season's greetings

24 Dec 2012

The year is coming to a close and I'm going to take a break from blogging until the New Year. I'm home with my family in Brisbane and I'm going to take the week off doing family things before returning to work. Before I take a break, I'd like to thank a few people. 

Firstly my readers. You're a quiet lot but I know you're out there! I wouldn't keep blogging unless there was an audience. I'd like to thank all the shop owners who allowed me to shoot their shops in 2012. Every-one was really lovely and welcoming to me. When I'm back home again in Sydney I'll put together a collage of all the shops I photographed in 2012.

I'd like to thank Holly from decor8 for bringing my photos to a wider audience and to all my friends and family who put up with me. You're a bunch of troopers.

It's been a long and hard year for me and I'm looking forward to what 2013 has in store.

Have a great Christmas and New Year and I look forward to seeing you all again in the New Year,



the christmas collection 2012 - traditional christmas cake

21 Dec 2012

I’ve been making some form of Christmas Cake since I was 16. Once I found this recipe, which I adapted from a recipe I found in the Good Cook, Cakes and Pastries book published by Time Life, the finished cake was so moist and fruity there was no reason to look for another.

Now I realise not all countries have adopted the fruit cake with as much enthusiasm as the UK and other Commonwealth countries. I think that’s a bit of a shame, as a well made fruit cake is a lovely thing. A badly made fruit cake, I agree, is a bit of a nightmare. The cake is baked for a long time in a low oven, so protecting the cake from the heat is really important otherwise you'll end up with a dry cake.

I’d love to say that the recipe is foolproof, because it’s not. You all know about the blue vein version I made one very hot and steamy summer when I put sour cherries into the fruit mix and they soaked up just a bit too much liquid.

There was also the fruit brick I made when I was living in Edmonton. The combination of altitude, an unfamiliar oven and different  types of dried fruit resulted in an expensive failure but you should get a good result if you follow the instructions to the letter. I normally make the cake about 4 weeks before Christmas to allow it time to mature. The longer the cake matures, the darker and richer the cake will be and the house will be filled with the smells of Christmas.

You'll need to start this recipe the night before.
Traditional Christmas Cake (makes one 17 cm cake)
printable version
50 gm (2 oz), finely chopped mixed peel
50 gm (2 oz) dates, chopped
190 gm (6½ oz) sultanas
190 gm (6½ oz) currants
125 gm (4 oz) raisins, chopped
50 gm (2 oz) almonds, blanched and chopped
125 gm (4 oz) unsalted butter
½ cup (125 gm) (4 oz) brown sugar
grated rind of ½ orange and ½ lemon
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 cup (135 gm) plain flour
¼ teaspoon each mixed spice and nutmeg
3 tablespoons rum or brandy
Additional almonds to decorate the cake

The night before, thoroughly wash the dried fruit. Place in a bowl and add the rum. Cover and leave to soak overnight.

Preheat the oven to 170ºC/325ºF. Line a 17 cm round tin with a layer of greased greaseproof paper. Tie a band of brown paper or folded newspaper round the outside of the tin for extra protection. Place the prepared tin on a sheet of folded newspaper on a baking tray.

Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the grated rinds. Sift the flour and spices together. Gradually add the eggs with a sprinkling of flour to stop the mixture curdling. Stir in the remaining sifted flour. Lastly stir in the soaked fruit and chopped nuts.Turn the batter into the lined tin and hollow out the centre of the cake a little to prevent rising. Decorate the cake with the remaining almonds and cover the top of the cake with a piece of greaseproof paper to prevent it from browning too fast.

Put the cake into the preheated oven for 20 minutes, before reducing the heat to 150ºC/300ºF. Bake a further 40 minutes then reduce the heat to 140ºC/275ºF for the rest of the cooking time. The cake will need a total of 2 – 3 hours baking time. The cake is cooked when it stops “humming”. Allow the cake to cool thoroughly before turning out.

When cool, I pour additional rum over the cake before wrapping it plastic wrap and placing the cake into a well sealed storage tin.

I normally make a 23 cm/9 inch cake using double the mixture but this year I made 2 smaller cakes instead. If you do decide to make one large cake you'll need to increase the total cooking time to 4-5 hours.

That's the last recipe I have to share with you for 2012. I do so hope you enjoyed this year's Christmas Collection,


the christmas collection 2012 - xmas brownies

20 Dec 2012

When I was making the list for this year's Christmas Collection I thought it should be a mix of old favourites with some new recipes. The old favourites were easy to choose but the new recipes were not so easy. Should I make cranberry and pistachio meringues or perhaps some biscotti?

Browsing through the internet I stumbled upon a few recipes for Fruit Mince brownies and thought they sounded interesting. I looked through the cupboard and I had all the ingredients on the shelves, so I decided to give them a try. I found a recipe in an old Delicious magazine and used that as the inspiration to create some Xmas brownies.

These brownies were the definite stand-outs for the year - moist, dense and intensely chocolately with the occasional unexpected flavour burst from the fruit mince. Any fruit mince will do. I just use the bottled kind because I confess I actually prefer the flavour of my doctored version to the home made variety. You can find it here in the mince pie recipe from the 2011 Christmas Collection.

Here's the brownie recipe for you.
Xmas Brownies printable recipe
125 grams (4 oz) unsalted butter, roughly chopped
180 grams (6 oz) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup plain flour
½ teaspoon mixed spice
1½ tablespoons cocoa powder
¾ cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
¼ cup fruit mince
¾ cup toasted walnuts or pecans chopped into large pieces
Extra cocoa for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF. Grease and line a 20 cm (8 inch) square tin with paper.

Sift the flour, mixed spice and cocoa together. Melt the butter and the chocolate together in a medium sized bowl over simmering water or in the microwave. Allow to cool a little before stirring in the sugar and the beaten eggs. Mix in the flour and cocoa mixture, the fruit mince and the nuts and stir until well combined.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared 20 cm (8 inch) square tin. Bake at 180ºC/350ºF for 30 minutes, or until just cooked when tested with a skewer.The brownie crumb should come out a bit damp.

Allow the brownies to cool in the tin, before turning out and removing the paper. Dust with extra cocoa before cutting into squares. Makes 9 large or 16 small brownies.

I’m not a fan of overly sweet food but if you are, you may feel the need to bump up the sugar content in these brownies.

I'll be back tomorrow with the final piece from the 2012 Christmas Collection.

See you then,


the christmas collection 2012 - xmas fruit and nut cake

19 Dec 2012

This recipe is another blast from the past. Xmas Fruit and Nut Cake is also known as stained glass window cake and it was very popular when I was teenager. I haven’t made one in years but I had lots of leftover dried fruit and nuts from my Christmas baking that I didn’t want to go to waste. The original recipe was from another old cookbook I have on my shelves, The Australian Women’s Weekly New Cookbook.

The original recipe used glacé cherries, pineapple and apricots plus a variety of nuts but as I’m not a huge fan of glacé fruit I substituted other fruits. Apart from some glacé cherries and ginger I used figs, raisins and chopped mixed peel instead. I couldn’t go past my cute little loaf tins so I made 4 mini cakes and one larger cake from the mixture.

Here's the recipe for you.

Christmas Fruit and Nut or Stained Glass Window Cake
(adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly New Cookbook)
printable recipe
Cake Recipe
250 (8 oz) whole seedless dates
125 g (4 oz) soft figs, halved
125 g (4 oz) glacé ginger, coarsely chopped
90g (3 oz) red glacé cherries, whole
90g (3 oz) green glacé cherries, whole
50 g (1¾ oz) raisins
50 g (1¾ oz) mixed peel, finely chopped
170g (5½ oz) brazil nuts
125 g (4 oz) blanched almonds
80g (2 ¾ oz) walnuts
2 large (60g) eggs
½ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon rum
90 g (3 oz) softened butter
¼ cup plain flour
¼ cup ground almonds
½ teaspoon baking powder

Optional Topping
60g (2 oz) glacé ginger, coarsely chopped
50g (1¾ oz) red glacé cherries, whole
50g (1¾ oz) green glacé cherries, whole
90g (3 oz) brazil nuts
60 g (2 oz) blanched almonds
50g (1¾ oz) walnuts
A few halved dates or figs
Apricot jam for glazing

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F. Line 1 bar tin (9 cm x 22 cm) or 8 small loaf tins (5 cm x 10 cm) with baking paper.

Combine the fruit and whole nuts in a bowl and mix well. In a large bowl, cream the butter, vanilla and sugar until light and fluffy; add the eggs and the rum and stir well to combine. Sift the flour and baking powder together into a small bowl. Add the flour and the ground almonds to the creamed mixture with the combined fruit and nuts. Divide the mixture evenly between the pans.

If desired place the extra fruit on top, pressing down gently into the mixture. Bake the small cakes for 45 minutes and the large cake for 1½ hours.

Allow the cakes to cool in their tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. When completely cold, wrap the cakes in plastic wrap or foil and store in an airtight tin until required. If desired, glaze the top of the cake just before serving with warmed apricot jam. Slice thinly to serve.

Any combination of glace fruit and nuts can be used. The original recipe used glace pineapple and apricots but I used figs and ginger instead.

The sliced cake still looks like a stained glass window, just like I remembered.

See you all tomorrow with the next recipe from my 2012 Christmas Collection,


christmas collection 2012 - walnut kipferl

18 Dec 2012

This recipe comes from an old Maureen Simpson recipe book called Australian Cuisine, which I’ve had for years. Maureen was the Australian House and Garden magazine food editor many years ago and this old cookbook is filled with good old fashioned recipes and some funny things that were probably the height of fashion in the 80’s.  

These cookies are a traditional Austrian Christmas treat and I’ve no idea why it’s taken me so long to get round to making them. I’ve seen similar recipes using ground almonds instead of walnuts and I’m sure that the kipferl would taste equally good made with ground pecans.

They’re really easy to make and I whizzed up the batch of kipferl in my food processor in just a few minutes. I also have some dough in the freezer ready for baking as I’m making little bags of these to give to my friends this year.The first packet has been delivered and eaten and I’m told they were delicious. Having eaten half the batch myself I’m inclined to agree!

Here's the recipe for you.

Walnut Kipferl
from Australian Cuisine by Maureen Simpson printable recipe
125 g (4 oz) butter
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
100 g walnuts
1 cup plain flour plus 1 extra tablespoon
icing sugar
1 vanilla bean

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Put walnuts into a food processor and process until finely chopped. Set to one side. In a small bowl or food processor, cream the butter, caster sugar and vanilla essence until light and fluffy. Add the flour and walnuts and mix to form a dough.

Take small pieces of dough and roll between the palms of your hand to form little rolls tapered at one end. If the mixture is too sticky you may need to add a little extra flour. Place the rolls onto lined trays and form into crescents.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly coloured. Allow to cool for a few minutes before placing on a cooling rack. When the kipferl are cold, place on a sheet of greaseproof paper and lightly dust with icing sugar. Turn over and repeat on the other side. Place the kipferl into a jar with the vanilla bean and seal tightly. Makes about 30.

See you all tomorrow with another recipe from this year's Christmas Collection.

Bye for now,


christmas collection 2012 - lemon cranberry bundt cakes

17 Dec 2012

When I started compiling recipes for the 2012 Christmas Collection the first item on my list was this recipe for Lemon Cranberry Bundt cakes. I toyed with the idea last Christmas but ran out of time so wrote the idea down on my kitchen chalkboard.

I used my favourite lemon cake recipe for the base, added some cranberries to the mix for a bit of zing, doused the cakes in lemon syrup then crowned the little cakes with a drizzle of lemon glacé icing and some chopped dried cranberries.

I thought they looked really festive with their little crown of red. I’d hoped to use red currants for decoration as they usually appear in the fruit shop at this time of year but so far there’s been no sign of them.

Here’s the recipe for you.

Lemon Cranberry Bundt Cakes printable recipe
1 lemon, rind grated
110 gm (½ cup) caster sugar
½ level teaspoon baking powder
125 gm (4 oz) unsalted butter
2 large eggs
150 gm (1 cup) self raising flour
1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
A few tablespoons plain yoghurt
Optional - dried cranberries for decoration

Preheat the oven to 170ºC/325ºF. Grease and flour 6 mini bundt tins.

In a food processor, pulverise the sugar and the lemon rind. Sift the flour and baking powder together. Add with the butter and eggs to the food processor. Process the mixture until a smooth batter forms. If the mixture is looking a bit thick, add some yoghurt to the mixture. Remove the batter from the food processor and transfer to a medium bowl. Gently stir in the cranberries.

Spoon or pipe the mixture into the prepared tins and bake at 170º/325ºF for 20-25 minutes or until the cakes are risen and golden. The cake should spring back when gently pressed with your finger.

Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before turning out onto a rack. Turn the cakes onto a serving plate and spoon the warm syrup over.

When the cakes are cool, ice with the lemon icing and top with coarsely chopped dried cranberries.

150 gm (⅔ cup) caster sugar
The juice of 1 lemon ~ 50 mls

To make the syrup, mix the sugar and lemon juice together in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.

Lemon Glace Icing
1 cup sifted icing sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
15 gm (1 tablespoon) softened unsalted butter

In a small bowl combine the icing sugar with the lemon juice and softened butter and beat until smooth. Place the bowl over a pan of hot water (or you can microwave on high for ~ 10 seconds) and beat until glossy.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another recipe from the 2012 Christmas Collection, so see you then,


the christmas collection 2012 - macadamia shortbread stars

12 Dec 2012

A few weeks ago I dragged out the Christmas baubles as it was time to start shooting this year's Christmas Collection.

This year's Collection is a mixture of old favourites and some new finds. These shortbread stars were essentially a way to use up leftovers I had lurking in my freezer. Do you remember the caramel macadamia cheesecake I made a few weeks ago? These shortbread stars are made from the leftover shortbread base I had stored in my freezer.

You'll notice there's a definite star theme going on this year. I'll have to invest in some new Christmas themed cutters because I must have at least 5 or 6 star shaped cutters and not much else.

I decided to fashion them into an edible garland.

I also used the mixture to make some little shortbread hearts which I sandwiched together with a blob of jam.

Here's the recipe for you.
Macadamia Shortbread Stars printable version
100 g (3 1/2 oz) unsalted butter
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup finely ground toasted macadamia nuts
3/4 cup plain flour
icing sugar

In a food processor combine all the ingredients together until a soft dough forms around the blade. Otherwise in a small bowl, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and creamy. Add the flour and the ground macadamia nuts and combine until a soft dough forms. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 170° C/325º F and line 2 baking trays with baking paperRoll out the dough between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper to about 3 mm. Using a star shaped cutter, cut out star shapes. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue to cut out stars. Place the stars onto the trays leaving about 2 cm between each star to allow for spreading.

Bake for about 10 - 15 minutes or until the stars are lightly coloured. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before placing on a wire rack. If desired, make small holes in the shortbread with a skewer so they can be strung. When the stars are cool, lightly sprinkle with icing sugar.

Makes about 2 dozen but the number made will depend on the size of the star cutter.

I'll be back again next week with a daily new Christmas treat for you including the recipe for those cute little lemon cranberry bundt cakes.

See you all again next week,


central park, new york

10 Dec 2012

Although I was only in New York for 6 days I took quite a few pictures whilst I was there. Todays photos are from Central Park.

A few years ago I saw some engagement photos which were taken at Bethesda Terrace in Central Park. The terrace was recently restored and it looked gorgeous so I immediately bookmarked it as a place to see when I was in New York. I didn't know what a popular location it was.

I arrived around lunch time and the place was packed as a group of B Boys entertained the crowd. I took some photographs but they weren't the kind of photos I wanted to take. A few days later I left my hotel room bright and early in an effort to beat the crowds.

I arrived in time to catch some beautiful early morning light and to see all the dog walkers and early morning joggers enjoying the park. I was also able to get the serene photos I was seeking.

I made sure to save some of my precious black and white film to shoot a few scenes of the park.

See you all again on Wednesday with the first recipe in this year's Christmas Collection.

Bye for now,


union square, soho, the bowery and chelsea

5 Dec 2012

Doing a shopshoot is a great way to see a city and to explore new locations. The night before the Michele Varian shopshoot, I sat down at a local cafe with my copy of The Stylists Guide to NYC to plot my route for the day. Sadly I left the book behind in the cafe and it was never seen again!

The day started out a bit grey and dreary but I went ahead with my plans to visit the Union Square Green Market.

I love seeing the way people shop and the food they eat.

I seemed to spend quite a bit of time around and about Union Square, in no part due to the presence of ABC Carpet and Home, J. Crew and Fishs Eddy.

What a fabulous place ABC Carpet and Home is. I loved everything I saw and wanted to move in!

After visiting Michele Varian I spent the afternoon exploring the lower East Side where I spied this great building made from cast iron.

Then it was back on the subway to Chelsea to buy some food at the Chelsea Market before walking the High Line.

My friend 'Little One' set me a challenge. When she was in New York in May she'd hidden a MMOA token on a bird feeder on the High Line and I had to track it down. I searched high and low but couldn't find it anywhere. Later on we discovered the bird feeder was a temporary art installation which had been dismantled by the time I made it to New York.

It didn't really matter because the walk was such a beautiful experience.

I just loved the old industrial buildings, the sympathetic plantings, the elegant street furniture and the occasional unexpected pop of colour. I wonder whether there's a similar hidden treasure in Sydney?

Less than 2 weeks now 'til my last working day for 2012. Roll on the weekend!!


a sneak peek - xmas 2012

3 Dec 2012

I was a busy little beaver during weekend, baking lots of goodies for Christmas. I'm hoping to bring you a full week of Christmas baking but I still have 1 more item to bake and photograph. I haven't had a chance to write up any of the recipes so until I do, I hope this sneak peek will suffice.

See you all again later in week with some more images from New York.

Bye for now,

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