Category Archives: Reviews

Cashew Honey Squares

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Cashew Honey Squares Today’s recipe is adapted from one in one of my newer cookbooks: The Baking Collection from The Australian Women’s Weekly.  Like so many Women’s Weekly cookbooks this one is a winner – sweet treats of every description from simple cakes and cookies to decadent pastries and fancy holiday delights.  An excellent collection of old fashioned Aussie favourites with some modern interpretations. These squares are soft and moist – more like mini cakes than a slice.  The honey works so beautifully with the cashews.  To top it all off they are SO easy.

Recipe

  • 1 c (150g) SR wholemeal flour
  • 1 c (220g) caster sugar
  • 1 c (90g) rolled oats
  • 1 c (80g) desiccated coconut
  • 2/3 c (70g) cashews, coarsely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 125 g butter melted, cooled slightly
  • 1 T honey
  • ½ c chopped cashews, extra

Honey Icing

  • 1 ½   c (160g) pure icing sugar, sifted
  • 60 g butter, melted
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 T hot water, approximately

Preheat oven to 160C. Line 23cm x 32cm (9” x 13”) swiss roll pan with baking paper. Combine dry ingredients and mix. Add eggs, butter and honey and mix well. Press firmly into pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool slice in pan. Meanwhile, make honey icing. Mix sugar, butter and honey well. Add enough water to make runny enough to pour. Spread over the slice, and top with remaining cashews. Adapted from Honey Walnut and Oat Squares, in The Baking Collection / The Australian Womens’ Weekly, 2013.

Book - TheBakingCollection

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Cinnamon Slice

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This recipe is just another excuse to indulge my love of cinnamon.  Goes well at a cake stall!

Cinnamon Slice

Recipe

  • 250g plain flour
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c milk
  • 125g butter, melted
  • 4 T caster sugar extra
  • 4 t cinnamon extra

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 20 x 30 baking pan with baking paper. Combine extra sugar and extra cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.

Sift flour, caster sugar, cinnamon and baking powder into a bowl, and make a well in the middle.  Whisk eggs and milk in a small bowl. Pour egg mixture into the flour and mix with a metal spoon to roughly combine. Fold in the butter until batter is smooth – don’t overmix!

Pour half of the mixture into the pan and smooth out.  Sprinkle 2/3 of the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over the batter. Gently smooth the remaining batter over.  Top with left over cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pan before slicing.

“Sweet Food”

This recipe is adapted from a recipe in Sweet Food (Lynn Lewis (ed.).  Millers Pt : Murdoch Books, c2003, p98).  I just have to make mention of this book as it is one of my favourite go to books when I need to whip up a quick cake or slice.  There is a a good mix of reliable, easy to make and well articulated recipes for the time poor home baker.  I highly recommend it if you can find a copy!

Sweet Food

An Aussie Halloween

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Ultimately, this post is about a pumpkin.  Not a pumpkin that we have eaten, but I figure that since pumpkin is actually edible, this post belongs on a food blog!

Coming to Australia as a child, there were so many things I missed about America.  Halloween was a big one.  What child couldn’t love Halloween?  Getting dressed up in costumes, decorating everything in sight, cutting up and lighting the pumpkins, and … candy candy candy! Heaven!

But back then, NO ONE celebrated Halloween here. Everyone knew what it was but it hadn’t caught on. The chocolate and candy here weren’t the same or as varied.  There was no candy corn, a personal childhood favourite, no Hershey’s,  and even M&Ms hadn’t come here by then. And the only pumpkins were big funny shaped blue pumpkins.

They taste good but just didn’t appeal for carving.  The one saving grace was that for the first 4 or 5 years, my grandmother used to post us a big box of American munchies. Bless her!

Halloween still isn’t huge here, but it is getting bigger every year.  Nowadays you do see houses decorated and kids do go out trick or treating, especially in our little pocket of the world for some reason.

For the first time since I can remember, the local shops were selling American pumpkins!! We won’t talk about the OUTRAGEOUS price being charged, but these were proper big round bright orange easy to cut American pumpkins and when my daughter saw them she HAD to have one! The kids had so much fun (with some help from Wal) gutting the big fella and carving a face into him.

And, today, the kids were allowed to go to school in costumes – lots of fun for kids who are used to wearing school uniforms!

Of course this is the Sunburnt Country, and while we are a long way from the summer heat, Halloween is different in the heat.  Think sweat-streaked makeup, sticky wet costumes, and of course the chocolate (and the pumpkin while off duty) requiring refridgeration!

So happy Halloween everyone.

This post dedicated to Darlene and  the Prof, and The Cousins! with love xx

Christina Tosi at the Sydney International Food Festival

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The Sydney International Food Festival runs throughout October and there are special foodie experiences to be enjoyed throughout the city. The program includes everything from fine dining meal specials at top restaurants with international guest chefs to night noodle markets and breakfast at Bondi Beach. Whether you are a visitor from out of town enjoying the sights or a local getting out and about, the festival is a fun way to see and enjoy Sydney.  And Sydney is at its Harbour sparkling best in spring.

One of the Festival’s special guests this year is Christina Tosi from Momofuku Milk Bar in New York. I went to see her talk about Milk Bar at one of the World Chef Showcase sessions. The baker in me was so inspired and excited to see her.  It was amazing to hear someone proudly proclaim their love of sugar, and laugh about often preferring doughs and batters to the finished products. The great inspiration was the story of someone who has been able to turn her philosophy of having fun and not taking herself too seriously, along with a serious sweet tooth,  into a successful business. This ‘fun philosophy’ (along with a nod to American food traditions) is the starting point of her recipe ideas and the heart of the success of Milk Bar.

Christina Tosi is particularly known for her cereal milk, compost cookies and crack pie, all of which are featured in her new cookbook: Momofuku Milk Bar.  We tasted a compost cookie during the session and it was lovely – great crunch with a delicious tang from the coarse ground coffee bits.  However, my three picks from the book are the pistachio cake, chocolate chocolate cookies, and the cornflake chocolate chip marshmallow cookies.

Milk Bar also bakes savoury treats, which also have their own unique twist – think unexpected fillings, savoury butters in croissants, etc. Some of these are meals in their own right.

Christina is currently developing new recipes focusing on gluten-free, sugar-free and other bakery options to meet a broader range of dietary preferences. I am looking forward to her new ideas, but in the meantime, I will enjoy the inspiration that she shared at the food festival and the recipes in her wonderful cookbook.

Violet Coconut Macaroons

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I have talked before about my mom’s inclination to substitute ingredients in her baking and the frequently dodgy results.  Sweets in my adolescent years tended to be hard as rocks, and as heavy.  Of course we still ate them, but I frequently moaned about the obvious inadvisability of using recipes written for different ingredients (Betty Crocker sponge cakes really don’t work with wholemeal flour, honey and half the number of eggs!).  In fairness to my mom, there weren’t too many cookbooks out there back then that catered to alternative diets – particularly not for baking. Ingredients then were also much more limited: flour was either white or wholemeal, sweet meant sugar or honey, gluten free meant rice cakes and corn bread.

Nowadays we are so spoiled with options. Now there is a range of ingredients out there with which to excite any palette or dietary limitations. Inspiring cookbooks catering to this broader range of ingredients are still relatively rare, but they are there. I have one in particular that I really love for baking: Leon: baking and puddings – book 3 by Claire Ptak and Henry Dimbley.  Aside from the great range of recipes (not all of which require ‘health food aisle’ ingredients), this book also offers a fantastic guide to baking ingredients.  It explains (and demystefies) the different types of flour, sweeteners, fats, and rising and binding agents that are used in baking.

The recipe shown here from this book is for the best coconut macaroons I have ever tasted.  They are super easy and work perfectly every time. They are crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and totally mouth-watering!

Recipe

  • 3 egg whites
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 t honey
  • 150 g desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract

Line a baking sheet with baking paper and pre-heat oven to 150C.

Combine all ingredients except vanilla in a large saucepan. Stir all ingredients over a medium-low heat until well mixed and just beginning to scorch on the bottom.  Take the pan off the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Cook the mixture completely.  Use an ice cream scoop (about 50ml) to scoop out 10 even sized macaroons onto the baking sheet.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden and set. Cool completely before taking off the sheet.

Cooking class with Kylie Kwong

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Yesterday was a day for cooking inspiration. A small group of lucky foodies were treated to a cooking lesson from Kylie Kwong, courtesy of the Harris Farm Market at Boronia Park.  Kylie Kwong is one of Australia’s most successful and most loved chefs.  For those not familiar with Kylie Kwong, she has a restaurant called Billy Kwong in Sydney, a cooking show on TV, and many cookbooks to her name. Kylie is of Cantonese heritage, and bases her recipes on traditional Cantonese food, as well as asian twists on foods from elsewhere around the world.

As a chef, Kylie is very appealing.  Her focus is on fresh quality ingredients, with an emphasis on organic and fair trade products.  She is a strong advocate of sustainable food and ethical eating. At Billy Kwong she uses locally grown organic and biodynamic produce. She has been an Australian ambassador for Fair Trade for six years.

Kylie does eat meat, but not a great deal.  She identifies with a vegetarian diet and has many gorgeous recipes in her repertoire for vegetarians. Her mastery of tofu is amazing! She has a very light touch in her cooking – her food isn’t heavy or gluggy, and it never has that “same dish, different meat” thing that average Chinese restaurants so often offer.  She demonstrates how very broad real Chinese cuisine is.

Kylie is also very appealing as a person.  Her cooking shows are fabulous, partly due to her great food, but also because of who she is.   She exudes warmth, and friendliness.  She tells many stories about her life and her family.  Her mum makes frequent appearances on the show.  You just feel good listening to her chat about life in general while she cooks up a storm!

Yesterday was part of a promotional tour for Kylie’s latest cookbook – which of course I HAD to buy (it is gorgeous!).  Kylie  cooked 4 dishes. As she cooked she talked – about all sorts of things: the benefits of freshness and quality in the ingredients, stories about dishes she has enjoyed in China, the role and importance of family in her life, the passing on of cooking traditions through the generations, and of course, things to think about when cooking each dish. She talked a lot about Chinese food being easy to cook, as long as you focus on the balance between sweet, sour, salt and acidity. She also talked about the importance of tasting as you cook. Clearly a sensitive palate is a big part of knowing when you have a dish just right!

Wal wanted a barbecue last night, so I marinated pork chops in sweet soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, shallots and ginger, and made the salad that Kylie made,  The two surprise ingredients for me in this salad were the raw bok choy (I am pretty sure I have only ever seen recipes for it cooked) and tomatoes (which I just never associate with Chinese cuisine).  This salad is as delicious and refreshing as it is healthy.

Recipe

  • 270 g Chinese cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2 spring onions, cut into fine julienne strips
  • 1 bok choy, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 1 small bulb fennel
  • 1/2 bunch of mint
  • 1/2 red capsicum,  cut into fine julienne strips
  • 1 lebanese cucumber, seeded,  cut into fine julienne strips
  • pinch salt and pepper (Kylie uses Sichuan Pepper)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Toss with dressing immediately before serving.

Tomato Dressing

  • 2 T light soy sauce
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 grapeseed oil
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, finely diced

Combine soy sauce, brown sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk until sugar is dissolved.  Continue whisking as you slowly drizzle in the oil until it is all incorporated.  Add tomatoes and stir to combine.

Recipe adapted from Kylie Kwong / Simple Chinese Cooking Class. Sydney : Lantern, 2012.