1. It’s valentines day this week so instead of talking about the nauseating heart shaped cheesecake I could make, I’m going to completely shun the subject by introducing you to the perfect meal. Perfect everyday of the week.

     

    In a word: luscious. That pretty much sums it up. So decadent I feel as though someone else should feed it to me as I recline on a gold piped chaise lounge. Honestly. I was trying to figure out what to say at the beginning of this recipe (which is actually a few recipes in one) but there is just too much to cover. The hot cakes alone will send you both into a state reverence and guilt. Go confess your foodie sins and then come back and eat some more.

     

    It isn’t often I’m speechless – so take this as a sign.  A very very good sign.

     

    Egg free pancakes are made light and fluffy here with the addition of flaxseeds for binding and banana for moisture and rise. These banana oat pancakes are served canadian style with maple syrup and free range bacon.

     

    Sweet Potato Hotcakes with Cashew Cream, Maple Bananas and Coconut Bacon

     

    Serves 2

     

    Sweet Potato Hot Cakes

     

    (adapted from one of my favourite ladies, jessicacox.com.au)

     

    1 cup steamed sweet potato, mashed

    2 tablespoons grape seed oil

    1 tablespoon lemon juice

    1 teaspoon maple syrup

    2 tablespoons freshly ground flaxseeds and 6 tablespoons water

    1 cup ground oats

    1/2 teaspoon baking soda

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

     

    Maple glazed bananas

     

    1 banana, sliced lengthways in half

    1 teaspoon maple syrup

     

    Vanilla Cashew Cream

     

    1 cup raw cashew nuts

    1/4 cup water, depending on the consistency you like

    1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

     

    Coconut Bacon

    Please see coconut bacon post.

    In a small bowl combine the flaxseed meal and water and allow to sit for 10 minutes until the meal begins to absorb the water. In the meantime mix together the sweet potato, grape seed oil, lemon juice and maple syrup.

     

    In a separate bowl, whisk together the ground oats or oat bran, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Add the flaxseed mix and stir till just combined. Allow the batter to sit for 5 minutes or so. After this time you can add more liquid if you feel it is necessary.

     

    Meanwhile, place all of your cashew cream ingredients in a high speed blender and blitz till smooth and creamy. Add extra water if necessary.

     

    After your batter has sat for 5 minutes, heat a frying pan to a medium heat and add a small amount of grape seed oil. Add small ladle full’s of batter to the pan – approximately 3 tablespoons worth. Let the hot cakes cook for about 2-3 minutes until bubbles begin to form, then flip over.

     

    When nearing the end of your batter, prepare the maple bananas. In a separate smaller pan, place the banana and maple syrup and cook on a moderate heat until brown and bubbling.

     

    Once the pancakes are cooked through remove from the pan and keep warm till ready to serve.

     

    Top with the maple bananas, cashew cream and a sprinkle of Coconut Bacon.

     
  2. Gather round and let Aunty Lisa tell you a tale. Once upon a time I had the grand idea to start a cupcakery. Not just any old cupcakery, but rather, an institution. A magical place where cakes were packaged fancily in jars, shirtless Chippendale dancers were servers and judgment was non existent. You want seconds? go for it. 

    ..I was also happy to settle for the men from thunder down under. I really wasn’t fussy on the details.

    I planned, baked and practiced the oddly difficult art of frosting every moment I had free.

    Then a little thing called cake pops happened and I realised my dream was merely a fad - kind of like flared jeans. Who needed that much fabric around their ankles? It dawned on me, who wants to eat cake in a paper wrapper (or jar) when you can eat one on a stick. Imagine the possibilities. The daily activities you could conquer whilst eating cake.. on a damn stick. Some people are born into the role of marketing.

    Unfortunately within this time however, I over zealously bought jars.

    Wholesale jars.

    I don’t think anyone understood how exciting this phrase was to me. It also explains the 200 tiny mason cuties stashed above my fridge.

    They are now used at every possible opportunity. One day I will be at peace knowing that I have used them enough to substantiate the purchase. That, and partly due to the fact that I’m a flannel-wearing-wannabe-hipster.

    ..still searching for a cat with perfectly ironic facial markings.

    Certain things frequent the jars. Chia puddings being one such recipe because sometimes I’m lazy and lazy people can handle Chia puddings. I also feel as though it is a right of passage for health food bloggers to share their version of a Chia pudding at some stage. I’ve seen chocolate, fruit varieties and even an oddly unique savoury delight. I like to keep it simple though. About as much as I like chai lattes. Also relative to the resentment I hold at paying $5.90 for one at my local café – but that’s beside the point. Chia is so well known now, that I don’t really need to drone on about the health benefits. Just think; omega-3, fibre, protein, calcium, manganese, phosphorous and tryptophan. So much promise for such a little seed.

    Nifty piece of trivia – Chia seeds are part of the mint family. Go figure.

    Keep stored in the fridge for up to 4 days. Eat and repeat. This recipe serves 4, or rather, makes 4 servings that can be kept and eaten for breakfast each day.

     

    2 whole black peppercorns

    3 green cardamom pods, gently smashed with side of knife

    3 whole cloves

    2 cinnamon sticks

    3 cm fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thinly 

    1 vanilla bean, scraped and seeds reserved

    1 tablespoon black tea (one teabag, torn open)

    2 cups soy milk (or dairy free milk of choice)

    1 tablespoon honey

    ½ cup chia seeds

    Combine peppercorns, smashed cardamom pods, cloves, ginger, vanilla bean and seeds, cinnamon stick and honey with the soy milk in a small pot. Bring to a very gentle simmer for five minutes (I cannot stress the word gentle enough – soy milk splits when exposed to high or rapid heat – you have been warned, but if you’re worried stick to almond milk). After five minutes, take off the stove, add tea and allow to steep, covered for 10 minutes.

    Pour through a fine mesh sieve to remove all of the bit and pieces – biting into whole cloves isn’t fun. Add the chia seeds to the chai liquid before dividing into four small jars.

    Place in the fridge to set overnight. 

    Top with extra cinnamon and raspberries if you like.

    * Yes, you can make the chai latte from ground spices too – no judgment.

     
  3. Leave the Iced Vovo’s in their packet and make your friends a bloody batch of Lamington cupcakes. 

     

    Happy Australia Day!

    Batter
     

    6 free range eggs

    1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

    2 tablespoons raw honey

    1/4 cup cold pressed coconut oil
    1/2 cup coconut flour

    2 teaspoons gluten free baking powder

    1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

     

    Ganache

    1/4 cup honey

    2 ripe avocadoes

    1 large ripe banana

    1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

    1/3 cup raw cacao powder

    1 tsp strong instant coffee, dissolved in 20ml boiled water or 30ml espresso shot (optional)

    1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

    Pinch of sea salt

     

    ­­­­­­­­­­­­­

    Preheat your oven to 160 C

    Whip the eggs, vanilla and honey until light and creamy.

    Slowly add the macadamia nut oil to the egg mixture while still whipping.

    Add the coconut flour, shredded coconut and baking powder and mix till combined.

    Pour or spoon lamington cake mix into 12 lined cupcake tins.

    Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden and cooked through.

    Cool for a further 10 minutes before lifting out from the tin to completely cool.

     

    Meanwhile make the chocolate ganache:

     

    Combine all the ingredients in a good powerful high speed blender. Add the avocado, followed by the honey, vanilla, coffee and cocoa.

    Pulse for 30 seconds or so until smooth and creamy. Add the coconut and blitz once more till combined.

    Add a splash of coconut water if you would like a lighter frosting.

    Spoon into a bowl and allow to set in the fridge.

     

    When cupcakes are completely cooled, smooth about a tablespoon onto each individual cake. Return to fridge to allow frosting to firm up slightly.

     

     
  4. I would like to make a formal announcement.

    “spoonfulofpixels shall henceforth be known as ‘..the day I was bestowed the Southern Vegetarian Bible’”

    Few pieces of flour and fat laden literature have come close to even making such an impressive list, but I just can’t deal with this book. Everything. The Americana. The faux meaty glory. I want to wrap myself up and live in it’s pages. Perhaps roll around naked in a few of the recipes.

    I meticulously flicked through it a dozen times before deciding on the dish. The one recipe sumptuous enough to lay the cornerstone for the repast that was sure to follow. I did not hesitate for a moment late Sunday night when the battle was won by the incredibly easy vegan bacon (emphasis on implausibly delicious). One week later and my kitchen still smells like Texas.

    Not a smokehouse. Just Texas in general.

    ..maybe just Fort Worth if we’re being specific.

    I don’t know whether it comes from my not so secret desire to eat bacon all the time or the fact that everyone secretly loves these, but I want to put my foot down when it comes to bacon wrapped dates – or rather, these Smoked dates with goats cheese and coconut bacon. They’re a goddamn dream come true.

    Vegetarian bacon that doesn’t taste like cardboard? It finally exists.

    (as do Unicorns)

    To be completely honest, rarely do I delve into the world of fake meat. It’s not that I don’t like it or haven’t tried on desperate occasion. Hell I make a faux lasagne that would turn most die hard BBQ’ing Aussie blokes. There is just something off putting though about soy protein shaped into riblets. If you’re like me however, and will get up on a Saturday morning just to smell the neighbours bacon, then hopefully these bite-sized slivers of gold will do it for you.

    No longer should these ridiculously named Devils on Horseback be segregated to pot lucks and your Aunt Esmeralda’s Tupperware parties.  They deserve a place in the current decade, because quite frankly – salty bacon, sweet Smokey dates and sharp cheese is a kickass combination.

    I’d invite them to my party.


    * Thank you to Alex, for not only acknowledging but feeding my inner patchouli burger eating Southern Belle.

     

     

    Smoked Coconut Bacon

    (makes 3 1/2 cups)

     

    3 1/2 cups coconut flakes

    2 tablespoons maple syrup

    2 tablespoons soy sauce

    1 teaspoon black pepper

    1 tablespoon vegetarian Worcestershire

    1 tablespoon sesame oil

    1 tablespoon liquid smoke (as an alternative to smoking, instructions below)

     

    Smoke the coconut flakes for four minutes using grill-top method. It’s long enough – this ain’t no pulled pork.

     

    Preheat your oven to 180 degrees c. Place the smoked coconut into a large mixing bowl and add the maple syrup, soy sauce, pepper, worcestershire, and sesame oil. (Only add the liquid smoke if you didn’t smoke the coconut. This is just an option for people without access to a smoker – but it honestly works just as well). Toss to coat. Spread the dressed coconut into a single thin layer on a parchment-lined sheet pan or two smaller pans. Cook coconut for ten minutes, stir it around and spread it back out on the sheet pan, and cook it another five minutes or until coconut is nice and dark brown – not black. Don’t be like me. Don’t go for the extra crispy look.

     

     

    Smoked Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Coconut Bacon

     

    (serves 4-6 as an appetizer)

     

    12 whole Medjool dates (smoked, method follows) **

    55 grams soft goat cheese

    1/2 cup smoked coconut bacon

    Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

    2 tablespoons chopped chives (to garnish)

     

    Using a sharp pairing knife, split each date lengthwise much the same as you would an avocado. Remove the pit and discard it. Next, scoop 1/4 teaspoon of the goat cheese and insert into the cavity of each date half. Add a few pieces of bacon to each before garnishing with salt, pepper, and chopped chives.

     

    Smoking Method (** alternatively, apply a few drops of hickory liquid smoke to each date, available at specialty deli’s or online)

    1. Soak a handful of hickory wood chips and two handfuls of applewood chips in water for about 20 minutes (for a less intense smoke flavor, go with all-fruit wood like apple or cherry.)

    2. Drain chips and set them in the bottom of your smoker pan. Turn your grill on high. Place the smoker pan directly over the flame of your outdoor gas grill (the side burner works best for this) and leave it alone. After 8 minutes, you will notice a lot of smoke coming from the chips; perfect!

    3. Lay mushrooms, dates, tomatoes, garlic or anything else you want to taste smoky in a single layer in the smoker basket and place over the smoking wood chips.

    4. Cover with a tight-fitting lid. Wait five minutes. It doesn’t take long for vegetables and grit to soak up that smoke flavor. Remove whatever you just smoked from the basket and allow it all to cool. Keep items in an airtight container for up to a week.


    Both recipes adapted from The Southern Vegetarian

     

     
  5. Decadence is in the air ..and it smells like waffles.

    (topped with maple butter pecan ice cream)

     

    I have a love-hate relationship with these mysterious creatures.

     

    1. I love that good waffles are like crunchy pillows of maple syrup holding goodness.

    2. I hate what good waffles do to my ass. I think commercial brands contain magic growth potion. All. That. Booty.

    3. I love the wholesome experience of making waffles from scratch. It’s usually accompanied by happy family members questioning what they would do on Saturday mornings without you. It’s nice to feel loved.

    4. I hate eating waffles alone at 3am in the booth of an empty diner.  Especially when the teen mom waitress (with facial tattoos and a bad weave) is taking pity on you.

    5.  I hate what waffles do to my ass.

    (Did I already mention that?)

    So with that in mind, making wah-ffles from scratch is the only way to go. But there does seem to be a small hump to get over. Waffles made from scratch rarely taste as good as those delicious 3am diner versions.

    (it has nothing to do with the post inebriation munchies, I swear)

    They’re either too dry.. too eggy or they stick to your insides like white on rice. Why can’t we just get the damn things right.

     

    Lucky for you, I happen to have obsessed with them after living in the USA, deciding to put life on hold till I came up with the perfect version. Perfect, implying, better than the originals because they’re refined sugar free, high in fiber and good heart healthy fat.

    Bye bye booty.

    This method works every time, but you must do exactly as I say otherwise everything in your life will spiral into a series of mishaps, lost opportunities and spilt milk. Seriously? Everything. Right down to wearing socially unacceptable yoga pants and creating what looks like a nest of hair on your head. We want to prevent waffles filled with hair.

     

    Good?

     

    Okay.

     

    In addition, a wise man once said , pancakes are for stacking – not waffles. Today I learnt the reality within that statement.

     

    It was as though the Berlin wall came crashing down – taking with it my soul, my non existent ginger soul.

    One does not simply stack waffles. It doesn’t work. Not stout little waffles like these anyway. These are not your flat-pack-ikea-box American waffles.

    So go forth minions, make waffles – make them into resplendent architectural masterpieces. Just don’t stack them.

    Take my advice.. (whilst wearing your worst pair of yoga pants).

    Spelt Waffles

     

    ½ (60g) cup spelt flour

    1/4 tsp salt

    1/4 tsp baking soda

    1 tsp baking powder

    1/2 tsp pure liquid stevia extract (or 2 tbs maple syrup)

    1 tbsp unsweetened almond milk

    1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp applesauce

    2 tsp macadamia oil *

    1 tsp pure vanilla bean extract/paste

    Combine dry ingredients – flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a mixing bowl, and stir well. In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Grease a waffle iron evenly with oil spray.

    Preheat according to your machines instructions. Pour wet ingredients into dry, and whisk again until evenly combined and lump free.

    When the iron is hot, pour half of the batter into the center of the iron, and close the lid. Most machines have a light that goes out when the waffle is done. Do not be impatient, do not lift the lid before the waffle is done cooking. Unless you’re aiming for doughy pancakes.

     

    * to make a fat free version, replace the macadamia oil with 2 more tablespoons of apple sauce.

     

     

     

    Serve with maple butter pecan ice cream (as pictured, recipe below):

     

    3 large ripe frozen bananas
    1/2 cup raw almond butter

    1/4 - 1/2 cup pure maple syrup, to taste

    1/4 cup tahini

    1 teaspoon cinnamon

    1 tsp vanilla bean extract

    1 cup pecans, chopped

     

    Place all ingredients, except for the pecans, in food processor and blitz, scraping down the sides as necessary until smooth and fully combined. Stir in pecans. Transfer to an airtight container and place in the freezer to harden for 2 hours. Remove after this time to mix, by hand or in the bowl of a mixer using the paddle attachment.  This will eliminate any ice particles, to ensure the creamiest possible texture. Return to freezer. Makes approximately 4 cups.


    Alternatively, serve with mashed berries and Greek yogurt swirled with a little vanilla essence.

     
  6. I must start this weeks post with a serious segue. Is it possible to ‘start with a segue’. Would someone like to clarify that?

    (although more to the point, a serious segue? From me? laughable)

     

    I was at dinner the other night with a friend – his choice. Pizza.

    Great, I thought. You see, I’ve had a hankering for Greek salad of late and well, what authentic Italian pizza place doesn’t have a Greek salad on the menu. That would just be sacrilegious.

    He ordered the triple-bypass-inducing-bacon-and-a-whole-bovine pizza, although I think it was actually called the Al Pacino. Not only did this lead me to question the authenticity of the restaurant, but so to, my friends heart health.

    Our meals came out and all in all it was a fabulous evening, even if I did whisper slightly too loudly that our waiters moustache looked a little more toupée than connoisseur.

    I’m pretty sure he did unsavoury things to my salad after that.

    I have to say that I was left in a slight state of disbelief though when our meals arrived. My nutritionally balanced dinner – my bowl of crunchy rainbow goodness, was frowned upon. Why? because there was no pizza or pasta on my side of the table. Snide comments roll right off this little vegetarian ducklings back, but it does leads me to ask though – why is it that we judge? Why do we force our opinions upon others. I am always very aware that while I choose to live and eat a certain way, others do not. End of story. In a day of conjectured opinions, especially where food is concerned, one should not be surprised. The media started a fascination with fat shaming. When that became old hat, we moved onto skinny shaming and well now, health shaming it would seem. I don’t know what that leaves left?

    (..eating in the darkness of your kitchen, lit only by the ambient light from your fridge. Yes. Unhealthy).

     

    Regardless of whether you love pizza, pasta, both or even that curry from the little Indian place down the road, you don’t need to justify whom or what you love as long as you’re content. Sometimes, I have intimate feelings towards peanut butter cookie dough and coconut scented body lotion, maybe even borderline pornographic dreams about bathing in one while eating the other. I feel no shame and I am certainly not sorry about it.

    We should respect peoples choices, respect our own right to have choices and eat the damn cake (..or salad) if we want to.

     

    So what did I do with this growing vexation? I decided to challenge him. I mean, he doesn’t know it. His toupée-moustache certainly doesn’t know it, but I know it and I’m determined to win. He’ll never find out, but I’m sure he would be impressed by my precocious disposition.

    So, to the waiter who judged me – I present to you, my salad in disguise.  This is a favourite. Nutritious. Customisable. Low carb for those who are still suffering from the Christmas over indulgence (I personally think this lasts into February – so you still have time!). The cauliflower creates a mildly sweet base with a texture that is both delicate and robust at the same time. Don’t take my word for it though – skip the Friday night takeout and be like Julia Roberts in Eat. Pray. Love. Put on some music, pop open some wine and plonk yourself down on the floor to eat. Look longingly at your creation whilst savouring every mouthful. I hear it’s good for the soul. And digestion.

    (flawlessly tousled hair and perfectly lit apartment are optional)

    This is how it should be. Simple. Those pins and needles in your feet? Yeah – ignore those. It’s part of the cleansing process. Negativity be gone.

     

    I grit my teeth at the self diagnosing-gluten-intolerant-pescetarian-who-eats-chicken just as much as the next person. Perhaps though, this is my way of standing up to those bullies who told me I would never make it as a vegetarian.

    Me? Bitter? Never.


    I will end on a positive note however by saying, love everyone equally and don’t judge. Eat a cheeseburger. I may not agree but I accept your choices.

    (unless you’re judging poorly displaced facial hair on a grouchy Italian waiter, then by all means, blog about it)

     

    Basil and Fetta Pesto Pizza with Sundried Tomatoes and Caramalised Fig


    Cauliflower Crust

     

    700g Cauliflower florets (approx 1 med cauliflower)
    4 tablespoons almond meal

    2 free range eggs

    Preheat oven to 200C. Place a 30cm round pizza dish or pizza stone in oven to heat up. Wash and shake dry the cauliflower florets and process them in a food processor until your have what resembles fine rice. Transfer to a steamer and steam for 5 minutes (alternatively, microwave uncovered for 5 minutes).

    Once cooled, place the cooked cauliflower onto a clean tea towel or cheesecloth. Gather each corner and twist into a bon bon. Squeeze as much moisture out as you can. Once you think you’ve squeezed out all the water, squeeze some more. This step is important as it is what creates a dough like texture.

     

    Transfer this newly dry mixture into a clean bowl. Add the eggs and the almond meal mix with your hands, as you would any other dough. Shape the cauliflower mixture into a large ball and gently flatten out onto the a piece of parchment paper. There is nothing to make this dough rise, so you may want to form a slight rise to emulate a crust. Carefully remove pizza stone/dish from the oven and gently slide your parchment paper and crust on top. Bake for 18 minutes or until slightly golden.

     

    In the meantime, you can prepare your toppings. I used my homemade pesto as a base (recipe below), beautiful goats cheese fetta, sun dried tomatoes and figs. Arrange your toppings and bake for a further 10 minutes or so until they are golden and bubbling.

     

    Basil, Spinach and Cashew Pesto

     

    1 large bunch basil

    Small handful baby spinach

    1 cup roasted cashews

    1 clove garlic

    2 tablespoons lemon juice

    4 tablespoons your choice cold pressed olive oil

    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

    1/2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste

    Combine all the ingredients into a food processor until a bright green paste is formed. In theory it will keep for up to 1 week in the fridge, but I cannot say as it never lasts this long.

     
  7. What better way to spend New Years Eve than with a brief sojourn down a rabbit hole?


    Wonder how many times that sentence has been said.


    We have some lovely friends who are constantly throwing beautiful dinner parties and well, quite frankly, the food blogger here wasn’t keeping up her end of the bargain. So what better way to impress them than with a Heston Blumenthal style feast. I haven’t cooked any of his dishes before, because lets be real, he likes the meat, butter and kitchen weaponry – but I thought, what the hell. His book has been sitting in my kitchen for over a year (not collecting dust) how hard could it be.  Surely I’ve been subconsciously digesting his wealth of knowledge over this time.



    Our guests were presented with little bottles of potion on arrival.  Potent. Formidable. Delicious. All equally appropriate descriptions. They were a blend of vodka, peach schnapps, vanilla bean, dry vermouth, hibiscus syrup and pomegranate. Given, luckily, in small quantity because I was feeling particularly heavy handed with the booze.



    Guests were escorted to the formal lounge area where they nibbled on parcels of smoked camembert wrapped in puff pastry. Lesson number 1 – don’t take the parcels out of the freezer too early. When it comes time to pop them in the oven they will turn into balls of molten cheese lava.  Fondu balls perhaps. I like it. I could patent this idea. But I digress, this gave me time to act like Heston’s many lab coat wearing assistants - running around spooning minuscule pieces of cucumber and quenelles of mustard ice cream into tea cups before guests were seated for the real theatrics.


    We started with Mr Blumenthal’s Red Cabbage Gazpacho and Pommery seed mustard ice cream. This was one of the less involved recipes in the at home book. I will however say, that a cabbage is not made to be juiced – or my juicer is not made to juice cabbage – either or. This was the only source of grief with the dish. Surprisingly? It was the hit of the evening. The taste is both fresh and acidic. Complimented beautifully by the velvety mustard ice cream and crunchy cucumber. The ice cream I would quite happily eat on it’s own (it doesn’t taste unlike salt and vinegar chips), but the gazpacho is best left within the realms of this combination.


    There were two main meal options, one for the carnivores and then a vegetarian one for myself and another non meat eater. Latticed pies encasing ‘fowl, sow and summer fruit’ were plated with a bocconcini, sun dried tomato, cashew and spinach salad. This was based loosely on the chicken and ham pie. Similar process but, well, fruitier. The rabbits at the table enjoyed spinach and fetta filo pastries. Equally as tasty. Quite frankly us vegetarians have more fun. Is that the saying? It should be. I’m sticking with it.


    Dessert was the biggest question mark for me. Idea after idea rolled in and I found myself trying to combine them all. It was at this point that I realised, no one seems to eat as much dessert as me.


    * (uncertified) Scientific fact: you have a savoury stomach and a sweet one. So technically, when you are stuffed to breaking point, you should be able to switch over perfectly into ravenous sweet eating mode.


    After playing around with the idea of the flower pot tiramisu and popping candy chocolate cake I decided on my original idea of eggs and soldiers. I thought this was a quaint way to cap off the evening, given that theatre and a sprinkling of magic are necessary on such occasions.


    Herein lies lesson number 2: Who knew an egg had so many removable membranes? Each leading you closer to certain cracking. Follow through with this idea I thought. Cleaning and sterilizing eggshells will be easy I thought.  


    An hour later and my language would have had you thinking otherwise.


    Luckily my fingers are small and I only broke 2 out of 10.  I am glad I followed through with them though. Each little egg held just enough panna cotta and apricot jelly. Perfectly accompanied by bruleed brioche French toast soldiers. It’s a little kitschy but who doesn’t like that every now and then? I know Heston Does.


    ..and Heston’s the man.

    The evening finished with guests pulling away strands of Lady Ascots hair of the dog (rosewater Persian fairy floss) from the tarnished pot on the table. Final lesson: there is a reason noone hosts and photographs a dinner party. This is why there is no evidence of a main meal. All in all though, a wonderfully weird evening.



    (A big thank you to my lovely guests for for trusting in my atypical menu. Thank you to my Alice, for helping with prep and for telling me to ‘go to bed’ at 1 am when I was yelling profanities at the food processor. Lastly, my gorgeous friend Pamela for entrusting her vintage tableware to me.)

     
  8. Lessons learnt this year at Christmas.

    1. The croquembouche is not a one man job.
    2. The croquembouche is definitely not a one man job on Christmas morning.
    3. The croquembouche is not a one man job on Christmas morning when there are children and pets in the kitchen. Toffee is hot.
    4. There is no possible way to pass off burnt toffee as edible. Don’t even try.
    5. Make extra choux pastry. You will burn your toffee and try to pass it off as edible. You will realise this and weep for your destroyed profiteroles.
    6. You will get over this fact and triumphantly finish your (slightly incomplete) tower of death with a single ball of burnt toffee. It’s passable. Be happy.
    7. Look at the crepe cake you made and realise this was far more successful.

     
  9. There is nothing about these deliciously delectable cookies that isn’t delightful. Or delicious. Or delectable. Or delightful. But before you make them, I need to make sure you understand one thing:

     

    Milk. Almond, soy, rice, hell.. even cow. Whatever floats your boat. But you need to pour yourself a nice cold glass. It completes the whole experience. It would be like having Christmas pudding without bourbon. Blasphemous.

     

    In my opinion these are a festive recipe. Cranberries are Christmassy right? This isn’t to say that you should limit yourself to making them in December. Switch it up. This recipe is super customisable. The macadamias and cranberries can be substituted for any fillings you like – except m&ms. That defeats the purpose.

     

    ..why not throw in some cacao nibs and pink sea salt? Because you’re fancy.


    Macadamia and cranberry (Christmas) cookies

     

    1 1/2 cups (150g) almond meal

    3 tablespoons (40g) macadamia nut oil

    2 tablespoons (40g) honey

    1  teaspoon vanilla bean paste

    50 g  macadamia nuts, roughly chopped

    25g, dried unsweetened cranberries, roughly chopped

    Pinch of sea salt

     

    Combine the almond meal, macadamia nut oil, honey, vanilla and salt in a bowl until you form a dough. Add a small splash of water if it appears a little dry.

    Add macadamias and cranberries, mixing till evenly distributed.

     

    Using a spoon, form 12 cookies. Press lightly onto your tray lined with a sheet of baking paper.

     

    Bake on 140C oven for 20 – 30 minutes until golden.

     

    Cool completely before sitting on your kitchen floor and eating them all. No Judgment.

     
  10. The day I fell in love with New York was the day I visited Lady M Confections at The Plaza. It felt oh so, Carrie Bradshaw.

    (despite the 50kg worth of camera gear, sweat and unfashionable shoes)

    I needed to recreate it. The paper-thin crepes, the unbelievably silky pastry cream and the perfectly bruleed top? It needed to happen.

     

    Needed.

     

    Since they won’t ship to Australia, I’m just going to have to make them for all special occasions (..and Wednesdays).

     

    Definitely a mid week cake.

     

    And with that. Here; the glorious cake that stopped a nation.

    Did it? I don’t know. Sounds like a legitimate fact to me.

     

    Serves 10.

     

    Crepe batter:
     

    6 tablespoons butter

    3 cups milk

    6 eggs

    1 1/2 cups flour

    7 tablespoons sugar

    Pinch salt

     

    Raspberry pastry cream:

    2 cups milk

    1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped

    6 egg yolks

    1/2 cup sugar

    1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted

    3 1/2 tablespoons butter
    1 cup frozen raspberries, blitzed in food processor

     

    For assembly:

    Corn oil

    2 cups heavy cream

    1 tablespoon sugar or more

    3 tablespoons Kirsch

    Confectioners’ sugar.

     

    1. The day before, make the crepe batter and the pastry cream. Batter: In a small pan, cook the butter until brown like hazelnuts. Set aside. In another small pan, heat the milk until steaming; allow to cool for 10 minutes. In a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the eggs, flour, sugar and salt. Slowly add the hot milk and browned butter. Pour into a container with a spout, cover and refrigerate overnight.

     

    2. Pastry cream: Bring the milk with the vanilla bean (and scrapings) to a boil, then set aside for 10 minutes; remove bean. Fill a large bowl with ice and set aside a small bowl that can hold the finished pastry cream and be placed in this ice bath.

     

    3. In a medium heavy-bottomed pan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. Gradually whisk in the hot milk, then place pan over high heat and bring to a boil, whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes. Press the pastry cream through a fine-meshed sieve into the small bowl. Set the bowl in the ice bath and stir until the temperature reaches 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Stir in the butter. Fold through raspberries. When completely cool, cover and refrigerate.

     

    4. Assemble the cake the next day: Bring the batter to room temperature. Place a nonstick or seasoned 9-inch crepe pan over medium heat. Swab the surface with the oil, then add about 3 tablespoons batter and swirl to cover the surface. Cook until the bottom just begins to brown, about 1 minute, then carefully lift an edge and flip the crepe with your fingers. Cook on the other side for no longer than 5 seconds. Flip the crepe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Repeat until you have 20 perfect crepes.

     

    5. Whip the heavy cream with the tablespoon sugar and the Kirsch. It won’t hold peaks. Fold it into the pastry cream.

     

    6. Lay 1 crepe on a cake plate. Using an icing spatula, completely cover with a thin layer of pastry cream (about 1/4 cup). Cover with a crepe and repeat to make a stack of 20, with the best-looking crepe on top. Chill for at least 2 hours. Set out for 30 minutes before serving. If you have a blowtorch, sprinkle the top crepe with 2 tablespoons sugar and caramelize with the torch; otherwise, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Slice like a cake and eat like a child attending their first party.



    ** Batter from ”Joy of Cooking” and the pastry cream adapted from ”Desserts,” by Pierre Herme and Dorie Greenspan. Collected from Smitten Kitchen.