Monday 24 December 2012

Meri Kirihimete! Merry Christmas!

{pavlova and strawberries: left over Christmas eve noms = breakfast}

Ice cream's churning away, eclairs all plump and creme filled and strawberries as far as the eye can see.  It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!!

Meri Kirihimete, Merry Christmas everyone!

Hope you get to spend these holidays with some of your favourite people and may your days be filled with joy and laughter, hugs and full bellies.

Looking forward to the eat-a-thon that will be the next 24 hours.... 

{midnight mass at the gorgeous st mathews}

Wednesday 19 December 2012

B for Baby Brandy Baskets with Vegan Lemon Cream and Passionfruit Curd

This post is brought to you by the letter B.

B is for Busy Busy Busy.  After weeks of being a bit of a bum and not doing much, I went straight into an action packed event extravaganza of the last three weeks.  Got myself a summer job as a civil servant (when in Wellington...), went back up to Auckland twice, saw a pre-screening of the Hobbit in all its 48 frame 3D glory (ah-mazing - everyone should go!), made my very first pavlova (post to come!), finished up our last Baking for Hospice round for the year, and that's not even counting all the prep for Christmas!!  So B is for need a Breather and Being very sorry for the lateness of this post!

B is also for Back to School. I was lucky enough to get to go back to my old high school's leavers dinner.  2012 marks ten years since my last year at Rangitoto College...but it sure doesn't feel like it's been that long!  Was really awesome getting to catch up with old teachers as an 'adult' to discover that they are all actually hilariously fun people.  Go Rangi!

And finally, B is for these Baby Brandy Baskets with Vegan Lemon Cream and Passionfruit Curd.

I LOVE brandy snaps.  They are just the right mix of gingery, crispy caramelly, and creamy.  All cigar-shaped and cream-filled, they were the height of sophistication in the 80's, so totally retro cool now.  

Thursday 29 November 2012

Ginger Kisses Revisted and Going Hobbit Mad

The Hobbit...was a capitalist - uh, catalyst - for so many other industries. ~ Prime Minister John Key, The Hobbit Premiere. 

I don't think I had ever see as many pointy ears and hobbity attire as I did walking around downtown Wellington yesterday.  To a visitor it would have seemed like New Zealand really was inhabited by Hobbits.  We have all gone Hobbit mad.  And it's been AWESOME.

Now, I'm no die hard Tolkienite but you really couldn't help getting swept up in all the Hobbit hoohar around here.  The lead up events, the gargantuan structures, the shire recreated in the middle of a bustling intersection.  Then there was the 500m red carpet.  Sure I'd watched countless red carpet cams on the E! channel but this was my very first live red carpet experience.  And it was everything one could hope for: a hundred thousand people lining the streets, celebrities in their best threads, boeing 777 fly-overs and cameras everywhere.  Absolute magic.  Yes, I was a total fangirl and I'm proud of it. 

{clockwise from top left: crowds pack out courtenay place; giant gandalf over embassy theatre; within arms reach of john rhys-davies aka gimli; elijah wood walks the red carpet; the hobbit crew on stage; debbie matenopoulos from E! news}

Now this wee recipe is a revision of a bit of a celebrity recipe of mine: the Soft Ginger Kisses.  A soft gingery cookie sandwich that would be perfect for elevensies or even second breakfasts.  The original was the culmination of years of trial and error but while some commenters raved about the recipe, others had trouble with spreading, so I set about testing out different variations and have come up with a new slightly-tweaked revised recipe, cunningly named Soft Ginger Kisses Version 2.

Monday 19 November 2012

Spinach, Lemon & Feta Filo Pie and To Do Lists

Do what you need to do, so that you can do what you want to do. ~ Denzel Washington in The Great Debaters

Much easier said than done though, no?

It's a funny rule of the universe that big jobs on the To Do List that have to be done are always the hardest to get round to.

I always find myself getting the little easy jobs out of the way and leaving the big intense job to sit in the corner, sulking moodily.  I'll tidy the house, vaccuum, rearrange the pantry, update contacts on my phone, trawl the web for jobs, sofas, anything.  You know, little niggly things that really should get done but aren't exactly urgent, all the while the hefty HAVE to do pile sits there.  Waiting.  Looming.

It's the story of my life at the mo and of this post.  I have a big back log of baking posts from ages ago to write up but instead I will post about this delicious Spinach, Lemon and Feta Filo Pie I made for a picnic last week.

{a perfect wellington day for a picnic}

Monday 12 November 2012

Crazy bout choux: Pink Ribbon Mini Eclairs for Breast Cancer Awareness

If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere.  ~Frank A. Clark

I wish I had exciting stories to tell you about what I did in the last month, like that I had travelled to tropical climes sampling exotic cuisine, or that I'd been whisked away on a baking boot camp run by a cantankerous celebrity chef but, alas, reality is far less delicious.  I've had exams which basically means I've spent the last four weeks huddled over a desk cramming info into my brain and coffee down my throat.  Boo.

And how I've missed you, dear readers!  I thought about you often and wished constantly that I could be back in the happy world of blogging where there are no neural pathways to decipher or anatomical tomes to memorise. 

But we are now finally on the other side of exams and I am back on the blogging bandwagon!

Ok, it wasn't all doom and gloom over the exam period, I do have one piece of exciting news - I am now a Wellingtonian!  Moved up last week and Capital City has been as windy as it has been wonderful.  This weekend I got to celebrate the end of exams, my birthday, and the end of our long distance days.  Lots to be stoked about!  Although now the long process of hunting for a summer job begins...

What have you been up to?  How are your summers going?  It has been far too long!

I've got loads of posts on the back log to catch up on but I thought I'd start with these Pink Ribbon Mini Eclairs.

Monday 15 October 2012

Sneaky peeky: pink eclairs, ginger kisses, & baby brandy baskets

{pink ribbon eclairs for breast cancer awareness month}

So very sorry lovely people for the utter lack of updates.  Exams are next week and am in full blown ohmygodtheressomuchtodosolittletimepanicmeltdown mode!

So to whet your appetite while I flounder my way through the next few weeks, here is a sneaky peeky of some posts in the pipeline, coming soon to a screen near you...

{soft ginger kisses revisted}

{baby brandy baskets with lemon cream and homemade passionfruit curd}

Monday 24 September 2012

It's that time again: Bacon and Egg Pie with Kumara and Caramelized Onions

Lisa: I'm going to become a vegetarian. 
Homer: Does that mean you're not going to eat any pork? 
Lisa: Yes 
Homer: Bacon? 
Lisa: Yes, Dad. 
Homer: Ham? 
Lisa: Dad, all those meats come from the same animal. 
Homer: Right Lisa, some wonderful, magical animal. 
~ The Simpsons

It is that dreaded time of the year again...exam time.  Time for long late nights trying to cram pages and pages of info into a sleep-deprived, caffeine-fuelled, very over-it brain.  Oh the joys of being a student!

It is batten down the hatches time, which also means I'm going to be a wee bit slacker with posting and replying in the next little bit.

So I'm going to apologize in advance, with bacon.  Wonderful magical bacon.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

'Cause every little thing scone be alright: Cinnamon Currant Scones with Mascarpone & Quick Berry Jam

Some called for ale, and some for porter, and one for coffee, and all of them for cakes; so the hobbit was kept very busy for a while. 
A big jug of coffee had just been set in the hearth, the seed-cakes were gone, and the dwarves were starting on a round of buttered scones, when there came - a loud knock. 
~ JRR Tolkein,  The Hobbit.

I don't know what it is about this year but it seems like too many amazing people that I know are going through heart-breakingly horrendous times.  Just want you to know, you're constantly in my thoughts and prayers and you will always be welcome in my wee hobbit hole for a big jug of coffee and a round of buttered scones.

I guess if I'm gonna be offering scones, I better make sure I can whip up a decent enough batch!  While I can't say I've had a heck of a lot of experience making scones, I do have plenty of experience eating them.

For me, the best scones are fluffy and tender, still warm from the oven, with a big dollop of whipped cream and raspberry jam, served with a strong cup of tea.  Devonshire tea at it's best.

However, unbeknownst to me, there appears to be a great debate as to what the 'proper' way of assembling ones scone is.  Move over chicken vs egg dilemma, in the world of scones, the million dollar question is: cream first or jam?

According to those far more proper than I, the Devon way of preparing the scone is to butter the scone, then add cream, and then the jam.   However the way to do it in the rival county of Cornwall, is to put the jam on before the cream.

Not being the most proper person in the world, I had no idea there was a proper way of having a scone though it looks like I've inadvertently ended up going the Cornish jam-first method.  Whichever way you like to assemble your scone, it really makes little difference 'cause after all once you eat it, it's scone.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

When brûlée goes bad: Lemon Coconut Cheesecake Bars

Amélie Poulain cultive un goût particulier pour les tous petits plaisirs. Elle aime plonger sa main au plus profond d’un sac de grain... briser la croûte des crèmes brûlées avec la pointe de la petite cuillère... et faire des ricochets sur le Canal Saint-Martin. ~ Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain.
Amelie cultivates a taste for small pleasures. She likes dipping her hand into sacks of grain, cracking crème brûlée with a teaspoon and skipping stones at St. Martin's Canal ~ Amelie

These were meant to be brûlée bars.  I wanted them so much to be brûlée bars.

Like Amélie (my fav movie of all time!) that first crack through the caramel sugar layer on a crème brûlée never fails to give me tingles down my spine.  It's magical.   Truly one of life's little pleasures.

But despite what people tell you, you just can't brûlée properly in the oven.   Instead of getting that perfectly golden brown, snap crackle caramel coating on the top, you end up with burned edges, melted sugar, and gooey melted cheesecake.  Boo.  One does not simply brûlée without a blow torch.

{is it kinda pyro asking for a blow torch for christmas?}

So I just topped the rest of the Lemon Cheesecake Slices I made for our Baking for Hospice Fifty Shades of Yellow round with crunchy toasted coconut making them Lemon Coconut Cheesecake Slices.  But don't get me wrong, the dud first brûlée attempts may not have looked that flash, they tasted amazing.  That caramel crunchy top was perfect with the creamy tangy cheesecake filling.  Mark my words, once I get my hands on a sweet blow torch, I'm definitely gonna go brûlée crazy with these puppies.  Watch this space. 

Thursday 16 August 2012

Wellington, Wellingtons, and Masterchef Melting Moments

The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain ~ Dolly Parton

What a wet and windy but wickedly wonderful week!  Have had it all: the good, the bad, and the delicious.

The bad: It has been absolutely bucketing down for ages.  Really gave me new appreciation of just how great owning a pair of gumboots is.   One should not underestimate the utter miserableness that is cold wet socks and the corresponding amazingness that is getting to splash in puddles and retain warm dry toes.

{i heart my hunters}

The good:  I've just found out that I got my clinical placement in Wellington!! Woooohoooo!!  For our final three years of med school, the class is getting scattered to the four winds.  Well, three winds to be precise: Wellington, Christchurch or Dunedin and based on the numbers you may not get to go to the place you nominate.  So it's been hanging over us all for two years now but finally, this week it's all confirmed...whew!  So very excited about living in the Capital City.  Wellywood here we come!!  

And finally, the delicious: I recently made these Much-hyped Masterchef Melting Moments.  They are from pastry queen of Masterchef Australia, Julia Taylor, and were raved about by the judges.  While I don't want to rain on her parade, I wasn't terribly impressed.  Having said that they did go down a treat at my Mum's work!

Sunday 5 August 2012

Olympic Obsession and Sweet Cherry Pie

Only if you have been in the deepest valley, can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain ~ 2012 Mens Double Sculls Olympic Gold Medalist Eric Murray quoting Richard M. Nixon.

How good are the Olympics?!

I've stayed up late and got up early just to catch a glimpse of the rowing, swimming, athletics, you name it.  I've found myself playing the armchair 3rd umpire, tsk-tsking at the officials making rubbish calls on sports I'd never even watched before in my life.  Who knew weightlifting, synchronized diving, gymnastic trampolining and canoe slalom made such great television?

The tears, the controversy, the drama.  Gah. Cannot. Stop. Watching.

And in amongst the sporting juggernauts of China, USA and GB, little old New Zealand has had a golden run.  Three golds and four bronzes.  We are even beating the Aussies. It has been magical to watch these amazing athletes who have dedicated more than a decade of their lives, finally achieving their dreams.

Eric Murray, aged 30, half of the golden double sculls pair with Hamish Bond, spoke about all the set backs and knock downs they had had along the way.  He quoted Richard Nixon's "Deepest Valley" quote as giving him inspiration in races.  It is truly inspirational the sacrifice these athletes have made.  Years of dedication, of unwavering support from their families, of grueling hard work and disappointments, financial setbacks and pressure to deliver.

And it gives me courage.  At the ripe old age of 27 and only halfway into a medical degree, having walked away from a career in law, lived apart from my husband for almost two years, fended disbelief and disapproval and struggled with a gargantuan student loan, I've often questioned my sanity and whether I've made the right choice.  But these incredibly brave and talented athletes have shown me that sacrifice and belief in oneself does pay off and dreams really do come true.

You could say they are oar-inspiring.

The greatness comes not when things go always good for you.  But the greatness comes when you're really tested when you take some knocks, some disappointments, when sadness comes. ~ Richard M. Nixon.

This Sweet Cherry Pie, whilst gorgeous and delicious, really has nothing to do with the Olympics.  Unless you count the golden pastry crust or that it's a winner of a recipe.

Saturday 28 July 2012

Fifty Shades of Pecan Pie: Baby Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pies

I don't believe in guilty pleasures, I believe you should be able to like what you like ~ Dave Grohl

Bookshops are selling out of it.  Comedians are lampooning it.  It even made it on to our national news.

Everyone seems to be talking about Fifty Shades of Grey.

I'm a wee bit hesitant to wade into the Fifty Shades frenzy but it's such a cultural phenomenon that it's pretty hard to ignore.  AND I'm dying to know what you lovely readers think...

Now I'm no book snob, I mean, what's not to love about fun trashy quick reads, right ladies?  I'll happily own up to being one of the legions of Twilight, Sookie Stackhouse, and Jamie Fraser fans but with Fifty not so likey.  I don't even know if I enjoyed reading the books.  Not because I was put off by the smexy factor (although some of it was cringe) but it was more that books just weren't that great a read.  They weren't terribly romantic at all: Christian was a bully, Ana, a push-over, there wasn't a heck of a lot of plot, and the whole thing just dragged ooooooon.    Anyhoo, have you dipped into the Fifty Shades books? What did you think? Am I being too harsh?

On a semi related note, this recipe for Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Tarts is so adaptable, I like to think of it as Fifty Shades of Pecan Pie:  dark, sinful, and easy to whip up.

Thursday 12 July 2012

If at first you don't succeed: Guilt-free Oreo Chocolate Mousse Tart

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm ~ Winston Churchill

Recently my in-laws decided to go vegan.

Whereas I am very happily non-vegan.

I unabashedly love all things creamy and cheesy and can't help but be skeptical of vegan recipes that say they are just as good as the full cream versions.  Cream, cream cheese and butter, makes all things luscious and delicious.  I always find myself poo-pooing vegan recipes, I mean how could a soy/nut alternative be anywhere near as good?  And how reliable are the tastebuds of someone used to vegan fare when comparing to decadently delicious dairy equivalents?

But to accommodate my in-laws' new diet, I've ventured into the weird and wacky world of vegan dessert making.  Unfortunately, I didn't hit the ground running.  In fact, it was a big fat vegan FAIL.  I made a vegan lemon cheesecake that stubbornly wouldn't set and tasted like a lemony cashew nut milkshake.  Not quite the "tastes just like cream cheese" decadent dessert the recipe promised.

{lemon cheesecake FAIL}
But instead of being put off, it made me more determined to try out more recipes to get that elusive vegan victory.

And sweet sweet victory came in the form of this Guilt-free Oreo Chocolate Mousse Tart - a chocolate cream pie with a secret ingredient.

Friday 29 June 2012

Cinnamon Sugar Mini Doughnut Muffins

Doughnuts.  Is there anything they can't do? ~ Homer Simpson

I read an article yesterday on the Top 10 Worst Foods for You.  Number one was Soft Drink, which I hmm'ed and nodded at with gravitas, quietly smug that I don't drink fizzy drinks.  But then I got to number two which was pork crackling which made me decidedly less smug and then came number three:  Doughnuts by which point I found myself huffing with indignation.  Have they considered Deliciousness and Good-For-The-Soul-ness I argued to my screen??

Doughnuts have got to be one of my many food Archilles heels.  A Boston Creme takes me to my happy place.  I once signed up for the local gym and rewarded myself after every session with half a dozen Dunkin' Donuts.  Needless to say I gained rather than lost any weight.

Despite my love of doughnuts, I've never tried making them before.  All that waiting for the yeast to rise and then deep frying just seemed like too much of an effort when you can pop up to the mall for a doughnutty fix.  I was also convinced that the so called Baked Cake Doughnuts could only be a poor substitute for the almighty yeast/fried variety.

So how did I come to make these Cinnamon Sugar Mini Doughnut Muffins?

Wednesday 27 June 2012

You are worth every word of love

{curio bay, new zealand}

There's a post making its rounds on Tumblr at the mo.  Not sure where it started but it's beautiful.  I loved it so much I wanted to turn it into a picture and share it with you all.  So voila!

The original post says to:
Give everyone and anyone this message, go to random blogs, someone you don’t even know, stretch your ask limit, anon or not, tell them they are worth it. Because the world needs more love.
Couldn't agree more.
You are loved xox

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Narnia, Horizontal Grass, and Close Encounters with Sea Lions: The Catlins

{waipapa point}

Wind & current, however, are mischievous
play-mates.  When a decision
is made for them to insert
a speak-easy-soke into the
sea's water wheel works then -  
O then, drama abounds for sure,
and the window to the sea-ward
side of my crib begins rattle-screeching
an order for me to ‘Come out! Come out, Sloth!
And witness this!’
‘Uh huh’, I say.

Hone Tuwhare, Here’s looking at You, Sea.

In a far flung corner of New Zealand, at the very bottom of the South Island, is a rugged coastline known as The Catlins.  It's wind-swept, bitterly cold, and has some of the most harshly beautiful places I've ever visited.

It also has Bluff Oysters.  Deliciously-succulent, sweetly-plump, bluff oysters which pretty much gives it an awesomeness score of 'Out of this World'.  A must visit if you are ever in the south east corner of New Zealand.

Saturday 16 June 2012

Keep calm and have Earl Grey Currant Loaf

Tea? It's a hug in a cup ~ Patrick Jane in The Mentalist

You know you're a coffee addict when you're on a first name basis with the local cafes and they can whip up "the usual" without you needing to even order.

Ahhh coffee: bringer of awakeness, elixir of life.

That magical first cup in the morning to render me human, a second steaming hot flat white at lunch to get over the 2 o'clock dip, and perhaps a cup with an afternoon biscuit.  Coffee is always a good choice.

But despite my OCD (Obsessive Coffee Disorder), a simple cup of tea also has a place in my heart.  Whereas coffee is an invigorating, life-giving brew, sometimes, when you're really stressed out, studying to all hours,  under-slept and over-worked, what you find yourself craving is not necessarily an caffeine hit but a soothing, calming, comfy cup of tea.

And hey if it's good enough for The Mentalist, it's good enough for me.

So when I was heading over to the in-laws for a cuppa a while ago, I whipped up this Earl Grey Currant Loaf in homage to the humble cup of tea.

Friday 8 June 2012

Mmm Malted Milo Malteser Ice Cream

Ice cream is exquisite.  What a pity it isn't illegal ~ Voltaire.

I got brain freeze walking home tonight.

Yes, an ice cream headache just because it was so darn cold down here in Dunedin and not because I got to eat delicious ice cream.  Talk about jipped.

I gotta say though, despite the freezing temperatures outside, I could still totally do a big bowl of ice cream for dessert.  Just what is it about this classic frozen dessert that makes it so universally loved, so good, so addictive?  The endless flavors and toppings?  Maybe its dreamy smoothness?  Or the way it melts into creamy sweetness in your mouth?  Whatever it is, there's one thing that's for sure: ice cream equals happiness.

{via icanread}
Getting that pseudo ice cream headache just made me long for this Malted Milo Malteaser Ice Cream I made a wee while back.  It's a glorious malt bonanza.  Chocolate malt powder, malted milk power AND chocolate coated malt balls.  Coz let's face it, everything tastes better as ice cream.

Thursday 31 May 2012

Bada Bing: Cheesy Eggplant Parmigiana Bake

In prison, dinner was always a big thing. We had a pasta course and then we had a meat or a fish.  Paulie did the prep work.  He was doing a year for contempt and he had this wonderful system for doing the garlic.  He used a razor and he used to slice it so thin that it used to liquify in the pan with just a little oil.  A very good system.  Vinnie was in charge of the tomato sauce.  I felt he put in too many onions, but it was still a very good sauce.  ~ Henry Hill (voice over), Goodfellas

We were at a 40 hour Famine fundraising quiz last week and as you tend to do in such quizzes, we got into a bit of a debate as to whether it was Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin that sang a particular crooney number.  Since my brain's default setting is thinking about food, this naturally got me thinking about the glamorously scandalous Rat Pack and all the delicious Italian American dishes they would've no doubt enjoyed back in the day.  Dishes like chicken marsala and eggplant parmigiana which you can't help but say in a Sopranos accent. Dishes that conjure up images of Goodfellas in slick suits dining cozy little establishments in Little Italy.

{totally boss}
{via anythinggauche}
Which made me remember this Cheesy Eggplant Parmigiana Bake dish I made a little while ago but had completely forgotten to blog about.  How could I forget to blog about something so tasty?!?  This pseudo-italian vegetarian number is packed with cheesy tomatoey eggplanty goodness.  Rib-sticking go back for seconds nomminess.

You really should try this dish out, capsice?

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Paper Anniversary: Chocolate dipped amaretti cookies

In the weekend, C and I celebrated our paper wedding anniversary so I really wanted to start this post with some inspiring quote or fun fact about how awesome paper is.  But alas, all the quotes out there seem to be about the fragility and tearablity of paper.  Even the myth that it is impossible to fold a piece of paper more than 8 times was not worth the paper it was written on as that has been thoroughly debunked.

So to paper over the fact that a first wedding anniversary is represented by flimsy old paper, let's concentrate on it also being the eighth anniversary of our first date! Yay eight years!  Hold up...eight years?!  When did we get so old?! Oh my, how time flies when you're having fun.

Paper puns aside, it was actually really lovely reminiscing about our special day a whole year ago.  One's mind boggles at how a whole year has manage to pass us by when it feels like it was only yesterday that we were walking down that aisle, surrounded by the smiling faces of all of our favourite people, making vows to love and cherish each other as long as we both shall live.

One of the many happy memories of the day was getting to nibble on the delicious treats after the ceremony made by our amazing friends and family.  In particular, the Chocolate Dipped Amaretti Cookies made my darling friend Lisa and her lovely momma Sharon were total crowd pleasers.

Tuesday 15 May 2012

I heart Sidart's Tuesday Test Kitchen

NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our *two* weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our *four* *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our *weaponry*...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again. 
[The Inquisition exits]
 ~ Monty Python

I got the biggest surprise this week.  No, nothing at all like the Spanish Inquisition, in fact, the opposite.  A good surprise, nay, a GREAT one.

I was having a sleep in after a bit of a late one the night before when a knock on the door wakes me up and who should show up on my door step husband!!!   He had purposely not told me he was coming down and got me totally by surprise!

Best. Surprise. Ever.

{beautiful auckland from our table with a view}

The element of surprise is also a big part of the Tuesday Test Kitchen degustation menu at Sidart Restaurant in Ponsonby, Auckland.


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