Thursday, January 10, 2008

Merry Little Christmas Redcurrant and Sultana Chocolate Clumps

Hope you had yourself a merry little Christmas. For once, there wasn't a middle of the night Christmas Eve post here. These are usually written after I've been up so late that it doesn't really matter if I spend another half hour on the computer after the wrapping of 70 rice paper rolls and 20 presents. And I've been so busy that I thought this post might slip away too.

But you see, these photos are from last Christmas. I made these chocolate clumps with fresh redcurrants a year ago and kept meaning to post them. But time went by as it does and they were so summery that I couldn't pop them up in winter. And I consoled myself by resolving to write about them this time. So even though the Christmas tree has been sawn up and put in the green waste bin a good week ago, I'm going to tell you about these now. (Our Christmas tree did not last particularly well, possibly as a result of being carried through the suburb on Figman's back. For kilometres, in 32C heat. We have a car, excellently fitted out for such things. But apparently, the needles on the upholstery make it worthwhile turning oneself into a packhorse and astounding our entire neighbourhood and assorted passerbys. Ahem.)

F was moaning about currants and how he wanted some fresh ones. So I scuttled through the packets and bought the nicest ones I could find at the local markets. Only to produce them and hear "Oh, I didn't mean those kind of currants". Oh indeed.

These are quite tart and not to my taste for adding to yoghurt. So they sat in the fridge, expensively declining. Until I had a mad craving for chocolate coated sultanas and made my own. The sultanas were beautiful organic ones from Mildura (I think?) and the chocolate came from my usual stash in the cupboard. A quick melt and mix and they were ready to be dropped on a tray for setting.

But they were so sweet. Almost overpoweringly sweet to me, who likes her chocolate on the less sugary side. And it came to me - add the currants. It was brilliance, the little beads burst as I bit into the clump, adding a sour hit to this every day confection. A touch of ground black pepper works wonders too.

I topped each one off with a redcurrant for looks alone, and hence, I think they are quite the Christmas treat. Texturally the fresh currants and dried sultanas contrast well under the chocolate coating, but I can't vouch for how it ages, they didn't last long here.

So Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and here's hoping I post again before Easter. (I have too many ice cream posts to wait until next year!)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

In Which I Eat Some More Caramel Icecream

I read about someone visiting the Maggie Beer farmshop recently and writhed with jealousy when she mentioned tasting the Burnt Fig Jam Honeycomb and Caramel Icecream. I've bought plenty of Maggie's fruit pastes and verjuice, but presumed the icecream was only being sold in South Australia.

How wrong I was. It is on the shelves at Leo's, in upmarket delis, it can now be yours too! But only in small, small doses. This is not a mild, light ice dessert to gulp on a warm summer day. This is a full on, heavy, silky and rich cream confection, to be treasured in teaspoons. I love icecream, but after a couple of (dessert) spoonfuls, I had had enough. With no temptation to go back to the freezer for another scoop.

I think this would be fabulous with poached pears and makes a great dessert for a dinner where you require "oomph" without effort.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Day After Election 2007

I don't know what Kevin Rudd is up to this morning, but we went out for pancakes. With a smirk.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

All Things Caramel

How did two whole months manage to go by without a post? Things are busy around here for sure! But not too busy for some new tastes. Reading blogs from around the world sets off cravings for unknown foods that sound delicious and that I just know I'll love if I try.

When I first read Clothilde's description of caneles, I thought "That's exactly my kind of thing". To quote the Little One, "I mmeeeeed it, Mummy". Let's just say I went as far as contemplating buying a fancy set of copper canele moulds a la Barbara. Thank goodness I didn't though. Driving through Hampton the other day, I stopped off at the Phillipa's branch there and lo and behold, they featured a little plate of caneles. I bought a couple, excitedly, and couldn't wait to try them. Let's just say that after all, it wasn't my thing at all. And I can't even blame Phillipa's, because they looked exactly as I've seen them and the texture and flavour seemed right, it just wasn't for me. Aaack!

I've also had a minor internet obsession with Dulce de Leche. As with many things, this can be squarely blamed on David Lebovitz. I've been meaning to make it with this method for ages, but haven't gotten around to it. And when I saw that it was featured on Koko Black's menu as the new flavour of the season, I immediately took one home. (Well more than one, as you can see). These are a little banged up, as they were simply popped in a paper bag, rather than the more elegant box. And again, I was disappointed. I mean, it was fine, there was nothing wrong with it, but it was quite light and liquid, not the rich and thick caramel I'd been imagining.

So I'd pretty much decided I needed to stop having pointless internet obsessions with foodstuffs, when we went for a family outing in St Kilda. Veg Out, the community garden, was holding its annual open day and we went along for some excellent organic lamb hot dogs and woodfired pizza. The gardens are absolutely charming - they have a quirkiness and appeal that won me over immediately. But it was a fearfully windy day and we eventually wound up strolling down Acland Street for gelato. Into 7 Apples and the whole family loaded up. After much deliberation I selected mango and dulce de leche. The mango was underwhelming - think of that pale watery orange and mango drink - and I was muttering to myself about my idiotic flavour choices. But I got through to the next scoop and oh my! Thick, rich, perfect, delicious!

Sometimes internet crushes do pay off.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Smell of Spring

Last weekend, I stepped outside and smelt spring. The sky was the same (grey and clouded), the temperature chilly and unpromising, but something smelt different. It was spring. And now a week later it seems to have arrived, along with these gorgeous magnolia blossoms.

These are in the garden of the nice neighbours. The other neighbours I could quite cheerfully thump, as they have started home renovations which involve loud saws going off at the click of 7.30 am. Plus demolition of their garage and roof, right next to my washing line, for the past seven days, nonstop. The dust and rubble flying everywhere has left me unable to dry any washing outdoors, even on weekends. I am less than thrilled by this, as you can imagine.

Perhaps I need some chocolate.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

To Market (Again)

Interesting to see this article about farmer's markets in today's Age.

The whole family toddled along to the Boroondara one on Paterson Reserve on Saturday morning. It isn't anywhere near as attractive as Collingwood Children's Farm, being simply a damp oval, surrounded by busy roads with the sound of the freeway in the background. It feels somewhat outrageous to be charged the same $2 entrance fee for this locale which decidedly lacks the charm, views and animals of the other. However many of the stallholders are the same.

Figman enjoys these excursions, although his experience was soured this time by a table of elderly ladies passing judgment on the PB's attire. Granted, he'd left her jumper in the car, but she was warmly dressed and held to him in a Baby Bjorn. He spent the rest of the visit muttering about what he was going to do to the next geriatric who tut tutted him about his parenting skills.

I was busy being irritated by the number of people who let their dogs poke about the produce. When I am mentally preparing a dish of roasted vegetables, I don't like to picture some giant Dalmation's snout next to the cauliflower, as happened on Saturday. I realise that farmers have dogs and this probably happens on the farms, but I don't see it, and that makes all the difference. (F would point this out as I chased cats off our vegie patch, screaming "get off" at the top of my lungs. But I am somewhat deranged while pregnant.)

But I managed to get some lovely olive oil, apples, local hazelnuts and a range of crisp, fresh vegetables at good prices. Very sadly, the Buxton trout stand wasn't there, so I tried another variety. The rainbow trout looked handsome in the package, but once peeled turned out to be mushy - not firm and flaky. So it was just as well that I had in mind a recipe that didn't require optimum fish flesh.

I'd ripped a Karen Martini recipe from the Sunday life magazine a few weeks ago and pinned it to the fridge optimistically. My slightly altered version made a lovely post-market lunch, mushy fish and all.

Smoked Trout and Spring Onion Pasta

Cook 500g of wholemeal linguine in salted boiling water. Drain and keep warm. Dice four cloves of garlic and gently fry in olive oil. Add half a teaspoon of chilli flakes. Then a splash of chardonnay vinegar and 8 diced spring onions. Gently stir in the skinned, boned and flaked fish. A squirt of lemon and toss through the linguine.

Yum. A bowl of this and the weekend papers, and not even grumpy old women or nosy dogs can ruin a market for me.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Astoundingly Easy Lentil Tomato Soup

You know, there are those gorgeous recipes that I bookmark from the internet. I have files full of them but I never ever get around to making them. (Heidi Swanson's Triple Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Peppermint Filling from 2003, I'm looking in your direction!) They look divine, I suspect they'll taste incredible, but the time-consuming aspect means that they might get made in about, say, ten years. While the children weed the front garden and I loll about in a hammock. Yup.

And there are those simple recipes that you spy on someone's site and instantly think: that's what I'll make for dinner one night. Granted, it has been some time since I saw this recipe for Tomato and Red Lentil Soup on Vicious Ange's blog, but the other evening, I was gazing into the cupboard wanting to throw something quick together and this came straight to mind.

Because I am lazy, I skipped the red lentil stage and went for a tin of brown lentils, but I happen to think that it improved the texture, as the carrot was only cooked briefly.l It all came together so quicky in fact, that Figman looked somewhat astounded when I put the bowl in front of him and asked "Did you cook that?". He was puzzled because he hadn't seen me making it and yet here it was, in all it's heartiness.

Astoundingly Easy Lentil Tomato Soup based on Vicious Ange's Tomato and Red Lentil Soup

Dice and fry one large onion and four or five carrots in a large pot. Add curry powder to taste. (I used an organic one which has to be the most feeble curry powder I have ever come across in my life. Hence I cannot give a measurement). Drain one tin of brown lentils and stir. Add two tins of chopped tomatoes and a litre of chicken or vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes.

When serving, I also like to add chunks of cheddar. There is nothing like eating a wholesome vegetarian soup and thinking how good you are being and then coming across a nugget of molten cheesy goodness.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I type this with fingernails caked with blood.

My cousin has returned to help us out for a few weeks. Last night she mentioned how she had cut herself on our Furi knives and that she had to be careful with them from now on.

Cut to today: it is lunchtime and I am quickly chopping some potatoes for boiling. I am doing this over the pot, because to get out a board and wash it afterwards would be, you know, work. I am holding a potato in my left hand when I realise I have cut through two thirds of the nail on my ring finger. All the way through. I wasn't even using one of the really sharp knives.

And the thing that really gets me? At the precise moment it happened, I was thinking to myself "I have never cut myself on these knives".

Smugness and sharp knives don't mix.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

(My Favourite Plum) Jam

I love good jam. Long gone are the days when I spread the sticky sugary supermarket stuff on my sourdough. Amongst my dozens of jars in the fridge can usually be found something from the excellent Annie Smithers range, a jar of Bonne Maman Peach Conserve and one or two from Phillippa's bakery in Armadale. Their raspberry jam, with raspberries from Silvan Estate, was a constant until I happened upon the summer seasonal jam: strawberry jewels with vanilla. I loved this jam with a passion. Whole fruit, slipping in thick red jam. I bought jars of it at a time, I gave it for Christmas presents. Once, when I couldn't find any at the store, I walked around with an eagle eye, until I spotted the jars which had just been made on a side shelf.

So you can imagine how I reacted when I found out that the summer supply was exhausted and there was no more until next year. I sulked. Big time.

Until it became apparent that there was a replacement on the way. Dark, tangy plum jam. Made from damsons, this is the perfect winter preserve on toast, over yoghurt or on wheatmeal bisquits with Havarti cheese. I can't say that it's my absolute fave, but it's definitely my favourite plum jam.

Stocking Up

We had a pair of helping hands for the first few weeks after the baby was born. My cousin came to stay with us, to help out with the Little One and see that Figman was sufficient nourished to attend to his duties as a second time father.

She arrived a week before the baby was due, and we went shopping for a big stock up of the cupboards.

"Buy anything you might want" I urged. "Don't assume that I have the ingredients you need. Just get it now while you have the chance." I thought that she took me seriously, but a few nights later she was staring into the pantry, puzzled.

"You don't seem to have ... "
"I told you ..."
"But who thinks that someone who keeps date vinegar and organic cocoa nibs in her cupboards doesn't have tomato paste???"