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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Carrot and orange cake

Carrot and orange cake with cream cheese icing and walnuts

I’ve been writing this silly little blog for nearly two years now, that’s mad isn’t it?! I’ve got to be honest, for the longest time I was a bit weird about it.

You see, the truth is I’m actually quite private. Yeah right you say! But it’s true. Yes, I realise I project my life onto the internet for full public consumption, but that’s easy when you hide behind a pseudo-name and an avatar. It took me years to get a Facebook account, I still am slightly scared by twitter and I can’t even begin to fathom Pinterest, so it came as no surprise that I took a little time to ease into the blogging.

Cream cheese icing and walnuts

For the first few months I barely even told my friends about my project, I certainly never interacted with the wider blogosphere (yes, I did just use that word, a sure sign I am now a bona-fide part-time blogger!). I was so terrified that someone might actually SEE it, shock HORROR! Over time, I have (very) slowly been working on this.

So ten days ago, when I went to a food bloggers meetup group, I was really really stepping outside my comfort zone. The people I met there were amazing and all write such unbelievably drool-tastic blogs that it made me feel immediately self-conscious. They also spoke another language, one I’m not very familiar with; SEO, engagement and PR were just some of the foreign and strange terms being bandied about. I just sipped my wine, nodded, smiled and tried to at least look like I knew what they were talking about.

Carrot and orange cake silce

Seriously though, it was wonderful to meet such lovely, energetic and creative people. Left-brained auld me can always do with a dose of inventive thinking and inspiration, check out some of their blogs below (in no particular order) to get some for yourself.

It has also made me think a little more seriously about what I want to get out of my hobby, which has been good. And I realise that I am what I am. I am never going to take the best photographs, or write the snappiest posts, get 10 bazillion hits a day or even write the most interesting recipes. But that’s all OK. As long as I’m still excited to be in the kitchen, making things that make my belly gurgle and pushing myself to write something that at the very least doesn’t put people to sleep, I’ll be happy.

Also, I made carrot cake and it was good.

Check out all of this yumness: Belly Rumbles, Simon Food Favourites, 84th & 3rd.com, Mademoiselle Slimalicious, The Littlest Anchovy, Raging CravingsOne Small Pot, and last but by no means least Chew Town.

Carrot and orange cake

Carrot and orange cake slice with cream cheese icing and walnuts

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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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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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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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