Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Nic & Rocco's Chocolate Mousse


So the 2012 season of My Kitchen Rules (MKR) is over after a spectacular final last night - what a showdown! Nic and Rocco headed up against Leigh and Jennifer in a five course fight for the title of 2012 MKR Champions. Both teams cooked sensationally and it was very close, but Leigh and Jennifer won out in the end. Congratulations to the girls! The victory hasn't been without controversy though - I couldn't believe all the fuss in the media today! Regardless of their final place in the competition, I'm sure Nic and Rocco have a bright future ahead of them.

As you may recall, Nic and Rocco plated up a Dolci Misti in the semi-final - a trio of decadent desserts. Of the three, their chocolate mousse received rave reviews from the judges and other contestants... I'm a sucker for a good chocolate mousse, and so I just had to give this a try.

Chocolate Mousse
As seen on MKR (Channel 7)


Ingredients
50g dark chocolate (55% cocoa solids)*
50g dark chocolate (75% cocoa solids)*
30g caster sugar
30ml orange Juice **
1 tbs Cointreau
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
165ml thickened cream

* I could not source these percentages and so used a total of 100g of 70% chocolate instead, which worked well.
** I opted for a pulp-free juice


Method
1. To make mousse, stir chocolate, sugar, juice and liqueur in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until melted and combined, then whisk until smooth. Remove from heat. Cool 5 minutes. 





2. Whisk in egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Whisk in cream.



3. Divide among four serving glasses (100ml capacity). I used four martini glasses. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight until set.



So the verdict? A really nice, velvety mousse. Mr Ladybird's description said it all... "Love the texture, and the hint of orange cuts through the richness of the chocolate. So... ummm.. what are we having for dinner?". Nuff said! ;) 


Thanks for the recipe, Nic and Rocco, and I wish you all the best in your future endeavours. Good luck!


Til next time, dear readers...


Ladybird x

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Easy Vegetable Soup

The title says it all! This is my new favourite vegetable soup recipe from none other than the queen of quick and easy - Donna Hay. This post is a quick one too as I am about to bring little Roman to the doctor for his 6 month checkup and vaccinations... Oh bless, he's always so happy and chatty at the doctor's, and then the jabs come out.. poor lil' nugget! Sometimes I feel like crying too when I see him suffer like that!

Oh, and please excuse the rather hideous accompanying photos taken on my phone last night...


Nowadays recipes such as this one are a favourite of mine because time is of the essence! As soon as baby goes to sleep in the evening at 7pm, there is a flurry of activity in the kitchen. If I can manage to prepare the dinner in time to watch My Kitchen Rules (MKR) at 7:30pm, I'm a happy girl.

Easy Vegetable Soup
Adapted recipe from Donna Hay - Fast, Fresh, Simple

Ingredients
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons lemon thyme leaves
  • 2 cups (500ml) tomato purée (passata)
  • 2 cups (500ml) vegetable stock
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 zucchini (courgette), grated
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and grated
  • raw sugar, sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • finely grated parmesan, to serve

Method


1. Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat.
2. Add the oil, onion, garlic and thyme and cook for 3 minutes or until soft.




3. Add the tomato, stock, carrot, zucchini and parsnip.
4. Cover and bring to the boil.




5. Season to taste with a salt, pepper, and about half a teaspoon raw sugar or to taste (to take the edge off the tomato). Allow to simmer rapidly for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender (Tip - the coarser the vegetables, the longer the cooking time and chunkier the consistency of end result).


6. To serve, ladle into bowls and top with parmesan. Serve with some crusty bread, or even better, some homemade garlic bread! Mmmm...


So tell me, is anyone else enjoying MKR this season? Can't wait to watch the final tonight - Go Nic and Rocco!!!


Ladybird x

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Café Zoe, Surry Hills


Now that baby Roman is nearing 6 months of age, he is able to stay awake for a few hours rather happily, making outings such as going out for brunch a lot easier. It's no secret that Mr Ladybird and I do love going out for breakfasts on the weekend, and we are absolutely loving being able to do this once again!

It might not be the leisurely sips on coffee and leafing through newspapers and magazines like it used to be.. nowadays it's sips of coffee and intermittent mouthfuls of food between Mr L bouncing Roman on his knee, and me keeping an eye on what he's trying to ram into his mouth next and managing the now constant flow of drool from his little mouth! He is a very good baby though, and having a little cutie like him in tow does have some unexpected benefits. For example, I have visited the same fruit and veg store for years, and never once received a smile from the cashier until I came shopping with Roman in the pram, smiling up at her like a little angel. Suddenly her face lit up - magic! Oh yes, he's very charming with the ladies... quite the lil' Casanova! In cafes, he always manages to charm the ladies at neighbouring tables. When visiting Café Zoe recently, in fact, he was so charming that the lady at the table next to us couldn't resist the force of Roman's cuteness and asked for a little cuddle. I was happy to oblige, and Roman proceeded to chat her up while Mr L and I enjoyed a few minutes to ourselves.


Café Zoe is one of my favourite spots for breakfast. There is ample seating and you don't have to book, service is friendly, and the food and coffee are good. It is open Saturday and Sundays, and there is a separate Sunday brunch menu.. so technically you could go there two days in a row and enjoy two different menus ;) Plus parking in the area isn't too bad (for Surry Hills I mean!) Mr L and I headed there recently for a nice weekend brekky where we started with coffees of course...


I enjoyed the corn fritters with toast, salsa, scrambled eggs and a side of wilted spinach. The eggs were delicious, as was the spinach. The corn fritters were nice, but a little more corn in them would have been good.


Mr L enjoyed eggs on toast with two sides - sautéed mushrooms, as well as some seriously tasty spicy beans - I'd give a limb for that recipe... sooo good!


Now, in all my juggling of baby, nappy bag, camera and goodness knows what else I lost the receipt for our meal at Café Zoe so I can't tell you the exact prices of our meals. However, I can say that you can expect to pay around $15 - $20 for breakfasts here. Sides are $3 each, so any extras can make it a little more expensive. But all in all, pretty good value as the quality of their food and coffee is consistently high.


Til next time! xxx


Café Zoe
688 Bourke St, Surry Hills
(02) 8399 0940

Cafe Zoe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Kazbah, Balmain


If there's one thing I absolutely love about Sydney, it's the absolute variety of brunch spots across the Sydney. No matter what you like for breakfast, you're bound to find a place that takes your fancy. Kazbah in Balmain does just that, but with a Middle Eastern flavour.

Trawling through (and finally cleaning up), my camera's memory card of some 1000 photos, I stumbled across pictures of our breakfast there in September of last year. Just a couple of weeks shy of Roman's arrival, I couldn't resist taking Mr Ladybird out to celebrate his first Father's Day... it seems like so long ago, how time flies!



Kazbah has a number of locations in Sydney, but has been open in Balmain since 1998. I love the atmosphere there - the colours, the flowers, the lanterns.. it all gets you in the Moroccan mood, even early in the morning. They are open for breakfast from 8am and offer their breakfast menu until 3pm! Their breakfast menu is extensive (you can check it for yourself here) with dishes ranging in price from around $15 - $20.

We started off with some drinks, of course. A coffee for Mr Ladybird ($4) and a juice of the day for me, in this case, a watermelon juice (a bit steep, I felt, at a hefty $6.50!)


And for the most important meal of the day, Mr Ladybird happily tucked into his brilliant Breakfast Tagine ($19.50) -  Roast Pumpkin, spinach, roast capsicum, roast tomato, caramelised onion, feta and eggs, all served with turkish toast.



At 8 months pregnant, I was feeling like I was just about as big as humanly possible, so I threw my usual dietary caution to the wind and indulged in the French Toast (usually comes with bacon, I ordered mine sans swine), glazed baby figs, double cream and apple cinnamon syrup ($18). Looking at this photo has me drooling all over again!


All in all a most enjoyable breakfast with prompt, friendly service. So next time you're looking for a place for breakfast and you're a bit tired of the stock standard breakfast menu options, Kazbah is well worth checking out. Be sure to book though, they get very very busy on weekends!

Til next time, dear readers...
Ladybird xxx

Kazbah
379 Darling St, Balmain
(02) 9555 7067

Kazbah on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

I'm back!



Oh dear readers, it has been way too long! It's been a little over 5 months since baby Roman entered the Ladybird household and turned it upside down. Motherhood has been the most profound emotional and physical experience of my life. There have been highs and lows, but I wouldn't change it for the world - Roman is such a beautiful little boy and it is so much fun seeing his personality emerge as he grows and grows right in front of our eyes.

The first 3 months with Roman were very challenging to say the least. I know it is strongly advocated in Australia but 'demand feeding' really didn't work for me.. in fact it made life a living nightmare. Even after the first few weeks I was constantly feeding Roman and we had got ourselves into a vicious cycle where he would only sleep on my breast... Needless to say, I was averaging 2 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, and that was neither good for me nor the baby. We tried absolutely everything to try and improve the situation, various books, visits to our local childhood health clinic, Tresillian, Karitane... and none of it worked. It was the most horrendous downward spiral... and then my GP told me about a book that I can say truly saved us. 'The New Little Contented Baby Book' by Gina Ford helped us get Roman into a good routine. After a lot of patience and hard work Roman is now very much the contented little baby... he sleeps well, feeds well, and is very happy little baby! Thankfully, Mr Ladybird and I are now enjoying parenthood after a very strenuous first few months.


To any new mums or mums-to-be out there reading this... there is a plethora of information out there, and the amount of advice you are bombarded with is overwhelming. Some of the worst advice I received as a new mum was, disappointingly, from health professionals. For instance, a paediatrician advised us that babies don't get wind and that colic is a myth... All I can say is, mother knows best - only you truly know your baby and can decide what is best for the both of you. In this sense, I would definitely encourage you to follow your mama instincts!


At 5 months, things are getting very interesting with little Roman. He's having a great time rolling around on the floor, babbling away about goodness knows what, and... starting on solids! Watching his little face whenever he tastes a new fruit or vegetable is just priceless, and I do hope to be able to share some of these pictures with you all. Baby's naptime is almost up and I have a million things to do this morning so I'd best sign off for now... I guess this wasn't really a food post, but more of a personal update from me after such a long absence! Hopefully it won't be too long before my next update and hopefully some tasty recipes.

Love to you all!

Ladybird xxx

PS - The cake pictured at the start of this post was created by my very talented friend, Sharon of Sharon Wee Creations.
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