Rhubarb Streusel Cake

31 May 2009

When I first started work at Greenslopes Hospital I had a Canadian born work colleague named Sonia. One day Sonia bought in an amazing rhubarb cake topped with pecans and brown sugar and of course I asked Sonia for a copy of the recipe.

As I have a self declared love for Rhubarb, it was only a matter of time before a Rhubarb cake appeared on the blog. The only problem - I no longer had Sonia's hand written recipe. I think it may still be at home in Brisbane in my old recipe box.

I have great faith in the Internet and started my quest to track down Sonia's recipe. I put rhubarb cake; rhubarb crumble cake and rhubarb cake with pecans into my search engine but I couldn't find the recipe. I had a brainwave and put Rhubarb Coffee Cake into the search engine and up came a recipe in Canadian Home Living that just about matched Sonia's recipe in every way.

I made the recipe using just a little less liquid and substituted pecans for the hazelnuts and voila, there was the cake just as I'd remembered. I took the cake into work last Tuesday and by lunch time there was only one slice left. A few of my colleagues weren't at work that day so I hid the last piece of cake so they wouldn't be left out. The things I have to do.

Next post will be from a special little photo shoot I did on Sunday. Check back Thursday Sydney time (Wednesday in North America and Europe). 

Until then,


Friday Favourite - Tomatoes in Sicily

29 May 2009

I've always loved Italian food ever since I was a little girl. We used to eat out at a local restaurant called the Cortina Bar every second Sunday. If we didn't dine in, my Papa would return from the restaurant witha steaming bowl of pasta and sauce. When we dined in my sister and I would enjoy bowls of steaming rigatoni bolognaise followed by chocolate and lemon gelati. The Cortina Bar is long gone but I still remember when they installed a pizza oven and our menu selection expanded. My Papa was inspired to start making his own pizzas and to this day he still makes a very fine pizza.

I went to Italy a few years ago and whilst there spent a week in Sicily. I had the most wonderful time there exploring antiquities and the food markets and I have to say that the food was the best part of a fabulous trip. I chowed down on pasta at every meal and if it came flavoured with porcini mushrooms - all the better.

Our first stop was the glamorous town of Taormina where I ate Pasta Norma for the first time. I found these beautiful tomatoes whilst roaming around the town and had to photograph them because they represented to me all that was fine about Sicily.


Date, Ginger, Pecan and Oatmeal Cookies

27 May 2009

In my quest to bake the perfect ginger biscuit, I wondered how an oatmeal cookie would taste if it were studded with glace ginger, pecans and dates? I pulled out a recipe for Oatmeal Cookies and went to work.

I did taste one as I've not baked these cookies before. They're not sufficiently ginger in taste for me but with a bit of tweaking I think they could taste even better.

I did have fun photographing them though. 

Rhubarb cake photographs coming soon.


Chocolate Date and Almond Cake

24 May 2009

It's been a busy time for me in the kitchen. Last Wednesday our receptionist Irene M. turned 40. We thought one of our mega morning teas was in order, where all staff members bring something along. Mega morning teas can be a little interesting at times when hot chips and chili con carne appear on the menu.

I thought I'd bring something that was a bit more traditional than chili con carne so made a chocolate date and almond cake. I made some individual chocolate date and almond cakes a few months back but decided on the large version as it had to feed quite a crowd. It's essentially a very large meringue filled with tiny pieces of dark chocolate, dates and unblanched almonds. I decided to serve the cream on the side for all of those concerned with fat calories. My own slice is waiting in the freezer until I return from Brisbane next month. It's a very crumbly cake so I've probably already consumed a slice just by tidying up the crumbs.

Thanks for those of you who've been emailing me with your comments. I appreciate all your feedback.

Happy return to work (?)


Friday Favourite - Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

22 May 2009

During my trip to Central America in 2007, I visited Guatemala and whilst there we stayed 2 nights in Panajachel, on Lake Atitlan. The night we arrived, the rain bucketed down so we literally had to wade through the streets to find a place to eat. We had a really tasty 3 course meal in a local cafe. When the curtains were pulled back to reveal the kitchen, our entire meal had been cooked on a 2 burner gas stove - amazing. Panajachel also had the best french fries I've eaten in a long time.

The next day, the sun shone brightly so a group of us boarded the ferry to cross the lake for brunch. We saw some amazing houses as we crossed the lake, the kind that would grace the pages of an architectural magazine. The brunch at Vulcano Lodge in Jaibalito was wonderful but even more so were the views. This was the site that greeted us when we were due to board the ferry and how fortuitous the placement of the young girl?


Little Country Apple Cakes

20 May 2009

We had the most gorgeous weather during the weekend and it was hard to believe it's autumn. Today it's grey and raining and just horrible and will probably be much the same for the rest of the week. That may put an end to my plans for a drive to the Blue Mountains on Saturday.

As it's officially autumn, my cooking style has changed. It's out with the quick and easy to prepare meals and in with the slow cooked casseroles. In the spirit of autumn I collected some leaves from Woollahra last Friday to jazz up my Little Country Apple Cakes. The recipe makes a 9 inch cake but I halved the mixture and baked 4 mini pies in Texas muffin tins inside. Each pie has a little surprise in it's base - a spoonful of apricot jam.

I'm on a self imposed "no treats" regime until my birthday in June, so these little sweeties are patiently waiting in the freezer. I keep thinking how nice they'll be for dessert one night warmed in the oven with a little tiny dollop of cream. Yum!


Gingernut Biscuits

17 May 2009

My family has a thing about ginger. Maybe it has something to do with growing up in Queensland, home of the Buderim ginger factory but I like anything flavoured with ginger. When I was growing up, I used to dunk my Arnott's gingernut biscuits into a glass of milk or a cup of tea.

It's been a while since I last ate a gingernut biscuit and decided to try baking some at home. I opened my trusty Margaret Fulton Encyclopaedia of Food and Cookery and followed the recipe but added some chopped glace ginger to the mixture. The gingernuts are packed away in the biscuit tin ready to take into work tomorrow but I did try one last night with a cup of tea. The biscuits are hard, crunchy, spicy and taste just as I remember. You can find the recipe below.

Gingernut Biscuits

150g plain flour
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
60g butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
55g extra caster sugar, (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease baking trays or line them with baking paper.

Sift the flour with the remaining dry ingredients. Melt the butter with the golden syrup and pour into the flour mixture. Mix well and roll into balls the size of a walnut. If liked, roll the balls in extra sugar before baking for super crunchiness.

Place on the prepared baking trays and press lightly. Bake for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180°C and bake for a further 7–10 minutes. 

Cool on the trays.

I've been searching for some new styling products so dropped by Surry Hills last weekend and visited the shop When David met Nicole where I bought the sweet little milk bottle that features in the photos. 

On Friday I discovered the new Donna Hay General Store tucked in the back streets of Woollahra. It's housed in the building where The Bay Tree once lived. When I have a bit more time I'll revisit the store and take some photos for you. I can tell you that the store is filled with some beautiful products, including a floor devoted to childrens' goodies and it's not just stocked with Donna Hay products.

I'm on the hunt for a cake stand and after a fruitless search last weekend, I think I've found what I'm looking for at the Donna Hay General Store. The cake stand is on back order and won't arrive until late June so I bought a nice wooden board and a few little goodies to spice up my photos.

Lots more baking this past weekend so there'll be another post later in the week.


Friday Favourite - The Pantheon

15 May 2009

I first visited Italy when I was 15. Even though it was winter and even though I had my wallet picked from my pocket in Florence, I have such fond memories of that time. I've returned to Italy on a few occasions since then - my last visit was in 2005.

I travelled from Paris to Rome on the overnight train and then another train to Sorrento. From Sorrento I joined an Intrepid trip of Sicily. Sicily was Italy as I've always imagined, with beautiful old buildings, fantastic mosaics and the food, the food! From Sicily we returned to Rome and from there I visited Venice and Florence before returning home to Sydney. Once I was back travelling on my own, I set off with my camera in hand and visited some of my favourite places, one of which was the Pantheon.

I took 2 versions of this photo - one in colour using my digital camera and this one using Fuji neopan black and white film, I think it was the 400 but I've misplaced my diary so I'll confirm that later. The black and white image blows the colour image out of the water. My sister liked the image so much she now has a large canvas of it

Happy Weekend,


Torta di Pere Version 2

13 May 2009

I don't like to fail, so when my pear torte didn't quite turn out as I'd wished, I knew I had to make it again. I had plenty of pastry left over in the freezer, so I only had to make the pastry cream and the almond topping and track down 2 ripe pears and I was in business.

I decided to bake the torte in my oblong tin, firstly because it's my favourite tin and secondly to see if the tin was still functional. The tin suffered a recent traumatic incident which involved a clueless 24 year old male colleague and a garbage bin. The tin was rescued from the bin and I attempted to flatten out the base. The tin is now a bit unstable and bends when full so I'm not sure if I'll be able to use it in the future. Replacement cost $35.00!

I bought some ceramic baking beads at The Bay Tree on Saturday. I've been using dried chick peas to weigh the pastry down when baking" blind" and I decided it was time to upgrade to something a little better. I prepared the tart shell the night before and was up bright and early Sunday morning making the pastry cream. Once the pastry shell cooled I put the torte together - no lumps in the pastry cream this time; no collapsing pastry and the gas oven didn't go out either. 1 hour later a delicious aroma emanated from the kitchen and the pear torte was done.

I took the pear torte into work on Monday and it was demolished in an hour. The verdict - delicious.


A 50th Birthday Celebration

10 May 2009

Last weekend I attended a 50th birthday party for Clive, the father of my all time favourite model, Miss B aged 3½. Clive loves his bike so it was fitting that his birthday cake was topped with a cyclist complete with Lycra.

The birthday brunch was to have taken place at Clontarf Reserve but the combination of gloomy weather and a rehearsal for the musical Grease, resulted in a last minute change of venue. There were lots children at the celebration (22, I think) and you should have seen how much cake they ate and that was following a brunch of cereal, eggs, bacon, sausages, fruit, mushrooms, bread rolls and chocolate (?). I guess it's not a party if there isn't cake and chocolate.

Happy Birthday Clive,


Friday Favourite - The Reclining Buddha

8 May 2009

Another Friday has rolled around, so it's time for another Friday favourite. We're still in Sri Lanka, this time in Polonnaruwa where I was taken with sheer size and beauty of the Reclining Buddha.

Once again this image was taken with my Nikon 801 camera using Fuji Neopan film ISO 100. The settings used were 1/60sec at f8.

Have a great weekend,


Torta di Pere da Pietro

6 May 2009

A special occasion requires a special cake, so I pulled out all the stops last Sunday. I was going to a birthday party and at the last moment decided to make a pear torte. The recipe comes from Cafe e Cucina in Melbourne and was featured in an old issue of Gourmet Traveller magazine. I've made the torte a few times before and remember the recipe being a bit time consuming but not difficult.

The torte consists of a pastry shell, a layer of creme patisserie, a layer of sliced pears and a topping of almond cake. It's one of those recipes which requires time and patience and both were in short supply on Saturday.

So what went wrong? Everything. I had trouble hunting down ripe pears/the creme patisserie went lumpy/the pastry wouldn't stick to the tin/the gas oven went out halfway through the process so it took hours for the torte to cook, then once the cake cooled, it pulled away from the pastry.

Thankfully a good dusting of icing sugar covers a multitude of sins and apparently my rustic looking torte tasted much better than it looked. My lesson - allow 2 days to prepare this torte in the future or make something a little less complicated when time poor.


Maybelline - The ISA Brown, an update

5 May 2009

Maybelline, the ISA Brown has been by far my most popular post to date. I thought you might like an update on her condition.

Farmer Andrew kindly took a photo of Maybelline and you can see that she has fully recovered from her moult and is refeathered or should that be replumed? She has taken her place back up the pecking order amongst the girls, so some kind of order has been restored to the henhouse. They now pick on one of the other hapless birds!



Apple Custard Tea Cake

2 May 2009

Another week at work and another apple cake. I've had this recipe for a long time now. 

An ex-flatmate's girlfriend used to make this cake and I found the recipe in the pull-out section of an old issue of the Australian Women's Weekly.

When I took the cake into work on Monday one of the boys declared that this cake and the
pecan apple crumble cake I'd brought in the previous week were particularly delicious.

I now have so many apple and pear creations I may have to devote an entire chapter in the book.


Friday Favourite - Kandy

1 May 2009

One of my current clients originally came from Sri Lanka. She is so thrilled that I've been to Sri Lanka especially to Kandy, her home town. Kandy was such a vibrant lively place with beautiful gardens and a famous temple, the Temple of the Tooth. The lotus blossoms were photographed outside the temple.

One of the things I enjoyed most about Sri Lanka apart from the people was the food especially the fish rotties, the curries, the dhal and for dessert, buffalo curd with kitul treacle, I can't buy buffalo curd here in Sydney but Mary made a trip across town to buy me a bottle of kitul treacle. It tastes just as good poured over greek yoghurt, but I digress...

All the images were shot using Fuji Reala 100 ISO film with my Nikon F60 camera.

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