Monday, 12 March 2012

A whale of a cake!


As a part of the Spanish Fiesta, it was also a friends birthday. So I decided to make a cake for him, and we have an inside joke of him and whales. So I decided to make a whale of a cake! 

To make the cake, I used a template that was provided by 'Women's weekly Kids' party cakes'. 
This was a pretty cool cake to make, but it definitely wasn't one of my best. The edges of the cake were slightly burnt (including the base), but luckily most were cut off when cutting out the whale. Another component is that it was rushed, so the spreading of the icing wasn't as neat as I would have liked. Despite those little disappointment, the cake tasted yummy!

I doubled the recipe to make the whale cake as it was baked in a deep 26cm by 36cm baking dish. The recipe below makes a standard deep 20cm round cake.

Chocolate Marble Mud cake (Recipe guided by Australian Women's Weekly: Chocolate Cakes)
250g butter, chopped
150g white chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups plain flour, sifted
1/2 cup self raising flour, sifted
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp cocoa powder

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease baking dish/pan.
2. Combine butter, white chocolate, sugar and milk in a saucepan over medium heat (do not boil), continuously stir until smooth and all sugar and chocolate has dissolved.
3. Transfer mixture into a large bowl and leave to cool for 15 minutes.
4. Whisk in sifted flours into the white chocolate mixture.

5. Then whisk in essence and egg. (The mixture should feel thicker and heavier at this stage).
6. Separate the mixture into 2 bowl.
7. Sift the cocoa powder into one of the bowl and combine.
8. Spoon the mixtures into the prepared dish/pan. Alternating between the 2 mixtures.
9. Once filled, use a skewer and swirl the mixture to create a marbled effect.
10. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until skewer comes out cleanly.
11. Leave to cool.

Cream Cheese Icing (enough for 24 cupcakes)
115g butter, softened

225g Philadelphia cream cheese block, softened
3 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla essence or extract

1. Using an electric mixer (or hand held mixer), combine butter and cream cheese until well combine.
2. Slowly add spoonfuls of icing sugar into the butter/cream cheese mixture, ensuring well combined after each edition.
3. Using a spatula, wipe down the side every now and then.
4. Once all combined, add vanilla and mix. (Also add any colours at this stage, for the whale I left about a cup uncoloured, and the coloured the rest blue.)
5. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Assembling the whale
I made the cake a day in advance, so I had a completely cooled cake to work with. First I traced the template of the whale onto grease proof paper, cut it out and placed it on the cooled cake. Using a serrated knife, I cut around the template and there was my whale. With the left over edges I created the fin and blow hole.

I forgot to take photos of my other processes, but I did a crumb layer of chocolate ganache and then did the icing. As for final touches I used black writing icing for the eye, mouth and the under part of the whale. I decorated the edges with some thickened cream (that was whipped) to hide my bad looking edges.

I hope that everyone who had the cake enjoyed it. And a last HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THANH VU!

Good food, Good times!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Spanish Fiesta, well kind of...


Summer (well what was supposed to be Summer) has come to end, which means back to uni. With that in mind I thought to end the summer with a bang! Which originally was supposed to be a BBQ, but due to the dreadful weather it turned out to be a somewhat Spanish themed dinner.

What's on the menu:

> Sundried tomato and olive bread (from Costco)
Chicken Paella
Feta and eggplant meat balls

> Patatas Bravas (Spanish styled potatoes)
> Spanish chorizo sausages (bought from Rodriguez's bros in Yagoona)
> Mango and tomato salsa
> Mixed leaf, beetroot and nectarine salad

Chicken Paella

When I made the chicken paella this time around it turned out quite different. I made the following changes:
> Used 1.4kg of cut thigh fillets
> 500g of aborio (which is about 2 and a bit cups)

Due to those 2 changes, it was a bit more dry, even though throughout some of the processes I added more chicken stock. The colour was also different. Either way the smell and taste of the dish was still there, just that second time (right) , it didn't turn out quite as flavoursome as the first time (left). 

Patatas Bravas

Patatas bravas are Spanish styled potatoes, the reason they are Spanish is due to the sauces that the potatoes are eaten with. One sauce is a garlic aoili, and the other is similar to a spicy tomato salsa. The restaurant Encasa does these really well, which inspired me to give it a go.

Ingredients (recipe guided by how to cook perfect patatas bravas )

500g waxy potatoes (I used golden delight potatoes, and chose small ones that were roughly the same size which made them easier to cut and cook evenly)
Olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp smoked
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar


1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
2. Peel, wash and cut the potatoes into 2-3cm chunks. 
3. Place in a roasting tray, and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.
4. Bake for 50 minutes or until crisp and golden.

For the sauce (tomato based)

1. Place a splash of oil in a heavy bottom pan on a medium heat and cook the onion until golden and soft.
2.  Put in the chilli, and cook for a few minutes.
3. Add tomatoes, sugar, sale and smoked paprika and stir well.

4. Bring to the boil and turn down to a low heat so simmer for about 20 minutes until thick and dark.
5. Take off heat, add balsamic vinegar and stir.

I cheated and instead of making my own aoili (garlic mayonnaise) I bought some. Also I wasn't sure if my friends would have liked the sauces so I placed them in separate bowls. I also doubled the recipe, which means the potatoes took twice as long to cook, but turned out to be the best potatoes I have ever roasted! Crispy on the outside, and soft and fluffy on the inside.

Mango and tomato salsa

Ingredients (4-6 people/sausages)
1 large mango
2 roma tomatoes, halved, deseeded
1/2 red onion
1 chilli, halved, deseeded
Lime juice
Olive oil


1. Peel the mango, and remove the cheeks and slice into 5mm pieces. (Practically a finely sliced consistency).
2. Slice the tomatoes to a similar size to the mangoes, and finely chop the red onion.
3. Finely slice the chilli.
4. Place it all in a bowl, drizzle a little bit of lime juice and olive oil and stir well.

I doubled the recipe when I made it. Furthermore, I purchased both normal and spicy chorizo sausages from the butcher and the salsa worked extremely well with both. The sweetness of the mango, with the hint of chilli, and the flavour filled chorizo was absolutely mouth watering. 

What a feast! This fed a party of 10, with some food still left over. I am pretty sure that everyone enjoyed all the food and it was a great way to celebrate a rainy night in with warm and cosy food. 

Good food, good times!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Etch Restaurant @ Sydney (CLOSED)


Etch is the brain child of award winning Chef and Owner Justin North so therefore is also sided with the restaurant called Becasse, and the Charlie and Co. Burger Bar. 
Etch provides a casual European dining experience, with the joy of food that isn't to harsh on the wallet. With a French inspired decor such as long lounges in the foyer, and in the dining area there are paintings along the wall with gold trimmed frames. Lucky for me, a friend showed me a voucher to enjoy an 8 course degustation (including amuse bouche and pre dessert). Let the feast begin!

This was strange. I asked the waiter what it was, and she stated it was 'a cold creamed corn soup'. I can't compare it to anything that I have tasted before, so to me it tasted like a chive and chicken salt sauce. It may have not been pleasant to the tongue, but was definitely interesting...

Local figs, woodside goats curd with a sesame twirl
This set the degustation flowing. This was my first time trying figs, and what an amazing fruit. The combination of the figs with the curd had an explosion of flavour, mixed with the balsamic vinegar based sauce caused all the taste buds to dance. The crunch of the sesame twirl just added that extra oomph to the dish.

Crispy prawn salad with mango and wasabi dressing
One of my favourite dishes of the lunch. My friend doesn't like prawns, and she even enjoyed the dish. The dressing is what made the dish, with the sweetness of mango and kick of the wasabi. All together, I just wanted to lick the plate clean. Words can't describe the delight of this dish.

Risotto Milanese with baby vegetables
The risotto had a similar taste to the amuse bouche, difference being that the rice made it a lot nicer. The taste wasn't as strong, and the subtleness of the baby vegetables gave the dish a nice balance of flavours. The coriander added a freshness to the dish.

Caramelised pork belly, kohlrabi puree, pickled peach and crispy pig ears
Do not be turned off by the idea of crispy big ears, it was delightful. You wouldn't even think it was pig ears unless someone actually told you, they tasted like calamari. Now, Kholrabi (a German turnip, which in Vietnamese is called Su hau) had a nice subtle taste which added a lightness to the caramelised pork belly and the strong taste of the pickled peaches. The dish contained 2 sauces, peach gel sauce, and balsamic sauce. Both working very well with the meats on the dish.

Aromatic slow braised lamb shoulder, cauliflower puree, garlic spinach, mint, balsamic
The lamb was a dish that just melted in your mouth.  Beautifully cooked, with a rich brown balsamic based sauce. To me, the garlic spinach made this dish extra delicious by adding a crunch and a new level of flavour. The sauce made all the components work well together, to the point where I wanted to have my own tub of it.

Pre dessert - Honey marshmallow with sliced poached pear& nashi pear and a pear sauce  
The purpose of a pre dessert is to cleanse the palette for the real dessert. This was a light pre dessert. The marshmallow wasn't too sweet, and the slices of pear added a freshness which took away all the tastes of the previous dishes to prepare us for the dessert to come.

Dessert - Lemon parfait with pineapple, coriander and young coconut salad
The dessert, is the make or break of any meal, and this was a make. I was mesmerised by the the perfectly presented dessert, and couldn't wait to devour it. A parfait, is a reference to a frozen dessert made of sugar syrup, egg and cream. At the base of the parfait there was toasted coconut which added a crunch to the silky smooth lemon dessert.  On the top of the parfait there a crispy meringue and some passion fruit pulp. The young coconut was soft and delicate, with the perfect amount of sweetness, which worked well with the pineapple. The coriander added a little punch of freshness to the dessert. When all those components were combined, I was in a whole new world. Every spoonful just got better and better.

The overall experience at Etch Restaurant was superb. The staff provided a great service, and the ambiance of the restaurant was a casual yet classy dining experience. I hope to go to Etch again to try other foods on there standard menu.

Good food, good times!