Saturday, November 26, 2011


The best things in life come free...this is something I struggle to believe as I walk around the David Jones food department. This place is like heaven to me, but today it just made me want to cry. You see, I've never taken too well to being a student. Poverty has never sat too well with me. My grandpa always used to joke that he was 'upper middle class' and we would make fun of his snobbishness. Sometimes though I wonder if some of this mentality didn't rub off on me.

Don't get me wrong, I have no stigma in thinking I'm better than anyone at all. I don't even mind not being able to buy expensive clothes and shoes. I don't use expensive facial products, and cheap makeup doesn't bother me.

Cheap food however is something I have never, and probably will never come to terms with. I will happily walk half an hour in the rain home every day if I have to, but going one day without a coffee is enough to bring a tear to my eye. Cheap wine is better than none, but these days...there is often just none.

Nothing makes me happier than a full stocked pantry, and I find a certain bliss in knowing that if I want to bake a cake at anytime, there will be all the ingredients just waiting there for me. This, however, never happens these days.

This week I'm hating being a student, but will have to make do with lentils and miso soup. I'm counting my blessings (as my mum always taught me to) and sometimes having no money makes you realise all the wonderful things you have.

Here is my list today:
  • Amazing friends and family
  • The Miso soup I had for breakfast
  • My best friend who sent me some vegetables
  • The Italian boy at school who offered to help me move houses even though we have never had much of a conversation beyond 'what did you do on the weekend', 'have you done the assignment yet', 'do you understand this recipe?', 'I'm so hung over', and 'how's work going.' It blessed my heart so much. "I have a car" he assured me (I think I was meant to be impressed) but I was just so overcome by the generosity of this boy who only really knows me as the girl who asks too many questions in cooking class.
  • Having a good book to read (I got it from the opp shop for $2 yesterday.)
  • The sunny weather
  • Going for a run
  • A girl with blue hair
  • Realising how strong I am when I feel like everything is falling apart
  • The one glass of very awful tasting wine that is left in an old bottle, that I will drink tonight.
So really, I'm a bit rich, even when I feel every bit poor.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chocolate beetroot Cake

By nature I am an extremely maternal creature. At the age of seventeen I was a nanny to four children under the age of seven. At sixteen I always preferred to host dinner parties instead of getting drunk in the park with the other kids. I can cook (as I'm sure you have guessed by reading this blog), sew, budget, host the perfect party, and adore having house guests. It's only natural to presume then that I would make a good little house wife. I have been told this a lot. By friends mockingly, by men adoringly, and secretly, deep down I can't wait to have some children and start decorating a home.

Contradicting this however, I am also extremely creative, flighty, and have a lot of trouble settling down. I haven't lived in the same house for more than eight months in the last four years and am continually looking for new ways to grow and evolve. As happy as the whole 'picket fence' ideal is beautiful and one I do still aspire to, there are days, no let's be honest, there are months, when all I want to do is focus on my career, paint, go out dancing, take a lover, drink wine, be someone's muse, talk on the phone all night, and be slightly unconventional.

What I am trying to say, as always, can be better described in food than in words.

A couple of weeks ago I made a chocolate cake to take to a friend's house for dinner. It was a very different recipe with some unusual ingredients, which I didn't tell them about. When we were half way through dessert I asked them what they thought of the cake. "It was delicious" they said, which was true, as it was one of the most moist chocolate cakes I have ever cooked. Only then did I reveal to them that the core ingredient to this cake was beetroot.

You boil beetroots for a couple of hours, mash it up and add it to the cake batter. Not only does it keep the cake amazingly moist, it also gives it this beautiful sweet flavour with a slightly red tinge. It's amazing.

So what I learnt is isn't always what it seems. Sometimes it's unconventional. Sometimes a chocolate cake isn't just a chocolate cake, and this doesn't make it just makes it sweeter. So this week I'm learning to accept the beetroot in my cake, or something like that. Either way you have to try this recipe because it's delicious.

Chocolate Beetroot Cake
What you will need:
  • 85g dark chocolate, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 300g sugar
  • 240ml vegetable oil
  • 300g cooked beetroot
  • one tsp vanilla essence
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 200g plain flour
  • one and a half tsp baking soda
  • Quarter teaspoon of salt
What to do:

  1. The beetroot takes the longest to cook. Usually about three large beets are enough. Peel and cut them into small pieces and simmer on low heat until all the water evaporates and you are left with just soft beetroot. You can always add more water if the water evaporates away but you don't want to just boil them and drain them or they will be too soggy. It may take a few hours so start this well in advance. Once they have cooled blitz them in a food processor until fine, or use a masher to make them into a paste. Let it cool down completely.
  2. Whisk together the eggs, sugar and oil. Add the beetroot puree and melted chocolate. Mix until just combined.
  3. Sift in the dry ingredients and fold through until just combined. You don't want to overwork the batter...because cakes hate this. There are complicated reasons for this such as the gluten in the flour stretching and making the cake less soft etc etc but really all you need to know is...the cake doesn't like to be mixed too much.
  4. Pour cake mix into a greased and lined cake tin and bake at 180 for 30 to 40 minutes or until cooked, you will be able to tell.
  5. If you want to make an icing, melt together equal parts chocolate and cream and let cool. Then pour it over the cake.
  6. Enjoy.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Cooking for lovers

We all have rituals in our lives; things we do in different seasons to celebrate something or to commemorate something. While I was walking home the other day laden with shopping I started to think of one of my favourite for the first time for a potential lover.

It's something I wasn't even that consciously aware of, but seem to do every time I meet someone I like. I invite them over and then think about what the perfect feast for this person would be. What do they like? What do they eat? How much do they eat? Do they like dessert? Do they like once course? There are so many different variables and I cook such incredibly different meals for different people.

As I was thinking about it I had a little revelation about the symbolism and representation of each of these "first meals" I have cooked for people. The more I looked at it the more I saw the similarities between the relationships, what was prepared, and how we ate it. I was surprised to find that these meals seemed to set a stage for the rest of the time I was with a person. Here's a few examples.

The night I cooked for my first serious boyfriend I prepared hand made pasta, with pesto ground up in a mortar and pestle. It was very rough and organic. I also baked a chocolate cake which fell apart. We sat on the floor and ate the meal with our hands, as there wasn't enough cutlery to go around. The experience was so very raw. As was the relationship. Everything was new, fresh, intense, honest...but like the chocolate cake it fell apart. I had no experience in making cakes all those years ago (before pastry school), we both had no idea on how to keep each other.

Then there was a boy who I liked so very much, I turned up at his house and cooked him salads and pizza from scratch. It was a very light, simple meal. We sat under the stars all night eating it, surrounded by 100 candles. The meal was delicious, but we got so caught up in talking and drinking our way through two bottles of red wine, I'm not sure how much we ate. We sat there for hours. The relationship was my longest. The lightest, most fun experience I have ever had. But the meal was too light...I left the relationship because I got hungry in the end.

Then there was a landscaper I cooked breakfast in bed for. The relationship didn't progress much further than this. Not that the breakfast wasn't amazing...but we seemed to just stick with the "in bed" part. A shame really, but I must have set myself up for it.

There was an Italian boy I met. I never even got around to cooking for him. Once we ordered take out Domino's pizza. I hate Domino' ended pretty shortly after that.

Recently I cooked a man macadamia crusted lamb cutlets, with baby carrots, garlic mash and vine ripe tomatoes. The meal was amazing (if I may say so myself) as it was the first time I had cooked for a date since starting cooking school. It was so yummy and I put so much thought into it. The combination was great and it just worked...a little like us. But it was a little bit complex, with so many elements, and it turned out that we were too.

Yesterday night, a date came to my house. I cooked them watermelon and grilled haloumi salad with roast capsicum and caramalised onion bruschetta. It was a lovely light dish...and there was so much food. Perfect for a summer night. We sat outside. It was an interesting and exotic meal. I have no idea what will come of this combination...but I am curious.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Just some thoughts

I haven't been doing much writing lately. Life has taken quite a change. Suddenly, for the first time in a very long time, I have free time. It's lovely but very strange. I'm sometimes not sure how to fill my days, but quickly they fill themselves and I find myself in bed at night thinking, "Where did that go?"

Pastry school is coming along very well. I had a revaluation recently and realised that as soon as I do my work experience I will be a qualified chef. Do I feel ready for this? No, not at all, but it is a starting block. I don't think we ever really feel ready for much in life. All my training, stress, and sweat in the kitchen has lead up to this...but it's only really a starting block.

I wish they gave courses like pastry school for relationships. I have spent the year in and out of love, trying to work out how I feel through my cooking. Sometimes I feel like I have progressed, other times not so much. I have learnt a lot about meringues, yeast, meat, vegetables, stocks, and sauces...but when sitting upon the edge of a romance I look in and feel confused.

If someone wrote a cook book for love, with all the recipes...I would buy it. I would cook every recipe, and try try try to comprehend this confusing thing.

As no one is planning this that I know of, I will just stumble along happily. Hoping I get it right.