilities. It is the commercial kitchen where the after hours short courses take place, with 16 individual work stations, commercial equipment and a demonstration area at the front. It is a great place to be learning and cooking.

Our first class was on savoury pastry, making a quiche. I have made quiches before, both with and without pastry (you add a pastry mix to the quiche mix instead). I have used both shop bought pastry and made my own pasty in the past. I have to say that the pastry we made with Sarah was the best I have ever made for a quiche. The pastry had a lovely savoury flavour and crisp, crumbly texture. It was also quite easy to work with. As always, a big thank you to Sarah for allowing me to share her recipes on my blog.

I made the quiche again at home and the pastry worked just as well as in the class. The great thing about quiche is you can use whatever filling you want. It is a great way to use up ingredients from the fridge (ham, roasted veggies, small amounts of cheeses – the list is endless). I have included the recipe for a bacon and leek quiche here, however I also made some with mini roma tomatoes, asparagus and goats cheese.

Mini quiches made in class

Mini quiches made in class

Click here for the recipe

When I started this blog, one of the things I wanted to do was work through my Nanna’s handwritten cookbook, which is full of recipes she collected throughout her life. Her handwriting however is quite difficult to decipher and there are minimal instructions, so it is quite a big task.

Nanna's cookbook

Nanna’s cookbook

I was reminded of this the other day when I was browsing through other people’s blog posts and came across a recipe for lemon and lime coconut slice by Daisy and the Fox. Instantly I thought of my Nanna’s lemon slice and knew I had to make her recipe this weekend.

My Nanna was a very important part of my life and one of my first cooking memories is making pikelets with her. She also taught me how to spin, knit and crochet. I am so lucky to have had her in my life and I often think of her and miss her.

After she retired, she moved to be closer to us (my brother and I were her only grandchildren). We often stayed with her on weekends and over the holidays. She also often picked me up after school, and looked after me when I was home sick. For my first two years of high school I went to a private school that was about 45 minutes from home (longer with public transport). Often the bus wouldn’t pick us up and I was having issues with my health. Nanna started driving all the way there and picking me up. She always had an afternoon snack waiting for me, like this slice.

I was thinking about this and other memories of my time with my Nanna while I was making the slice. Isn’t it wonderful how food can remind us of the people we  love and evoke memories of them and our time with them?

Nanna's original handwritten recipe

Nanna’s original handwritten recipe

Click here for the recipe

It is Monday again, so time for another meat free dish. I had half a large sweet potato sitting in my fridge, so I went looking for a healthy, vegetarian dish to use it in. I went straight to www.healthyfoodguide.com.au rather than my cookbook collection for this one, as I wanted to find something that I knew would be healthy and vegetarian.

Unfortunately in the end I didn’t have quite enough sweet potato (I only had 300g) for the recipe, so had to buy another on. Which meant once again I ended with half a sweet potato left, defeating the purpose of finding a recipe to use it up, but at least I had a nice healthy dinner! I’ll use the rest of the sweet potato in a roast vegetable salad, frittata or soup later in the week.

The addition of the ground coriander and cumin really added a nice depth of flavour and complimented the sweet potato, while the mint and tzatziki added some freshness. The leftovers also make a great lunch.

Sweet potato fritters

Click here for the recipe

I am a fan of pineapple as an ingredient in both sweet and savoury dishes. I’m not ashamed to admit that my favourite pizza topping is simply ham, cheese and pineapple, and any sweet and sour dish has to have pineapple in it for me.

So when I saw this recipe, I instantly wanted to try it. Added to that, my freezer is starting to fill up again with overripe bananas, so it was a great way to use up a few of those. The recipe also uses oil instead of butter, which I prefer as I find cakes cooked with oil are always moist without any buttery aftertaste.

I liked the idea of the coconut crust on top. However, it made the cakes a bit too sweet for me. Next time I think I will put only a very small amount on top to retain the texture element, but reduce the sweetness.  Although on tasting these again the next day, they tasted less sweet so it may have just been because they were a bit warm, and I prefered these the day after cooking. This is a very moist cake, due to the bananas, pineapple and oil, with a caramel sweetness from the brown sugar both in the cupcakes as well as on top and a hint of spice from the ginger and cinnamon. There wasn’t quite enough pineapple evident in the final cake for me, so I may add some pineapple pieces next time rather than just crushed pineapple.

Hummingbird cake with coconut crust

Click here for the recipe

I like filled pastas such as ravioli, tortellini and angolotti but I don’t like buying the pre-made versions of these as I have no control over what has gone into the filling, and I often find they are too salty for me. So I was really looking to going a class at Matters of Taste to learn how to make these types of pastas.

My first attempt at tortellini at home – Mushroom and goat’s cheese tortellini

This was another technical class where we learnt how to make the pasta and the three different filled shapes, and we each got try making each of these shapes. I was a bit nervous about trying the tortellini but found it easier than expected. As a group, we also made three different fillings and sauces (with each group of three responsible for one sauce and filling). I had a lot of fun and left filled with confidence about trying these at home.

Spinach and ricotta ravioli from the class.

Spinach and ricotta ravioli from the class.

The next night, I decided to make the mushroom and goat’s cheese tortellini that I had recently seen on Masterchef – The Professionals. I used the pasta recipe that I learnt at Matters of Taste rather than the one from the Masterchef recipe, as I am now familiar with that recipe. However, as that isn’t my recipe to share (having received it at a class) I have included the Masterchef recipe for pasta below (the only real difference was my recipe used three whole eggs only and slightly more flour).

Another dish from the class - Roasted pumpkin agnolotti

Another dish from the class – Roasted pumpkin agnolotti

Making pasta at home by yourself is quite time consuming and is definitely not for every night. I found this filling a bit difficult to use as it didn’t hold together well, but that may be because I added the goat’s cheese at the end as I’d seen on TV rather than mixing it through as the recipe stated. I was still happy with the results and loved the creamy goat’s cheese with the earthy mushrooms and silky soft pasta. I’m not a huge fan of the brown butter sauce however, so next time I think I’ll try a different sauce.

Chicken prosciutto tortellini from the class.

Chicken prosciutto tortellini from the class, my favourite of the three we made.

Click here for the recipe

Although I love cooking and baking, bread making is a skill I have not yet attempted to master. The only bread I have ever made at home is naan bread. And while it worked quite well, I’ve only made it once and that was probably seven years ago.

In an attempt to correct this omission, I have enrolled in a bread making class at Matters of Taste. However this class is still a few months away. So yesterday, given it was Good Friday, I decided it was time to make a start and give hot cross buns a try.

Most people probably think that hot cross buns, with the cross representing the crucifixion, are solely a Christian tradition. However, apparently (thank you google) the ancient Greeks marked buns with a cross. There may also be connections to the goddess Eostre (Easter – get it?), who is the namesake of the festival of Easter and is where the custom of bunnies (hares) and eggs is thought to have come from.

Anyway, I went looking for a recipe to try and really liked the sound of these hot cross buns (recipe by Paul Hollywood from The Great British Bake Off) with the addition of orange zest and apple. I left out the citrus peel (I don’t candied peel) and added some mixed spice. Don’t be put off by how sticky the dough is to start with. A dusting of  flour and a few minutes of kneading and it all comes together. I have to say I was very proud of my first attempt at hot cross buns, although I now know I need to place them closer together next time, and I think baking them at home on Good Friday is an Easter tradition that I will continue.

Hot cross buns

Click here for the recipe

Today is Good Friday, which traditionally means fish for dinner. And so that is what we had tonight. Friday, as I understand it (and I am certainly no expert) has historically been a day of fasting/abstinence in Christian faiths. For many though in current times, Good Friday is the only day the tradition is observed.

After making hot cross buns earlier in the day (recipe to come shortly), I was very glad that I had already planned on this quick and easy dish, with the added advantage of being quite a healthy one too. Which, seeing as I had to sample a few of the hot cross buns to make sure they were good, was just as well.

The whole dish took no more than 10-15 minutes to prepare and cook, making it a great week-night meal. The crisp and fresh salad, creamy tahini dressing (without any cream), lovely tartness from the apple cider vinegar and slight sweetness from the honey all complimented the salmon and each other perfectly. Healthy and tasty, yum.

Salmon and Green Bean Salad

Click here for the recipe

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