Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Food

My camera has just died, right before Christmas. It became damaged in the last foodie photo shoot it will ever take. Yeah, I'm an extreme photographer--you know, the type that snaps a shot of the Christmas cake while I'm hanging off the ceiling. No really, it did stop functioning in my last photoshoot. Somehow it got jammed between the fly wire door  and the ledge between the door and the house while I was rearranging a plate of food, and BAM! the lens now does not open at all. Blasted wind.
I have been totally lost without my camera and it makes me realise how frequently I'm snapping things. Well--at least there's something my hubby can pop under the tree now, and I'm definitely in need of an upgrade anyhow. In fact, one of my readers has recently informed me that my camera just "isn't doing the job". Gee thanks for that feedback. Being camera-less however means a nasty halt to any new blog posts, which is never good news. But because I love you all, I've thrown together a collection of some of my previous Christmas recipes and favourite festive food to help deck your Christmas table, from spiced Spaculaas to chocolate dipped cherries to gingerbread and gold dust! Enjoy! I wish you all a very merry Christmas--may it be blessed and filled with good cheer, lots of wine and the best of food  xo


Friday, November 29, 2013

Pink Ombre Cake Tutorial

How do you make an ombre cake? It's actually very easy to make this pink ombre cake and you need no previous decorating skills. It looks impressive and is simple and easy. How do you do it? All you need is a significant quantity of butter cream icing, food colouring, a cake and a teaspoon.
It looks pretty and perfect for a shabby hightea or party, and I believe any girl would swoon over this. I've adapted it also to suit a little girl's birthday too, with fondant Peppa Pig and George jumping in muddy (chocolate) puddles. I do not have instructions on how to make a Peppa Pig cake on this page but it's very straight forward fondant modelling. You can really top this cake with anything, or simply leave the top plain. It's up to you. I hope you enjoy this delicious and exquisite looking cake as much as I did! 

Pink ombre cake with fondant flowers
Pink ombre cake turned Peppa Pig and George style

HOW TO MAKE A PINK OMBRE CAKE (Adapted from How to Cook That)

2 precooked cakes of the same size (mine are about 18cm across each)
1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature
7  1/2 cups  icing sugar
4+ tablespoons of milk
rose pink food colouring

 To make the buttercream, beat the butter with the icing sugar and the 4 tablespoons of milk until smooth and light, adding extra milk if desired to reach a thick and smooth consistency.


1. Take your two cakes and spread butter cream icing between them, then join them together. Set them on a serving plate which will enable you to work close to the bottom of the cake (plates with sides will not work as well. A flat or convex plate works best.) Smooth the sides of the cake with a thin crumb coat of butter cream icing to smooth any imperfections and inconsistencies. Take the remaining icing and colour with a little food dye. This will the the lightest coloured coat.

 2. Place a few heaped tablespoons of the icing in a piping bag fitted with a large round open nozzle. A zip lock bag with the corner cut is also a quick and easy option for a piping bag if you don't have one or the round nozzle. Starting at the very top edge of the cake, begin to pipe a row of 10c sized blops of icing, ensuring the side of each blop touches the side of the one next to it. Continue around the whole diameter. Using the back of a teaspoon, smooth each blop downwards. It may help if you dip the spoon into warm water between each smear to get a smoother finish.

 3. Add some more of the same food colouring to the remaining butter cream icing so that it is a few shades darker. Fill the piping bag with this darker shade and repeat the same process as previously, positioning the blops of icing along the bottom of the last row to cover any messy areas. When this row is completed, use the back of the teaspoon to smear the blops downwards as previously done.

4. Repeat this process with the next row, colouring the icing a few shades darker again. Finish the cake with the last and darkest row, which remains unsmeared and sits against the plate covering any messy edges.

5. Your pink ombre cake is complete! Finish it off with pretty fondant flowers or little fingurines like Peppa pig and George.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Caramel Popcorn Balls

 My son will not eat corn, hence he will not eat popcorn.
"Mum," he says "if it's corn, it's a veggie." And we all know how hard it is to get the kids to eat their veggies, even if it is in the form of popcorn. Yes, this is the three year old that knows his chocolate custard from his chocolate mousse, and isnt hesitant to make it known. "This isn't custard Dad--I think it's chocolate mousse!" While I beam with pride that my son knows the difference, part of me thinks, we probably conume more mousse and custard than we should.
My two year old daughter on the other hand, is more of the experimental type, and corn in any form does not faze her. In fact, she can't get enough. She went crazy for this popcorn when I made it. Her eyes almost popped out of her head with glee when she saw me pouring hot caramel over the fresh popcorn, and she started clapping excitedly. This recipe for caramel popcorn is from Danielle's blog, Hugs and Cookies XOXO. Danielle is the owner of a delightful blog just bursting with all sorts of scrumptiousness--and I found it hard to choose just one recipe to recreate for this months Secret Recipe Club Reveal. The caramel recipes alone left my keyboard rather drooled upon. Anyway, I've been looking for Christmas recipes for a long time, and when I came across the caramel popcorn it brought back vivid memories of Christmases gnawing away at caramel popcorn in the form of a ball.
My parents ended up making a rule against gift giving among my siblings--there are ten of us kids, so you can imagine the mountains of presents surrounding the tree and everyone getting stressed over what to buy and the lack of coin, especially among the younger ones. So my parents would give us all presents, and we would in turn, add something to the day--the Christmas tree, the wine, the pudding, the candy canes for the tree--whatever we wanted. For many years in a row I recall making caramel popcorn balls tied with ribbon, and hanging them on the tree like baubles as my little gift for the day. It's very economical and fun, and easy enough for children to make. They would make great DIY teacher's Christmas gifts for the end of school as well, tied up with ribbon in a clear cellophane bag. They would also be a great treat to sell at a school fete--cant you just see all the little ones munching away?
Now will my son eat corn?
Only if it's popped kernels covered in caramel and made into a ball shape. Somehow now, it's not a vegetable.

CARAMEL POPCORN BALLS (Adapted from Hugs and Cookies XOXO)

6 cups already popped popcorn
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup honey (golden syrup or light corn syrup and great substitutes)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp bicarb soda (aka baking soda)
1/2 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl, place the popped popcorn. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, then add the sugar, honey and salt. Stir to combine, then let boil without stirring for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the bicarb soda and vanilla. Pour this hot caramel over the popcorn. Stir thoroughly, then set aside for 5-10 minutes to cool. The caramel is extremely hot, so cautiously test the caramel with your finger to make sure it's cool enough to handle. While it is still warm, scoop handfuls of caramel popcorn and form them into balls, about fist size. Make sure you use some pressure, so that the ball holds together firmly. Set aside to cool before tying with ribbon.

Makes approximately 6

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

One Minute Self Saucing Nutella Mug Pudding for One

Movie ticket for one. Table for one. Pudding for one.
Sounds lonely.
I don't like doing those sorts of things on my own. Never really have had to fortunately. But it sounds way too lonely to be any fun.
Until last night.
I did it.
I went solo.
My husband said it was the perfect night for pudding. It was cool--the type of night you just want to roll up in a ball in front of a log fire like a cat and bask in warmth and hibernate there forever.
But what to do when you can't be bothered cooking pudding for an hour because you're way too tired and it feels like a hundred hours past your bed time?
One minute self saucing microwave mug pudding. And even better, it's choccas with Nutella. Can't really go wrong there.
I can tell you I got a little excited seeing the pudding magically rising before my eyes in the coffee mug and it made its way slowly around the microwave carousel. Nothing really beats chocolate self saucing pudding made in the oven, but this came pretty close, and considering it took so little time, it turned out to be a winner. It's a self saucing pudding, and the sauce sits awaiting at the bottom of the mug, making it fudgy the further you dig the spoon down. Ooh laa la! So good with ice cream...and perfect consolation food for those damn heartbreaks and breakups most people suffer at least once in their lives. Forget eating out of a tub of ice cream. Get to it! It will only take two minutes of your time to put together, and another in the waiting for it to cook, and voila! Better than tall, dark and handsome?'s rich too.
This decadent recipe makes one generous serve in a large mug (my mug wasn't on the large side, hence the explosion) if you're in a wonderfully happy loving relationship, grab two spoons and share it with your significant other. You could even add walnuts to this recipe for something really special--and I also like to add a dollop of cream for nice contrast. Dessert tonight--sorted! In less than 5 minutes from beginning to end.


1 egg
4 tbsp self raising flour
4 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tbsp nutella
3 tbsp milk
3 tbsp oil

Place all the ingredients in a large mug. Thoroughly whisk with a fork until well incorporated and the egg is well broken down. Place in the microwave and cook on high, for approximately 1-1.5 minutes. Cooking time will vary due to the differences in strength from microwave to microwave. Serve with cream or ice cream if desired.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sunday High Tea Buffet at The Stamford Plaza

All the cool kids in the blogosphere have their posts going on about Halloween treats, and oh what to make? And here I am sipping rose tea at a Sunday High Tea Buffet at The Stamford Plaza. Meanwhile less people are visiting the blog at this time of the year because in my world, Halloween is a negative, and I refuse to glorify ghoulishness by cooking up pumpkin heads and the likes. This blog has until now, contained no Halloween goods, zero, zilch!
Ah call me old fashioned, yeah I am! I'm enjoying an elegant high tea by the Brisbane river in my ruffled pink dress with all my the ladies. There's a Sunday High Tea here every week, a glorious chocolate buffet and a yummy savory buffet as well (the smoked salmon quiches are to die for, and I seriously considered bribing the chef for the recipe). They have some really talented and creative chefs working on all the beautiful finger foods we all enjoyed during our visit.
It so happened that the girls and I headed out on the Sunday that the high tea was Halloween themed. So here I am now talking Halloween food. And I'm about to show you what they had on display. It may give some of you ideas for Halloween treats to make if you're into that sort of event--there were white chocolate ghosts, pumpkin head cake pops, and cleverly named desserts such as "Phantom of the Opera Cake" (it was that delightful layered Opera cake that we all want to make but looks too time consuming).
As lovely a time as I had in those glorious surroundings, I was a little zapped out that the high tea was Halloween themed. It certainly took out some of the elegance associated with the tea, cake and scones affair that a high tea usually is. However, the food was still magnificent! The surroundings also absolutely luxurious, and I can say with all certainty, I will be returning to sip many more cups of tea in that river side pavilion surrounded by gorgeous gardens.
Sending a very special thanks out to Marcela for the use of her photos, I was too busy drooling to take any decent ones. And just look at those bright pink finger sandwiches!

Smoked salmon quiches were to die for!
Halloween themed buffet.
Can't have a high tea without scones!

Rose tea (tasted like Turkish delight! Yum!
Macadamia Caramel Slice with a few chocolate ghosts are floating around. (You can make your own by pouring melted white chocolate over the ends of ice cream cones)
This made me not want to eat. I think it's some sort of punch.

Angry little pumpkin head cake pops

True elegance with all the beautiful silverware!

Phantom of the Opera Cake far centre

Oh so fudgy!
Purple and orange macaroons
The Pavilion
Some of the lovely gardens that lead on to Brisbane Botanical Gardens

Yeah that's me biting my lip

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Best Ever Banana Bread

When I was a kid and heard the phrase "no flies on him", I just presumed the person spoken about had good personal hygiene and didn't smell like a garbage can. It's interesting that people frequently associate bad smells with flies, and I suppose flies generally are attracted to the grosser things in life. That's why I was a bit surprised that when my house filled with the heavenly aroma of this banana bread baking in all its golden glory, flies flocked to the fly wire over the windows, trying to find a way inside. The whole house was filled with the most delicous banana and cinnamon smells as that banana loaf cooked away.
Its by far the best banana bread recipe I've ever tried. It's golden on the outside, the crust sweet and slightly crunchy on the outer. The bread itself and moist and giving, the perfect texture and is well balanced in flavours--the banana-ey goodness, the spice of the cinnamon, the sweeter outer crust. Its glorious served warm with a slathering of butter--or even made decadent with the addition of cream cheese icing. I myself decorated the top with fresh banana slices before it went into the oven, and it came out looking like cafe style banana bread. It got thumbs up from all family members...I wonder if it would have got such high reviews if my husband had known that I used his shirt as a backdrop in the photos? Ha!

BEST EVER BANANA BREAD (Adapted from All Recipes)

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
4 over ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1 1/2 cups Self raising flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 extra banana for decorating, optional

Preheat your oven to 190C. Greae and line a loaf tin.
In a large bowl, place the butter and the sugars and beat with an electric mixer until light in colour. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions. Add the mashed banana and vanilla and mix until combined. In a cup, mix the milk with the bicarb soda, and add the flour and this mixture alternately to the main bowl, mixing until just combined. Add the cinnamon are stir through the batter.
Pour into the lined and greased loaf tin. Place slices of the extra banana on the top of the batter, and place in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched in the centre. Cool before removing from the tin.

NOTES: I doubled this recipe and got a hightop loaf and 12 good sized muffins.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Mango Butter Cream Sponge Cake

 I've been noting the trending goings-on in the food world of late. One of the great things about food blogging, is that even people who approach me and don't know me always have something interesting to share about their food experiences. Food is such an awesome universal binder, is it not?
Anyway there have been a few trendy things going on of late. Forget bacon on sweets and salted caramel,  that's so 2012. Things have gone to another level, with bars serving fried locusts on the side of cocktails (to be eaten) and some sort of sand worms have also made an appearance in fancy restaurants up here in Queensland. I know St. John lived off locusts and honey--but would you choose it when you have a menu of delicacies before you? (Having said that, apparently they are low fat and high protein, might make a good snack for weight watchers!) Call me a wimp, but I don't go in for these things. That includes sheep's brains, offal, haggis and the likes. Really, some things should not be eaten.
Speaking of unsavoury things in Queensland, what's with the fried feet? You'd think no one owned shoes around here. (Seriously this is a great embarrassment to me, seeing grown people walking about the streets and in shops with no shoes. We don't live in a seaside town either. I have the feeling we're going back to primitive times.)
On a loftier note, mango is back in season, and I couldn't help myself with this gorgeous sunny, fruit laden sponge cake. You will love the airy texture of this quick and easy sponge, layered with decadent mango butter cream and girdled with toasted coconut. It's a wee piece of heaven, and makes an effortlessly impressive addition to any table.

MANGO BUTTER CREAM SPONGE CAKE (partially adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, April 2010)

1 cup self raising flour
1 tsp cornflour
1 cup caster sugar
3 tbsp milk
2 tbsp melted butter
3x 60g eggs
finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. baking powder

Preheat the oven to 190C.
Grease and line two 20cm cake pans with butter and baking paper. Sift the flour and cornflour into a large bowl, then add sugar, milk, butter, eggs and zest and beat with the electric mixer on high. Beat until light and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes. Fold the baking powder into this mixture.
Divide the mixture evenly between the two cake pans. Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden in colour and cooked through when tested with a skewer.
Leave to cool in pan for 5 minutes before removing to complete the cooling process on a wire rack.

To make the Mango Butter Cream:

*please note, quantities stated below are just rough measurements, I tend to add a little more icing sugar or liquid until I reach the desired consistency, so feel free to do the same*

1 mango, peeled, seeded, pureed
3 cups icing sugar
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup toasted coconut, to decorate
1 extra mango, sliced, to decorate

Place pureed mango, icing sugar and butter in a large bowl, and beat with an electric beater. Gradually add the cream until the desired texture is achieved. Whip until light and airy before smoothing between the two sponge cakes, on the sides and the top. Press toasted coconut to the sides of the cake, and decorate with extra mango slices if desired.

NOTES: This sponge cake is best eaten on the day it is made, for maximum softness.