Monthly Archives: July 2012

Rocking the apron!

This apron is a really special and thoughtful gift from my brother from another mother.  I thought I would share this photo with you which my friend took the other day as I thought it looked pretty cool.  Little Chef doesn’t dress like the average chef, hence the bright colours and funky necklace.  And we’ll forgive my friend for not being able to spell Kipling.  Anyway, here it is.  My favourite apron!


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An old and enduring love…

Let me tell you about a love of mine.  A love that has stayed with me through thick and thin.  A love which nourishes and inspires me.  A love that I always return to…Popcorn!

I have waxed lyric to you guys before about the popcorn affair but I felt like you needed a little more.  To truly understand my love of popcorn we have to dig a little deeper.  When I was young and going to the movies, the highlight was always the popcorn, rubbish movie?  Who cares!  There is a giant cardboard bucket of popcorn in my lap.

As our love grew and changed, we adapted together.  My tastes grew a little more sophisticated and the popcorn never failed to keep up.  My enduring passion is popcorn smothered with melted butter and fine English Maldon sea salt.  The popcorn, in my eyes, should be heavy with butter and not light on the salt either (cue my impending heart attack/cholesterol increase).  A couple of years ago, me and ole’ popcorn were getting a bit bored and disenchanted and decided it was time for a new phase in our relationship.  Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to, the one, the only, the great, the mighty; salted caramel and peanut popcorn!

I found this recipe on one of my favourite blogs a couple of years ago (Orangette) and have used it multiple times since.  My Ozzy bestie and I used to run a confectionery company together and this was a firm favourite.  The bestie still talks about it and I finally got round to giving her the recipe the other day and thought it was about time I shared it with the world.

This recipe is not difficult but it requires patience, as you have to watch it cook for an hour after you’ve prepared it and the hard part is trying not to eat it.  Trust me, it’s hard and I never succeed.  But, I did wait long enough to take some photo’s and even put some in a tupperware container in a bid to lock it away from my roaming hands.  See, I told you we were in love!

This is the kind of food that makes the day just a little bit brighter, the kind of popcorn that you want to tell your friends about but you don’t want to share it because it’s too damn good.  There is a really mean, non food sharing part of my soul that is considering running home immediately and hiding the popcorn from my hungry housemate.  But as with all great love, it is important to share..  So, here I am sharing it with you.  Enjoy!

Caramel Corn with Salted Peanuts
Adapted from DamGoodSweet, by David Guas and Raquel Pelzel and Orangette blog

A few notes to help you along:

– Be sure to have a whisk and a rubber spatula close at hand. You’ll need them both on short notice.
– Before you begin cooking the caramel, measure out the baking soda and the vanilla, and chop the peanuts. You won’t have time to do it later.
– Do not try to make this recipe without a candy thermometer.
– If you plan to give this popcorn as a gift, know that it looks very handsome, and keeps nicely, in a jar.

10 cups fresh popcorn popped by any method, lightly salted
1 cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup light corn (glucose) syrup
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup lightly salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

If using microwave popcorn, pop the popcorn according to the package instructions. Coat a large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray, and dump the popcorn into the bowl, taking care to pick out and discard any unpopped kernels.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt, and 2 tablespoons of water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Continue to simmer, whisking often, until the mixture reads 250°F on a candy thermometer, about 3 to 4 minutes. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in the baking soda and vanilla. Quickly pour the hot caramel over the popcorn. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the caramel into the popcorn, taking care to distribute it as evenly as you can. Stir in the peanuts, and transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, stirring and turning the popcorn with a spatula every 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and place on a cooling rack for 20 minutes. Gently break up the popcorn, and serve.

Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days (or thereabouts).


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Vasse Felix – How all food should taste

Word on the street was that Vasse Felix restaurant was doing good things, great things in fact.  Everyone who’s anyone was singing their praises.  So I thought it was about time I found out what all the fuss was about.  I have been to Vasse Felix several times but not for about a year.

So, on a wintry day, we decided to indulge our senses.  Now, let’s move past the negatives, there are only two and they are minor.  I just feel like we should get them out of the way early.  Number one, the restaurant very much feels like a ski lodge, think lots of exposed wood and a strange floating fireplace.  Number two, they kinda, mighta put gluten in my gluten-free meal.  For this I am willing to forgive them but only because what is to follow is nothing short of spectacular…

Vasse Felix offers a menu like no other in the region, it is as inspiring as it is creative.  As much as I hate the phrase, it is Mod Oz all over.  There is a definite leaning towards Asia, there is emphasis on seasonality and provenance.
However, it sidesteps the common pitfall which is confusing menu syndrome, you know when you read a menu and it’s like looking at a world map.  Every country is listed but you’re not sure which country (or restaurant for that matter) you’re in.  Vasse Felix’s menu is cohesive, enticing and has a clear sense of identity and originality.  And the presentation is superb. 

Mr T had the cured ocean trout, edamame, wakame + sesame, fresh wasabi, yuzu gel.  And it made me jealous… Mr T has an annoying habit of picking better menu items than me, very frustrating but at least I get to taste it.  The trout was perfect, every facet of the dish was integral to the overall success.  The trout was silky and lustworthy and the wasabi did its job of giving everything a kick up the bum.  I chose, seared scallops, surf clams, bouillabaisse flavours.  My scallops were very good, seared well, the bouillabaisse did not immediately grab my attention but with every mouthful became more swoon-worthy.



For the main course I picked the best dish.  I win, I win!  I truly felt like I had won the jackpot.  Glossing over the fact that the first rendition of my dish had unwanted gluten in it, when the second attempt appeared I was restored.  All was right with the world again and all because of this dish. Duck breast, pressed leg + celeriac, quince, farro (nearly minus the farro).   For a brief moment, everything else just melted away and it was just me and a damn fine plate of food.  The breast was pink and succulent, meltingly tender and full of flavour.  There was a silken celeriac puree and an impressive celeriac terrine which had a layer of pressed duck leg running through its core, making it all the more seductive.  Shining on the plate were little gleaming slivers of quince which I was told were poached in cane cut semillon, a classy touch.  These details are what elevates Vasse Felix to a level above its peers.  It is not merely the originality but the lightness of touch which makes this menu great, it all somehow seems effortless.  And of course it is not.  Many, many hours go into making food taste this good. 



After sparkling wine, chardonnay and amazing food I was being rushed by Mr T.  I had my eye on a dessert but time was of the essence so I asked for a scoop of the turkish delight ice cream.  When it arrived, I was greeted by not one but two scoops of delightfully peachy, pinky ice cream topped with saffron pashmak (candy floss).  It was a heavenly mouthful, buttery and rich and tempered by the delicate touch of rose water.  The perfect way to end a perfect meal. 



Clearly Aaron Carr knows his stuff and must have an awesome team behind him, he has been manning the stoves at Vasse Felix for 17 years and my god is he good.  I implore you to visit, if only for dessert but really you should go and eat the entire menu, I wanted to!  If you live nearby, go there.  If you live in another country, go there.  If you live on the moon, go there.  It’s simply that good.


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Heston inspired dark chocolate and bacon cupcakes!

I’m sorry guys but that really deserved an exclamation mark.  So, I was flicking through the great big book that is the internet the other day and came across this chocolate cake recipe.  I must admit, it made me stop and stare for a minute, they looked so pretty.  Lashings of chocolate icing topped with a curly little bit of pancetta.  Surely there are no two better things in the culinary world than chocolate and bacon.

Apparently Heston did something with chocolate and bacon on Masterchef and therefore it must be good.  I bought all the ingredients, and then had to tie my hands behind my back (which took a while) as it is pretty hard to cook bacon and then let is sit around and cool and not devour it.  Every vegetarian I have ever known who defected back to the carnivorous side has done so at the mighty hands of bacon.  It is a powerful beast.

So, I covered my bacon in melted chocolate and essentially what I ended up with was chocolatey bacon bits.  The cake was pretty easy to make and turned out to be bloody delicious but….  Bacon is amazing however there is no place for it in this cupcake.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t repulsive, it was simply superfluous.  And if you don’t know what superfluous means, go google it!

It was salty and tasty but it just didn’t add anything to the cupcake.  I’m sorry Heston, I never thought I’d utter these words but you’re wrong.  As my friend Miss KW wisely said, maybe not everythings better with bacon.  It’s important to try these things, if we are not going on little adventures every day then we’re not really living.  Thanks for the adventure Heston but you can keep your bacon cupcakes.

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