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Thursday, 29 September 2011

Hallmark

I swear these nails remind me of a greeting card. Or even a wedding invitation. The base colour is my fav colour atm - Milani Truth or Bare. I had an interview earlier today and this colour is perfect as a neutral that goes with everything. And it looks heaps nice plain. But yes, me being me I had to put a design on it when I got home. And the design is just gold polish. But yea - it's screaming greeting card to me right now =P. Or possibly hotel curtains....or even giftwrapping...





Sorry for all the close-ups, I just like looking at it in different light =). xx

Sunday, 25 September 2011

PB&J

My lunch today....



Nothing beats a toasted-to-perfect-gooeyness PB&J sandwich on a rainy Sunday. Oh how I have missed these!! xx

Athenian, Sydney

Yesterday was my parents 24th anniversary!! And we always go out to eat to celebrate such occasions. I've been told (from people of the same cultural background/with parents who have migrated over here) that my parents are really cool because they like to eat outside their own cultural sphere. However I thought all people like to do that (??) because what's the point of going out to eat something you can probably make yourself and of a better standard =P. I would only go out to eat Sri Lankan food if it was gonna be out of this world i.e. Flying Fish.

Anyways, so I asked Mum what she felt like eating, since Dad will eat anything =P, and she said Greek. So I asked my Greek best friend where she thought the best Greek food was and she said Athenian in the City was probs the best she's had. I've actually been to the Athenian a few times and i absolutely love the place - the location, the interiors, the service and most importantly, the food =D. I've never been disappointed.


I especially love the interior, it's such a large room with a beautiful high ceiling, and the room just feels really comfortable and relaxed - I love it. Unfortunately I'm not a pro at taking cool pictures that show how nice it is, so you'll have to go check it out for yourself. I'd come back here (as I have done before =P) simply for the atmosphere - there could be heaps of people chatting away but you can still hear yourself over everything and have a nice conversation with your dining companions without feeling the need to shout across the table

Pita Bread with Eggplant and Feta Dip (and Mythos Greek beer =P)


Moussaka

Roast Greek Lamb with Eggplant Imambaldi (Grilled eggplant stuffed with onion and capsicum)

Greek Lamb Casserole with mixed vegetables (I love they way they cook the vegetables! So nice)
Dad was too hungry to wait for me to take a proper picture =P

Athenian Special (A bit of everything!) - Greek lamb casserole, Papoutsaki (zucchini stuffed with meat, topped with
bechamel sauce), Capsicum stuffed with minced meat & rice, Cabbage Roll (stuffed with mince & rice with tomato sauce), and mixed vegetables
Their portion sizes are so GENEROUS for what you pay for I swear!! Or maybe that's just our family again =P but everything tasted really nice. I typically could not finish mine but there was so much meat! It was a shame I couldn't finish it really =P.

And I always leave room for dessert of course haha.

Baklava yummm
 I loved the complimentary mint Turkish Delight! Sorta like an after-dinner mint (remember After 8's!?! Do they still have those!??!)


My Brother and I =)

Athenian Greek Restaurant, Sydney
11 Barrack St
Sydney 2000
Ph: 9262 2624
http://www.athenian.com.au/

Athenian Greek on Urbanspoon

It's the next morning and I'm still full =P Happy Anniversary to my loving parents xx

Friday, 23 September 2011

Macarons HELLS YEA!

When I get bored, I cook. I used to stick to the same old things I always make - mars bar slice, toffee, cakes, my famous brownies, just to name a few (my sweet-tooth really does come out eh). Ever since I started my blog I've been cooking and making things I either never thought I would actually like to eat or things that I never thought I would ever be able to make. The things I made over the weekend fall into the latter category, cos I have no idea who wouldn't wanna eat MACARONS!!! Yes, macarons! Something I thought was TOTALLY beyond my cooking repertoire or skills!



This is why I love keeping up a blog, because it pushes you to do things you never thought you would or could do, and it encourages you to venture into unknown territory, just so you can come back and have something interesting to tell readers (and it gets you all excited about blogging instead of feeling tiresome at having to write yet another post because you feel obligated to do so).

SO, yes, I made macarons =D. Up until now I have never actually looked at a recipe for macarons or researched into how they are made. So when I found a recipe I was a bit like "Really? That's it?" (not to be arrogant or anything - there's plenty that can go wrong when making them!). And in saying that, my macarons didn't turn out like Adriano Zumbo's by no means haha, but they were decent. I thought I'd stick with a recipe for simple vanilla macarons just to be safe, plus I think you need to use powdered food colouring to make them all different colour (I don't even know where you get that stuff from =S). I decided on a chocolate ganache, but again I found myself with a tub of salted caramel to spare (I tasted more like really REALLY salty butterscotch and hence why there was so much left), so I thought I would dump that in there as well which just kicked it up a notch on the yumness scale.




The only problem I had was actually piping out the macarons onto baking paper. Well, I didn't actually pipe them (I got a bit of almond stuck in the piping bag and it just got way too messy =P), I used a tablespoon to sort of "dump" them on to the paper. Which wasn't too bad because the mounds just spread into a circle shape (if you're relatively neat =P) by themselves, however it resulted in different sizes which didn't produce consistent shaped macarons. So if anyone knows any easier, less messy way, let me know haha.

I urge you to give this a go, because I honestly believe it isn't that hard to do =) (touchwood - probs should give it a few more tries before i say that eh ahaha). Just a quick note - the recipe calls for almond meal, but what i did was grind the same weight in whole and slivered almonds (only because that was all I had on hand), along with the icing sugar, to make sure it didn't turn into a paste. That is why there are all these brown flecks (the whole almonds were unpeeled). This is also a cheaper option, and they pretty much turn out the same as if you were to use almond meal, taste wise.



So here are my Vanilla Macarons with Chocolate Salted Caramel Ganache =D!

Ingredients
100g egg whites, room temp
50g caster sugar
200g icing sugar
110g almond meal
For Ganache
3/4 cup thickened cream
1 cup dark chocolate
1 jar salted caramel (actually you can add as much as you like to your own taste =) - use my salted caramel recipe)
I also added some (approx. 1/2 cup) chopped up butterscotch toffees but I don't think this made a difference to the taste
 

Method
1. Whisk egg whites in electric mixer till turns to foam. Gradually add sugar while continuing whisking, until mixture is glossy (like a regular basic meringue mixture). 


What my combined ground almonds + icing sugar mixture looked like

2. Combine almond meal/almonds and icing sugar in a food processor and pulse to incorporate them both together. Add mixture to meringue and mix quickly by giving quick strokes, slowing down once incorporated (don't over mix - the mixture should flow like lava - test a small amount by spooning some mixture onto a plate and if the top flattens by itself then the mixture is ready).
 

Just drop some mixture onto the baking paper and they
flatten out into discs by themselves =)

3. Fill a pastry bag with a plain tip with the batter and pipe small 3cm diameter round onto baking paper. Leave to harden for 1 hr. (At this point some recipes call for
gently rapping your baking sheets on your bench top to remove any extra bubbles from your piped shells - I didn't do this, but i will next time to see if it affects how high the macarons rise....regardless mine turned out alright as you can see below....)


Yay!! They have feet!! Or in technical baking language, they have a pied

4. Pre-heat oven to 145C (290F). Bake macarons for 15-18 minutes (length of baking will depend on their size and your oven). Let them cool completely before piping/spooning ganache onto one shell and sandwiching with another.


5. To make the ganache - heat cream in heavy based saucepan over medium high heat until just before boiling point. Take off heat, add chocolate and stir until chocolate is fully melted and incorporated (may need to return to heat to make sure the chocolate is fully melted). Gradually add salted caramel (and toffee if using), tasting as you go. Leave to cool completely/to a spreadable consistency - I shoved mine in the freezer because I'm impatient like that =P. 


I am so keen to make these again very soon! They tasted so divine, definitely need to try some different flavours....


Enjoy! xx

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Friday Evening Bliss

My last Friday evening looked like this...




No evening is complete without some chocolate,
espesh from my old friend Maxxy B haha

There's nothing better than a chilled jug (or 3 =P) of sangria and some Spanish tapas early in the evening, relaxing with your friends alongside harbour views after a long day of work.... 

Friday can't come soon enough! xx

NYX My Sunshine

HI Guys!! As usual, I got really bored of my nails yesterday night, and so I cleaned them up and started all over. I picked out this real nice yellow/mustard colour that I didn't think would actually look that nice but I really liked it once it was on. This is NYX My Sunshine.



Annd in my lightbox, no flash

Ok, so I love putting patterns on my nails right, so i went to look for one, but as I continued to look i kept looking at my nails and thinking "Gosh this actually looks nice by itself.....maybe I shouldn't change it". It seems that i'm starting to like plain colours by themselves again. But i was determined to put a pattern on it, so I continued searching. But omg the ANXIETY of trying to find a pattern that would look good, and having to put it on this colour that pretty much looks good by itself, worried about ruining it, but again do they look too plain......it's ridiculous. I swear I was looking at patterns for an hour. The anxiety was just TOO MUCH! Probs amongst some of my most anxious moments in life. My life experiences clearly have not extended far =P.

Anyways, I FINALLY settled for this marbled effect, which was TYPICALLY the one I had picked out in the first place...oh my god. Makes me not want to do my nails, all this anxiety....





Actually no, I take that back =P. xx

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Salted Caramel Heaven

So lately I've been having this obsession with salted caramel. Especially after I finished my jar of Salted Caramel Spread from Burch and Purchese (*cry!*). And ALSO after I made my Epic Chocolate Cake which featured a salted caramel layer. And so, I've been experimenting alot lately with recipes. For SOME reason lately I've been reading random recipes, not printing anything out or writing anything down, and just going into the kitchen to try re-create them. Admittedly its because they are either short or similar to what I've done many times before. But that's so uncharacteristic of me because I normally ALWAYS stick to the recipe only because I want it to come out EXACTLY how it turns out in the picture. It seems like I'm starting to get a bit more experimental....

Well it seems to be the case with salted caramel. I made 3 batches in one week. And they all tasted different, in either the caramel component or the salt component. One tasted like butterscotch, one was way saltier than the other. And then the LAST one I made was probs the BEST one in my opinion. BUT, I still think it needs refining.


I'll also quickly add that the best way to eat this is with a spoon =P. Of course you could eat it with ice cream, cake, biscuits, but seriously, a spoon is all you need.


Anyways, so, after making all the these batches of salted caramel, and even after giving a few jars away, I was left with QUITE alot by the end of this week. And then I remembered this Masterchef episode, the one with the Masterclass featuring Vincent Gadan, the owner of Patiesse in Waterloo. In this particular masterclass he made a few tarts, one of them being a Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart. I looked up the recipe but I was soooo not bothered to go through all the pastry making and more ganache making steps, especially after coming home from a long day of placement, so  thought I'd make my OWN version of it. AGAIN, very uncharacteristic of me! So I made my OWN sweet pastry cases, and my OWN chocolate ganache. What is wrong with me?!?! Admittedly these components really aren't that hard to recreate without a recipe, but this is a big thing for me!!


Anyways, the tarts turned out really nice!! And they taste soooo good, as you would expect from a chocolate tart of any kind =P. And it was so easy because all I had to do was make the pastry and ganache which didn't take long, but I'm guessing if you didn't have pre-prepared salted caramel on hand and had followed the Vincent Gadan's recipe to a T you would be in the kitchen a bit longer. So I'm going to give you MY version of a Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart!


Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart
An Eesh Original!

Ingredients
Salted Caramel
1.5 cups granulated sugar (300g
50ml water
240g butter, cubed
1 tsp salt (I would add this carefully and a bit at a time, taste as you go and stop when you think it's salty enough - the level of saltiness tolerated is different for everyone!! ALSO be careful if you used SALTED (normal) butter, just make sure you taste before dumping a whole load of salt in)
200ml cream

Sweet Pastry
225g plain flour
110g butter
80g sugar
1 large egg

Chocolate Ganache
170g double cream
110g dark chocolate
60g milk chocolate
30g butter

Method
1. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan, and cook on low heat until it turns golden brown. Swirl the pan, don't stir, to make sure the colour evens out.

2. Add the butter little by little while gently stirring with a wooden spoon. (Be careful! The mixture is very hot; it sizzles and might splatter.)

3. Add the salt, and cook for an additional two minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and add the warmed cream. Mix until well combined.

5. Pour into jars and let cool. The spread should keep for at least three months in the refrigerator (I keep mine outside because I know it won't last three months =P).


6. For the pastry - Pre-heat oven to 180C (350F). Beat the butter and flour together in an electric mixer until resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add sugar and egg and beat until combined. Using hands, bring the dough together, roll into a disc and place in freezer for 10-15 minutes to rest.

7. Roll out pastry onto a floured surface, until its about 5mm thick. Grease 5 pastry tins, and place pastry in each tin, making sure all parts are equal (I literally just squashed the pastry in because I was THAT lazy, but hey, it worked =P).


8. Bake tarts in oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until slightly golden brown. Take out, place on a tray and cool in freezer for 5-10 minutes (you can put them in the fridge, I just wanted to speed up the cooling process).


9. Fill each tart up to 1/2-1/3 full of salted caramel. Place tarts in fridge to set (approx. 10-20 minutes).

10. For the ganache - Heat cream over medium heat, to the point just before it boils. Mix in chocolate and stir until smooth. Add butter and stir until melted. Set aside to cool.

11. Once both the caramel has set and the ganache has cooled down, pour ganache over caramel layer, filling to the top of each tart. Place in fridge to set (approx 20 minutes).


I also added a few white chocolate chips on top, inspired by Max Brenner =D.I know it seems like alot of steps but it's actually quite easy! And it doesn't take long believe me!


And even after all that refrigeration and setting, the first thing I do is nuke a slice for 10 seconds and mmmmm melted chocolatey-caramely-salty goodness....


Yaaaayy all gone!! Now time to make some more =P



Mmmm enjoy!! =D xx

Mooncake!

I've never had one of these before, but omg I was full after like 2 bites....the paste inside is so thick! They're pretty sweet, I liked how it looks so I thought I'd put a picture up ahaha.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

S'more Pie

Hi Guys!! It's time for the last recipe from my Dinner Party from a few weeks back! This dessert, S'more Pie is much like a chocolate tart, but with a roasted marshmallow topping and biscuity base. Very very nice, especially with vanilla ice cream (i served it with home-made honeycomb ice cream and that was just like heaven on a plate no joke). So for this one I actually made the biscuits because I'm not sure if you can find graham crackers in Australia (I've included the recipe below). I explained all about S'mores in my dinner party post and all about graham crackers as well. I'm still to check whether they are available in Filipino shops as one of work colleagues told me, I'll double check and let you guys know and save you the trouble of making them. However it is nice to make your own, and these actually taste really nice by themselves! If you're reeaaaally not bothered, I'm pretty sure you can substitute them with digestive biscuits or even anzacs (might be a bit more crumbly using anzacs but....)



S'More Pie
Adapted from The Pastry Affair

Ingredients
Graham Cracker Crust

2 cups graham cracker crumbs (recipe below)
8 tablespoons butter, melted

Chocolate Filling
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
290g dark chocolate, chopped
Pinch of salt
2 eggs, whisked
1 bag of large marshmallows (white/vanilla flavoured! - I'd get the jumbo ones from Big W)

Method
1. For the crust - Preheat oven to 160C (325F). In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter until evenly coated. Press mixture into a 9 inch pie plate. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until fragrant.


2.  For the filling - In a medium saucepan, whisk together cream and milk. Warm over medium-low heat. Add in chocolate and stir until chocolate has melted and is smooth. Slowly add whisked eggs and mix until smooth


3. Pour chocolate filling into baked pie crust. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until chocolate filling is set and does not move when pie is lightly shaken. Remove from oven (Mine took a bit longer, I'd use the shaking method to make sure it's done)  


4. Cut marshmallows in half. Place halves in concentric circles over the top of the pie until covered. Set oven to the grill/broil setting. Place pie under the griller/broiler and lightly toast the marshmallows. This can take anywhere from 2-5 minutes, so watch those marshmallows closely. 


5. Chill pie in the refrigerator to set for 2-3 hours.

6. To serve, spray a knife with non-stick cooking spray and cut the cold pie into slices (the pie will not cut well when warm). The pie can be eaten cold but it is best when eaten slightly warm - 7-10 seconds in the microwave will make all the difference in the world ;). Serve with ice cream and drizzle with chocolate sauce (but it really doesn't need any =P)


Graham Crackers

Ingredients
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoon molasses (you can get this in the aisle of the supermarket with honey, golden syrup, peanut butter etc.)
1/4 cup cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method
1. In a food processor, mix together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add the cold butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 30 seconds or so. Add the honey, molasses, water, and vanilla. Mix until the dough startes to come together in a ball, another 30 seconds. Scrape dough out of the mixer.


2. Between 2 sheets of waxed or parchment paper, roll the dough 1/8-inch thick. Chill for at least 1 hour, until firm.

3. Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Take out dough and with a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut into 2-inch squares. Arrange the crackers on parchment lined baking sheets. With a toothpick, prick several holes in each cracker. (I didn't bother with this as I knew I was gonna process the whole thing into crumbs anyway)


4. Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly browned at the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan.


5. To make the crackers into crumble, just put a few in a food processor at a time, pulse/process until completely broken down. 


And VOILA! Oh so yum slice of PIE!!


Enjoy!! =D xx
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