Archive for month: September, 2010

Daring Bakers’ Challenge, September – Sugar Cookies

29 Sep
September 29, 2010

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

I smiled when I saw this challenge from Mandy. I have attempted to decorate sugar cookies only once, last Christmas. I had envisaged beautiful butterflies, glimmering and shimmering their way as presents to my loved ones. Sadly once baked they looked like they had spread, making them look like they had eaten half the insect world and well it really just went all downhill from there.

What I did learn from this is, if you live in Australia and don’t have air-conditioning, do not attempt to cook biscuits with a high butter ratio (the recipe I used at Christmas was) during very hot weather. I also learnt that piping bags are our friends and you really should use them to ice biscuits even if it is just a simple circle, the result is worth it.

So a really big hug to you Mandy for hosting this challenge in September which is our Spring. Mandy set the theme of decorating the cookies as September, basically what September means to you. As we Daring Bakers come from all around the world, this was a great theme as it means so many different things.
C4September for me represents Spring. Also this month a pretty important chapter of my life, I mean Josh’s life, happened. It was his Valedictory Service at School. That’s it, la fin, die ende, no more school.

Yes I cried at the service, well actually I tried to contain tears so I didn’t look like an emotional blubbering idiot to all the other parents. Pinching, looking at iPhone, breathing, and opening eyes wide sort of helps. I watched Joshua, my baby, walk out of St Andrew’s Cathedral a self assured young man where 10 years earlier I attended his first service and watched him walk in to that Cathedral a slightly nervous little boy.
C7To be honest I wasn’t quite sure how to put all that emotion on a biscuit, so I stuck with the Spring theme. Josh also wanted to help decorate the biscuits so I let him join in the fun. Hey when your 18 year old wants to ice biscuits with his mum, are you going to say no? I don’t think so.

I also made Lego people biscuits. I bought the cutters when I was in Orlando at the Lego Store earlier this year and had not used them yet. Not a September theme, but hey, I had to do it, Lego is cool!!  Sadly my icing started to get a bit gloopy when I got around to icing them.  Had one perfect one, honest, but I dropped it and Sally really enjoyed it, honest!

C9I used the recipes given by Mandy in the challenge and found that both the biscuit and royal icing was really great to work with.

Basic Sugar Cookies
(Makes approximately 36 x 10cm / 4 inch cookies)

200g unsalted Butter, room temperature
1c caster sugar
3c plain flour
1 large Egg, lightly beaten
1t vanilla extract

1. Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming creamy in texture.
Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during baking, losing their shape.
2. Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3. Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
Tip: I don’t have a stand mixer so I find it easier to switch to dough hooks at this stage to avoid flour flying everywhere.
4. Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.
5. Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch)
6. Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins.
Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in cling wrap and then refrigerate it for an hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.
7. Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.
8. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.
C29. Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour.
Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
10. Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
11. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C Fan Assisted) / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
12. Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.
Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in some cookies being baked before others are done.
Tip: Rotate baking sheets half way through baking if your oven bakes unevenly.
13. Leave to cool on cooling racks.
14. Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.
Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated cookies can last up to a month.
C5Royal Icing

3c icing sugar
2 large egg whites
2t lemon juice

1. Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined.
Tip: It’s important that the bowls/spoons/spatulas and beaters you use are thoroughly cleaned and grease free.
2. Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites.
Tip: I’ve listed 2 amounts of icing sugar, the lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger amount is for outlining, but you can add even more for a much thicker consistency good for writing. If you add too much icing sugar or would like to make a thinner consistency, add very small amounts of water, a few drops at a time, until you reach the consistency you need.
3. Beat on low until combined and smooth.
4. Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.
Tip: Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.
This was Josh’s first attempt at using a piping bag and icing something.  I think he did a fantastic job.  I especially love the “I wuv food” one with the customised bite mark out of it.  He literally iced it and took a bite, nothing like authenticity.  His dragonfly also is a lot better than my attempts.
Oh and I am sure you are wondering how I eat my lego people biscuits……….. head first of course ;p

Sara xxx


WLG – Wellington on a Plate {Pop-up Closed}

19 Sep
September 19, 2010

 WLG is the airport code for Wellington Airport, New Zealand. WLG is also the name of a pop up restaurant at the old Bayswater Brassiere site in Kings Cross. A restaurant to showcase the best of the Wellington food scene, for more information have a look here.

I do actually travel to New Zealand’s North island quite a bit for business. It is actually one place I really enjoy travelling to when I have to be away from home. I love New Zealanders, they are always friendly and relaxed and I love New Zealand food. They have incredible produce and wonderful restaurants. I also love getting out of the main cities, totally stunning landscape. New Zealand really has a lot going for it.
So with my love of all that is Kiwi I was really looking forward to Josh (aka Junior, now turned 18 and we are dropping the Junior tag, just seems to not fit anymore), Mac’s and my visit to WLG. Sadly we were a little disappointed.

We arrived for our booking at 6pm and were the first patrons for that evening to arrive. Welcomed warmly and were shown to our seats at one of the communal tables at the front of the restaurant looking out over Bayswater Road.

They have transformed the restaurant wonderfully, showcasing cookbooks and produce giving it a great market vibe. Tables look funky with newspaper print style runners, candles, cutlery packets and pencils.
Mac and I decided to have a glass of Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough. Was as I expected, great, I am a big fan of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs.

Josh wasn’t drinking and we requested a soft drink, sorry, nope, water was the only non alcoholic option. So was tap water for Josh. I actually thought this to be very strange. Why not serve some very Kiwi L&P?  Later on I find out that they do actually have sparkling mineral water available but this was never at any point offered to us as a option. Quite pissed off about that one actually, as the person serving us was aware there was a person not drinking in our dining party. When we found out, as the people that had joined our table were offered and ordered it, Josh decided he would stay with the tap water.
To start off with there is one option, the Tastes of Wellington Shared Tasting Plate. Great idea as you get a nice assortment of goodies to try. Lot Eight spiced olives, citrus cured Regal King Salmon gravlax with New Zealand wasabi panna cotta, fried goat’s cheese balls with Manuka honey and kiwi chutney, crispy West Coast New Zealand white bait and grilled asparagus with chopped egg and caper mayo, venison rillettes with spiced pear and watercress.

To be honest the tasting plate is nothing that exceptional. My favourites were the olives, white bait and the salmon. I am not a fan at all of goat’s cheese, did have a little try and gave the rest of my ball to Mac who enjoyed them. White bait was crispy indeed, some to the point where they were actually just a solid over fried crunch which I thought was a little bit of a shame, but I did enjoyed them anyway. Venison rillettes were nothing to write home about, really just a quite boring meat terrine. The salmon was nice but nothing outstanding and you couldn’t taste any wasabi in the panna cotta but was nice and creamy to have on bread with the salmon. The tasting plate is quite small and I feel it could have been a bit more generous in size.
There is a choice of three mains, being three of us we got to sample all three.
I chose the crispy skin Gurnard with celeriac puree, preserved lemon and green apple salad. The Gurnard was a little over cooked and sadly mine still had a couple of bones in it. We are all human and I accept that these things can happen, but hey guys you are showcasing Wellington cuisine here. Skin was lovely and crispy, done really well. The puree was actually quite delicious, nice and creamy. Sadly the apple salad had goats cheese in it so did not appeal to me at all, wish they had stated that on the menu as without the salad the dish was really lacking. I am sure if you like goat’s cheese you would have enjoyed it very much.
Mac had the cocoa braised venison osso bucco with soft white polenta, lemon spinach and cherry relish. Mac is a massive venison fan, adores it and is something he always has when he travels to New Zealand (like me he travels there quite a bit). I had a taste of the venison and it just tasted like beef to me, was very tender and I thought quite okay (I have never tried venison before – well except the rillettes – shock horror, what type of foodie am I !!). He was completely disappointed with the taste of the venison and said it was the worst venison he has ever had, there was also bone shards in his dish. Polenta was lovely and creamy and according to Mac the best part of the dish was the spinach.
Josh had the vegetarian option of portobello mushrooms and swiss chard baked in filo with braised fennel, olives, goat’s curd and green lentils. This was the best dish of the evening and I thought it was a complete winner. I tried some, avoiding the goat’s curd, and it really was delicious. I thought the lentils were flavoursome and very moreish. Josh was completely happy with this dish.
One option for dessert of Soprano Limoncello panna cotta with raspberry donuts. The donuts were excellent, so cute, served warm. The panna cotta was how it should be texture wise with a faint hint of the limoncello flavour, with a couple of raspberries for decoration. I did feel the dessert was lacking somehow.
To finish off there is Mojo coffee with Whittaker’s chocolate squares, both dark and milk. After sitting there for 45 minutes we ended up having to flag someone down to get our coffee. Wasn’t a total waste as opposite us I got to meet Tim and Dianna from a soon to be food blog, D for Delicious. Josh and Mac had flat whites which were served in paper cups. We found this quite amusing as it didn’t really fit New Zealand’s “green” image. I had a short black in a normal short black cup . We all found the coffee bitter and not that appealing.
All the servings are rather small and both Mac and Josh were still hungry afterwards. I am in two minds about this as the meal is a set price of $29/person, extra for wine and beer, $7/glass. At $29 I suppose you can’t really expect much, but then again they are trying to entice me to visit Wellington. On the other hand $29/head, total bill for us was $109, you do expect to not walk out hungry.

WLG is running until the 26th September and all bookable tables have been booked. If you missed out on booking a table, don’t panic, from our experience you really aren’t missing out on much. They do have a few tables for walk ins on the evening if you do want to pay WLG a visit.

Sara xxx

32 Bayswater Road
Kings Cross
14th – 26th September 2010

'WLG' Pop Up Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sakagura NYC

16 Sep
September 16, 2010

I sit, ponder and plan where I will eat, what I will see and do before I head overseas.  Even when it is for business I try and work out what I can fit in. Of course my research is just a guide and some things are achieved and others aren’t.The joyof travel is finding something not expected. I expected fantastic food in NYC and I had plenty of it, but a chance conversation lead me to a restaurant that is regarded as a hidden jewel, and well hidden it is.

Sakagura was established in 1996 and is now one of the top sake bars in the USA. If you didn’t know it was there you would just walk right past it. Why? The entrance is actually an office building which looks like it is closed in the evenings. You walk in to the foyer and wonder where on earth you are meant to go next. You then find the stairs that you are to proceed down, walk along a corridor and then find this magical oasis. Tokyo in the basement of a NYC office building, amazing.

S4 S5Funnily though once I returned back to Sydney I saw Sakagura on an episode of No Reservations where Anthony Bourdain was discovering the non touristy side of NYC that he loves. Well done me for finding it before being told about it by a celebrity chef.

Besides having a reputation for sake they also take that care and pride in their food. This was an unexpected treat of a meal and I would have to say some of the best Japanese food I have had.

The staff are very knowledgeable in regard to sake (which would be expected) and more than willing to help the novice decide what would best suit their pallet. Myself being a novice with sake I tried their sample set which included three sakes they thought I may like. It is fun to compare the different sakes and then decide which one you prefer. I settled on a dry sake served cold.
S9It was so hard to decide what to have to eat as everything on the menu sounded so fantastic and a little bit different.S10Kamo Roast Negimaki: Sliced chilled roast duck wrapped around scallions with an accented basil sauce.

Holly molly this was to die for. The duck was just seared and served thinly sliced. It had a slight smokey flavour to the meat and the finely sliced green onion cut beautifully through the layer of fat on the duck.
S1Tatami Kwashiorkor: Dried sardine crackers, fried crisp and served with a spicy mayonnaise dip.

The spicy mayonnaise was sesame based and I didn’t find it at all spicy. The crackers reminded me of a Japanese style prawn cracker, nice and fishy, but not overpowering of sardine. Even though the mayo was not spicy it made a lovely companion to the crackers.

S2Uzaku: Grilled eel vinaigrette served with thin cucumber slices and wakame seaweed.
A mouth-watering balancing act of fatty eel with a slightly smoked flavour and crunchy cucumbers. The eel was soft and melted in your mouth, it wasn’t grainy as it can sometimes be.

S8Sakagura Special – Stewed Diced Pork: How can you go past the words special and diced pork?

This was the most tender pork belly I have ever eaten, melting in your mouth <Homer drool>. The broth was a light cleansing pork broth, with a hint of wasabi, which suited the richness of the pork belly.

I had no room for dessert, but I just had to have some anyway. As I had noticed Black Sesame Crème Brulee with Black Sesame Ice Cream on the menu. Bwaaaaaaa!!! They had just run out. So I opted for my next choice.
S7Sake Manju:  Sake Lees Bun stuffed with Red Beans served with Green Tea Sorbet.

The dessert was beautifully presented and the black sesame twist in my sorbet was a pleasant surprise and visually stunning. Sadly this was not my highlight of the meal and I sulked slightly as I watched the person next to me scoff down a delicious looking crème brulee, bwaaaaaa!!!S6If you do find yourself in NYC, Sakagura is well worth the visit.


211E 43rd St B1F
New York NY 10017 [Between 2nd& 3rd Aves]
Tel: 212.953.SAKE [7253]
Fax: 212.682.1951

Sakagura on Urbanspoon

Daring Cooks’ Challenge, September – Apple Butter

14 Sep
September 14, 2010

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Centre for Home Food Preservation.

I decided to make John’s suggestion of Apple Butter, I did change the recipe slightly. Apple Butter does not have any actual butter in the recipe, “butter” totally refers to its consistency. Read more →