Thursday, May 30, 2013

FFwD - Ann Le Blanc's Pistachio Avocado - err, Macadamia Avocado

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe is - well, not really a recipe.  Half an avocado squirted with lemon juice and the cavity filled with oil and sprinkled with salt - in Dorie's case, pistachio oil, in my case, macadamia oil.

Spread on an English muffin, it's nice - but so is plain avocado with salt on a muffin.  I splashed out on the oil for this recipe, but I don't really think it was necessary.  I am sorry to say that I was not inspired by this dish.

To see what the other Dorie cooks thought of this recipe, visit the LYL section of the website.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Various Ways of Digital Marketing

Online retail is one precious asset; it significantly contributes to the overall business strategy of a company. Working in online marketing for The Genuine Gemstone Company I know a little about being established on TV, our brands GemsTV and Rocks TV are strong in the UK and USA respectively.  Our current fan base, the shopping savvy, fashion conscious society seek online retail as well as TV.

"The company’s No.1 appearance in the Fast Track 100, is testimony to their skill and determination to succeed" – says Sir Richard Branson in The Sunday Times.

Without being connected to our audience through brand websites, social media, emails and other forms of online marketing, we wouldn’t have achieved our sales growth of 245.36% per annum. Being a Sunday Times Fast Track 100 winner is proof that there is success in online retail. Determination and proven ability to deliver sales and grow as a company only underlines expertise in creating a solid and sustainable business model.

Here are some tips in working in online marketing.

Organic SEO

Paying attention to the mark-up information within the development aspect of a digital retail platform enables users to create search engine friendly websites. SEO is going to enable all of the below.
  • Enable websites to be crawled and rated as healthy
  • Position for credible Author Rank to emerge with the provision of consistent blogging
  • Your products to be featured in the Google products shop window
  • Google map to be permitted and vindicated, Google real estate like this is an asset
  • Permit all white hat organic SEO organic keywords to improve your overall rankings
  • Hire a team of in-house specialists or digital marketing agency to build rankings

PPC is advertising like you never seen it before. Knowing your return of investment or ROI via a Google profile enables quick access to all you need. The definitive are a higher spike of onsite visits. You do not even need a very prolific organic campaign.
  • Select keywords to target and bid on the best viable assets
  • Investments in singular popular words lead to wins but stakes are high
  • Long tail keywords yield less visits but create a list of them
Email Marketing

Capture your customers email and construct a directory. It is that simple, quick to program and if you haven’t already done it, get started and right away!  Easy, and simple, email marketing improves clicks, visits and a structured presence in the customers mind. It puts you into the control of your guests, pointing them into and through the sales funnel every time you email.
  • Email seasonal, weekly and for national events to put a spin on your marketing projects
  • Create new promotions every week, promote, sell, convert
  • Use email software such as Mail Chimp, connected to analytics for all reporting on email
  • Develop an email strategy, then refine it week by week, use your results data to good use 
Social Media

Interactions through social media are more effective then you may think.  Creating a fan base on Facebook, Twitter etc. assists in building SEO, whilst the marketing ability is limitless. Used correctly and a full time task for your company, this is a very effective tool for marketing, sales, technical support and customer support.
  • Ensure you use a logo as your profile picture, and create a header banner
  • Use your brand name as your Facebook username and handle if you are on Twitter
  • Use your brand name in your Twitter bio, and add a link to a white paper in your bio
  • Create competitions and get fans to post pictures of pets, cars, products etc. for prizes
  • Get fans to like your social media profile to improve Google authority
  • Promote events, shows, launches for new products and other press releases
  • Add your website's URL to your profile
  • Use your brand name as your hashtag and include it in all Tweets
  • Encourage cross promotion across similar brands from social partnerships

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sir Paul McCartney's Super Vegetable Salad

I have never been a huge lover of salad, and as a kid, I hated most vegetables. However, I have become quite partial to certain types of salad as I have travelled down life's highway, especially anything containing pumpkin.

The salad featured at the top of this post is surprising because it is way more green than many salads that I would normally eat, yet I enjoyed it immensely.  This warm salad is Sir Paul McCartney's Super Vegetable Salad.  I obtained the recipe from Share: The Cookbook That Celebrates Our Common Humanity, but the recipe is also online here.

The differenced between the version in Share and the Meatless Monday version are that the cherry tomatoes are not roasted in the Share version (although I wish that they had been!), and the tofu is an optional extra.  Otherwise, the recipe is the same.  I used the maple syrup in the dressing, because I am a sweet tooth after all.

This is a very hearty salad which serves as a meal on its own (especially if you add the tofu), or which makes a wonderful side dish (which is how I served it).

If you sometimes get a bit lost as to what to do with veges to make a tasty salad, like I sometimes do, you  can't go wrong with this fabulous super salad.  It tastes good warm (as the recipe is written) or cold (for all of those leftovers).

Monday, May 27, 2013

Weekend eats in Sydney

The weekend before last, Tim and I spent a leisurely three day weekend in sunny Sydney.  The weather was blissfully warm during the day, with cold, crisp nights.  Having come from rainy, grey Melbourne, we really appreciated the contrast.

While in Sydney, we went to see the Swans play Fremantle in the AFL (it was a draw),  visited the Art Gallery of NSW to see the Archibald Prize exhibition, went on a free tour of Government House in the NSW Botanic Gardens, and went on the ferry to Manly.

We also ate lots of very good food.  At the top of this post is the Tiger from Harrys Café de Wheels at Woolloomooloo.  A Tiger is a pie topped with mashed potato, mashed peas and gravy.  The trick to eating it is to dig down through the gravy and mash into the top of the pie and let the gravy soak in before attempting to eat the pie.  This avoids gravy ending up everywhere.

Our next stop was to Laduree on Level 3 of Westfield in the CBD:

I had a skinny flat white coffee:

and Tim and I shared this plate of maracons - clockwise from top left - salted caramel, licorice, lime and basil and raspberry:

For me, the surprise hit was the tangy lime and basil.

My friend Karen introduced me to the gorgeous Coco Chocolate in Kirribilli:

The chocolate is not cheap, but it is exquisite.  I bought two blocks of chocolate ($9 each for 70g):

rose and ginger, and caramel, pine nut and sea salt:

Both were good, but I liked the caramel the best.

On a trip to Newtown to visit the Dr Who pop-up shop:

we stopped off for lunch at Thai Pothong:

For starters, we had the Thai fish cakes ($12.90 for 4 cakes):

These were scrumptious - sweet and sour sauce, peanuts, green beans, kaffir lime.

For main, Tim had his favourite - green curry with beef ($17.90):

And I had Pad Se Ew (flat rice noodles) with chicken and prawns ($17.90):

The serves were generous and the food was excellent.  The service was prompt, and the ambience was perfect in the large, open sunlit restaurant.

On our last day, we went for takeaway Mexican at Guzman y Gomez at Manly:

I ordered the Chicken Guerrero burrito (mild):

It was good, but I like Mad Mex better, where you can choose your own fillings instead of selecting from a set combination.

All in all, it was a great weekend.

Harrys Café de Wheels
Corner Cowper Wharf Roadway
& Brougham Road
Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
Level 3, Westfield, 450 George St
Sydney NSW 2000
Coco Chocolate
Shop 12
3a-9b Broughton St
Kirribilli  NSW 2061
Thai Pothong
294 King Street
Newtown NSW 2042
Guman y Gomez
Shop 14, Manly Wharf,
East Esplanade
Manly NSW 2095

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Daring Bakers - Prinsesstarta

I joined Daring Bakers oh so long ago now so that I could make pretty cakes.  The strawberry mirror cake inspired me to join, and while we make all kinds of things, pretty cakes are still my favourite things to make.  This month, I got to fulfil a long held ambition to make a particular type of pretty cake that I first saw on Anne's Food

Korena of Korena in the Kitchen was our May Daring Bakers’ host and she delighted us with this beautiful Swedish Prinsesstårta!

Prinsesstårta is a traditional Swedish cake, comprising layers of fluffy sponge sandwiched together with red jam, crème patisserie and cream, then covered with (usually) bright green marzipan and topped off with a pink marzipan rose:

I think it took me so long to get around to making this cake because it all sounds rather daunting.  However, since I first discovered Prinsesstårta, I have made the individual components many times for other recipes, so this one didn't phase me.

I used store bought marzipan tinted with green gel colouring, and for the jam, I chose strawberry (as I have a huge pot of it).  For some reason, this custard recipe did not like me and it split - I wonder if this is because it contains cream rather than milk, which is what I am used to using to make crème patisserie.  The custard never quite came back together and it chilled with a nasty hard fat layer on top, which I removed.  Starting again isn't an option when several egg yolks are involved. I also rolled my marzipan a little too thin because I was 30g short of the recipe requirement (as marzipan is sold here in 250g boxes), so it tore a little in a few places.  I disguised my sins with little marzipan leaves cut from the offcuts placed discreetly over the tears.

In the end,  none of this mattered - I received high praise from the recipients of this cake:

They didn't know about my trials and tribulations, and I didn't tell them.  I have to say that Prinsesstårta tastes delicious - a heavenly cake fit for royalty. 

Thanks to Korena for setting this challenge.  She will have the recipe.  To check out what the other Daring Bakers made of this month's challenge, you can visit the slide show on the Daring Kitchen website in due course.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Banana and Cardamom Loaf - Now We Are Six

Now We Are Six
When I was one,
I had just begun.
When I was two,
I was nearly new.
When I was three,
I was hardly me.
When I was four,
I was not much more.
When I was five,
I was just alive.
But now I am six,
I'm as clever as clever.
So I think I'll be six
now and forever.
                      A.A. Milne

My blog turns six today.  I had intended to celebrate with a fancy cake, but life took over, and instead, I am celebrating with a humble Banana and Cardamom Loaf that I made earlier in the week.

On Friday, my blog received an unofficial pressie from Jacqui and Elena at work, who gave me these adorable heart-shaped measuring cups and cupcake toppers, because they said that my baking makes them happy:

Aren't these adorable!  These gifts made me happy.

My Banana and Cardamom Loaf is by Mike Wallis, from p88 The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook:

It's not the prettiest cake (in the book they only have photos of a few pieces of it), but it's very tasty, with a lovely crunch on the outside and a soft moist centre:

To make this cake, you will need:
120g butter
225g sugar
2 eggs
300g plain flour
4 ripe mashed bananas
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
75ml yoghurt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius and grease and line a large loaf tin.
Beat the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer until light and creamy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a  time, adding one tablespoon of flour with the eggs.
Add the cardamom, bananas  and salt and mix well.  Mix in the yoghurt and lemon juice, then fold in the remaining flour and bicarbonate of soda.  Spread the batter into the prepared loaf tin (my batter was very thick), then bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour or until cooked through.
Cool the cake in the tin for a few minutes before unmoulding onto a wire rack to cool completely before cutting.
PS  Is anyone in Melbourne running a Clandestine Cake Club, or would anyone like to start one with me?  I think it sounds like fun.

Combining SEO and Web Design to Create Successful Websites

Combining SEO and Web Design to Create Successful Websites

With the economy in a recession, business trends have moved online. Companies large and small are making the move to survive. What they are finding is competition for front page exposure in the top search engines is stiff. Increasingly , they are seeking out web design and SEO companies that demonstrate the experience and track record of proven success. Due to higher gas prices and increased internet security, shoppers are buying online.
According to the Census Bureau, revenues from online sales have grown by nearly fivefold from $7.4 billion in the third quarter of 2000 to $34.7 billion in the third quarter of 2007. In July 2008 alone, there were almost 12 Billion U.S. searches conducted on the top search engines, according to Search Engine Watch. With decreasing local sales due to the economy, many small business owners are investing in online virtual real estate by creating a website to expand their reach and market.

 Internet competition for top page exposure in the large search engines has increased dramatically due to the influx of the number of new websites coming online. Many small companies are going online without a clear niche marketing target and plan of action for online business growth.

A successful web design method that involves a unique blend of combining the design phase closely with the search engine optimization of the web pages is recommended for today's competitive market. The SEO promotion is as important as the design. Working the two together provides the client with a highly targeted and cohesive website. That has proven better than using unrelated web design and SEO companies.

Today's web design techniques have evolved with the internet and the demands for search engine friendly technical web coding. This combination of marketing and web design are a natural reaction to changing market conditions. Top selling websites seek out teams of web designers and SEO specialists who combine their ideas to create a successful and marketable website.

This method has also proven to be a more cost effective approach, especially for start-up and small business. A well designed and coded website with researched and correct SEO optimization combined with a continuing off-page SEO promotion provides the client with a piece of online real estate that increases in value. An investment in your online presence, or virtual real estate, is becoming as valuable as hard real estate, and can be acquired for a whole lot less money. It's just a wise investment.

Chris Kaminski is the head designer and web developer at Lone Bird Studio Ltd. , an Asheville web design and SEO company in North Carolina. Clients include top companies in North Carolina health insurance, medical, news media, and government. Lone Bird Studio also specializes in creating niche market websites for companies that realize the necessity of e-commerce as the new marketplace. The Asheville, NC web design studio creates virtual internet real estate by combining web design with search engine optimization.
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Thursday, May 23, 2013

FFwD - Asparagus Soup

... asparagus, tinged with ultramarine and rosy pink which ran from their heads, finely stippled in mauve and azure, through a series of imperceptible changes to their white feet, still stained a little by the soil of their garden-bed: a rainbow-loveliness that was not of this world.
Marcel Proust

It has been an asparagus-tinged week for me - first asparagus in the Savoury Brioche Pockets, then Rigatoni with Peas, Asparagus and Ricotta, and now, Asparagus Soup for French Fridays with Dorie.  Phew!  Luckily I like asparagus. 

I found the steps involved in making this soup a little fiddly - peel the stalks; place the trimmings in cheesecloth and boil with the asparagus etc etc.  The recipe calls for 2 1/2 pounds of asparagus, so peeling all of those spears would have sent me potty.  However, due to the price of asparagus here (end of season) and the fact that I didn't want six serves of soup, I only had to peel six spears, and bulked up the asparagus content with some leftover tinned asparagus that I had in the fridge.   

As expected, this soup tasted predominantly of - well, asparagus.  There's a hint - if you aren't a fan of asparagus, don't make this soup.  It was OK, but didn't light any fires for me.

To see what the other Doristas thought of this soup, visit the LYL section of the website.

Vale Hazel Hawke, who passed away yesterday aged 84.  Hazel was the wife of one of our prime ministers, Bob Hawke.  She reminds me of being a child in upper primary school, when Bob was elected PM, as one of our teachers told the class that if you didn't know the answer in the social studies test, write "Bob Hawke".   I think our teacher was encouraging people to "have a crack" (to use a great Australian colloquialism) rather than to leave the answer blank; however, some students took him literally and wrote "Bob Hawke" as the answer to questions they didn't know, much to the amusement of our class.  Good times!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

WWDH - Rigatoni with Peas, Asparagus and Ricotta

This week's Wednesday with Donna Hay pick came from Chaya, who selected Rigatoni with Peas, Asparagus and Ricotta from p130 of Modern Classics I.

This is such a simple, light, fresh dish - it comprises pasta with asparagus, peas (whole and mashed) cooked in chicken stock, ricotta, parmesan, salt, pepper and a little olive oil.  It is quick to make and very easy to eat.  I loved it.

To see what Chaya, Margaret and Kayte thought of this dish, visit their websites.

Monday, May 20, 2013

BWJ - Savoury brioche pockets

It's Baking with Julia time again, and this week, our recipe  is Savoury Brioche Pockets, hosted by Carrie of Loaves and Stitches.

These pockets are comprised of a brioche dough, filled with potato, caramelised onion and asparagus, with a sage leaf on top.

I thought these were quite tasty, and they look cute.

To see how the other BWJ bakers  went, visit the LYL section  of the website.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Video Marketing - The New Opportunities For Your Business

Video marketing is very hard to do, but it can be worth the time, effort and money if you do it right. Video marketing is another medium that you can use to get your marketing message across. It has been used for many years to great success on the TV, and now that Internet connections and bandwidths are good, you are able to host videos on your website with great success. There are even video channels such as YouTube that you can use to disseminate your videos.

Video marketing is very hard to do

This comment should be clarified, as anyone can point a camera at something. It is hard to do if you want any form of success. You need to have very good production values, audio, visuals, acting and scripts in order to create a successful marketing video. Anything less than fantastic will destroy any credibility you may have wished to gain (or sustain).

There are so many marketing videos online that are simply not good enough that people have started to ignore them and avoid them like plague. You should also be aware that your video needs to be very, very engaging, as most marketing videos are never watched through to the end. Your marketing massage needs to be short, concise, to the point and very, very engaging.

Demonstrations of your products

You can create videos that show demonstrations of your products. As you are probably already aware, images are not very good at showing how great your product is. They only show how the product appears to look, and even any action shots look lack luster on images. With a video you can show people exactly what your product does in a way that no other medium will allow you to. People are able to be impressed by what your product does, as oppose to simply how it looks.

Evidence of your marketing claims

Your marketing campaign may claim that your products are the most waterproof, the strongest or the most durable. But, those are just claims unless you can show people that what you are saying is true. You can prove that your product is waterproof with a video of it being dropped into a swimming pool and being used under water. You can show how strong your product is by tying it between two cars and having them pull. You can even show how durable your product is by putting it in a tumble dryer and then showing it working when it comes out.

Tutorials on how to use your products

These are quite popular because they offer the user something, instead of just advertising to them. It is quite common for people to log onto YouTube so that they can find out how a product or service works. People may wish to use your products for a certain task, and you can show them how to do it correctly. Whilst you are doing this, you are also subtly advertising your goods at the same time. You can even start and end the tutorial with a screen showing your current website or business location.

Examples of how your service works

If your website or business sells a service, then you can show that service in action. You can show people how your service works, or you can show people the results of your service. You can show people exactly what your service does so that they know what to expect when they buy from you. If you show people how you do your service and what the service entails, it will help them trust you enough to make the sale.

Show people that you are not a faceless corporation

Many people only ever see your brand or maybe someone in a suit on your website. But, everybody knows that the images they see online are not of real people within the company. With a video, you can show people around your office and introduce them to your staff and what they do. You can show that your company is staffed by real people who are not robotically churning out PR friendly banter. You can show people that any mistakes you make are not because there is a cog loose in your corporate machine, just that your company is run by humans who make mistakes.

It also allows people to see that when your company says that it cares, it is not just some bland corporate slogan. You can show the people behind the slogan and you can show people what your staffs do in order to care for their customers. You can even give subtle hints as to how successful your business is by showing how busy you are, and how your stock levels keep running low faster than you expect. You can even show people in your delivery department working quickly and efficiently in order to cope with the many, many orders that your company is receiving.

Author bio: Korah Morrison, working for– the best student’s helper.

Friday, May 17, 2013


Do you ever have those moments when you stuff something up without even realising it, but it all works out in the end anyway?  That was the experience I had when I made Basbosa, a traditional Egyptian dessert, using the recipe from Share:  The cookbook that celebrates our common humanityShare is a very special cookbook in that net profits go to support the work of Women for Women International.  It is also a very handsome cookbook, with information and case studies from the various regions where Women for Women operates, interspersed with recipes from chefs and famous people who do charity work, and glorious full page colour photographs.  Some of the recipes are traditional for the region in which they feature, others are most definitely not, meaning there is something for everyone.

I was instantly taken by the recipe for Basbosa, as the accompanying photograph looked delicious, and I was intrigued by something I had never heard of before.  Now, I am not 100% sure whether I stuffed up the recipe or not.  It refers to 240g of cornflour.  In Australia, cornflour means wheaten cornflour, and it struck me that this seemed like a lot of cornflour for the recipe.  However, I made it using the wheaten cornflour, not for a moment thinking anything was not right.  However, the next day, I Googled some other recipes for basbosa (also spelled basbousa, but I use it the way it is spelled in Share), and noticed that most of those recipes used semolina and yoghurt instead of cornflour and cream, as specified by the recipe in Share from Manal Al Sharif (whom I believe to be a Saudi Arabian advocate for women's rights).  Suddenly, the penny dropped - perhaps "cornflour" meant maize flour (cornmeal), not  wheaten cornflour.  The book was published in Britain, and I am sure that the Brits use the term "cornflour" in the same way as Aussies; however, that does not mean that Manal meant it that way, and given that many other recipes use semolina, I have a suspicion that Manal meant cornmeal.

Oh well, it doesn't matter - my version of basbosa seemed to turn out fine, and a couple of people at work said they liked it, so it can't have been all bad, even if I have stuffed up.

I urge you to buy Share, and support a good cause while obtaining a beautiful  and practical book. As a tempter, here is the recipe for basbosa (interpret the reference to cornflour how you will!):

110g melted, cooled butter
2 eggs
225g sugar
3 tablespoons milk
250ml cream
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
240g cornflour
100g dessicated coconut
75g chopped almonds or pistachios (I used flaked almonds)


225g sugar
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
120ml water

Grease a 20cm x 27cm deep rectangular cake tin, and preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  (Note that I found my slice tray to be too low to hold all of the batter - you do need a high-sided tin.)

Pour the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer, and add the eggs, sugar, milk, cream, baking powder and vanilla, and beat until smooth.  Fold through the cornflour and coconut then spoon the batter into the prepared cake tin. 

Bake the basbosa in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden on top and a cake tester comes out clean.  Allow the basbosa to cool in the tin until lukewarm.

In the meantime, make the syrup by placing the sugar bringing the sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves, then bringing the mixture to the boil and simmering for 3-5 minutes until slightly thickened.  (I decided mine wasn't thick enough and let it bubble away for 10 minutes  - err, slightly too long, as I ended up with something resembling taffy that I had to reheat to use.) 

Pour the cooled syrup over the lukewarm basbosa and sprinkle to top of the basbosa with the chopped nuts.  Cut the basbosa into squares. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

FFWD - Lamb and Dried Apricot Tagine - Cook's Choice for Food Revolution Day

Today is Cook's Choice for Food Revolution Day for our French Fridays with Dorie group.  Our assignment:  choose a recipe from Around My French Table that you loved (or would love to try, if it’s a recipe we haven’t made yet!) and Cook it. Share it. With family, friends, colleagues.

What is Food Revolution Day?  To quote the website:

Food Revolution Day is a global day of action for people to make a stand for good food and essential cooking skills. It's a chance for people to come together within their homes, schools, workplaces and communities to cook and share their kitchen skills, food knowledge and resources. Food Revolution Day aims to raise awareness about the importance of good food and better food education for everyone by focusing on three simple actions – cook it, share it, live it.

I chose to make Lamb and Dried Apricot Tagine from p284 of Around My French Table.  You can find the recipe to make it in the book, or online here.  The photos below take you step by step through that recipe.

First, you put some dried apricots in chicken stock to plump up:

In the meantime, you brown some cubed lamb shoulder in a little oil on the stovetop:

Next, after removing the lamb from the pan, you cook some chopped onions and garlic in a little more oil:

and add a tin of tomatoes:

After reducing the tomatoes for 10 minutes, you add the chicken stock (sans dried apricots), dried chilli, coriander, saffron, ginger, cumin, cinnamon and two teaspoons of fresh coriander  (if you have it):

Put the meat and dried apricots on top:

cover the pot with alfoil, pop the lid on your pot, and cook the tagine in the oven for an hour.  Add a handful of toasted almonds and cook for another 15 minutes.

Serve and enjoy:

This tagine has a lovely zing to it - if you don't like zing, you can adjust the spices to your taste.  However, the overall flavour is just devine in my view - sweet and savoury and spicy, with soft, melty meat.  I served mine with steamed veges and leftover risotto.

You can find out what the other Dorie cooks made for Food Revolution Day by visiting the LYL section of the FFWD website.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

WWDH - Arancini

This week, we travel to Italy for Wednesdays with Donna Hay as Margaret chooses Arancini from Modern Classic Book I.

This is a double recipe, as before you can make the arancini, you have to make Donna's lemon and parmesan risotto.  Here is the risotto:

I had some of the risotto for lunch with a small tin of salmon mixed through - it was delicious.

Here is  peek inside the arancini:

I used pieces of light cheddar cheese to stuff my arancini instead of the mozzarella from a practicality and cost saving perspective. My arancini took about double the 3-4 minute cooking time recommended by Donna. The arancini were delicious, but obviously they are not every day food as they are deep fried. For that reason, I only made two arancini and will use the rest of the risotto as a side with another dish. 

To see what Margaret, Kayte and Chaya thought of these arancini, visit their websites.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Caramel Speculoos Blondies

Over the Anzac Day long weekend (created by taking Friday off as well as the official Thursday holiday), my family and I travelled to Adelaide for a mini break.  My favourite part of that trip was going to Hahndorf, an originally German settlement in the Adelaide hills.  Hahndorf is very beautiful at this time of year with the autumn leaves all yellow and red, and it has been kept cute-sy and touristy to attract visitors.

While in Hahndorf, at the Bavarian deli, I spied what is a very difficult to obtain product here - Speculoos spread (known as Biscoff spread in the US).  I had seen the mania over this product in the blogging world, and I was keen to get my hands on some.  I had tried a Speculoos chocolate bar from Trader Joes when I was in the US last year, but the Speculoos spread had eluded me until now.

Speculoos spread has a similar appearance and consistency to peanut paste, but it tastes of the spicy biscuits from which it is made.  It is rather thick and cloying in the mouth, like peanut butter, so while I am glad to have tried it, it is not a favourite of mine.

To ensure that I don't fall into the trap of eating the Speculoos spread all from the jar (although it tastes very nice on a warm crumpet), I decided to make Caramel Speculoos Blondies.  You can find the recipe that I used here.

I didn't put the soft caramels on top of my blondies, but these were not necessary, as the brown sugar makes the blondies very caramel-like without any help.  These blondies had a chewy quality to them - which didn't surprise me, as the batter was very thick. The verdict at work was that these blondies are rather good.  Though only one person commented on them, the fact that the blondies all disappeared speaks for itself.

In closing, I want to congratulate my friend Craig, who became an Australian citizen on Thursday night:

This lovely photo is courtesy of my friend Steve.  I was firmly wedged into a row of seats, replete with paper Australian flags, so I couldn't really get up to take photos.  Congratulations Craig!!!!!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

FFWD - Coupetade

This week for French Fridays with Dorie recipe is Coupetade, a bread pudding made with French toast instead of ordinary bread.

As a kid, Mum made bread pudding to use up the egg yolks after she'd made pavlova.  Neither of us really liked bread pudding much back then - it was the poor cousin to the main event, the pavlova.  However, I now love the stuff. 

Because I didn't want temptation in my house, I scaled the 6 serve recipe down to 2 serves made individually in ramekins.  I chose apricots and cranberries for the fruit component, and, sin of sins, I made French toast out of rye bread instead of brioche.

This pudding was delish - what is not to like about custardy bread with fruit - but I don't think it trumps Donna Hay's marmalade bread pudding.  I tried it both warm and cold - I think I liked it better cold because everything had had a chance to meld together into a smooth, sweet mouthful.

To see what everyone else thought of Coupetade, visit the LYL section of the website.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

WWDH - Moussaka

One of my favourite TV shows at present is Silk, the BBC series about criminal defence barrister Martha Costello on her path to becoming a Queen's Counsel (called "taking silk" - hence the name of the series) and her colleagues and clients at Shoelane Chambers in London.  I think that the character of Martha is fantastic, but she lives a pretty hard life - she works all day, then comes home with the next day's brief(s) and starts again, working late into the night.  Martha seems to subsist on a steady diet of beer (she has a built in bottle opener on her fridge), wine and cigarettes, and neither cooking nor eating seems to play a large part in Martha's life.

This week's Wednesday with Donna Hay is a dish that Martha's lifestyle would never give her the chance to make.  Our host, Kayte, chose Moussaka from Modern Classics Book I.

This dish is very tasty - it's tomato-ey, it's cheesy, it's meaty, it's rich.  It is perfect comfort food for a cold night.

The only drawback is the length of time it takes to prepare this dish.  The longest part is preparing the eggplant.  It has to be thinly sliced, salted, left to rest for 15 minutes, rinsed, oiled and lightly fried before it can be used to construct the dish.   

To see what Kayte, Margaret and Chaya thought of this dish, visit their websites on Wednesday, US time.

Monday, May 6, 2013

BWJ - Rhubarb Baby Cakes

Last night, I watched an amazing performance on The Voice by Kiyomi Vella singing Paloma Faith's Upside Down.  I had never heard of this song before, but after seeing Kiyomi's performance, I was sold. 

For Baking with Julia this week, we turned our own worlds upside down and made Rhubarb Baby Cakes, hosted by Erin of When in Doubt - Leave it at 350.  I had thought this would be similar to the Ginger Baby Cakes we have already made, and except for my own laziness, I was going to make these in mini muffin tins.  Now that I know how these cakes go together, I know that would have been a huge mistake - phew!

I made my baby cakes in a 12 hole muffin tin and got 12 cakes out of the recipe.  These cakes are comprised of a nutty caramel topping (I used macadamias instead of pecans),  followed by a layer of sliced rhubarb, and topped with a butter cake batter.  There seemed to be so much rhubarb packed into the tins, I was not sure that the cakes would hold together, but they did.  And they were amazing!!!  The sweetness of the caramel, the crunchiness of the nuts, the tartness of the rhubarb and the soft, tender cake make for a magical dessert.  I ate one of these served warm, and it was fantastic.  I would definitely make these again.

To see what the other Julia bakers thought, visit the LYL section of the website on Tuesday, US time.  If you want the recipe, buy the book, or Erin will have it on her site.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Polka Dots and Stripes Cake for Sandra's Birthday

Last Friday was Sandra's birthday, and of course I made her a cake to celebrate.   I wanted to trump last year's tomato soup cake, so I dug deep into my limited decorating skills and made the Polka Dots and Stripes Cake from the Australian Women's Weekly Decorating Cakes.  This cake comprises 4 layers of butter cake - one yellow, one pink, one purple and one green - put together with white chocolate ganache, then covered with white fondant and decorated with fondant dots to match the colours of the layers in the cake.

Here is Sandra cutting into her cake:

This is the surprise hiding inside the cake:


The cacophony of colours inside the cake is a wonder to behold:

Instead of using 4 packet cakes, as suggested in the book, I made two butter cakes, each of which I divided into two layers, using this recipe (which is also featured in the book).  I used liquid colours to colour the cake batter and gel colours to colour the fondant.

You can use your own favourite cake and ganache recipes to make this cake, which is simple but effective.

I was excited when the layers were sliced through and I finally got to see the colours inside the cake!

Hope you have been having a great weekend.