Tag Archives: cooking

Now, what have we learned from this young lady?

I’m not too proud to admit that for every glorious success I have in the kitchen, I have as many disastrous failures. Once trying desperately to impress my husband’s family with my cooking skills, I tried making profiteroles three times and each time they failed miserably. Almost in tears and definitely out of eggs, I gave up. It just wasn’t my day to make choux pastry.

So today I awoke with bright-eyed enthusiasm at the thought of cooking…macaroons! Let me just preface this whole story by saying I’d already tried making these babies a few times…once with success…twice with failure.  But today I was determined to make these work. I did everything the little pink book told me to and worked that kitchen like a boss. By the time I got to letting them set, I was feeling good. They looked just right.

Waiting patiently for my ‘macs’ to get a nice crust.

Then into the oven with them. I was being overly cocky and yelled out to my husband “They look perfect! They’re going to work!” But then everything started to go horribly wrong. They were cooking too quickly and colouring up more than they should. I escalated this situation to code red and pulled those soldiers from the hot zone. Sustaining one heck of a burnt hand injury in the process. So…they didn’t cook and deflated more quickly than my spirit.

Who are you trying to kid?? Those are just failure cookies with chocolate on top.

I still made the chocolate ganache which is supposed to sandwich each half together but most of them were not coming off the paper. So I just dumped the chocolate on top with a ‘whatever’ shrug of my shoulders. I sat there despondent, with a distant stare and ate about five broken cookies. They still tasted ok. But I was making them as a gift for a friend and there was no way these passed quality control. So they got dumped into a container to make a ‘macaroon mess’. A few berries and ice-cream…and voila!

So, what have I learned from this experience?

  • That macaroons are more fickle than a five-year old;
  • Leftover chocolate ganache is easily turned into a lunchtime snack of chocolate milk by your husband;
  • Don’t choose difficult baking items as a gift for friends;
  • Even the most unappealing things can still taste delicious; and
  • Never count your macaroons before they hatch!

And to show you what they should look in all their perfection…here is a picture of the one and only time they worked for me. If you have a macaroon secret….I would love to know it. I will not let these little almond delights beat me!

Tower of perfection.


Posted by on June 3, 2012 in Fire Up the Rayburn


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A weekend of family and food = 152,698 calories.

It’s true…a thoroughly modern woman can do anything. Which I think is evident from the crazy weekend I just had. Let me fill you in.

It all started last Thursday (imagine wavy lines appearing to give you the impression we’re travelling back through time). My brother was in town and was staying at my house. As we don’t see each other that often, its always a grand affair. He also shares my passion for food so I had to turn up the heat and provide a mid-week masterpiece. Because a modern woman can work full time and produce gourmet meals…right? Hmmm. 

I served up a delicious tray of baked salmon fillets, king prawns, asparagus and procuitto. Accompanied by a pear, parmesan and rocket salad and steamed baby potatoes. All finished with a banoffee pie and ice-cream. Now, the only reason I made this feast after I had worked all day, run a thousand errands on my lunch break, then driven the 40 minutes home to stop at the supermarket a second time for a few last minute items, was because it was all supposed to be all made in 30 minutes. Or so the recipe alluded. The tray of seafood was easy and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. But the rest was just a little too much for this weary woman.

My little bro…eagily awaiting my (more than) 30 minute meal.

Friday was another early start with a day of woodchopping in store. And what does any good team of lumberjacks need for such an occasion? A lumberjacks breakfast of course. I made buttermilk pancakes with raspberries, bacon and maple syrup. I know you’re thinking…woah lady…high carbs, high sugar, high fat. Yeah…true, true, true. But as I ate these at 8am and didn’t eat anything else until 6pm, and helped chop two tonnes of wood, I say “meh?”

Looking like a pro wood chopper after my breakfast. Technically I didn’t ‘chop’ any wood…but I stacked a heck of a lot.

Saturday! A day of rest? Bah! Another early start with an appearance at a little girls 2nd birthday party. I was happy to eat a piece of her Elmo birthday cake at 11am simply because I didn’t make it. Then we were off again with a family trip to the beautiful Botanic Gardens for a stroll through leaves and trees and crisp autumn air. We did stop at the coffee shop but I was terribly disappointed, so that’s all I’ll say on that.

When I ordered a Snickers slice…I expected a little more than a hard, un-inspired block of sugar. Poor form coffee shop…poor form.

Saturday night – Indian takeaway and beers! Besides having a rather close encounter with a hot vindaloo, it was a wonderful meal shared with precious people.

So we’ve finally arrived at the pièce de résistance! Sunday – Mothers Day. My husband, my brother and his girlfriend (who arrived the day before) were on hand to create a mouthwatering mothers day spectacular for our mother. I was up early to make the dough for my much loved cinnamon rolls. See here for recipe. We then prepared, in a flurry of knives and bowls and hot pans the following:

  • Steamed and fried wantons with a spicy chicken filling
  • Thai fish cakes served with cucumber dressing
  • Thai chicken curry made with homemade paste (a first for me, and making your own paste really does make a kick ass curry)
  • Cinnamon Rolls served with chocolate and caramel ice-cream

    The ‘kids’ made mother cry from happiness with this Asian inspired lunch.

Needless to say I was rather exhausted by the end of it all and probably a few kilograms heavier. With all the marathon cooking happening, I did have a very vivid dream that I was a contestant on the reality TV cooking show – Masterchef. In the dream I made sausage rolls of which George Calombaris refused to try because he said the meat looked too dense. I happily argued the point with George but he still didn’t try my sausage rolls. Why George? Why?

And that concludes my amazing weekend with my amazing family. I hope you spoilt your mum rotten this Mothers Day!


Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Fire Up the Rayburn


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It’s time for limes!

It’s lime season!!!

I always think its time for lime but right now, limes are particularly spectacular. Big, fat and juicy. And I’ve been buying up big on them because you don’t have to re-mortgage your house to get a few. So what does one do with a mountain of limes? Make a Key Lime Pie of course.

I’ve always wanted to try making a Key Lime Pie, just the sound of it makes me feel all “sitting in a cabana on the beach” like. Little did I know that the original recipe called for key limes…hence the name. But I guess they are native to Florida so the recipe has been adapted for regular garden variety limes…or persian limes.

What I didn’t figure upon trying this recipe is how easy it is. The story goes…that a reaction occurs between the lime juice and the condensed milk which actually cooks the filling or makes it thicken substantially. Although, you’re still required to cook it for a short time. I used 4 limes for this recipe but think that you could use more. It’s very sweet and I think it needs a bit more acidity from the lime juice. Although if you have a super sweet tooth, 4 limes might suit you. Here we go!

Key Lime Pie


  • 16 biscuits (I used Anzac biscuits because it’s nearly Anzac day…but any plain biscuit will do)
  • 125g melted butter
  • 45g caster sugar (I used this but I don’t think you really need to)


  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 x 395g tin condensed milk
  • Juice of 4-5 limes
  • 200ml cream

Pre-heat your oven to 175c. Blitz up your biscuits and slowly add melted butter until it comes together.  Press into a 22cm (across the top) greased glass or ceramic pie dish and push up the sides. Bake in the oven for about 10 mins or until lightly brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

In a bowl add egg yolks and whisk a little. Then add condensed milk, cream and lime juice. Grate some lime zest in there too if you like. Whisk lightly until it all comes together. Pour into your pie crust and return to the oven for 15 mins.

Remove from oven, cool and then pop it into the fridge for a while. We had ours with cream but I didn’t think it needed it. If anything, I’d have mine with a big scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

I can tell when my guy likes something…he takes a bite and his eyes go big and round like saucers. This pie…got saucer eyes.


Posted by on April 21, 2012 in Fire Up the Rayburn


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Pear & Apple Paste – Make Your Own Fruit Cheese

If you love a good cheese platter…then don’t stop reading!

For Christmas last year I decided to make some pear and apple paste or fruit cheese. Along the same lines as quince paste, you know, the stuff you serve with a nice strong cheddar or blue cheese? At the time, I didn’t think it was such a great success but still gave it to my nearest and dearest. Little did I know, it would turn out to be such a hit. But more of that later…now on to the making.

A gift of apples...

I was lucky enough to be given a bag full of homegrown apples from my friends tree. She even picked them and delivered them to my door. Thanks Mrs B. She said they were not great eating apples but were fantastic cooking apples. I thought about making my own apple pies or maybe some apple sauce but then I remembered  that how great the paste was.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1kg cooking apples (granny smith or the generous friend kind)
  • 1kg firm pears (the green ones not the brown ones)
  • 1kg caster sugar
  • 500g water
  • 1 clove
  • preserving wax (sold in preserving or home-brew stores)
  • small serving pots

You will need to peel, chop and core the apples and the pears. I did this by hand the first time but it took forever. This time, another good friend of mine lent me her little apple peeler thing and it worked an absolute treat!

Apple peeling the easy way.

Works for pears too.

Put the chopped apples and pears into a big pot with the water. Simmer away for about 12-15 mins. Once softened, removed the clove and push through a sieve or blitz in the food processor to get a fine consistency. Measure out the fruit. The recipe says use 750g sugar to 1kg fruit. But I say do it to your taste buds. The first time I used 1kg sugar and yeah, it was sweet but tasted great with strong cheese. This time I forgot to weigh my fruit so guessed and put 750g sugar in.

Return to the heat and bring to the boil and then simmer for 50 mins or until fruit thickens and becomes glossy. Now be careful at this stage because it gets really thick and looks like a volcano erupting. I think its best if you half cover it with a lid. I did sustain a hot apple lava bomb to the face last time.

Its a hot fruit volcano.

Once its cooked out, turn off the heat. Oil your little dishes with some spray or wipe with olive oil. Spoon the mixture in to the pots but leave about 1cm at the top to put on the wax. And make sure there are no high spots, it will make it hard when trying to cover with the wax.

Use lots of different dishes or the same. It really looks good in little espresso cups.

Melt your preserving wax as per the instructions and spoon over the hot fruit. Leave to set. You can then store them in your pantry for up to a year they say. Of course, mine won’t last that long. And I kept mine in the fridge. But that’s up to you. When ready to eat, run a knife around the wax seal and it should pop off.

It takes 3 days for the fruit to set. And last time I tried it at the 3 day mark. And that’s why I thought I failed. It tasted like overly sweet baby food. However, about 6 weeks later I had one lonely pot left so I took it on a trip to visit my little bro. Fearing the worst, we popped the wax seal and tried it. It was DELICIOUS! So that’s the trick, you need to let them sit for at least 6 weeks to develop in flavour. We thoroughly enjoyed it with a kick ass cheese plate.

I know it seems like a lot of trouble, but really it’s not. And because it lasts for such a long time, you could make one big batch a year. Now…will I be able to wait 6 weeks for this lot?

Ooooh la la...the finished product.


Posted by on March 10, 2012 in Fire Up the Rayburn


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