Monday, February 28, 2011

Valentine Delights

This year we didn't do anything for Valentines Day itself but the day before it was a leisurely Sunday Lunch at Koi in Woolwich… Beautiful Food. Fresh sashimi and nigiri sushi with a delightful and well balanced plate of pork belly cubes with crunchy crackling and the smoothest and most delicate of matching mustard sauce to go with it. Well I'm not describing it properly and I'm not in the habit of photographing as I eat so all I can admit to is not doing it justice at well, my description poorly lacking to describe the work of art it was. 

The Daring Bakers challenge for the month was creamy pannacotta with crunchy florentine biscuits… Suitably inspired I made this a few days beforehand for Geoff with Valentines in mind if not marked precisely on the calendar.

For this challenge I chose to make a lavender flavoured pannacotta. It did split a bit, I think I didn't heat the milk enough after adding the cream but someone else might know what was the real cause. It tasted just fine though and I topped it with fresh berries and a berry jelly coolie concoction with a touch of rose water to reflect the floral notes in the pannacotta. 
I tried two plating options, interestingly the one that looked most impressive on the table – the long white presentation tray photographed less well than the pre-valentines treat plating did.
For my florentines, I used this lovely bircher museli mix I had which was oats with bits of apple, currents, wheat flakes and coconut, a great combo for the biscuits which I have already been requested to make regularly to fill the cookie jar up with.

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

Year of the Rabbit

Well a few weeks back it was all very busy celebrating Chinese New Year. It is the year of the Rabbit and another pair of paper-cut creations have made the way from my cutting board and onto my shelf and to Geoff's family home. They are becoming a very nice way to count the years I've known this wonderful man. 

My new in-laws always throw a big party at their place and I have already established my part in the traditions. Everyone always brings a plate of food and I am permanently assigned now to a contribution to the dessert table. This year I chose this Lime and Coconut Layer Cake because its all fluffy and white like a rabbit. It is layers of sponge brushed with malibu and sandwiched together with lime curd with creme fraiche. To coat it is an Italian Meringue with flaked coconut. It seemed to go down very well with the crowd. The long day full of food culminates in a round of Mahjong, my annual dalliance with this addictive game. 

Monday, January 31, 2011

Back in the nest

Well the wedding day has been and gone, the bags are well and truly unpacked from the honeymoon, the whirl of Christmas has passed and January has been a struggle to catch up with the piles of things needing go be attended too. The nest is now permanently filled with two and all the extra work that entails. 

I will post something more up about the wedding later, when my head is calmer and I have a lazy sunday afternoon to just gaze at all the photos and work out which ones are actually my favourites and capture the essence of the day the most. I don't want to just pencil something up in a rush but I don't want to neglect everything else in the process.  So in the meantime I've been lapse in my daring bakers challenges, missed a few months with the wedding and being away but I managed to just sneak into the January Baking challenge so I'll share my efforts with you here. 

This cake was a challenge, the first attempt at the patterned Jaconde sponge was a mess. A misread of the recipe to blame, instead of 3 egg whites and 3 eggs I just used used 3 eggs splitting the yolks and whites and put the odd consistency down to the fact I was making mine a nut free version without the almond meal.  Second time round though it worked fine. 

Whilst splitting all these eggs I found a rare one - an egg with no yolk… i wonder if anyone else has seen something like that before. 

By the time I came to fillings I had run out of eggs due to the earlier errors so I ad-libbed with a caramel base and the leftover yolks made a custard. I also made a lovely apricot jelly salpicon which turned out well, some when into the middle and some little shapes were also cut from it to decorate the tops.  I had issues with my caramel, forgot to put down wax paper so it glued itself to the plate and I had to wrestle it off without damaging the cake, a delicate blowtorch and yanking operation later they were extracted but there was some damage to the sponge so they were prone to springing a leak when the custard came in - the custard also refused to set for some reason so I lost all the intended layering effect inside but it was a good learning experience and I feel more confident that next time I'll do it better.

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The day before

So it's the eve of the wedding and its all still chaotic trying to prepare everything in time, but I just thought I'd share this little hint of whats to come before I'm  off and not back for ages to share. 

These little darlings were on the RSVP cards. 

Hens stepping out for a picnic at the Winery

Ok a little bit behind the ball here but the last weekend of October was time to gather my closed friends for a small and civilised Hens at the winery where they put on a Girls' Picnic. In the evening it was all piled onto my couch to watch the Marie Antoinette movie. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Little break in the planning to cook...

Life has been hurtling along at such a frantic pace that I am fast being left behind in a dizzy daze. It is three weeks now till the wedding and there is so much to do still. 

I thought I'd be missing out on the daring bakers and cooks challenges for these two months but I have to say Dolmades are such a favourite of mine that I just had to have a crack at making them for myself after all these years. The results were delicious and have been easily demolished by friends and family. 

So for my filling I have started off with four kinds of rice: Wild rice, Basmati Rice, Aborio Rice and Brown Rice. 

I added in sparks of flavour with a little chopped tomato and mint, sautéed onions, preserved lemons, chopped dates and apricots, a sprinkling of raisins, pine nuts and pepitas and finally a small dash of cinnamon and garam marsala (or was it the chinese five spice bottle I grabbed - my mind has turned to mush so I shall leave you with images instead).

Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Kitchen Tea Party

Its getting close now... only a matter of weeks now to the wedding and it was time to gather friends around for my bridal shower - a traditional kitchen tea with a Marie Antoinette inspired theme of "Let them eat cake".

There were good games to play, a lolly jar guessing game, a masterchef inspired "Name that Spice" game and a board game that I designed and handpainted for the occasion.

The cake was decorated by myself including the sugar roses, the results of my cake decorating classes I've been doing recently. 

The table all looked very pretty with mum's fine china cups and tiered cake stands full of little delicate and yummy things to eat. 

As a final note the Kitchen Tea Party was the perfect opportunity to serve up some decorated cookies made for the September Daring Bakers Challenge. The cookies were cut in a variety of leaf shapes and decorated using my new piping nozzles courtesy of cake decorating classes. 

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.