Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Beachy keen

There’s something quintessentially Australian about summer weekends at the beach. And you can bet if the temperature’s above 25 degrees (Celsius!) and sunny, you’ll see the masses crowding the beaches all around this country. Summer wouldn’t be summer unless you’ve burnt your feet on the sand, trying to find the perfect spot to park your towel before diving into the sea.

Well, if you can’t take a dip in the ocean, one of the next best things is to eat by the ocean. And that’s just what I did last Saturday for my birthday lunch with my family. We headed to Freshwater Beach (above), a lovely small beach on Sydney’s Northern Beaches & on this particular day, packed with beachgoers. Located in a restored beach house with uninterrupted views over the beach is the Italian restaurant Pilu at Freshwater, specialising in food from Sardinia. Friends had raved about this place and I was dying to try it. The views on this sunny day were spectacular and there was a lovely ocean breeze wafting into the restaurant.

The food by chef Giovanni Pilu was absolutely superb…some of the best I’ve had in Sydney. I started with the calamari ripieni – calamari stuffed with baby squid, pine nuts, fregola (tiny pasta), olives and herbs. Tasty. This was then followed by Pilu’s specialty, the porcetta arrosto con pizzimonio. Translation: the best roast pork I have eaten in my whole life (yes, a big call I know!). This oven roasted suckling pig is slow roasted over several hours and served with vegetable crudités. Unbelievable. The meat was so juicy, sweet and tender, the crackling perfectly crispy…no chewy thick crackling here!!

Well, I’ve never been one to pass up on dessert & being the birthday girl, it was the perfect excuse. Even if I was the only one of my family who ordered dessert. Oh well, their loss…and a big loss at that cos I ordered the seada ripiena di ricotta…a Sardinian pastry filled with ricotta (with flecks of lemon rind and sultanas), fried and served with warm honey. Beautiful. I even let my family taste it…a big deal considering I don’t normally share dessert ;). Lots of “that’s fantastic” followed, esp. by my food technologist brother…

A superb end to a superb meal…but the eating didn’t stop there. Afterwards, we headed back to my parents’ place where Mum had whipped up a layered lime cake. In my family, a birthday’s not a birthday unless there’s a birthday cake! Not only that, but my brother had whipped up some mocha gelato…& I had brought along one of the triple choc mousse cakes Tiff & I had made the day before. You could say I had a bit of dessert overload (yes, it is actually possible)…& surprise surprise, I wasn’t hungry again til lunchtime the next day. N

Pilu at Freshwater
“On the Beach” Moore Road
Harbord NSW 2096
P: (02) 9938 3331
Open: Lunch from 12 noon Wed-Sun, Dinner from 6pm Tues-Sat
Reservations essential – Fri & Sat night’s are booked about a month in advance. We booked about a month in advance for Sat lunch, just in case. And ask for a table by the window.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Year of Cakes- Like Water for Chocolate

After surviving the January Lemon Layer cake we were feeling a bit cocky & fearless. This February Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cakes we thought would be a cinch! We predicted we would only need half a day... but despite all our healthy self confidence, we were still taking the photos at 11:30pm! That is a total of nine hours, including a four hour chilling period. Needless to say, our feet hurt!

This treat was again a multi-recipe and construction experience. First we started with the cake base, which was uneventful to create & yummy... soft, springy & flavourful. We cheered "Good one Martha" when we pulled them from the oven... We popped them out of the ramekins and trimmed them (We love trimming, yummy tidbits!). I will definitely make these little cakes again!

Unexpected joy: Mini puffed chocolate cakes in red ramekins.

First mousse.

Neither Nicky or I had ever made mousse before so we were pretty pleased to be having a go. That's the thing about this project, last month it was our first layer cake... this month mousse. The result is good... smooth, silky and very choclatey.

Tip 1: We could only pipe the mousse onto the cake base once we had put the baking paper collars in place. This took four hands & a fair bit of Cirque du Soleil-like contorsions. Try this at home, but don't attempt alone!

Tip 2: Use a skewer to clean away the unwanted spurts of mousse on the baking paper... we avoided dark chocolate spots in our milk mousse layer this way.

Fear Overcome: The thought of pouring a boiling hot saucepan of corn syrup & sugar down the side of a still spinning Kitchen Aid bowl was a bit daunting. I had visions of a hot lava-like substance erupting around the room, branding anyone or thing that stood in its way... turns out I was just being a bit dramatic.

Mousse Two.

We had just finished making the second mousse (which was as good as the first) and Horlicks the dog who had been so patient up to this stage, started to try and scratch the paint off the walls... Climbing the walls, I believe is the technical term. It was my turn to pipe the mousse into the collar, but I had to forfeit and take him to the park across the road. When we returned in half an hour we discovered Nicky with a wild look in her eyes... the mousse had exploded out of the collars! It seems we had broken some law of Physics about pressure build up & flimsy baking paper. She was muttering something about not being able to find any string. So we shored up the sides with a non-ecologically friendly amount of masking tape. Crisis averted for 4 of the cakes... the others were sacrificed for tasting.

Tip 3: Use lots & lots of masking tape to hold the collars in place... and not just down the bottom around the base. In fact, just make the whole thing out of masking tape and you should be fine.

Tip 4: If you live in a hot country like we do, keep the aircon on freezing and on high to prevent the mousse turning into sludge. Then hopefully you can avoid the whole explosion scenario!

Career realization: We both were not put on this earth to be engineers and we should keep away from any form of dam construction.

After the chilling we eagerly whipped the baking paper collars off... we couldn't quite get the chocolate curl, more like long thin crumbs. Overall we are pleased with how they turned out. Here is the result.

Martha's Triple-chocolate Mousse Cake

Our Triple-chocolate Mousse Cake

And the taste? Very chocolatey & a great texture... We found it a bit overwhelming on the taste buds, you need a glass of water or a cup of tea to eat this one.

We are now looking forward to March's Cardamom Struesel Coffee Cake. How hard can it be? T

Sunday, February 26, 2006


It is the perfect morning for lying in the garden... Blue sky broken with patches of cloud and a not too warm summer breeze.

Rescue Softie #2
Name: Milton
When he grows up he wants to be: A high court judge
Favourite dessert: Blueberry Pancakes

He was made from the only small piece of this fabric I could find... a navy and light blue hounds tooth check, overlayed with a light blue flower pattern. From an Italian fabric mill of course!

Have a great weekend. T

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Little Folk, Big Dessert

I was emailed these photos and I love them! Not sure where they came from... So if anyone knows, it would be great to give credit to their creator(s).

A yummy looking Paris Brest.

A very witty Mont Blanc.

An eclair break.

And a sweet bite that would encourage any workaholic to become a chocoholic.

I am sort of glad patisseries don't come this big relative to my size... T

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Hey True Blue

I just rediscovered the word 'toey'... it seems so Australian. Well, I think it is Australian, I haven't heard it said anywhere else. In fact, in the city you don't hear people using it that much anymore. But I heard it used again just last weekend. I went away with my parents to Anna Bay, 2.5 hours north of Sydney. It is the kinda town that could be described as "just being discovered", a little bit sleepy and away from the more touristy areas.

We took our doggies, Horlicks & Rugby on the coastal walk.. Rugby is a 10 year old Blue Heeler cross. As my dad says, he is a lovely old dog. He was rescued from the RSPCA, and because of this we don't know his full history. What we do know is that he was found wandering around with a leg injury, he is not keen on dogs his own age and that he is fearful of big men... those with beards are ok! He is also so good that he became a pinup boy for the RSPCA's Visa credit card (see above)!

Back to the coastal walk, there we met a big guy with a dog about Rugby's age- the totally wrong combination! Mum said to the owner 'Don't worry, he (Rugby) is ok'. The man replied that he probably was, but that he was a bit 'toey'. Later mum said that she would never have used that word but that it was perfect... and it was.

Without looking it up, I think that toey means something like being a bit on edge. Maybe a little bit afraid or nervous and if something happened that he didn't like he could defend himself. He is certainly not the type of dog that would attack though... He would probably run as fast as his old legs and fat belly would let him!

I am not sure what happened to Rug in his past life, but now it is filled with snacks, big walks & long sleeps. T

Monday, February 20, 2006

Month of Softies- Feb 2006

So the theme for month of softies this Feb was a heart shaped box... and thankfully the rules are loosely applied. The brain started ticking... first I thought about boxing hearts (lovers not fighters!). Hmmmm... box... Bento Box... and I love sushi. So these guys are heart roe sushi in different forms. One hearty hand roll (Temaki), one heart roe topped sushi wrapped in nori (Gukan) and the twin inside out sushi (Uramaki). Nicky made the dinky felt green grass and she found the bento box at her local Tokyo mart. The background fabric is from a Japanese mill called Latanpopo.

A little bit too furry to eat, but great fun to make. I didn't know I had the patience to do so much hand sewing and if it wasn't for my deadline driving me on,I doubt I would have made it! T

P.S Making these sushi made me think about one of our friends. When he was first invited to Yum Cha (steamed dim sum) he told us he wasn't into that raw stuff! Now he eats sushi and Yum Cha on a weekly basis... he can even order his favourite dim sum in Chinese. Not bad for a white surfer boy!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Tokyo... Out on the prairie

Harajuku has been mostly discovered (I think Gwen Stefani is bringing it to the rest of the world!)... I like finding hidden stores & one off artisans, which there are loads in Tokyo. But, I still get excited when I go to Harajuku, even if there is a massive Gap & Zara there. I think it is because the Japanese take a concept and really run with it, there is always something to inspire me.

Outside a Country & Western clothing and accessory store we came upon these 2 dudes. They looked like they were on the verandah of their ranch gazing off into the sunset, keeping an eye on their herd and having a bit of a jam session! The store concept had flowed right to the entrance and really got my attention (and I am a sucker for a softie). It didn't really seem that we were right next to the new Armani Casa! T

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Join in Martha's "Year of Cakes"...it's time to bake!

Calling all Martha-to-be’s (both female & male)!! After much to-ing & fro-ing, we’ve finally worked out how you can participate in Martha Stewart’s “Year of Cakes”. In order to participate, you will need to set up a free Flickr account (if you don’t already have one) – don’t be scared, if we non-tech heads could do it, so can you! You may find these FAQ’s helpful.

Once your account is set up, upload photo(s) of your Martha cake into your account. You will need to tag your photos to be included in the monthly Year of Cakes galleries. For February’s cake…the decadent Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cakes…you will need to use the exact tag “year of cakes feb 2006”. Make sure you include the inverted commas. This will enable everyone to view all of February’s contributions in the one gallery. You’re welcome to upload more than one photo, but your finished cake and/or slice is preferred!

We have also set up a Year of Cakes group on Flickr…feel free to join, as this will contain a cumulative pool of all the photos. There is also an opportunity for discussion boards, but we haven’t got round to that yet!

If you can't see your photos....don't panic! As we learnt here, just upload more public photos into your account, as your account will initially be pending until the Flickr guys check that you're not posting up any unauthorised images!

So, as to rules….there are no rules! Ok, there is one rule….HAVE FUN! Remember, you only have to strive for Martha perfection, not actually be perfect….so there’s no need to make 5 attempts just to get it picture-perfect! Especially as everyone’s ovens and measuring tools are different. It’s the participation that counts, so if your cake has sunk, or it’s lopsided, or you forgot the sugar (hey, how would we ever know?), then so be it! Heck, our January attempt wasn’t perfect, but we had a lot of fun, so we hope you do too! You might even surprise yourself!

Happy baking Martha-to-be’s! Look forward to seeing all your contributions! N

PS) For all those used to metric measurements (like us!), 1 stick of butter = 115g. This might be helpful for the following months’ cakes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Elvis Luvs Ya!

This is Elvis... When he grows up he wants to be a heart throb! For some reason he thinks his looks & cheeky smile will get him there. Peanut butter biscuits are his favorite dessert, in fact he likes anything with peanut butter in it.

Elvis has descended from a long line of bear cats... Sometimes these guys are bearish, cuddly & sweet. Then at other times they are more cat-like, independent & looking for adventure. With these personality traits he is sure to make a great heart throb.

He is also one of our Rescue Softies... He was made by us, from Italian or Japanese fabrics that didn't make it into the clothing manufacturing process. We think that they are a great way to re-use, recycle, reduce & rescue! T

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

One of my greatest loves....

And so it’s Valentine’s Day. I’m not normally one to celebrate this most commercial day of love, although today just so happens to be 10 years to the day my husband and I first met. 10 years. That’s a whole decade! Where has the time gone? No, it wasn’t some romantic blind date…just a random day, out shopping with my best friend who introduced us when we met up with some friends for lunch. Her mind got ticking pretty quickly and she later played the matchmaker! But I’m not going to go into that story here cos it makes me cringe…a good kinda cringe :)

Here’s an idea…maybe this day (or any day!) should be for espousing whatever you love, human or otherwise. So here goes….I LOVE cake! And I thought this appropriately coloured pic of a charlotte framboises would be perfect for today. It was also appropriately delicious….a light spongey cake topped with raspberry mousse & a juicy jelly-gelatinous raspberry layer! I discovered it at the Patisserie Jean while wandering the streets of Colmar in the Alsace region of France. I remember passing by many a patisserie in the town, but thinking this had the best window display & that the pastries looked the best quality! So I vowed to come back after some sightseeing. There is actually a photo of me pawing at the window trying to decide…that’s usually a good sign!

Happy V Day folks & here’s to all the loves in your lives….N

Patisserie Jean
6 Place de l’Ecole
68000 Colmar
Open: Tues-Fri 8.30am-12.15pm & 1.30pm-6.30pm, Sat 8.30am-6.30pm & Sun 8.30am-12.30pm

Monday, February 13, 2006

Make Cake, Not War

A mapron.... Yup, a man's apron! That is the challenge for Tie One On this month. So we decided to give it a go.

Nicky is lucky enough to be married to someone who COOKS DINNER EVERY NIGHT!! Her kitchen time is devoted solely to sweets! Lucky girl. So this Lt. from the 23rd Cake Division was quickly identified as the recipient & model for our most macho and manly apron!

It started with the camo fabric, which obviously reeks of toughness. This in turn led to the cake division's chosen nickname of "Dessert Storm". The pattern was derived from a muji apron I got in Japan... you can't see it, but its back is a bit like overalls, which I like as it doesn't have a strap hanging around your neck.

I don't know about you, but there is something about this picture that begs the question "What does a guy wear under his mapron?". T

Friday, February 10, 2006

To market, to market....

These last few weeks, Tiff and I have been trawling the markets of Sydney in the name of “research”….ok, so there was some shopping thrown in (!)….checking out the most suitable market to sell some of our wares and crafty bits. So last Saturday, Tiff & I ventured off to Paddington Markets. One of Sydney’s most popular markets, it’s a good mix of locals, tourists and Paddington pups. With a focus on new designers and all things artisan, there are numerous stalls selling clothing, childrenswear, handmade jewellery (a LOT of jewellery!) and homewares with a smattering of second-hand and food stalls thrown in.

One of the best stalls we happened upon was
Rokoco, selling lovely printed cotton and linen tea towels, aprons, napkins, cushions and table runners. We loved the freshness of the prints. After oohing & aahing over the cupcake tea towel, we got chatting to the designer, Ro Cook. Somehow the conversation turned to our love for baking and the wonders of the KitchenAid mixer (surprise, surprise!), but we did discover that Ro designs, hand-prints and sews all her products. We were tempted but didn’t make any purchases, but I’ve been thinking how much I need some new napkins, so think I will be back….

After the markets, we headed up the Oxford Street shopping strip and stopped to check out Max Brenner. Known as “Chocolate by the Bald Man”, Max Brenner originates from Israel and specialises in chocolate products made with cocoa beans from all over the world. The Chocolate Bar in Paddington was the first one to open in Australia back in 2000 (numerous branches have opened since), and I was fortunate enough to go there the week it opened to be served by the Bald Man himself!

This last Christmas, Tiff and I were each the lucky recipients of a Max Brenner hamper. We love his cool retro packaging…and the choccies aren’t bad either! I highly recommend the cocoa for making hot chocolate and the caramelized pecans rolled in praline paste & fine cocoa powder. Yum. Oh, and if you ever need a choccie pick-me-up, don’t go past sitting down to the “suckao”, a little ceramic pot containing a candle whereby you melt the chocolate of your choice, add hot milk and suck it up with a metal straw…mmmm, now there’s something to get your head spinning in chocolatey chocolateness! N

Paddington Markets
395 Oxford Street (in the grounds of Paddington Uniting Church)
Paddington NSW 2021
Open: Every Saturday 10am-4pm

Max Brenner Chocolate Bar
437 Oxford Street
Paddington NSW 2021
P: (02) 9357 5055
Open: Mon-Thur 7.30am-10.30pm, Fri & Sat 7.30am-midnight, Sun 10am-10.30pm

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The millefeuille mission - Part 2

And here we are yet again. Same time, same place (Paris), same people (me & hubbie)….different millefeuille. To continue from where I left off, there was a reason for needing to share my Pierre Herme millefeuille. It’s because we were on a double millefeuille mission. No two millefeuilles are the same, and we were, after all, in serious patisserie territory.

After Pierre Herme…with #1 millefeuille in hand, we headed a couple of blocks south & turned right into rue de Vaugirard to the tiny shopfront that is Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki. Trained in both Japan and France as a pastry chef, Sadaharu Aoki’s shop might not have the sleekness of Pierre Herme’s, but nonetheless, his display and choice of patisseries is truly special. Again, all the classic French treats are there, but what sets Aoki apart is his Japanese twist on the traditional. For example, his green tea versions of the éclair and French macaron. So, if it was our aim to do a comparison of millefeuille, then I was going to have to select his Matcha green tea millefeuille. A lovely Japanese salesgirl placed my treat in its own little white box (you know the French are serious about their food when they package their patisseries so impeccably). And off we went. To the Luxembourg Gardens with both millefeuilles in hand…to share.

Well, I gotta say, it was hard to pick a winner between the two. The green tea millefeuille had the crispiest, flakiest pastry, layers of smooth green tea-flavoured crème patissiere & an I-could-eat-this-forever caramelised top sprinkled with Matcha green tea powder and icing sugar. Words truly can’t describe the experience….all I remember thinking was that if Pierre Herme didn’t exist, Sadaharu’s millefeuille would make more than a suitable substitute. Maybe substitute is the wrong word; they are different after all. And so in this contest, there were two winners….our tummies. N

Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki
35 rue de Vaugirard
75006 Paris
Metro: St-Placide
Open: Mon-Sat 11am-7pm

Monday, February 06, 2006

.... she should have been doing the accounts!

I think they will put "she should have been doing the accounts" on my tomb stone. Yet again I was distracted from my fiscal responsibilities.... But it was hot... A steamy hot 35 degrees Celsius. The numbers were jumping all around in my head and suddenly I found myself remembering Paris. I am not sure what transported me there, but I was reminiscing about a beautiful necklace I had seen around the neck of an elegant girl (aren't they all elegant in Paris?). The necklace seemed to be made up of circles of fabric and beads. I have so many little scraps of fabric squirreled away and I never seem to know what to do with them. It seemed to be the perfect hot weather project. This is the result... a little bit short in length ...and the colours seem to be a bit kiddy and bright compared to the one in Paris.... it just means I have to try again... after the accounts! T

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Post Prosciutto Snooze

This is Horlicks.... our pup who is about 4 months old. We adopted him as our Christmas present and our lives have changed significantly since he came to our place to make it a happier home. I remember reading an interview with Leunig where he basically says that it takes a dog (maybe it was animals) to humanise humans. It is so true! Having lived in the city now for about four years... we hadn't really met anyone. Now we know so many lovely people thanks to Horlicks!

But I digress from the prosciutto! A couple of days ago it was my birthday (dread, dread) and Nicky took Horlicks & I to Five Dock. It is obviously inhabited by many Italians judging by the fantastic delis, grocers, butchers & pasticcerias that line the streets.

In fact we headed out there for a certain hard to find sfogliatelle (try pronouncing that whilst salivating at the counter) a crispy, crunchy pastry stuffed full with ricotta & orange peel. This is a photo prior to it being demolished.

For $3 it was a bargain and a lovely reminder of the first one I had on the Amalfi coast of Italy ( I have only had 3 in my life).

Afterwards we walked up & down the strip, and Horlicks gobbled up the prosciutto, grapes & crumbs he discovered dropped outside the delis. I think it was a bit of puppy sensory overload because when he got home he went straight to his mat for a long afternoon nap. There is something in the saying "its a dog's life"! T

Oops almost forgot! Here are some addresses of where to discover the yummy pastries, prosciutto & the butcher.

Pasticceria Tamborrino
75 Great North Road
Five Dock NSW 2046
P: (02) 9712 1461
Open: Tues-Sat 6.30am-5pm, Sun 7am-12.30pm

P.R. Raineri Continental Delicatessen
97 Great North Road
Five Dock NSW 2046
P: (02) 9713 6886

Five Dock's Best Meats
87 Great North Road
Five Dock NSW 2046
P: (02) 9713 6953