Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter Time

Easter time is a time for eggs and a time for eggs is Easter time.

Did you sing it?  Do you know it?  It is one of those songs from my childhood that at certain times of the year is bound to be doing the rounds in my head.

There is something special about chocolate in the shape of an egg, or a rabbit.  I don't know what it is given that in reality they are usually not made of the best chocolate but they are still delicious and I just can't stop eating them!

I filled a bowl in the middle of my team's meeting table with these mini Moser Roth eggs from Aldi.  There are solid milk and dark ones as well as ones filled with nougat and ganache.  And they were seriously moorish!  The team cursed me for their presence as we are all trying to shift the odd kilo or two but what can I say, it is Easter time and that means it is time for eggs.

I hope you all have a wonderful relaxing Easter break.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I have been lucky enough to have a couple of fantastic meals recently.  The first was expected, a restaurant with a fantastic reputation, quality company and the best possible view of Canberra's Skyfire fireworks display.  It was a suitably gorgeous evening.

The second meal was somewhat less expected.  I was in Melbourne for work and as I had an evening free I took the opportunity to catch up with my old boss.  Being her city I left the choice of restaurant up to her and she in turn left it up to Urban Spoon.  We ended up at Kamel in Albert Park and had such an amazing meal that the next night I took the whole team back there.

Kamel serves Middle Eastern and North African inspired dishes mezze style allowing you to share and enjoy a wide range of dishes.  And let me say everything I tried there in my two visits was truly delicious.  Here are just a few of the things that even now, days later, have my mouth watering.

The middle eastern plate – lebanese sausages, olives, grilled chorizo and apple, feta and bread - was delicious.  Each item was amazing and the combinations of flavours was great.

I generally love filo wrapped things but these lamb and lentil filo triangles were brilliant.  Served with a tangy yoghurt I could have eaten a dozen of them.

I love trying new things so it is rare for me to go to a restaurant twice in quick succession but Kamel was definitely worth it.  If you are in that part of the world I definitely recommend it for a sublime meal of amazing flavours.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A perfect day for a stroll

Argh, sorry about the break in transmission, getting the whole work/life/blogging balance sorted is taking some time.  My new job is great but full on and my brain has been very focused on it.  Add to that a fair bit of travel associated with the work, a nasty head cold (all better now) and blogging has had to take a back seat for a little while.

With such busy weeks, getting outside and exercising has also been suffering but today seemed a perfect day to remedy that.  There is a reason why March is wedding month in Canberra.  It is known for long warm days with perfectly blue skies.  Add in the changing leaves and you have a stunning backdrop.  Today was one of those days and as soon as I got up I knew I wanted to go for a nice long walk.

S brilliantly suggested that we walk over to my parents.  It is a decent walk with a steep hill involved so just the exercise we both needed and stopping by Mum and Dad's meant we got an excellent cup of coffee at our pit stop.

It was just a divine day for a nice long walk.  Warm enough to comfortably power along wearing a t-shirt without getting all sweaty, the first of the changing leaves to admire and the air fresh and clean.  Not to mention a great chance to drop in and have a chat with Mum and Dad.  We got home and agreed we need to do this more often.

All in all, a thoroughly lovely way to spend a Saturday morning.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Like Canberra - actually I love it!

Today Canberra is officially 100 years old!  There are many, many activities happening to celebrate this milestone all through the year, but one that I liked was that late last year everyone was asked to nominate what they like about Canberra.  Over 13,000 likes were submitted and they have now been voted into the top 100 things we like about our city and the final list is being announced later this week.  But on this birthday I thought I would do my own list of likes - I wonder how many will be the same as the official list.

I like how big and very blue the sky is here.  From the super deep dark blue of a hot summer day to the frosty ice blue of a winter morning, the blue, blue sky is one of the things I miss most when I'm away.

I like how nature is all around me all the time.  From the tree and hedge lined streets (random Canberra fact you cannot have a front fence, hence why there are so many hedges) to the many nature parks and ovals.  Not to mention the fact that you can pick blackberries pretty much in the centre of the city, even if the crop was disappointing this year.

I like all the brilliant restaurants we have - and the fact that so many of them are hidden in local shopping centers in the middle of suburbs.  I do consider Canberra a bit of a hidden city.

I like that when people say where they work it is usually a rather strange acronym - and that everyone knows what that acronym means.

I like how you can guarantee Canberran's will turn out in their hundreds for the opening of a paper bag if it is free even though we are among the highest paid per capita in the country. 

I like that everyone knows everyone.  People talk about 6 degrees of separation, I think it is roughly 2 degrees in Canberra.  Some people find that suffocating, I find it comforting and love the sense of community it gives.

I like that we have a zoo where you can pat a Cheetah!

I like having access to that national institutions - even if I'm terrible about visiting them.  Not only are the permanent collections of places like the National Gallery of Australia, the Australian War Memorial, the National Museum, etc all amazing but they bring in the most stunning exhibitions.  I'm so lucky to be able to easily visit them.

I like that there are more cool, funky bars and cafes opening up all the time and that we have somehow developed a hipster scene - even if I'm far too mainstream to be considered a hipster.

I like frost - in particular how it looks when the sun hits it first thing in the morning.  Like the landscape is covered in a million tiny diamonds.

I like the lack of traffic and big wide roads.  If I have to drive in Sydney I alternate between angry and terrified.  Canberra roads are just so peaceful.

I like the Multicultural festival and all the other festivals and events that seem to spring up every now and then.  I even like Summernats when viewed from Gus's (one of the city's iconic cafes) - i.e. I can look at the cars without interacting with the participants.

I like that the parks have free BBQs and lots of shady trees perfect for summer get togethers.

I like that it is close enough to the coast for when I need a beach hit, Sydney for when I need the big city, the snow for people inclined to like really cold, hard water and yet is in a place all of its own.

I like the fact that we have 4 distinct seasons.  Cool, windy spring with the gorgeousness of Floriade.  Hot, dry summer with outdoor activities and long evenings.  The stunning colours of autumn, crunchy leaves in piles to jump in.  Freezing winter with frosty, clear nights in front of roaring fires.  It certainly provides for endless conversation topics!

I like the fresh food markets - yes I know every city pretty much has them, but that doesn't stop me liking them.

I like that it is ok to be down on Canberra - but only if you are a local.  If an outsider knocks our town we will come swinging to its defence.

And of course I love that this city is home to some of the most clever, funny, quirky, caring, talented people I know and that even better they are my friends and family.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Trifle the step by step guide

Well clearly that chocolate trifle was great because S requested it again to take to a BBQ this weekend which allowed me to actually get a proper photo of it, rather than of the massacred remains in a glass!

But as I made it, it occurred to me that maybe everyone doesn't have extensive trifle experience and so possibly some step by step instructions on trifle making might be in order.  The following instructions are based on the chocolate trifle recipe but would be applicable to any standard trifle recipe.

I've seen recipes for trifle which involve baking a cake, making custard from scratch, creating your own jelly.  It might be all well and good to do that, but for me a trifle is made of unbranded, standard supermarket ingredients.  In reality making a trifle is more about assembly than cooking but it is the combination of great flavours in attractive layers that makes this such a hit.

To assemble your trifle you ideally need a bowl that will really show the layers off to their best aspect.  If you have a bowl with a nice flat bottom and straightish sides that is perfect.

Layer the cake over the bottom of the bowl, drizzle with the liquor and top with the fruit.  Carefully pour the jelly over (ideally let the jelly get to warm or just room temperature so you don't melt the filling in the roll but it should still be liquid so it soaks right in).  Let it set.

When you make the custard you are going to need to let it get cool before you put it over the jelly layer but it will form a skin if you leave it open to the air.  Instead, put it in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap but so that the wrap is actually touching the custard.  This will prevent the skin forming when you refrigerate it.

While it needs to be cool, don't let your custard get completely cold because it will get really firm then and hard to spread out smoothly.  So put it in the fridge but check it and layer it on when it is only just slightly warm.

Finally when it is cool, top with a layer of cream and decorate with the fruit of your choice.  If you have the option, leave it for a day because the flavours meld and get better after a day or so.

Making a trifle is a bit time consuming but the result is delicious and feeds a crowd.  Love it.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A surprise from the garden

This my friends is what happens when you have a weekend of rain followed by a week of sunshine and don't check the garden.  Yes that is a 30cm ruler.  I guess we are having some zucchini dishes this week!

Oh and I'm remaking the trifle so I promise some good photos plus a step by step guide to trifle assembly for those who have never had it, after all I was well in my 20s before I had my first trifle.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Chocolate Raspberry Trifle

Often I look at something I have made and think "I should take a photo of that so I can blog about it".  Sometimes I do and then it tastes really ordinary so I don't write about it.  Sometimes I don't and then it tastes fab, so I attempt to take a photo of the leftovers which never does it justice.  This is one of those examples.  S told me to take a photo and I agreed, then promptly forgot to do so.  So then I attempted to restyle the leftovers and make them look good and they didn't quite live up to the original.  You will just have to believe me that this is a dessert that looks brilliant and tastes even better.

This recipe was the result of leftovers after I had a bunch of friends over for a girls night.  One of my friends brought a chocolate sponge log which had been decorated like a caterpillar.  It didn't get eaten and after having one slice S decided that it needed something done to it to make it more edible - he then suggested a trifle.

For me a chocolate base needed raspberries to accompany it.  We toyed with the idea of chocolate custard, but went for vanilla and topped with cream, decorated with raspberries and shaved chocolate. We took the resulting chocolate, raspberry trifle to a party and after numerous admiring glances people got stuck in and it was confirmed as super delicious.

Trifle is a bit time consuming to make, but it is such a crowd pleaser and I think I can guarantee if you make this you won't have time to take a photo before everyone digs in - oh and it will look a whole lot nicer than this!

Chocolate Raspberry Trifle

chocolate sponge roll
1/4 cup kirch
raspberry syrup (it is like a super thick cordial, some specialty delis have it - this is definitely an optional extra)
1/2 cup frozen or fresh raspberries
2 x packets of raspberry jelly
4 heaped dessert spoons custard powder
3 dessert spoons caster sugar
2 cans (385ml per can) evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
250ml thickened cream
extra raspberries and shaved chocolate to decorate

Cut sponge into 2cm thick slices and arrange on the bottom of a trifle dish.  You probably won't need to use the whole sponge roll, and you can pile up more than one layer if you like but it is a better ratio with only one layer of cake.  Drizzle with the kirch and a little slurp of raspberry syrup (if using).  Sprinkle the raspberries over.

Make up the jelly to the directions on the packet, allow to cool a bit (but not solidify) then pour over the sponge and raspberries.  Put in the fridge to set (3-4 hours).

Make the custard by putting the custard powder and sugar in a small saucepan.  Add a little evaporated milk and stir over a low heat until the powder and sugar is dissolved.  Add the rest of the evaporated milk and the vanilla and stir over a medium heat till the custard starts to boil and thickens.  Take off the heat, put in a bowl, cover with glad wrap (actually touching the custard, it prevents a skin forming) and put in the fridge till almost cool, 30-50 minutes.  Spoon over set jelly and smooth out into an even layer.

Whip the cream till thick and holding ists shape, spoon over the custard layer, decorate with the extra raspberries and shaved chocolate if desired and refrigerate until serving time. 

The trifle can be served straight away but is best left at least a few hours if not overnight for all the flavours to meld.

NOTE: I did remake this recipe and take proper pictures which are here along with a step by step description of how to make a trifle.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Perfect Timing

This year is whipping by at an extraordinary rate of knots.  It has been so eventful and busy that in some ways it feels like it has been going forever but the fact that we are two months into 2013 and summer has ended seems to have snuck up on me.

Autumn is arguably the most beautiful season in Canberra.  The many varied deciduous trees that line the streets of this city turn the most glorious colours - be prepared for my numerous shots because I love them.  And while the change of seasons may have snuck up on me, it seems mother nature was well aware of the passing of time.  All of a sudden I can see the leaves around the city are starting to turn and the first of March arrived with a cold gust of wind that had us all reaching for jumpers and jackets.

All of which was perfect timing because look at this divine pashmina a dear friend of mine brought me back from her recent trip to Vietnam. Usually it would be too warm at this time of year to wear this gorgeous scarf but this little taste of the season to come has me swathed in its gorgeous cobalt and pink.  What more can I say except that sometimes timing just doesn't get any better.