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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Getting my goat at Palmerston Palace

Roll up, roll up, get your hairy rancid goat here! The perfect opportunity to catch up on late night infomercials, you'll be up all night with this little beauty! Reaquaint yourself intimately with your toilet bowl! Amaze your friends with shocking weightloss! Ever wanted to go vegetarian but just couldn't stop eating meat? This slimey little number will send you straight to the soy aisle!

I had some friends around for dinner last night, and was quite excited at the prospect of cooking goat for the first time. I've been meaning to get my hands on some nice spring milk-fed capretto from my local butcher for a little while now, but ended up buying a goat leg in Geraldton when I was there recently as it was on special, and quite a good price. The leg was frozen, so I took it out to defrost in the fridge the other day in preparation for last night's dinner. When I got it out to marinate yesterday morning, I was ill prepared for the horror that was to meet me. The vacuum seal wasn't sealed, so the blood had oozed out into the bag I had luckily placed it in. Not such a big deal, just a bit gross to deal with. I thought I detected a strange odour, but opened up the meat anyway and instantly wished I hadn't as my nose was assaulted with rancid fumes. Being unfamiliar with goat meat I thought for a second that perhaps this was just how raw goat smells, but on closer inspection the meat also had a lovely slimey sheen to it, and just to top things off it also had clumps of hair on it. Mmmmmmmmmmmm slimey hairy rancid goat.

Into the bin the slimey hairiness went, and to the internet I turned to try and somehow find a butcher than not only stocked goat, but was open on Sundays. A seemingly impossible task, and I expected that I would have to use lamb instead, but then I came across a stall called Poacher's Pantry at the Malaga Market so off I went to Malaga on a goat mission. Happily, when I made my way successfully through the gauntlet of bogans to Poacher's Pantry, I found 2 kilos of diced goat leg sitting next to the ostrich sausages. Sadly, I also discovered that this newfound source of interesting meats is soon to close down, but the upside was that the goat was 20% off. I wish I'd bought the ostrich snags too, who knows when an opportunity for cut price ostrich sausages will present itself again?

Home I rushed, now behind the eight ball in terms of dinner prep (although I possibly may have stopped off for some celebratory duck spring rolls at Phi Yen on the way home), but rejoicing in the fact that goat was still on the menu. This was particularly worth celebrating as I had been dorky enough to actually print off the menu.

The menu for the evening began with some lamb koftas that were left over from Mum's birthday party and had been patiently waiting in the freezer (uncooked) for a special occasion, such as to celebrate the sourcing of non-hairy goat. As with at the party, I served them with some raita, and couldn't resist a little mint garnish. Unfortunately I don't have a menu for the koftas as they were made by my sister who used a few different taste.com.au kofta recipes to come up with the final product, but I can share the raita recipe I used.


1/2 cup low fat natural yoghurt
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 Tb mint leaves, chopped
1/2 lebanese cucumber, seeded and finely chopped or grated

Combine all ingredients, stirring well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Lamb kofta and raita

I was lucky enough to receive a sample of Blu Gourmet Pearl Couscous from Liz at Haystac some time ago, and had been planning to serve it with goat reminiscent of the tasty (yet terribly bony and stingy on the meat) goat tagine with Israeli couscous dish I had at Bella Vista a few months back. The couscous came with some tasty sounding recipes, by Gabriel Gaté no less (oui oui!), but given that I would be using the couscous as a bed for the saucy goat dish I decided to keep the ingredients to a minimum and cook it with the wild porcini mushrooms that Evelyne sent me in her Montreal foodie exchange package.

I really liked the taste of this goat dish, but next time I would cut the root vegetables into smaller pieces (which I ended up doing this time). The meat was also much better after being in the cooker for four hours, so I'd cook it for at least that long as well. The sauce was also not quite as thick as I would have preferred, which I think would have worked better with the pearl couscous as opposed to something better able to sop up a runnier sauce (like normal couscous or mashed potato), but I did end up adding extra stock to the goat as I was using more meat than the original recipe so I would not do this next time.The couscous though was really great, and I loved the flavour and colour that the wild mushrooms added! I really like the texture of pearl couscous, and will certainly be buying it to try some of Monsieur Gaté's recipes, or coming up with my own.

Slow Cooked Capretto
Slightly adapted from the Goat Tagine recipe by Anna Gare from Best in Australia

2 kg diced goat leg meat (or whatever cut you like)
400 g sweet potato, cut into large chunks
2 medium parsnips cut into 3 or 4
2 medium carrots cut in half
10 shallots, peeled
5 Roma tomatoes chopped into quarters
Rind of a lemon and half an orange
2 Bay leaves
1 cassia bark (use a cinnamon quill if you can't get this)
600 ml chicken stock
2 cans chick peas washed and drained

Spice Rub
3 tsp Smoked Paprika pimento
½ tsp Allspice
1½ tsp coriander seeds ground
3 cardamom pods ground and husks removed
3 Cloves ground
1 tsp sea salt
3 Cloves Garlic finely chopped
1 Chilli seeds removed and finely chopped
10 g Ginger finely chopped
2 Tb Olive Oil

Freshly chopped coriander or parsley
Lemon rind

Goat marinating, sauteing the vegies, browning the meat, all hanging out in the slow cooker

1. Mix all spice ingredients together and rub over goat. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge, allowing to marinate for 2 hours.
2. Add a little oil to heavy based pot or a large tagine & lightly sauté onions, potatoes, carrots & parsnip - put aside.
3. Lightly brown marinated goat, then remove.
4. Place sautéed veg back in pot or tagine or slow cooker & put meat & rest of ingredients on top (except chickpeas).
5. Pour over stock, cover with lid and cook on low heat in oven or stove top for pot/tagine, or in slow cooker on high for 3 hrs, stirring once or twice and adding drained chick peas in last ½ hr of cooking time.
6. Sprinkle garnish over top and serve to table in tagine if that's what you're using, or in a nice big attractive dish, or plate it up individually with something like the following side dish...

Slow cooked goat leg with wild porcini pearl couscous

Wild Porcini Pearl Couscous

25 g dried wild porcini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups pearl couscous
2 cups warm water
1 tsp olive oil

1. Place the mushrooms in a bowl and cover with the warm water, leaving them to soak for 30 minutes to an hour, or until they have softened and the water has turned into a beautiful mushroomy stock.
(I learnt from this recent post that you may then want to squeeze the excess water from the mushrooms and rinse them in several changes of fresh water to get rid of any grit or sand. When saving the mushroom soaking water for later use, you may also want to strain it through a cloth or paper towel lined sieve to catch any grit in the water.)
2. Heat the olive oil in a medium sized saucepan and heat over medium heat until hot. Add the couscous to the pan and sauté until lightly toasted, around a minute or so.
3. Add the mushrooms and their stock to the pan, stir it all together and bring to the boil.
4. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
5. Fluff couscous with a fork to separate the pearls, then taste and season if if necessary.
6. Serve with something delicious, such as slow cooked capretto!

Dried mushrooms, and their delicious reincarnation

Now, all these dishes may well be very tasty and interesting, but they were soon forgotten when it was time for dessert. If you have never made your own sticky date pudding, or had failures in the past, YOU MUST MAKE THIS DISH. I can still taste it now (she says, wiping the crumbs off her face from eating leftovers for afternoon tea).

The only downside to making this dish is having the voices of Gary, George and Matt continually talking in your head while you make it, as it's a MasterChef recipe. I was particularly channelling Matt when I was making the caramel for the almond praline. I resisted the urge to fashion a fetching cravat out of paper towel.

Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce
From MasterChef

180g dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1¼ cups (310ml) water
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¾ cup (165g) firmly packed brown sugar
60g butter, softened chopped
2 eggs
1 cup (150g) self-raising flour

Almond praline
½ cup (110g) caster sugar
¼ cup (35g) slivered almonds

Butterscotch sauce
50g butter
1 cup (220g) brown sugar
1 cup (250ml) cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 180˚C (160˚C fan-forced). Lightly grease eight (½ cup capacity) metal dariole moulds.
2. Place dates and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a high heat. Remove from the heat. Add bicarbonate of soda, stir until dates start to break down, set aside to cool, stirring occasionally.
3. Beat butter and sugar in a bowl using a hand beater, gradually add eggs one at a time, beat until light and fluffy.
4. Add date mixture, stir to combine. Carefully fold through sifted flour, divide mixture evenly between the eight moulds, until 2/3 full. (I really was not at all careful in my manner of folding through the sifted flour. In fact, I was pretty rough as it was quite lumpy with flour at first)
5. Place moulds in a baking tray, carefully pour water in tray until it comes up 1/3 of the side of the moulds. Bake in oven for 40 minutes or until golden and skewer comes out clean.
6. Meanwhile, for the almond praline, combine sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a saucepan over medium heat and cook caramel without stirring, swirling pan, until deep golden. Scatter almonds onto a baking paper-lined oven tray, pour over caramel and cool until set. Break praline into pieces.
7. For the butterscotch sauce, combine butter, sugar, cream and vanilla in small saucepan over low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Bring sauce to the boil, reduce heat and cook for 5-6 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.
8. To serve, invert the hot pudding onto a serving plate, top with butterscotch sauce and shards of praline. (and some ice cream... go on)

I'm off to Bali on Wednesday for a lot of relaxing and eating and drinking and massages and swimming and certainly no sunburning, no no, with my fabulous soon-to-be-married bestie C, so I shall see you all when I return (not sunburnt)!

Oh I can't help myself... just one more gratuitous pudding shot...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Woo, another excuse to cry 'Hot dog, I'm a weiner'! Kath from A cupcake or two was kind enough to pass on her "Over the Top!" blog award to me which I gratefully and happily accept, noting with relief that it's not an "Ova the Top!" or "Over tha Topp!" blog award, reminiscent of the "Kreativ Blogger" award that the lovely Rilsta of My Food Trail passed onto me a few months back.

Thanks very much Kath, I'm so glad that you have enjoyed my last 7 or so months of eating and writing. I would have stopped doing this (blogging, I mean... I'll never stop eating... they'll have to cremate me when I die lest I eat the earth away from my grave) a long time ago if it weren't' for people like yourself who inspire me with your blogs, and take the time to comment on mine. For those of you who aren't familiar with A cupcake or two, please go check it out, especially if you're at all curious about Filipino cuisine (or just tasty food in general).

In accepting this award, I must pass it on to another 6 of my favourite bloggers, and also provide one-word answers to the following questions. Here goes...

Where is your cell phone? Charging
Your hair? Confusing
Your mother? Lovely
Your father? Funny
Your favourite food? Ummmm
Your dream last night? Blank
I have to pause here and share a story... apparently my housemate's Mum has been having a recurring dream lately, where she finds herself trapped inside a giant pavlova. Yes, a giant pavlova.
Your favourite drink? Champagne
Your dream/goal? Success
What room are you in? Mezzanine
Your hobby? Food
Your fear? Spiders
Where do you want to be in 6 years? Happy
Where were you last night? Pub
Something that you aren’t? Anorexic
Muffins? Rarely
Wish list item? House
Where did you grow up? Geraldton
Last thing you did? Beer
What are you wearing? Jeans
Your TV? Borrowed
Your pets? Smasher
Friends? Joy
Your life? Busy!
Your mood? Happy
Missing someone? Family
Vehicle? Dirty
Something you’re not wearing? Diamonds
Your favourite store? Fluevog
Your favourite color? Purple
When was the last time you laughed? Today
Last time you cried? Monday
Your best friend? Sister
One place that I go to over and over? Toilet
One person who emails me regularly? Sister
Favourite place to eat? Everywhere

Now for the hard part... selecting only 6 fellow bloggers to pass this award onto. I love all my Google Reader children, each one is special in its own way. Can't we be more Montessori about this? As I can't give everyone a sticker, here are 6 of my favourites, in no apparent order:

Iron Chef Shellie
Ooh, Look...
My Food Trail
The Gourmet Challenge
Eat, live, travel, write
Cheap Ethnic Eatz

Keep up the fine work, girls. May Santa bring you all KitchenAids, perfect lighting and extra dessert stomachs.

Other blogs I love to procrastinate with are shown over here somewhere =====>>> on my foodie blogroll... they're well worth the messy house, dirty car and unwritten papers. In the words of that fine Aussie Jeff Fenech, I love youse all.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pull my Pork

Oh dear, I seem to have lashings of delicious pulled pork leftover from Mum's party, whatever shall I do? I think I'd best have something to eat whilst I consider this dilemma..

After my sister told me that she had put leftover pulled pork to delicious use by making some nachos with leftover corn chips (from the platters I forgot to photograph), cheese, tomatoes, sour cream and avocados turned into guacamole, I thought I might continue this theme and make some pork enchiladas for dinner. It was a pretty hot, muggy day (yay! Summer is coming!) when I was mulling this over though, and instead I decided to freshen up this idea and make a Mexican themed kinda san choy bow dish instead.

Mexicana san choy bow?

I guess I should start at the start and let you know how I made these lashings of pulled pork to begin with. I'd been eyeing off a few pulled pork recipes over the past few months, waiting patiently for the opportunity to make one of them. I knew that this opportunity would somehow involve my sister, given her love of the pig and his many delicious incarnations, so when we thought we needed another 'manly' dish for the party, I jumped at the chance to get pork pulling.

The piggy process

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
From Rosa's Yummy Yums, adapted from Cook's Illustrated

(note: I followed this recipe and had heaps of spice rub leftover, even after using two big leg roasts, so I'd recommend either making less, or keeping some aside so you don't contaminate it when you're rubbing the pork in case you don't need to use it all)
1 Tb ground black pepper
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 Tb chilli powder
2 Tb ground cumin
2 Tb dark brown sugar
1 Tb dried oregano
4 Tb paprika
2 Tb table salt
1 Tb granulated sugar
1 Tb ground white pepper
Pork of your choice - the recipe says to use a 3-4kg bone-in pork shoulder, but Rosa used pork neck with success. I actually used two decent sized bone-in leg roasts (they only just fit in the slow cooker!)
1/2 tsp liquid smoke (optional - I didn't use)
Few cups of BBQ sauce (see recipe below)

1. Mix all spices in a small bowl.
2. Massage spice rub into meat (you might want to use some gloves!). Wrap meat tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. I left mine overnight, and the recipe says you can leave it up to 3 days if you want.

That's a one-a spicy pork-a roast!

3. Unwrap roast and place it in slow cooker. Add liquid smoke, if using, and 1/4 cup water (we used around 1/2 cup). Turn slow cooker to low and cook 8-10 hours, until meat is fork tender.

Falling off the bone goodness

4. Transfer roast to cutting board, and discard liquid left in the slow cooker. Pull the pork by tearing it into shreds with two forks. Discard the fat.

Pull it now, pull it good, pull that pork just like you should

5. Return the shredded pork to the slow cooker and add enough BBQ sauce to coat it all, then heat for 30-60 minutes or until hot (you can leave it in there longer, just keep the slow cooker on).
6. Serve however you like - we've discovered it's great in buns, nachos and lettuce cups :)

Hot tasty buns!

BBQ Sauce
From taste.com.au

Note: I tripled this recipe and it was the perfect amount of sauce for the two big leg roasts

2 Tb olive oil
1 small onion, peeled, chopped
2 garlic cloves
300g can peeled tomatoes, drained
2 Tb tomato puree
1 Tb brown sugar
1 Tb Worcestershire sauce
1 Tb sweet chilli sauce
2 Tb white wine vinegar
1 Tb Dijon mustard

1. Place the oil in a saucepan over low heat, add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened slightly. Add all the other ingredients and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes, stirring, until thickened slightly. Set aside to cool slightly.
2. Place in a blender and blend until smooth. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Overall notes:
  • The pork was super spicy when it was cooked, but the BBQ sauce really took away most of the heat, so don't be too alarmed when you taste it out of the slow cooker and it's a little tongue-burny (you will not be able to resist eating some when you remove it to pull it. It just looks too delicious).
  • I'm sure that shop bought BBQ sauce would be fine to use, but make sure you get something half decent.
We didn't manage to use all the pork before our guests started getting too full, so we had quite a lot leftover. Oh deary me, what a terrible, terrible shame. We ate some in a delicious leftovers lunch the next day, and there was still enough left to leave a big container with my sister and brother-in-law, and bring a couple of containers home with me. One of these containers got used in my clash of cultures dish, and the other waits tantalisingly in the freezer.

Mexicana San Choy Bow

Mexicana San Choy Bow

Leftover slow cooker pulled pork
Sour cream
Cos lettuce leaves, washed, dried and sliced into cups
Grilled vegetable salsa (such as this recipe)
Guacamole (such as this recipe)

Bung it all on a plate and enjoy, spooning a bit of everything into a lettuce cup, rolling it up, making sure you have the plate sitting underneath to catch any spillages, and chomping it down. I'd recommend matching these with a summery cerveza or some sangria.

Come to think of it, this isn't such a clash of cultures, as I'm reminded of the ceviche lettuce cups I made for Easter lunch. Anyway, it was incredibly tasty and prompted my housemate to declare me the best housemate ever. Hey, it may have just been the pork talking, but I'll take such declarations however I can get them. I may even share the other container of leftover pork with her, though that may have been her dastardly plan all along!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ginnie Joan's Swanky Speakeasy

It was a hot day. It's always hot in Gero, and today it was blowing more hot air than the mayor on election day. I was sitting at my desk with a pitcher of melted ice, sweating like a hungry fat guy at a hot dog stand where there are only two weenies left.. and he’s third in line. The door squeaked on its hinges and I looked up to see her walking in, the kind of broad that could get a guy into five types of trouble.

"Ginnie Joan's another year old this year, but this time it ain't no ordinary birthday," she said, "We gots to celebrate this one with a bang, and I hear you're the girl to help us do it."

"So what if I am, doll face. I ain't got the time, and you ain't got the dough," I replied, wiping the sweat off my brow and looking around for fall to appear.It was hotter than a $3 radio at an all-night pawnshop but this dame was cool as ice. She reached into her bag and tossed two parcels across the desk before moving to the door, arching her back against the frame "There's plenty more where that came from. You've got two days to get back to me, and keep your trap shut," she said before slinking out.

I picked up the parcels, looking inside and groaning like a cheap plastic chair at an all-you-can-eat buffet. This broad had my number all right - wholemeal pizza dough and freshly made too. I poured the pitcher over my head before picking up the phone and admitting surrender.

When my sister first approached me with her idea of throwing a 1920s/30s themed party for our Mum's milestone birthday this year, I knew it was going to be a night to remember. If you want a cool party organised, just ask my sister (only, you might not want to ask her right now or she might punch your nose flatter than a pancake driving off a cliff). Contrary to the above gumshoe, I eagerly jumped on board and soon we were watching old movies for ideas (watching Kevin Costner in fast forward doesn't make him any less annoying), making many a list and madly emailing each other even more than usual.

Keep your greasy mitts off my Ginnie Joan dollars!

Before too long, invites were sent out to the lucky chosen ones, giving each guest a moniker to use for the evening, and some Ginnie Joan dollars to use in case they need to bribe their way in past The Enforcer (my brother-in-law).

The Enforcer's shift at the speakeasy began early, shifting and moving the usual furniture out of the way to make room for the hired tables and chairs, the "band" and the piano. The band were an unusually quiet lot, but they made up for it by looking the part, framed by red curtains and gold chandeliers. The band and curtains were made by the speakeasy's artist-in-residence, my sister, who also happens to moonlight as a fine little moonshine brewer.

Just some of Ginnie Joan's posters and magazine covers

A couple of pinboards covered in photos of Ginnie Joan throughout the years, and a few photoshop-dodgy-ed up posters later, and we had the swankiest speakeasy this side of Chicago.

The band for the evening, and some Ginnie Joan moonshine

The food preparation began weeks ago, with my sister and I making all the freezable items in advance and storing them safely away until the big day. My sister put in some mammoth baking days for this, and soon we had a chest freezer filled with tasty treats. Cooking the fresh food involved two pretty solid days of cooking before the party, and by Sunday we were knackered but it was totally worth it.

The party was fantastic, with around 60 guests in attendance. I was so impressed by the effort that everyone went to with their costumes! I would love to put up some photos of us all but I'm not so sure everyone would be cool with me sticking their mugs up here so you'll just have to imagine how awesome us ladies looked with our drop-waists and tassels and fishnets and feathers and the men in their dapper suits! I had bought myself a nice feather boa to complete my outfit, but ended up leaving it out in fear of a guest choking on any stray feathers (the mob doc was outta town that weekend).

The night's savoury menu at this lavish juice joint consisted of:
  • Selection of cold platters and dips (which I largely forgot to photograph!!)
  • Party eggs (also totally forgot to photograph!)
  • Smoked salmon and caviar blinis (kinda forgot to photograph)
  • Assorted sushi rolls
  • Salt & pepper squid
  • Lamb koftas with yoghurt dipping sauce
  • Mini quiches - ham, cheese & chives and sundried tomato & feta
  • Spicy chicken sausage rolls
  • Spanakopita triangles (made with puff instead of filo... don't tell George!)
  • Spicy pulled pork buns
  • Butter chicken pastries
  • Mini beef & Guinness pies
No recipes in this post I'm afraid, but perhaps I'll write some up in the near future.

Pastries being warmed, ready to go out on platters to the hungry masses

My only evidence of Party Eggs, and a Caviar Blini

Assorted sushi rolls

Salt & pepper squid, butter chicken pastries, my only evidence of the platters, spicy chicken rolls and the sundried tomato & feta quiches

Spicy chicken rolls, sundried tomato & feta quiches, lamb koftas, beef & Guinness pies and spanakopita triangles

The spicy pulled pork process - rubbed with spices, after being very slowly cooked, pulling it all apart to be put back in slow cooker with homemade bbq sauce, then making the buns!

Spicy chicken rolls, ham cheese & chives quiches, spicy pulled pork buns

We were serving for a good solid couple of hours, before people started admitting defeat and we thought we'd let them rest their bellies in readiness for dessert. The rest period included some entertainment in the form of The Godfather theme being belted out on the piano, and a skit including some of the town's hottest young flappers showing off their dance moves. While all this was going on, my sister and I busily finished off the final touches to the birthday cake we'd been working on for a couple of days by this stage, and arranging the other desserts (provided kindly by some of Mum's sisters) on trays.

In addition to that slice of beetroot chocolate cake that I bought at the Subi Farmers market last week and stored safely away in the freezer for our coeliac guest, the other desserts were:
  • Date slice (no photographic evidence at all! Trust me it was lovely!) (thanks Aunty R!)
  • Banoffee pies, with a twist (thanks Aunty S!)
  • Chocolate and raspberry tarts (thanks Aunty T!)
A chocolate tart, and some banoffee pies (mmm gotta love a twist that involves Cherry Ripe)

Now, the birthday cake/s was a labour of love. My sister came up with the overall design, and then got to work making the key component - an incredible fruit cake (man it's a tasty cake... I was lucky enough to score a big chunk to bring back to Perth with me, and every day is a struggle to stop myself from eating the whole thing.) I meanwhile put myself to good use by sourcing all the icing paraphernalia from various cake decorating stores. Of course, there happened to be a statewide shortage in the ready-to-roll icing we wanted, but I just hit up Jimmy the shoeshine boy for the info I needed. For the right price, Jimmy could tell you were to find a needle in a haystack, and where it had been 'til now, and he sure as hell knew where in town had some o' that fondant. (The Yellow Pages and many phone calls may have also possibly yielded the same information).

The cake process began on Friday with the baking of around 70 cupcakes - chocolate in black paper, and vanilla in white paper. We then got onto decorating the fruit cake. Neither my sister nor I had ever used fondant before, so we were incredibly apprehensive and had visions of it cracking horribly as we tried to roll it on and having to cover up our mistakes with lashings of ganache or icing sugar or just doing the Charleston in front of it to distract people. After watching a few youtube videos to get the process clear in our minds, we got started and it ended up being remarkably straightforward! Luckily the cake was lovely and goopy with all the booze in it, so it was quite easy to get the surface nice and level by plugging any little holes with pieces of extra cake before we did the rolling, and before long we had a mighty fine looking fondantified cake.

Making and decorating the central fruit cake

The piano decoration on top of the white fondant layer involved a bit more work, and I was able to put my engineering skills to good use by drawing up a template to cut the black icing to. Once the black squiggle and black keys were in the right position, we made the lines between the white keys with pieces of licorice before adding some black musical notes, placing some ribbon around the bottom and high-fiving each other a few times.

The high-fives may have been a little premature, as we then spent the rest of the night decorating the cupcakes with alternating black or white fondant, and musical notes. We also decorated some cupcakes to spell out "HAPPY BIRTHDAY", and saved four in each colour to place some gold candles into.

So, while others were shimmying up a storm outside, my sister and I arranged the cake and cupcakes on the previously prepared cakeboard (made and painted by The Enforcer, I believe, and finished off with the musical score by my sister). It was while doing this that I thought that perhaps we should check if the board actually fit through the door. Mild panic ensued until The Enforcer used his rifle as a ruler and confirmed that it would indeed fit safely through the door. Candles were then lit and the cake made its way out to the lady of honour!

Following much gorging of cake and cupcakes and pies and tarts and slice, there was only one duty left of the evening... selling the post-dinner cigars and cigarettes...

Cigars? Cigarettes? Humectant 420?

Big cheers for my sister for organising one hell of a party, and very big thanks to all who attended and helped that classy broad Ginnie Joan celebrate her birthday in style! Happy birthday Mum!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Foodie Exchange

It started with an innocuous little food parcel exchange between two mail-loving food bloggers - Evelyne from Cheap Ethnic Eatz and Natalie from Natalie's Killer Cuisine - and now a beautiful Foodie Exchange Group has blossomed! Combining the joy of discovering new food with the excitement of receiving a parcel in the mail, what could be better? As desribed on the group page, "this is a group for foodies from all over the world who wish to be matched up with other foodies to exchange local food related items in the form of a 'care package'".

I actually met Evelyne when I was living in Montreal last year, when I attended a couple of her Dinner Group meet-ups. We randomly met up again in the food-blogosphere a few months ago through Foodbuzz (yes, it is a small world after all...sorry, I'm sure the song won't stay in your head for too many days) so I was very keen to do a foodie exchange with her and get some Quebecois treats!

My Quebecois goodies from Evelyne

And oh... what treats she sent me. The most amazing smell wafted out when I opened the parcel (seconds after retrieving it from the post office), and I was so excited to find a package of wild mushrooms inside! I was actually a little surprised they were allowed through quarantine, but my god I'm glad they did. The package of dried Boletus edulis has some French writing on the back, which Evelyne was kind enough to translate for me - "They have been appreciated since Roman times. In their dehydrated state, they are richer in protein than any other vegetable, except for hazelnuts. The entire mushroom is comestible. This is the most sold wild mushroom in the world. Soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour and will quadruple in weight. They are delicious in soups or as a side dish. Fry in a pan with garlic, salt and pepper." I am so looking forward to eating these... I think perhaps a risotto is on the cards..? In the meantime however I'll just keep sniffing the bag like a crazed mushroom fiend. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Also in the parcel was a lovely card, some Domaine Pinnacle Ice Cider, bonbons covered in pistachio and sesame seeds, and........... some St Hubert Poutine Sauce Mix!! Yay, it's poutine time! I wrote about poutine recently, and now shall begin my quest to find fresh cheese curds in Perth, or make my own, or come up with a suitable alternative. Oh, and plan a big night on the booze in readyness for the poutine magic :D

Thanks so much Evelyne, it really was a fantastic exchange parcel! If you want to see what Evelyne received from me, visit her post here.

All the way from Arizona

I followed up my Quebecois exchange with an Arizona one with Felice from Felice in the Kitchen. My good run with Australian Quarantine was not to continue, and when I saw the big yellow and blue Quarantine stickers on the parcel I suspected the worst. Following the sticker's instruction to "open immediately as quarantine documents are enclosed", I discovered that some "Smokin' hot microwave popcorn" had been seized. Yep, unpopped popcorn is a big no-no when entering or posting into Australia, and Quarantine decided I was not allowed to enjoy some smokin' hot action in case I instead decided to plant the popcorn in my garden and allow the country to become overrun with smokin' hot corn plants.

The Quarantine documentation informed me that I could choose to pay $42.50 to have the popcorn returned to Felice, or I could take no action and it would be destroyed. I hope they destroy it by some sort of heating method.

Luckily I was allowed to keep my other Arizona goodies - Taco Sauce spice mix, and Texas Wildfire Dip Mix. So although I won't be having a smokin' hot time, I'll at least be able to enjoy some wildfire.

Thanks very much Felice! I'll let you know how I go with the heat! If you want to see what I sent to Felice, see her blog post here.

And if you would like to get involved in the Foodie Exchange Group, check out the page here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Lemons, lemons everywhere...

Yes, dust off your microplanes and zesters, we are well and truly back into lemon season. People are bringing bags of lemons into work, making as many preserved lemons as they can squeeze into their store of empty jars, making babies make funny faces by feeding them lemon slices and advertising free lemons on the uni trading list (which by the way has had some hilarious things for sale on it lately... anyone willing to pay $50 for a rosemary bush that you have to dig up yourself?).

I had an overabundance of lemons recently due to a friend of mine owning a lemon tree that could rival the Gloucester Tree, and I was going to a friend's place for an impromptu Mexican Fiesta dinner so I decided to put them to good, desserty use.

Coles had a deal recently where you got a free Philadelphia recipe book, called Simply Heaven, with the purchase of any three Philadelphia products, and given that Philly lasts for so long and I would no doubt easily use three cartons of it before it went off, I let this clever marketing ploy work exactly as they had planned. It's actually a pretty decent cookbook, with some interesting uses of Philly and a photo for every recipe, so I'm sure I'll be going back to it for more "inspiration for everyday cooking and those special occasions when you want to impress" as they spruik in the introduction of the book.

I can see it now... I've set the most amazing table you've ever laid eyes on, with beautiful origami napkins and sparkling crystal glassware; the kitchen is spotlessly clean despite the amazing Philadelphia feast I've cooked up for whomever it is I am wanting to impress on this special occasion; I serve up dish after dish to the rapturous joy of my guest/s and eventually they exclaim "Conor, there is just something so SPECIAL about these dishes, but I can't quite put my finger on it", and I turn to the camera and wink, whispering "Thanks, Philly!".

So, in search of inspiration and with lemons a-plenty I flicked through my new cookbook looking for something that wouldn't require any ingredients I didn't already have on hand and that would be quick and easy to make. I soon came across an Iced Lemon Pound Cake recipe, and of course decided that instead I would turn it into cupcakes, and also add some poppyseeds.

These were tasty, soft, moist cupcakes and went down a treat after we had all gorged ourselves on too many delicious tacos, washed down with a margarita or five.

Lemon & Poppyseed Cupcakes
Adapted from "Iced Lemon Pound Cake" recipe in Philadelphia's Simply Heaven cookbook

1/8 cup poppyseeds
Enough milk to cover poppyseeds
250 g cream cheese, softened (I used the light stuff)
1 3/4 cup caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup oil (I used vegetable)
2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
Grated rind of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon

1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
Juice of 1 small lemon

Lemon threads for decoration (I used shredded coconut instead)

1. Add just enough milk to the poppyseeds in a mug/bowl to cover them, and let them sit for at least half an hour.
2. Beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually beat in the eggs and oil then stir in the flour, lemon rind and juice. Mix until combined, then stir through the poppyseeds.

Go on, stick your finger in!

3. Spoon the mixture into lined cupcake trays, filling them to around 3/4 full. Bake in a moderate oven (180 degrees C) for 20 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.
4. Remove from trays and allow to cool completely on wire rack before icing.

5. Combine the icing sugar with enough lemon juice to form a thin-ish icing (you don't want it to run down the sides, so don't make it too thin). Drizzle/spread over the cupcakes then sprinkle on lemon threads or shredded coconut.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

To Market, To Market (to get a big belly)

I had legitimate reasons to head to Subi Farmers Market again this Saturday morning other than wanting to eat pizza for breakfast, really I did. My sister and I are catering for our Mum's 60th birthday party this coming weekend, and one of the guests can't tolerate gluten or lactose, so I wanted to see what Sophistibakes Gluten-Free Bakery had to offer. I also needed some fruit and veges, and wanted to check out the stalls I didn't have time to visit last week. If I happened to eat some pizza for breakfast while I was there, it was entirely coincidental.

I also wanted to meet with Market Manager Sally Lewis, who got in touch with me after coming across my recent review of Subi Farmers Market. She was easily found at the information stall when I arrived nice and early at the opening hour of 8am, and we had a really nice chat. Sally is a nutritionist by trade, which explains her enthusiasm for natural, seasonal produce, and it really seems like the overall plan for the markets is positive and practical. She is keen for it to develop at a reasonable pace, not bringing in too many stalls from the get-go, and to ensure quality over quantity. For instance, a new stone fruit stall was due be added this week, but they've held off as they fruit wasn't quite at its peak yet.

There are also plans to bring in buskers, chef demonstrations and also gardening and health experts to round out the whole natural living theme. I must say though that I'm particularly looking forward to a promised stall selling egg & bacon rolls with homemade relish. I think it will be making its maiden appearance this coming weekend when I will be up in Gero busily preparing to feed 80 people at my Mum's party, but I guess this means they can iron out any teething issues before I next get down there to taste their wares. Their bacony wares. Mmmm.

It was also interesting to hear that many of the stallholders, and/or their children attended Subiaco Primary School where the market is held, which must add to the community feel of the place. It does have a pretty happy vibe to it, with the stallholders all happy to have a joke and a chat and tell their story.

The market in a way reminds me of one of my favourite restaurants in Montreal, a vegan restaurant and juice bar called aux vivres. Given my enthusiasm for the upcoming egg & bacon roll stall, it's pretty obvious I'm not vegan but I loved this restaurant. Really affordable, filling, delicious meals that in no way made you feel like you were missing out on anything. Quite a diverse menu too, which I'm sure would be surprising for most non-vegans, and I often found it difficult to choose between quite a few things that took my fancy. One of the most striking things about this restaurant though were the people that worked and ate there. These people were in the upper percentiles of attractiveness when compared to the general population, let alone when compared to those frequenting your average shopping centre food court. Not really the best place to go when you were having a particularly fat or ugly day as I'm sure being surrounded by such people would leave you wallowing in your tempeh and drowning your sorrows in agave-sweetened smoothies.

After chatting with Sally and enjoying a long black from Luke & Pat's Coffee Shack, my tummy was telling me breakfast was required and I somehow found myself standing in front of Diablo's Oven. There were three calzones on offer this week, all rocking out 80s themed names. Rocket Man consisted of free range ham, organic tomato, rocket, bocconcini and pesto ($10), Funghi Town had organic tomato, mushroom, pesto, rocket and feta ($10) and there was a kids option with an organic tomato base, real pineapple, free range ham and mozzerella called Agadoo ($6). Disappointing there was no dessert Bananarama or Papa Don't Peach, or a nice gamey Echo & the Bunnymen, but I decided to take a ride on Rocket Man.

After ordering the calzone, we wandered down to Simplee Yummy that I noticed last week had some interesting dishes on offer but I had not the tummy space to enjoy. I wanted to try some "pohpia" which the sign described as consisting of "stir fried turnip with beansprouts, egg and mock meat floss" ($3). After asking for it, the stallholder asked if I had been to Singapore before, as I had pronounced it correctly (poh-pee-a). In fact I've never been outside the airport in Singapore, and have never heard of pohpia before so I felt quite clever for my pronunciation skills. I do wonder though how other people have been pronouncing it, as I can't really see any other way that makes sense except for possibly "poh-pie-a"?

As she was still in the process of getting everything out and ready, we got a have a chat while she prepared the pohpia. She told us that she used to be quite a lot heavier some time ago, and credits pohpia with her significant weightloss. She ate it for lunch every day, losing weight until she was told she was starting to look haggard and then she knew she'd lost enough weight! She and her husband, who also runs the stall with her, have been living in Australia for many years now and it was only once they moved here from Singapore that they started to cook for themselves.

Making pohpia at the Simplee Yummy stall

The pohpia was made by first spreading some chilli paste over the bottom corner of a spring roll wrapper, then adding some fried turnip, beansprouts, mock meat floss and chopped coriander. I think the sauce drizzled over next was a sweet soy sauce, which was followed by some cubed boiled egg (as opposed to a boiled cube egg) and then rolled up into a spring roll and cut into bite size slices. I was too busy chatting away and had to be gently reminded by the stallholders that I hadn't paid them yet. Oops.

Back to Diablo's to pick up the now-ready calzone and then it was time to find a sunny spot to sit, hurriedly photograph the food and get eating.

Rocket Man calzone of free range ham, organic tomato, rocket, bocconcini and pesto from Diablo's Oven

Pohpia from Simplee Yummy

Another Saturday, another tasty calzone. Great combination of fresh, flavoursome ingredients and soft, fresh base (is it still referred to as a base if it's a calzone? Base and lid? Receptacle?). I think a good dough is more important with a calzone than with a regular pizza, as the dough:topping ratio is higher. In fact, I'm not normally a fan of the calzone due to this, and I must admit I did not eat all the outer folded bits of my breakfast calzone due to the importance of effective stomach-space use when doing the farmers market eating circuit.

The pohpia was a really nice surprise. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but my friend and I both enjoyed it. The turnip was warm, soft and mild, while the beansprouts and coriander added a real freshness to the flavour base rounded out with the chili and soy. I wonder if pohpia's properties still work if eaten in conjunction with a calzone?

Chocolate beetroot cake from Sophistibakes

Empty tummy crisis averted, I then went to suss out if Sophistibakes had anything to offer that was both gluten-free and lactose-free, and I was happy to discover that all their breads and also their chocolate beetroot cake cover both these bases. I decided upon a small loaf of German rye, and a slice of the cake for my Mum's friend so that she would be able to have some bread and dessert should she want to. Both are now sitting in the freezer until the weekend, and I'm hoping the cake will defrost well. I guess we'll soon find out.

After getting some more of the amazing asparagus that I bought last week, along with some other fruit & veg I also bought a cherry tomato plant. Let's hope I'll be enjoying the fruits of this purchase before too long (boom boom!).

Cambray Sheep Cheese stall

I didn't have a chance to check out the Cambray Sheep Cheese stall last week so that was next on the list. From memory, they had seven cheeses out to taste and I thought it was only fair to try them all. I was particularly taken with the Greek-style yoghurt and the hard, aged cheese (can't remember the proper name for it), but they were all excellent cheeses. My research reveals that Cambray Sheep Cheese were also involved in Terra Madre (which I mentioned in my Slow Food post) in both 2006 and 2008 and are one of only 12 sheep dairies in Australia. Makes me wonder how many sheep dairies are in New Zealand?

After eating all this cheese, luckily it was time to leave to hit my gym class.

I had a craving for some smoothie action after my workout and actually ended up heading back to the market to try one of the Raw Kitchen smoothies that I saw last week and also recently read about on Wellness WA. Four types of smoothie were on offer - Green (baby spinach, banana and water), Choc It To Me (cacao, banana, agave and fresh almond milk), King Hit: Choc Chilli (cacao, banana, agave, fresh almond milk and cayenne) and Strawberry Sip (strawberry, banana, fresh almond milk and vanilla) all for $6. You could also add a Super Booster for 50 cents, with the options of maca, coconut oil, wheatgrass, chia, acai berry, barley grass, bee pollen and spirulina. As intrigued as I was by the thought of drinking bee pollen, I passed on the boosters and chose the King Hit: Choc Chilli and my friend chose the Green smoothie with added mango ($1 extra).

Doing the smoothie salsa.. or is it the smoothie shuffle? I can never remember..

Green Smoothie with added mango from Raw Kitchen

King Hit: Choc Chilli smoothie from Raw Kitchen

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the Green Smoothie, but it could best be described as a big cup of cool freshness. The banana took centre stage in the flavour stakes, followed by a muted spinach flavour that just seemed to add an overall fresh quality, with the mango following up in the rear (think I could get a job commentating the Race the Stops a Nation tomorrow?). As nice as the Green Smoothie was though, it had nothing on my King Hit Smoothie as far as I'm concerned. A big mouthful of chocolate, with an undertone of banana, followed by decent hit of chilli that lingers. The perfect degree of sweetness too, only just enough. Delicious! And totally healthy and calorie-free, right? Cos it's just fruit? Good, I'm glad we agree on that.

Out of Africa's Durban Curried Chillies

Also totally calorie-free: samples. If it's free, it doesn't count. Just as well, as I took my smoothie a-walkin' over to the Out of Africa stall that I didn't have time to properly peruse last week. My South African friend J was right, they are otherworldly. I particularly loved the creamy Mint & Peanut Paste, and the Chilli Coriander Jam, but I ended up getting my wallet out for the Durban Curried Chillies. They won a Gold Medal for Tastiest Chilli Product at the 2009 Perth Chilli Festival (which by the way will be held in Fremantle next year as opposed at Araluen) so I don't seem to be alone in my like of this smack-you-in-the-mouth chilli product. It's pretty hot, filling up your entire mouth with its presence, but in a really tasty way. Not just heat for the sake of it.

Post market lunch (cos I needed to eat more food): roo and vege stir-fry with curried chillies

I got home and decided to add it to some kangaroo and vegies for a tasty stir-fry lunch. I mixed some through, and plopped some extras on top, and had to keep the tissues handy during my meal. I love chilli but I wish it didn't make my nose run. Oh and if you happen to follow my lead and buy these curried chillies, watch out for stray cardamom pods. With the combination of a running nose from the chilli and watering eyes from chewing on a cardamom pod I am glad I was dining alone.

Oh and errr... I might have had some more fudge for dessert. This time, choc mint. Really nice and minty, with the aroma wafting out of the bag as I hurriedly unwrapped it. I didn't enjoy it as much as the Cherry, Chocolate and Coconut fudge, but I am such a sucker for coconut it would be difficult for any other flavour to top that one. I'm sure I'll make my way through them all by the end of the year, reaquainting myself with the Cherry, Chocolate and Coconut at regular intervals just to make sure it's still good. Like how I have to check any chocolate I'm cooking with isn't poisoned before I use it in a recipe.

Seeing as I'm going to be up in Geraldton this weekend for the big partay, I won't be doing a third Subi Farmers Market post in three weeks, don't worry. Although.... guest post anyone? I want the lowdown on those egg & bacon rolls!

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About Me

My love of cooking is surpassed only by my love of eating, though I never quite recovered from the beef I was served at college. I'll try almost anything once, but it takes a very special piece of offal or beef to get me to try it again.

Read more about me here...

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