Wednesday 27 October 2010

Daring Bakers' Challenge - October 2010

This month's Daring Bakers' Challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up and the theme was doughnuts! I was a bit intimidated when I read what I had ahead of me, not because it seemed like a very difficult challenge, but because I'm actually quite frightened of deep frying. It is a cooking method that rarely features in my home, which is great for health reasons, but I often find myself skipping across good sweet recipes that require the technique. But that's what being part of the Daring Bakers' Club is all about - challenging yourself, and getting out of your comfort zone.

And I'm so glad I did. It was a little scary, but I did it! I used a small saucepan to fry the doughnuts in the oil, and there was no spitting oil or burning - unexpectedly and pleasantly drama free! I am proud to say I have conquered my fear and now embrace the world of deep frying. Well perhaps not embrace, I do have to think of my health after all...
We had four simple doughnut recipes to choose from, but I decided on the Kate Neumann recipe for Raspberry Jam Bombolini. Bombolini are small, bite-size fried doughnuts usually filled with raspberry conserve. Mmmm... little fluffy doughnut clouds with oozy raspberry interiors. I also made some plain (i.e. without filling) and rolled them in the caster sugar along with a little cinnamon.You can get creative with these too by following the basic recipe and filling them with whatever takes your heart's desire. A little warmed Nutella perhaps? Phwoarrr!

Raspberry Jam Bombolini
Adapted recipe from Kate Neumann

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon lukewarm water
1 1/2 envelopes active dry yeast (3 1/4 teaspoons)
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3 tablespoons milk
6 large egg yolks
1/3 cup caster sugar, plus more for rolling
2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 cups canola/vegetable oil, for frying
3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam, slightly warmed
icing sugar, for dusting (optional)

1. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, mix the water, yeast, honey and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the flour. (Alternatively, whisk the ingredients by hand.) Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until foamy, about 1 hour.

2. Return the bowl to the mixer, fitted with a dough hook. Add the remaining 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons of flour, along with the milk, egg yolks, 1/3 cup of caster sugar and the salt. Mix at low speed until blended, then add the butter and knead at medium speed until silky but sticky, about 5 minutes; the dough will not pull away from the side of the bowl. Using an oiled spatula, scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

The dough once mixed...

and after resting in the fridge overnight

3. In a large saucepan, heat the oil to 360° (I used a candy thermometer to check on this whilst cooking). Line a rack with paper towels. Fill a shallow bowl with 1/2 inch of caster sugar. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough a scant 1/2 inch thick. Using a 3.5 cm round cutter, stamp out rounds; do not reroll the dough.

4. Fry the rounds a few at a time, until they are browned, about 4 minutes. Be sure to keep the oil between 360° and 375°. Drain the bomboloni on paper towels, then roll them in the granulated sugar. Continue frying and rolling the remaining bomboloni.
5.Fit a pastry bag with a plain donut tip (or a 1/4-inch tip) and fill with the preserves (you can also use a squeeze bottle). Poke the tip three-fourths of the way into the bomboloni and squeeze in the preserves, pulling the tip out slightly as you squeeze to fill them as much as possible. Dust the bomboloni with confectioners' sugar and serve warm.

It's challenges like these that make me really glad to be part of the Daring Bakers' Club. If you've yet to jump on the bandwagon, I urge you to jump aboard! It's a lot of fun and you're sure to learn a thing or two, and even conquer some of you baking fears!

Till next time...

Ladybird x

Sunday 24 October 2010

Chocolate peanut butter cheesecake

For my birthday on Wednesday I was tempted to make a pretty fondant decorated cake, but flicking through the cookbook of the month 'Kitchen' one night while watching TV, this recipe and Nigella's preface to it caught my eye. The fact that it also contains 250g peanut butter also caught my eye! How naughty. How very very naughty...

Some of Nigella's words used to describe this cake will give you a pretty good picture of what this cake is all about:
"overindulgent vulgarity", "unashamed indulgence", "pleasureable, palate-cleaving clagginess"

Get the idea? ;)

Chocolate peanut butter cheesecake
Adapted recipe from 'Kicthen' by Nigella Lawson
For the base:
200g digestive biscuits
50g salted peanuts
100g dark chocolate chips
50g soft unsalted butter

For the filling:
500g cream cheese
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
200g caster sugar
125ml sour cream
250g smooth peanut butter

For the topping:
250ml sour cream
100g milk chocolate chips
30g soft brown sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius then process the biscuits, peanuts, dark chocolate chips and butter for the base in a food processor. Once it comes together in a clump, turn it out into a lightly greased 23cm springform tin and press into the bottom. Put in the fridge while you make the filling.

2. Process the filling in the cleaned or wiped-out food processor bowl, putting in the cream cheese, eggs, egg yolks, sugar, sour cream and peanut butter and whizzing to a smooth mixture.

3. Pour and scrape the filling into the base in the chilled springform tin and cook for 1 hour, though check after 50 minutes. The top only should feel set and dry.

4. Take the cheesecake out of the oven while you make the topping. Warm the sour cream and chocolate with the brown sugar gently in a small saucepan over a low heat, whisking to blend in the chocolate as it melts, and then take off the heat.

5. Spoon and spread the topping very gently over the top of the cheesecake, being as careful as you can in case you break the surface of the cheesecake. No big deal if you do though, you'll just end up with more of a marbled effect. Put it back in the oven for a final 10 minutes.

6. Once out of the oven, let the cheesecake cool in its tin and then cover and put into the fridge overnight. When you are ready to cut the cheesecake, take it out of the fridge, just to take the chill off: this will make it easier to spring from the tin.

The Verdict
If you are a die-hard peanut butter fan, this cheesecake would be right up your alley! Whilst I do like peanut butter, I did find this cheesecake a bit too much, and a little underwhelming taste wise.. I love the idea behind it - chocolate and peanut butter make a killer combination, but to be honest I'm just not 100% convinced that it's worth all the calories that are required to make it.

I was also a bit surprised by the fact that Nigella's recipe and the accompanying picture in the book don't match. Allow me to explain ... the recipe asks for the base to be pressed into the base and sides of the tin (as I did). However, after doing this with some difficulty (as there really isn't enough mixture to do it) and reaching the stage of putting the cake into the oven, I turned the page to see a picture of the cake with only the crust on the bottom of the cake. It is for this reason that I have adapted the recipe in this post, as this is the way I would do it next time. Although... it will be some time before I tackle this cheesecake again - it is certainly not for the faint hearted (or heart conscious!).

Ladybird x

Thursday 21 October 2010

Degustation brunch at Rubyos, Newtown

As a Libran, I am characterised by many things - I am prone to perfectionism, I pay attention to detail, I love beautiful things, I am a sucker for romance, and I dislike conflict. However (and this trait of my zodiac sign is defintiely true in my case) I can be very indecisive!

As such, I can take a long time to decide what I want when  dining out, especially when it comes to breakfast/brunch. There are just too many good options on the menu at that time of day, and it can be hard to make up your mind. I find myself torn between sweet options and savoury options, and even then there are more decisions to be made.. I try to reason between my heart, my conscience and my palate. Life's tough, I know ;) But it is through explaining my morning meal indecisiveness that I can also express my excitement for the concept of having multiple courses for brunch. With a little bit of this and that - the problem of ordering solved! Are you excited yet?!
A couple of weeks ago I discovered Rubyos Restaurant in Newtown in Sydney's inner-west. Mr Ladybird and I headed there for a regular breakfast (which was fantastic) when we learnt of their weekend degustation brunch. And so it was last weekend that we returned with two good friends Mrs & Mrs C and four healthy appetites for the four course brunch with a cocktail for $25 per person.

We are greeted by Liz and her friendly Rubyos staff and we start with some much needed coffees (not included in the package) $3.50 each.

With then make a start on our degustation brunch, starting with the delicious Mini Breakfast Bruschetta - grilled sourdough topped with rocket, avocado, tomato and crispy bacon or haloumi. The four of us opt for the haloumi with our bruschetta which turns out to be a good decision - the haloumi is absolutely lovely and not too salty, and pairs well with the other bruschetta toppings.

At this point we are ready for a tipple with our brunch, either a Bellini (sparkling wine with peach) or a Mimosa (sparkling wine with orange). Three of us choose the Bellini cocktail and Mrs C opts for the Mimosa. The last time I had bubbly this early in the day was at my sister's wedding, but I think I could get used to cocktails at breakfast!

Our next course is eggs benedict - poached eggs on toast with hollondaise, with either leg ham, smoked salmon or spinach. Mr Ladybird and I opt for the eggs with spinach, and Mr & Mrs C opt for the smoked salmon.

The eggs are excellent, and the hollondaise sauce is perfectly balanced. Check out this oozing yolk, oh yeah :)

Our third course of the morning is the ricotta and buttermilk pancakes filled with blueberries, and served with vanilla bean ice cream and maple syrup. These are some of the best pancakes I have ever had - they are so light and fluffy, they're superb, and the vanilla bean ice cream is gorgeously creamy, flecked with vanilla bean seeds.

Finally, the four of us share a platter of freshly cut seasonal fruit with creamy yoghurt and honey. The perfect finish to a wonderful brunch.

We all thoroughly enjoyed our degustation brunch at Rubyos Restaurant and were very well looked after by the Rubyos team. And we weren't stuffed either - we all felt we had eaten a hearty breakfast without feeling overfed.

With food of such a high standard, excellent service, a great venue and only $25 per head, this brunch ticks all the boxes. How am I ever going to go back to choosing just one course for weekend brunches?! :P

18-20 King Street
Newtown NSW
(02) 9557 2689
Lazy weekend brunch special available Saturdays and Sundays from 9 am

Rubyos on Urbanspoon

Monday 18 October 2010

Giraffe Banquet (& a Giveaway!)

You may remember my recent Reverie Room post and how I told you about the market I visited where College of Fine Arts (COFA) students were selling their beautiful creations. Well here is another lovely label I came across at the market, and I've really been looking forward to sharing this with you all. Introducing Giraffe Banquet!

The faces behind Giraffe Banquet are Andy and Jimmy. They make beautiful food inspired jewellery, feltwork and brooches (which can also be used as pin cushions). As you can see from the pictures, not only is their work gorgeous, but much of it is food inspired!

I had the opportunity to ask Andy and Jimmy about Giraffe Banquet, and here's what they had to say:

How did Giraffe Banquet get started?

Giraffe Banquet was born in the Summer of 2009-2010, in an over-heated shipping container of a studio in semi-rural Annangrove.

Jimmy and I were two lost souls, drifting slowly into the dull whirlpool of having nothing to do, that is the four month long uni break. Our thoughts drifted to summers long ago, of playing video games, eating ice cream and chocolates without a care in the world. Nostalgic memories are oft set upon a balmy summer backdrop. So it seemed appropriate that the birth of our nostalgic wearable treats came upon us in the summertime. We started sewing, we started casting. And we've kept going.

How would you describe your collection?

Whimsical with an edge. Giraffe Banquet has all the sweetness of your first taste of ice cream, but can also come in the form of gun metal silver Barbie hands and Nintendo control pad crucifixes.

How does food inspire your work?
It tastes good.

What's your favourite piece at the moment?
Oh, too many to choose! I am lucky enough to own a silver cast ice-cream necklace made by Jimmy, but I have a very sweet tooth for the Iced Donut brooch pin cushions. I've been wearing a jeweled purple one of late.

How can people find out more about Giraffe Banquet?Giraffe Banquet currently has a blog:, email us and we can work directly with you to satisfy your banquet cravings.

So that' s a bit about Giraffe Banquet - watch this space, I say! Those brooches are just so pretty, aren't they?! I just love the strawberries and cream brooch - good enough to eat :)

As part of this post, Giraffe Banquet is offering Diary of a Ladybird readers the chance to win a gift pack containing a few special items from Giraffe Banquet's range, including the ice cream necklace!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post. This giveaway is restricted to Australian residents only sorry. Entries close October 26, 2010 at midnight AEST.

*** Congratulations to Hannah of Wayfaring Chocolate ***

Good luck!
Ladybird x

Sunday 17 October 2010

Piña Colada Ice Cream

Cue the Pina Colada song, kick off your shoes and get that Hawaiian shirt on, it's time for Piña Colada ice cream!

Since I first got my hands on Nigella's latest book, I new I just had to try this ice cream recipe.This is another one of her fantastic no-churn recipes, so it's great if you don't have an ice cream machine (and even if you do have one)! I really love her no-churn margarita and pomegranate ice cream recipes, so I was sure this one would be good too...

No-churn pina colada ice cream
Recipe from 'Kitchen' by Nigella Lawson

125ml pineapple juice, from a carton
80ml Malibu (white coconut rum)
generous few drops coconut flavouring
2 teaspoons lime juice
100g icing sugar
500ml double cream*
75g sweetened shredded coconut (but not dessicated), to serve
* I used thickened cream as double cream in Australia has a much higher fat content than the UK equivalent

1. Pour the pineapple juice and Malibu into a large bowl, and add the coconut flavouring and lime juice.
2. Add the icing sugar and whisk to dissolve.
3. Whisk in the cream and keep whisking until soft peaks form.
4. Taste to see if you need more coconut flavouring or a squeeze of lime juice (and remember it won't be as strong once frozen), then spoon and smooth the ice cream into an airtight container and freeze.
5. Toast the shredded coconut in a dry hot pan until just turning golden and remove to a bowl. Sprinkle a little over each person's portion and leave the rest for people to add as they eat.

Freeze Note
The ice cream can keep for up to 3 months in the freezer, but will become icy, so it's better up to 1 month only and at its best within 1 week of making.

The Verdict
As with Nigella's other no-churn recipes, this one is quick and easy, and offers a pretty creamy result without the effort of making a creme anglaise and so on. I don't think it's quite as good as Nigella pomegranate ice cream, but this isn't bad at all. Flavoured with Malibu, lime and pineapple juice the ice cream is certainly a good tribute to its namesake cocktail. So if you like Piña Coladas (and getting caught in the rain) I say give this one a go!

Ladybird x

Saturday 16 October 2010

La Cachette Coffeehouse & Patisserie, Alexandria

Spontaneity - I believe it's a good personal characteristic to have when it comes to food. Sometimes it's easy to go to the same places, order the same reliable dishes - there's nothing wrong with that, I do it a lot! But now again it's good to break out and try something different, right?

In the spirit of spontaneity, we leave home mid-morning for looking for a place to have weekend brunch and we drive down Mitchell Rd in Alexandria. We spot a bustling little cafe on a street corner and decide to give it a try. We arrive ready for some good coffee and wholesome breakfast to set us up for the day.

The french-style decor and the ambiance is nice, and we are pleased to see a good number of vegetarian friendly options on the weekend breakfast menu, as well as the Light Meals menu. 'Vego friendliness' is something I am always on the lookout for, so I'm looking forward to trying the food.

We sip on our coffees while we wait - a Cafe Latte ($3) and a Flat White ($3).

I have the Ricotta Pancakes with banana, maple syrup and berry coulis ($12.50). I do love my ricotta hotcakes, but I'm afraid these miss the mark.. I couldn't detect any ricotta. Added disappointment was the berry coulis.. I have never encountered a berry coulis that I didn't like, but I find myself scraping this seemingly jam-flavoured puree to the side...

Mr Ladybird's Potato Torte with roast tomato, eggplant and scrambled eggs ($15.50) is so so.. Although the potato is well baked, the dish overall is very under-seasoned. I acknowledge that everyone's palate is different, but I personally do not eat a lot of salt and those potatoes were crying out for it...

The look and feel of La Cachette may be great, but I can't say I'll be rushing back for a meal here. However, I would consider giving it a second chance for something like coffee and cake. There were lots of nice looking pastries displayed in their cabinet and I hear their muffins are pretty good.

Tell me readers, have you ever been left a little disappointed by a spontaneous dining decision?

La Cachette
1/270 Mitchell Rd
Alexandria NSW 2043
Ph: (02) 9557 0586

La Cachette on Urbanspoon

Friday 15 October 2010

Slut's Spaghetti

(Sorry Mum...)

With a name like that, how could I resist trying this new Nigella Lawson recipe?! Here is what the lady formerly known as the 'domestic goddess' has to say about this dish, the first in the chapter entitled 'Off the Cuff'.

Well how could I resist this translation of pasta alla puttanesca, whore's pasta as it usually is described in English? The general consensus seems to be that this is the sort of dish cooked by slatterns who don't go to the market to get their ingredients fresh, but are happy to use stuff out of jars and tins... Or maybe I should just attribute the name to the fiery tang and robust saltiness of the dish?

The original recipe calls for sardines, but I've made this dish vegetarian by omitting them and amping up some of the other flavours.

Slut's Spaghetti
Adapted recipe from 'Kitchen' by Nigella Lawson
(serves 2-3)

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced, chopped or grated
1/4 teaspoon crushed chilli flakes
250g spaghetti
half 400g can chopped tomatoes
75g (drained weight) pitted black olives, chopped a bit
1 x 15ml tablespoon small capers, well rinsed and drained
1-2 x 15ml tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese, to serve

1. Put water for pasta on to boil, though you don't need to get started on the sauce until it is pretty well boiling.

2. Pour the oil into a wide, shallowish frying pan, casserole or wok, and put on a medium heat.

3. Add the garlic and chilli flakes and cook, stirring, for a minute. Add the tomatoes, olives and capers and cook for 10 minutes, stirring every now and again, by which time it will have thickened slightly. Taste for seasoning, then stir in the chopped fresh parsley.

4. Meanwhile, salt the pasta water and put your spaghetti on to cook.

5. Just before the pasta is ready, remove about half an espresso cupful of cooking water, and reserve it. When the pasta is cooked as desired, drain and add the spaghetti to the sauce in your pan, adding a little reserved pasta water, if needed, to help amalgamate the sauce.

6. Serve with some shaved/grated Parmesan cheese and tuck in!

The Verdict
Quick, easy and its flavour so punchy, this one is one of my new Nigella favourites. The name gets some giggles too, making it quite the talking point over dinner! ;)


Ladybird x

Thursday 14 October 2010

Tertini Wines and The Little Rascal

The final post covering my recent trip to the NSW Southern Highlands, but my no means the post of least 'blog-worthiness'!

I first came across Tertini Wines when I was browsing the stalls at the Tulip Time festival in Bowral, and Mr Ladybird and I liked their wines so much that we decided to pay their winery a visit during our stay. I'm no wine expert, but I know when I like something, and I do like supporting small businesses when I visit new places :)
Tertini Wines is a small, award winning winery dedicated to producing premium wines. Their winery is located close to Berrima in the Southern Highlands, a cool climate region. We arrived at the cellar door in the mid afternoon ready to try some lovely wine and to learn form about the vineyard and their products. We were greeted by Sandy and Robert of Tertini Wines who couldn't have been more friendly and obliging as we sipped our way through their range of wines.

The range of whites and reds is beautiful, but the star of the show is the Arneis, which turns out to be one of the world's rarest wines in the world!

As noted in the picture above, 'Arneis' means little bugger or rascal in Italian, and it's called this for a good reason. It is genetically predisposed to being is a very temperamental type of grape to grow - the conditions have to be just right, and its perfect picking time cannot be predicted. Tertini is one of around only 20 vineyards in Australia (and one of around 60 internationally) that produces Arneis. And thank goodness! Because the little bugger is difficult to produce, the Italians almost gave up on it in the 50s and 60s when there were only 2 or 3 known wineries still producing Arneis. Recently, however, a resurgence of interest in new varieties has saved Arneis from almost extinction.

This wine is delightful - light on the palate and beautifully crisp... it is so very easy to drink. Heck - I'm no wine buff so I lack the lingo to articulate how nice this wine is, but I will say that it's one of the nicest wines I've tried in a long time :) I'd say it's an ideal drop to accompany a light summer lunch or picnic. The 2009 Reserve is around $35 and the 2009 Barrel Fermented Reserve is $40. You can purchase Arneis at the Tertine Wines cellar door or via Tertini's website.

The little rascal's multi-award winning cousins, the Rieslings, are also worth a mention. The 2005 Riesling is a multi-award winning wine including a gold medal winner at the Tri Nations Wine Challenge. The 2008 Riesling is definitely a rising star too. It was very recently awarded a gold medal in the 2010 NSW Wine Awards and has also be honoured through its inclusion in the Top 40 NSW Wines list.
After trying the wines, Robert gives us a sneak peak behind the scenes of the winery and we see where the barrels are stored and where the processing takes place.

I think this is a label to keep an eye on, especially if reviews of experts like James Halliday are anything to go by.. Apart from the Arneis, Tertini's lovely Rieslings and Pinot Noirs are available at a number of boutique retailers in Sydney, including:
  • Glebe Liquor
  • Camperdown Cellars, Darlinghurst
  • Lugarno Cellars
  • Abbotsford Cellars

Tertini Wines Cellar Door
Kells Creek Rd (off Wombeyan Caves Rd)
Mittagong NSW
(07) 4878 5213
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