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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Vanilla vanilla cupcakes

Note: This is a scheduled post - Alastair and I are currently on holiday!

Vanilla vanilla cupcakes

When I told Twinsy that I was interested in making vanilla cupcakes, she lent me her Crapapple Bakery cupcake cookbook and told me to try the vanilla cupcake recipe. The book says that the vanilla cupcake is the biggest seller at the bakery. After making them, I can see why!

The cupcakes are really light and fluffy - even when it’s still at the batter stage you can tell how fluffy they're going to be. I don’t like cakes and desserts to be too sweet, and these fit the bill. They’re not too sweet, they’re fluffy, and they have a strong vanilla flavour. They're really, really good.

Vanilla vanilla cupcakes

On top of the cupcakes is a vanilla buttercream. I didn’t follow the buttercream recipe from the Crabapple Bakery cookbook though – just reading the recipe made my teeth ache because it asks for 8 cups of icing sugar for about 200g of butter (For comparison, the recipe I use has 3 cups of sugar for 225g of butter and it is definitely sweet enough for me!).

The recipe makes a large amount - I made about 28 cupcakes out of one batch. If you don't want to make as many, try halving the recipe, although I'm sure you wouldn't have any problems sharing them amongst friends if you made the full batch. I must stress again how good they are – the best cupcakes I’ve ever made according to my friend Rukiye.

Vanilla vanilla cupcakes

On my last day at my old job, I took a batch of mini cupcakes into work for my colleagues. I halved the recipe and managed to get 47 mini cupcakes. I thought they were very cute and they went down a treat. :)

Vanilla vanilla cupcakes

Vanilla cupcakes

From the Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook

Makes 24 cupcakes

2 & 3/4 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
200g unsalted butter - softened
1 & 3/4 cups caster sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 170°C. Line two 12-hole muffin trays with liners.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter on high for a couple of minutes until pale and fluffy. Add the caster sugar a third at a time, beating for several minutes before the next addition.

When the mixture is light and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time, beating on medium for a minute after each one. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.

Add the flour and milk alternately to the butter mixture in several batches and beat on low speed until just combined.

Spoon mixture into the cupcake liners and bake for 18-20 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Remove from the trays immediately and let cool completely on a wire rack before icing/frosting.

Vanilla buttercream

Thanks to Maria

250 grams unsalted butter, cut into cubes and very, very soft
3 cups sifted icing sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat the butter in an electric mixer on high until it is very pale and fluffy.

Gradually add the icing sugar (I do this a tablespoon at a time), beating well between additions. Beat until the buttercream is very fluffy - about 5-6 minutes.

Heat the milk in the microwave until it's very warm. Add to the butter cream and beat on high for another couple of minutes. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine. Pipe on top of the cupcakes.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Farewell lunch at Takumi

Not only was yesterday my last day before going on four weeks leave, it was also my last day at my current job. Sadness!

A crowd of us went out for a farewell lunch at Takumi, a Japanese restaurant that specialises in wagyu.


I had the wagyu pattie bento box ($13.80). Inside the bento box was sashimi - thinly sliced pieces of scallop and salmon, a big wagyu beef pattie, fresh salad, and rice topped with furikake.


It was very good! The sashimi was nice and fresh, and the pattie was juicy and full of flavour. I really like the furikake on the rice too.


A couple of others on my table had the wagyu beef burger. It was massive and looked awesome. It's hard to see, but inside it had a big meat pattie, salad and even a fried egg!


And others had the ebi bento box - similar to the pattie bento box except with a couple of crumbed prawns and fish. All the bento boxes came with a bowl of miso soup.

Takumi is tastefully decorated, with chocolate brown walls and a polished floor. We were a large group, and the staff were friendly and helpful in dealing with our orders. It was a lovely place for lunch on my last day.

I will really miss my colleagues (particularly Twinsy!) but on the upside, I have a holiday to look forward to. We leave in a few hours! It has been almost two years since our last decent holiday, so I’m looking forward to some long overdue time away.

I probably won't be posting while I'm away, but I have a few posts scheduled to publish over the next few weeks so keep coming back for some food goodness. I will probably be slower than usual in replying to comments though. See you when we get back!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cheese party and Rogan Josh

Alastair and I are going on holiday soon (Tuesday in fact). We're going away for almost four weeks, so last weekend I organised a catch up dinner with Dany, Ben and Lisa.

Randomly, Lisa and I have a couple of running jokes relating to cheese. One is about a travelling cheese salesman, and another one is about a cheese party. When I sent Lisa an email about dinner, she asked whether it was going to be the fabled cheese party.

Yes it will be a cheese party, I told her, but only if you bring the cheese. And I made sure to tell her that one cheese does not make a cheese party. Neither does two cheeses. In fact, for a cheese party, you need at least FIVE cheeses.

Cheese party

Lo and behold........ I don't know why I was surprised when Benisa arrived on Saturday bearing five cheeses!

Cheese party

And not only were there five labelled cheeses (what's a party without a name tag?), check out the flags Lisa made - the cheeses are partying! Have you ever seen anything like it?


For dinner, we veered away from the cheese party as I had prepared an Indian feast. I made a rogan josh, chicken saag, daal, (store bought) roti and basmati rice. I was pretty pleased with how things turned out, particularly the rogan josh, which was the star.

The recipe for the rogan josh I copied out of a cookbook a long time ago and I neglected to note down the source. I think it may have been a Madhur Jaffrey cookbook - I will have to try and find it so I can try the other recipes in the book. On first read the recipe seems like a lot of fuss with lots of ingredients. Once you get started though, you'll find that it's not so bad, and is well worth the effort. With all the yoghurt, the end result is a pretty mild curry which is aromatic and flavoursome. I have made it before, and will definitely make it again!

Oh! Our holiday! We are off to Japan and Hong Kong - in Japan for almost 3 weeks and HK for 5 days on the way back. Ooooooh the excitement!

Rogan Josh

Rogan Josh

Adapted from....?

2 x 2.5cm chunks of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled
4 tablespoons water plus 300ml water
10 tablespoons vegetable oil
900g boned lamb or beef
10 cardamon pods
2 bay leaves
6 cloves
10 peppercorns
2.5cm cinnamon stick
200g onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons natural yoghurt
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
Black pepper

Put the ginger, garlic and 4 tablespoons of water into a blender and blend into a smooth paste.

Heat the oil in a wide, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Brown the meat in several batches and set aside. Into the same hot oil, place the cardamom, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, and cinnamon. Stir it once and wait a few seconds for the cloves to swell and for the bay leaves to colour. Add the onions and fry for five minutes, or until the onions are medium-brown.

Add the ginger-garlic paste and cook for 30 seconds. Add the coriander, cumin, paprika, cayenne, and the salt, and fry for another 30 seconds.

Add the browned meat and any meat juices to the pot. Add 1 tablespoon of the yogurt and stir and fry for about 30 seconds until the yogurt is well blended. Add the remaining yogurt, a tablespoon at a time, in the same way. Cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Add the water and scrap down the sides and bottom of the pot. Increase the heat to high, and bring the contents of the pot to a boil. Cover the pot, turn the heat to low, and simmer for about an hour or until the meat is tender. Stir the pot occasionally.

When the meat is tender, remove the lid, increase the heat and boil off some of the liquid, stirring all the time, until the sauce is thickened (I skipped this step - mine had lots of gravy!)

Mix in the garam masala and black pepper just before serving.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Vietnamese Coconut Waffles

Coconut waffles

After Alastair and I rolled out of bed one Sunday, we wandered into the kitchen in search of food. Alastair started making coffees, while I stared blankly into the fridge and tried to think of what we could eat.

Suddenly – bing! Waffles! I went online and started searching for a waffle recipe. I found a couple of simple ones and then I looked over at the milk container and realised that Alastair had used all the milk for coffees.

Doh! How was I supposed to make waffles without milk? Breakfast was going to be delayed until someone could go and buy some.

And then I came across a recipe for Vietnamese coconut waffles. Instead of using milk, coconut milk is added. Ding ding! Breakfast needn’t be delayed after all. I was happy (and so was my growling stomach).

These waffles smell divine while cooking, and the eating is pleasant too. I poached a couple of peeled and cored pears in sugar syrup while the waffles were cooking, and we ate them with just the pears and without syrup. They were delicious - fragrant and coconutty. Initially I wasn’t going to blog about them, but they looked so cute with the pear perched on top that I couldn’t resist taking a photo!

If you like your waffles crispy, leave them in the waffle iron until they are dark brown and put them on a cooling rack after you pull them out. They crisp up quite well.

Coconut waffles

Vietnamese coconut waffles

Adapted from Vietnamese World Kitchen

1 cup plain flour
7 tablespoons caster sugar
1 & ½ teaspoons cornflour
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg, separated
1 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 & ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat up the waffle iron/maker.

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cornflour, salt, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, coconut milk, butter and vanilla extract.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir gently until incorporated.

With an electric mixer, beat the egg white to a stiff peak.

Fold a third of the egg white through the waffle batter before folding through the rest of the egg white.

Add the batter to the waffle iron and cook for about 3 – 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Pull out of the waffle iron and cool on a rack – they will crisp up as they cool (darker waffles will be more crispy).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Q Eleven

Lazy Sunday brunch

The other weekend Alastair and I started things off with a rather good brunch at Q Eleven. It must've been a sign of things to come because we enjoyed good eating for the rest of the weekend. That evening we met up with Maria and Daz for dinner at Horoki before going to see Tripod. Dinner was great, and Tripod were fantastic. On Sunday we had a home made breakfast (pictured above) with scrambled eggs, fried chorizo, a big fat grilled mushroom and hash browns (supermarket ones... I'm not ashamed to say that I like them!). For afternoon tea later that day there was freshly baked banana cake with a cup of strong tea, and then finally for dinner Bro and I made Hainanese chicken rice. It was so good. I just about had to roll my way out of bed on Monday.

But back to Q Eleven. Alastair and I were in South Melbourne for my regular market wander. Food shopping bores Alastair senseless, so he rarely gets dragged out for food shopping these days. Bro and I normally go together, but as he was busy Alastair had to be the dutiful husband. I thought that he needed some food to shore up his patience so we headed to a cafe for breakfast.


Q Eleven is "cozy", and seems pretty popular, so we were fortunate to get seats! It's popular for good reason - as soon as I opened the menu, I was excited. It's not just bacon and eggs here! With items like the creamed sago pudding with lime, coconut, berries and yogurt, or the warmed rhubarb and apple compote with pistachio crumb fingers of French toast, or the refried beans, with fried eggs, pumpkin and coriander roesti, salsa and chipotle mayo, choosing only one thing to eat was difficult!


Alastair had the omelette with crispy potato, roasted capscium, feta and gremolata ($13.50). He gave me a taste, and even though I've mentioned before that I don't like open omelettes, this was pretty good. No rubberiness here!


I had the ham and roesti stack ($16.90). It truly was a stack - out came a soft poached egg on top of a slice of Kassler ham, a quinoa and potato roesti, and spinach. Perched at the very top was onion jam, and on the side of the stack was rosemary roasted tomatoes. It was good, the rather salty ham providing the seasoning to the gooey egg, soft roesti and spinach. I really enjoyed it.

Fortified by a good breakfast, we were able to make the market rounds. As for Q Eleven, I would definitely go back - even now I'm still wondering about the creamed sago pudding. Next time!

Q Eleven / Q11
303 Coventry Street,
South Melbourne
Phone: 03 9645 7311

Sunday, September 6, 2009



“Flan, flan, it’s our plan! If you can’t flan it, no one can!”

Yep, that’s my daggy flan chant. And yes, I chanted it around the house after I had made flan (flan!).

The other week we went to see the lovely Emily and Mark. I was pretty excited because we were going to meet the new addition to their household – wee baby Felix!

Naturally, I don't expect someone who has a two year old and a 6 week old to cook for me, so I brought dinner to them. I made a chorizo, chicken and fish stew, which seemed quite dull at home. But after I reheated it at their place, and added the fish to cook, it seemed much more interesting. I'll have to try it again sometime and perhaps document it.

And dessert, of course there was dessert. For dessert, we had flan (flan!). The flan tasted good and was rich and sweet, but the texture was firm rather than silky smooth. It wasn't too firm, but it certainly wasn't what I was expecting. I'm not sure if it was the recipe, or whether the flans had been in the oven for too long. It's possible that they were baked too long as my ramekins were largish (and in hindsight I should've used smaller ones!) so the flan was very shallow.

I'd like to try making it again, but perhaps I'll try a different recipe next time.

Flan, flan! That's the plan! If you can't make flan, no one can!




Serves 6

1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
395g can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
Thin cream, to serve

Preheat your oven to 170°C. Lightly grease six 3/4 cup ramekins.

Place the sugar and 1/4 cup water into a saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Let it simmer for 10-15 minutes, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pot with a wet pastry brush, until the mixture is golden brown.

Pour immediately into the prepared ramekins, and swirl each one so the caramel coasts the sides (it will set quickly, so be fast!). Set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the condensed milk, vanilla essence and eggs. Strain into a jug.

Place the caramel lined ramekins in a roasting pan and pour the milk mixture between them. Pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to come up halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan with foil and bake for about 35 minutes or until just set. Remove from the pan, let cool, and then refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Before serving, dip the base of each ramekin into a bowl of warm water for 30 seconds. Run a knife around the edge of the ramekins to release the flan, then invert into a shallow bowl. Serve with cream if desired.

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