Monday, September 21, 2009

Underground Dinner

I have only recently heard about "Underground Dinners" and when I did some research about it, it sounded so mysterious, exciting and fun - I had to get myself to one. If you haven't heard about it before, click here. In short, it's a novice or amateur chef hosting a dinner party in their own home for complete strangers. For the particular one I went to, I had to contact the host (Thang), put my name down on the list and wait for his reply. Lucky for me I had friends of friends who knew him (hehe thanks Che!) and was able to get myself and a few friends to join the next one he was holding. Normally, you put your name on the list and on the day of the dinner, you will get an sms inviting you over with the details (where and when that evening).

Right, on to the was $60 for 6 courses - 4 mains and 2 desserts. Just wait till you see the photos below......

It's BYO wine and since there was no toddler in tow tonight, the wine bottles were safely strapped into the child seat. Priorities, priorities LOL!!!

When we arrived we could see Thang and his wonderful helpers busy preparing the dinner
Scampi being marinated

Ocean trout being marinated

Lamb cutlets being marinated

First dish being plated

And he even went out of his way to make a pretty menu for each of us

1st course - Avocado and crabmeat stack
Seriously, avo and can't go wrong. This was so very good. Loved the fish roe with the salty "pop" in the mouth with each bite

2nd course - Scampi squid ink pasta with scampi oil
First time I've tried scampi and I really enjoyed it. This was definitely my favourite dish of the night (and for most of the guests too). Thang told us that it takes him 2 hours to make the scampi can tell though because it really has a wonderful strong flavour
3rd course - Seared ocean trout with soy and kaffir lime leaves sauce
Seared to perfection. My skin was extra crispy and the whole dish was just lovely
Palate cleanser - Blood orange granita
Another first for me. I could have had the whole container it was that good
4th course - Lemongrass lamb cutlets with mash and mushroom
really loved this dish. The lamb was so juicy and the flavour was beautiful
And here is the amazing Thang hard at work plating our next dish
I think I need to get myself some of those moulds, this is the coolest dessert I have ever seen!!!
5th course - Coconut vanilla pana cotta with fresh berries
There are other names for this dessert, but I'll leave it up to your imagination ; )
This was such a fun dessert and it was really tasty too

Action shots - wobble to the left....

and wobble to the right
6th course - Passionfruit souffle with passionfruit ice cream
YUM! There are just no other words....
So there you have it, my first underground dinner. I was so nervous at first wondering who else would turn up? What would this host be like? Would I actually enjoy the food? But anticipation soon turned into excitment and once we sat down and started eating and chatting, I was well and truly enjoying myself.

I am in awe of what Thang does. You'd have to be so organised and really passionate about food to attempt something like this. I don't know if I'd ever go as far as hosting my own underground dinner, but I sure do love the idea of it.

Thank you to Thang for a really gorgeous dinner. Thank you for inviting us strangers into your home. Thank you for giving me this special experience and well....thank you!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Steak Cake

This was what my friend Amra wanted for her birthday....a steak cake. With specifics like it had to be red velvet, cream cheese frosting to go with it.....and I think she even asked for mushroom sauce...but I had to stop her there! Anyway, this was what I ended up with by the end. With enormous help from my husband and my best friend Prem - thanks guys! What would I have done without your help? Definitely wouldn't have managed on my own!

I baked the red velvet the day before and had to rush the decorations on the night of Amra's birthday after work so we wouldn't be too late for the party (took the 3 of us a little over an hour - most of the time taken to dye the fondant brown). It was worth it though. The look on her face (and the mound of food we were fed) was priceless : )

Red velvet mixture - matches my mixer ha!

Cooking in the oven

Straight out of the oven - wow! It was redder than I expected. Well I did use a whole bottle of food dye (50ml)

Cream cheese frosting

Rump steak - red velvet cake with dyed brown fondant
Mash potato - cream cheese frosting
Peas - dyed green fondant
Dutch carrots - dyed orange fondant
Happy birthday my wonderful friend!!!!! I hope you had an awesome night AND I can't wait till my birthday *wink wink* hahahahah! Just kidding!!! xoxoxo
Bren's easy fondant:
450g icing sugar
1 egg white
50g glucose syrup (from Woolies) or liquid glucose (obtainable from chemists)
Food dye
1. Thoroughly sift the icing sugar, put it into a bowl, and make a well in its centre.
2. Add the egg white, liquid glucose and food dye.
3. Beat all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon, scooping up all the icing sugar from the edges of the bowl.Knead the mixture in your hands, with some extra icing sugar to prevent it sticking. Add more food dye at this stage if the colour is not right and knead it really well to mix it in properly.
4. When it is soft and smooth, wrap it in a polythene bag and store it in a cool place until required. Knead it again just before you use it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Black Forest Cake

Firstly, sorry to Steph, Craftschmaft, NQN and Cakelaw. I couldn't respond to your comments in the previous post because there is something wrong with that particular post. Everytime I tried to reply it kept saying error. It was very furstrating and I hope it doesn't happen to this post or any future ones. Does anyone know where the blogspot helpdesk is? ; )

Anyway, on with the black forest cake I made for my hubby for Fathers Day. This wasn't a hard cake to bake or decorate. In fact I found it rather fun. Here is the recipe I followed, but made some adjustments to (such as not cutting each sponge layer horizontally to make 4 layers in total and using chopped chocolate biscuits to decorate the sides)

1st layer - chocolate sponge with cherry brandy drizzled over it (my local Woolworths Liquor store didn't have Kirsh so I went with another brand of cherry brandy)

2nd layer - cream and cherries

3rd layer - another chocolate sponge with more drizzles of cherry brandy
Ta da!!!! Whipped cream all over with curled chocolate in the centre and cherries for decoration. Oh and on the side I used crushed chocolate biscuits (Arnotts brand)
Sorry for the dark photo

This is an oldie but a goldie. I will definitely make this again, but add more cherry brandy to it next time ; )

Monday, September 7, 2009

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

It was bound to happen at some point - I got tagged to do a recipe....thanks Steph (from Moobear), yeah I still love ya! She had me sweating as soon as I read her post. The pressure....

Right, so what I had to do was choose an ingredient from her recipe and make something of my choice (and I'm suppose to tag four other people, but I don't know anyone who would do it....anyone offering? Hehehe)

From Steph's recipe of Aji I decided to pick lemons as my ingredient from her list and make Lemon Meringue Cupcakes.
Cupcake mixture

Ready for baking

Straight out of the oven

The perfect opportunity to use my new Tupperware Bake 2 Basics Squeeze It

The Squeeze it was so easy to use, I love it!

I used the grill in my oven to toast the tops

Hello my pretty...
These little babies were enjoyed by my family at Bicentennical Park over the weekend, we have a 3 day celebration for fathers day this year woo hoo! Up next is Black Forest Cake and then tonight we are going for dinner in Burwood to celebrate again.....the men in this family sure are spoilt!!!
Lemon Meringue Cupcakes (I made some slight adjustments but the original recipe is here)
For the Cupcakes:
90g softened butter
90g softened cream cheese
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice (more if you prefer a stronger lemon flavour)
2/3 cup castor sugar
2 eggs
½ cup plain flour
1/3 cup self-raising flour
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees
2. Line a 12 cupcake pan or a 24 mini cupcake pan, with cupcake papers
3. Beat the butter, cheese, lemon rind, lemon juice, sugar and eggs until smooth and creamy.
4. Sift the flours. Add the flour gradually to the cheese mixture and beat on a low speed, until just combined
5. Divide the mixture evenly between the cake cases.
6. Bake for 25 minutes until firm to touch.
7. Allow to cool for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.
For the meringue:
4 eggwhites
3/4 cup (155g) caster sugar
Place eggwhites in a clean, dry bowl. Use an electric mixer to whisk until firm peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, beating well between each addition. Continue beating for 2-3 minutes or until sugar completely dissolves.
Pipe or spoon meringue on top of each eachcake, using a round-bladed knife to shape in peaks over the cupcake. Use a small brûlée gun to grill the meringue until lightly golden. Alternatively, transfer cupcakes to an oven tray; place under a preheated grill until lightly golden.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Backyard BBQ for 2 (and a half)

Having a toddler means we don't eat out much. Sometimes it's more trouble than it's worth - packing extra bits and pieces, drink bottles, toys, spare clothes, finding a place which is child friendly (high chairs or change tables) and even having all that, your toddler might still have an off night and cry, whinge or is really restless only to attract people glaring at you to control your we tend to stay at home and cook instead.

Last Saturday we had planned to cook some steak, marinated beef and marinated tongue like every other time inside on the pan, but just as I was bringing in the clothes that afternoon I thought it would be more fun to cook outside over coals instead. Hence, our backyard BBQ for 2 (and a half).
Left - Sirloin steak cut into cubes
Right - mushrooms

Same as above but we've added marinated beef and some marinated tongue (rough recipe at the end)

A cooked piece of tongue....with fat dripping from it (the only way to eat tongue)

Marinated beef

How I like to eat my marinated beef - lay a piece of beef on a torn lettuce leaf, then put some rice on top, roll it up and down the hatch!

My husband found some marshmellows in the back of our cupboard to Keane's delight

Roasting marshmellows with the meat....ewwwww!

After eating we thought it would be fun to get a fire going

The fire really picked up......

After a break from eating and just enjoying the fire, we kind of got hungry we dug out the garlic bread from the freezer

Ummmmm we were having too much fun with the fire and sort of forgot about the bread. Rather charred, but it had a nice smokey flavour hahaha!

Since the garlic bread was mostly burnt, we moved onto cheese and crackers

And to finish off the evening was a shared tub of Sabor Portuguese Mousse (Hazelnut flavour).
This mousse is to die for!

And when you are filled up and can't walk what's the best thing to do? Lie down, sit back and relax!

A really relaxing evening in with the family, no temper tantrums, everything ready at hand, great food and no dramas. The best way to enjoy a Saturday night I think!
Here's the marinated tongue recipe. Sorry this is a very rough guide because I never measure out my ingredients for this marinade.
1/2kg of sliced tongue (you could buy a tongue and slice it yourself, but remember to freeze the tongue first because it makes it far easier to cut it thinner)
2-3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Leave to marinade for at least an hour. Tongue is best cooked on a very hot grill or pan.