Bánh mì – or Saigon roll – with pork

Florey Bahn mi

Bahn mi from Florey shops – Canberra

On my first visit to Vietnam I did what comes naturally to me – I bought the Lonely Planet guide and researched food like there was no tomorrow. And as soon as I saw the picture of the Saigon roll in my Lonely Planet guide, I knew I had to find one. A couple of issues there, starting with the folly of trying to locate food places in a very ‘dynamic’ country using a print version of a book that was four years out of date. Unfazed, I researched the best place in Ho Chi Minh to find the best Saigon roll and it happened to be a little stand located on a little street, which in spite of my best pre-breakfast efforts (and the herculean stamina and patience of my travelling companion) I could not locate. I needn’t have worried as pretty much every Saigon roll in Vietnam is wonderful (and I had a few!).  Continue reading

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Nutella and blueberry chocolate mousse cake – with caviar fruit

blueberry cake slice

I am a huge fan of layered cakes. It is like having several cakes at once. But I won’t lie, making these is a big time commitment and it generates a lot of dishes. One day, if I ever decide to take my baking seriously, I will invest in some decent equipment to make these look nicer, but for home baking, a springform tin works fine, lined with baking paper up the edges to keep everything together. The fun part of thinking about recipes like this is the flavour combinations.

This one combines some of my favourite flavours in fruit and chocolate. It has a chocolate sponge base, that is topped with a crunchy hazelnut praline, with a layer of Nutella mousse (surprisingly light and balanced with mascarpone cheese), topped with a layer of blueberry and white chocolate mousse, which is all finally topped with some white chocolate cream. I have previously made a layered white chocolate and raspberry cake with fresh fruit, so this time I stepped it up a level to use fruit caviar, which gives the fruit punch, with a really consistent and defined shape and an even texture. The fruit caviar is folded through the blueberry white chocolate mousse and dotted over the top of the finished cake.

I’ll help with the maths here. You need nearly 600 ml cream for this! Eeep!  Continue reading

Strawberry and white chocolate mousse

strawberry mousse 1

This is one of those great desserts that can be made ahead and made in a hurry. It’s egg free and can be served after an hour or so in the fridge, but will firm up over night and still produce a light and fluffy mousse.

Sometimes I will make a simple crumb base to add a bit of extra texture (blitz some plain biscuits with a little melted butter and spoon into the bottom of each serving bowl before adding the mousse on top), but this is entirely optional!

For these ones, I sprinkled some grated chocolate on the top for a bit of colour.

I updated my little banner this morning – realised it was still in its ‘summer’ mode even though today is the first of August, zero degrees C outside and rain forecast! Yes, it has been THAT long since I posted a recipe. But here we go, something to lift the soul and sweeten the heart.  Continue reading

Potential

Yellow and green kitchen - a winning combination

Yellow and green kitchen – a winning combination

…having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future

I have been away for a while. Nothing sinister. I have just been in the throes of moving house. I went on a bike ride yesterday and my little tracking device told me it had been a month since my last outing. A month. The Internet has only just been connected and apart from making it difficult to get on line and post anything (or the end of the world according to my teenage son), I realise it’s also been over a month since I last posted anything.

I debated whether to write this post, as in keeping with my blog’s title, I like to keep it short and sweet and not much about me, or rather more about baking and cooking, with only a little bit of me on the side.

I feel compelled to write about me today as this house move has represented a seismic shift in my life. I have always rented and have moved on average once every 18 months for the past 25 years. Whether it has been for work, relationships gone bad, greedy landlords or just a change in scene, I’ve upended my life. For my kids it’s meant never having a place to call home. But this is it. I have finally bought a house. I should have done this years ago, but a variety of factors, notably, and chief among them, being my genuine belief that I needed someone to do this with, has held me back.

I have waited (dare I say, wasted) half my life to do this because I didn’t believe that this was something I could do by myself.

The wake up call came from a chance conversation with a financial advisor, who gently told me that I wouldn’t be able to afford to live in retirement if I needed to pay private rent. She also reminded me that if anything did happen to me, my kids would have nothing.

So, fast forward nine months later and I am the proud – albeit terrified – owner of a huge pile of potential. Such a terrible word to describe property, isn’t it? The first thing you think of is that it’s a dump and there’s lots of work that needs to be done. We’ve moved in and there’s nothing we absolutely need to do. It’s funny how all the faults you see in a house when it is bare and empty quickly get hidden and all those terribly inconvenient design features (like having no oven) you learn to live around.

I’ve spent the last few weeks realising that my first job to redesign the emergency yellow kitchen into my dream baking and cooking spot has taken a back seat to other jobs priorities like ‘where’s that gas smell coming from?’, ‘I need to fix the holes in the walls’ and ‘I can’t open the garage door’. Moreover, the few thousand dollars I thought I might have over from the purchase to remodel the kitchen do essential maintenance has quickly disappeared in lawyers fees, removalists, cleaners and the other endless ‘hidden costs’ of moving.

I like potential. I like to think I see it in me. I’m not too old to start over.

Story over. This blog will return to normal. There might be no proper oven, but I will post on baking without a proper oven. I’ve already baked hot cross buns in my little benchtop oven, as well as the delicious lemon pull-apart bread and my super yummy sticky date pudding with custard and butterscotch sauce, that I really should write up one day!

Hot Cross Buns straight from the bench top oven

Hot Cross Buns straight from the bench top oven

Hope everyone has a wonderful and safe Easter. There is a lot to be thankful for.

Bench top oven with Easter bunny friends

Bench top oven with Easter bunny friends

 

BBQ roast duck pancakes with Hoisin

BBQ duck 1

I love duck! What is not to like about BBQ duck? Absolutely nothing. And it doesn’t come better than when it is smothered in hoisin sauce and rolled up in a delish soft pancake with a sliver of crunchy cucumber and spring onion.  This dish is a hit at my place and there are rarely any leftovers. The BBQ roast duck is so simple to make and the results are a crispy skin and succulent flesh. I make my own pancakes because I simply can’t find pre-made ones anywhere! But although they make this recipe a bit of a labour, they’re easy to make ahead of time and store in the fridge until needed.  Continue reading

Grape gel and white chocolate coated cheesecake spheres on salted caramel sand – molecular gastronomy 101 part 2

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Not one to give up after my first attempt, I ended up making frozen cheesecake balls using ice cube trays and then coating them in grape gel or white chocolate. These worked beautifully.  Continue reading

Lemon curd blueberry pancake stack with salted caramel sauce

In recognition of ‘International Pancake Day’ – or Shrove Tuesday

lemon curd pancake stack

When I was younger and growing up in country Victoria, the biggest thrill of going into the nearest provincial city was eating out. We ate McDonalds once a year (if we were lucky) and at other times, for a posh outing, were allowed to go to the Pancake Parlour. Yes, even then I thought it was a bit kooky, but I just couldn’t get over how delicious pancakes could be.

Now the point of this recipe is show. And why not? After all Shrove Tuesday, or International Pancake Day (for us gluttons) only happens once a year. This is hardly a recipe, more an assembly job. Inspired by the wonderful stacks of pancakes that make eating pancakes such a special thing.  Continue reading

Pork and apple sausage rolls

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Sausage rolls are an absolute favourite of ours. And these pork and apple ones are the best. I have really lovely memories of buying these as a treat for my eldest son and I when we lived in York in the UK when he was a wee toddler. The place I rented was right next to the York railway station and we just loved the train sounds. My son was a huge fan of Thomas the Tank Engine; we had all the videos (yes, you heard me right…) and I loved listening to Ringo read the stories to the model trains jiggling about on their sets. I have Thomas to thank for teaching my son his colours, his numbers and the joy of reading. Every Saturday, we would go for a walk to the station, and he’d get his jollies looking at all the trains (I’m so cheap). Sometimes, I would lash out and take him to the National Railway Museum, where you can see the replica of Stephenson’s Rocket. I was always way more impressed with the Chinese Engine at the museum. If you have never been there and you are visiting York, You Must Go! Now my eldest is 16 and he still loves pork and apple sausage rolls and will never admit to liking trains. Making sausage rolls from scratch sounds a bit tedious, but it’s not at all. I love how you can change things around, play with the flavours. Sometimes I make these with pork, pear and blue cheese, sometimes chicken mince and sage… I tend to avoid lean mince for sausage rolls, as they tend to be drier. Higher fat content = juicier sausage rolls. Here comes the recipe….  Continue reading

Grape mousse with grape caviar on salted caramel sand

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This is what to do with experiments in molecular gastronomy. Hide it in mousse. Super easy (apart from the fruit caviar part), light and with a delicious surprise of bursting ‘grapes’ in the middle. I like the added texture from the tempered white chocolate and the salted caramel sand (which also contrasted the sweetness of the grape).  Continue reading

Quadruple mega chocolate layer cake

chocolate slice

Is there anything better for a baking fiend than getting a 2.5 kg bag of chocolate for Christmas? I think there is – when the bag in question is Lindt couverture and is accompanied by a chocolate recipe book (or two).  Continue reading