Autumn crème brûlée with spiced pineapple

frangipani and pineapple

Seasons are funny things, aren’t they? In Ireland we tend to have on average, oh, about two days of summertime a year. Three if we’re really lucky. When I was a student these days always conveniently coincided with major exams; in fact I think the gods of Irish summertime still do this. Those guys must hate students.

In Sydney, they have pretty much the exact opposite case. Here, we’ll get about three weeks of winter, tops. Summer glides into autumn, which sometimes threatens to turn into winter, but generally thinks better of it and simply glides back into spring again. We had sunshine and highs of 21 last week, but it is starting to get much cooler and wetter.

spiced pineapple brulee

A major hint that winter is on the way are the two rapidly-shedding frangipani trees outside my house. During the summer these tress keep our bedroom shady and cool, while filling it with the lovely scent of frangipani. At the moment however, they are covering my car in a deluge of dying flowers and leaves, meaning I have to practically dig my way into it every morning.

Two weekends ago, I picked what I think will be the last frangipani flowers of the year and paired them with the last of the autumn pineapples to make a totally-tropical desert. Crème brûlée with spiced pineapple is actually a great choice for this in-between season; the Chinese five spice gives a lovely autumny accent to the summery pineapple. And crème brûlée is just plain awesome no matter what time of the year.

As The Starks say – Winter is coming. Even to Sydney.

Autumn crème brûlée with spiced pineapple

five-spice pineapple creme brulee

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Champagne and strawberry celebration sorbet

Moet & Chandon bottle

What do you do when the man you love; the man you’ve spent the last 7 (very happy) years with; the man you moved to the other side of the planet to be with; asks you to marry him?

You say yes.

Moet & Chandon cork

And you celebrate with many many sparkles, strawberries, sorbet and smiles.

That’s all.

Champagne and Strawberry celebration sorbet

Champagne and strawberry sorbet

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Chocolate Sunday

Rose, pistachio and cardamom chocolate bark

Isn’t it great that there’s a whole day dedicated to chocolate?!

Okay, okay, I’m not being serious. And I certainly don’t mean to be insensitive to any religious folks out there. I do realise that for a great many people, Easter is about much more than chocolate. However as I’m an atheist to the bone, this weekend is pretty much ALL about the brown sticky goodness. That and having four days off work of course, could there be a better holiday?!

Almond and apricot chocolate bark

So this week I tried my hand at making chocolate bark; because a chocolate-melting project is always fun and you can really get creative with the flavours and appearance. For a few pointers I checked my infallible The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who like me is a little unable to stick to recipes; basically it helps you to mix and match flavours and gives you pointers and ideas as to what works well together (and why) without actually giving any recipes. I love it. After some flicking I decided to dress up some super-dark chocolate with almond and apricot and also rose, pistachio and cardamom. And what can I say? The Flavour Thesaurus never fails, although when you start with excellent quality, rich, dark chocolate, you would have to have a very serious fail for it not to taste like more, oh so much more.

Rose, pistachio & cardamom chocolate bark

Many thanks need to go to The Fella for helping me out with these photos. I made these on quite a hot day and struggled to take any decent shots in good light before the chocolate began to melt. He’s a bit of a creative whizz with the camera and help me tonnes. He did have quite the incentive though and obviously I rewarded him well! If you’re interested in checking our more of his work check out his website.

Happy chocolate day!

Almond and apricot chocolate bark & Rose, pistachio and cardamom chocolate bark

Almond and apricot chocolate bark & Rose, pistachio and cardamom chocolate bark

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The desert your dentist will love to hate on

Every kid loves Roald Dahl’s dark, twisted and hilariously grotesque stories, right? Or was that just me? I love that he got right to the crux of what kids really like, there’s no pink fluff or fairy godmothers in his stories, no sir. Instead there are disappearing twits, shrinking grandmothers, squish-able aunts and other villains coming to raucous, violent and; let’s be honest; hilariously funny ends.

One of my very favourite characters is Violet Beauregarde, maybe because I can relate to poor ‘oul Violet a little more than I’d care to admit. For those of you who don’t know, Violet, a serial gum-chewer, won a golden ticket to visit Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.  But poor Violet comes to a colourful end when she insists on trying a prototype gum that doubles as a three course meal. Long story short, she sweals up, turns into a blueberry and has to be rolled away…. to be juiced.

I love the idea that you could eat so much of something, you could turn into it. I’m pretty sure it can’t actually happen, at least, I haven’t turned into a lump of chocolate just yet; although I do have a friend who insists her skin once started to turn orange after she over dosed on carrot juice.

Well, eating tonnes of this yummie desert won’t turn you into a blueberry, but it will turn your teeth and tongue a jaunty shade of purple. Hence why your dentist won’t like it, but I bet your friends will find it hilarious.

I threw this together after The Fella’s mother gifted me a whole bucketful of blueberries (yes, I am a very lucky girl). It’s like a cross between a fool and a fruit crumble, mainly because I couldn’t quite decide on what to make, but it doesn’t matter what it’s called because it is deeeelicious. I think it would work with any summer berry, especially raspberries, so if you’re not lucky enough to be gifted a pile of blueberries in the morning, feel free to mix it up, your teeth can take it.

Little pots of blue

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Bow ties ‘n’ bolly

Did someone say bolly?

Oh yes please! I’ll just have a wee little drop; oh how I love those bubbles! And what better to pair with bubbles than some beautiful spring strawberries. They’re a match made in heaven.

Fresh spring strawberries

Last weekend we went to a rather wonderful wedding; a very very special wedding – one where there were two dapper and dashing grooms, and not a bridezilla in sight.

One of the handsome grooms happens to be my Fella’s very good friend. So you can only imagine how proud I was to see The Fella stand up beside his mate on the big day, offering moral support, remembering the rings and delivering a suitably embarrassing speech.

Strawberries in white chocolate shirts

I made these strawberries for the Fella to bring over to the boys house that morning while everyone was getting ready. I thought them rather fitting, given the bow ties; and I knew the guys would enjoy them with a pre-ceremony glass of champers.

I got the idea from the fabulous The Vanilla Bean Diaries. Esté’s versions are much tidier (I think she’s going to make it as a master confectioner well before me); and she has the in-process shots down pat, something I’ve never managed.

Strawberries in milk chocolate jackets

However in this case, it probably had a lot to do with the fact I spent most of my time trying to scoff the melted chocolate and not concentrating on the whole photo-taking-bit, ops!

Try these today with a glass of bubbles, I’m sure if you think long enough you can come up with a reason. They really are a match made in heaven, much like our wonderful friends Scott and Mike.

You gotta love the love.

Strawberry bow ties

Chocolate dipped strawberries

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Gone visitin’ with a new look!

This week I’ve gone off galavanting, which is always fun! I’m guest blogging and eating cheesecake at my friend Mary’s wonderful blog Where’s the Zoom.

Mary is an American friend, who I met when she (very excitedly) packed up her entire life and moved to Ireland, and all for a buachaill – swoot soooooo!!

After three years in Dublin she married the self same boy – everybody say ahhhhh. Now, she lives in sunny North Carolina with her handsome Irish hubbie and two beautiful babies, who feature regularly on her fabulous blog.  Check it out, it is beyond cute and the photos are to die for. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Hope you enjoy the new look.

I’ll be back next week for some more yumbolicious-ness!

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Wintertime pear and almond cake

It’s currently wintertime in Sydney.

Now I know that for some of you, the above statement makes absolutely no sense. In fact, you’re sitting there thinking that it’s a pure contradiction in terms. Well I’m here to drop some knowledge people: yes, they do get winter in Australia.

Three whole weeks of it in fact! Burrrr.

I’ve  expressed my opinion previously on the Sydney winter, and therefore am not going to keep talking about it, lest I start to get into rant territory. Instead, I’d just like to share some small thoughts with the dear people of Sydney. For example, did you know that wintertime can be a whole lot less traumatic if you a) get central heating in your house and b) dress appropriately? True story. Another true story: winter happens all over the world. Honestly. Everyone gets it at some point, so you’re not special, sorry. And lastly, don’t you know that winter is the perfect time to stuff your face full of all kinds of calorific yumness? It’s like, why it was invented.

So you see, you’re missing the point! It’s a time for tea and roasts and spuds and pudding with sticky sauce and melting cheese on stuff and many MANY hot ports. Fact.

Today I did some seasonal celebrating of my own by making this delicious pear and almond cake; and I would strongly encourage you all to do the same as it was totally divine. Pears are one of my favourite winter fruits and pairing them with almonds seems to work really well. This cake is dense, sticky and crumbly sweet. It’s the perfect warming reward after a chilly Sunday afternoon jaunt. It’s also a great reward for getting to the end of your chapter, or for keeping the couch warm all day, or for intending to go out, or for….

Pear and almond cake

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Passionfruit and lemon curd

Edible gifts are the best. End of story.

The Fella took this picture in our Dublin apartment in early December 2008. I was pretty intent on making, oh about 10 bazillion litres of jam and so didn’t notice when he crept up behind me. That was the year the Irish recession was just starting to take hold, and boy did it take us all by surprise.

For most of the preceding Christmases, I ran up huge credit card bills buying unnecessary presents for both of our families. Not that the gifts were unnecessary, I like giving people gifts, but I think we’d kind of lost the true spirit of it. I know I’m at risk of sounding like cheesy American film, but bear with me here. We bought things just for the sake of giving them, without really thinking if the recipient would need, or even like the gift.  We were also buying for so many people; getting ‘something small’ for The Fella’s-cousin’s-ex-boyfriend’s-neighbour-because-they-sat-beside-us-in-the-pub-one-night suddenly became perfectly reasonable. Celtic-tiger Ireland was certainly a place to behold.

Then in 2008 I had what the Australians call a ‘dummy spit’. I had been working in a high-pressure sales job and was watching the market contract before my very eyes. But also on a personal level, I’d just had enough of the excess, the waste, and most of all, the pressure. So I went on-line and ordered two cases of jam jars; and that was my Christmas shopping done. It took all of 10 minutes.

I ended up making a trio of preserves: chili and tomato relish, rhubarb and ginger jam and lemon and orange marmalade. I packaged them all together in cute little bags and gave them as gifts to friends and family alike. I wish I had a picture of them, but this was long before I had ever even thought of blogging.

They were the most successful presents I ever gave. Small, thoughtful, delicious; but most of all: useful.

Since then, I’ve never reverted back to the mass-consumer gift giving. The Fella and I have pared back our list and our spending. Of course, we don’t make everything we give, but we do try to put in a little more thought into what we give and to whom. And this year everyone we love will be getting a jar of this delicious curd on various special occasions.

I made this a few weeks ago with the last of the autumn passion fruit, and oh my god was it delicious. It lasted all of two days in our fridge, and that was with us trying to be self-controlled! It’s like lemon curd but it gets an extra little bit of tang from the passionfruit, also the seeds give it a lovely bit of texture. It could go on absolutely anything from pie-crust to scones to ice-cream or meringue.  And best of all you can personalise your labels or jars and turn it into the perfect (and dare I say it: pretty darned impressive) gift for any occasion.

Passionfruit curd

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Happy Birthday Blog!

Yes, my blog is one year old today, whoop!

And what better way to celebrate than with cupcakes, double whoop!

After a year of writing a blog what have I discovered? Well, I’ve discovered that I’m not as good a cook as I thought I was, in fact, I am only just beginning to realise how much I’ve yet to learn. I’ve also discovered that recipes are really helpful, as is actually measuring stuff out correctly! Who would have thunk it?!

I am proud of one thing though; I’m proud that I’ve actually started trying stuff out. For so many years I watched so many cooking shows, read loads of magazines and bought cookbooks like they were going out of fashion. But I never really made anything; just day-dreamed about making stuff. I’m glad to finally be getting my hands (and apron) dirty. It feels great.

I’ve got big plans for Yumbolicious in the next year and I hope to execute at least some of them. I have a few aims too, I’m going to try and cook and post much more fish. I always use the excuse that The Fella is allergic, but if I’m really honest, I’m actually quite apprehensive about cooking fish. I’m also going to learn how to decorate cakes and cupcakes. The red velvet cupcakes I made today are just the beginning, but everyone’s got to start somewhere, right? 

Red velvet cupcakes

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Totally tropical fool

It was Australia Day last Thursday; I’m not quite sure how it’s taken me a whole four days to get around to posting this. It seems I am the world’s biggest faffer.

I’ve said before how excited I get visiting the greengrocers in Australia, it’s always full of such yummie-looking, exotic goodies, begging to be bought. But the fun doesn’t end there, oh no, I am the proud owner of a passion fruit vine. Yes, I am now, totally tropical.

Said passion fruit vine, has to date, only produced three super-tangy fruit. But that doesn’t matter to me. I still get a kick out of just looking at it, knowing that it’s there, slowly taking over the back garden, being all exotic and unfamiliar.

So to celebrate Australia Day I decided to make a fool from my two favourite Australian fruits: mango and passion fruit. Served with Australia Day semolina shortbread cookies for a bit of crunch and kitsch.

Totally tropical mango and passion fruit fool

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Upside-down Christmas and New Year

Overindulgence (over|in¦dul¦gence).
Noun.
1. the action or fact of having too much of something enjoyable: her alleged
overindulgence in alcohol

2. excessive gratification of a person’s wishes: his overindulgence of her whims

I’m sure many people are just like me, and had to look this word up in the dictionary yesterday morning. At least I hope I wasn’t the only one.

This was my third Christmas and New Year in the land down under. And while I do miss Christmas at home something shocking, I have to admit, I find New Years in the sun very pleasant altogether. Hot sunshine, beaches, laughing kookaburras, barbecues, factor-30, kangaroos and buckets of chilled white wine may not scream Christmas to most people, but they do make for some good times. A little too good, truth be told.

I did very little cooking over Christmas, but I did make this desert. It was an attempt to reconcile the two very different types of Christmases I’ve experienced. Because, despite the fact it’s thirty degrees outside, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without the pudding!

Upside-down Christmas pudding ice-cream

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Strawberry and blueberry clafoutis

I’m pretty sure this is my new favourite recipe. It’s yum!

Over the past month or two I’ve eaten so much of this I’m liable to actually turn into a blueberry; not unlike Roald Dahl’s Violet Beauregarde. When I start turning blue, I’ll know it’s time to worry.

Clafoutis is a French desert, generally made with cherries or other stone fruit. It’s absolutely delicious, but the only way I can describe it is as a cross between a cake and custard. Actually, fruity-custardy-cake sums it up pretty well.

In addition to being delicious, it takes all of three minutes to prepare, then sits in the oven for forty effort-free minutes, making it perfect for a dinner party. The only trick is, you do need to eat this while still warm from the oven. We recently made the mistake of bringing it to a friend’s barbeque. Unfortunately, once cooled the egg becomes dense and loses all it’s lovely creaminess. Not a mistake I’ll make again; in future this will all be eaten up quicker than you can say ‘how do you pronounce clafoutis?’.

Strawberry and blueberry clafoutis

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Hallowe’en barmbrack

It appears that Australians don’t do Hallowe’en.

It makes a lot of sense; obviously October evenings in the southern hemisphere are a lot less cold, dark and, well, scary than they are back home. Which I guess is why Hallowe’en never took off here, despite the influx of Irish immigrants over the years, and why it flourished in the States instead.

It does slightly bother me that the American version of Hallowe’en is all that’s widely known here; no one realises that it’s an ancient Celtic festival. Therefore, the focus is all on trick-or-treating, and nothing else. No bobbing for apples, no bonfires and no barmbrack. I have decided that I’m on a one-woman mission to change all this. I did have to go to stupid work today though, so I only got as far as the barmbrack, but every little counts. Right?

Barmbrack is a traditional Irish fruit bread made to celebrate Oíche Shamhna (Hallowe’en night). It’s not only totally delish but is also loads of fun as it contains some odd little things you don’t normally find in baked goods, such as a ring, a coin, a pea, a piece of cloth and a stick. These objects mean different things for the person who finds them. The ring and the coin are the two best-known ones, they indicate that the finder will either get married in the coming year or get rich. The others are not so optimistic. The pea means the finder will not get married that year, the piece of cloth means they will be poor and the stick means they’ll have an unhappy marriage. Presumably, the stick was to be used a weapon! Lovely!

Hallowe’en Barmbrack

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Offering to the cookie gods

Something strange has been happening in Chez Yumbolicious these past few weeks. Something very strange indeed.

I got a new cookbook last month; it was second hand and I think it might have some mad weird powers.

Basically, it follows me around the house. I keep finding it in the strangest of places: on the dining table, beside the couch, sitting on the landing, next  to the computer……… And it’s always open on the same page: chocolate chip cookies.

It’s so bizarre; I just can’t figure it out. It’s almost like the book is willing me to bake them. It must be the book, who else could it be? The Fella says I’m going mad, he said I should make them to appease the cookie gods, or heaven knows what the book would be up to next.

Heaven knows indeed.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Messy meringue

This week I got to thinking about how recipes are invented. Now, bear with me here, I’m not being totally stupid. Obviously some stuff just tastes good together, like macaroni and cheese. And clearly the Irish national dish of spuds, bacon and cabbage evolved simply because, way back in the day, there just weren’t many other dinner options. But do you ever think some recipes were ‘invented’ by accident and just kind of caught on?

The reason I ask is, this week I made the traditional English summer desert, Eton Mess. Now, I don’t want to mislead you, I hadn’t originally intended to make it. Instead, I envisioned making a beautiful, white, fluffy, towering pavlova. But unfortunately my meringue looked like it had fallen off the back of a truck and then dragged through a hedge backwards by a pack of wild and ravaging dogs.

But it tasted good, nice and crispy on the outside and slightly chewy in the inside and deliciously sweet. So really, the only option was to smush it up, cover it with cream and pretend that’s what I had really intended to do all the while. And I’d like to think that’s how the recipe was ‘invented’ in the first place!

Eton Mess

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Eastern inspired chocolate cake

So, all day I’ve been trying to think of a super interesting introduction for this post. Some exciting reason why I made this cake; something that would knock your socks off, make you rush into your kitchen and bake this immediately. But I was totally stumped.

Then I got to thinking: does a girl really need an excuse to bake a yumbo chocolate cake? Ehhh, I think not! No one should ever need a reason for chocolate. Ever. End of story.

So treat yourself and make this cake, it’s seriously good. The spices add subtle and interesting flavours, giving the cake an exotic twist. In fact, it’s so rich and dense and unusual you could serve it as a posh chocolate desert cake at a dinner party and all your friends would be mucho-impressedo.

I found the recipe in The back to basics cookbook by Maureen Tatlow and it’s an old style cake recipe. Now, I’ve always vaguely known that true bakers match the weight of the ingredients to the actual weight of the eggs they’ve used, but let’s be honest, how many of us ever do this? It works really well, but I’ve included actual quantities for those us you who need a non-efforty, super-fast chocolate hit.

Eastern inspired chocolate cake

Poshness!

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Date Night

Sorry for the recent lack of posting, I’ve been away on my holidays in the sunny Emerald Isle.  And it’s still wonderful.

Since I’ve come back winter seems to have decended on Sydney. I use the word “winter” somewhat loosely, as the weather is not dissimlar to what I just left back home.

So, what to do when the weather turns a wee bit chilly in Sydney? Well, if like The Fella, you were born and raised here; you give out, a lot, about how difficult it is to function when the temperature drops below 20 °C. The poor Fella has forgotten about his five year stint in Ireland quicker than I can say “wear thongs on a hot day”. Idiot.

Instead of moaning about the weather, I decided to made sticky date pudding and think about all the reasons that winter is class.  Number one: wearing tights and boots, love it. Number two: Christmas!!! Oh-oh, scrap that last one, I now live in the wrong hemisphere, and I think that’s why the Aussies hate the (incredibly mild) winters they get, they have nothing to celebrate during it. Poor dears. And of course, number three: you can sit in on a Friday night, watching telly, eating uber-calorific deserts, drinking buckets of tea and not feel one tiny wee bit guilty about it! Brilliant.

My sticky date pudding was warm and sticky and delish and covered in hot toffee sauce and cold ice cream; and I very nearly had to stop myself from eating it all in one go.

Sticky Date Pudding

Sticky pudding + tea + telly + couch = perfect winter(ish) date night.

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