Monday 27 December 2010

Merry Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake

Belated Merry Christmas everyone!

So so sorry for the slack posting.  Christmas is an intensely insane time of year.  But for some reason this year's Christmas craziness really takes the cake.

On top of the usual Christmas madness, I'm at a humungous turning point in my life.  At the cusp of something very exciting but it could mean moving away from all the people and places and things I love to pursue a dream of mine.  It's terrifying, exhilarating and mind boggling.  And all still up in the air with nothing completely confirmed yet.  Very. Eek.

And on top of that I'm flying out to Sri Lanka tomorrow, then have a trip to HK all the while trying to plan my wedding (5 months to go!)...whew!!

So in all the madness, all I have for you lovely people today is a short and sweet post today this super yummy Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake with Chocolate Brandy Ganache adapted from a Nigella recipe, made for the family Christmas lunch and used a practice round for my wedding cake!

Sunday 19 December 2010

White chocolate eggnog truffles for Baking for Hospice

Ahhh Christmas time.  I am a total Christmas nut...lurve the whole shebang.  Yip, I am one of those people.

I love the tinsel, the tree, the presents, the goodwill and peace on earth.  And I adore Christmas food...Christmas pudding with lashings of custard, gingerbread men, champagne ham, mulled wine, and eggnog.

For those of you who have never tried eggnog, boy are you missing out! It's the creamy spicy tipple that has gotten many a people in trouble at work Christmas functions. I like to think of it as a Christmassy version of Baileys.  Yum!

So to celebrate the annual Christmas Round for Baking for Hospice I made White Chocolate Eggnog Truffles.

Sunday 12 December 2010

Lemon polenta rose cakes at an italian summer lunch


I must have accidentally stepped into a time machine for it to already be that crazy time of year again.  And crazy it is...the Christmas shopping, the parties, the family dos.  Luckily for us downunder, it also means that we are heading into a glorious summer.
So in the hustle and bustle of the silly season, when my gorgeous friend Chloe suggested an italian long lazy ladies lunch in the sun, we all jumped at the opportunity to eat, unwind and chillax for an arvo away from the insanity of Christmas time.

And it was the perfect opportunity to try out a recipe for Lemon Polenta Rose Cakes.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Sweet & Salty Cupcakes: chocolate & salted caramel cupcakes with whipped caramel ganache frosting

Sweet and Salty.

I know, at first glance, that doesn't sound like the nicest of combinations.  Initially for me it conjured up horrific experiences at asian-style bakeries where the seemingly delicious looking pizza bread is actually made with a sweet bun and sugary glaze, or a tempting sweet looking bun turns out to have ham or some other savoury meaty filling....savoury and sweet baking is just not my cup of tea.

But sweet and salty is a whole other ball game: think salted caramels, sea salt toffee and thai mango sticky rice. That little bit of salt with a very sweet item takes the whole experience from merely wow to awesome to the power of rad.

Sweet and salty seems to be the flavour of the month with the Sweet and Salty Cake being raved about all over the food blogging world. The recipe is from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, the culinary geniuses behind the fashion-forward bakery in Brooklyn, New York by the same name.  They are rock stars in the baking world and it seems everyone wants a piece of them.

Saturday 4 December 2010

Pretty happy things

{peony bouquet from my rangi/dancing girls}

I was overwhelmed by the messages in my last eeyore post.  Thank you for holding my hand through my blog.  I really needed it.

I've decided to try and snap out of all the self imposed gloom and doom and concentrate on things that make me happy, like some of the beautiful gifts I got for my birthday last month.

Thursday 2 December 2010

Hope for the best...

{image by kameron elisabeth via flickr} 

....prepare for the worst.

I've had an Eeyore week.  A melancholy week.  A feeling blue week.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

DIY tissue paper flowers/pom poms and girl-crushing on Martha

I've never been a super crafty kind of person.   Oh I've wanted to be crafty but I seem to have two left hands when it comes to making stuff.

However, put me in charge of decorations for a bridal shower and my OCD'ness overrides any common sense and self knowledge of my complete lack of manual coordination.

I saw these pretty tissue flowers and pom poms (or as she calls them Luminarias) on Martha Stewart's wedding website.  She describes them as:
Joyous bursts of color dance above a table, imparting a cheerful radiance to a rehearsal dinner or casual reception. The dahlialike pom-poms appear to float in the air; in reality they are hung from the ceiling with monofilament. Echoing the vibrant hanging puffs, pom-pom napkin rings in citrus shades adorn each place setting. Square glass vessels in various sizes line tables. Covered in sunset-hued tissue (cut to size and secured with double-sided tape), they cast a soft glow.
Sigh.  You just gotta love Martha. 

She had me at "joyous bursts" and I knew, come hell or high water, Pav was going to get joyous bursts of colour for her bridal shower, dammit!

Hours later, sitting in a crow's nest of little bits of tissue paper, I pondered just how wise that decision was.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Lemon & olive oil cupcakes with raspberry cream cheese frosting v2.0

I reckon if you could taste sunshine it would taste like tangy citrusy lemon and the grassy fruity and pepperiness you get in really good olive oil.

So a wee while ago when I saw a recipe for lemon & olive oil cake I remember thinking: that sounds like sunshine in a cake.  But when I went to find the recipe again, I couldn't for the life of me find THE one I was looking for.

I was positive it was an Ottolenghi recipe but I think I got mixed up with their lemon polenta cake.  Then I was convinced that I'd seen a recipe on smitten kitchen's blog, or maybe orangette's blog.  But alas, no luck.  I vaguely remember the post being about the blogger's sister giving her a recipe for the cake but I'm not 100% sure if that is a total confabulation.  Maybe I'm just getting old...memory like a sieve!

Without a proper recipe, I thought why the heck not adapt my go to cupcake recipe and see if that doesn't work.  I know I've been doing that a lot lately which is not very fun for you all.  I do pinky promise to try out new recipes soon but so often these days I find that I am baking in a manic rush and under such a tight time frame that there isn't much leeway for experiments, you know what I mean?  But I do have a stack of recipes that I'm dying to try out in the Christmas hols so please bear with me!

These cupcakes were for my lovely friend Pav's Alice in Wonderland bridal shower in the weekend.  They were tender and fruity, pretty and girly, and perfect for a mad hatter tea party!

Monday 22 November 2010

A very merry bridal shower

I apologise again for abandoning my blog this past week.

My gorgeous girlfriend Pav is getting married in January and we threw her an Alice in Wonderland themed bridal shower in the weekend.

With the help of the wonderful bridesmaids: Claire, Vicky & Monique, we managed to transform Pav's house into a little slice of Wonderland.   

It was a week of baking, paper flower making, and playing card tying. Of battling layers and layers of uncooperative pastel tissue paper, ripping yet another paper flower with clumsy fingers. Of sitting watching CSI reruns while knotting jumbo playing cards just so far apart and alternatively black and red.  Of labelling a million "eat me" and "drink me" labels, printing off posters, and making fiddly wee toothpick flags.

You could say I went as mad as a hatter.

And I loved every minute of it.

So without further ado, I present to you....Pavanie's Very Merry Bridal Shower!

Sunday 14 November 2010

Sneak peek shhhh.....

Apology: I'll be a bit slow posting and getting back to you this week.

Friday 12 November 2010

So many herbs, so little thyme

For my birthday my awesome parents in law to be got me a herb planter and loads of yummy herbs.

So today, on a gloriously sunny Auckland Saturday, C and I got our green thumbs out...

Monday 8 November 2010

Sea salt & cracker toffee and secret recipes

A little while ago I got to taste some caramels made by a lovely lady I used to work with.  I put a piece in my mouth and bang! It was love at first bite.  The caramels tasted just like Daims, which are little Swedish caramels with bits of almond covered in chocolate and are a staple on my duty free shopping list.

Psh, caramel covered in chocolate doesn't sound too flash, I hear you say?  Well my friend, it's not just any old caramel we are talking about here, this caramel is brittle and crunchy without being sticky, buttery smokey and salty sweet without being toothachingly sugary.  The result is totally moreish and very very addictive.  The caramels made by J, were just as crunchy, just as smokey and buttery as my beloved Daims.

I HAD to have the recipe.

Unfortunately, J had been sworn to secrecy from the person whom she got the recipe off of as it was a Family Secret Recipe.  Which, of course, made me even more obsessed with finding out how to make them.

What is it with secret recipes that just makes you want to crack them?  There's really something magical and mysterious about a secret recipe - just look how well it's done for Coke and Colonel Sanders.  It made me kinda wish I had more secret recipes.  Come to think of it I don't even have a single secret recipe. Not one. I'm guess I'm an open book kinda girl, as soon as I get a good recipe I wanna tell the world...Hey everyone! Check this out, it's so meeeeeean!!!!  

J was very apologetic that she couldn't share the recipe but I totally respect baker/recipe-giver confidentiality. One tidbit of info I did manage to squeeze out of her was that J's caramels, had crackers in the middle to make it that bit crunchier.  So pretty much as soon as I got home, I scoured the internet for a like recipe and hit the jackpot with a recipe for Saltine Cracker Toffee or as I like to call them Sea Salt & Cracker Toffee just to be a lil fancy.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Ginger steak salad, superwomen and super lashes

The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, is an absolute superwoman.  She is a mom of four, runs a cattle ranch and still finds time to run an amazing blog, write a book and take amazing photographs. Not to mention all her recipes work like a dream.

But when I come to think about it, I actually know a lot of superwomen.  I'm sure I'll end up blogging about all of them sometime but today I want to introduce you to Mel.

She is one of the brightest women I've ever met - a veritable brainiac.  Top of her class pharmacist, attentive wife, caring sister, doting daughter and the most thoughtful and fun friend.  And did I mention she looks like she should be a model? If she wasn't my friend, I would totally hate her.

We were in first year pharmacy together and became friends on the elevator on the way up to the very first lecture.

Mates at first sight.

We had a lot in common, both loved shopping and clothes, eating, talking, we were both closet (ok not so closet) science geeks, extremely competitive and shared OCD tendencies when it came to studying and organising and well, life. 

Mel went on to actually become a superstar pharmacist while I changed my degree four times and ended up a corporate lawyer now applying for med school.  Clearly one of us had her head screwed on better than the other.  We've had our fair share of silly girly shenanigans, triumphs and tragedies, and when I changed degrees and later she moved away, we inevitably don't spend a heck of a lot of time together.  But as is the magical time-travel like phenomenon that is the bond of old friends, whenever we do hang out it's like we're 18 again and nothing has changed. 

We've both developed love of cooking and baking.  I think it appeals to our inner science geeks - the precise measuring and timing, the alchemy of ingredients turning in to dishes and recently she introduced me to a scrumptious recipe from the Pioneer Woman blog for Ginger Steak Salad.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Baking for Hospice: Matcha Green Tea Shortbread

This was my second lot of baking for the All About Dads round for Baking for Hospice.

My dad absolutely LOVED shortbread.  I could never understand why. I mean, I like shortbread: you can't really beat it for its buttery crumbly goodness but it was never my first choice out of those Assorted Biscuits tins we used to always get for Christmas from relos.  I'm all about the glamour cookies - the chocolate coated ones, the choc chippies, the ones with the creamy filling, the malt ones.  But there was no other cookie as far as my Dad was concerned.  It was shortbread or nothing.  He could mow through whole bags of Farmbake shortbread all by himself.  Even when he was staying at the hospice, a piece of shortbread dunked into a milo was his daily afternoon tea.

So seeing as the theme was All About Dads, I just had to bake shortbread.  No two buts about it.  I knew that a couple of other bakers were making shortbread for the B4H round (perks of doing the organising :P), so I thought I'd mix it up a little and make Matcha Green Tea Shortbread.  I'd seen recipes for Matcha Sables or Green Tea shortbread doing the rounds on tastespotting and I just couldn't resist trying a batch myself.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Baking for Hospice: Black Forest Rocky Road

 Last weekend was Round 12 for Baking for Hospice and the theme was All About Dads.

As you know, my Dad's fav cake was black forest gateau, but since I've only just made Black Forest Cupcakes a couple of posts ago and I was too lazy to make a full out black forest cake I went with a variation of my fav Cadbury chocolate bar: Black Forest Rocky Road.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Goat's cheese frittata with port & black pepper caramelised figs

The French Cafe is regarded as the pinnacle of culinary excellence in Auckland.  You usually have to book about a month in advance to get a table. It's New Zealand's French Laundry, our down-under fair-dinkum version of El Bulli.  If the French Cafe was a celeb it would be Johnny Depp: sexy, creative and elusive. 

I've eaten there twice, once for the degustation (incredible, divine, earth shatteringly good) and once off the menu.  Both times we had the French Cafe signature dish, the Goat's Cheese and Beetroot tart.  My darling fellow foodie girlfriends bought me the French Cafe Cookbook a couple of birthdays ago.  I love it.  It has stunning photos and they actually put the recipes of dishes they cook at the restaurant there.

We're going on a trip to Sri Lanka at the end of the year with two of my very best, very foodie, friends so at a trip organising pot luck dinner last week, I wanted to bring something worthy of my girls who are total domestic goddesses.

While I wasn't game enough to go the whole hog and make the FC beetroot tart, when I stumbled upon a simple recipe for potato and goat's cheese frittata by Donna Hay, I knew with a bit of experimentation I could create a French Cafe inspired version: Goat's Cheese Frittata with Port & Black Pepper Caramelised Figs.

Saturday 9 October 2010

Pink ribbon rosewater & pistachio shortbread

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation's annual Pink Ribbon Day was last Friday. 

The thing with breast cancer is that everyone has a story.  Everyone has had a sister, daughter or mother, relative or friend, or knows of someone, who has battled the disease.

For me, it was my Aunty Wendy who we lost to breast cancer, my mum who has beaten it only very recently and a close family friend who has just been diagnosed last week.

It's scarily common but luckily, thanks to clever wee scientists, the detection and treatment of breast cancer has come a long way and in most cases early detection can mean total recovery.  So as a hats off to all those organisations that fund research into breast cancer and in support of breast cancer awareness I made: Pink Ribbon Rosewater & Pistachio Shortbread.

Sunday 3 October 2010

First bbq of summer at Piha

After what seemed like an endless winter of torrential rain and frosty nights, summer has finally peeked its head over the weekend with two days of glorious sunshine.  

And what do kiwis do when it's summer?  We BARBEQUE!

Goodbye rain and hail and thunderstorms.  Hello chillaxing in the sun, sizzling barbeques and ice cold Coronas on the deck

And with that first hint of summer, we were off to the Piha bach for our first summer barbie: Garlic Butter Scallops and Char-grilled Vegetables with Chilli and Garlic Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Just a bit saucy chocolate pud and buying wedding dresses online

Weddings are black holes for money.

We're trying our best to do everything el-cheapo but it's still going to cost an absolute fortune.
So one of the ways we are saving is on my wedding dress...I bought my wedding dress online.  Every one said not to.  All the wedding forums on the internet said it was too risky.  Most brides budget for and don't mind spending a couple Gs on their wedding gowns which is pretty standard and fair enough being the most important dress you will wear and all.

But I'm a buy-my-clothes-2nd-hand-on-trade-me kinda girl and when push came to shove I just couldn't justify spending thousands on my dress. Especially when that could mean several more tables of friends and family at our wedding.  So I took the gamble - online it was.

I sent about a million emails to the Storeofdress people, even sent my brother (who was in Shanghai recently) to check out their actual store.  I sent through my measurements and paid.  And then began the anxious month-long wait to see whether:

a) The dress will turn up;

b) It will look anything like the picture; and

c) It would fit properly.

So when the dress arrived last week I knew I needed some comfort food before opening the parcel and what could be more comforting than an old favourite, a tried and true recipe: Chocolate Self Saucing Pudding with Raspberries and Vanilla Ice cream.

Sunday 26 September 2010

Plum chardonnay sago pudding and UMAT results

UMAT results came out last week coincidentally on the day of the Full Moon Festival.

For those not in the know, UMAT is the external medical admissions exam you have to sit if you want to get into med school in New Zealand and Australia. 

I had been dreading these results.  The UMAT test was awful.  Hundreds of us sat in row after row of desks at Mt Albert Stadium to answer cryptic questions testing your logical reasoning, interpersonal skills and non-verbal reasoning.  I never want to try and find non-existent patterns in another set of clip art doodles ever again.

The test wasn't all bad though: the Warriors provided some light relief by coming out and running drills on the field but other than that UMAT was like going to the dentist: expensive, painful and terrifying!

So when these results came out, I knew I needed something sweet and just so slightly alcoholic to help me get the courage up to check my results and an old fav: Plum chardonnay sago pudding did the trick nicely.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Rhubarb cupcakes with brown sugar mascarpone frosting

There are so many different uses for homemade mascarpone: you could use it in tiramisu, stir it through pasta with lemon zest and pine nuts, serve it on top of stewed fruit.

But I wanted something special for my very first batch of mascarpone.  I wanted to put the creamy delectableness on centre stage, celebrate the triumph of making my very first batch of cheese.

So I decided to make Rhubarb cupcakes with brown sugar mascarpone frosting.

Friday 17 September 2010

DIY sushi buffet for a mid winter family feast

I love sushi.

Tangy rice encasing delicious nuggets of fresh sashimi wrapped in ozone-y seaweed.  Just smear on some nose-clearingly hot wasabi and dip in soy sauce and you have a healthy, delicious, portable bite-sized meal.

However, if you've ever attempted to make sushi at home you will know that making sushi is not as easy as it looks.  

All that rolling and tucking while trying to keep it all even and pretty looking.   My sushi rolls inevitably look like deformed cigars and that sticky rice just sticks to everything.

Struggle no more my sushi challenged friends, I have discovered a way to wow your guests with sushi but not have to roll a single roll yourself...a DIY sushi buffet!

Why go through the anguish and frustration of making sushi when you can get your guests to make it themselves?

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Homemade mascarpone and sorry so slack!

Sorry team, I've been extremely slack at posting and replying to comments in the last wee bit.

It's been a real topsy turvy time and the week just went by in a blink.  Did a first aid course (fun!), sent off my applications for med school (exciting and also very very scary), my grandma was rushed to hospital (not so fun), my uncle passed away (not fun at all), and have been doing some mad organising for wedding.

Full. On.

I've missed you all though!  And to make up for my absence I thought I'd sweeten the deal with some pretty exciting news: I made cheese.

No no I didn't cut the cheese.  And I know I'm normally pretty cheesy as it is...but I actually, totally made cheese!

Yes y'all, I've delved into the mysterious world of cheese making by making homemade mascarpone.

It was so easy and the results so good...I'm totally hooked.  I'm determined to try and make other cheeses now like mozzarella and feta. 

Watch out Kapiti.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Confessions: Argentinean lamb chops with mint chimichurri

Confession # 1: I have to say, I'm not the biggest fan of Gordon Ramsay.

Don't get me wrong, he's a good looking man, got that bad-boy appeal down pat and is a really talented chef but...he's just a bit mean

However, being the Food-TV addict that I am, my prejudice against Gordo didn't stop me from watching The F Word the other week.  And I'm glad I did.

That episode in particular was a race to see who was to get into the semi final.  A battle between Lasan, a modern Indian restaurant in Birmingham and the Argentinean restaurant Santa Maria del Sur. 

Lasan served flashy, innovative, haute Indian cuisine albeit from a rather dysfunctional team headed by a slightly abrasive chef.

Santa Maria del Sur was all warm fuzzies - a close knit kitchen team serving hearty, delicious authentic Argentinean barbeque.

Confession #2: I would be a horrendous vegetarian.  I just love meat too much.  Steaks and chops and roasts...oh my!  I like my steaks pretty much bloody and mooing.  Beef tataki styles.  Puts hairs on your chest I'm told. 

So when I watched the Santa Maria chef lug hunks of beautiful marinated Argentinean steaks on to a flame grill - I knew I had to find and try that recipe pronto.

Saturday 4 September 2010

Black forest cupcakes with flour frosting for Dad

My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it. ~ Clarence Budington Kelland

I'm gonna watch you shine
Gonna watch you grow
Gonna paint a sign
So you'll always know
As long as one and one is two
There could never be a father
That loved his daughter more than I love you
~ Paul Simon
It's Father's Day today in New Zealand.  A lot of people will associate Father's Day, with buying CDs, socks and ties and cooking Dad a steak dinner. 

I was a Daddy's girl so for me, Father's Day is remembering how great my Dad was, how much I miss him and how lucky I was for all that he taught me, sacrificed for me and saw in me.  Dad made me believe I could do anything but was proud of me just the way I was.

He's been gone five years now and while time does smooth over some of the sadness, certain days, like birthdays, special occasions, and of course, Father's Day, are just a bit harder. 

So to cheer myself up, I decided to make Black Forest Cupcakes with Port because black forest gateau was Dad's favourite dessert.  

Friday 3 September 2010

East meets west coconut vanilla mochi cake

This Coconut Vanilla Mochi Cake is a little east meets west.  Kinda like me.

Born in Hong Kong but raised in New Zealand, I'm a Chiwi, a Chinese Kiwi.  I love Marmite, Watties T sauce and fish 'n' chips on the beach (or "fush and chups" as we say in NZ).  But I still celebrate Chinese New Year, love yum cha and eat with chopsticks.

I'm lucky to have the best of both worlds and this mochi cake, a cross between a vanilla cake and mochi, combines the best of west and east with the delicious flavour and crust of a pound cake and the delightful chewy texture of mochi.  It is so good, I ate half the cake myself, no kidding.

Monday 30 August 2010

Chocolate Malteaser cookies and cookie camps

I think I am obsessed with malt. I love malteasers, malted milk drinks, Malteaser cupcakes, and malted milkshakes.  I just love the flavour.

I think it's because the taste of malt reminds me of having hot Horlicks before bed as a kid.  It's a comfort taste and always brings a smile to my face.   Don't you just love how food can conjure up delicious memories?

This recipe for Chocolate Malteaser Cookies is another gem from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours.

It's a malt lover's dream cookie.  Really malty with big chunks of chocolate coated malt balls, it's not so sweet, wonderfully cakey and very very difficult to exercise any self control around.

Saturday 28 August 2010

Creamy pumpkin, thyme and feta bake: a cure for winter blues

After many months of dark dreary weather, many will be suffering from the common affliction known as the winter blues.

It is almost as if the lack of sunshine, the monotony of cloudy dim skies and the constant rain can actually drain your energy, make you grumpy and tired and bring out your inner Eeyore.

If that sounds like you, then I would prescribe this Creamy pumpkin, thyme and feta bake.

Not that this dish is exactly health food.  Oh no, with the lashings of cream and feta, this is definitely an indulgent kind of dish, but its luscious creaminess and bright orange nuggets of pumpkin can brighten even the darkest of winter nights.  So not health food; but most definitely soul food.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Rhubarb, earl grey and vanilla rose cakes for Baking for Hospice

Round 11 of Baking for Hospice was the weekend before last and the theme for this round was: Winter Wonderland.

Now I had the best of intentions to bake to theme but I also really wanted to use my brand spanking new rose pan - how to combine the two? 

Roses, as I found out, do not flower in winter.  Crap.  Looked like my the winterness was going to have to come from else where.

That's where I hit upon the idea of using rhubarb since I always associate rhubarb with winter and crumbles and puddings and rhubarb rose cakes would be oh so pretty.

However, a quick google search told me that rhubarb is in fact not actually in season in winter....go figure.

But now I had my heart set on baking with rhubarb and if rhubarb is not all that wintry, then how bout using earl grey too? A cup of tea indoors on a blustery day is sort of winter themed right??

Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it because for the Winter Wonderland round I made Rhubarb, Earl Grey and Vanilla Rose Cakes.

Thursday 19 August 2010

Canton Cafe, Kingsland, Auckland

Canton Cafe in Kingsland serves my most favouritest seafood dish in the entire world: Steamed Garlic Prawns.  Big call, I know.

I dream about this dish.  I would marry this dish (sorry C).

The dish, however, is definitely not for the faint hearted....see piles of yellow bitty bits smothering the prawns?  That my friends is garlic, glorious glorious garlic.   You probably shouldn't order this on your first date, if you're a vampire, or if you plan to speak to anyone for the rest of the night.  But if you're like me and have an almost Gallic obsession with garlic, you just won't care. One can never have too much garlic I say.

Voted in the Top 50 Asian Restaurants in 2008 and Best Chinese Restaurant 2003 & 2005 by Metro Magazine, Canton Cafe is an institution on the Auckland culinary scene.

To be honest though, I've sat on this review for ages now.  We have about 4 or 5 Chinese restaurants on our favourite list and Canton Cafe is one of them. We've been coming to this restaurant for many many years.  My parents know the owners and the manager (having said that, the Hong Kong community in Auckland is rather small and Mum seems to know pretty much every Chinese restaurant owner in the city). We go there for birthdays, special occasions and even when we just don't feel like cooking.  We went there a couple of weeks ago to celebrate my Mum being cancer free for 3 years.

So how could I review this restaurant objectively? Maybe I'd be overly critical since we go there all the time or maybe I wouldn't even notice the flaws since it's pretty much our "local".

Well, I've decided I'm just going to tell you what I thought and then you can go try it for yourself and see if you agree.  I will also try and lay out what to expect from your Canton Cafe experience.  Sound like a plan, Stan?

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Super quick eggs bene for lazy Saturdays in

After a hectic week at work, getting to Saturday morning is like getting to the light at the end of the tunnel.

You sleep in, you make your coffee, you ponder terribly difficult dilemmas like what shall I have for breakfast?

More often than not what you really feel like is a big cooked brekkie, like you'd get at your fav cafe, but at the same time you would really just like to lounge around in your PJs, uggs and bad hair and vegetate. 

What to do?

Never fear, there's a way to have the best of both worlds with these super quick eggs bene for lazy Saturdays in.  You can have your cafe style breakfast without having to leave the comfort of your own home AND it's much easier on the old purse than brunching out.

Sunday 15 August 2010

Raspberry chocolate truffles

A raspberry twist on Tartelette's beautiful truffles

Did you ever make mud pies as a kid?

You know, sit in your backyard making patties of mud to serve at your teddy bears' picnic?

Do you remember that delightful squelching in between your fingers?  The wonderful feeling of being a mess of mud covering your clothes and face and in your hair?

I'd forgotten how much fun that was until I made truffles for the first time.  Who would have known that making such an elegant dessert was the grown up equivalent of making mud pies!

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Hoddeok: my almost authentic Korean pancakes

On the corner of Wellesly and Lorne in Auckland's CBD,  tucked under the "pagoda" building is a little shop, a stall really, selling Korean pancakes.  The queue there is always snaking along the footpath around the corner.  A queue which balloons into a crowd around lunchtime.  I've walked past this stall for years, but for some reason never tried it out.  Until the other day, while running an errand for the boss, I thought why not have Korean pancakes for lunch?

Sunday 8 August 2010

Pay it forward dumplings

My blog is called 'baking = love', but it could easily have been 'food = love'.  Whenever a friend or loved one is unwell or going through a tough time, I can't help but want to make something to take over to them.  Usually I bake something sweet but I also like making dumplings to send as part of the care package.

Why dumplings?  Well, everyone likes dumplings, right?  Not only are they delicious and nutritious, they're a meal in one, with carb, veges and meat all in one little package.  They're also something just a little bit special. Something you wouldn't normally get to eat at home.

Practical reasons aside, these dumplings also have a special meaning for me.  

The recipe was taught to me by an auntie* who came and helped us out when Dad passed away.  When all the visitors had gone and friends and relos went back to their normal lives, we were still shell shocked and left trying to work out how to deal with life without Dad.  Auntie came in, helped us tidy and sort out our house, cooked us dinner and taught me some of her signature dishes.  She taught me how to make dumplings to keep in the freezer so that when I got home late from uni I could have dinner on the table in a jiffy.  She was our guardian angel during that time.  There's no way I could ever repay her for her kindness and thoughtfulness. So instead, I am paying it forward, with dumplings.

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Green-Eyed Gadget Monster: Silhouette SD digital cutter

Now at first glance this high tech looking gadget might not leap out to you as a kitchen tool but wait till you see what Cupcake Project made with it:

Now you're paying attention, aren't you?

Monday 2 August 2010

Give us this day our daily cinnamon buns

It all started with the brioche. And now I'm hooked on baking bread.  I don't know how I lived before.
There is something truly satisfying about that moment when you lift up the tea towel to see that your little ball of dough has miraculously transformed into a softly swelling mound.  I love getting my hands in there, feeling it sigh as you punch it down and then pulling and rolling it until it's soft and squidgy and silky.  And then there's the smell as it's baking. Bliss.

My fiance raved about the cinnamon scrolls I made a couple of posts ago and I was keen to see if I couldn't improve on it with a yeasted version.  I mean as much as I love scones, seriously, who can resist fluffy bready cinnamony buns?  So the very next week after attempting my first yeasted recipe, I decided to try Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls recipe.  And boy oh boy am I glad I did.

Sunday 1 August 2010

Let them eat brioche, manatee brioche

Manatee brioche: ugly but tasty

On hearing that peasants in her empire didn't even have bread to eat, legend has it that Marie Antoinette responded:
"Qu'ils mangent de la brioche!"
This is usually translated to "let them eat cake!" but what Mademoiselle Antoinette was actually referring to was the decadent sweet buttery rich bread brioche.

Ooo la la, brioche! Amazing on its own, heated with a little bit of jam or dunked in egg and fried as pain perdue (aka the ultimate french toast) brioche is a wonder of baking - rich from lashings of butter and egg yolks but also feathery light from multiple risings.  The french really know how to make their pastries, non?

Now before I go any further, I have a confession to make.  I might bake a lot.  I might even have the word baking in the title of my blog, but until this brioche I had never baked with yeast before.  There it is - my dirty little secret.  Quelle horreur!

Thursday 29 July 2010

Brunch at Savour and Devour, Grey Lynn, Auckland

There's something about the name 'Savour and Devour' that makes it really fun to say out loud.  Go on, say it with me: Savourrrr and Devoooouur.  You can't help but say it in your late-night-radio-DJ voice, sporting your best come hither look.

But the cool name is not the only reason to go to Savour and Devour, the food was pretty incredible too.

Monday 26 July 2010

Lemon cupcakes with brown sugar cream cheese frosting

A.k.a. how to make cupcakes when you're running late for yum cha

It was my cousin's birthday the other week and at the very last minute I decided to make her some cupcakes. So with just over an hour till we were due at yum cha, and still in my pj's, I started baking.

Friday 23 July 2010

Vintage or FAIL?

"Men are like wine - some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age"
Pope John XXIII

C and I recently moved back into Mum's place to save up for our wedding.  We were clearing out the kitchen cupboards to make room for my copious amounts completely normal sized hoard of baking gear when we stumbled upon a treasure trove of old bottles of wine.

Now, we are talking high quality vino here: a 2000 Bordeaux, a 1999 Chardonnay, a couple of 5-10 year old Australian reds.  My dad was a big red wine enthusiast and between bottles he bought and ones we got as gifts we seem to have amassed a bit of a collection over the years.  There was even the red I bought for him in France when I was on exchange there back in 2000 that he was going to open on my 21st birthday.  When dad passed away, there was no one else in the house to appreciate the alcomohol and so the bottles sat in the back of the pantry, gathering dust, forgotten...until now.

So what to do with this antique wine hoard?  I mean we could try to sell them but they've been sitting in the kitchen cupboard this whole time...not kept in a fandangled temperature and climate controlled cellar of any sort.  Will they still be good? Or will they be vinegar?

C suggested that we should open one bottle at a time, take them to a dinner party or out to a restaurant and basically play wine russian roulette.  It will either be an amazing drop or will it be super bad: Vintage or FAIL?

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Cinnamon Scrolls are like ugg boots

If someone asked you what the most comforting smell in the world was what would be your picks?

For me, the top three would have to be vanilla, fresh linen and cinnamon.

Cinnamon is just one of those smells that wraps around you like a fluffy rug, it's like ugg boots for your nose, cozy and whiff will give you warm fuzzies all over.

Thursday 15 July 2010

At Home Restaurant

The Concept.

Instead of going out for a BYO with friends, get everyone to pitch in with a small koha or donation and host a dinner party at home.  BYO recession style.
The Inspiration

Once upon a time, two consummate foodies and good friends of ours, T & B went out for a cheap and cheerful BYO with friends.  They went to a Japanese eatery in downtown Auckland and found that the food was alright but not great and they mused that for the same price everyone spent out that night, they could have cooked up a mean feed for all at home.  And so the idea for the 'At Home Restaurant' was born.


Thursday 8 July 2010

Green-Eyed Gadget Monster: Nordic Ware Rose Bundtlette Pan

I am a sucker for all things kitchenware.  Often in my wanderings in the food blogosphere, I spy other bloggers' amazing kitchens and their enviable collection of kitchen gadgets and machinery.  And I turn into a wee green-eyed monster and basically covet everything in their kitchens.  So I thought I'd share my moments of envy with you all in a new baking = love feature: the Green-Eyed Gadget Monster.

My penchant for kitchen appliances includes a healthy obsession with baking pans.  Ooooh baking pans.  Lately, I've been lusting over this mini rose bundt pan and when I read this post from spoonful of sugah and her rave review about the Nordic ware pan, I just couldn't stop thinking about it.

Sunday 4 July 2010

Lychee & coconut cupcakes and food crushes

To celebrate my brother's girlfriend getting a JET placement I wanted to make her and her family some congrats cupcakes.  The plan was originally to make matcha cupcakes, but I wasn't sure how much they like green tea flavoured baking (people seem to wither love it or hate it) so I decided to try a different, but equally asian flavour combination: lychees and coconut - with a coconut cupcake base and a lychee swiss meringue buttercream frosting.

Sunday 27 June 2010

Malteser Cupcakes

Someone once said that the cupcake is merely a vehicle for frosting.  That is certainly the case for these Malteser Cupcakes.  This malt frosting is out of this world.  I ate it by the spoonful.  It tastes exactly like the inside of a Malteser (or 'Whoppers' in the US) so if you are a fan of those little chocolate covered malt balls you have to try these Malteser Cupcakes!

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Zebra Cheesecake for Baking for Hospice

For the June round of Baking for Hospice, our theme was Mothers.  My mum's favourite dessert of all time is cheesecake.  I remember we used to go to Robert Harris cafe for lunch in the school holidays when mum and dad had their travel agency in town and every day mum would pick a piece of cheesecake to go with her sandwich and cup of tea.  So, in my B4H baking tribute to my mum, I made Zebra Cheesecake.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Yum Cha at Pearl Garden, New Market, Auckland.

It was a good friend's birthday a couple of weeks ago and she didn't want to make a fuss about it, so stayed pretty low key around the time of her bday.  So low key in fact, the day came and went without us getting together to celebrate.  Well, we weren't having any of that!  So A and I locked her in for a belated bday lunch at Pearl Garden in New Market.

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