The Animals

I think the wait for Labour Day is way too long. I’m thinking at least one public holiday per month should be recorded as a basic human right. Am I right? Yeah, thought so.

Anyhoo, just thought I’d share some fluffy photos with you. Cos it’s like…totally not bed time, and I totally do not have to get up early tomorrow…

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This on the left is Bagel. She’s a beagle. And this on the right is Harry (full name Dirty Harry, not my choosing).

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This is Harry hankering after something yummy. “Feed me please!”

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Beagles are not very good at having their photos taken.

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I think it has something to do with an extremely short attention span.

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Or maybe she’s just looking for food. “Fooooooooooooood!”

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“Do you have any food for me?”

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This is Harry trying to look all smoldering and sexy. I think he kinna looks like Scar from Lion King.

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Every now and then, we get a visitor. Harry used to be a sheep dog, so he was very excited.

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Isn’t she cute??? Love!!

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Bagel doesn’t know that this weirdo thingy is.

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“Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.” Chew, chew. I do pretty good lamb impersonations.

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Happy family :)

The lamb only stayed for a couple of days. She moved on the larger property (read: farm) down the road from us. We miss her.

Bed now :)

Recent Stuff. Namely Cakes.

Hellooooooooooooooo (in a Caribbean accent, just cos I feel like it)!!

I thought I’d share some recent cakey stuff :) and just to let everyone I’ve not vanished. Yet.

pink ruffle cake with cabbage roses, a la Maggie Austin

pink ruffle cake with cabbage roses, a la Maggie Austin

 

Congrats S+E!!

white chocolate ruffle cake, for a beautiful wedding by the beach. congrats S+E!!

 

fondant piggy figurines, for 2 little piggies who turned 18 this year

 

 

Just as a personal crisis sort of update…I’ve come to the realisation that a career in cake may not work so well with a desire to be healthy. What to do?

On Passion, and a Sugar Anemone Cake

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I made this cake recently for a good friends birthday. A beautiful cake for a beautiful lady. Happy birthday Jackie! And may you never lose your smile.

I also recently read this post from Chris Guillebeau. For those of you that don’t know, I have long dallied in motivational stuff in general. Chris’s site is awesome. Check it out. And the TEDX is awesome. Also check that out. But the message in this particular post/talk really struck a cord with me.

Even though I’ve been to many seminars and read many books, I still haven’t found the courage to do what I love. What I’m really passionate about. Part of it is not knowing what I’m passionate about. But what I do know is that I don’t like what I’m doing now. I’m climbing the proverbial ladder. But I know, with a deep and horrible certainty, that it’s the wrong ladder.

Caking is the closest I’ve come. I want to start making cakes more often. I’m curious what it could lead to.

I’ve always operated with a faith that things will work out, a strange long-term optimism. Does anyone share this optimism? And how have you guys found your passion?

Hazelnut Macarons With Nutella Ganache

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I’m really excited to be adding the first macaron post to this blog. I’m not sure if the macaron “craze” is still going on. I guess it’s no longer the “next new thing” but is now just “the thing”. You can find macarons pretty easily in Sydney. A good portion of cafes have a tray or jar of them ready to go. I will say though, the quality does vary, and it certainly pays off to taste your way around town as each macaron establishment seems to have its own style and tendencies.

Baroque Bistro (and little sister La Renaissance) has a really beautiful, tall macaron with punchy, assertive flavors. Ladurée has a slightly more squishy looking macaron, with a more delicate flavor and texture combo. I really love both these places. Initially I didn’t really want to like Ladurée as they bake their macarons in Switzerland or something and ship them to the land of Oz frozen, but given that the taste is fantastic, and the store and packaging is so cute and inspiring…Yeah, I’m a sucker for packaging. And a bit of a Francophile. There. I said it.

Adriano Zumbo and Lindt also get a mention here, but I’m not a huge fan of either. Lindt I find is too firm and way too sweet. But you know, if that’s your thing… Zumbo’s macarons are a tad crunchy for me, but the flavors he comes up with are too fun not to explore every now and then.

Most often though, I get my macaron fix at home. I spent plenty of time and money and tears on getting these right, and I’ve come to a point where I’m pretty happy with them. Every now and then though, they like to remind me that they are not to be taken lightly, and will come out of the oven crappy on purpose. Just out of spite.

That’s not to say these little cookie/pastry thingies are too difficult to make. They just take a little care. They’re supposed to be French (*ahem* Italian impostors), and they are proud like a good Frenchman should be. The recipe is below. Give it a go and let me know how you get on.

I’ll just note that it was really hard to me to write up this recipe without it becoming a thesis. I hope to post up my experiences with making macarons in the near future, with what I found works and doesn’t work. In the meantime, Ms Humble has some really fantastic posts about macaron making on her awesome blog that you should check out, like now.

Hazelnut Macarons with Nutella Ganache

  • 150g icing sugar
  • 100g almond meal
  • 50g hazelnut meal
  • 120g egg white (approx 4 egg whites)
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 50ml water
  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 65ml cream
  • 50g nutella

Start by making the filling. Heat the cream in a saucepan and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let this sit for a bit then stir it all together until smooth. Stir through the nutella and leave it aside to rest and firm up a bit.

Pre-heat your oven to 150°C.

Blitz together the icing sugar, almond meal and hazelnut meal together in a food processor until very fine. It should clump together a bit when you squeeze it.

Throw this mixture in a bowl and add 60g of egg whites. Mix together. This will look like a stiff clumpy thingy, but that’s totally normal!

Throw the other 60g of your egg whites into a clean bowl, or the bowl of your mixer if you are using.

Add your caster sugar and water to a clean saucepan and heat until 118°C. If you don’t have  a sugar thermometer, you can still do this using the cold water test.

When you start heating the sugar, start gently whipping up your egg whites. You want your syrup to reach the right temperature at about the time when your egg whites hit soft peaks.

Once your egg whites are holding soft peaks, slowly pour in the hot sugar syrup, continuing to beat your meringue as you go. Continue to beat this until the bowl is no longer hot to touch (I like to use metal bowls as they are a truer indicator of the temperature inside). Your meringue should now be thick, shiny, sticky and white.

Fold your meringue into the egg white, nut meal mixture that you created earlier, adding it a third at a time with a silicone spatula. Be gentle with this stuff, but don’t be too afraid to knock it around a little either. This is the bit where you are trying to achieve “macaronage”. Basically, you want to knock enough air out of the mixture that when the macarons bake, they don’t rise too quickly and crack. However, you want to make sure you don’t knock too much air out of thing that it collapses in the oven. Yeah, this is the reason why people say macarons are finicky.

It might take you a couple of tries to get the right consistency, but don’t be afraid! Once you’ve don’t it a few times you’ll get a feel for what it should look and feel like. As a guide, if you lift your spatula and trail a ribbon of the batter over itself, it should begin soften and disappear into the rest of the batter with a few wobbles of the bowl.

Your macaron batter is now ready to pipe! Piping is another thing that becomes easier with practice, but if you haven’t done it before, YouTube is a fantastic place to start.

Pipe out your trays of macarons on baking paper and let them hang out on the counter for a while (I’ll talk a bit more about this in a later post).

Bake one tray at a time for about 20mins each. They should start forming feet at about 5 minutes in. To test them, you can try plucking one up from the tray. If it pops up easily, it’s done. You can also try prodding them. If they wobble and feel soft on their feet, they need more drying/baking time in the oven. If they feel nice and firm, there’s a good chance they’re done.

Once cooled, flip them over, pair them up, pipe the ganache on one side and sandwich them together.

Once you’ve done all this, you will have macarons. But don’t eat them yet. Let them sit in the fridge overnight. They will be much much better. Trust me.

“Splendidly”

14/01/13

As a blogger, I have history of long absences and erratic posting. I have tried, in the past, to set myself posting goals (twice a week, once a week, once a month…). They didn’t work.

When I started this blog, I agreed with myself that this would largely be for me. A recipe collection of all the things I love to eat. A random collection of articles and blog posts that resonated with me. A photo-log that defines my life. And if anyone else happened to read it, then so be it.

As such, I also agreed with myself not to be pressured into writing just for the sake of writing. When the words flow, they will flow. And when they don’t, ah well. I also gave myself express permission to write about nothing, should I feel like it. And today, I’m writing about nothing.

Sometimes I think I’m a much older lady in a 23 year old’s body. I often feel like I should be a housewife in the 50s. And I use words so foreign to my generation. Like Gosh. And Darn. And today, on the phone, Splendidly. Yeah…I’m weird.

On Pole Progression, and Taking Things Slow

30/01/13

Huge ass pole shoes

I have to be one of the slowest progressing pole dancers in the world. Yeah. I said it. I’ve been poling for two years at Bobbi’s and am still currently enrolled in the Int2 level. As much as I sometimes get frustrated at my slow progress, I know very well that everyone’s body is different, and as such, will progress and improve very differently.

There are loads of reasons why I don’t progress as quickly as some. I was really unfit when I started. I had a few injuries from pushing too hard. I’m hyper-mobile. I have a phobia of being upside down. I just don’t practice as much. The last one is probably the biggest culprit. I’m just plain lazy. But for the most part, I’m okay with that.

Pole for me has been an amazing experience, one that has formed me into who I am. I don’t worry about anything else when I’m at pole. Pole allows me to let go of all my insecurities and feel great about myself in a way that nothing else can achieve. Pole shows me all that my body is capable of, and I am so grateful for it. Nothing has taught me the direct link between hard work and reward in the way that pole has. And every time I sustain and injury, I am humbled by how fragile we are. Above all, pole is a place where I can express myself as I see fit. It is entirely for me.

I’ve always been kind of a slow person. Not in a dimwit kind of way (I hope), but in a take my sweet ass time kind of way. Mum didn’t know what to do with me. Now the boyfriend doesn’t know what to do with me. I don’t like to rush. I have a lot of faith that things will work themselves out in their own time. And so far, they have. Whether it be moving up in pole, or progressing on a snowboard, or moving forwards in my career. I’m not saying not to be proactive, but let’s not be impatient. And if you still have doubts about the merits of slowing down and staying chill, just have a look at these guys.

365 Project

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I really don’t take enough photos.

One of my resolutions this year is to take more photos. I want to remember all the random little things that don’t seem important. And I want to get better at taking photos.

I got a new camera for Christmas this year. I love it. It’s amazing. And now my old 400D can be the back up, take-everywhere-and-not-worry-about camera.

So I’m kicking off my own 365 project. Well… 361, seeing as it’s the 4th today. I’ll be posting them in the 365 page up top. One photo. Every day. Expect some instagram abuse very soon.

Happy New Year!!

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(Yes, Jeffrey, this is your photo…)

I’m so proud that Sydney is famous for its new years fireworks each year. Stuff that ball. Harbour bridge is where it’s at! This year they went all out. $6.6M worth of explosives, and although it I didn’t see it myself, I imagine it was a pretty spectacular display.

2012 was a really big one for me. Huge actually, when I think about it. And boy, was it  good one! We found festivals, and with them, fell in love with music all over again. We discovered some of our city’s hidden gems. We discovered some gems abroad. Macarons were made. Turkeys were roasted. We bought an apartment! We renovated a kitchen. We made new friends, and reached out to old ones.

As wonderful as the year was, it wasn’t without its trying times. I lost my sweet, sweet Cavvy, who was with us for 15 years. Friendships fell apart. Recipes failed. Some weight was gained, and not yet shed…

But it really was a wonderful year.

And can I tell you? I’m hell excited for the next one.

And as far as resolutions go, I’m keeping it loose and easy this year. I failed all of last year’s, so I’m recycling them all. Move up a level in pole. Hit the splits. And snowboard down a blue run. And take more photos dammit! Fingers crossed :)

Marinated Tomato And Goat’s Cheese Salad

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We had our Christmas get together recently. There was food. And booze. Lots of booze. And I roasted my first ever turkey!! It was a 8.6kg monster. And it was not enough.

December in Australia is hot. So salads are a prerequisite of Christmas meals here. Especially as the turkey wasn’t stuffed. We had a couple of things this year, including some deviled eggs, a smoked salmon and cucumber thingy, a sorta-Greek salad, and a marinated tomato salad. With goats cheese. And a balsamic reduction. It was good. So good we made it again 2 days later. And then again the day after that (might also be due to having a Costco sized pack of goats cheese in my fridge).

This tomato salad disappeared pretty quickly. And if you can’t be bothered reducing the balsamic, or just feel like a little bit more zing with your salad, feel free to substitute with some red wine vinegar instead. We did.

Marinated Tomato and Goat’s Cheese Salad with Sweet Balsamic Reduction

    • 500g grape tomatoes (I used a tomato medley that had good color variations)
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 2tbsp olive oil
    • Pepper to taste
    • 1/2 cup chopped onion (spring or Spanish)

100-150g goat’s cheese

  1. Cut tomatoes (small ones in half, larger ones in quarters). Sprinkle salt over the top. Toss to combine. Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes to overnight.
  2. Place the vinegar in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until reduced by half. It should be nice and syrupy. Leave to cool.
  3. By now the salt should have pulled out a lot of liquid from the tomatoes. Pour this off.
  4. Add the olive oil, pepper and onions to the tomatoes. Toss well.
  5. Put the tomatoes onto a dish and dot with crumbled goats cheese.

Note: If using red wine vinegar, I’d suggest adding the cheese before tossing. This gets the dressing all creamy ;)