Thursday, May 31, 2012

Latest Must Haves

My latest "must-haves" are all about baking. I want to learn more about how to bake properly, including different types of pastries, cakes etc, and learn all the correct techniques. Mastering the Art of Baking is the perfect book to start with. The first volume in a new Murdoch Books series, boasts step by step guides to a range of recipes, information about storing food, equipment and utensil advice and much more. This will definitely appear in my cookbook cupboard soon.

Mastering the Art of Baking is available in all good bookstores or online here and here

UPDATE: I purchased this book last week and can't wait to fill my blog with luscious delights from it's pages.

The next book I have been eyeing off for a long time, every since I had high tea at their flagship store in Surry Hills, is from Sparkle Cupcakery. The high tea, which I thoroughly enjoyed with my Mum one Saturday morning, was a combination of champagne, finger sandwiches, macarons, and our choice of cupcakes. It was a great opportunity to catch up over some luscious delights. The cookbook is filled with cupcake recipes for men, women and your favourite pooch. Sparkle Cupcakes is another "must-have", even just to get their decorating tips.

Sparkle Cupcakes is available in Sparkle Cupcakery's stores, at all good bookstores, and online here and here

Are there any must have cookbooks on your list, or ones you refer to constantly when cooking?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Tart

Finally, the moment I’ve been waiting for since week one of Masterchef Australia 2012 – the chance to make the Dark Chocolate Raspberry Tart, made by Audra. Ever since I saw her create it on one of the first episodes, I knew I had to give it a go. It’s not a recipe for the faint hearted, or anyone in a rush. There are five elements to prepare for this recipe so you will need baking and refrigeration time for some elements. The recipe recommends 1½ hours preparation and 45 minutes cooking but if you’re an amateur like me, that time could be longer (in total it took me 3 hours to have everything except the cream done and in the fridge setting).

Below I have split the recipe into the sections so you will see the list of ingredients for that element and how I prepared it, then I will move on to the next element.

To see more step by step photos visit my Facebook page

What you will need for the Pastry:
225g plain flour
Pinch salt
2 Tbsp Icing Sugar
2 Tbsp Cocoa Powder
140g Unsalted butter, cold and chopped
2 Tbsp Iced Water

Ingredients for pastry
Preheat the oven to 220°C. Mix the flour, salt, sugar and cocoa in a food processor and whiz for about 15 seconds or until combined. Next add the butter and whizz until the butter is finely chopped. With the processor still on, slowly pour in the iced water until a dough just starts to form. Then it’s simply a matter of pressing the dough into a ball, wrapping in cling wrap, and placing in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
Pastry ready for the fridge
After 20 minutes (you can do other elements in between, there is no need to stare at the fridge), roll out the pastry between two sheets of baking paper to about 3mm thick. Discard one sheet of baking paper and lay the pastry gently over a 23cm fluted tart tin that has a removable base. With gentle fingers, something I need to learn to have, press the pastry into the tin, taking care around the sides but also making sure that pastry is filling the sides. Remove baking paper, trim the pastry so there are no unsightly pastry hang overs and refrigerate for 20 minutes. For me, this was the one of the most difficult elements. I don’t have a great deal of experience with homemade pastry so excuse the roughness of mine.
Pastry in the tin & ready for the oven
Once out of the fridge, place baking paper over the pastry, fill the pastry with pastry beads or rice and blind bake for 13-15 minutes (I think I actually overcooked mine so be very careful because there is a thin line between undercooked and overcooked). Remove baking paper and pastry beads and bake for a further 10 minutes until the base is dry. Cool in the fridge for 10 minutes. Be really careful with the pastry beads when you take them out of the oven. They are really hot. I picked mine up using the baking paper as a bag and put them in the sink to cool down.
Cooked pastry
What you will need for the Ganache Filling:
500g Dark Chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
200g Unsalted Butter, chopped

Ingredients for dark chocolate ganache
Making ganache can be either very simple or very hard, it has the potential to turn against you in seconds. Whizz the chocolate in a food processor until finely chopped.
Place the butter in a large bowl over a saucepan with 3cm of just-simmering water. When the butter has melted, tip the chocolate into the bowl.  Turn off the heat and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are smooth and there are no chocolate lumps. Keep the bowl on the saucepan until you're ready to use. the ganache. Make sure no water gets into the chocolate as this will cause the chocolate to seize and you will need to start all over again. I have had this happen twice in one night and managed to go through an immense amount of chocolate, not to mention multiple trips to the supermarket.

Remember to allow half a centimetre for the jelly layer when you pour the still-warm ganache into the cooled tart tin. Shake gently to level the ganache. Refrigerate for 10 minutes to set the ganache. I found my ganache needed longer than 10 minutes to set so if you need to keep it in the fridge for as long as possible. You can see in my pics that it wasn’t quite set, look for the pock marks from where I poured the jelly in.

Ganache in pastry ready for the fridge
If you are keener than me to make your own Cherry Port jelly the ingredients and directions are below. If you want to save a bit of time like me, then use Aeroplane Jelly Port Wine flavour (available from Coles and Woolworths).

What you will need for the Cherry Port Jelly or substitute with Aeroplane Jelly Port Wine flavour and
375ml cherry port
2 tablespoons caster sugar
5 leaves gelatine (gold strength)

My cheats Jelly
For the jelly, pour the port and sugar into a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Boil for 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Soften the gelatine in cold water, squeeze out excess water and add gelatine to the warm port mixture. Stir until dissolved, strain and keep warm until ready to use.

Or follow packet instructions if you using Aeroplane Jelly Port Wine Flavour (or similar).

Pour the warm jelly into a jug, and pour over the ganache gently. Allow to this set in the fridge until ready to serve.

What you will need for the Raspberry Puree:
125g Raspberries (fresh or frozen)
1 Tbsp Icing Sugar
1 tsp Corn Syrup or Glucose

Raspberry puree ingredients
To make the raspberry puree, place the raspberries, sugar and glucose into a small saucepan and heat until a liquid forms. Sieve out the seeds.

What you will need for the Cream:
300ml Thickened Cream
2 Tbsp Icing Sugar
1 Vanilla Bean, scraped
Curious fingers - my niece and nephew enjoying the cream
Whip cream with icing sugar and vanilla bean seeds to soft peaks (for photos visit my Facebook page. This is my niece (2)  and nephew (4 ) who were at my heels the entire time I made the cream wanting to help me and be taste testers at every step of the way). 

Serving and decoration
You will need to take the tart out an least an hour before you want to serve it to allow the chocolate to come to room temperature, otherwise, it will be very hard to slice into pieces for your guests. Decorate with the raspberries (about 250g) and edible flowers (if you have better luck than me and can actually find some – everywhere I looked or called said they didn’t have any tiday, but they would next week!).

I served my raspberry puree and cream on the side to allow guests to choose which accompaniment tickled their fancy.
Dark chocolate raspberry tart with raspberry puree & vanilla bean cream

A slice of heaven 
All in all, it was a very time consuming tart to make and a nice experience to eat. I probably wouldn’t make it again though. I can now tick it off my “yummy things I want to try” list.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sweet Designs book by Amy Atlas

I'm so excited, my copy of Amy Atlas' Sweet Designs has finally arrived. I've been waiting for this for a couple of weeks and can't wait to read through it cover to cover. Here are some dodgy iPhone pics I took at work of pages that caught my eye. I just couldn't wait to share.

There have been heaps of blog posts about this book from some my favourite blogs here and here and here There are just some of my favourites.

Watch out in the coming months, I will feature a few of Amy Atlas' luscious treats.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Winter Warmer - Beef Stroganoff (kid friendly)

I’ve never met anyone that doesn’t like Beef Stroganoff, however, the first time I tasted it and took notice of it was when I first started dating DH. Naturally, after we were married DH requested that I cook it for the two of us. So I asked my MIL for the recipe and she pulled out her trusty (and worn) Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook. It’s actually a very simple recipe with few ingredients, most of them staple items you would have in your pantry. If you’re looking for a luscious winter warmer, that the kids will love and you can reheat the next day, Beef Stroganoff is it.

What you will need:
750g Fillet Steak (use better cuts of steak, not chuck or similar), sliced
500g Button Mushrooms, sliced
2 Beef Stock cubes
2 – 3 Tbsp Tomato Paste
1 Medium Onion, finely chopped
2/3 Cup Water
300ml Sour Cream
1 tsp Cornflour
Butter (I used 50g, the recipe calls for 125g but that’s way too much)

Allow at least 30 minutes for this recipe as it will need time to cook and the sauce to thicken.

First melt a small chunk of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the beef and cook until browned. You may wish to do this in batches if your pan is too small for all the meat, generally I can get away with doing it in one batch. Make sure you stir constantly to avoid the meat stewing. When cooked, remove all the meat from the pan and set aside. If there is a lot of pan juices, tip them out.
Beef cooked & set aside

Next it’s in with the a little more butter and the onion and sauté until just browned. Then toss in the mushrooms and cook until they are tender. You will know when they are tender, the mushrooms go from stark white to grey and mushy-looking. 

Mushrooms ready to go in with Onions
Return the meat to the pan with the salt, pepper, crushed stock cubes, water and tomato paste and stir to mix all the ingredients in together evenly. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to low and allow it to simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. 

Other ingredients added
During the 5 minutes, combine the sour cream and cornflour. Next step is to gradually add the sour cream mixture to the pan, stirring after each addition. 

Sour cream/cornflour mix in 
I added my 300ml in three batches and it worked a treat. Once the sauce starts to boil and thicken, allow it to simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes. 
Final touches

Serve with either mash potatoes or noodles (thick ones or penne is the best). Serves 4. 

It’s a very simple dinner, perfect to feed the family, or just you! And the best thing is you can reheat the next day so make some extra and take it to work with you.

The finished product
For more photos visit my Facebook page here and Like Me 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chocolate + Blogs

"There are four basic food groups: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, and chocolate truffles." - Anonymous

Photo courtesy of An Edible Mosiac
Yesterday, when I was waiting in the line at Woolworths, I quickly flicked through the June 2012 issue of Delicious Magazine. The creamy soup on the front cover lured me in first, followed by the promise of luscious delights from Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Bill Granger. As we head into what will no doubt be a cold winter, I’m all about comfort food, and DH recently asked me if I’d be making soups this winter because last year I didn't. Naturally, the magazine found its way into my basket as the checkout approached, and when I read it, I wasn’t disappointed. The point of this story is what it lead me to later that night when I read it from cover to cover – the Food Dept blog. I’m always on the look out for new and inspiring blogs and this one is just that. I scrolled through the blog on my iPhone and was drawn to their feature on Chocolate (I’m attracted to chocolate the same way a duck is to water).  The article is brief but packed full of delicious information. Visit here for the full article on the Food Dept blog. Have a look around their blog as well for truly amazing food photography and simple recipes.

Another blog I cam across with great photography is An Edible Mosaic. Take a look around here for some food and photography inspiration.

Luscious Delights will be doing a chocolate feature in the near future – watch out for simple chocolate desserts, more complex chocolate desserts and easy chocolate treats for the kids.

Luscious Delights Chocolate Creation

Luscious Delights Chocolate Creation

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New Magazines & Masterchef 2012

Look what landed in my hands – June Issue of Super Food Ideas magazine with a luscious looking layered chocolate caramel self-saucing pudding on the cover, Australian Good Food magazine bursting with pot pie recipes, perfect for the impending Winter ahead. Also on the cover delectable churros and chocolate delights.

And lastly, one of my favourite food magazines, Masterchef, begging me to try one of their ultimate cheesecakes, a dish I've never attempted before. This magazine is even more exciting when Masterchef Australia is airing on Channel 10 because you can try the recipes the contestants cook, which are not always available online. I have to say that I’m a bit obsessed with Masterchef. I watch the show, I record the show and even keep some episodes, especially the masterclass ones, and I have every magazine since its inception in May 2010. Each month I get the latest edition, I read it from cover to cover, ear marking the recipes I want to try and lucky for me, with this blog, I now have even more motivation to try them all.

Do you have a favourite magazine?

Masterchef Magazine, Super Food Idea & Australian Good Food magazine
This year’s Masterchef is about encouraging contestants to let their passion for cooking shine through. I think that’s a great theme. All the contestants are everyday people, very talented everyday people, but normal nonetheless. Do you have a favourite Masterchef contestant? I really liked Kevin but unfortunately he was eliminated last week. I'm waiting for a shining star to lure me in with their consistently good recipes.

The great thing about this show, and other cooking shows like My Kitchen Rules, is the inspiration they give viewers to cook and experiment for themselves. So far, I have a list of recipes I will definitely be trying in the near future and I can’t wait for more great recipes to emerge as the weeks progress.

On my to-do list:
Audra’s Dark Chocolate Raspberry Tart, recipe here
Audra's Dark Chocolate Raspberry Tart. Photo courtesy of Masterchef

Kevin’s Cider Can Chicken, recipe here   

Kevin's Cider Can Chicken. Photo courtesy of Masterchef

Peter Gilmore’s Eight Texture Layer Cake, recipe here
Peter Gilmore's Eight-Texture Layer Cake. Photo courtesy of Masterchef
I can’t wait to try these three recipes, especially Peter Gilmore’s cake. Hopefully it will take me less time than the contestants in the elimination round, who had about 3 hours to complete it. Have you tried any Masterchef recipes?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Peach Blossom Cake - Merle Parrish

I’m a lover of cookbooks. I try to reign in my obsession but sometimes it overtakes me. Like the other day, when I was looking at buying Amy Atlas’ new book Sweet Designs and I accidently hit the purchase button (as well as purchasing a Hungarian cookbook). I’m very excited about both books arriving. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about Merle Parrish. She was a guest on Masterchef Australia 2011, although some people confuse her as being a contestant. I had no intention of buying her cookbook, or knew it existed until I was browsing through the titles at the local Big W and there it was for $19.93. I had a quick flip through on the way to the check out. I spent that afternoon on the couch reading the book from cover to cover, a number of times, excited about all the luscious things to try. At the top off my to-do list, her famous Peach Blossom Cake, which was part of an immunity challenge last year.
Cover Photo courtesy of Random House
I decided to try it for Mother's Day. I was a little apprehensive about making it because of the whole Masterchef accolade but I wanted to give it a go, the ingredients were simple enough and all staple items:  

For the cake
  • 1½ cups plain flour
  • ¾ cup cornflour
  • 1 ½  tsp baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 6 egg whites
  • 190g butter
  •  cups white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¾ cup milk
  • Rose-pink food colouring
For the Icing
  • 1½ cups icing sugar
  • 10g butter
  • 2 tbsp boiling water
  • 1 to 2 drops rose-pink colouring

Cake tin ready and waiting (oiled and lined with baking paper)
First step was to grease and line my 8” (20cm) cake tin with butter and baking paper, and switch my oven on fan forced to 150°C (what Merle calls a moderate heat).
I prepared all my ingredients (I know all recipes say to sift the flours etc together and Merle herself said to sift 3 times, but I can't do it, I find it a waste of time so I mix the flour ingredients into a bowl and whisk them together with a hand whisk).

With my ingredients ready to go and I started creaming the butter and sugar together for around 3-5 minutes (or until light and fluffy and the sugar almost dissolved) in my Mixmaster.
Butter and Sugar on the way to be creamed
Next I added half the milk to assist the dissolving process.
Batter so far
Then I whisked together my eggwhites using electric beaters until stiff peaks formed, in other words, the egg whites had tripled in size and were white and glossy.
Beaten Eggwhites
In with the flour mixture and then I folded the eggwhites in two batches in with the butter mixture, using the slowest setting on my Mixmaster.
Batter with Eggwhites folded in
Merle warns at this point that the mixture may look curdled but mine looked fine, like any normal cake batter. Reserve a cup of the batter and add 1 -2 drops of the Rose Pink colouring, combining thoroughly. Pour ¾ of the regular batter into the tin. Pour half the pink batter in a circle at the rim of the tin, about 2cm in from the edge. Pour half the remaining regular batter on the top and then the pink batter in the centre and the remaining regular batter over everything (confused yet? Sorry for the lack of photos, by this stage I had completely forgotten about taking them). Bake in the oven for approximately 60-70 minutes or until it springs back from under your touch (I remember Merle being horrified that people stuck skewers into their cakes but if your top has cracked, which is common, then gently stick a thin skewer in the crack to see if the cake is done). Allow to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before removing it from the tin and onto a baking paper lined tea towel. Allow to cool before icing.
Completed cake - cracking on top is normal for this recipe
To make the icing melt the butter with 2 tablespoons of boiling water. Add this to the icing sugar and rose pink food colouring and combine thoroughly. Ice the cake as you desire. The icing was a little more tricky and mine definitely doesn’t look like Merle’s version but this was done on purpose. DH doesn’t like a lot of icing so after I had done the first layer, drips and all done the sides, he said to stop. In his opinion, it looked great (very rustic) that way and what a cake should actually look like.

Completed cake - you can just make out the pink swirl
It’s hard to see in the images the light pink swirl throughout but it’s definitely there.

Because I made this cake for Mother's Day, I made two - one for my side of the family and one for DH's side of the family. Before I did the made cake, I did a quick search online to see if could find a video of anyone making it and to my surprise, I found a YouTube video of Merle herself here Definately worth the effort and time. It is really very simple and a lusciously dense cake, suitable for all ages.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Half Baked Blog - Is Butter Really Better

Every Friday I like to check in with my favourite blogs to see if they have any updates. This week, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Half Baked has a very informative post about cooking with fats, contributed by Summer Stone. The post is dedicated to how cake recipes are affected by fat. I must admit that I’ve never given it a second thought. I’ve just assumed that the author of the recipe knew what they were doing when they say to use butter, oils, shortenings and so on. As Summer Stone says, each one plays a different role, and can affect the final outcome of your cake.  

I always use unsalted butter for sweet recipes that require fat. What about you?

Visit Half Baked for the full post here
Photo courtesy of Half Baked. Full article here 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Beef Madras

It's that time of year again when we start to crave warm, hearty Winter cuisine. DH asked for Indian food so I chose a Beef Madras from Madhur Jaffrey's Simple Indian Cookery. Very rarely do I cook Indian food but when I do I always like to make the curries from scratch. Jaffrey recommends you use Pork or Lamb but I don't really eat either so I went with her third choice, Beef, which requires an additional half hour of cooking. The ingredients required aren't your every day spices so make sure you give yourself some time to acquire everything you need, and read through the recipe a couple of times so you know what you're up against. What you will need:
  • 1 Tbsp Coriander seeds, whole
  • 1 tsp Black Peppercorns
  • 1 tsp Fennel seeds, whole
  • 10 Fenugreek seeds, whole
  • 4 Cloves
  • 4 hot dried red chillies (I used red chilli flakes because I couldn't find dried hot chillies)
  • 6 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Onions, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp Ginger, finely grated
  • 2 tsp Garlic, crushed
  • 3-4 hot Green chillies (I used 2 because my chilli threshold isn't great)
  • 900g Chuck/Stewing Steak, cut into large cubes
  • 2 Tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1.5 tsp Salt
  • 400ml can Coconut milk

Ingredients ready for mixing
First step is to roast all of the herbs and spices in a hot saucepan. Stir every now and then to ensure none of them burn or stick to the pan. Roasting should only take a few minutes. You will know when they are done by the strong aromas from the pan. Let them cool slightly and then either grind in a mortar and pestle (like I did) or in an electric grinder. 

Ground roasted spices
 Next heat the oil in a large, saucepan and when hot, add the onions cooking until just tender, or browning at the edges. Add the garlic, ginger an green chillies stirring for 20 seconds. 

Onions cooking
Next add the meat to the pan stirring for about 5 minutes. 

Meat added to saucepan
Finally mix in the tomatoes, roasted spices, salt and coconut milk and bring the sauce to the boil. 
Finally stages 
Reduce the heat, cover and let simmer for approximately 1 to 1.5 hours, or until the meat is tender, storing occasionally to avoid burning. Uncover the saucepan, boil away majority of the liquid and when the sauce has thickened considerably and clings to the meat, the Beef Madras is done. Serve with boiled rice. Serves 4 people.

The Final Product: Beef Madras

For my first attempt at Beef Madras I'm very happy. It tasted great, though there could have been a bit more chilli.  I can't wait to see what DH thinks of it.......

Next Post: Beef Madras

Watch out for my next post. Tonight I will be tackling Beef Madras. Can't wait to share it with you. I will try to take as many photographs as possible throughout the process...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I have been tossing up for awhile whether or not to start a blog but after reading dozens of blogs a week I couldn’t resist any longer. I try to read through my favourite blogs every day, which is sometimes impossible, especially when I find new blogs to read which ends up being click after click through different websites, a truly an inspirational journey at times. I love the feeling of discovering a new blog I’ve never read. Trawling through blogs is like a mini job but I love it. It’s from these other blogs that I get my inspiration to try new things. They cover a variety of topics from cooking and baking, to fashion and interior design. I’m not a really fussy blog reader but I do like regular blog updates to keep me inspired.

Hand in hand with my blog reading is my cookbook reading. I tell myself every weekend I will not buy more cookbooks but I always end up with more, not to mention my overflowing folder full of printouts and ripped recipes from magazines. And there’s another thing, I love food magazines, especially Donna Hay and Masterchef. Which leads me to TV shows – Masterchef Australia is a must see program in my house (and is recorded every night through Foxtel IQ just in case I miss it for some reason).

Enough of that thought train, what will I be blogging about? Anything that tickles my fancy – cooking, baking, fashion and maybe some interior design as well, but I will try to stick with what I know best. I will share with you my triumphs and my failures, my amateur photography skills and my luscious culinary creations.

I will keep my first post short and sweet – hopefully that way you will come back for more. I have a few ideas for my next post and I can’t wait to share them.