Birthday Curry and Cardamom Cream Cake

It was my son’s birthday this month and since he loves curries, the hotter the better, we decided to celebrate with an Indian feast – beef curry with pappadums and a variety of vegetable sambals.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-23 17.40.48 These recipes have been long-time favourites with my family. In fact, they are inherited from my childhood, when Mum used to make it using an early Indian cookbook called ‘Curries from the Sultan’s Kitchen’ by Doris M. Ady (Reed, 1968). As kids, we used to love mixing up all the fragrant and colourful spices. It was so much more exotic than the ubiquitous curry powder of the times! All of the recipes serve 4-6 people and we often had delicious leftovers for the next day.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-23 17.40.52 Even though we have such a wealth of multicultural dishes these days compared to my childhood, the combination of all the different colours, textures, scents and flavours still makes these recipes a wonderful birthday treat and is indeed a feast for all the senses!

Indian Beef CurryBlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 14.03.41

Mince 6 garlic cloves, a 1 inch piece of ginger and 4 chillies and dice 1 onion. Dice 750g chuck steak. Measure out 60g ghee.*

Fry garlic, onion, ginger and chillies in some of the ghee.

Mix  spices in a separate bowl : 1 tbsp coriander; 2 tsp cumin; 1 tsp turmeric; 1 tsp mustard and 1 tsp poppy seeds. Reduce heat and add spices, cooking slightly. Remove from pan to a bowl.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 14.08.46BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 14.10.07Using the rest of the ghee, fry the meat.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 14.17.56Add spice/ onion mix and 1 cup beef broth. Cover and simmer on a low heat for 1.5-2 hours.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 14.19.00Serve with rice, chapatis or pappadums; sambals and small bowls of sultanas; dessicated coconut; sliced banana; mango piecesmango chutney and plain yoghurt.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-23 17.41.02* Note : Ghee is basically clarified butter. It comes in a green tin, but if you cannot source any ghee, you can make it yourself: Simmer 500g melted butter for 1.5 hours; Strain through a fine muslin into a metal container. Luckily, it is readily available from most supermarkets these days.

Green Apple SambalBlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 17.52.49Peel, core and dice 2 Granny Smith apples and squeeze over the juice of 1 lemon.

Add 1 sliced red or green capsicum, 1 finely sliced onion and 3 tbsp dessicated coconut, soaked in a little hot milk, sugar and salt.

Cucumber Sambal

Sprinkle 1 sliced cucumber with salt, rest for half an hour, then rinse in a colander in cold water. These days, we always use Lebanese cucumbers, which don’t need peeling or salting.

Grate 2 heaped tbsp frozen coconut cream and add to cucumber.

Flavour with lemon juice, salt and pepper.   OR

Cucumber and Yoghurt SambalBlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 17.40.27Cut 1 Lebanese cucumber into quarters lengthwise and slice finely. Remove seeds.

Add one quarter of red capsicum, sliced lengthwise and cut into 1 inch lengths.

Add 3-4 tbsp yoghurt, chopped chives, salt and pepper.

Tomato SambalBlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 17.40.30Chop 3-4 tomatoes roughly.

Add 2 sliced shallots, half a sliced capsicum, 1 tbsp dessicated coconut, a dash of vinegar, salt and pepper.

Green Mango Sambal

Peel and grate 1-2 green mangoes.

Mince a half inch piece of ginger, 1 fresh red chilli or a quarter red capsicum, diced finely.

Add 1 tbsp dessicated coconut, 1 tsp sugar and salt to taste.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 17.53.02All these recipes can be made beforehand, so all you need to do on the night is steam the rice, heat up the curry and fry the pappadums. As kids, we used to love watching the latter bubble and swell as they quickly cooked! Just be careful of the hot oil, which tends to spit!BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 19.14.44BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 19.09.54

For dessert, we would often have a can of lychees with icecream, but since it was his birthday, I made him a Cardamom Cream Cake instead. I found the recipe on : http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017901-cardamom-cream-cake

The recipe looked complicated, but the accompanying video made it look a lot easier!

Cardamom Cream CakeBlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 21.46.37Drain  680 g fresh, whole-milk ricotta in a fine mesh sieve placed in a large bowl for 1 to 2 hours until very thick (unless it already is very thick, in which case, eliminate this step!)

Make the milk syrup: It can be made 3 days beforehand and stored in the fridge.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-20 15.05.31In a small saucepan, combine  475 ml whole milk and 4 cardamom pods. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer the milk until it reduces by half (30 -45 mins).

Stir in 75g  sugar until it dissolves, then continue to simmer until the mixture thickens to the texture of half and half, about 10 minutes longer.Let the mixture cool.

Strain the mixture to get rid of the cardamom and any coagulated milk, then stir in 1.5 tsp  rose water.

Make the cake:

Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line two 9-inch cake pans  with Gladbake. My tins were actually only 7-inches wide, but it doesn’t matter-it just means each cake is a little thicker, making it easier to slice in half!

Lightly whisk together 4 large egg whites, 240 ml whole milk, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/2 tsp rose water.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-20 14.43.12Using an electric mixer, beat 170 g softened unsalted butter.

Sift 330g flour, 300g sugar, 20g baking powder, 1/2 tsp cardamom and 1/4 tsp fine sea salt and add to butter with a third of the milk-egg white mixture.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-20 14.43.26Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for a minute or so until everything is very smooth.

Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the remaining milk mixture in 3 batches, beating well between additions. Scrape down the sides.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-20 14.50.15Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and smooth top with a spatula. Bake 25-30 minutes till skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pans on racks for 20 minutes, then remove from tins and cool completely.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-20 15.49.46BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-20 15.51.32Make the ricotta filling:BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 11.42.25Using an electric mixer, whisk drained ricotta, 120 ml heavy cream and 95g icing sugar until quite smooth (30 seconds).

Beat in 1 tsp rose water to taste. Beat on medium-high speed for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. The mixture will thicken.

Make the mascarpone frosting:BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 12.09.20Using an electric mixer, beat 170g unsalted butter, 125g  icing sugar, 1 tsp rose water and 1/2 tsp cardamom until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

On low speed, beat in 240 ml cold mascarpone and 60 ml cold Greek yogurt, until the mixture is just combined and looks smooth. Do not overbeat or the mixture may curdle. I was so careful to use the marscapone and yoghurt straight out of the fridge and underbeat, to the extent that it probably wasn’t quite as smooth as it should have been, but I was paranoid about botching the recipe and losing all the ingredients!

An easier frosting is to add the rosewater and cardamom to a standard cream cheese butter cream :

Beat 250g unsalted butter and 250g cream cheese till light and fluffy.

Beat in  2 cups icing sugar, 2 tbsp milk and 2 tsp vanilla.        OR

Ice the cake with whipped cream flavored with a little icing sugar, rose water and cardamom.

When the cakes have cooled:

Use a long serrated knife to trim the tops of the cakes, so the tops are flat and even. Then cut each cake in half into 2 layers, to make a 4-layer cake.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 11.51.10Brush cake layers on all sides with milk syrup. Place one cake round on a cake stand or serving platter, then top with one third of the ricotta filling, leaving a small border around the edge of the cake. Repeat with the remaining cake layers and ricotta filling.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 11.57.25BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 11.58.59Frost top and sides of the cake with the mascarpone frosting. Use strips of Gladbake under the cake so you don’t get icing all over the plate.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 11.59.05BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 12.01.16BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 12.19.33BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 12.20.14 Top with 50g chopped and toasted pistachios and candied rose petals for garnish; chill until ready to serve.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-23 19.33.49This cake was delicious! Very rich and very good for osteoporosis, though not so good for the waistline!!! I loved the rosewater and cardamom flavour, set off well by the pistachio topping! A great success and my son loved it!BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-24 14.02.52BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-24 14.02.00BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-24 14.02.24There are a number of different methods for making candied rose petals. I consulted a lovely little book in our home library called ‘Edible Flowers‘ by Claire Clifton. A variety of flowers can be used : tiny rose buds or rose petals; violets; mimosa; lilacs; cowslips; fruit or herb flowers and mint leaves. Pick them on a very dry day, remove all the stems and green, trim the white heels from the rose petals and wash and dry thoroughly. I discovered the reason for the latter advice when I picked a lovely LD Braithwaite rose, only to find 3 tiny snails also enjoying the petals. Be assured that I did not use the petals they were on and I did wash the rest of the rose very well! I also used our first violets for the season.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-23 14.34.50BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 16.46.16BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-23 14.32.43

BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 16.47.40
Hitching a ride!

I chose the first method in the book, which was to cover all petal surfaces with beaten egg white, then dip each petal into caster sugar using tweezers and place on a baking tray in a warm oven with the door open to dry. Unfortunately, I mistook salt for caster sugar, so I had to start all over again! The egg white bubbled up in a messy glob, but I took most of it off and given the crystallized rose petals are sprinkled in little broken bits over the top of the cake, it didn’t really matter, but I might try a different method next time!!!BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 16.50.25BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 17.16.36BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-24 14.03.00

 

 

 

 

Christmas Pudding Wishes

It’s the end of November and Christmas is just around the corner! I always try to be on top of things coming up to the Festive Season, so I can enjoy it, rather than be stressing about getting everything done at the last minute!

Some things cannot be done until the day itself, like cooking the turkey and decorating the ham ; Some things need to wait until December, like decorating the Christmas tree or writing Christmas cards, though these days, instant email has a lot of advantages. I do still like Christmas cards to hang on a string across windows or decorate the mantelpiece, but I’m very selective now with my Christmas card list, especially given the price of postage these days!

Christmas gifts are often bought during the year, when I see the perfect present or a great sale price!

And I really like to prepare my Christmas Pudding and Christmas Cake by the end of November at least, so their flavours can develop!

There are so many wonderful recipes for these Festive offerings. These are my favourite standbys :

Light Christmas Pudding

BlogXmaspudding40%Reszddec 2010 110

I found this recipe in a book called  ‘Creating Gourmet Gifts’ by Barbara Beckett, which I bought over 20 years ago. It is a lovely book with many wonderful culinary gift ideas, so well worth searching for in secondhand bookstores.

I really like this recipe, as it is comparatively healthy and much lighter than the old suet-based recipes. Remember to allow extra time, as the fruit needs to soak for a few days before cooking and make sure all family members are present in the house on Pudding Cooking Day to make their wish for the coming year!

A few days beforehand

Slice 1.5 cups of prunes and put in a bowl with 2 tbsp mixed peel, 1/2 cup raisins, 1 cup sultanas, 1/2 cup currants, 1 grated carrot and 1 grated apple (I like to use a  Granny Smith apple).

Pour over 1/2 cup brandy and stir well. Cover and leave to macerate for several days.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-07 19.02.36BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-07 19.04.23Pudding Cooking Day

Put the zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange, 2 tbsp sugar and 2 eggs in a bowl and whisk well. Stir into mixed fruit.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 09.43.32BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 09.47.05BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 09.49.10BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 09.50.12Add 1 tsp grated nutmeg, 1 tsp ground allspice, 1 tsp ground cinammon, 3 cloves ground, 1 cup fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs, 1 cup sifted wholemeal self-raising flour and 1/2 cup slivered almonds. Let stand for 1 hour.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 09.55.07BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 09.57.26Meanwhile, double-grease the pudding basin to ensure the pudding turns out easily. Grease the bowl well with butter, put in the fridge for 15 minutes, then grease it again and refrigerate until ready to use. In the old days, I used to tie the pudding mixture up in a boiled, sterilized calico pudding cloth, but it was messy to clean up at the end and in the hot, humid Queensland Summers, I would invariably end up with a mouldy pudding by the time Christmas arrived. It is so much easier and quicker to use a bowl, so it is well worth investing in a classic pudding basin!BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 10.14.46BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 10.11.58Clean and sterilize pudding silver and let dry before use. I have a much prized collection of old shillings, sixpences and  threepences, which I count out every year after eating the pudding, as they are not so easy to come by now. When our family was young, we also bought each family member their own significant sterling silver charm – a lyrebird for Ross (which has disappeared since) , a thimble (well-chewed) for me and a pig, camel and hippo for the kids, representing their alter-egos.  Note that the silver used must be sterling silver, so modern currency cannot be used. Also, be extra carefully when eating, so that you don’t swallow the charms or break a filling or dentures!!!

Put the coins in the pudding mixture.

Assemble all the family to each take their turn at stirring the pudding mixture and making a wish for the coming year, eyes shut of course !BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 10.40.52Fill the pre-greased pudding basin with the pudding mixture and smooth the top flat. Cover the top of the basin with 2 layers of Gladwrap for a tight seal, then 2 layers of aluminium foil and tie around the lip of the bowl with string, then create a string handle to lift the bowl in and out of the boiling water.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 10.43.23BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 10.43.28BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 10.56.35Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, then lift in the pudding basin and replace the saucepan lid. Make sure you don’t put too much water in the saucepan, as the pudding bowl will displace water. If the pudding bowl is sitting on the bottom of the pot, put a folded teatowel between the bottom of the pot and the pudding bowl, so the heat is not concentrated on the base.

Steam pudding for 4 hours, covered. Check the water level regularly and keep topped up with boiling water. When the four hours is up, remove the pudding basin from the hot water very carefully with the string handle and let cool.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 15.33.06When cold, refrigerate pudding till Christmas.

On Christmas Day, boil for another 1.5 hours before eating.

Remove pudding from the basin. It should slide out easily. Serve upside down on a Christmas plate and decorate the top with a holly leaf or greenery.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2014-12-25 11.25.06BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-10-13 16.31.41When you reach dessert, remove the decoration, then pour over spirits – rum, brandy or whiskey and set it alight! When the flames have died down, cut slices for everyone, hiding any exposed silver as you go, and serve with Hard Sauce or Rum Butter, both recipes of which also come from Barbara Beckett’s book ‘ Creating Gourmet Gifts’ and both of which can be made days or weeks beforehand.BlogXmaspudding40%ReszdIMG_8983BlogXmaspudding40%ReszdIMG_8988

Hard Sauce for Christmas Pudding

Mix 1/2 cup caster sugar and  1/2 cup milk powder together.

Add 1/3 cup melted butter and 3 tbsp rum and mix well.

Chill and serve cold with hot pudding.

Rum Butter

Put 1 cup unsalted butter in a bowl and stand in a saucepan of simmering water.

When the butter has melted, stir in 1.5 cups soft brown sugar.

When the sugar has dissolved, pour in 1 cup brown rum slowly, whisking all the time.

Add 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1 tsp grated nutmeg.

Pour into a butter dish and when cool, cover and keep in the fridge. This recipe can be made weeks beforehand.

Christmas Cake

BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-22 20.39.17

For the last few years, I have used an Irish Fruit Cake recipe, as I love the idea of soaking the fruit for three weeks, turning it every day and dreaming of the coming Christmas. It’s an exciting time! Here is the method :

Three weeks beforehand

Chop 360 g raisins, 360 g sultanas, 90 g dates, 90g glace cherries, 60 g mixed peel, 60 g depipped prunes and 30 g glace pineapple.

Combine in a large screwtop jar with a tight seal with 1 tsp grated lemon rind, 1 tsp grated orange rind, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/3 cup whiskey and 1/2 peeled grated green apple.

Shake well to mix fruit evenly.

Store in a cool, dry place for 3 weeks, reversing the jar every day.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-07 18.45.21

BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-07 18.49.10
At the start
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After 3 weeks

Baking Day :

Line a 20 cm square tin with Gladbake, extending 5 cm in height above the top edge of the tin. Set the oven to 150 degrees Celsius, with the baking shelf in the middle of the oven.

Add 30 g chopped walnuts and 60 g ground almonds to the fruit mixture in a bowl.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-22 17.42.27BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-22 17.43.02BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-22 17.43.42Sift 1.5 cups plain flour, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg and 1/4 tsp salt.

Cream 180 g butter and 3/4 cup caster sugar and add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-22 17.38.01 - CopyAdd fruit and nut mixture to the above, then fold in the flour and spice mix.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-22 17.47.18BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-22 17.48.29Pour into tin and flatten the top.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-22 17.52.49Decorate with blanched almonds in your desired design.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-22 17.58.07Bake in 150 degrees Celsius oven for 1 hour, then reduce the temperature to 140 degrees Celsius for 1.5 – 2 hours, covering the tin with reflective aluminium foil,  if the top of the cake looks like it is burning .BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-22 20.39.17

When cooked, brush with 1 tbsp whiskey, cool in the tin and wrap in greaseproof paper and foil.

Remember to leave a slice out for Father Christmas with his beer on Christmas Eve ! Happy Feasting!!!

 

 

 

The Sweet Spot !!!

Whenever we go to a restaurant ( and I must admit that this is very rare – mainly because we are on a very low income, but also because we eat so well at home that it has to be very very good to warrant shelling out money ! ), I always go to the Dessert section of the menu first ! Then, having made a choice, I plan the rest of the meal around it !!! Who wants entree, when there is dessert ? !!! I’m afraid that I have a terrible sweet tooth, but I suspect I am not alone in that !

Having just made a pavlova as my food offering for my friend’s birthday party last weekend and also because the Festive Season is snapping at our heels, I am sharing two of our favourite dessert recipes with you : Pavlova and Carved Watermelon Fruit Salad.

Never-Fail Pavlova

With many thanks to The Australian Women’s Weekly Basic Cookbook 1988. I’m sure their newer books probably still carry the recipe!  See ‘Mini Cheesecakes, Pavlovas and Trifles’ perhaps, at : http://www.australian-womens-weekly.com/catalogue/category/1053

BlogSweetspot20%Reszd2015-09-26 19.41.38Pavlova is the quintessential Antipodean dessert ! I say ‘Antipodean’ rather than ‘Australian’, because apparently New Zealand also claims ownership. See : http://travel.ninemsn.com.au/airnewzealand/8435774/who-owns-the-pavlova-new-zealand-or-australia ). However,  food historians all agree that the dessert was  named after Russian prima ballerina, Anna Matveyevna Pavlova (1881-1931), who toured both Australia and New Zealand in 1926 and Australia again in 1929.

I have taken this dessert so many times with us to barbecues and it is the easiest thing to make. I don’t know why people seem to think they are temperamental, as I have NEVER had any problems ( my friend used to call me the Pavlova Queen !) and its taste far surpasses that of any store-bought cardboard versions !!! Also, it is so much cheaper – I was flabbergasted by price at the grocery store – $12, when I reckon my recipe would cost more like $2 !!!

I think the key is having all the ingredients at room temperature and making sure you beat it on full speed for the full 10 minutes. Women’s Weekly also suggests that you use large egg whites, which are as fresh as possible, though I have never really thought about how fresh my eggs are !!BlogSweetspot20%ReszdIMG_1171So first of all, get those eggs out of the fridge, so that they can warm to room temperature ! This is probably the time to slip in a very amusing story about my youngest daughter’s cooking lesson with my friend Nell ! Sorry Nellie, but it is just too good not to share !!! Nell was teaching my 11 year old daughter how to make a cake, while I was chatting to another (newer)  friend at the dinner table. Nell was explaining the importance of having your eggs at room temperature, so to speed things up, she used the time-honoured method of using her body warmth to heat up the eggs. When she and my youngest returned to the dinner table, my dinner guest  asked my eleven year old what she had learnt about cake-making and was gob-smacked when she promptly and cheekily responded  that it was important to have all your ingredients at room temperature and that the best way to warm up eggs was to pop them in your bra! Brought the house down ! But it does work !!! And quickly !!! Just don’t forget that the eggs are there and give your significant other (or your guest !)  a big hug ! But I digress ! By now your eggs should be ready !!! If not, you know what to do !!!

Set the oven to Very Slow ( 120 degrees Celsius) and ensure the rack is in the middle of the oven.

Separate the 4 egg whites from their yolks. I find the easiest way to do this is to use a saucer and an eggcup with a fine edge. Make sure you don’t get any egg yolk or egg shell splinters in the bowl.BlogSweetspot20%ReszdIMG_1172BlogSweetspot20%ReszdIMG_1173Beat the egg whites in a bowl with an electric mixer on high speed for 1 minute or until soft peaks form. The first photo below shows my trusty old Kenwood mixer, which I inherited from my mother-in-law. It would have to be at least 50 years old- probably more ! It has been an amazing machine !!!

Measure out 1 cup castor sugar. I usually sift it, so there are no lumps at all. Gradually add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and beat each addition well until it is completely dissolved before adding the next spoonful. Scrape any sugar grains down from the side of the bowl and beaters several times. Be fanatical about dissolving every last grain of sugar !!!

Beat for a full 10 minutes. I tend to add the sugar in the first 5 minutes, scrape down the bowl for remnant sugar, then beat another 5 minutes.BlogSweetspot20%ReszdIMG_1174BlogSweetspot20%ReszdIMG_1176Lightly grease an oven tray, then sprinkle it with a little plain flour and shake away excess flour. Mark the shape of the pavlova on the tray. You may mark out a standard 18cm circle with a plate or a cake tin. I have also made pavlovas in the shape of  Australian maps for Australia Day barbecues (with an over-sized Tasmanian Pavlova as well, to counteract the fact that my poor birth state has been known to be omitted from some Australian maps in the past ! ), as well as flowers, Valentine hearts, flags, you name it – you are only limited by your imagination !!! But remember if you are doing a different or larger shape, to double the recipe, so you have enough meringue ! A word to the wise at this point : DO NOT NIBBLE !!! You will end up with a sugar-induced migraine !!

Scrape all the meringue on to the circle/shape on the prepared tray (photo above on the right) and carefully cover the outline evenly with a spatula. Smooth the sides of the pavlova as straight and as tall as possible. Make vertical furrows on the outside edge  with the flat blade of a knife to add stability to the sides while cooking. Level the top of the pavlova.BlogSweetspot20%ReszdIMG_1177BlogSweetspot20%ReszdIMG_1178Bake in a very slow oven for 1 – 1.5 hours or until it feels dry and crisp. Don’t worry if the centre still feels a little soft, as it will harden as it cools.Turn the oven off and leaving the oven door ajar, cool the pavlova in the oven (1 hour).BlogSweetspot20%ReszdIMG_1179BlogSweetspot20%ReszdIMG_1199Gently push in the centre (above photo) and fill it with whipped cream (I usually add 2 tsp castor sugar and a few drops of vanilla essence) and fruit of your choice. When I made the Australian map, I used pineapple pieces for Queensland, mango slices for Northern Territory, bananas for New South Wales, cherries for Victoria, raspberries for Tasmania, strawberries for South Australia and kiwi fruit for Western Australia (for absolutely no reason, except I wanted to use them for their taste and colour !!!), all topped with passion fruit of course !!! My recent French Flag Pavlova had blueberries on the first third, then plain whipped cream in the middle and finally strawberries on the last third, representing its tricouleurs.BlogSweetspot20%Reszd2015-09-26 19.41.38

P.S. Don’t worry if there are a few cracks in the pavlova after cooking, as they can easily be patched up with cream or if the middle is still a little soft (so long as it is not runny!), as there is nothing nicer than that gooey-chewy texture ! Enjoy !!!

P.P.S. Don’t even contemplate moving the pavlova off the baking tray to a more attractive and acceptable serving plate ! It’s just not worth all the drama ! That is, unless you are very very clever !!! Just hide the marks on the baking tray instead with pretty flowers !!! And don’t worry- I do know the French flag hasn’t got a red rosebud in the middle !!!

P.P.P.S !  If you have doubled the recipe and have leftover meringue, try making snails, hedgehogs and  mice, their features decorated with fine slivers of licorice or  musk sticks for antennae, eyes, tails and noses and slivered almonds for quills.

Melon and Fruit Salad with Ginger Mint Served in a Carved WatermelonBlogSweetspot20%Reszd2012-12-21 15.04.00 - Copy

A great one for the WOW-factor at your next Christmas / End-of-Year party !

I found the original recipe in Crabtee and Evelyn’s beautiful book : Fragrant Herbal by Lesley Bremness ( see : http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/320492.Crabtree_Evelyn_Fragrant_Herbal ) and have since adapted it to a variety of fruits and a carved watermelon. It really is a gorgeous dreamy book !

Rather than using 2 Charentais melons as suggested, I prefer to use a medium watermelon for its dark green skin, which shows off the carved images  to their maximum effect. So when buying your watermelon, look for a good shape with a flat base, so it will sit stably of its own accord, and an even dark green skin. While I have done the carving myself in the past, I tend to commandeer my talented artistic daughters to carve the design, while I do the more mundane tasks (throwing in the odd suggestion occasionally !!!)

You will need a set of lino cutting tools to do the carving- just be careful not to cut yourself and always cut away from your body !!! So here goes …!BlogSweetspot20%Reszd2012-12-20 18.09.43BlogSweetspot20%Reszd2012-12-20 18.09.03BlogSweetspot20%Reszd2012-12-20 18.08.20BlogSweetspot20%Reszd2012-12-20 18.07.59

  1. Cut the top off the watermelon- ensure that it is big enough and that you make a straight cut, as this top bit will be the lid, which will also be decorated.
  2. Scoop out all the flesh from both the watermelon bowl and the lid using a melon baller, reserving the melon balls in a separate bowl. This part is quite sticky and messy, as there is a lot of juice, pips etc. Towards the end, if you think you have enough balls, just scrape out the rest of the flesh with a spoon just short of  the white pith.
  3. Carve watermelon. This is the fun creative bit ! Don’t stress too much if the cuts are not perfect- it is supposed to be home-made and everyone will be so impressed that they won’t even notice if it is not perfect !!! That is, unless you have a major disaster like Australia Day 2014 !!! My poor daughter had taken up the challenge to carve the Australian Coat-of-Arms (see : https://www.itsanhonour.gov.au/coat-arms/#Images ), complete with a cheeky speech bubble next to Tasmania saying  ‘Accessible at low tide only !’, and was just showing off her completed handiwork after 2 hours, when the whole thing slipped out of her grasp and crashed to the floor !!! HORROR of HORRORS !!! Poor kid couldn’t believe it !!! It must have been the Tasmanian Bad Fairy !!! We tried holding it all together by wrapping gladwrap firmly around it, but it leaked badly once we put the fruit salad in it and we had to admit defeat !!!
  4. Mix fruit in a separate bowl. This can include : balled watermelon, rockmelon or honeydew melon; diced pawpaw, mango, nectarines or peaches; blueberries, grapes, cherries or black/ red currants; raspberries and strawberries; whatever you fancy !!!
  5. Add 1/4 tsp ground ginger, a few drops of lime juice and several sprigs of mint and toss gently.
  6. Make a syrup of : 150ml water and 115 g sugar. Bring to the boil and simmer till thick and syrupy. Take off the heat and stir in 1 tbsp lime juice, 1 tbsp orange flower water, 1/4 tsp ground ginger and a few more chopped mint leaves. Mix the cool syrup into the fruit and serve the fruit salad in the carved watermelon bowl. Top with mint leaves and carved watermelon lid. If you are carting this dessert some distance, carry the fruit separately and fill the watermelon when you arrive. I will finish with some photos of our Australia Day disaster!BlogSweetspot20%ReszdJan 2014 035BlogSweetspot20%ReszdJan 2014 036BlogSweetspot20%ReszdJan 2014 041BlogSweetspot20%ReszdJan 2014 044BlogSweetspot20%ReszdJan 2014 039BlogSweetspot20%ReszdJan 2014 050BlogSweetspot20%ReszdJan 2014 053BlogSweetspot20%Reszd2014-01-27 16.27.19

 

 

 

 

 

 

Printemps en Candelo

What a blast! Not just the garden explosion with Spring, but it has been almost a month since I started this blog and I’ve loved every minute of it ! So stimulating writing it and so exciting getting out into the garden every day to report on its progress !!!

It has been a cold week – both outside and in our heads (!) – with a mixture of sun and beautiful soft rain, so perfect for the garden ! We even had a short storm earlier in the week, which smelt of Summer and promised exciting times ahead.Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-22 09.32.46Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-22 09.32.51Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-22 11.04.49The crab apple is in full glorious bloom and has been joined by a wild flowering plum, which is trying ( in vain ) to give the former  a run for its money ! (The plum is shown in the first photo- against the fence in front of the house,  left foreground). The giant poplar is showing tinges of green and the maples all have fine leaf cover.

The Winter Honeysuckle is looking incredibly healthy with its fresh new growth and the Banksia rose is shooting madly, as are the buddleias. All the other bare-rooted roses are well-clothed in leaf and look like they have been in for ages. Some even have little buds forming. The race is on between newcomer Cornelia and our old Soho roses Lolita and Heaven Scent. I think the latter will probably bloom first, but what they don’t realize is that the old early Hybrid Tea rose, Chateau de Clos Vougeot, which is climbing on the side of the house and was one of the few originals here, has actually beaten them to the post!!! See later !

Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1268Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1154‘The Bride’  has arrived (top photo) and even though she is young, her future holds great promise and her bridesmaids, the tiny Virginalis philadelphus and Viburnum burkwoodii ‘Anne Russell’, are developing well. In the Soho Bed, the lavenders, catmint and flowering salvias are all in bud and beside the house, Acanthus mollis spires (bottom photo above) are forming. They open white and a dusky purple-pink, which complements the house colour perfectly!Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1153Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-22 10.59.57The cutting garden has been fantastic, with lots of new anemones forming daily. All the daffodils and my magnificent tulips are out in full force and I think the ranunculas might finally be on their way!!! Even the dahlias are coming to the party! This lovely ,blowsy parrot tulip (above right) has opened out flat, but is remarkably tenacious, retaining all of its petals throughout wind and  storm. The cornflowers are growing madly and the poppies are in head, albeit a little bent and shy ! I look forward to them opening up, once the weather gets a little warmer! Photos below include a new salmon Bokassa Tulip, shy Iceland Poppies, my happy mix of bulbs and the snowball tree gradually coming into leaf.Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1170Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1168Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1183Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1246In the vegie patch, the raspberry canes are starting to get their leaves, the tiny blueberries are covered in flowers and everything is growing well. We had our first home-grown salad of lettuce, rocket and radishes the other day !!! I love it when the sun shines through the colourful stems of these chards.Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-24 13.09.46Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1255We haven’t done a lot in the garden this week due to this cold/flu freshening up, but the pergola uprights are up! Ross still has to fix the horizontal beams on top, but he did plant the citrus this last weekend. They will look good behind the moon bed and should grow well there in the full Northern sun The 2nd photo shows the order of planting from the cutting garden to the Main Pergola: a Washington Navel; a Lemonade Tree; an Imperial Mandarin; and a Tahitian Lime. We also planted another Lemonade, which was looking a little less robust than the other, opposite the cumquats, to form a colourful arch in front of the entrance to the Main Pergola. It will also form an arch (over the downhill path from the fernery and house ) with the quince tree, hidden behind Ross in the bottom photo.Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1180Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1239Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1252Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-21 13.14.04 We finally planted out the stocks, now that the frosts are in abeyance, to replace the tulips and erlicheers as they make their departure for the year.Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1256Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1257

We transplanted the strawberries to the berry section of the vegie garden (just in front of my neighbour’s washing line in bottom photo!) and sweet peas to climb up a feature tripod beside the chard (top photo on left side).Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1263Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1266 - CopyAnd we had visitors…

: a local horse, who slipped his paddock – I’m so glad my neighbour caught him before he munched into my roses and tulips!Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_0691Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_0690

:a flock of acrobatic silvereyes foraging for insects in the new foliage of the maple…Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-23 08.41.56Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-23 08.41.20: a return visit from the Kings ! This super-quiet pair are obviously very familiar with Candelo verandahs ! I think I might call them ‘Oliver’ and ‘Twist’ !!! We are a bit tough on succumbing to their cadging – when they realize no food is forthcoming, they retreat to feed on the Prunus blossom, which is where they should be !!!Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-23 08.12.01Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-23 08.12.12Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-23 08.11.30Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-23 08.14.10: The next-door neighbours now have two very cute  sheep to mow their lawn!Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1236Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1197: And a very noisy ultralight did a flyover the morning after our late midnight French sojourn! Assuming it was red and navy blue, the colours were appropriate, so we forgave him!!!

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Yes !!!  We went to France at the weekend! My neighbour Anne had always planned to celebrate her 60th birthday in Paris, but plans had changed and so Paris, like Methuselah, came to her instead !!! It was a great night and wonderful for us to meet all the locals. Everyone dressed appropriately from very glam and sophisticated (not me!) to arty and flamboyant. If you click on our photo, then click on his neck, you will see Ross’s concession to dressing up !!! Anne had done a wonderful job with the decor from black cardboard cutout lampposts on the walls to an Eiffel Tower of fairy lights, surrounded by photos of her younger self.Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1205Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1207We had a magnificent feast, with everyone taking a plate of food. I made a quintessentially Australian dessert, pavlova, but shaped in a French flag with the tri-couleurs represented by blueberries, cream and strawberries (see ‘The Sweet Spot’ on Thursday ! ) . I couldn’t resist adding our first rose bud (Chateau de Clos Vougeot), even though it is not part of the French Flag ! We very carefully carried the pavlova, down the hill to Anne’s place, on an old, but firm, blue plastic tub lid, then decorated the outside of the tin pavlova tray with flowers (white plum blossom, forget-me-knots and periwinkle) to hide the ugly cooking marks!!!Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1188Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-26 19.41.38

We also took along a bottle of Rosé ( albeit Australia’s Jacob’s Creek!) ; a bouquet of red, blue and white anemones in a recycled jar of our favourite delicious imported French jam, St. Dalfour, (blueberry jam of course!), and a gift of one of my hand-embroidered felt cushions, based on French themes, in red, blue and white, with a backing fabric of a Paris street map and wrapped in tricouleur tissue paper, complete with a handmade Eiffel Tower card !!!Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-15 16.19.29Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-15 16.17.22Here is how I made the card :

  1. Google, select and cut-and-paste an image of the Eiffel Tower to a Word Document, resize if necessary and print out.
  2. Fold an A4 black card in half and place on the cutting mat with the card join at the top.  Using a tracing wheel , transfer the pattern onto the black card and cut out.
  3. Open up the card and cut out the negative space on the front of the card only.
  4. Using a silver pen, mark in the girders, as well as the inside window, write your message and put your logo on the back. Voilà !Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_0569Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_0575

I have always had a love affair with France, so much so that I think, in the interests of getting this post published, as well as not overstepping the mark with the length of my posts (though I am well aware that I already have!!!), I will reserve sharing my passion with you for a Random Thoughts post later this coming month !!! But it is great to know that I have some fellow Francophiles right here in Candelo !!! Especially my front neighbour in her beautiful blue house !  Au revoir !Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_0693Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_0696P.S. Would you believe it? Our amazingly generous camellia is still blooming. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving! She deserves a few more photos in recognition of her wonderful service and generosity !!!Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_0692Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_0695