Sunday, April 13, 2014

Welcome Back to Me - with cake!

Goodness it's been a long time since I posted. Been busy with my other hobby ( and just life!  I also picked up a new hobby which I don't think is a good thing at all. But there it is.

I started cake decorating!

Now one thing about cake is that it's more important to me that it actually tastes nice because once the knife hits it, it's over for whatever design you had going.  So I've realised that as far as possible I will try and cover them with butter cream because that stuff I can eat with a spoon. I've discovered fondant though for decorative elements as you'll see.

Here's my latest creation which I made for our pastor's birthday:

The cabin is made with fondant (note, it's hollow inside which was tricky to keep it up straight).
The trees were made by shaping white fondant onto short cocktail sticks and then piped green butter cream with a grass nozzle. Easy Peasy.

The close-up shows the 'curtains' in the window :D.

I found that I can use the pasta setting on my Oscar juicer to make strips of fondant. Goodness, that saved a lot of time! You can see some of it framing the door.

The cabin walls, roof and chimney was embossed with embossing plates.

The back double layer of chocolate cake is covered with caramel and the layers put together with butter cream. The bottom is covered in butter cream covered with crushed sweet biscuit for sand.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Easy Braised Roast how-to

I was asked by a friend how I do my roasts and here is a quick how-to.

I used a Prime Rib Roast (roll) and I think this might be a better, juicier and softer cut than topside.
Traditionally you will make a mirepoix to add flavor to the gravy but if you want to save some time & effort you can leave it out as I did below. The only difference is you might need to strain your braising liquid at the end to remove all the veggie bits with the herbs.

Preheat oven to 160 Celsius.

1.  Use a casserole you can use stove-top and in the oven.
2.  First put is on the stove and heat some oil in it to brown the meat. Don't forget the ends!
3.  Do NOT add salt at this stage as it will dehydrate the meat.
4.  In a jug mix the following:

  • 1 cup dissolved beef stock
  • 1 cup red wine (you will use more later on)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (if you don't have at hand, tomato sauce will also do but will be a bit sweeter for the sensitive pallet)
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons crushed garlic
  • 1 bay leave
  • A bunch of parsley
  • A bunch of thyme
Here's how much parsley & thyme I put in but it's up to you:
5. Give the braising liquid a quick stir & then pour it into the pot with the meat.
6.  Top up the liquid with red wine until it reaches about halfway up the roast.
7.  Do NOT add salt.
8.  Bring the liquid to a light bubble on the stove top before transferring it to the oven.
9.  To ensure that there is little evaporation you can cover the top of the pot with a layer of foil before putting the lid on.
10.  Put in the oven & cook for at least 3 hours. If you're around you can turn the meat about halfway through. Salt all around at this stage if you turn it or at the end before covering with foil.
11.  Once cooked, remove the roast and cover with foil to keep warm.

Making the gravy:
Put the casserole with the liquid back on the stove top & remove all the herbs (and mirepoix if used).
Bring to a rapid boil for about 5 minutes. Stirring occasionally with a WOODEN spoon.
Dissolve 2 heaped tablespoons of flour with at half a cup of water. Try to get rid of any lumps.
Turn the heat down to low.
Very gradually pour little bits of the flour mix into the liquid while whisking with a plastic whisk (not metal).
Carry on whisking and pouring until the gravy starts to thicken and keep on whisking. You might not use all the flour mixture if the gravy is the right consistency.

Cut the roast into slices and return to the simmering gravy. Taste and add salt if needed.

Friday, June 28, 2013


I've been asked to copy the recipe for Julie Child's Frangipane (almond custard) and before trying to type it out, I went on a search and found it on Katie's blog (link below).

Recipe copied from

Note: I used to find "ground almonds" ready packaged but couldn't find it this time around (busy making Mille-feuille for this weekend) so I just took some crushed almonds and put them in the blender until they were powdery.

This takes a little effort and a bit of "on-the-stove-off-the-stove" maneuvering to keep it from burning if you use an electric stove and the temperature doesn't come down quickly enough but just keep it going (build those arm muscles!!)

Frangipane (Almond custard filling)
1 egg
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 cup boiling milk
3 Tb butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional - I find it gives it a bit of a strong flavor but that's ok if that's your thing)
1/2 cup pulverized macaroons or pulverized almonds
Directions:  Beat the egg and egg yolk in he mixing bowl, gradually adding the sugar, until mixture is pale yellow and forms the ribbon.  Beat in the flour.  Then beat in the boiling milk in a thin stream of droplets.  Pour into saucepan and set over moderate heat.  Stir slowly with the (hand) whisk, reaching all over the bottom of the pan.  When mixture begins to coagulate into lumps, beat it vigorously until it smooths and thickens into a stiff paste.  Then over moderately low heat, beat it with a wooden spoon for 2 to 3 minutes to cook the flour thoroughly.  Be careful the custard does not scorch on the bottom of the pan.  Off heat, beat in the butter, then the flavorings and macaroons or almonds.  If not used immediately, clean custard off sides of pan and dot top with softened butter to prevent a skin from forming on the surface.  Frangipane will keep for a week under refrigeration, or may be frozen.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Jalousie (apple tart)

Jalousie means “shutter” in French and refers to the pattern of the shutters in traditional French homes. A jalousie is usually made with a fruit preserve / jam such as apricot or strawberry preserve spread over the bottom pastry sheet but I have found it a perfect way to make an easy apple pastry.

One 450g roll puff pastry thawed
1 x tin pie apples
Cinnamon sugar
One egg lightly beaten
Castor sugar to dust
Almond flakes

Oven preheated to 180C.
Cut the apples into smaller sizes. Mix as much cinnamon sugar and raisins as you prefer with the pie apples in a bowl.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to a little thinner and more or less in a square shape.
Using a sharp knife, cut the pastry in half to make two rectangles

I cut one slightly narrower. The wider one will have to wrap over the apples.
Place one rectangle on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Be careful not to stretch it when lifting.
Brush egg along the sides of the pastry
Place apples on the pastry, leaving the sides open to close with the top layer.

Take the other rectangle piece of pastry and lightly fold it in half (do not press down on it because you have to open it again)
Taking a sharp knife, cut “slats” at an angle staying about 1.5 cm away from the edge
Gently lift this piece and align the one long edge to a long edge of the pastry on the baking tray.
Now open the cut piece to cover the apples below.
Using the back of the knife, push the edges of the pastry pieces together.
Brush the top pastry with more of the beaten egg.
Dust with castor sugar and sprinkle with almond flakes. (In this picture I sprinkled it with chopped almonds since it's what I had in the cupboard)

Bake in oven 180C for about 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
Perfect served hot with ice cream or at room temperature

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin Pie

I got this recipe from a friend who lives in America and it is fantastic. I tried another recipe before this and thought that pumpkin pie is just not for me. I changed my mind!

1 1/3 cup smooth pumpkin, 1 1/3 cup sweet condensed milk (1 tin is approx = 1 cup), 1 egg, 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp cloves, 1 cup hot water. Pour into 9" pie shell. Bake at 375F 55 to 65 minutes. (Center will still move slightly) Cool and enjoy. (Mashed pumpkin will hold 5 days in refrgerator)

To make the smooth pumpkin I did the following:
Put butternut or pumpkin blocks (about 500g) in a heavy-based pot. Sprinkle about 1/3 - 1/2 cup sugar over and let it stand overnight. It will draw water from the butternut. The next day, let the butternut simmer slowly in the same liquid until soft. Do Not add more water. Only if you see it's going to burn before it's soft, add a couple of tablespoons.
When the butternut is soft, drain it in a sieve and let it stand over the pot for another hour or so to make sure all liquid has drained off.
Use a potato masher and mash the pumpkin very well.

Pie shell:
For the pie shell I made my own sweet shortcrust pastry from Julia Child's first book.
Page 586:
142g (5oz) plain white flour
113g (4oz) chilled butter cut into small pieces
1 1/2 tbsp castor sugar
1/8 tsp salt
4 to 4 1/2 tbsp cold water

Page 127 (instructions for general shortcrust pastry) - Summarized here
Mix flour, castor sugar and salt
Rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until resembling large oat flakes. Do not overdo as butter will be blended in later.
Add water and blend quickly with one hand, fingers held together. Do this until most ingredients are folded into a body of dough.
Press dough firmly into roughly shaped ball. Must just hold together, be plaible but not damp and sticky.
Place dough on lightly floured pastry board (I use a marble one). With the HEEL of one hand (NOT the palm - it's too warm), rapidly press the pastry two spoonfuls bits down on the board away from you in firm, quick smears. This constitutes final blending of fat and flour and is called fraisage. (What a cool word)

With a spatula (or egg lifter), gather the dough again in a mass, knead briefly into a fairly smooth round ball. Sprinkle lightly with flour and put in grease-proof paper (or I put it in a plastic zipped bag). Put in fridge for minimum 1-2 hours.
*** Uncooked pastry will keep 3 - 4 days in fridge or deep-frozen for several weeks ( I LOVE THAT!)

I par-bake my pastry shell following the blind-bake method.
NOTE: I don't completely bake my pastry (the wiki-link says 15 minutes). I follow Julia Child's instructions, page 131:  Bake at 400F (200C) for 8-9 minutes, remove foil with dry beans, prick pastry now and return to oven for 2-3 minutes.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sugar Cookie Dough (can be frozen)



• 1 cup butter

• 1 cup white sugar

• 1 cup packed brown sugar

• 2 eggs

• 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

• 3 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 teaspoon baking soda

• 2 teaspoons cream of tartar

• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1/2 cup chopped walnuts


1. In a medium bowl, cream the butter with the white sugar and brown sugar. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon and salt; stir into the creamed mixture. Finally, mix in the nuts. Divide dough into 3 equal parts, shape each piece into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap logs in wax paper and chill for 3 hours or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Cut dough logs into 1/4 inch slices and place them on an unprepared cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until light brown.

Most cookie doughs freeze extremely well and can be kept frozen for up to 4 or 6 weeks. Use these tips for freezing:

•Double-wrap dough in plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn and absorption of odours from your freezer

•Write the type of cookie dough and the date it was frozen on the outside of the package.

•When you are ready to bake, simply let the dough defrost in the refrigerator. This will take several hours, so plan ahead.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


I've read through the Cassoulet recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking but have been intimidated by ingredients such as "goose". If anyone ever knows where to find this meat, you drop me a note :D There are other things (depending on the recipe) like "duck comfit" which is like a duck preserve (what!!?).

I do love the whole concept of Cassoulet though. If you read about the history of Cassoulet (this article is very enlightening: you will see that it allows for great variation. And I LOVE that!

If you go to this page (Food Network), you will see the recipe that I ... uhm ... DIDN'T follow.

What I have loved about Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child et. al. is that it teaches you TECHNIQUE . So you start being able to apply the basic techniques of braising or making stews to a wide variety of dishes.

Here are the thoughts that guided MY version of this recipe.
  • I looked at the recipe from the Food Network, and thought "hey, I could apply the technique for making bœuf bourguignon and just use these other ingredients.
  • Veal shanks? Veal = Red meat = Beef. There we go. I used a packet of stewing beef with bone since (a) it's cheaper and (b) the bones add great flavor.
  • I don't know how "white" beans can be "navy beans" (OK, he's got a link to explain it) but I just used white haricot beans which is what is used a lot in other recipes. The great thing about haricot beans is that it absorbes the flavors from the rest of the dish and provides fantastic protein without messing up the taste of the dish. (It's what "bake beans" are made of.)
  • 10 cups water? Well, that depends on the size of your dish. And I really can not cook something like this without red wine. I used my large Le Creuset (heirloom) pot and trust me, I filled this thing to the top. The water I added (unmeasured) was just enough to start covering all the ingredients and then I topped it up further with red wine.
  • I'm also thinking, where would I get "ham hocks" from? On second thought, Ham = Pig = Bacon. Voila, we're using fatty bacon.
  • The shop where I did my grocery shopping didn't have fancy sausages but it did have great Chorizo, so that went in.
  • And then, for a great twist, I added CHICKEN. Yep, chicken. 6 chicken thighs, and 2 drum sticks. Because I had some. Don't you just love these "peasant stews" that are made up from whatever you have available?
Coming back to bullet point one on Technique: I first browned the beef pieces. Put aside in a dish. Then I browned the chicken and moved them over to the same holding dish. Then came the bacon pieces (I used a whole packet, chopped in bits). When this was nicely done (but not crispy!!!) and removed, I added the vegetables. Yes, this I actually kept the same since onions, carrots and celery form the basis of good mirepoix. Do not brown them but wait until the onions start going glossy before continuing.

Keep the mirepoix in the pot (remember I'm using my Le Creuset casserole), layer the bacon over, then add the chicken. Try to keep them in one layer. Sprinkle with the "Essence" as indicated in the original Food Network recipe. I didn't want to make it too spicy for the kids, so used half the cayenne pepper. Hubby just added some Tabasco to the final dish and loved it.  (Note: I didn't have onion or garlic powder so left this out but the final spice mix was still great.) Then sprinkle with flour. Lift, turn and turn back the pieces of chicken so the some of this spice and flour covers the bacon and veg below. Now add the browned meat and sprinkle with Essence and flour. Stir through the meat pieces to cover them well.

NOTE on the beans. In the morning I placed the raw beans in a large pot, covered well with cold water (about 2 cm's above them). Do NOT add salt. Salt and acids (e.g. tomato, vinegar etc) can make the bean husks go hard so add any additional salt at the END of your dish's cooking time. Place this on a stove and heat the water until it starts boiling. Let it boil for 5 minutes. Then turn off the stove, remove the pot and let the beans soak for 1 hour. I just let it stand like this until I needed them (which was about 2 hours later). DRAIN THEM before using in the recipe.

Carrying on: Top the meat in the casserole with beans, add the water and red wine as I mentioned in my bullet above. Make sure it comes to a bubble on the stove top before moving to the oven.

I covered my casserole with a sheet of foil before placing the lid on top (helps keep evaporation down). Since the pot was filled so much, I placed the whole casserole inside a metal baking dish to catch any overflow (which it did).

Place in a 160 Celsius oven.

After one hour, add the sliced Chorizo, make sure they're nice and covered by the liquid. Push them into the dish with a spoon.

Cook the dish for another 1.5 hours and make sure the beans are cooked before doing the last step.

Remove the dish from the casserole into an open dish. (Glass, ceramic, etc). You must be able to spread the meat and beans nicely. Cover with the cheese/crumb/parsley mixture and grill for 10 minutes as per the original recipe.

The Verdict?
I managed to snatch this pic before it was gone:

The dinner guests loved it but more importantly, the kids loved it and so did Dad. He said he didn't know what to make of this dish. Every bite tasted like another dish but as a whole it's fantastic too (especially with his added Tobasco*grin*). We had it with crusty white bread (which got dipped into the sauces LOL) and Polenta.