Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Blogger Tag - Who, me?

When I was a child, I didn't really like playing tag - largely because I have 3 older brothers who always ran much faster than me, and who used to tag really hard! Now that I'm all grown up and have immersed myself in the blogging world, I was delighted to be invited to play along in this game of blogger tag. Nominated by Julie of Gourmet Getaway, I have been asked to reveal some information about myself in response to these questions:

1. List five foods you could you never bring yourself to eat?
Foie grois
Kopi Luwak - not quite a food, but rather a drink with an interesting method of preparation!
Century eggs

2. Share your happiest food memory.
Oooh such a tough one - so many memories to choose from! I have many from my childhood growing up in a house with 6 kids. However, in my adult life one of my happiest food memories would have to be on my honeymoon in Paris in 2008. We had a picnic on the floor of our hotel room, just metres from the Arc de Triomphe. It was very simple fare including a bread stick, cheese and a few salads from a deli near the hotel. We ate and sipped on french red wine whilst listening to french radio. It was so simple and absolutely romantic that I will always remember it - a very happy food memory.

3. What would be your most embarrassing fashion moment?
In primary school I begged my mum to buy me a colourful sequin encrusted baseball cap and I thought I was sooo stylish wearing it. Looking back on it now, I cringe! My God it was hideous!!!

4. Finish this sentence, “It drives me mental when….”
I ask staff in restaurants about vegetarian menu options and they offer me fish. Vegetarians by definition do not eat any meat, including fish. People who eat fish are called pescetarians. It's not their fault though... a lot of people don't know the difference between the two, so I should be more patient...

5. Finish this sentence, “There is nothing better in life than…”
a warm hug, a hot shower, fresh bread, a nice cup of tea... and family :)

6. You find a magic lantern and are granted one wish from the Genie of the lamp, what would your wish be?
That I could become a full-time food blogger dedicated to trying out recipes, reading cookbooks, trying places to eat, and sharing it with the entire world!

7. If you had one hour of invisibility what would you do?
I would play cheeky pranks on people I know... I do have a mischievous side... hehehe ;)

8. What made you decide to share your life with the world via a blog?
I guess two things - I love to bake, and I am very passionate about changing people's perceptions about vegetarian food. It doesn't have to be nut roasts and mung beans eaten by people wearing tie-dye and excess body hair :P I want to show people that vegetarian food can be sophisticated, unique, nutritious and above all, delicious! And a quick disclaimer - I'm not a meater-eater-basher either... I have no issues with people eating meat (believe me, I was not always vego so I know exactly what it feels like to be preached to!).  I believe that if it's good food, whether or not it contains meat should be incidental :) I just want to share my foodie experience with others and I feel that food blogging is the perfect platform for this. I have met so many wonderful people along the way... the food blogging community is like one big happy family!

So there you have it - now you all know a little more about me!

So dear readers, why not reveal a random fact or two about yourself too!

Ladybird x

Monday, 29 November 2010

Couture Cake Class

Several weeks ago I was delighted to attend a cake class in the Sydney CBD hosted by Couture Cake Classes. As many of my regular readers will know, I do love decorating with fondant! On this occasion the task was to recreate a decorated small round, one tier cake with stripes and a candle - very sweet in more ways than one ;)

First we were all provided with our cake, ready to be cut into 3 even(ish) layers and then brushed with syrup and ganached between the layers.

Creating a perfectly(ish, again!) ganached cake takes time, but it is important. During the class, Louise provided us with lots of tips and guidance to ensure a good foundation for the really fun part - decorating wtih fondant!

We then brush our cakes all over with syrup before moving on to colour our fondant ready for decorating.

We then roll out the white fondant to cover the cake before decorating with coloured fondant. We buff and smooth, buff and smooth until we have a nice even surface.

Then we transfer the cake to our fondant covered cake board and get set for adding the stripes and melted wax effect top.

Finished with a candle created by twisting thin fondant rolls around a bamboo skewer, our cakes are finished! It was a great feeling of accomplishment as everyone stood back and admired their work.

Thanks again to Sharon, Louise and Lilia for hosting such a wonderful and educational cake experience!

If you'd like to find out more about Couture Cake Classes, why not check them out at their stall at the upcoming MasterChef Live Australia event in Sydney from December 10-12 where they will also be running free cupcake decorating demonstrations.

PLUS thanks to Couture Cake Classes, readers of Diary of a Ladybird are eligible for a 10% discount on classes! To be eligible simply enter the promotional code 'ladybird' when you sign up for a class. The 2011 class schedule is out now, so check it out!

Couture Cake Classes
Sydney, NSW

*** Ms Ladybird attended this class as a guest of Couture Cake Classes ***

Friday, 26 November 2010

Nutella Cake - chocolate, hazelnut & other friends

Due to travel and the business of getting back into routine since returning from overseas, I haven't had a lot of time to discuss the Cookbook of the Month, The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit. However, I could not let the month slip by without sharing with you some of the great advice that this book offers for flavour pairings. No such book would be complete without a decent number of pages dedicated to chocolate and suitable pairings and examples of such delicious duos...

The usual and delightful suspects are there - chocolate & almond, chocolate & raspberry, chocolate & peanut, but there are some suggestions that rouse my curiosity and creativity...

Of course, the pairing of chocolate and its good friend the hazelnut comes as no surprise. The combination is probably known in the best form of the world renowned spread Nutella. It may not be especially daring, but by golly it works... Here is a recipe for a cake that combines chocolate and hazelnut (as well as a little hazelnut liqueur) to make an easy and decadent treat that won't last long! And yes, it's no misprint - it calls for an entire jar of Nutella ;)

Nutella Cake
Adapted Nigella Lawson recipe (serves 8 very generous Nigella portions, or 10 regular portions)

6 large eggs, separated
Pinch of salt
125g soft unsalted butter
400g Nutella
1 tablespoon Frangelico, rum or water
100g ground hazelnuts
100g dark chocolate, melted

100g hazelnuts (peeled weight)
125ml double cream
1 tablespoon Frangelico, rum or water
100g dark chocolate
25g milk chocolate


1. Grease and line a 23cm springform round tin. Preheat the oven to 180ÂșC/gas mark 4.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff but not dry. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and Nutella together, and then add the Frangelico (or whatever you're using), egg yolks and ground hazelnuts.
3. Fold in the cooled, melted chocolate, then lighten the mixture with a large dollop of egg white, which you can beat in as roughly as you want, before gently folding the rest of them in a third at a time.
4. Pour into the prepared tin and cook for 40 minutes or until the cake's beginning to come away at the sides, then let cool on a rack.
5. Toast the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan until the aroma wafts upwards and the nuts are golden-brown in parts: keep shaking the pan so that they don't burn on one side and stay too pallid on others. Transfer to a plate and let cool. This is imperative: if they go on the ganache while hot, it'll turn oily.
6. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the cream, liqueur or water and chopped chocolate, and heat gently. Once the chocolate's melted, take the pan off the heat and whisk until it reaches the right consistency to ice the top of the cake. Unmould the cooled cake carefully, leaving it on the base as it will be too difficult to get such a damp cake off in one piece.
7.Ice the top with the chocolate icing, and dot thickly with the whole, toasted hazelnuts. If you have used Frangelico, put shot glasses on the table and serve it with the cake (this is optional, of course).

If you like chocolate and hazelnut as a pairing, why not consider some of these ingredients as unusual companions to chocolate as suggested by Niki Segnit, author of The Flavour Thesaurus:
- Lemon
- Chilli
- Cardamom
- Ginger
- Pear
- Anise
- Tomato

I endeavour to one day give some of these pairings a try in my kitchen - if only there were more time for cooking in life!

But tell me readers, have you ever tried any unusual flavour combinations with chocolate? And were they successful?

Ladybird x

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Uma Ubud, Ubud Indonesia

Hello oh lovely readers, I'm back!

I recently returned from my holiday to Singapore and Bali. In Singapore Mr Ladybird and I caught up with some family before heading to Bali for 5 days. It has been too long since my last blog post, so let me share some of my holiday with you.

Mr Ladybird and I have had a bit of a tiring year, and we were well overdue for a good break, and we also wanted to celebrate our second anniversary properly. So some serious rest and relaxation was on the cards for both of us. We stayed at a beautiful hotel called Uma Ubud, a true gem of a place hidden away in Ubud, around 40 minutes drive north-east of Bali airport. Well and truly away from the noise, heat and hustle and bustle of the more touristy areas of Bali.

It was an incredible 5 star experience - just what the doctor ordered. But sometimes it's best to say it with pictures (and fewer words)...

We stayed in the Garden Room which was more like a small private villa featuring a beautiful entrance with stepping stones across a pond with a small fountain and resident koi fish. It was minimlast and homely at the same time.. just perfect :)

And waiting for us on our porch, two refreshing fruit punches to welcome us...

... as well as the cake brought to us to commemorate our anniversary - so thoughtful, and such a sweet surprise from the staff at Uma Ubud.

 The beautiful bedroom...

The enormous bathroom complete with an enormous bathtub!

And our private porch and garden

And the hotel surroundings were equally beautiful. Uma Ubud's property is carved out of hillsides overlooking the Tjampuhan Valley on the fringes of Ubud. Green and lush with birds in the trees.

The hotel yoga pavillion where yoga classes were held for guests daily. The pavillion overlooks the valley and it was very relaxing hearing the water running in the valley below while practising.

The stunning hotel restaurant...

I can't wait to bring you more from our stay at Uma Ubud - next time I'll be focusing on the wonderful food we enjoyed there, so stayed tuned :)
Ladybird x

Uma Ubud
Ubud, Indonesia

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Madame Flavour Giveaway

I do love a good cup of tea during the day - for me, a nice cuppa can make the world of difference when I want to relax and read a book on the weekend.. the week's stress just melts away.. Ahhhhh :)

A little while ago I received some lovely teas to sample from Madame Flavour. Madame Flavour is an Australian tea company that focuses on quality teas produced with a lot of care.

I am more of a herbal tea drinker, so I really enjoyed the Green Jasmine Pear Blend, as well as the White Rose. Both beautifully delicate and easy to drink.

Some friends and I also tried the black tea varieties with interesting combinations such as Earl Grey with Australian Lemon Myrtle. Although the black teas were not as robust as many other black teas on the market, it is great to see the inclusion of native Australian flavours.

These teas aren't your ordinary tea that come in the form of tea bags - these come in a ladylike purse, which is 100% biodegradable (as is the packaging). Madame Flavour tea is also 70% certified organic at present, and is all sourced through fair trade.

Thanks to Madame Flavour, one lucky reader has the chance to win a gift pack of Madame Flavour teas including 5 of the signature blends. All you have to do is leave comment on this post and tell me when and where you love to enjoy a nice cup of tea.

Entries close at midnight AEST on November 30.
This giveaway is restricted to Australian residents only sorry.

*** Congratulations to Shannon of Stepford Secrets ***

To find out more about Madame Flavour teas, check out her gorgeous website: http://www.madameflavour.com/

Monday, 1 November 2010

Cookbook of the Month - November 2010

I've been off the blog radar for a little while as I busily prepare to go on holidays this week, but this is a post I've been looking forward to.

I am delighted to announce the Cookbook of the Month for November - The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnet.

I received this book from my beautiful sister for my birthday last month and I was immediately blown away by it. And not by the food photography, because there isn't a single photo - the content is the drawing card here. It is unlike any other cookbook I've ever come across. It is not a regular cookbook in the true sense of the word... it is more like a compendium of flavour combinations that complement each other really well, including some less common ones such as chocolate and anise; beetroot and orange; watermelon and fresh coriander; and, hazelnut and rosemary... It is intriguing, inspiring and you can't help but keep reading. Some of the pairings are followed by examples of top chefs' dishes utilise the combination, while others include recipes to try yourself.

But what I really like about this book is that the author sets out to instil more cooking confidence in readers so that, rather than following cookbooks "like a handrail in the dark" that we can learn to follow our instincts when it comes to cooking, really cooking, which is what we all strive towards, don't we?

Although I will soon be on holidays, I will endeavour to share some of the flavour combinations from the book with you upon my return. Until then, I'd encourage you to check out this book if you get the chance, it's a very interesting read!

Ladybird x
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