Category Archives: Writing about cooking

Travel Post: Back in Mainz, and a Feast

Saturday was a massive cooking day.  A couple of years ago, A showed her friend R my cooking blog, and he started following it.  When he heard I was visiting, he asked if I could come to his house and make a feast. (This is a little less opportunistic than it sounds – he volunteered himself, his wife K and my friend A as kitchen hands and bought all the ingredients. And provided all the wine and other drinks.)

This sounded like fun, so I said yes, and he got very excited and started inviting his friends to a feast cooked by ‘a famous Australian food blogger’, at which point I started feeling a little concerned that I wouldn’t be able to live up to the hype.

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Before we left for Dresden, A and I started to plan a menu, and R promised to order us a chicken from a local farmer.  A had told me that the farmer’s chickens are always huge, so I had planned to stuff it with rice and fruit and nuts and serve it with lots of different vegetable accompaniments, which I felt would be ample for the 6-7 people likely to be in attendance.

I relayed this to R, who immediately texted back ‘are you sure there will be enough food?’

Oh, R.  You read this blog.  You should know better.

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Recipe and Review: Blood Orange Jaffa Cakes and Deceptive Desserts

When I got back to work after my long service leave earlier this year, I discovered a cookbook on my desk, courtesy of one of my Professors.  This is an excellent way to come back from long service leave and I highly recommend it to any who are considering such a thing.  The book was  Deceptive Desserts: A Lady’s Guide to Baking Bad! (which I see is actually discounted at the Book Depository right now), and it is a rather brilliant collection of recipes for ill-advised treats – face-hugger cake, cannoli with little kitten faces, Frankenstein’s monster cake, terror-mi-su, cinnamon buns shaped to look like serpents ready to strike, cat-lady jello, and my personal favourite, screaming strawberries in vanilla mousse with chocolate tentacles.

It’s kind of like someone watched a lot of 1980s Dr Who and then read the Australian Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Book right before bedtime, and then had nightmares.

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The illustrations are truly a thing of beauty – Christine McConnell, who is a stylist and photographer as well as a baker, photographs herself in vintage costumes that coordinate with her various disturbing desserts, with the occasional cat in the background, looking appalled.

The recipes are also nicely varied – it isn’t the sort of cake book that gives you six basic recipes at the start and then focuses on how to decorate them; there are recipes for sugar cookies (decorated to look like gravestones), waffle cones, various mousses and jellies, lime meringue cakes, devil’s food cakes, donuts (disguised as fried chicken and vegetables), banana bread, caramel popcorn, peppermint brownies, and apple pie, to name a random assortment.  I would note that the recipes are American and thus tend to have rather more sugar than I prefer in my cakes, but this is a minor quibble for an extremely fun and comprehensive book.

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Show Off Post: Hamlet!

Squeezing in one last post before I go, in between madly writing about tiny political parties and finishing my last Paris story before I actually go there…

As I think I mentioned earlier, I recently turned 40, and also Shakespeare recently turned 400 years of deceased, and since these events were a mere week apart, I thought I would take the opportunity to get our reading group together again after a long hiatus and read the last Shakespeare play left to us – Hamlet!

I apologise in advance for these photos – the timing meant that we did our reading in the late afternoon / early evening, and so the light was not auspicious for recording all the food.  But I do want to keep some record of the event, so here goes…

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Brief update, with Eurovision and Blogiversary

Hello!  I’m not really back, but since Eurovision was this morning (so early this morning), and Eurovision has always counted as a Food Blog Anniversary for me, it seemed timely to give you an update.

I’m actually feeling a lot less depressed about cooking since I last wrote here.  This is mostly because my wrist is behaving a lot better, and baking is more feasible.  But I’m still run off my feet – I’m heading to Europe in nine days, and an Election has been called for three days after I get back, so I’m currently trying to madly update my politics blog before I go, with profiles of all the new parties.  And after that, I’ll be overseas, so realistically, you aren’t likely to hear a lot from me before July.  I’ll see how I’m feeling about regular blog posts then – it’s actually rather relaxing to cook without photographing everything and writing it down…

I do plan one more update between now and then, because we finally finished the Shakespeare project on April 23rd (the 400th anniversary of his death), which means I have cooked up my last Shakespeare feast, at least for the foreseeable future, and this must be recorded for posterity.

But this is Eurovision Sunday, so it’s time for a brief Eurovision post – along with a photograph or two of The Eurovision Biscuits That Took All Day.

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Recipe: Vegan Cheeseburger Cupcakes

This is the time of year when bloggers do their retrospectives, but I don’t feel like doing a blog retrospective for 2015.  For one thing, I did hardly any blogging, and barely kept up with reading other blogs.  For another, the end of 2015 was made absolutely horrible for us by the disappearance of our beloved cat, Mystery.  She slipped out on the evening of December 22nd, and has not been seen since.  We’ve letterboxed and doorknocked and rung vets and visited shelters, but to no avail, and at this stage, we hold out little hope.  It’s been a painful and distressing way to end an exhausting year, and it’s very hard to look ahead and come up with plans, resolutions, or even hopes for 2016 at this point – because right now we are all too aware that life is uncertain and cannot truly be planned for.

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So no perspectives from me, just a remarkably silly recipe, inspired by Rosanna Pansino’s Nerdy Nummies Cookbook.  She has a very fun recipe for a cupcake that looks like a cheeseburger, with a brownie patty, coconut lettuce, and buttercream piped to resemble cheese, tomatoes.

It’s very cute, but it also looked terribly sweet.  Also, I was cooking in part for Steph, so I needed a vegan recipe, and frankly, I found the idea of a vegan cheeseburger cupcake absolutely hilarious and thus irresistible, so off I went.

To avoid the excessive use of buttercream, I decided it would be more fun to give the burger a fruity sort of theme. Mango fruit leather strips make an excellent (and truly revolting-looking) substitute for plastic cheese, jam makes a fine substitute for tomato sauce, and tinned plums replace the beetroot that is a necessity in any Aussie hamburger. Mint leaves made a delicious substitute for lettuce, and at that point, you’re done.

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Pot-Pourri Post: Nerdy Nummies, Sugar Geodes and Jam Sugar

A post all about sugar, what a surprise at this time of year!  Today is horribly hot, and I’m sitting inside, obsessively tracking the cool change across Western Victoria via the BOM weather observation map, and there is no way I am doing any kind of baking right now.  But as it happens, I have been playing with some very fun things recently, so this is basically a post about several things that aren’t long enough for a post of their own, but which I wanted to share with you nonetheless.

First, please let me draw your attention to the Nerdy Nummies Cookbook.

It is, in my not at all hyperbolic opinion, the best cake decorating book ever.  I love it with every fibre of my being.  It’s as though someone took the Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book and then added the periodic table of the elements and blood cells and the moon landing and rainbow unicorn poo and twenty-sided dice every other bit of science fun or geek culture it could find and made it into a book.  It is AWESOME.  I have scientifically tested this on real scientists, and they agree that it is AWESOME, so we know that this is true.

So far, I’ve only made one recipe from it, but I have no hesitation in recommending it to basically anyone who likes cakes or science or just fun silly things.

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Shakespeare Feast: As you Like It

Hooray!  We finally returned to the land of Shakespeare!  And what a fine, strange, land it is! As You Like It is definitely one of Shakespeare’s sillier comedies, which I attribute to the fact that he was doing his level best to turn it into an opera or a musical – never your most sensible of genres.  Think Twelfth Night on crack.  With even more songs.

So you have Rosalind – played by a boy – dressing as a boy with the suggestive name of Ganymede – and playing the part of a girl – of Rosalind, in fact – in order to ‘cure’ her suitor of his infatuation with  – Rosalind.

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In My Kitchen: Post-Europe Edition!

What was that resolution I made about participating in these blogging events more regularly?  Well, I suppose every six months or so is regular… sort of…

Anyway!  I got back from my exciting European trip at midnight between Tuesday and Wednesday, and I brought back all sorts of goodies with me.  Better still, none of them were taken away from me as potential weaponry by Germany (I lost a bottle of chocolate sauce to German’s security screening last time), or as potential disease vectors by Australia’s Customs people.  Incidentally, people in Norway apparently think their Customs control is pretty fierce.  It seemed impolite to giggle incredulously at this after being waved through the ‘nothing to declare’ gate with nary a glance, so I shall simply confide to my Australian friends that my German penfriend took fruit on the plane from Germany to Norway and nobody mindedI simply couldn’t bring myself to do this, even when it was offered to me.  One does not take fruit on planes.  It just isn’t done.

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Three-day menu for a sick week

Whee! I am still coughing like Mimi and wanting to sleep 18 hours a day like the cats, but I am also doped up to the gills on antibiotics and codeine syrup, which means that I’m also feeling alarmingly happy.  Apparently, I have the sort of brain chemistry that just *loves* opiates.

Since I’m also feeling exceptionally happy and clever about my food cunning while sick, I am going to share my menu with you…

(It’s not vegetarian.  Sorry.  But I had this lovely, free-range chicken, you see…) Continue reading

Recipe: Apricot Mousse, or possibly cold soufflé – a reconstruction

Happy Easter! I have heard the words ‘Christ is Risen’ in at least twelve languages, and have learned how having faith in the Resurrection is quite a lot like barracking for the Melbourne Demons, except that one’s hopes are more likely to be fulfilled in the former case.  (Apparently, our minister has been a Melbourne supporter since the mid-sixties.  During that time, Melbourne has won precisely zero premierships, and is mostly found holding up the ladder, or, as my father would have it, ‘lulling you into a false sense of security which may well turn out to be a true one…’).

Also, I finally got to sing a descant, so now I really feel like it’s Easter.  You can’t have a resurrection unless you spend serious time above the stave, that’s what I always say.  It’s possible that my doctrine is a little suspect…

My family used to have a big get together every Easter, with roast lamb and all the trimmings, followed by some sort of spectacular dessert, always provided by my Oma.  The year I was ten or so, she produced this amazing cold apricot soufflé, a beautiful, light, pale orange concoction, made even more exciting to my ten year old mind by the little Easter Eggs decorating it.

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I’m not sure why this recipe, of all the recipes Oma ever made, stayed with me, but it did.  And, of course, I have no idea what the recipe was.  I had hoped it would be in Margaret Fulton (I have found a number of Oma’s recipes, suitably adapted, in the pages of my Margaret Fulton cookbook), but the only apricot soufflé in her pages was a baked one – not ideal for when one is expecting guests, really.  I did, however, have a recipe for Apple Nougat Soufflé in a Family Circle cookbook from my childhood, and the combination of whipped cream, egg-whites and gelatine sounded about right for the effect I remember. (No, this recipe is not vegan.  Not even a little bit.  Sorry.  In fact, this might well be the least allergy-friendly recipe I’ve ever done – oh no, wait, it *is* gluten free, so that’s something!)

So it was just a matter of changing a lot of flavours.  And some of the method.  And… well, you know by now what I’m like with recipes.  The result is not Oma’s soufflé – I don’t think Oma would have used orange flower water, and she certainly wouldn’t have used peach schnapps or made a praline garnish – but it is light and fluffy and apricot-flavoured, and it does have little pastel Easter eggs on top.  The spirit is right, even if the actuality is a little altered.

(We lit candles at the service today for those who were no longer with us, and were told of the Latin American tradition of saying ‘presente’ as the names of the dead were read out, to indicate that they were still with us.  This is a tradition I like very much, and I hope it will be continued.  But for me, Oma is far closer to me in the making of this soufflé than in the lighting of a candle.  Presente!)

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1 1/2 cups of dried apricots
90 g butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon honey1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup peach schnapps
3 tsp gelatine
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp orange flower water
5 eggs, separated
1/2 cup cream
small chocolate eggs in foil
 

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