Monday, May 27, 2013

Seafood Soup

"And what do you do?" The polite boy sitting next to me enquired.
"Oh, Im just a pastry chef." I reply.
"Wow.....thats so fancy" he exudes, and my day is made. 

This tiny comment lifted my spirits so high. Obviously the poor boy has NEVER worked in a kitchen before. The only thing fancy about any restaurant or cafe I have ever worked in has been the front of house. Back of house however, you are working long hours, with a huge list of things to do, and never enough time. I remember the first time at the age of sixteen when I did a shift in a kitchen and I blushed the whole day at the language used by the men. Let me tell you know......none of it was "fancy." 

Sometimes it is wonderful cakes for a living. It does get very exhausting though. Now that the cold weather has settled in I have been very tempted to head right home after work and curl up in bed with a glass of wine and watch some shows. Its such an easy habit to fall into, and before you know it you're in full blown hibernation mode. This at times is lovely, but Im trying to avoid it as much as possible....and the winter blues that come along with it. So lately I've been making a conscious effort to do a few creative or inspiring things when I finnish work for the day.

Yesterday I headed to the Victoria Markets after my shift, in search of some treats. I walked in just as the market was about to close and it was chaos. Everyone was trying to sell the last of their goods before they packed up for the night. I ran around from stall to stall buying prawns, mussels, tomatoes, bread and herbs and then left the craziness behind. My head was still ringing with the calls of "Everything 50 cents" which had inspired me to buy more baby carrots than I could possibly get through (who can pass us 50 cents a bunch?)

When I got home I cooked up a huge pot of seafood soup for my housemate and I. We sat huddled up in winter jumpers and scarfs and chatted about our day while we ate our feast. It was wonderful. I'll share the recipe with you....and I hope it chases away some of your winter blues too.

Seafood Soup

You will need:

  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Half an eggplant
  • chilli paste to taste
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 jar of tomato pasta sauce (if you have made your own I take my hat off too you)
  • 5 cups stock (fish) or water
  • 200g uncooked peeled prawns
  • 200g of sliced calamari
  • 1kg of mussels (debearded.....thats totally not a word, but it should be.) 
  • Half a bunch of parsley
  • Half a bunch of fennel 
  • Half a bunch of basil
  • Olive oil
What to do:
1. Slice onion and crush garlic. Fry gently in a pot on a low heat until translucent.
2. Dice the eggplant and tomatoes into small pieces and add to the pot.
3. Add chilli paste....this is such a personal thing I dont really want to tell you how much to use. I have this brilliant Peruvian Chilli paste that a boy from Peru gave me and I add it to everything, but just use whatever you have or normally buy and add a little. If its not hot enough you can always add more later.
4. Add pasta sauce and stir. Let the eggplant cook down a little.
5. Add stock and let simmer for half an hour. 
6. In a food processor, process together all the herbs along with some olive oil (and possibly a little water if its dry) to make a paste. Stir half the paste through the soup....taste. Add more accordingly.
7. In a small frypan, fry the prawns in some olive oil until nearly cooked. Add to the soup.
8. Add mussels and calamari to the soup and bring to the boil with the lid on. 
9. The soup will be ready when the mussels have all opened. 
10. Remove the soup from the heat and stir through some fresh basil.
11. Serve with bread......and dont eat any of the mussels that didnt open....
12. Enjoy 

Friday, May 24, 2013

How to poach a quince.

Winter is upon us and making the whole of Melbourne feel cozy and indulgent. I have started to go into hibernation, and when Im working such long shifts in the city, I really cant think of anything better than staying in at night with a glass of red wine. Winter is bringing with it some wonderful things, such as quinces, silverbeet, and lovely citrus fruits. I've really fallen in love with quinces, a fruit from the apple family that I really havent explored before. They are super hard when you get them from the supermarket, and have to be peeled a poached. I've been putting them in tarts and crumbles and eating them on top of muesli and toast.

This weather makes me want to go to the markets and buy smelly cheese and think about planning dinner parties. It makes me want to make an afternoon snack instead of going for a long run in the park. It makes me want to go on a romantic picnic in the park where all the leaves are turning yellow (but I believe I have sent any gentleman callers packing recently.) It makes me want to cook a big pot of seafood and serve it with crusty bread to some of my favourite girlfriends. It makes me want to get in bed super early and turn off my phone. It makes me want to pour some tea. It makes me want to drink the nicer wine (none of that cheap stuff for me when its cold.) It makes me want to visit my parents and tell them I miss them. It makes me want to say pretentious things to my best friends new girlfriend (because in winter I think Im a big shot.....I'm not sure why.) It makes me so glad I have friends who will pick me up and take me out to brunch after I have been dancing until the wee hours of the morning on my days off. It makes me so a very still way....that is sort of sad, but still sort of happy. It makes me want to teach you how to poach quinces....because they are lovely, and so are you.

Poached Quinces

You will need:

  • 2 or 3 quinces
  • Pot of simmering water
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Rind of one orange.
What to do:
  • Peel your quinces and cut out the core.
  • Cut into quarters
  • Bring your pot of water to the boil with the sugar, cinnamon and orange.
  • Turn water down to a simmer and add the quinces.
  • Leave to poach...this could take between 20 minutes to an hour depending on how ripe your fruit is. You can check the quinces by poking them with a knife. If it slides in easily they are done. 
  • Drain the quinces and serve however makes you happy

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies.

I've just had two very blissful days off. On my way out of work before my two day rest, one of the head chefs asked me what I had planed. I felt silly to admit that I would probably spend the majority of my time in the kitchen, working on recipes and pouring through cook books. Its been such a crazy busy intense year, with so many emotions packed into a really short time.....and mainly I have been left just feeling inspired. 

 So I spent to days rolling out pastry, caramelising pears, poaching quinces, and baking cookies. Dont get me wrong, there was an awful lot of breakfasts out.....and a wee bit of wine....ok a lot of wine, with some of my favourite people. 
 I've been feeling so at home with this winter chill, but I have to admit our tiny home has been starting to get a bit cold. So to warm it up a bit today I baked a big batch of cookies. I rolled the leftover cookie dough up into logs and froze it. There is something so very comforting about having cookie dough in the freezer in winter. After two glasses of wine on a girls night its the best to be able to pull a log of dough out of the freezer and quickly bake off a batch to help with any late night sugar cravings.I also like having it there for when friends drop by.....It looks so organised to always have fresh cookies in the house....maybe thats silly, but it makes me very so happy, so I really dont mind. 
 So I'll share my recipe with you, that way you can feel inspired, and very organised (its amazing how much a cookie can do for your life.)

White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies
Adapted from a Donna Hay Recipe.

You will need:

  • 3  1/2 cups of sugar
  • 300g softened butter
  • 1 tbs of vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups of plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp of baking powder
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup of dried cranberries
What to do:
1. Cream together sugar and butter with an electric mixer until pale in colour. 
2. Add vanilla essence. 
3. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat well between each addition. 
4. Mix in dried cranberries and white chocolate.
5. Mix in flour and baking powder.
6. Mix well. 
7. Roll into balls using a 45ml ice cream scoop. Place the balls on a baking tray lined with grease proof paper leaving room for spreading. Press slightly to flatten. 
8. Bake at 160 for 18 to 20 minutes. 
9. Eat one with a big cup of green tea while they are still hot. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Chocolate Chilli Mouse Cake with a Cinnamon Crust... come check it out!

This week one of the head chefs asked me to design a desert for the restaurant. I put I huge amount of time into trying to come up with something that I would like to eat, cook, and meant something to me. They say to write about things you know.....I think the same goes for cooking. Dont get me wrong, I'm by no means suggesting that you shouldn't try new recipes....Because you really really should, but you should also cook things that 'feel' right to you. 

Never waste your time making some wanky, layered, piled high contraption if what you really feel like making is a simple batch of cookies (I always want cookies.) When musicians write songs, it has to resonate with them in order to make sense to us. 

So this is what I thought about. I sifted through my emotions. I sifted through my intentions. I shook my heart and said "what do you want to cook?" I thought about who I cook for mostly, and who I've been pouring time and energy into. 

Someone I knew recently left the country. There visa ran out and they headed back to South America to get on with their lives, and I wanted to make a desert to pay respect to a beautiful short romance that blessed my heart and made me smile for a good month. 

This desert is insanely dark, rich and spicy. Its the sort of thing I would totally order if I went to a restaurant, and every time I get stressed at work trying to get the prep done for this desert I hear the accented voice of my friend saying "Hey, its just food. Dont worry. You love food." And this my very true. 

Unfortunately I'm not going to leave you with the recipe, because I want you to come into my work and try it. It will be on the menu as of today. 

So here my friends is a very sexy little chilli chocolate mouse cake, with a cinnamon crust, hazelnut and pistachio praline and double cream. Come try it, and high five me on how fun life is.

Gracias mis amigos maravillosos y hermosos amantes


Monday, May 13, 2013

Blueberry and Orange Afternoon Cake

This whole year is rushing past me so quickly, and after five long months of running around, I've decided its time to get very serious.....about doing more of the things I love. Ife I have learnt anything so far this year, it would be that life is fleeting (and beautiful.) So many lovely things happen so quickly that at times I forget what is really really important. For example....dinner parties, and talking to your friends, calling your mum and ranting about boys you go on dates with, eating pastries for breakfast and appreciating how delicious and warm they taste while you walk in the dark to work, and just feeling free.   

(Pretty Mothers Day Cakes we made for days on end for high tea)
Speaking of important things, this week was mothers day! Its such a lovely celebration but I always feel a little sad not to be at home with my mum. The pastry chef I work with, and I spent the two days leading up to mothers day in the kitchen for 12 hours or more without time to stop for anything. We rushed around baking and decorating cakes for the mothers day feast and 200 high teas that were booked to come in. Our organised little kitchen took on this buzzed chaos as we worked away. All the other chefs kept gathering in our little nook to see what we were making, and it was so exciting to see everything come together. When it was finally over everyone seemed so light and joyful. I felt so proud of some of the creations we put out and really loved the little kitchen family feeling that is created when everyone is too busy to stop, but help each other out. I understand why chefs get addicted to the lifestyle. Yes there are downsides (someone looked at me today and said "Wow Cherry those dark lines you have under your eyes are the same as mine. You must be as stressed as me.")but there is also this wonderful community feeling as well, where a group of people work towards feeding a crowd. I like that. 

I've put a recipe in here, that really isn't anything too fancy. Its just a simple 'home cake.' The sort you have sitting on your bench incase you fancy a piece with a cup on tea in the late afternoon. The original recipe comes from a cook book called 'Apples for Jam' but I tweaked it a little because I didnt have all the ingredients and wanted to change a few of the flavours. 

I hope you had a lovely Mothers day. 

Blueberry and Orange Afternoon Cake

You will need:
315g of plain flour
3tsp of baking powder
90g caster sugar
1tsp of cinnamon 
1tsp of allspice
2 eggs
250ml of buttermilk
60g butter
Zest of one orange
150g fresh blueberries (not frozen)
2tbs of Demerara sugar

What to do:

1. Sift together baking powder, flour, sugar, and spices.
2. In a small pot melt the butter and cook until nut brown (this gives it extra flavour.
3. Beat together eggs, zest and buttermilk.
4. Mix wet ingredients (egg mix and butter) in with the dry (flour mix.) and stir until combined. Dont over mix! 

5. Pour into a lined cake tin. I used a baking dish....because I thought it looked prettier. This is really meant to be a rectangle cake not a pretty circle just changes the feel. Ideally use a 30 x 20 cm one.
6. Poke in blueberries and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. 
7. Bake at 200 degrees for 25 minutes or until a skewer somes out clean when the cake is pricked.