Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Baked Ricotta

Over the last few days I have been casually watching my emotions. I have made an executive decision not to get involved in them at all...but just watch them from afar. To be honest they confuse me too much to delve into. I know things are quite a bit off as I have proceeded to change my hair colour, trash my room with clothes, ignore my homework and become exasperatingly caught up in my thought world.

All I can do though is wait. So that's what I am doing. This will get better...I am very sure of it. While it passes though, I just have to contain my emotions enough so that I don't start screaming "You broke my heart, you F*$#@ing Idiot" on the train to the general public on my way home.

There are good things about having your heart a little broken though. All your emotions can easily be channeled into creativity. I find that the times when I'm going through really hard things are often the most rewarding times as well. So I hired out some books from the library today and got super inspired by some amazing recipes.

I'm having a small food affair with ricotta cheese at the moment. For years I never paid any attention to this cheese with its funny texture and blandish taste. However, mix it with some spices, herbs and bake it, you will find it makes this amazing transition from plane old boring cheese to a super cheese. I'm getting a bit over-dramatic here, I understand, but you really must try it. It's also great mixed with honey and cinnamon and baked as well.

I won't give you a recipe for this one as it's so very, very simple. Just take a chunk of ricotta, season it, throw on some spices from your herb collection and drizzle some oil. Then put it in a moderate oven and cook for about 30 minutes.

If you want to make a sweet one, simply mix ricotta with honey and cinnamon, place in an oiled muffin tin or small ramekin and bake until it's firm on the outside.

Let me know what you think......

A walk down memory lane

Strangely enough, when confronted with some soul searching and heart ache, one of the people I want to talk to first is someone who gave me my first broken heart. When I don't know what to do with crushed emotions and a failed relationships I get back to the roots of my love life......my very first love. The boy that swept me off my feet at the very young age of thirteen. This week I received a call from my very first boyfriend, someone who has known me all of my dating life and watched as I have dived head first in and out of love. "But he broke my heart" I whimpered into the phone as he said soothing and reassuring words. "I really loved him" I choked. These are words he has heard before........... several times. Despite the fact that we no longer have anything in common and no desire whatsoever to rekindle any loving emotions from the past, he still lingers somewhere in the back of my life waiting for times such as these to say a few kind words, help brush off my knees and put me back on the journey that is love.

Its reassuring to know that someone who's heart was broken (by me) so many years ago, can still find it in there heart to be a good friend when I really really need it. It made me think too that maybe life isn't so cruel, in that I will always have a friend in this person who years ago I broke my heart over, thinking I had lost forever. So for now I'm putting up with a bit of pain (and at times a lot), and hoping 'life' has some sort of plan in all of this. My first love assures me that there is. I'm so sceptical of meeting that perfect someone anymore. I think fate is a joke, and destiny a scam to stop me from freaking out about life. This old flame however assured me that such a thing does exist, and when I'm ready I'll meet the perfect person............and for the first time in years, I believed him.

Apart from my emotional life being a little bit hectic at the moment school is going well. We have finally finished studying seafood and have moved on to meat. I know this sounds very macabre, but when you are feeling really angry and hurt by love, there is nothing more satisfying than hacking up a big chunk of meat. Yes yes it does sound weird, but when you can french some ribs, or scale a fish properly, its amazing. I think I like it because its simple. You have something that needs doing, you do it well, and you see instant results.

I once read a book about a girl who was going through a really hard patch in her marriage and as a break from her husband she took up a job as an apprentice butcher. The whole story was a parallel between her emotions and the cuts of meat she was breaking down. As weird as the book was........it just made so much sense. This is where my fascination with cooking meat began.

So much food can be used as another language to express emotion. Someone commented to me today that they were surprised at how much work went into my course as it was "just cooking." This to me was a tragic way to look at food. How can anything be "just cooking" when it is one of the main things that keeps us alive. Not only is it a source of nourishment, it is a voice of self expression, a form of art, a beautiful, sometimes painful, frustrating, emotional, sensual, rewarding experience.

If only I could cook every emotion I have right now into a dish.......it would be the most tender, painful, soft, venerable, open, honest, hopeful, broken, yet beautiful thing I have ever cooked.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Baked Cheesecake

My poor blog is a reflection of my life at the moment...too much emotions and not enough cooking!! Oh the perils of being alive in that we have to FEEL everything so very much all the time. It's so wonderful and so awful all at once. I however have decided that now is a new chapter...time to move on and forward. So hopefully this chapter will include lots of recipes for yummy cakes!

Summer is coming on and I can help but think this makes everything feel better. It's more sunny, not so cold, and there is just a general feeling that things are getting better.

I have now completed my study of seafood this term and am about to move on to red meat. Having not much meat cooking experience I'm really looking forward to this...despite it being a bit gross at times.

We are still working on gateaux cakes in my patisserie class which are so lovely but the bane of my existence. There are just so many elements and layers and complicated things to consider; it drives me crazy at times. I get so nervous about all the elements not coming together at the right time and everything just falling apart, or splitting, or not setting or being lumpy. On Friday I was getting a little worked up over some gelatine that had set too fast that my tiny international cooking partner mentioned that maybe...possibly I was getting worked up over nothing and of course the cakes came out lovely.

I made some cheese cakes at school this week which were very very yummy. I'll give you the recipe for mini baked blueberry ones. I just made them in muffin tins and made shortcrust pasty for the bases but you could probably just use this recipe for a big one and cook it longer.

Baked Blueberry Mine cheesecakes

For the pastry:
  • 100g butter
  • 50g sugar
  • 150g plain flour
  • Half an egg
  • pinch of salt
  1. Place the butter, sugar and plain flour in a food processor and blitz until it resembles bread crumbs.
  2. Add the egg and blitz until it just comes together (you don't want to over work the pastry or the gluten will stretch and make it tough...just take my word for it.)
  3. Use your hands to bring the pastry together. Give it a light knead to make sure it's smooth (but for only a couple of seconds because again you don't want to make it tough.)
  4. Flatten into a disk, wrap in glad wrap and place in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour.
  5. Once it's rested take the dough out of the fridge, roll out and cut out circles and line a muffin tin with pastry.
  6. Take a fork and lightly prick the surface of all the shells and place back into the fridge for another rest.
  7. After about half an hour take the pastry out of the freezer. Use some baking paper and pastry weights to weigh down the inside of the shells (if you don't have pastry weights you can use uncooked rice or beans.)
  8. Bake the pastry shells for ten minutes at 180 and then remove the weights and cook for another 5 minutes or until slightly golden (they don't need to be completely cooked through as they will return to the oven later when filled.)
Cheese Cake Filling:
  • 190g cream cheese
  • 1/2 lemon zest
  • 105g sugar
  • 100g ricotta
  • 50g mascapone cheese
  • 112g eggs
  • Frozen blueberries
What to do:
  1. Use electric mixer to mix together cream cheese, lemon zest and sugar.
  2. Add mascapone
  3. Add ricotta
  4. Add beaten eggs (just lightly beat them before you add them as it will make it easier to incorporate.)
  5. Pour the mix into your tart shells
  6. Top with as many blueberries as you like
  7. Bake at 180 for 20 minutes or until set on top but still wobbly.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Looking at my computer screen takes a lot more squinting than usual today. My eyes are so incredibly puffy I'm surprised I can see out them at all. This though is my own fault. My own silly emotional fault. I have always been quite curious by nature. I like to see how things play out and try all different solutions in life. I'm also not very good at letting go, which makes me extremely loyal...and at other times extremely stupid.

So it came as no surprise to me when eight months after an ended relationship I was still curious to see if it really had finished. So me in all my wisdom decided to write a nine page long letter to my past boyfriend asking if he too felt we had really reached the end of "us." Well lets just put it this way... it turns out we had, and despite his guarantee that this is what he would want more than anything, he knew me too well and took a deep, deep look into my heart and said "I don't think I can make you happy right now, so it's best I'm not with you."

I always love it when someone knows you so very well that they can understand how your feeling without even asking. When someone can sum up the words for you that you are too afraid to utter. This week however this played against me, as someone knew what my soul wanted but not my heart, so let me be, so I could finally get some peace.

This however is less fun that cutting up chillies when you have cuts all over your hands. It is less fun than gutting a huge bucket of frozen squid. It is less fun than being given 30 onions to dice. I would know...because I have done all these things. Right now I would take them any day over how I feel today.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I have no idea what is wrong with me at the moment but I have come over all romantic. All I listen to are love songs, I get misty at weddings on TV and I get super soppy when anyone mentions that they are seeing someone. It's ridiculous considering the state of my heart these days. I still feel so caught up in my past romances that I just can't seem to move on to a positive place of recovery. My heart (alas) is still in Noosa, and at this point there is nothing I can do about it. Soon it will be summer though, and this makes me think that maybe things will get better.

Cooking school is plodding along nicely, despite a few disaster cakes last week. Lets just say I had a bad kitchen day...which may have ended with my sobbing on the couch. Just a bad day in general when I come to think of it, but these things happen. All we can do is pick up the disarrayed pieces of our heart, throw some ugly cakes in the bin and move on, and that is exactly what I did.

We are still working on seafood dishes at the moment in one of my classes. I am loving this and so is my stomach! Today I feasted on oysters and calamari for morning tea. Such a treat! I'm finding it really easy too. It's so frustrating at times that my commercial cookery classes are coming so very easily to me but patisserie is a constant struggle when that's the one I really want to be doing. I will push on though in a hope that it will finally come together.

Earlier in the week I had a go at making some homemade crumpets, and I must say they were very delicious. I found the recipe in Gourmet Traveler and simply halved it (because it made so very much). When you cook them you need little silver rings to fry them in. I didn't have any of these so I made some out of silver foil and then lined them with baking paper. It wasn't super effective but it did the job. I think egg rings would work to make mini ones or otherwise you could go to a cooking shop and buy some cooking rings. Either way here is the recipe and it's great! Don't be intimidated to work with yeast, truly it's beautiful and quite easy to use. I served mine with yoghurt, jam and poached pears. Delicious!

Home made crumpets

You will need:
  • 400ml milk
  • 20g butter
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 1/2 g dried yeast (this is half a packet)
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
What to do:
  1. Place milk and butter in a pot on low heat, and warm till butter melts. Let stand until it is lukewarm
  2. Combine the yeast and half the milk in a small bowl. Let sit for about five minutes or until it's bubbly.
  3. Combine the yeast mix, flour, a pinch of salt and the rest of the milk in a larger bowl and set aside until it is very foamy. This should take about an hour to an hour and a half.
  4. Dissolve the bicarb in 25ml of water and add to the batter. Beat to combine and then set aside for another half an hour until bubbly again.
  5. Heat a nonstick fry pan and add some butter. Spray rings with some oil and two thirds fill with batter. Cook until mixture bubbles. Remove the rings and turn over to cook on the other side.
  6. Serve warm, and enjoy.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


When did life get so damn serious? If I'm not worried about money, or relationships, it's the future that's bugging me. Sometimes the drudgery of it all just gets way too much. I feel like I need to maintain a certain element of strictness in my life in order to get anywhere, but I get so sick of it sometimes and just want to ruckus! The two counteract each other so intensely that I end up having no idea where I stand or what I'm about. It's that old issue...balance...and it's killing me!

One of my friends recently confided in me she was having the same issue. It was nice to know I'm not the only one wrestling with these polar opposite personalities. This, however, does not solve my problem, and I'm still left wondering how one maintains a sense of self, fun, and creativity, whilst also trying to pull together some sort of a career and convince the world that I can be taken seriously! It is exhausting and really just makes me want to have a glass of wine...or six.

I think what I'm trying to express is this...LATELY I HAVE BEEN FEELING VERY, VERY RESTLESS...and I have no clue what to do about it.

So today I took the day off, in an attempt to mollify my restlessness. I thought maybe if I took a day off, and had a rest, maybe it would help. Maybe all I need is a break from this constant waking up early, going to school, going to work routine to make me feel at ease again. I'm not sure, and I don't know if it worked or not. What I really think I need is a holiday. However, this is not a reality.

Look how restless I am! Even my blog writing has turned into pure ranting. This is meant to be about food...and emotions as a sideline. All I seem to talk about these days is my emotions!!

Despite all this restlessness I have been starting to get quite inspired lately about some of the things I would like to do later in life with my cooking. I'm getting ideas for funky little cafe/pastry shops with just the right balance between earthiness and chic. I have been planning cakes, and pastries to make, and it's really quite glorious.

So at least I can leave this post on a happy note! I'm thinking of baking an apple cake tonight. If it turns out lovely I will post up the recipe. Hope you're all having a lovely day and are feeling quite a bit less restless than me.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Baked flathead!!

I was not too keen on the idea of getting out of bed today. I was not too keen on my shower. I was not even that keen on my peanut butter toast (can't wait till pay day...peanut butter toast can get pretty dull after a while.) I was not keen on the walk to the train and I was not keen on facing another whole day without coffee.

Yes, today I was a wee bit moody. I couldn't pinpoint the emotion but I have been feeling just generally a little low lately. I'm not sure if it's the lack of time off, the constant early mornings, or the recent departure of coffee in my life. Just for the back story...coffee and I have recently broken up (again). It has been an ongoing lover of mine and a habit I just can't shake, despite the fact it makes me feel a lot tireder (is tireder a word? If it is it's my new favourite one. "Hey don't you complain, I'm much tireder than you!"...anyway). So I've been trying to cut it out of my life. I do have a small problem with letting go, though. Like most of the men I date, even after the break up I will keep them in my life, just lingering, just in case, for months and sometimes even years on end. I miss coffee a lot. I think about it all the time. I try to see myself ten years down the track without a coffee in my hand, and I just can't picture it (all I see is me in very, very stylish designer clothes, taking my six kids to soccer practice and ballet lessons, then heading off to work at a huge beautiful glorious commercial kitchen where I produce my cook books and run cooking lessons...ALL THE WHILE WITH A COFFEE IN MY HAND). I toy with the idea of buying one, "just this once", I tell myself, "one more can't hurt." So far I have stayed strong. It has been four days and I actually feel much much better. However, it is inevitable that after a while my resolve will die down and I will call him...I mean, have a coffee.

If this is one of my biggest issues in life I feel that things probably aren't that bad. Unfortunately though, I have had this niggling feeling that they are. Something, and I know not what, has been eating away at me. I just feel a bit glum. When expressing this to a friend recently, they brought everything into perspective for me. "Cherry," he said, "Honestly there is nothing wrong with you at all. It's just that you have only had one day off in the last four weeks." And I'm starting to think maybe he has a point. So I'm looking forward to Sunday, like a shining beacon of hope, and a day to have a rest.

Here is a recipe I learnt at school this week. Maybe you can make it on Sunday for me while I'm having my day off and resting.

Baked flathead with daikon pickle.

You will need:
One flathead, gutted and scaled, (also cut off the fins)
A couple of very generous pinches of sea salt
30ml oil
20ml rice vinegar
1/2 chilli diced with seeds removed
3 sprigs of garlic chives

I love this recipe because its super simple. All you need to do is oil your tray, sprinkle your whole fish with salt and bake it in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes at a moderate temperature

Then for the pickle, very very finely slice the daikon, mix with the chilli, chives and rice wine vingar. Serve the cooked fish with the pickle, and eat it!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Another day down

Tonight I made pizza for dinner out of everything I could find in the pantry. It was surprisingly amazingly good. For dessert I made sweet pizza's with cherries, chocolate, nuts and ice cream. It was very indulgent...and very yummy. It's nice to know you can still cook a feast out of the scraps around the house.
Apart from all the lovely cooking my day was a bit strange. The 'cute boy from Peru' that I recently met at school turned out to be 'the creepy intense weirdo from Peru.' He merged from one to the other within the space of two short conversations. So it's safe to say I now have a little stalker (okay stalker is too strong a word...more like a little bit obsessive) on my hands. How do I get myself into these situations? I have no idea! It's frustrating and disappointing and annoying all at once. I keep meeting these men that I think just might be lovely...but they turn out to be weird, or bad at communication, or wrecked from a previous relationship, or jerks. WHY IS THIS???? Being single in the city isn't always this wonderful fun adventure. Sometimes it's just plain strange.
I wait quietly for someone to sweep me off my feet but instead I stay firmly planted to the ground. Even on the train today when I ran into a boy I knew who was totally my type (artist, long hair, skinny, unusual, no job prospects) I just couldn't muster up the strength to really care. 'Just another boy' I told myself, 'and he probably has issues with connecting emotionally.' Very pessimistic of me.
I ended up calling my ex-boyfriend and unloading all my woes on him. I told him I was disheartened about men. I told him I was worried about money. I told him I felt a little bit lonely. I told him I was worried about my career. He told me it would all be okay, and explained to me every aspect of how I was feeling and why I was processing things in the way I was processing them. I got sooky and teared up. He told me I'd be okay, stop being silly and worrying and everything would work out. This helped a lot...and I was able to get on with my pizza cooking in peace.
It was not a perfect day. It was not a terrible day. Tomorrow there is another one like this one all over again.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Life at the moment

This week was a strange week. Despite having a great time at pastry school and learning a lot I've been feeling a little bit off. The change of season has distracted me a lot, and I've been very caught up in money worries. So much so that I ended up cancelling all my social plans simply because I couldn't afford them. Tonight is my third night in a row I'm spending by myself and I must say it's getting a wee bit tedious. A 'big night' is when I decide to have two glasses of wine instead of one. I hate to say it...but I think I'm a little bit lonely. Really, I only have myself to blame. I've been working so hard that I haven't had the energy to be social, so it's a vicious cycle really.

On top of that I've been haunted by terrible nightmares. Not the usual scary sort though. This is a whole new level of weird and unsettling. I have been dreaming every night that I'm in a relationship (with an ex, a friend, or someone I have a crush on) and for some reason everything falls apart. They either decide they don't love me, they wreck my life, or something just goes wrong. It's so very strange, and I'm not sure what life is trying to tell me.

I'm relieved to be back at school this week, and hopefully this weird head space I have been in will shift. I am getting a wee bit tired of just my own company, but at the same time keep giving myself all this space. How on earth does one maintain a balanced lifestyle...when I can't even manage to maintain a balanced diet (I do have the eating chocolate and drinking red wine bit down though. That's part of a healthy diet, right?)

So for this little lady, it's back to gutting fish this week (we are studying seafood) and trying to sort out my life. Wish me luck.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Green pea and sweet potato salad

Over the past two weeks the only way to describe my mood would be restless. It is bizarre after going through such a settled stage to find myself so...unsettled. The constant flow of work and school seem irrelevant to my emotions, and as much as I love these things, I am craving something more. But what? I have spent all the year carefully constructing this balanced lifestyle only to feel like deconstructing it. I keep thinking fondly back to times where I was less happy and relationships that didn't satisfy me. Why oh why would I want these things that I know deep down that I don't want?

My head is in constant turmoil, but I have been here before. Things get good...as in really good, and I freak out. Last year when I had finally settled into a nice house in Noosa and started feeling the most content I have ever felt in a relationship, I decided it was time to end it. The simplicity that my life took on scared me a bit so I rearranged everything in my life. Why oh why cant I just settle down like the rest of the world?

What is this constant source of turmoil...? I'm going to name it grief. Something I am still dealing with on this horrible subconscious level. The last time I experienced a great loss I told my partner at the time that we needed to move states. He was so lovely and dedicated that he stood by me as I went about selling all our furniture and making plans. In the end I realised that I didn't want to move, I just didn't want to stay where I was in that moment, with my pain.

So I am restless, I am angry, I am frustrated...but mostly I just feel sad. If I dig around long enough and deep enough I find that my heart is so very sore, and I must just ride this storm out. I rage in my head everyday...but when I get a moment alone, I miss my nanny, and I'm still recovering from a break up.

Nothing can fix these things for now. So while I shove and push at life, I'm trying to at least keep my body healthy. This is what I have been cooking to keep me sane and fed:

Green Pea and Sweet potato salad

You will need:
One cup of frozen green peas
3 cloves of garlic
Half a bunch or coriander
One sweet potato cut into small chunks
Chilli flakes
One tablespoon of basil paste (pesto is fine too)
1/4 cup of goats cheese or feta
Half an avocado

What to do:
Place the cut up sweet potato on a tray. Season, and drizel with olive oil. Bake in the oven at 200 till cooked.........sorry I know that is vague, but you will know!!

Crush garlic and place in fry pan with some olive oil. Add the peas, chilli (however much you like), and basil. Season and stir till peas are warm and garlic is cooked

Dice avocado

Pick coriander off the stem

Mix everything together in a yummy big mess and sprinkle with the cheese.