Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sweet Eats :: Martha's December Fuitcake

Happy New Year!

Nicky & I capped off 2006 with a week at the beach... filled with jam making, beach cricket, fishing and making the final cake of the "Martha Stewart "Year of Cakes" challenge"! I say final, but as we missed last month's installment we will give the November cakes a whirl in Jan.

With only 2 days left to go in our holiday we decided we had better brush off the sand and get off the couch and make some Christmas goodies. The boys put on some DVDs ...and we got out our ingredients.

There were some of the usual suspects, butter, butter & butter! And some more unusual for a fruitcake, like dried pineapple & pears. We also substituted the Armagnac for cognac and a slosh of rum.... as this was a bit more in budget!

The cake was so easy to make... and when it emerged from the oven it was beautifully golden and smelt of warm alcohol & fruit. I am salivating now. It is a great recipe for a quick fruit cake... if you should ever need one! The cake needed to cool... so lucky us, we headed off to the beach, swam and inspected the rock pools. I have never done that before!

Decorating the cake was the best bit! Neither of us have used "plastic" icing before... I usually pick it off wedding cake as it is so sweeeet! But I understand why people like it... it is really easy to use as long as you use a bit of corn starch/flour.

After a close inspection of our cookie cutters we decided against the snow flakes in favour for a more summery Australian Christmas star-capped effect.

To see Martha's version click "here."

And here is ours on holidays with the blue ocean views sparkling away.

Wishing you all sweetness for 2007! T

P.S Martha says the cake last up to 2 days. This is about right as it was juicy, moist and flavourful... but it became dry and the flavour disappeared. So eat it all up as soon as you can!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Gone Fishing...

Truly... we are off up the coast to go fishing and to the beach for a week... we will post when we get back.

Seeya Sweeties! T

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sweet Eats :: There are tarts and there are...

Mince Tarts! I have decided this festive season was the right time to dedicate my body to research.... into Mince Tarts. Every time I pop into David Jones I have come away with a different example or two examples of this Christmas Treat. Although there is a possibility I have gone a bit over board as my boy last night said he didn't want a mince tart every night... "I am more of a banana split kind've guy"! Here are my findings!

Simmone Logue...

For me this is the winner. Crispy & crunchy pastry. Just a small morsel... nothing over powering! And the mince was moist and had a lovely orange zestiness! It was fresh out of the oven... so I think it was at an advantage to the rest... and Simmone Logue made my 6 wedding cakes, so maybe I was a bit biased!

Patchetts & Manna from Heaven...

The Patchetts mince tart really caught my greedy eye. It was deep and substantial looking. The taste didn't live up to my expectations... the mince was too wet. My boy couldn't even eat half... as the taste was a bit more challenging for the mince tart beginner!

Manna from Heaven. I could eat more of these... nice pastry and a firm, slightly dryish mince. The most shallow tart of the lot. Imagine being called a "shallow tart"!

David Jones...

This is the department store's own tart (I think). It was the most traditional of the tarts. The pastry was most like short bread and the mince had a very rich flavour of currants & spice. This was pleasantly balanced by the lashings of icing sugar! I think it comes a close third to Manna's.

I find mince tarts just seem to split the population into those who love them and those who hate them. I am obviously in the "love them" catergory! Hmmm... what should be next puddings? Ginger bread? I know a full belly is in my future! T

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sweet Musings :: Tagged!

Well, there's a first for everything and so it goes that I've been tagged for the first time by the lovely Soo. Thanks for thinking of me! So here goes:

Four jobs I've had:
1. Sales assistant in a jewellery shop
2. Customer service officer in life insurance
3. Manager in project management training co.
4. Working in fashion (current)

Four movies I could watch over and over:
1. Amelie - love the story, the nostalgia, the music...oh & being set in Paris helps!
2. The Bourne Identity - European locales, action-packed, Matt Damon...what more could you want??
3. Lost in Translation - love the quirky factor
4. The Wedding Singer - the 80's music & it's just plain funny

Four places I've lived:
Ummm....Sydney, Sydney, Sydney & Sydney! Ok, so I've travelled to far more places than I've lived. I lived at my aunt & uncle's in Buckinghamshire (UK) on & off for 6 months while backpacking...does that count?

Four TV shows I love:
1. Desperate Housewives
2. Grey's Anatomy
3. Any cooking shows...recent ones include Rick Stein's French Odyssey & The Food Lover's Guide to Australia
4. Any travel shows...Getaway, Pilot Guides

Four places I've been on vacation:
1. Bernese Oberland, Switzerland - this region really IS Switzerland - amazing!
2. Santorini, Greece - whitewashed houses & blue domes...this place was EXACTLY like a postcard
3. New Zealand - driving holiday on my honeymoon, so scenic.
4. Provence - loved the Mediterranean feel & the food, food, food!!

Four websites I visit daily:
1. Yahoo mail
2. Sydney Morning Herald
3. Bureau of Meteorology (for some reason, I always need to know the weather in advance!)
4. Various blogs

Four favourite foods:
1. Cheese - anything & everything!
2. Summer fruits - esp. cherries, lychees, white peaches & nectarines
3. Cured meats - proscuitto, pancetta, Spanish jamon - could eat this by the bucketload!
4. Seafood - esp. prawns, mud crab & lobster

Four places I would rather be:
1. Having a little lie-down on the couch.
2. In the kitchen doing some Christmas baking
3. Lying on a beach with a book (ok, that will actually happen next week - yay!)
4. Somewhere in the northern hemisphere having a white Christmas.

Okey-dokey...I think that's enough information for you to digest & a brain-squeeze on my part! N

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sweet Inspiration: The bug bit!

The Christmas beetle that is!

These felt decorations make me smile. The soft colours... strung on brown string... are one of my favourite things about this season. They are of course from the lovelyAfternoon Tea(I do shop and eat else where, I swear!).... and as of today are strung on out tree.

Donna Hay's Christmas magazine inspired this "Noel" on my coffee table. And I am trying to resist the temptation to paint them a ruby red. They will be seen hanging about on our market store to help create that holiday vibe. I like them so much that after Christmas I may want to spell something else out! T

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sweet Eats :: A merry cherry Christmas

Cherries.....mmmm. The only fruit I think I could eat til I turned into one! Nothing quite says Christmas to me like these sweet little ruby jewels. And they're in abundance this year thanks to a bumper crop. The farmers are happy and I am happy, cos I get to gorge on them practically every day! It's all part of getting into the festive spirit!

Normally I feel like cherries are too sweet and precious to do anything other than eat them as they are. They seemed so messy and time-consuming to manually pit them to turn them into a dessert! But this year I've had a change of heart, which saw me churn out an easy-peasy French dessert on the weekend....cherry clafoutis. It's basically a classic batter pudding made with eggs, flour, milk & sometimes cream. Traditionally you don't pit the cherries as the pips add an almondy flavour during cooking. But I didn't want any broken molars for Christmas, so this is my low-fat version without cream, but with pitted cherries and the addition of blueberries, another summery favourite. It turned out to be a yummy combination:

And to more festive baking...I also made a Christmas cake from Nigella's "How to be a Domestic Goddess". I did a bit of substitution, macerating the fruit in marsala not brandy and used dried cherries instead of glace ones (cos I don't really like those). Sorry, I can't tell you what it tastes like as it needs to "mature" for at least 3 weeks, but I can tell you it smelt rich and fruity and it's pretty dense...over 2kg!! Here's a quick peek just before it got wrapped up for hibernation:

Ok, it's morning tea time now...think that means it's cherry time! Well, they seem to disappear off the market soon after Christmas, so I have to make the most of it! N

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Sweet Inspiration: Herve Morvan

These postcards were found in a charming shop in Jiyugaoka, Tokyo. The fresh colours and simple illustration drew me in from the other side of the cluttered store... past the vintage cook books, aprons and cookware! They were created by the French artist Herve Moran. I haven't really heard of him before and a google search doesn't really supply much info in English.

Wouldn't have been lovely to have a children's book illustrated by him? But from what I can gather, I think he illustrated mainly for advertisements.

I have never found these post cards in Paris... and I think this reflects the Japanese. They have created their own version of France which is so dreamy and sweet... all that is whimsical and beautiful is celebrated in galleries, fabrics and patisseries! The gritty streets and dog poop of Paris is no where to be seen! I actually read that there is a condition called the Paris Syndrome where Japanese visitors become so upset at discovering that the real Paris is not as they thought it would be!

The whole day in Jiyugaoka was filled with sweet little treats... from these lovelies to lunch at a high end Parisian patisserie, Dalloyau. This little suburb is known for its hidden Zakka stores... secreted away in little laneways and between apartment blocks. A fantastic discovery journey and great way to spend the day away from the bright lights, crowds and department stores of Tokyo. T


It is hard to find Jiyugaoka on the regular transit map... it is on the Hibiya line not far from Roppongi.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Sweet & Soft :: Killing me Softie

So you thought we disappeared... well here is our list of excuses for being such pathetic bloggers!

1. Sofites: These little critters have taken over our lives. I farwelled the last box-ful on Monday and did not shed a tear! The Brady bunch collection above is just a small sample of the guys heading off to little boutiques. Although we are grateful for the business... I am so over them! And I have 20 to complete today for our markets tomorrow... Only 3 and a bit weeks to Christmas!

2. U2 concert: Bono was my high school sweetheart. He just doesn't know it.

The big show finally rolled into Sydney. Us and the rest of the middle aged rockers were jumping around and screaming like it was 1998. Sang my heart out, screamed my lungs out, bought the T-shirt... was exhausted for 3 whole days. Thus no blogging.

3. Beachie break: Nicky is having a week off a month at the moment... disappearing to lovely beachie locations with family. Lucky for me this month I get to go along. Only 15 days til we head up the coast to enjoy the surf & yummy seafood.

4. How hot is it!!!???: Summer has well and truly come to Sydney.... 38 degrees Celsius which I think is about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The only action I could manage was to reach into the freezer for an icy pole!

5. Interstate & International friends: Both of us have been enjoying a bit of catch up time with folk who have come in from out of town. There is nothing so nice as seeing old friends... the time just seemed to fly.

Okay... I am sure we will be good from now on as it is December and everything! The tree will go up today! And lots of baking & crafty things have to happen. T

P.S Martha Stewart Challenge. We have failed! There was no way to find the 8 hours to make the November cakes. I think we are talking about making them in Jan 2007. What a bummer.