Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Bank on Collins, Melbourne

Recently, I caught up for dinner with some old work pals, S, G and M.  We went to The Bank on Collins, which was midway between us and hence easy to get to for all of us after work during the week.

The Bank on Collins is so named because it is in the old Bank of Australasia building.  The venue takes advantage of the gorgeous, vaulted space of the old bank, which makes for a stunning bar and dining area:

I loved the ye old worldy look of the menu and the coasters (top photo):

The great thing about The Bank is that the menu is not overly expensive, and has a great variety of dishes.  There is something for almost everyone, which is perfect when dining with a group.

Happy hour is on 5pm-7pm, so I splurged on two glasses of house white wine (smashing value at $5 a glass).

I decided to go for it and ordered the Surf 'n' Turf ($29) - an eye fillet steak cooked medium rare, with grilled prawns and chorizo, green beans and almonds.  I opted for a red wine jus instead of the bernaise sauce, and pronounced it all delicious: 

M & S ordered the lamb cutlets ($27) - three lamb cutlets with a pistachio and cashew nut crust, and served with a rocket, parmesan and pear salad:

I was going to leave after main, but M decided we should do dessert.  I ordered the Eton Mess ($8), with meringue, fresh berries, raspberry sorbet and honeycomb:

S ordered the Peanut Butter Cheesecake ($8), which looks utterly amazing - I know it smelled fabulous, and came in a generous portion:

The Bank on Collins was a great venue for our catchup. The staff were friendly, and the service was prompt.  I would definitely go back.

Ground floor, 394 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Thursday, December 29, 2016

EwE - Fig & Ginger Truffles - Gotta have ... CHOCOLATE!

It is our last Eating with Ellie theme for the year, and Margaret chose Gotta have Chocolate!  

Me, I adore chocolate, so the hardest part for me was choosing what to make.  Ellie does have quite a few recipes involving chocolate, and I chose her Fig & Ginger Truffles - dried figs, crystallised ginger, honey and cinnamon, blitzed and rolled into balls, then coated with dark chocolate.  

These were quite yummy - better after they had been chilled for a day.  Are they greater than their parts?  Not really.  But they are nice, if you like the main ingredients.

To see what the others made this week, seethe LYL section of the EwE website.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

TWD - Chocolate Truffles

For our last Tuesday with Dorie for 2016, the recipe was Chocolate Truffles.  These chocolate truffles were a little different to all other recipes that I have seen for truffles, as they contain just chocolate and cream, whereas these truffles also contain corn syrup and butter. 

Dorie informed us that truffles are dusted in cocoa because they are meant to look like truffles in the forest.  I am not sure that making chocolates to look like forest funghi is a great idea, but it works - most people seem to like truffles.

Other Dorie bakers made their truffles pretty by rolling them in alternative coatings, but I found that just did not work for me, as the coating did not stick.  Accordingly,  cocoa it was.

I have only made chocolate truffles once before at Savour cooking school, but their truffles were made by piping the ganache into ready made chocolate shells.  What these truffles and the Savour truffles had in common is mess - my hands were unavoidably coated in ganache as I rolled spoonfuls of it into balls.

I made my truffles straight up with no extra flavourings, but I think a splash of booze in the ganache would be great.

To see what the other Dorie cooks made this week, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Redcurrant Meringue Cake

I am fascinated by redcurrants.  They are so pretty, and the perfect decoration for cakes, tarts etc during the festive season.  However, in Australia, redcurrants are not easy to get, and they are very expensive. 

When I saw a recipe for Redcurrant Meringue Torte (Traubelstorte) in Luisa Weiss' Classic German Baking, I knew I had to act quickly and make it, as the only time of year when redcurrants are available is at Christmas.  Luisa says that in Germany, currant canes are practically weeds!  Not so in Australia.

I bought these beautiful redcurrants from the David Jones Food Hall - aren't they beautiful: 

The cake comprises a pastry base, filled with meringue laden with redcurrants  It is crispy on top and fluffy and soft in the middle:

Isn't it gorgeous?  It tasted fabulous too.  However, I highly recommend eating this cake on the day it is made, as the moisture from the redcurrants starts to seep into the meringue after that, making the meringue "weep".

I highly recommend buying Luisa's book.  However, the recipe is also available here on Google books.  I used 375g of redcurrants instead of 500g, which seemed to be plenty to me.   This is mainly because the price of redcurrants is prohibitive, and as it was, I only ought two new punnets of redcurrants and used one punnet that I had frozen last year, thereby keeping down the immediate cost.  However, if redcurrants are plentiful or cheap in your area, this is a fabulous way to highlight them, as they look gorgeous in the white meringue, and their tart flavour offsets the sweetness of the meringue perfectly. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas 2016 from Melbourne!

City Square, Melbourne

Fleischer, Malvern


David Jones, Bourke St Mall, Melbourne 

 Collins Place, Melbourne

City Square, Melbourne

333 Collins St, Melbourne

333 Collins St, Melbourne

City Square, Melbourne

Emporium, Melbourne

Emporium, Melbourne

City Hall, Melbourne

City Hall, Melbourne

Thursday, December 22, 2016

EwE - Lemon-Garlic Roasted Turkey - It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

This week, Kayte chose the theme of It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas ... for Eating with Ellie.  Christmas is in three days' time, so it is an appropriate theme.  That said, I made my dish about a month ago.

I chose Lemon-Garlic Roasted Turkey with Rosemary Potatoes and Roasted Broccoli from So Easy.

When I went to buy turkey breast from a specialist poultry shop for this recipe, I was told I had to order it.  What???? Why bother having a specialist poultry shop when you don't even sell turkey except on special order.  This is the same shop where the staff didn't know what a spatchcock was, nor did they sell them.  It will not surprise you that I have never bought anything there - I can buy chicken at Woolies.

I ended up buying two turkey legs instead from Woolies, which just happened to be on special that week.  Bonus!!  Sure, I had to separate the meat from the large amount of sinew in the finished product, but that was pretty easy to do, and I got a large amount of tasty meat. 

For a quick and easy roast turkey dinner,   I totally recommend this recipe - so delicious, and the sides are good too.

To see what the others made this week, visit the LYL section of the EwE website.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Almond Shortbread

The last of this year's Christmas box items is Almond Shortbread, again from Better Homes and Gardens Christmas 2016 issue.

Unlike regular shortbread, these cookies contain almond meal.  They were also meant to be dipped in chocolate, but I couldn't find the energy to do it, so I just dusted them with icing sugar.

To make these shortbreads, you will need:

125g butter
1/4 cup icing sugar
1 tbspn rice flour
1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon ginger
2 tbspns almond meal

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius and line 2 oven trays with baking paper.

Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and process into a soft dough.  Turn out onto a floured bench and knead the dough until smooth.

Roll the dough out into a 1.5cm thickness between two sheets of baking paper, and cut out 3cm rounds.  Place the rounds on the lined baking trays and bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until lightly golden.

Remove the baked cookies from the oven and leave them to cool completely on the trays. 

Once cooled, dust the cookies with icing sugar or dip into melted chocolate.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tuesdays with Dorie - Cookies - Pfefferneusse and Christmas Spiced Cookies

This week for Dorie's Cookies, there is a double header from me.  A trip to the emergency room two weeks ago put paid to me participating in Dorie's Cookies earlier this month, so I have made both of December's cookies for this week's post.

First up is Dorie's version of Pfefferneusse - a German cookie that is literally called a "pepper nut".  I have made pfefferneusse before,  but Dorie's recipe has an unusual spice blend that includes mustard powder.  I didn't have mustard powder so I used mild curry powder - even less traditional!  But it seemed to work:  these are my cookies before frosting:

I used Dorie's chocolate frosting to decorate the pfefferneusse, also non-traditional, but good, and was as bold to sprinkle a little pepper on top of each (not too much).     I made a quarter of the batch, and gave away most of them to a friend for Christmas.

The next recipe is Christmas Spiced Cookies:

These comprise Dorie's Good for Almost Anything Vanilla Sugar Cookie dough mixed with Christmas spices, cut into Christmas shapes, sprinkled with sanding sugar and baked.  These are plain and simple but delicious - I couldn't fault them.

To see what everyone else made this week, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Triple Chocolate Fudge

If pure chocolate fudge decadence is your idea of heaven, then look no further than the next recipe in my Christmas box series, Triple Chocolate Fudge.  There is a massive 450g of chocolate in a batch of this fudge, so it is not for the faint-hearted.  The three layers are milk chocolate, strawberry and white chocolate.

The recipe is from the December 2016 edition of Better Homes and Gardens magazine (which became my go to as I needed to choose my Christmas box items in a hurry). 

To make it, you will need:

2 x 395g tins of condensed milk
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup glucose syrup
250g butter, chopped
150g milk chocolate, finely chopped
300g white chocolate, finely chopped
1 tsp strawberries and cream essence
red food colouring

Grease and line a 20cm x 30cm lamington tin. 

Put the condensed milk, sugar, glucose and butter into a medium saucepan for 10 minutes over low heat (do not allow the mixture to boil), then once the sugar has dissolved, allow the mixture to cook, stirring constantly, for a further 8 minutes.  (Do watch it carefully - I had to strain burnt bits out of mine).

Divide the mixture into 3 even parts.  Into one part, stir through the milk chocolate.  Stir half of the white chocolate through each of the remaining bowls.  Add the strawberries and cream essence and red food colouring to one of the white chocolate and stir through until smooth.

Spoon the milk chocolate mixture into the prepared tin, smooth the surface and freeze for 10 minutes.  Spoon the strawberry layer over the milk chocolate layer, smooth and freeze for 10 minutes.  Repeat with the remaining white chocolate layer.  Refrigerate for 1 hour or until set, then cut into small squares.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Honey Macadamia Truffles

My next Christmas box recipe comes from the Christmas 2016 edition of Better Homes and Gardens, and is Honey Macadamia Truffles.  These are so simple but so tasty.  You will need:

600g store bought caramel mudcake, icing removed
1/4 cup finely chopped honey macadamias
500g white chocolate melts
edible gold sprinkles

Finley crumble mudcake into  bowl.  Add the chopped macadamias and mix until it forms a soft, dough-like mixture.  Roll 1/2 tablespoons of mixture into balls and place on a lined baking tray.  Refrigerate for one hour.

Melt the white chocolate melts.  Dip the balls of mudcake mixture into the chocolate using a fork, coating the ball in chocolate.  Place the dipped cake balls back on the tray, and sprinkle with gold sprinkles.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until the chocolate is set.    

Thursday, December 15, 2016

EwE - Waldorf Chicken Wraps - Nuts and Such

For Eating with Ellie this week, our theme is Nuts and Such, chosen by Peggy.  I went with something that is perhaps less obvious to the theme, a Waldorf Chicken Wrap recipe from So Easy.

These were good and really were so easy.  The nut component is in the toasted walnuts in the wrap.  There is also crunchy apple, chicken (I just used pre-cooked BBQ chicken), lettuce and a home-made yoghurt based dressing, all wrapped up in a wholemeal wrap.  This was a terrific lunch.

To see what the others made this week, visit the LYL section of the EwE website. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas Spiced Friands

My Christmas boxes are typically full of glutinous goodies, so for a gluten-free friend, I made these Christmas spiced friands from BBC Good Food.

Yes, the recipe does refer to the inclusion of a small amount of wheat flour.  Friands don't normally contain flour at all, so I substituted the wheat flour with coconut flour to keep them gluten-free.  They stayed together quite well, despite the lack of gluten.

I have to say that these friands are not the most attractive looking specimens.  However, they taste good, especially with the addition of the coconut flour, which gives them an extra flavour dimension. 

Make sure you shape your friands the way you want them before baking, because they pretty much maintain their shape during baking - mine are round because I used an icecream scoop and thought they'd spread and flatten during baking, but they didn't.

Accordingly, if you are looking for an alternative Christmas baked treat for your gluten free friends and family, these Christmas spiced friands are a good option.  You can also easily make them dairy-free by substituting the butter for non-dairy spread.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

TWD - Spiced Honey Cake

The first recipe for Tuesday with Dorie BCM this month is Spiced Honey Cake.  This is an unusual cake, flavoured with a syrup infused with peppercorns, orange zest, lavender and ginger rather than your traditional heavy Christmas spices.

When I went to make the cake, I realised that I had tossed out my dried lavender, so I used lavender and strawberry jam (which tastes disgustingly floral!) instead.  I also realised that I didn't have fresh ginger, so I just used crushed ginger from a tube.  Dried cherries are quite difficult to source here and are very expensive, so I used dried cranberries instead.

The resulting cake is quite pretty and festive, and not at all what I thought it might be like:

I was expecting a heavy, brown, treacly looking cake; this cake is light and golden.

Dorie recommends that the cake sits undisturbed for a day or two to allow the flavours to develop.  After about half a day, I can say that you can definitely taste the flavours, especially the lavender.  The cake is on the dry side, so I think the suggestion to dunk it is a good one.  It might also be good served toasted for breakfast, if you like that sort of thing.  (It is not really done here in Australia.) 

To see what the other Dorie bakers made this week and what they thought of it, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Luis Troyano's Two-Day Christmas Cake

This is the second post in my Christmas box series for this year.  What would Christmas be without a Christmas cake?  Do not despair if you have not started making one yet and you would like to - in his book, Bake It Great, former Great British Bakeoff  contestant Luis Troyano has a terrific two-day Christmas cake, which can be made at the last minute.  The recipe is also available on Google books here.

I started making my Christmas cake late this year myself.  Normally I make it in about July, but this year, I even missed Stir It Up Sunday, and did not make my cake until well into November.  Accordingly, Luis' two-day version, which involves boiling the fruit in alcohol rather than soaking it, was perfect for me.

My cake ended up being a bit brown on the bottom, but luckily, the too brown layer sliced away easily, leaving perfect, tasty fruit cake.

Instead of icing my cake with fondant, which would have been very fiddly given the bumpiness of this cake, I used royal icing to decorate it: 

It looks pretty good to me - suitably frosty.  I should have made the icing a tad thicker, as it remained a little moist and melted my holly and berry sprinkles, but that's OK.  The taste was great, at least from my perspective.

I cut the cake into chunks to give to my friends as part of their Christmas boxes.

Stay tuned for more Christmas box posts.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Danish Christmas Cooking Class at Gewurzhaus

Last Sunday, I did at Danish Christmas cooking class at Gewurzhaus in Hawksburn Village.  Our class was led by Danish chef Marie Sanderson, who has worked for Heston Blumenthal, among others.

Marie started by preparing the duck.  Here she is stuffing it with apples, onions and prunes before putting it into the oven to roast:

While we were waiting, Marie's helper made Gluhwein: 

This is Marie stirring the cream through the cold rice pudding: 

The first course was a warm rice pudding, which is not sweet and contains no sugar - in fact, it can be eaten for breakfast:

Here is the gluhwein, which makes you very cheerful at 11am: 

Here, Marie is caramelising kipfler potatoes as a side dish:

This is the duck, roasted and out of the oven:

These are trays of the duck all cut up.  Danes traditionally roast their duck the day before, then cut it up and reheat it and take it to the table like this:

This is Marie is putting together the roast dinner for all of us:

And here it is: Roast duck with apple, onion and prune stuffing, port wine gravy, braised cabbage, pickled cucumbers and caramelised potatoes:

Dessert was a cold rice pudding served with cherries in port syrup:

It was a very rich, very satisfying meal.  Personally, I'd take some of the elements rather than serving them all together so it is a little less overwhelming, but I enjoyed the meal very much.