Monday, June 27, 2011

Nearly time to rest

I walked home feeling glum. It is nearly end of the term and two whole weeks of holidays stretch out in front of me. I should be excited. I should be relieved, but all I can muster up is a nagging feeling of panic. What will I do with all this time? So very far from home and no place to be. Here in Melbourne I keep myself busy...very, very busy. Everyday I have some place I must see or a person to catch up with. I don't leave space to be lonely. But holidays with their long, long stretching days so far away from home and without a lover leave me feeling glum.

The notion of this of course is ridiculous, of course. There is so much more to do in this huge city and I have a boot load of amazing girl friends that I hardly get to spend enough time with. In fact I've never had such a large range of people in my life that I connect with on such a soul level. So it's silly really. I'm putting it down to a case of the winter blues.

So I sulked on my way home. I got home feeling adrift with no idea what I felt like doing (what does one do with spare time?) I sat and had a serious inquiry into what I was feeling. "Cherry" I asked, "If there is anything in the world you could realistically do right now, what would it be?" At first I decided to run away to Tasmania for a couple of days (it's very close you know, just one short boat ride away. I have no idea what I would do there. Visions pop into mind of me wandering through wineries and eating cheese, but realistically I'm much too tired to even go to St Kilda (my own little Tasmania.) My next response was "sleep, I want to sleep, and sleep and not wake up." This worried me. "But it's one in the afternoon," I told myself, "you can't possibly want to sleep now. It's day time, for goodness sake!" But the vote was in, and with that I climbed under my blankets and pretended I didn't exist.

A good three hours later I emerged. Still sooky and not at all ready to face anything. "Will you get up now?" I coaxed. But no, there wasn't a chance of this. So I tried a different approach. "If there was anything in the world you would get up for what would it be?" I decided on a hot bath. So I dragged my sorry arse into the bathroom. Once I was up and going and thinking 'bathish' thoughts I decided I could probably even muster up the energy for a run. So I did, and by the time I got back, the world had returned to its place. Once again I was feeling a bit more human. I planned a cake to bake the next day (this, as you will know by now, fixes everything for me.)

I only have three more days of school left before the holidays. I'm feeling quite confident about everything, which is nice. As long as I remember how to de-bone a chicken properly and don't scramble my volute all should be well in the world.

So I've planned to spend my holidays baking (of course), catching up with friends, going for nice long runs, sitting in cafes, doing lots of writing, and a bit of yoga (I have this secret desire to one day be a yoga instructor...but that's way back on the back burner for a while now.)

Ramble, ramble, ramble, that's all I've done in this post today. It has cleared my head. I hope it helps to clear yours. Be blessed and have a beautiful day.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Almost done

So I'm up to my last week of school for the term, and I am worn out. I'd love to say I'm coping just fine, but really, I'm completely worn out. I have somehow regressed from wonder woman who can work, go to school and keep a social life, to a wimpy, tired, chocolate eating mess.
There are so many things I'd love to be doing, but all I can think of is my warm bed and home. I felt so down all day, like everything is just plodding on so slowly. I felt a little bit alone. It can be so hard to move to a new city at times. To know what you want but feel like its so far out of reach. I sat at home watching a Disney movie, and wishing it would all fall into place like the stereotype of perfection that I have been watching.
Happiness can be so aloof at times. I sometimes have no idea how to attain it, and what it is. What I do understand though is pastry, caramel, gnash, and creme patisserie. So for a while I'll just stick to those. The rest of it (boys, clubs, money etc etc) confuse me too much. I think I'll do some baking tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Yummy treats.

So the end of the term is nearly here...and I'm surprisingly relaxed. This time last term I was a nervous wreck, stressed to the max and drinking two glasses of wine every night to relax me so I could sleep. It's funny how much things (and people) can change in such a short amount of time. In the space of ten weeks I have turned into this confident and calm creature. The shift was so fast that it even surprised me. It's like all the pieces fell into place. Something clicked and everything just started making sense.

Now I am turning out chocolate tarts, making praline, stuffing quails, roasting racks of lamb, and rolling perfect shortcrust pastry. What of it?

It doesn't scare me as much as it used to. Recipes that once intimidated me are now old friends. Ingredients that I didn't understand have whispered me their secrets. I love it. It's just so satisfying.

I've realised that maybe all along it was just the fear, and not the recipes that scared me. Isn't that the case with everything? Most things in life are quite achievable if we can put our fear aside for a couple of minutes.

There are still so many things I need to perfect thought. It's all very well and lovely to be able to make an Italian meringue...but if you can't pipe it neatly, then what is the point? This soon will be my next challenge to work on. For now though, I'm just going to gloat and enjoy baking some lovely treats.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Baking my way through it.

So it's nearly the end of term and exhaustion is setting in. Unlike last term, however, I feel quite calm about everything. I know how it all works now, and I really see no need to stress. I'm just a little bit worn out. It took me a while to realise this, because emotionally I'm chugging along just fine. The indication that my body is getting tired have been very clear though. The most obvious one is my inability to finish sentences. I start talking to someone and halfway through just trail off and stair blankly into space. The next one is my inability to make a cup of tea. The standard amount of times for me to boil the kettle before I actually make tea is around four. Last of all is the silliness. I find myself being increasingly silly...if not completely strange. I'm making the stupidest jokes to my housemates and in general being a total dag. There is actually one last symptom... but I'm very ashamed to say it. I have had these horrible and inescapable urges to listen to Mariah Carey. I really don't know whats come over me. I'm putting it all down to being worn out. Don't judge me...I know its bad, but its not my fault. I'm worn out people.
To counteract all this silliness and bad taste in music I have been distracting myself with baking. My latest obsession is pies and tarts. They are so wonderful and wintery. Yesterday I made a lovely pecan and chocolate tart, and today I'm working on some rustic beef and Guinness pies. Its such a nice way to spend the afternoon, pottering around the kitchen and doing some baking. I'll post the recipes up some time soon. But for now I'm much too tired!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I once dated a boy that whenever he spotted a girl he had dated (or liked) would always comment on her weight to me. "Look at her," he would say with glee, "she broke my heart and now she is fat!" To him it was like the ultimate karma. Like finally life had bitten her back on her big fat arse. When I broke up with this boy, I made a silent vow...I would never EVER give him the chance to say this about me. Unfortunately in his search for justice of the heart versus thighs he unconsciously created a monster...the ex-girlfriend who would go on in life to be successful, happy, and worst of all, thin.
Winter has however just rolled in with its nights spent curled up on the couch eating treats and drinking hot chocolate. Salads are replaced with roasts, sandwiches with big hearty home made pastries, water with coffee, and apples for muffins. Its a dieter's nightmare!
If you haven't noticed by now...I kind of like food. Not just the eating of food, but also the production. I love growing vegetables. I love farmers markets, reading recipe books, the passion that goes into creating something beautiful, the challenge, the interaction of people when they eat, and the soul of cooking. I love all the steps, all the procedures, and I love eating it. At times this can be a small problem.
I have a friend who hates exercise so very, very much that she has sworn off all treats. Her philosophy is that if she eats perfectly everyday she will never have to set foot inside a gym. My philosophy is the complete opposite. I am willing to sweat it out on a treadmill for hour after hour just to ensure that I can happily consume as many calories as my heart desires.
Over the last few months I have given myself a little break from the gym. I know its hard to believe, but when you work part time and study two full time courses exercise manages to work its way down to the bottom of the 'to do' list. Today, however, I went for a nice long run. I bought myself some new winter running pants (if I must sweat in public I will do it in style!) and forced myself out into the cold to get some damn exercise!

Flour-less Chocolate Cake

There are so many thoughts in my head so many. They are all buzzing around wanting to find themselves on some paper but I can hardly catch them all. I'm starting to feel like I'm making progress with my head and my heart. There aren't so many conflicts between the two.

I've recently been learning a new respect for my heart. It may sound silly, but for the last 21 years of my life I have been quite the little idealist. I believed foolishly that nothing could effect me that I couldn't fix later. So I let myself love, as much or as little as I liked. It has taken me all this time to realise the cause and effect of emotions and how they can impact our lives so much. I always viewed the heart as a canvas. You can paint all over it, and if it doesn't turn out, you can through it away and start again. Unfortunately though, you only get one. So every time you 'paint' on your canvas, you have left a mark. It can be painted over, but it will always be there, creating a layer of who you are and what you have done. Every person we love deeply paints all over our canvas, and leaves a mark. Over the past nine years of my dating life there have been so many times I have wished for a big bottle of paint stripper. All the layers stay though.

I am learning that this is why we must be so careful with who we let ourselves love. Sometimes being a bit guarded in life can be a good thing. Most good chefs have at least one or two recipes that they wont share with anyone. They have these boundaries to protect their business, and keep all their secrets safe. I have heard so many stories of apprentices running off with there head chefs recipes and opening opposing restaurants. Its all about learning who we can trust and when to let down our guard. Last year, I thought I was so settled. I thought I really had met my match in life. I let down every guard I had, told all my secrets, shared all my recipes, and broke my heart.

All is not lost though. The layers, the brokeness, the beauty is what makes us who we are. Like a bottle of wine, every season the grape went through is shown in the taste. I guess its all about knowing when to love, and when to keep our hearts safe. Its a very, very slow learning process. I feel like I'm getting somewhere with it. I value my heart so much more these days, and treat it with a lot more respect. And when none of this works, when I find myself with mascara running down my face, crying in my room late at night...I bake this flour-less chocolate cake. It sounds silly, but never underestimate the soothing qualities of sifting flour, beating eggs, melting chocolate and watching it all come together. Its so nice to produce something beautiful when life is a bit hard. Enjoy

Flour-less Chocolate Cake

You will need:
  • 350g dark chocolate
  • 185g unsalted butter
  • 6 eggs (free range please!)
  • 1 cup drown sugar
  • 1/4 cup frangelica
  • 1 cup hazelnut meal
What to do:
  1. Melt together butter and chocolate
  2. Whisk together eggs, sugar and frangelica
  3. Mix in the butter and sugar (let them cool a little first)
  4. Mix in hazelnut meal
  5. Place in a greased and lined tin
  6. Bake at 170 covered for 40 minutes
  7. If it is still a bit too wobbly on top take off foil and cook for another 20 minutes.
  8. Completely chill and then serve.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Pork Dumplings with Asian Greens

It is finally the weekend, and I feel a bit adrift. After being so busy lately, I sometimes don't know what to do with my free time. I searched my room for a book to read today, but was surprised to find I didn't own any. Now don't take that the wrong way. I love reading, and I read all the time. My room is filled however with cook books. They are stacked high next to my bed, next to my chair and on my table. My teacher laughed at me this week when I admitted that I sometimes fall asleep with a cookbook in my bed. It doesn't take a psychologist to recognise that I'm filling a very man shaped whole in my life (and my bedroom) with my career. Is this healthy? I don't know. Do I care? No! Of course not! Well maybe a little. Missy Higgins doesn't seem to be the only one "fearing she's the bad fruit nobody buys."

I keep telling myself maybe if I went out more I would meet someone, but its so cold this time of year, and I have nothing to wear, and and and and. I have a thousand excuses all leading to the same point. I really don't want to. The only "Meat Market" I want to go to is my local butcher, to buy ingredients for dinner. I fear that no one is going to knock on my door and say "Ummm, is there a sexy blond chef that lives here? I'd like to take her on a date." (Although once a complete stranger called me by mistake and ended up asking me out...true story!)

The real issue I lonely? The real answer is...yes, just a little bit. This has nothing to do with being alone. I spent all morning with a friend, and now have the afternoon to myself. I can't fill every moment of my life with people. So I am confused! Is there anything wrong with spending time alone? I'm not sure. I actually quite enjoy it, most of the time.

So while I work out my head and my heart I'll cook myself a dinner for one. Here is what I'll be eating tonight. Its a recipe for two...but ummm...sigh, oh well. Enjoy

Pork Dumplings with Asian Greens

What you will need:
  • 250g minced pork
  • 2 sprigs of spring onion
  • 1 tbs coriander paste
  • 1 tsp of ginger finely grated
  • 1 tbsp of Hoi sin sauce (find it in the asian section
  • 1 pack of dumpling wrappers (these are found with the fresh pasta in the cold section)
  • Half a cup of chicken stock
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1 bunch Chinese greens (like bok choy)
  • Soy sauce, to garnish.
What to do:
  1. Mix together mince, sauce, garlic, ginger, sliced spring onion, and coriander. Season
  2. Take your dumpling wrapper, place some of the mixture in the middle. With your finger, rub some water around the edge of the wrapper. Pick up the sides and squish them together to enclose the mixture. If you pleat the edges they make more of a dumpling shape, but you can do it however you like.
  3. Heat a one teaspoon of vegetable oil in a nonstick frying pan. Place your dumplings in the bottom. Fry for about four minutes until they are crispy and a little golden on the bottom.
  4. Add your greens to the pan, and your stock. Put a lid on the pan and cook for about five minutes until the greens are steamed through and the insides of your dumplings are cooked
  5. Serve the dumplings on top of the greens. Sprinkle with some soy sauce.
  6. Eat them alone, or with someone else...whatever.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Today my heart aches a little bit, so I'll bake a chocolate cake. I'm pretty sure that will fix everything.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Creme Brulee

So last night I had a little dinner party. It was so lovely to have some friends around to drink wine, eat, and talk into the wee hours of the morning. Having some amazing friends has really made Melbourne feel like home to me. I feel so inspired because of having these beautiful, intelligent, talented ladies in my life. Its so beautiful to have people around you who want to encourage and lift each other up.

I decided to make creme brulee for desert...which seemed like a simple enough idea. This year I have been discovering that most food is quite simple to make as long as you understand the underpinning theory of each ingredient. A lot of recipes have 'critical control points' that MUST be followed or the whole thing will be a disaster. At school we made one creme brulee during the first term. It was however a 'cheats' recipe that did not involve baking, water baths, or other such nonsense. So I really didn't know what I was doing. I'd like to say that it just came naturally to me. That I just followed the recipe, popped them in the oven and baked them to perfection., but this would be a lie. I'm going to come clean with you...I baked creme brulee's three times until I was finally happy with the recipe and understood all its little quirks (Just some handy hints if you ever bake them: They need to be baked at a very low temperature. The water in the water bath must be boiling or they wont cook through. You must not over whip your egg, or aerate them too much. You must not scramble your eggs with over heated cream. The mix must be strained, and last but not must scoop off any bubbles from the top otherwise it forms a weird skin. Apart from this the process is very simple.)

I would love to give my recipe to you, but the thing is, I put so much work into it I almost don't want to give it away. I'll hold onto it for a few days, and then when I stop being so selfish I'll post it up on my blog. I finally understand why some chefs don't share recipes. I always thought it was so rude! But now I'm starting to get it. When you have spent hours working out all the right quantities and tricks of a recipe, the last thing you want is some little hussy coming along and making it, without having to go through the whole process you have been struggling with.

I am feeling very at peace with the world today. I took the day off school to have a rest. Its the first time that I've slept in, in weeks. I'm just having a doona day. Its perfect. One of my all time favourite friends from back home called me today, and because I had the day off I had the time to talk to her. We giggled like little girls, and talked about life. We have such different realities. I am here in Melbourne studying at pastry school while she lives out the back of Noosa in a tent with her boyfriend. But we are both so content with our lives, and still relate in the same way we did back in the days of bonfires on the beach and red wine under the stars. I love my friends so dearly, and I have been so blessed with such amazing ones. That is what I am thankful for today!


Tonight is a dinner party.........

The Menu:

Roast pumpkin arancini with garlic aioli

Gnocchi with mushrooms and saffron jus

Creme Brulee with raspberry and red wine coulees

So stick that in your pipe and smoke it!!! (It would taste delicious)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Prosciutto wrapped lamb with baby carrots and quince paste

Today is a cold and windy Melbourne day. Most people are rushing around hating the weather and trying to keep out of the cold. Not me though, I love the rain. There is something so glorious about baking on a cold wet day. School finished early today so I was able to go home and do some cooking.

I've been really enjoying having a bit of free time lately. I'm not sure if my workload has gotten lighter or I have just become more used to it. Life as a student is so very different to working full time, and its taken me a while to get used to having a bit more time on my hands. Last year I was so preoccupied with work and cleaning up after smelly boys that I hardly had a moment to stop. I somehow managed to keep a full time job while cleaning the house, cooking for two, doing the laundry, having a social life, redecorating the bedroom, going to the gym and sending my partner off to work with a pack lunched (because of this I'm not really scared of what life as a mum will one day be like, I've already had a pretty good taste of it.)

When I first moved to Melbourne I was unsure what to do with this time and booked up every living moment with friends, dates, gym sessions, and work. I'm slowly learning how to relax though, and still get everything done that I want to. In saying that I did spend my afternoon cooking creme brulee, going for a run, ironing my whites, practicing recipes, reading recipes, doing my food shopping, and doing some cleaning.

I made a really yummy dinner that I loved. I'll put the recipe up so you can make it. I'm pretty wrecked now after my day. I can't wait to curl up in bed and not think about food for a whole 7 seven hours while I sleep....unless I dream about it.

Prosciutto wrapped lamb with baby carrots and quince paste.
What you will need:
  • Two pieces of lamb backstrap
  • 8 slices of prosciutto
  • 2 tbs of quince paste (you can find this with the dips in the supermarket)
  • One bunch of baby carrots (I love them)
  • One whole knob of garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • Olive oil
What to do:
  1. Preheat your oven to 200. Wash your baby carrots but leave skin on. Place them in a baking tray. Drizzle over the oil. Add seasoning, sugar, and rosemary. Break up the garlic and add the cloves whole to the tray. Bake for 15 minutes
  2. Place the back strap on the bench. Spread on the quince paste and wrap in prosciutto.
  3. Place meat on top of the carrots.
  4. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes or until meat is cooked to your liking
  5. Serve with a mash or polenta.

Melbourne's good food and wine show

To be honest I was a wee bit disappointed with Melbourne's Good Food and Wine Show. I was so excited to go, and experience it, but really it was a bit of a let down. I guess I expected it to be a bit of a classy event, with local chefs roaming around sourcing out new ingredients and suppliers. I expected to see amazing food everywhere, and find that everyone was as passionate about cooking there as me. Instead however, it was bogans and middle aged ladies wondering around looking for free samples and drinking the taste tester wines.

Ok I'm going to level with you. I was in a pretty bad mood when I arrived at the festival. The night before I went to a friends party and drank three glasses of red wine on an empty stomach and was really feeling the effects of it the next day. I also spoke to my ex (yes I know I shouldn't have called him) a couple of days earlier and was feeling a little down. I cant blame the festival for me having a broken heart (still!!) and feeling hung over (lightweight!) It did let me down though. The produce being sold there wasn't that amazing (I guess I wasn't expecting muesli bars being promoted) and despite the fact that there was samples everywhere I couldn't find much to eat. There was a restaurant if you wanted a sit down meal, and also a bbq, but nothing much to just snack on. Subsequently I drank way too much coffee and ate a big salty pretzel. This still didn't cheer me up though.

I did watch one chef do a demonstration which was great. The ladies behind me however were so distracting wobbling around (yes wobbling is the perfect word) trying to score giveaways. I would love to say that I think its great that so many people came, and would have left with a better understanding of cooking and food. However I really don't feel this was the case. I would also love to pretend I was happy for all these wine guzzling, sample stealing festival goers, but I was not! Bogans exist everywhere. I understand this. I don't like this, but I except this. For one day though, just one day, I wanted them to leave this sensitive little, hungover, broken hearted foodie in peace to test some jams, drink some coffee, get some cooking tips and go home.

So I left. I went home. I sulked a bit. I baked some rhubarb and blueberry pies.......and then finally I cheered up. The bogans can have the damn festival I decided, because I had rhubarb pie!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cold Cold melbourne.

Today is cold and my bones ache. It makes me sound so old saying that! It has nothing to do with my age though, just my body. A couple of years ago I contracted ross river fever, which basically wears you out a lot and makes you very tired. One symptom of it is achey bones. Every so often it comes back and sitting down or being in an uncomfortable position really hurts. I don't think the cold is helping at all.

Today was theory day at school, which I also consider to be a day off. We really do nothing at all (except I draw pictures in my note books of cup cakes and whales.) So it was quite a short day for me. Tomorrow we are working on danish dough. All 'laminated doughs' (dough with butter folding through it) are such headaches. I want to love it, I really do, but its just not coming naturally to me. I find friday so stressful. This week we are working on danish dough, savoury muffins, sweet muffins, wholemeal bread, brioche, creme patissiere, and a few other things. We have to multi task between all these products, and hope that each one turns out well, for presenting and getting marked on. I try to remind myself that I'm there because I want to be and I love cooking. Some days though its just very hard. I feel like I'm missing so many details and I just want to slow everything down so I can take it all in.

I find myself in class continually asking the teacher "why?" trying to work out the in's and out's of all the products we make, desperately wanting to grasp what the hell I'm doing. Some pastry products are such mysteries to me. "Tell me your secrets!!" I want to yell at them, but alas the stupid buttery concoctions stay quite. They won't tell me a thing, so I find myself scouring text books and cook books, looking for tips. The food world however is so incredibly vast, that when I think I have finally grasped a tiny concept like cooking chicken (I now can successfully break down a chicken into all its different parts. Poach, stuff, or fry the breasts. Marinate, fry or bake the wings. Braise the thighs. Stew the legs. Or stuff the chicken whole.) I find that I have no idea of all the herbs that can be used to cook with it. For goodness sake, there is just so much out there. My bed is covered in cooking magazines and sometimes I fall asleep with a cook book in my bed!

It can all be too much to think about! So I'm going to head back into the city to meet a friend for some wine. I'll take my poor aching body to the bar and have some fun.