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Saturday, 31 December 2011

Lemon Lime Basil Cookies

So after making my pesto yesterday, I had a bunch of basil leaves leftover and, as I've mentioned before in a previous post, I hate wasting things. And so I did what I do best, foodie research! I found a few recipes I was keen on trying, but one recipe sort of stood out since I've never had anything like it before - Lemon Lime Basil Cookies. Given the name, you can tell it's supposed to be a sweet biscuit. And so I gave it a go!


These have an......interesting flavour. Obviously the basil is in you face, but paired with the lemon and lime and sugar it's....odd? Because I'm so used to basil featuring exclusively in savoury dishes this is such a weird concept for both my head and tastebuds to get around......I think it would take them a bit of time to get used to it to be honest. I'm not sure if maybe I used too much basil? I mean, you could have a big hand and so your 'bunch' is different to a person with small hands (I'm pulling at straws here people!!)....so maybe if i was to try this again I would reduce the amount of basil leaves...since the recipe did say it should only be a hint of basil but it was quite prominent. Well, basil is quite an astringent flavourful plant...


I'm a creature of comfort and familiarity and so this was just a bit too out there for me. But in saying that, I'm always up for trying something before I write it off completely, so it was a good experiment and I'm glad I tried it!


Lemon-Lime Basil Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from Blue Jean Gourmet

I love the lemon lime combination! Maybe I could try these without the basil.....

Ingredients
1 cup flour
1/2 cup icing sugar, plus a bit more for shaping the cookies
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Big handful of fresh basil leaves, sliced
Zest of 1 small lemon
Zest of 1 lime
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Pinch salt
Large granule sugar (i.e. demarara, turbinado, raw etc. or just use caster sugar) - Optional

Method
1. Preheat oven to 190C (375F). Place all ingredients but the large granule sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until large clumps form and the dough starts to come together


2. Roll heaping tablespoons of dough between your palms to make balls. Place about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets, then use the bottom of a glass rubbed in powdered sugar to flatten each ball of dough. If you’re using the large granule sugar, sprinkle it over the tops of the cookies.


3. Bake until the edges turn light brown, about 15-20 minutes. Cool on racks. These keep well in an airtight container for a few days.


Enjoy =D xx

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Basil Pesto

Hey guys! I've been wanting to make Basil Pesto for ages, but I either always forgot or just didn't have time....plus I couldn't be bothered getting out the food processor and cleaning it after use =P. But, I have no excuses now. And I also have an empty fridge in desperate need of re-stocking.


I love this pesto! It's so nice as a dip, stirred through pasta, pan fried with potatoes....mmm. I love versatile foods like this, especially when you are feeding one person for a few days and you don't wanna have to make a huge batch of something and only eat that for days on end.

The only thing I changed in the recipe, and that was the type of cheese- I HATE parmesan, both the taste and smell blerghhhh....I actually don't like cheese full stop, but I do make exceptions (like pizza =P). I know. I'm strange. Pretty sure we've established that already =P. I used my brother's fancy cheddar cheese, and it turned it really nice for my taste =D.


I actually really liked this before I added the olive oil in. I think it would make a great dip, and it also makes it way healthier. So next time I'm probs gonna skip the olive oil step and just leave it =). But either way tastes equally delicious!


Basil Pesto
Adapted from Taste


Ingredients
45g (1/4 cup) pine nuts
1 & 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 small garlic cloves, halved
60g (3/4 cup) shredded parmesan (again, I used cheddar and it turned out yummy as)
5 tbs olive oil

Method
1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Spread the pine nuts over a baking tray. Bake in oven for 5 minutes or until toasted. Remove from oven and set aside for 10 minutes to cool. 


2. Place the pine nuts, basil, garlic and parmesan in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped. With the motor running, gradually add the oil in a thin steady stream until well combined.


You can freeze this for up to 4 months in an airtight container, just smooth the surface and cover it with olive oil. To de-frost it just place in the fridge 3-4 hours before you plan to eat it. Stir it to combine (I would try skim some of that excess oil off though....)

Enjoy =D xx

Autumn Nails

I know it's currently summer in Oz, but It doesn't feel like it!! With temperatures in the low 20's and cloudy, gloomy days brought on with the rolling in of grey storm clouds threatening to rain all over our blessed summer days.....its ridiculous. It feels a bit like Winter, or Autumn. But I love Autumn, so no, it's like Winter =P. I've never in my life had to turn the heater on in December. December!! I know for the rest of the world this sounds normal, but no. Just, no!!

Well, lately it hasn't been that bad, which is sorta good since my cast is FINALLY off!! Bring on the beach!! However, I heard it's gonna rain all through New Years =(. Anyways, to cheer myself up, I did my nails =D. I remember seeing this gorgeous design by Deniz from Emerald Sparkled (one of my all time fav nail blogs - her nails are immaculate and her designs are waaaaay creative!!! Incredible free-handing skills, and I love how she explains her inspiration for each manicure....she herself is quite inspirational!!) quite a few months back when I was browsing through all her posts, and I instantly fell in love with it. I knew one day I would have to re-create it because I liked it that much....the colours remind me so much of Autumn, or even Winter (so this suits all you Northern Hemisphere peeps!), and so, with the weather being so crappy, I think they are well suited!!

I think it turned out so nice!! This is probably in my top 5 fav manicures I've ever done. I absolutely love the colour combination. I decided to change the design I put on so it wasn't completely the same as Deniz's =P.

This is Essie Playa Del Platinum. This by itself is really nice and I love the application. On first and second coat it doesn't look that nice, but as soon as you put the third coat on its gorgeous...




And then I sponged on Orly Glitz and Glamour just to half way down the nail, followed by OPI Rising Star just on the tips. By doing the sponging of Rising Star on the tips it creates such a nice gradient of gold.

Didn't bother cleaning my nails at this point, since I had the pattern to put on as well which can get quite messy...

Even without a pattern it looks so nice!!
And finally I put a delicate flower pattern in black, followed by a yellow/gold rhinestone on each middle flower on each finger =D. So pretty!!




Again, credit goes to Deniz for the gorgeous colour and pattern combination!!

=D xx

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Gingerbread Macarons (Fail =P)...and Christmas Cake (WIN!!)

I spent Christmas day alone. How sad! Actually, I dropped my dad off at the airport (the last of my family to go jet-setting, leaving me behind!), THEN I spent it alone....until I went to a family friend's for a Christmas dinner (which was quite nice!). But for a majority of the day, I was alone =(.

And what does one do alone on xmas day? BAKE! Yes, since I had nothing else to do, and an empty house, I cranked up the music, poured myself a glass of dolcetto and got baking!

I was planning to make some gingerbread, but being buzzed on wine (makes cooking even funner if that's possible hahaha...is that even a word?), I decided to be a bit more crative and try making some Gingerbread Macarons! Ive come across a few recipe for these in the past few weeks, but I wanted to incorporate a few more ingredient you find in gingerbread.....


And that is where my downfall lies. Even though they did rise a bit, they were quite sticky, and so they were reaaaally difficult to take off the baking paper without breaking or cracking them. They didn't rise that much because I added golden syrup (among other things) to the mixture....maybe a bit too much =P. But, they did taste realllllly nice, and they achieved their goal of being alternatives to gingerbread. They went really nicely with the new vanilla buttercream recipe I tried as well =D. So all in all, I actually don't think they were the biggest fail, since I was the only one home and it doesn't matter that they looked like s**t hhaha - they tasted damn delicious =D.

I'll give you the recipe anyways, maybe omit or add less of the golden syrup...pretty sure it should work if you do that =).


Gingerbread Macarons

Ingredients
100g egg whites, room temperature
100g almond meal
200g pure icing sugar
1 heaped tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
30g caster sugar
30g brown sugar (dried in a 100C oven for 10 minutes, then pushed through a sieve)
1 tbsp golden syrup

Method
1. Preheat your oven 150C (300F).

2. Sift icing sugar, almond meal, ground ginger and cinnamon into a bowl. Stir to combine.

3. Beat eggwhites in a separate bowl until soft peaks form. Slowly add the caster sugar and brown sugar, beating well between each addition, until eggwhites are stiff and glossy. This process should take around 5-10 minutes. Putting the electric mixer on the lowest speed, beat in the golden syrup until mixture is homogeneous.

4. Incorporate the egg-white mixture into the almond meal mixtures, using a spatula and quick strokes. Slow down once the mass has broken down. Make sure you don’t over-mix – 50 strokes should be enough to achieve a sticky mixture that flows like lava (place a bit on a plate, if the top flattens by itself it is ready. If not, give the mixture a few more strokes).

5. Pipe the mixture into small rounds onto trays lined with baking paper. Dust some cinnamon/ginger (or a mixture) over the shells and allow them to dry for 30-60 mins (they should harden and a ‘skin’ should form).

6. Place the baking trays in the oven and allow to bake for around 15-20 minutes depending on your oven.

7. Remove from oven and transfer shells still on baking paper to cooling racks. Once fully cooled, remove the shells from the paper and match them in pairs according to size. Fill with buttercream (recipe below) and place in air-tight container in the fridge (macarons actually taste much better and have the right texture if left to ‘mature’ for a day or so).


Vanilla Frosting
Adapted from the Pioneer Woman

Ingredients
5 tbsp plain flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
225g (1 cup) butter
3/4 cup caster sugar

Method
1. Whisk flour into milk in a medium saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir constantly until mixture thickens (to avoid lumps).

2. Allow mixture to cool to room temp (I placed mine in a stainless steel bowl, placed in a freezer and in 1 minute intervals took it out and stirred it). Once fully cooled, mix in vanilla extract.

3. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (7-9 minutes). On medium speed, beat in the milk mixture. Beat until resembles whipped cream (2-3 minutes).



Also, I thought I might update you on how my Christmas Cake that I made over a month ago turned out!! It tastes so nice now!! It has matured really nicely and has become more moist. I iced it with some royal icing (fondant) which I think just made it even better. I also cut out little stars and stuck them on just like Margaret Fulton has done on hers haha. I cut up a bit for my dad to take to some relatives overseas, and the rest I plan to give to friends (even though it is technically after xmas =P).




Enjoy =D

Amazon UK Book Haul!

I love Amazon UK. In the spirit of boxing day and getting a good bargain, you should check this out, because everything's so cheap, not only on just one day of the year, but ALL THE TIME! Seriously, this lot of 12 books cost me just over $180....that's like $15 per book!! And a few of them are relatively new releases as well. Some of these, like Adriano Zumbo's book, retail at about $50 over here - the savings are ridiculous!!


I know alot of people already shop at Book Depository (which is actually now owned by Amazon I believe) which is cheap in itself, but seriously guys, check out Amazon UK and you will most probably find that the book you are after is cheaper...and if it isn't, you can actually buy that book from another seller off the Amazon site! So you can put it in the same basket as your Amazon books and pay for it all together. Genius =D. And shipping is FREE if you spend over 25 GBP (around $38 AUD), which you most likely will when you see how cheap the books are...

I also got Heston Blumenthal's Heston at Home, for only $23, instead of the RRP of around $60 here in Oz!!! CRAZY!!!! 

Very happy chappy right about now =D xx

Monday, 26 December 2011

Merry Christmas!!










Merry Christmas everyone! Hopefully you're spending this holiday with loved ones, scrumptious food and a good glass of wine =D xx

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Hukuya Sushi Bar, Eastwood

I'm really getting into finding hole-in-the-wall eateries dotted around Sydney, since I'm on a budget and love to eat good food. Or maybe 'not-so-high-end' eateries would be more accurate =P. I'm in the process of writing up a Foodie Bucket List of places in Sydney I want to eat at, similar to the Sydney Foodie Must Try lists (here and here) created by the team over at Eat Show & Tell. In fact, I'll be putting all those food experiences on my list as well =D. So hopefully my list will be a combination of high-end eateries, not-so-high-end/hole-in-the-wall gems, and must try dishes or food experiences within Sydney! And hopefully I can post it up on here soon =D

So, in saying this, I recently went to a cosy little Sushi Bar in Eastwood called Hukuya, right across from the train station. It has received high praise on Eatability, and my new love Urbanspoon, and would definitely make it's way on to my bucket list!

The food was really nice and fresh. We ordered a alot of sushi (for a table dominated with boys =P) and a Sashimi Boat (not the technical name but that's what I'm sticking with =P)! I loved the presentation of everything and it was all reasonably priced and really delicious.

Deluxe Sashimi Boat - So Good!!

Soft Shell Crab Roll

Tempura Prawn Roll

Teriyaki Chicken Roll

Teriyaki Fish with Rice

The place is really small but really homely and is packed. I love how its not over done with decoration and what-not - its pretty much like a house turned into an eatery - I love it! And I love how the wasabi comes in little mounds on the sushi boards. I'm definitely gonna make my way back here again because there are a few other things I wanna try on the menu like the udon noodles, gyoza and octopus =D. And really reasonably priced!


Hukuya Sushi Bar
Shop 1/25 Railway Parade,
Eastwood NSW 2121
Ph: (02) 9804 8200

Hukuya on Urbanspoon

=D xx

Monday, 19 December 2011

Italian vs. French Salted Caramel Macarons

I've been making ALOT of macarons this past couple of weeks! Since I have so much time on my hands I thought it would a be a good idea to try and hone my macaron baking skills since I could take my own sweet time. Well, when I was doing some reading on macaron baking I realised there are TWO different ways to make macarons - the French way and the Italian way. The one time I made macarons I made them the French way which is recommended for beginners since its a bit easier and less fiddly. I was keen to try both ways this time and compare the results....

I decided on Salted Caramel Macarons, because I'm obsessed with salted caramel =P. 

First the FRENCH way! This is the same recipe I made my first ever batch of macarons with. I made these with my friend Nadi =).


Ingredients
100g egg whites, room temp
50g caster sugar
200g icing sugar
110g almond meal/whole almonds (preferably skin removed)

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). 



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 - should only take about 50 strokes).


3. Fill a pastry bag with a plain tip with the batter and pipe small 3cm diameter rounds onto baking paper. Leave to harden for 1 hour (We didn't pipe, we used a spoon =P so unprofesh!)

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.    


Salted Caramel Filling
Ingredients
250g double cream
350g caster Sugar
10g sea salt flakes
350g unsalted butter, chopped into cubes

Method
1. Place sugar in a medium saucepan

2. Place cream into a smaller saucepan and bring to boil, remove from heat as soon as it starts to boil.

3. Commence cooking your sugar stirring occasionally to ensure that it caramelises evenly. When the sugar reaches a dark brown consistency remove from the heat and slowly pour in the hot cream whilst continuing to mix with a spatula

4. Let the caramel cool to around 45°C and then add the butter a few pieces at a time whilst mixing the caramel. Pour the caramel into a shallow container and allow to cool in the fridge.
 

5. Beat the caramel mixture until light, shiny and smooth.

Mmmmm so good you can eat it out of the pan.....and burn your tongue =P

I can safely say I am confident with this technique now!! I think they turned out really good!! The only downside with these was actually the filling....it's a recipe from Baroque Bistro (as was the Italian Macaron recipe, courtesy of Not Quite Nigella =D) which holds their own macaron making class. I think it was waaaay too buttery, I actually cut out about 100g when i made it for the Italian macarons, and that tasted much better. But other than that, i think these were a success!!



We love ours with heaps of filling =P

Next time i make these I'm gonna use a piping bag...I've heard the piping technique requires alot of practice - PERFECT since I have so much time on my hands!! I actually attempted using a piping device for the Italian macarons, but the batter was a different consistency to the French one so I encountered some difficulties with this....but I will elaborate further on!


My extremely old school caramel colouring =P
Don't think I wanna know how old this is...

Now for the ITALIAN way!! This is a slightly more involved technique with a sugar syrup that is incorporated into the egg whites. 


Ingredients 1
300g almond meal

300g icing sugar
120g egg whites

Food colouring

Ingredients 2
300g caster sugar
75g water
120g egg whites
Food colouring


Method

1. Add the colouring to the first batch of egg whites (1) above.


2. Sift the almond meal with the icing sugar (or if using whole almonds, grind with with the icing sugar). Stir the almond meal mixture into the egg whites, mixing vigorously until you have a smooth paste.


3. Mix the caster sugar, water and colour, commence cooking.


4. Place the old egg whites in a mixer with the whisk attachment. Once the sugar has reached 115°C commence whipping your egg whites until they reach ‘soft peak’ consistency.


5. When the sugar reaches 118°C remove from the stove and pour slowly on the still mixing egg whites.
Turn the speed to maximum for around 1min and return to medium for another 2min and then let the meringue cool to around 50°C whilst mixing slowly.

6. Using a spatula commence incorporating the meringue into the almond meal, icing sugar and egg white batter. Work the mix gently from the sides to the middle until you reach a homogeneous, shiny texture.

7. Preheat oven to 145C (290F). Using a plastic piping bag, pipe the shells onto a baking sheet (you may like to draw circles in pencil on your baking paper as a size template and turn this upside down to pipe your shells. You should stop piping before the mixture reaches the outside edge of the template)


8. Tap the tray gently on the side of the bench until the macaron reaches the size of the template. Leave the macarons outside at room temperature for 15 min or until they have formed a skin and are dry to touch  (I left mine for an hour like the French method, ONLY because I found this batter had alot more moisture so took longer to develop dry skins)


9. Cook the macarons according to the cooking guide for your type of oven. Once cooked, slide the paper off the tray and let the shells cool (preferably on a wire rack).


I actually had mixed results with this technique. First of all, this recipes makes ALOT of macarons! So if you haven't got a huge appetite for macarons or no one to give them to, then I advise cutting the recipe in half. I made these again a few days ago, cutting the recipe in half, and that produced a more reasonable amount for their purpose. 


Secondly, because it was such a large recipe, I put shells in the oven in batches, and as a result, some were left out to dry longer than the others. Not sure if this may have affected the way they cooked.....

Thirdly, this batch resulted in both the BEST and the WORST macarons I have ever made!! How weird!! Must be because I wasn't prepared for the amount of batter, and I also used a piping device, which resulted in rounder more neater macarons, but some ended up looking like little mushrooms with some overspill over the feet =P. 

I think this is the result of too much air in the batter....so make sure you rap your baking trays on a flat hard surface to settle them
The filling for these was the same as the French one, but with the reduction in butter by about 80-100g as mentioned before. So these ones tasted way better on the whole =D. 

Accidently added the cream too fast!! Like a lava explosion =P

So, in terms of comparing the techniques, I think I still have some way to go to master the Italian way and also the piping technique. But I think so far, the French way is probably my preferred method =D 


But in the end, it's the taste that matters right? Omg I'm in salted caramel coma.....SO GOOD but soo baaaaaadd!!! Take them away please!!! 

Enjoy =D xx 
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