July 29, 2009

Pasta salad & bike riding

What an exciting day it is today. The sun is shining bright with actual heat in the rays, Max is off at school after two weeks holidays and Alex and I are home alone. I knew I wasn't going to get much done in the way of work today due to the gorgeous day, so to make the most of it I promised Alex a day in the park. He was very excited with my decision and decided today was also going to be the day he road his bike without training wheels!
"I'm 4 now mum so no more training wheels, Max didn't ride with training wheels when he was 4"
With that said who was I to argue? Right near my (and Nic's) work there is a fantastic park with a very big oval and running all the way around the oval is a bike track so I thought that would be the best place to get Alex on two wheels. Within minutes of us making this decision I got a phone call from Nic saying his lunch date fell through and what were we up to? Well this never happens so I decided to pack a quick picnic (quick because time was ticking on and Nic only had half and hour to spare if we were at the park in the next 20 minutes). Time running against me I popped on a pot of water and boiled pasta for a quick pasta salad. Alex is always on at me for something different for lunch BUT when I tell him we were bike riding then having a picnic in the park with dad he enquires what is for lunch and I pull out all his favorites; pasta salad with cheese, ham and cucumber etc, he looks at me then pulls a face and tells me he does not want pasta salad and why couldn't we just have a sandwich? Seriously people I can't keep up with the whims my kids go on!
Anyway back to my salad- time was ticking and the pasta was boiling so I didn't have time to pander to Alex's needs, I caved and made him a wrap just to keep me smiling.
The pasta was going to be hot and I hate running pasta under water to cool it down, I think it totally changes the flavour of the pasta and does nothing for a salad, so with that said I used a couple tablespoons of mayo to give the salad some body and dressing, then I ripped up shaved ham, chopped some cucumber into chunks, roughly chopped some coriander and tossed it all through. The smell was really tasty and because the pasta was still warm it opened up the flavour of the coriander (cilantro). I hesitated a little then thought well Alex isn't going to be eating it so I might as well throw in some pickled jalapenos to boot! Ohhh what a treat, something was missing but I couldn't concentrate, I had to leave the house right then, Alex was asking me if he could take the training wheels off NOW and I still hadn't put his bike into the car....time is always ticking. Just as I leave the kitchen I see the tomato sitting on the window ledge bursting with colour and ripeness and thought that would be perfect but no time so I had to go with what I had and I have to tell you......
a) as you can see from above Alex is now the proud rider of a two wheeler bike
b) I got to the park on time and without a speeding ticket
c) salad was really tasty, especially with the jalapenos.
Of course when Alex saw us eating the salad he wanted some which was fine, I just didn't give him any green bits and he didn't seem to notice the hot pickled flavour- perhaps excitement took over!
A fantastic day all in all and a salad I will come back to even when I have more than 7 minutes to make it.

July 27, 2009


I'm devastated, absolutely guttered.
Last night I was sitting on the couch with Nic talking about something......he'd just finished making a beef lasagne and it smelled fabulous (he really does make a yummy lasagna right down to rolling out the pasta sheets), we were talking about food and I casually commented that the carbonara I made the night before was pretty yummy; to which he replied
"Yeah but mine is better"
My mouth fell open and I of course said "What!" Nic looked at me with a devilish grin and a twinkle in his eye and said it again. What is a girl to do? Of course I took the obvious path and took it all out of proportion. I told him I was guttered, how could he say such a thing, blah, blah. I must of put on a great performance because when I looked over at Max he was sitting staring at us, grinning like a madman and wondering where this was going to go, hand twitching at his face in anticipation.
Now at this point I have to tell you Nic loves ALL things Italian, and over the years he has perfected the art of Italian cuisine, especially pasta making and pasta eating and at this point I have to admit I LOVE his carbonara. It is the classic Roman version with egg, parmesan and parsley all thrown in at the last minute, just before serving.
I wasn't however going to ASK him how he does it because I just don't have that ability and I knew the process so I thought I'd give it a go. If I was to be totally honest I was going to make a tomato sauce but due to the lack of ingredients in the fridge I then decided to make the carbonara, oh well I guess the truth had to come out sooner or later. When cooking the onion, garlic and bacon I sweated it down with the lid on, keeping all the flavour and sweetness in the pot instead of doing what Nic does and cooking it down so the bacon and onion get crispy. I also didn't add two whole eggs as I thought that was to excessive, so I added one whole egg and one yolk (this Nic tells me was my downfall!).
So that is pretty much it, once the eggs were in a bowl I finely grated in some parmesan cheese, mixed in the chopped parsley and loaded up on freshly ground pepper. After the pasta was cooked I left a small amount of pasta water in the pot just to help with a sauce (I hate dry pasta), poured in the bacon, onion and garlic mixture then added the egg and cheese, gave it a good stir and was happy with the result- I didn't realize my beloved was criticising the meal and doing a comparison all though I should of known really. Even the boys devour his version in seconds! With that said, dinner WAS yummy (even better when chilli freak hear grinds on some chilli flakes) but if I had to be truthful Nic truly has mastered the art of a bloody good carbonara; giving credit where credit is due I'll say OK his is extremely good...hows that professor of all things Italian?

July 25, 2009

The cafe

I worked the breakfast shift today at the cafe. We usually have a fitness group that comes in every Saturday at 8-am ready for egg and bacon wraps, a 'big roll', or what ever else they fancy after running and jumping all over the place. They didn't come in today, it felt like something was missing to our morning. The hour passed with not much happening at all; I managed to whip up a batch of dark chocolate and cashew nut muffins without interruption (a first), the hollandaise sauce was made at a leisurely pace and all was breezing along. I assumed it was going to be a quiet morning; how wrong was I!
I go my butt whipped to say the least, if I never see another piece of bacon (for the next 12 hours as least) I'll be happy. The fascination Sydney siders have with BBQ sauce amazes me. In all my cooking practice I have never squirted so much BBQ sauce all over eggs and bacon as I have living in Sydney. It must have something to do with the sweet mix of sauce and bacon perhaps? whatever the reason I am now the goddess of egg and bacon rolls and to add to this amazing talent I am the steak sandwich and B.L.T queen!! Not only did I pump out brekkies while Oliver our barrister was getting slammed on the coffee machine, but I pretty much cooked a whole cow in little minute steak size pieces. The smell of steak grilling and the caramelized onions hitting warm Turkish bread and melding with aioli seems to send everyone into a frenzy. You could hear the buzz-
'Can you smell that?'
'What is that? We'll have 4!"
And so that is how my afternoon rolled on, I managed to hang up my scramble apron and don the steak sandwich one. One of these days I am looking forward to actually trying one of these steak sandwiches, but I'll wait until I have only cooked half a cow!

July 23, 2009

A late lunch

I wasn't going to blog about my lunch today but after finishing it I decided I would because it really did taste yummy and really, I should share the basic everyday foods I devour if of course they are delicious.
OK so now I have you all captured and dying to know what I just consumed, let me tell you it was a very tasty little melt that I whipped up. The kids are in their last week of school holidays (thank god!), we have just been whizzing around the Sydney Olympic stadium with friends and of course we stayed way to long. The 5 minute car drive home was 5 minutes to long and we were all starving as we poured into the house. Melts are a big hit in our house, they are fast, quick and a great way to use up leftovers with out the rest of my family knowing (seriously getting them to eat leftovers is like pulling teeth, Nic included!).
I whipped open a tin of tuna, added mayo, diced tomato and slathered it onto the rolls I had cut in half. With that done and the grill turned on to HIGH I grated cheddar cheese to top them with then popped the melts under the grill (melting the cheese to cover the tomato so Alex will never know). They were ready before Max could finish telling me how starving he was and that he didn't think he was able to sit at the table due to lack of energy (my own little drama queen) the kids were eating within 8 minutes of getting through the door and I was almost there, I just needed to drown mine in sweet chilli sauce; I have to say it sealed the deal. There's nothing quite like creamy mayo and sweet chilli sauce combined with melted cheddar and tuna- YUM! Max opted for some sauce on his also but Alex had found an edge of tomato while halfway through his melt and was trying to come to terms with the fact he had mistakenly eaten tomato; the pain and torture I put my kids through!
Seriously though, for a quick yummy lunch that isn't a classic sandwich you should give a melt a go and I defiantly recommend a splash of sweet chilli sauce.

OK so after looking at the photo it doesn't look fabulous BUT it did taste yummy...or was that just because I was starving? Oh what the hell it tasted good at the time.

July 22, 2009

Butter with added flavours

I love butter. All through my 20's I didn't really eat it because "it is so bad for you" and evil fat monsters will come and deposit lumps all over your body if you don't watch out!
I moved in with Nic in my late 20's (thank god) and very quickly all my skim and low fat products soon got replaced with full cream this and high in fat that- that's right butter was put back in the fridge. When I first said to Nic "Oh no this is all bad....don't you read about it?" Nic just looked at me and said something along the lines of "Yeah well the skim stuff tastes like crap and if your going to eat you might as well enjoy it, just don't eat so much of it", to this he continued on with his day and took his then 28 inch waist out of the kitchen and left me weighing up what he had just said.
In the end I agreed with him and welcomed the new fridge arrivals, I mean the guy was smaller than I back then..... who was I to argue?
Last night I had brought steaks for dinner along with brussel sprouts and not much else but I decided I'd grill the steaks, roughly mash some spuds with olive oil and salt (seems to be a favorite of mine lately) then serve them with roasted brussel sprouts which I just love- they have a nutty almost sweet flavour that compliment steak beautifully. The kids on the other hand think I am nuts and reckon they smell like old feet so green beans for them!
Because the rest of the meal was quick and simple to I wanted something else to kind of bring it all together- straight away I thought of garlic butter. Jam packed with flavour, yet complimenting both meat and veg.
Of course the butter was still rock hard when I got it out of the fridge and we don't have a microwave to speed up the process so my next brainwave was to make it in my mortar and pestle- perfect!
Firstly I popped 2 cloves of garlic in the mortar with a good pinch of salt to help release the flavour and produce a paste, secondly I cut my butter into small dice so I could break it down faster. The pounding of the very cold butter released all the tension I was carrying from listening to the boys whinging and carrying on about tidying up their room so the calming effect of pounding butter was much appreciated.
With the butter and garlic melded together I thought it could do with some parsley (but of course, a classic really) and then always the chilli freak I ground a few flakes into the mix for a small punch of heat. By the time I had finished the butter, it was at the perfect room temperature to serve; the sprouts were cooked, potato was keeping warm and all that was left was to cook the steaks.
Dinner was ready without much effort, the boys had finally tidied their room and I had extra garlic butter to store in the freezer for another meal, be it chicken, roast veggies or another steak, so everyone wins.
All in moderation and who needs a 20 something inch waist in your 30's anyway!


July 20, 2009

My American dinner

It was Alex's birthday weekend just gone and to help him celebrate his 4th year I thought I'd remind him of his American heritage, you know just so he remembers his birth roots!
A family favorite of ours is that American classic-RIBS! ohhh the sweet, smokey, juicy flavour dripping from your lips really puts a smile on all our faces. When you combine it will sweet buttery corn on the cob life is really feeling perfect; BUT if you happen to add a dollop of coleslaw to the feast and olive oil smashed potatoes.....well then you are in for a mouthwatering, finger lickin' extravaganza!

I was planning on topping it all off with a tray of biscuits (American style not Australian style) but after a long days work and the fact that I was yet to make his birthday cake I decided to pass and enjoy the rustic flavours already whipped up.

Now when you are going for gold and all you have left is sticky hands and lips why ended it there? I managed to whip up some rhubarb, cinnamon and apple crumbles for dessert and left it to Nic to dress them with lashings of cream and ice cream. Did I happen to mention we had the in-laws to visit? well I think they were totally impressed with our version of an American family meal and will no doubt be asking their butcher for a slab of ribs "American style" to smear on one of my favorite BBQ sauce recipes- if you're interested why not give it a go. Even though the recipe asks for chilli and mustard the kids LOVE them and don't seem to notice the hint of heat. (I actually use a sweet chilli sauce for the family version).

Hickory Smoked BBQ Sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup tomato sauce (ketchup)
1/4 cup sweet chilli sauce (asian style)
1/4 cup hickory-flavoured BBQ sauce (the only one I found here was the Woolworths Select brand called 'Smokey BBQ)
1/4 cup brown sugar- packed
1/4 cup lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons onion flakes
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder

Place all ingredients into a medium saucepan.
Whisk to combine then bring to a boil, turn heat back to a simmer and cook for 7-8 minutes- until sauce thickens slightly.
Pour into a glass jar, pop the lid on and cool in fridge.
Will keep for up to two months in the fridge and you should have enough for 6-8 racks of ribs.
When you have only 30 minutes of cook time left, simply brush on marinade and continue cooking ribs turning half way.

July 16, 2009

Avocado and beans

We have the flu back in the house (Max only). The kids haven't got big appetites for a change and seem to be craving baked beans and fried eggs on toast. Nic and I really have no interest in eating breakfast for dinner (but it has been known to happen I confess), so to keep arguments with sick children to a minimum I gave in and they had their eggs on toast, I didn't have baked beans so gave them a big helping of lemon buttered green beans instead and they were a huge success.
Right, with the boys all fed and bathed by 6-pm it was my turn to cook dinner for Nic and I. We were sitting in the lounge huddling around the lone heater when I asked Nic what he would like-"Something rustic and yummy' was his reply.
I started thinking mash spuds and beans then remembered I didn't have any meat to go with it like sausages, chops or steak; Nic said oven roasted chips would be good.
As I headed into the kitchen and opened the fridge to see what I had, no inspiration came to me (even thought I had done a massive shop that day and the fridge was chockers!). I remembered I had a tin of cannelloni beans in the cupboard so I worked around that. I was to produce a veggie delight and along a rustic theme. I started thinking Italian then pulled out a half mangled red capsicum (this is real life people!) that needed to be used asap. I started a sauce of olive oil, garlic, red wine vinegar and onion on a medium heat then added my sliced red pepper (capsicum) with some salt and pepper and simmered it to soften the peppers. I then added green beans, you know real Italian style.
With the beans in and lid on, the sauce was coming together. I'd add the cannelloni beans 5 minutes before serving so they don't turn into mush but I still thought the dish needed something else. My oven chips were seasoned with a salt and chilli pepper seasoning so the dish had a bit of spice to it; I opened the fridge again for further inspiration and a pack of four avocados caught my eye, I wonder.....

Nic and I use to eat avocado halves the old fashion way with balsamic or red wine vinegar and olive oil in the middle then seasoned with a good flaky sea salt and pepper- so delicious and simple. I started to think avocado could be my perfect missing piece to the meal, after all the bean sauce was an olive oil and vinegar based sauce.
The end result was fantastic! The creamy, smooth texture of the avocado complimented the spicy oven chips and balanced out the beans to perfection if I do say so myself.
I really do love it when my kitchen hodge podge ideas come together and I produce a delicious meal I will come back to again.

July 15, 2009


When I live outside Australia one of my favorite quests is to discover as much food info I can about the country I live in and taste as many excellent examples of the area as possible. Once I have fallen for a certain flavour I usually eat it in anyway, shape or form I can get it and then try to master it myself. For example, when travelling through Spain (especially in the Valencia area) I ate my weight and a bit more in paella. While in Morocco I couldn't get enough couscous peppers and chicken; in Greece it was feta, olives and dacos; in Turkey lentil soup with lemon juice, chilli flakes and yogurt.... you see what I mean.

When living in the States my whole family relished in 101 ways to cook ribs and only one way to eat them and yes it did involve picking them up with your hands and getting dirty- something my newly married friend Sara would be very disturbed at; seriously I have never seen anyone eat a chicken wing with a knife and fork until Chicago but that is a whole other story. We discovered our favorite pancakes were fried banana with real maple syrup, and couldn't get enough of jalapenos, tortillas, guacamole and anything else Mexican (if you have ever eaten Mexican in Australia you'd know what I am talking about!). Because Chicago is such a melting pot of society, when you live there you are spoilt for cuisine and culture and that is just the way I like it.
One of the many places we didn't get to visit during the 6 years we lived in America was New Orleans and that is something I regret and will rectify with my next visit without a doubt. We were fortunate enough to have a very good friend of ours who spent a lot of his time there and loves anything to do with the place so through Aaron's stories and more importantly his food we got a sneak peak into this fantastic food culture.
We would see Aaron in the local park and he would causally mention how he was grilling prawn s for dinner or he had just finished making a pot of gumbo and just waiting for the black beans to cook down. I would spend the rest of my park time willing him to invite me for dinner and I have to say after 5 years of Oohing and Aarrhing I DID get invites and they were and still are memorable dinners.
When we arrived back in Oz I was dying to make some American flavours for friends and family (as you do when you come back from any trip abroad) and also to see if we had similar ingredients over here. One of the dishes I have made is Jambalaya; there are many different varieties as it is a classic New Orleans dish so I hit the shops in Sydney and began my search for ingredients and I am happy to say I didn't have to go far and wide, I managed to find everything I needed at the local Woollies.
Jambalaya is a one pot dish so very appealing to families, it is full of rice, chicken, pork, sausage, veggies and flavour so again another reason to whip it up for friends and family (especially the meat lovers you know). The only advise I will offer is to have ALL your ingredients ready to go BEFORE you start cooking, this way the recipe is really very easy to make and very easy to follow. Right now is the perfect weather for a big ol' pot of jambalaya so don't hold back, give it a go and entice your taste buds to a tiny bit of Americas fabulous cuisine as it is so under rated here in Australia- you don't know what your missing out on!.

Camilla's Jambalaya

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces

300g lean pork cut into 3cm cubes (I used a pork rib, minus bone)

2 ½ cups chopped onion

1 cup green capsicum, chopped

¾ cup thinly sliced scallion tops (the green bits)

3-4 sprigs lemon thyme

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

¼ cup finely chopped parsley

1 cup smoked sausage, 1cm slices (I used 2 Otto Würth kransky sausages)

3 ½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon chilli, ground

1 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon cloves, ground

2 bay leaves

1 ½ cups long grain rice

3 cups water


Wash chicken with cold water then pat dry with paper towel.

Heat a heavy bottom 6 litre saucepan on high and add oil.

Brown chicken pieces making sure to brown all over for optimal flavour. Once pieces are browned place them on a plate until all done.

Once chicken is all browned and removed, add pork, onion, capsicum, scallion, lemon thyme, garlic and parsley.

Stir to combine and brown, reduce temperature slightly and cook for 15 minutes stirring regularly.

After 15 minutes add sausage, salt, chilli, paprika, cloves, and bay leaves, cook and stir for a further 5 minutes.

Add browned chicken, rice and water then mix gently to combine.

Turn up the heat and bring back to a boil- stir then cover with a lid and turn the temperature back down to LOW and cook for 40 minutes.

Stir occasionally to prevent sticking, once ready let sit for a few minutes off the heat then serve straight away.



July 13, 2009

Chocolate+Pistachio= Perfecto

I don't know what it is about me lately, but I am all about the sweet treats! It must be the cold weather or something but every time I head to the kitchen all I want to make is dessert. There is nothing wrong with this of course, however my hips are starting to scream out for a drawstring waist!
I have decided to end my sweet tooth with, in my opinion the perfect pairing of chocolate and pistachio. This wicked combination is a winner all the way from your mouth right through to your stomach. The warm, rich chocolate pudding melds perfectly with the cold, smooth taste of pistachio gelati and for an even bigger hit why not throw in a warm chocolate sauce to make it an all time family favorite.
When I served these the other night I wasn't going to give the boys pistachio, I was quite happy to stick with the classic vanilla- however Max soon set me straight and insisted he (and Alex) have the 'green one'. I forgot he ate his body weight in pistachio gelati when we lived in Italy and only have myself to blame as I was the one who introduced it to him. I didn't make the same mistake with Alex, alas the colour pulled at his heart strings and there you have it, both boys now dive into my gelati stash....sometimes I wish I wasn't so insistant they try everything at least once!
I just had to take a photo (with much eye rolling from my husband) of the pudding all mixed up on my spoon, I wanted to savour the memory of how yummy it really was and I think this shot captures it beautifully, I mean don't you just want a little tasting yourself?
If so head for the kitchen, whip up the puddings and sauce then run out and buy your favorite gelati and prepare for a match made in dessert heaven. I promise the next post will be savory all the way.....

Chocolate Puddings and Sauce

Chocolate sauce:

1 cup milk- hot

1 tablespoon cornflour

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons cold water

¼ cup castor sugar

50g dark or milk cooking chocolate, chopped

1 teaspoon butter


1 ½ cups plain flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

½ cup castor sugar

¼ cup cocoa powder

100g dark cooking chocolate, chopped

1 cup milk

1/3 cup melted butter

2 eggs

½ teaspoon vanilla essence


Chocolate sauce:

Heat milk over medium heat until hot but NOT boiling.

In a small bowl combine cornflour, cocoa powder and cold water, stir to remove lumps.

When milk is hot add chocolate mixture, sugar and chopped chocolate.

Stir to combine, bring back to a medium heat and continue stirring until the sauce begins to boil.

Remove and stir in butter, once melted and sauce has a gloss pour over puddings.


Preheat oven to 180°C, spray a muffin tin with cooking spray and leave to one side.

Sift first four dry ingredients into a medium bowl and throw in chopped chocolate.

In another bowl mix together all the wet ingredients and whisk with a fork to combine.

Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and stir until you have a thick batter.

Pour into individual moulds.

Place muffin tin on an oven tray and pour 1/2 cup of water onto the tray for extra moisture.

Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven, tip out puddings, place in individual bowls, pour over chocolate sauce and pop a dollop of pistachio gelato on top- serve warm.


I like to make these individually so I can freeze the ones I am not eating and pull them out when needed, pop them in the microwave to heat up and eat them with choc sauce (if I have any left) or with what ever else is around the kitchen.

The other great aspect of this recipe is there is no cream to make you feel guilty!

July 10, 2009

Caramel Popcorn

It is end of term for the kids today and Max's friend is flying out to Europe next week to live the life of the professors son (meaning the lucky boy gets to jet set off to Europe with his family while dad researches for the next six months).
We got a note in the kids back packs YESTERDAY from his teacher asking if we could bring a plate of food for a little going away party they will be having for child x tomorrow (meaning today).
Great I thought- what the hell am I going to whip up in between football practice, tidying the house due to relatives coming to stay this weekend and getting dinner?? Cupcakes were out of the question due to me using all the eggs for last nights dinner and my baking cupboard was bare except for a packet of popping corn- Hhmmm.
I brought the Craft cookbook a while ago, Tom Colicchio's book. I love looking through getting ideas for dinner or just drooling over meals I wish I had time to cook. In the book there is a fantastic recipe for caramel popcorn. Bring the pastry chef of an Italian restaurant at the time I brought the book, I decided to try it out on the staff. What a success that was! I had them all eating out of my hands for the next few hours and the best part was it was really easy and fast to make. Since then I whip up a batch whenever there is a party going on or in times like these- when I need something sweet on the fly!
Because I have made the popcorn a lot for kids I have reduced the salt from the original Craft recipe and for some reason added extra butter (??) anyway the result is delicious and a true treat for the sweet tooth in all of us. The mix of salty sweet works beautifully, however the only thing you have to watch is separating it in the end. The toffee is bloody hot and picking it apart isn't for people with sensitive fingertips!

Caramel Popcorn
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup popping corn kernels
2 cups castor sugar
100g unsalted butter
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Add oil and corn to a large saucepan with a tight fitting lid and pop kernels.
Pour into a lightly oiled stainless steal mixing bowl and set aside.
Wash out your popping saucepan quickly then add sugar and water, stir with fingertips until you have the texture of wet sand.
Add butter and salt then bring to the boil on high heat.
Swirl the pot to make toffee, however do NOT stir with a spoon.
Mixture will colour. When it is an even toffee brown colour remove from the heat, sprinkle over baking soda, swirl then pour over popcorn.
With two heat resistant spatulas, begin to toss the caramel with the popcorn until it is all evenly covered.
Once covered, pour popcorn out onto wooden bench and begin separating so it doesn't all clump together.
Leave to cool then store in an air tight container.

July 9, 2009

Rockin' Robots

I have gone off the beaten track a bit to show case some art that I think is awesome!
Lisa Ryan is an artist with fantastic talent and I wanted to share her work with my readers. I first met Lisa in Evanston, Il. Her daughter and Max hit it off in the neighbourhood park 7 years ago and we haven't looked back since. Lisa told me she was an artist but I didn't understand to what extent until I visited her home and was gob smacked seeing her fruit and vegetable series hanging on her walls. The vibrant colours, accurate attention to detail and the actual image had me captured.
Because Lisa is a mother herself, she had to put her paint brushes down so she could focus on the kids and delve into the madness that parenting brings.
Now her youngest is out of diapers, off to school and giving her a little breathing space, Lisa has launched back into her work and this new series of robots shows how much passion and devotion she has for her art.
Max and Alex love their robots hanging in their room, it gives the walls a new lease on life and has started them off on their own drawing extravaganza (I should buy shares in a paper mill!)
If you have time check out Lisa's website it is well worth a look. I am just waiting to have a beautiful kitchen so I can hang some veggies.

July 4, 2009

Red Velvet Cake

Red velvet cake would have to be one of my all time favorite American cakes. It looks sooooo impressive, it tastes divine and last but not least, it is quite easy to make, so when a friend of mine headed for another birthday this week, I used this as a perfect excuse to make the gorgeous cake!
I got the recipe from my all time favorite cookbook mag- Saveur and adapted it to my tastes. The Saveur recipe calls for 12-oz cream cheese and 12-oz butter for the frosting. I thought I could not justify 12 oz of butter if I was to eat more that one slice, so I made it 'user friendly', cut the butter down and proudly ate my body weight in cake and frosting without the guilt :0).
If you'd like to give the Saveur recipe a go it's in issue no. 91, however my version was scrumptious and worth a return visit sometime this year.

Red Velvet Cake
For the cake:
1 tablespoon butter
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tbsp cake flour
1 1/2 cups castor sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda (bi-carb)
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoon red food colouring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar

For frosting:
12 oz cream cheese, softened
6 oz unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar (icing sugar)

1 1/2 cups flaked almonds, roasted

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 180 degree (350) and grease three 8-inch round cake tins with butter, dust with extra tablespoons of flour then set aside.

Sift remaining dry ingredients into a medium bowl and set aside.

In a mixer beat eggs, oil, buttermilk, food colouring, vanilla and vinegar until well combined and smooth, 1-2 minutes.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Divide batter between the three tins, bake in the oven for 30 minutes, rotating pans half way for even cooking. Let cakes cool for 5 minutes in the tins then remove and cool on a wire rack until cold.
For the frosting:
Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla in a bowl of an electric mixer until well combined. Add sugar and beat on a medium speed until light and fluffy- approx 7 minutes.
note: butter needs to be soft for best results

Assembly of cake:
Put one layer of cake on a plate and place a 1/4 of the frosting on the top.
Add second cake layer on top and repeat frosting. Set remaining layer on top, layer with remaining frosting on top and around the sides of all three layers.
Press on flaked almonds to the sides of the cake then leave to set for 10 minutes.
Slice and serve

July 2, 2009

Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant is a favorite vegetable of mine. It is versatile, durable and when fresh, can last a very long time in the crisper!
I have been inflicting the big purple bulbous veggie on the boys for a few years now and I have learned a few lessons-
1) Never get excited about telling them it is in the pasta sauce
2) Always serve it with something I know they love, like almonds, cheese, couscous etc...
3) If I am trying something new out with them and eggplant, make sure I have a yummy dessert to offer half way through the meal if it looks like it is all going pear shaped!
With these three things in mind I can usually make a meal out of eggplant with little fuss sprouting from their side of the table. To my delight, serving the boys a slab of eggplant as I do when serving parmigiana seems to be one of the easiest ways to get them to eat it. I crumb the slices in fresh breadcrumbs then sear them in a little butter to brown the outside before popping them in the oven. I am guessing it is the slabs of melted mozzarella cheese I melt on top that seals the deal for them (I however love the tomato sauce).
Max is to old to fool with stories or blowing off his questions so I tell him straight up what we are having and he is OK with it. Alex on the other hand is dubious from the beginning, 50 questions about dinner, is there anything else, will I like it? etc.... My saving grace with Alex is the fact that eggplant parmigiana looks really yummy and ready to eat when I serve it, so when he asks me what the black stiff is I ponder what to say until he turns to me and says 'Oh is that olives mum?'
Innocent eyes waiting for my confirmation........I will probably be beaten in hell for lying but I look him straight in the eyes and say 'yes, now eat up!'
With that simple word Alex is completely sold and begins eating away, Max is staring at me with his piercing eyes thinking 'you fibber!!!' I don't dare look at him otherwise we will blow my cover- thank god he is in a good mood and not one of those sulky 7 year old ones, you know where the only pleasure they receive is making your night a complete nightmare.
So as you can see my back up chocolate puddings were not needed to get the kids through their dinner, however it was a close shave with Max- if the wind blew in the other direction I wouldn't of been so lucky!

Eggplant Parmigiana

1 large eggplant cut into 2cm slices


400g tin whole tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped

3 shallots, diced (or small brown onion)

2 cloves garlic, chopped

6-8 whole basil leaves

25g butter (optional)

1/3 cup plain flour

1 egg

¼ cup milk, lightly beaten

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs

3-4 tablespoons olive oil (for pan frying)

200g mozzarella cheese, sliced or grated (I used Mumma Lucia brand)


Slice eggplant into 2cm thick slices (approx 5 slices).

Lay on paper towel and sprinkle one side generously with cooking salt- leave for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile make the tomato sauce.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan.

Add shallots and garlic then sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring.

Add tomatoes salt and pepper to taste and throw in the basil leaves and butter.

Pop a lid on top and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turn off heat and place to one side until needed.

Back to the eggplant- after 30 minutes grab so more paper towel and wipe off all the salt from sliced eggplant, you may have to give them 3-4 wipes with fresh paper towel, removing excess moisture.

When all salt is removed, crumb slices.

Add flour to a medium bowl followed with the egg and milk in another bowl and lastly the breadcrumbs in a third bowl.

Dip slices in flour, brush off any excess flour and add to the egg mixture.

Lastly drop in the breadcrumbs and cover slices. Once covered leave on plate and continue with remaining slices until all crumbed.

Preheat oven to 200ºC.

Place a large frying pan on Medium high heat and add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Lightly fry the breaded slices of eggplant until they turn golden brown.

Place slices on an oven tray and pop in the oven for 15 minutes, until eggplant is soft.

Remove from oven, divided your tomato sauce between slices and top with mozzarella cheese.

Place back in the oven until cheese melts (approx 8 minutes).

Serve straight away with a wedge of lemon.