Sunday, January 22, 2012

Ace of Cakes

The incredible Mister Barlin graced me with a visit in November, which meant a weekend of crazy adventures such as the polo, the opening of 'How to be a Man' and Impro Picnic. Though it was more than enough to have his company but he surprised with three series of show called 'Ace of Cakes.'

Ace of Cakes follows Duff Goldman and his crew as they bring their client's visions to life. The combination of personalities, client back stories and tight time lines that makes this show riveting viewing, especially if you're a bake-a-holic. If the image above (note the timeliness as tomorrow is Chinese New Year. So may the Water Dragon year bring you happiness, good health and much success) doesn't inspire you to check out the series (which it should) then you need to see it for the dreamboat that is Geof Manthorne. A man of few words, bedraggled, beady eyed ... but there's something about his intensity when he rolls out fondant that makes you weak at the knees. So yes, watch it! Amazing!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

James Street Bistro

You will have noted in the later part of the year that my blogging activities dropped off significantly and that was due to being involved in a number of wonderful activities including a filthy production called 'How to be a Man,' The Oceania Tobacco Control Conference, my contract expiring and the dash to secure work and being caught up in Christmas Chaos. Excuses, excuses ... but basically I barely got to see Miss Sarah, so we decided to rectify this by having lunch at James Street Bistro.

It's only been in the last few years that I have become a more frequent patron of James Street but I quite like how it has developed with an abundance of gourmet food, homeware, fashion, cinemas and lovely dining spots like James Street Bistro. I quite like the space, it's clean, modern, open plan and time from order to delivery is quite prompt whether you are looking for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Miss Sarah decided to order the James Street Bistro Burger. As you can see it comprises of a round of beef mince, bacon, lettuce, cheese, tomato, onion, mayonnaise and chips. It was quite a generous portion so make sure you are hungry before you order this beast.

I was in a small portion savoury kind of mood so I decided to order the duck which came on a bed of lentils and cabbage with port jus. The duck was moist, tender, well seasoned with a wonderfully crisp skin. The beans added freshness to the dish and I also delighted to find the lentils soaked up the port jus and provided the essential carbohydrate component to keep pangs of hunger at bay.

Though the food was wonderful, I found the service was lacking on this particular visit. So after being unable to flag down a staff member for a final coffee, we decided to seek it further afield. But other than this small blemish, I've always found James Street Bistro a dependable and consistent establishment. It's worth adding it to your date night/girl day/allBYmyyseeeeeelf agenda.

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Address: 39 James Street, Fortitude Valley, QLD 4006.
Open: 7 Days. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Phone: (07) 3852 5155.
Price: Breakfast: $9.90 - $22.90. Lunch: $14.90 - $32.90. Dinner: $22.90 - $32.90.

James Street Bistro on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Getting Wiser

It's been a couple of months since I last gave you a visual poultry update, and they are now a little older and occasionally wiser, so shall we check in with the little munchkins? This is Pippin one of the Light Sussex pullets. Despite their size, I suspect we are still a couple of months off before either bird starts to lay as they are slow to mature.

Largo (Australorp) and Harriett (ISA Brown) decided today was the day they were going to dig to freedom. With the recent heat wave, the ground is hard baked, I don't think the girls are going to get very far.

Ever prepared Pippin strikes a pose.

Unlike Pippin, poor old Mullet who is never quite with it. Mullet is a filth wizard, friend to only the pig.

Finally my noisy Gold Laced Wyandotte, Churchill. Churchill isn't much bigger than Mullet but getting prettier with each passing day. Just as well really as she is an aloof bird.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Witching Hour is upon us

Evonne Bean and her Mothership not only graced me with their fine company this afternoon but completely surprised me with this awesome undead cookie cutter stamper set. The witching hour is upon us and the only solution is surely to eat them before they eat you!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Braised Lamb with Mushroom Ragout

I must admit I got on the MasterChef Magazine bandwagon late and as a result I had every single publication bar issue one. I decided to reticfy this by back ordering and was inspired to create Curtis Stone's amazing Braised Lamb with Mushroom Ragout. It would be great for dinner party or a number of really luxurious lunches for zealous foodie. To begin you will need to season and brown a 1.4kg boned and trimmed shoulder of lamb in a large saucepan. Once this is done, remove the lamb to a bowl and soften 1 roughly chopped onion, 2 chopped carrots, 2 chopped celery and 2 roughly chopped cloves of garlic. Add 1/2 a cup of red wine and cook until almost evaporated.

Return the lamb to the pan and add 1.5 litres of veal or beef stock. Cover with with a lid and simmer over medium low heat for 2 hours and 15 minutes or until the lamb is tender. Then remove the lamb from the cooking liquid and break into chunks. Strain the vegetables and reduce the liquid for 30 minutes, or until there is 500ml. Return the lamb to the liquid. In the meantime make the following accompaniments:
  • Mushroom Ragout: Take a large frypan and cook 400g of quartered swiss brown mushrooms and a finely chopped clove of garlic until golden. Remove from heat and repeat the same process for 400g of quartered button mushrooms and another finely chopped clove of garlic. Using the same pan, soften 2 finely chopped onions, 2 finely chopped stalks of celery, 2 finely chopped carrots. When the lamb is tender, add the mushrooms, vegetable mixture, 2 tablespoons of chopped flat leaf parsley and 2 tablespoons of chopped chives to the lamb.

  • Vegetable Mash: Preheat your oven to 200°C and roast 1 sweet potato, 900g celeriac, 2 each parsnips/carrots/turnips (all to be peeled and cut into 3cm pieces) for 40 minutes or until tender. Then take a stick blender and puree.

To present the dish, plate up a portion of mash, layer the lamb over the top and garnish with a few pieces of fresh flat leaf parsley.

Lemon Polenta Biscuits

Last year was Cancer Council Queensland's 50th Anniversary so I decided to get involved with the Relay for Life. Relay for Life is an 18 hour long event that allows teams of up 10 people to raise valuable funds for their local Cancer Council. These funds will go towards research and resources to help those patients and their families fight their very personal cancer battles. One of my team's most successful fundraising strategies was to hold a bake sale. I ended up presenting a Red Velvet Cake and these very simple by tasty Lemon Polenta Biscuits from

To begin preheat your oven to 200°C and line and grease two baking sheets. Then place 200g of soften unsalted butter, 150g caster sugar and the finely grated zest of two lemons in a mixing bowl and beat until creamy.

Then add two egg yolks, one at time to the mixture. Beat well with each addition.

Then sift two cups of plain flour and one cup of polenta and beat until combined. Gently shape the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes or until firm. When the dough is chill, roll it out on a floured surface until it is 5mm thick and cut out circles using a 6cm pastry cutter. Then take a palette knife and gently lift them onto the baking trays. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes or until golden and cool.

Here are the finished product, all labelled up with my very simple branding. Please excuse the dates on the label as it clearly highlights how tardy I became in the later part of 2011. But I'll honestly try to be better with my updating as I only made one sweeping New Year's Resolution: to have my cake and eat it too!


From the moment you enter Wagaya, you immerse yourself in another dimension. One of shadowy walnut booths with delicate cut outs and a dedicated touch screen computer to take your order. The meeting of old world aesthetics with new world technology, is very Japanese and was an efficient system for my lunch date with Bean. However I am fairly certain this system could be quite dangerous in a larger group, sake fueled scenario so take heed hipsters.

Bean ordered the Chicken Katsu Curry. Depending on what touch screen icon you select you have the choice to have a side order of salad or rice, miso soup and pickles.

My order came with two pieces of gyoza and takikomi. Takikomi is a boiled rice dish which seasoned with dashi, soy sauce, vegetables and occasionally meat. The dish was developed out of necessity as though rice has been an Asian staple for centuries, it was an expensive commodity in the past and to make it go further, Japanese households would boil it with vegetables like potatoes, beans and grain such as millet.

Here is a photograph my order, the Mentai Tonkotsu Ramen. Though it doesn't look appetising from the photograph, it was soothing noodle dish and though the whole set appeared far too ample, I somewhat managed to fit the entire meal in before Bean and I had to go out separate ways back to work. The speed the order arrived was amazing and makes Wagaya a fun choice for a working lunch.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
Address: Level 1, 315 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley, QLD 4006.
Open: 7 Days. Lunch: 11.30am - 2.30pm. Dinner: 5:30pm - Midnight.
Phone: (07) 3252 8888.
Price: Entree: $2.20 - $12.50. Main: $11.50 - $19.50.

Wagaya on Urbanspoon

Golden Queen Peaches

For me Golden Queen Peaches are synonymous with the sultry Queensland Summer and I was super excited to spot them in the fruit shop this morning. These late season peaches are a firm fleshed, clingstone variety with a yellow fuzzy subtly blushing skin. They beautifully sweet and just perfect preserving ... well that is if you can wait that long. I'm eating mine right now!

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I've been hearing for months, whispers about a leafy coffee/chocolate mecca, located in Milton inside a World War Two air raid shelter. Normally I would act without a second thought but unfortunately Bunker is only open Monday to Friday, 6:30am - 3.30pm or Saturday, at the Kevin Grove Markets (5:30am - 1pm), times that sadly do not suit my hectic schedule. So now that I'm on holidays I grabbed my cousin, Yens and we headed off a pilgrimage to sample this much cavorted elixir.

We were lucky to find a street park as when we arrived the place was a hive of activity. But it didn't take long to place the order for a tea and a hot chocolate. Though the flavour of the day was chai, the staff very kindly offered to make me the dark jaffa hot chocolate which I had heard so much about.

When the drinks arrived I wasn't disappointed. Beautifully presented, velvety smooth liquid with accents of the finest orange chocolate. It was a world shifting foodgasm moment and I highly recommend you take the journey to Bunker for their fabulous elixirs as you really don't have anything to lose.

Rating: 4 out 5.
Address: 21 Railway Terrace, Milton QLD 4064.
Open: Monday - Friday. 6:30am to 3.30pm.

Phone: 0422 124 767

Bunker on Urbanspoon

Honey and Pistachio Biscotti

I currently have an over supply of pistachios so I've been making friends these Honey and Pistachio Biscotti from Preheat your oven to 160°C, line and grease a baking tray and measure out 1 cup of unsalted pistachio kernels. Chop half of them with a sharp knife and place in a large mixing bowl with 1 cup of plain flour, 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate soda and 1/3 cup of caster sugar. Mix the dry ingredients before adding 2 tablespoons of honey and two tablespoons of cold water. Using your hands, combine until you have a sticky dough.

Mould the dough into a long flat log and bake for 20 minutes or until the log in golden and firm. Remove from the oven and allow the log to cool. Then using a serrated knife, cut the log into 0.5cm slices and place them in a single layer on two trays. Reduce the oven to 130°C and bake them for 15 minutes or until browned and firm. Remember to turn them occasionally and be careful not to burn the pistachios.

The finished result in these caramel coloured, flavoursome biscotti. Best enjoyed in the company of friends with a cup of tea or coffee.

Mixed Berry Crumble Cake

My brother Michael very kindly gifted me with Annabel Langbein's 'The Free Range Cook' for Christmas and since its arrival I haven't stopped recreating recipes from it. This Mixed Berry Crumble Cake is divine and to begin you need to make the crumble mixture (note it will make a bulk amount so if you are planning to just make it for the cake I would recommend cutting the quantities by two thirds). Place 2 cups of plain flour, 1 cup of ground almonds, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, 2 cups rolled oats, 1 cup of slivered almonds, 2 teaspoons of mixed spice in a bowl and stir. Combine with 250 grams of melted butter.

Preheat your oven to 180°C, line and grease the sides of a 23cm springform cake tin. The beat 140 grams of softened butter and 1 cup of sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy.

Then add 2 room temperature eggs, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 3/4 cup of plain yoghurt to the cream mixture.

Then add 2 cups of plain flour, 3 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda. You will note the mixture is quite thick but don't be alarmed.

Smooth the batter into your baking tin, sprinkle with 2 cups of frozen mixed berries and the layer over 1 1/2 cups of crumble topping. Bake in the oven for an hour or until the cake is golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Allow the cake to stand for at least 15 minutes before you remove it from the tin. Then greet and enjoy this piece of beauty.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ruby Cafe

After I dropped my bake off submission off to the Brisbane Arts Theatre I headed to Paddington to catch up with Miss Sarah. We had planned to have brunch at the ever popular Anouk but alas they were closed, so a short stroll up the road brought us to the recently opened Ruby Cafe. Ruby Cafe is adorable addition to the suburb with its red and white candy strip awning, bird themed wall paper and a menu featuring many fresh tasty items that won't break the budget.
The photograph above is Sarah's breakfast consisting of poached eggs on toasted sourdough and a side order of bacon. Miss Sarah confirmed that it was good but she was having suffering food envy from my simple but tasty breakfast. It was the perfect thing to enjoy with the hot summer's day and peerless blue sky.
Here is the subject of food envy: watercress, chevre, lemon on toasted sourdough. Such a simple but effective combination and I was pleased to find that the sourdough was pliable. I will alert you to the potential hazard of watercress as it has a tendency to escape so perhaps not the right selection if you are trying to impress someone. Like the meal, Ruby Cafe is simple, warm and familiar but extremely satisfying. Definitely worth another visit for breakfast or for lunch.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Address: 233 Given Terrace, Paddington, QLD 4064.
Open: Breakfast and Lunch.
Phone: (07) 3369 5256.

Ruby Cafe on Urbanspoon

Bernard I ate your Bees

My running partner, Mister Spensley is currently working on Hansel and Gretel at the Brisbane Arts Theatre and somehow between the lines of Facebook banter, a bake off arose. I've always kept to the straight and narrow of baking, as after all: cooking is an art, whilst baking is a science. But dare I create a brand new concoction, put family name and my chef born blood on the line to defeat a mouthy upstart baking whelp? The answer is yes and I code named my project 'Bernard I ate your Bees (I am unashamed Black Books fan girl).' To complete my vision I procured two beautiful, loose base, miniature cheesecake pans from Wheel and Barrow and set about bring a two toned cake decorated with toffee and marzipan bees.

To begin I greased the pans (I didn't do this, but I highly recommend that you line the sides of the tins with greaseproof paper), preheated the oven to 180°c and blitzed 250g of plain chocolate biscuits and half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon in a food processor. When the mixture was fine I then combined it with 125g of melted butter until I had a wet sand consistency. I then even distributed this across both pans and popped them into the fridge to set for half an hour. While they were setting, I melted 125gms of dark chocolate in the microwave. Then beat two eggs and 75g of caster sugar in the mix master until they were creamy. I then added 375g of cream cheese, 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence and the melted chocolate into the mix master. I then evenly distributed this mixture across the pan. The chocolate mixture should reach no higher than the half way mark of the mould. Clean all the equipment and prepare for the vanilla layer.

To create the vanilla layer, beat 500g cream cheese, 2/3 cup caster sugar and one teaspoon of vanilla until smooth. Add two eggs, one at a time and then 1/2 cup of sour cream and distribute across the pans. Place in the oven to bake for 15 minutes, remove and allow the cheesecakes to cool. In the meantime prepare the sour cream topping by mixing 3/4 cup of sour cream and 1 tablespoon of caster sugar. Ladle the mixture on top of the cheesecakes and bake for a further 5 minutes and allow them to cool in the oven with the door ajar. Refridgerate overnight and remove from the pan. They look pretty good as is but to add that special touch make toffee shards (3/4 cup of caster sugar and 1/4 cup of water) and mazipan bees (dye mazipan yellow and use melted chocolate and flaked almonds to create the bees).

So did I win the bake off? I honestly don't know as I'm yet to receive my girlish tears of defeat from Spensley. But he did leave me with a parting shot, "the result doesn't matter as I get to eat anyway." Blast! I'll get you next time Spensley!