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Monday, October 27, 2008

This little piggy went to......

Salamanca Markets

I got back today from a long weekend in Hobart with my parents. The previous weekend Alastair and I spent an unplanned long weekend in Blenheim, NZ.

It's nice to go away, but it's also nice to be home. I cooked tonight! There were vegetables! Weeee!

I can't say that any amazing food has been eaten while away, but perhaps I'll make you scroll through my photos of Port Arthur, Salamanca Markets and flowers from the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. Sure, it's not food related, but what kind of food blogger would I be if I wasn't self indulgent?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Baked vanilla cheesecake (with bonus friands!)

Chocolate and vanilla cheesecake

Recently I discovered that two of my colleagues were having birthdays in the same weekend. I discretely questioned one of those colleagues, trying to figure out his cake preferences and discovered that he didn't really like cake! Shock horror! How can someone not like cake?! But after some further sly questioning, I found out that he liked cheesecake, and specifically, baked cheesecake.

I immediately thought of the recipe below from Australian Table, which has been my go to recipe for baked cheesecake for many years. Unfortunately, I mislaid it for a while and only rediscovered it recently when I did a clear out of most of my food magazines.

I'm very fond of this cheesecake. It's not too large and doesn't use a kilo of cream cheese unlike other recipes I have tried. And it's delicious, with just the right balance of sweetness and richness. The other bonus is the sour cream topping - it doesn't matter if the top of the cheesecake cracks or bubbles in the oven, because it all gets covered up!

The only change to the original recipe I make is to double the amount of biscuits and butter as I prefer a thicker base. Sometimes I top the cheesecake with fruit, but this time (as you can see) I drizzled it with dark chocolate.

The cheesecake was a hit at work and slices were very enthusiastically gobbled down! I was happy to see that the base and filling held up well, and slices were even able to be hand-held.

Coconut and berry friands

Along with the cheesecake, I also made mini coconut and berry friands. I have made and blogged about these before, but I love them so much I thought I'd rave about them again.

This time I used a mini patty pan to make tiny bite side friands. They were a pain in the arse to get out of the pan. I ended up breaking several, but Alastair happily "taste tested" those ones for me. They were little but fabulous!

Chocolate and vanilla cheesecake

Baked vanilla cheesecake

Serves 8

From Australian Table - December 2005

250g Nice biscuits, crushed
120g unsalted butter, melted
500g cream cheese
2 large eggs, plus 1 yolk
3/4 cup (180ml) cream
1/4 cup (55g) caster sugar, plus 1 tablespoon extra
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 cup (120g) sour cream
2 punnets raspberries (or other fruit of your choice)
icing sugar, to dust

Preheat oven to 190°C. Line and grease base and side of a springform (2cm) pan.

Combine biscuit crumbs and butter. Press firmly into base of prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

Place cream cheese, eggs and egg yolk, cream, 1/4 cup caster sugar and vanilla into a food processor. Process until smooth. Pour over biscuit base. Bake for 25 minutes, until firm, but still slightly wobbly in centre. Cool.

Whisk together sour cream and extra sugar. Spread over cheesecake. Top with fruit and dust with icing sugar.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ladies who lunch: Cumulus Inc

Several weeks ago, Lisa and I headed to Cumulus Inc for lunch. I am quite behind with posts so I won't tell you exactly how many weeks ago! We arrived around 12.15pm, and while it was already packed by this time, we managed to snag two seats at the bar. Lisa and I are not very tall, and I often have comfort issues with high stools, but these felt fine and we were okay perched on the stools during our meal.

On one wall of the restaurant are shoe lasts that double as coat hooks. I wonder who designed the installation – probably not someone as short as Lisa and me. When I went to hang up our coats, the lowest hook was taken, and I could only just reach the next lowest one.

After an initial look at the menu, we received some help from one of the staff, who guided us in our ordering. We started with the kitchen's selection of charcuterie ($21). It was bought to us by a waiter who announced, "I come bearing a plate of meat."

"You certainly know how to charm," I replied.

Cumulus Inc

On the plate was a piece of pheasant terrine with spiced prunes, wagyu bresaola with fresh horseradish, proscuitto and... what's that fourth thing? The memory is weak... The only thing that I didn't like on the plate was the spiced prunes (when normally I like prunes). I found the flavour of them a tad strange with the terrine.

Cumulus Inc

Next we had the baked gnocchi with tallegio and white truffle oil ($15). This was served piping hot, with the big fluffy gnocchi covered in the rich cheese. I loved this!

Cumulus Inc

We were advised to go for a second lighter option, as the gnocchi was quite heavy (although, truthfully, it was so delicious that I would have had no problem finishing it by myself!). Our second dish was the cracked wheat and freekeh salad with barberries and preserved lemon, toasted almonds, shredded parsley and labneh ($12). This was delightfully nutty and fresh.

Cumulus Inc

And over coffees, we had 2 madelines with lemon curd ($2.50 each). Lisa and I debated on the correct pronunciation of "madeline" (mad-e-lean? mad-e-line?) and ended up saying it incorrectly anyway. The madelines are freshly made to order, so they took a little time to arrive, but the wait was well worth it. They were warm, dusted with icing sugar, and filled with lemon curd and were a sweet little ending to our meal.

After such a lovely lunch, I very regretfully headed back to work. It's fortunate I don't have lunches like this every day - I would never get any work done in the afternoon!

Cumulus Inc
45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
(03) 9650 1445

Monday, October 13, 2008

Souffle omelette

Lazy Sunday breakfast

So I've been lying low for a couple of weeks. I haven't been in the headspace for blogging for some reason. But I've still been cooking - pictured is a lazy Sunday breakfast we had recently.

Part of the reason for the blog quietness is that my parents are here for a visit! They arrived last week, and I was very busy trying to get the house clean and in order before they arrived. I wasn't entirely successful (I never am) but in the 5 days since they have been here they have done 4 loads of laundry, cooked us dinner most nights, bought groceries and taken us out for meals.

Why on earth did I ever leave home???

Souffle omelette

One weekend before my parents arrived (ie when I had ownership over my kitchen) I made us a soufflé omelette for breakfast. Along with jam, I put slices of mango in the middle (my first mango this side of the year!). When I reviewed the photos, I realised that the mango looked a bit like teeth!

The souffle omelette puffed up a lot in the oven, and even after it had been out for a while, I was pleased to see that it didn't completely deflate. It was nice and fluffy, not too sweet, but it was quite "eggy" (surprise surprise). We enjoyed it and it was easy to make - perfect for a lazy weekend breakfast!

Souffle omelette

Souffle Omelette

Adapted from Australian Table - September 2006

Serves 2

2 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon cream
2 teaspoons plain flour
grated rind of 1/2 lemon
15g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons jam
Diced fruit (if desired)
icing sugar, to serve

Preheat oven to 190°C. Combine egg yolks, sugar, cream, flour and lemon rind in a bowl. Set aside.

Using an electric beater, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold yolk mixture and egg whites together using a large metal spoon.

Melt butter in a large ovenproof frying pan on low heat. Pour in egg mixture and place the frying pan in the oven. Bake omelette for 6 minutes, until risen and golden. Slide onto a heated serving plate and spread with jam. Place fruit on half of omelette (if desired) and fold omelette over. Dust with icing sugar, and cut crossways into thick slices. Serve immediately.

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