Archive for month: January, 2010

Daring Bakers’ Nanaimo Bars

28 Jan
January 28, 2010

I am writing this blog after only being back in Sydney for 3 hours, after a total of 20 hours flying time from New York and with the flu, but as this is my first Darling Bakers’ Challenge it was important for me to get it up on time (it’s still the 27th in the USA).

For those of you who don’t know what the Daring Bakers are, they are a group of like minded people who stand up to a set baking challenge each month hosted on The Darling Kitchen website. I have also joined up to the Daring Cooks group as well on this site, but yet to face my first challenge.

Sooo with much jet lag let me share with you how I went with my first challenge……….. The Nanaimo Bar.

Nanaimo bars are a Canadian dessert and are apparently very popular and available everywhere in Canada.

The challenge was hosted by Lauren ofCeliac Teen, who is celiac and can’t digest gluten. The idea was to make the Graham Wafers used in this recipe gluten free, but you were give the option to make the run of the mill ones if you desired. As I had Christmas, New Year and a few other things to deal with before hopping on a plane to the States, I took the easy way and used the following provided recipe for my graham crackers.

Graham Wafers

2.5 cups plain flour
1c dark brown sugar (lightly packed)
1t baking soda

3/4t salt
100g (7T) cold unsalted butter (cut into sm
all cubes)
1/3c honey (mild flavour)

75ml (5T) milk
30ml (2T) vanilla extract

  • Place flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a food processor, pulse to combine. Add chopped butter and pulse until it resembles bread crumbs (I actually used the rub method my hand at this stage). Put flour mixture into a large bowl.
  • In a small bowl whisk to combine, honey, milk and vanilla. Then add this to the flour mixture until it barely comes together (it is really sticky).
  • Put mixture onto a well floured surface (they suggested sweet rice flour, I used normal flour) form into a 2.5cm thick rectangle, wrap in plastic and place in fridge for a few hours of over night (I went for the overnight option as it was stinking hot here).
  • Take dough out of fridge and divide into two portions, place one portion in the fridge and roll the other portion out so it is roughly 2mm thick. Cut dough into bout 7cm x 7cm sized squares and place on lined baking tray. At this point in time they suggest the trays should be placed into the fridge for 30 – 45 minutes before baking, but as I was short on time they went straight into the oven.
  • Bake at 180 degrees for 15 minutes (suggested time was 25 minutes but this was just too long) until they are brown and slightly firm. Take out of oven and place on cooling rack. Continue with rest of mixture until all crackers are cooked.

I would like to try the gluten free recipe in due course as I think it would be a very interesting result.

Next it was on to making the Nanaimo Bars themselves. This actually happened the following day.

Bottom Layer

1/2c unsalted butter
1/4c granulated sugar (I used caster)
5T unsweetened cocoa
1 large egg beaten
1 1/4c crushed graham wafers
1/2c finely chopped almonds
1c shredded coconut

  • Melt butter with sugar and cocoa over a double boiler. Add the egg and stir until it thickens slightly. Take mixture off the heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Press mixture into a 20cm x 20cm tin. Put it into the fridge while completing the next stage.

Middle Layer

1/2c unsalted butter
2.5T heavy cream
2T vanilla custard powder
2c icing sugar

  • Cream all the ingredients together and then spread over the base. Put it back in the fridge while completing the top layer.

Top Layer

115g semi sweet chocolate (I used old gold as that is what I use, love the taste!!)
2T unsalted butter

  • Melt chocolate and butter over low heat, double boiler (or in microwave), then let it cool slightly before spreading over the middle layer. Place back in the fridge to chill.

My Verdict

Fell in love with the Graham Wafers, I will make these again and again, they are just so delicious, crunchy honey tasty yumm! Beware though the dough is hard to work with in extreme heat, my suggestion is if you are going to make them, make sure it is a cool day.

The nanaimo bars themselves are not really my cup of tea. The tribe ate them, but I found them just way too sweet for my taste, even Junior found them sweet, now that is saying something. The base is lovely and the chocolate top layer is self explanatory. Maybe if the middle layer was not so thick as it turned out on mine (maybe if I used 1/2 or 1/3 the mixture?) it would be not as sweet and make the slice more appealing.

All in all I really enjoyed my first challenge, even though it was a bit of a rush job and did not get the TLC it deserved.

Thanks Lauren for a wonderful challenge.



Leaving on a jet plane

14 Jan
January 14, 2010

I write this as I sit at Sydney airport waiting to board a flight to the USA.

I will be traveling to Orlando, Iowa and New York and really can’t wait. It is funny how someone who adores food works out their priorities on what to see and do. When I was planning this trip I found myself first looking for new and interesting things to try and experience food wise. After that had been achieved only then did I actually look at landmarks, museums and places of interest I should see.

I will be back in a couple of weeks and I am looking forward to sharing with you tales of my trip and the wonderful delights that I get to experience in the USA.


Phoenix Talons aka Chicken Feet

09 Jan
January 9, 2010

I love yum cha/dim sum. It is one of my favourite breakfast foods on a weekend. Nothing like getting up out of bed and just heading out for an array of delightful little dumplings and copious amounts of tea. My favourite yum cha haunts are in town, but when we don’t feel like travelling that extra distance then it is a case of rocking up to the Imperial Peking at Blakehurst. It isn’t the best yum cha in Sydney, but it satisfies those cravings.

I have the standard favourites, but always look out for that something that has not been tried before. So this particular pilgrimage I realised I had never ever tried chicken feet. Don’t get me wrong, I have eaten some pretty interesting stuff in my travels, some good some bad.

Live lobster sashimi at Yagura in Hong Kong. Where chef and nearly all the other staff surrounded us to see our reaction as the lobster was presented and that anticipated first mouth full. We ate to the cries of junior saying “Mum it is winking at me” and me assuring him it was just the lobster’s nerves. Ethically, was an interesting one, but taste wise, I have never experienced such a true delight in my mouth and highly recommend it to anyone who has the chance to try it (if you don’t have issues with your looking at you while you eat it). Is crisp, light and just delightful.

Turbot in Japan, my first experience was a steamed whole one in the shell and I was surrounded by work colleagues. I had said to junior before hand (who was 15 at this stage) just try everything and if you don’t like it just be graceful about it. He was fantastic, he pulled that sucker right out of the shell in one big slurping sounding motion and shoved the whole thing in his mouth. May I add that this was not a petite snail. I nearly died, I thought he would just take a little bite and be done. No the whole thing in the mouth and I sat there watching him chew and chew and chew some more. Well after prying mine from my shell down the hatch it went. Both junior and I had black tongues for the next 24 hours due to the ink left in it. Tasty, it was not.

I have had frog legs in France where my host happily jumped them across his plate in demonstration. Enjoyed our Coat of Arms with a side serving of crocodile. Had the most horrible looking buffalo soup in China which I downed. Just to name a few as well as countless dishes t
o this day I still have no idea what I really was eating.

This brings us back to yum cha. As I sat there and pondered what I have eaten when not in my home town, why on earth have I not tried this extremely popular yum cha dish? Was it because it was chicken feet? I have eaten every other part of the chicken, so why not the feet?

So as our waitress served chicken feet up to the three tables surrounding us and then did not bother to stop at our table, I called her back. She looked at me and confirmed to me it was chicken feet in her steamers. “Yes I know” I said as I smiled broadly and was wondering what I was getting myself in to, “could we please have a serving”. A serving we got. Sitting in the middle of the table would be my first ever attempt at chicken feet. I looked at Mac (hubby), then looked at junior, who responded with “no way, I am not eating them” and I looked at Mac again.

Mac a few years ago spent some months in China for work in a provence located about 3 hours out of Shanghai. He looked at them and said “I use to eat these all the time”, “good” I said “I wont be eating alone”.

So tentatively I reached for a foot with my chopstick and placed it in my bowl. How does one eat a chicken foot? Where do I attack it from? So I checked out the table next to us and watched one young lady’s technique. Ok, start with the toes, so that is what I did.

So how did it taste? Well the sauce it was served with had an overpowering taste of star anise. I could see black bean and I could see chilli, but neither of those could be tasted. I like star anise, but just not when it overpowers a dish. So no, I did not like the taste.

What did I think about texture? Hehehe chicken feet are interesting in texture. They are extremely gelatinous and I think if you are not use to that texture it is a little off putting. I will admit that I didn’t find it appealing and therefore probably would not try a steamed version again.

Would I try them again? I am not sure, but it is not a definite no. I would like to try them done in a different style, maybe grilled at an outdoor food stand.

I am glad I tried them, not really to my liking and would not order them at yum cha again, but really glad I now know what I am missing out on, and can say “no thank you” with the knowledge that I don’t really like them and that it is based on taste not look.



NYE 2009

01 Jan
January 1, 2010

Wishing everyone love, peace and happiness for 2010. I also want to thank those who have been following me for the past few months and also to my fellow bloggers who have been welcoming and supportive. I am excited to see what my 2010 will bring food wise to share with you all.

I was just thinking to myself that it is fitting my first post for 2010 is my last meal created for 2009.

We stayed home for NYE this year. As it was only going to be the three of us, hubby, junior and myself, whoops forgot the four legged family member, Sally! Scratch that and make it the four of us. I decided to try my hand at a six course meal. No stress as no visitors turning up at a certain time and the meal could extend to how every long it took me, all up we were eating for about three hours. We started at 5.30 and were finished and cleaned up to watch the Sydney fireworks at 9, too perfect.

It all went so smoothly with the boys cleaning up in between courses as I put the finishing touches on the next one that had been prepped. Total team work!

First course: Parmesan & Chive Souffle Oysters

A recipe that has been tried and tested many times and was passed on to me by Mum. Cheesy fluffly chive topping grilled on top of the oyster. Junior does not like oysters natural so is a nice compromise as I would be happy to woof them down natural with just a little bit of vinaigrette.

Second course: Roasted Scallops, Cauliflower Puree with Caper & Sultana Sauce

This was the first time I had made this dish and to make it even more exciting for myself there were a few components to it and a couple had to be last minute. Cauliflower puree where the cauli had been cooked in milk, I had never done this before, yes I know everyone else probably has. A complex sauce with sultanas and capers (sadly my butter split a little from the sauce, not too much but on close inspection you could tell). Little baby cauliflower trees which were caramelised. All finished off with perfectly cooked scallops. Really was a lovely combination of tastes and a dish I will be making again.

Third course: Crab & Ricotta stuff Ravioli with Sage, Pinenut butter sauce

Was a little disappointed I didn’t brown the pinenuts as much as I would of usually, but still it was a lovely dish. The crab and ricotta teamed with a little lemon zest was so light and fluffy inside the ravioli.

Fourth Course: Prawns with Garlic & Chilli Butter

Found some lovely tiger prawns at the fish mongers, nice and big, which looked very impressive on the plate as the shells were left on. The prawns were sliced down the back to de-vein and clean and then stuffed with the butter mixture. I did cook them in a pan, but I really think they would be perfect on the BBQ and will be trying them this way next time.

Fifth Course: Beef Wrapped in Prosciutto & Potato Galette resting on Beetroot Puree

The beef was so tender, juicy and just plain delicious. My potato galette on the other hand was a flat and too crispy poor excuse for a galette and prom
ptly got hidden under the beef fillet instead of being a stand alone item on the plate. I got my timings a little out with the potato and well they just went bung. Tasted fine, but not the reslult I wanted, were more like potato chips. I was happy with how the beetroot puree turned out as I cooked the beetroot with thyme, shallot and port before pureeing, was quite happy with this experiment. Topped the beef with thyme flowers from my garden as I felt the dish needed a little green to it.

Sixth Course: Creme Brulee, Mixed Berry Compote and Almond Bread

Normally I hum and har about what to make for dessert, but not this time, as I just really had a hankering for a plain old vanilla creme brulee. Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow. Even though i got a little too pyromanic with my blow torch, I ceased just before burning the toffee. Actually was pulled off the brulee by junior as he could see his dessert being turned into cinders. Can’t help it, the flame it is pretty, mwahahaha. The fruit compote on the side added a nice little bite.

In the end I was a very chuffed Belly Rumbler with a full tummy.

Sara xxx