Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fruit Christmas Tree Centrepiece

This year we were having Christmas at our house and I vowed to keep it as simple and easy as possible. But as I planned I found more things I wanted to try and also saw somewhere online a fruit Christmas tree I really wanted to create. It took me around an hour to assemble from start to finish. Mainly because I was making it up as I went.
You will need:
- Apple
- Carrot
- 1/2 kg green grapes
- 2 handfuls cherries
- Mango
- Small piece of watermelon
- Heaps of toothpicks
- Christmas shaped biscuit cutters

1. To start with you need to halve an apple. Place one half down and poke a tookpick at the middle on the top. Discard the other half of the apple.

2. Stick the top of the carrot down into the toothpick on the apple (ignore the other pieces of fruit in the photo. I was testing out a couple of things but it didn't work and I didn't have a photo of just the carrot and apple)

Again bear with me I know it looks fully assembled already as I forgot to take progressive shots as I was in the zone.
3. So keeping in mind, I should only have a carrot on an apple at this stage. The next thing to do is stick a toothpick at the base right down the bottom of the apple, attach a cherry to that. Work your way up in a spiral with toothpicks and cherries. When you are happy with the spiral of cherries then fill the gaps with green grapes all over. You should eventually create a cone shape.

4. I chose a candy cane biscuit cutter for the Christmas tree decorations, stamping out half a dozen little candy canes from mango. And finally the watermelon star at the top with a tiny star biscuit cutter. Attach them with 2 toothpicks. I found this more secure especially for the mango because it's so fiddly and soft.

Voila! My Fruit Christmas Tree centrepiece! 

There was loads of food, but I was distracted with hosting, preparing, cooking, and clearing/cleaning that I forgot to take photos of everything.
This years menu was:

Starters - baked brie with crackers and vegetable sticks
Entree - Prawn and avocado stack
Mains - Turkey, glazed ham
Sides - Procuitto wrapped asparagus, Parmesan Crusted Roast potato, Couscous Salad, Egg and Potato Salad
Dessert - Trifle

I think the winner this year for me was the parmesan crusted roast potatoes. Definitely going to make those again and share the recipe. The baked brie came in second. Simple because it was so easy and delicious. All you had to do was poke a few slices of garlic and sprigs of thyme into the cheese, wrap it in baking paper and bake for 30mins at 200 degrees C.
Starters - Baked brie

Entree - Prawn and avocado Stack 

 Dessert - Trifle

Thanks to Mum and Chhay for their contributions as I wouldn't have been able to pull off Christmas lunch on my own!
To all my readers, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas filled with great food, laughter and plenty of love! I'll also take this opportunity to wish you a very happy, safe, healthy and prosperous new year. Thank you all so much for being part of this blog. I know this year has been a little slow on my end so thank you for sticking around. Happy 2013!!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Oh Profiteroles! These babies are baaaaaad. In a good way. I feel I'll be making these a lot more now that I've experimented and found a choux pastry recipe that is actually good and easy to do. My first trial were disasterous! Balls of dough that were hard, yet chewy and even when I overbaked them, still managed to taste doughy and undercooked. Yuck. But because I had already made the creme patissiere I decided to look for another recipe and bake another batch and much to my delight, they worked out! 


Creme Patissiere
1 3/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup caster sugar 
1/3 cupplain flour


1. Warm milk and vanilla in a saucepan
(Oh Costco, how I love your large squeeze jars of vanilla bean paste! And at $25 a pop, comes out a lot cheaper than the small jar I usually get from the local supermarket)

2. Meanwhile, whisk eggs and sugar until thick.

3. Next whisk in the flour and then followed by the milk mixture.

4. Pour it all back into the saucepan and cook on low heat for 5mins, whisking continuously.

After about 5mins the mixture should have thickened considerably.

5. Pour it into a jug, cover and place in the fridge to chill.

Choux Pastry for the Profiteroles

40g butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup plain flour
2 eggs
1. Place butter and water in saucepan and bring it up to the boil.

2. Add the flour and using a wooden spoon mix it vigorously until the mixture comes away from the side of the saucepan and forms this big doughly blob.

3. Place the dough into a large bowl, along with the egg.

Beat it till you get a thick batter.

4. Spoon the mixture onto baking paper and bake for 20mins at 180C


Assembling the profiteroles

1. Pipe the creme patissiere into the pastry

2. Melt some chocolate in the microwave (I find the microwave the easiest. The whole baine marie method is a little cumbersome unless you are mixing it with cream and making more of a ganache)

3. Dip the pastry into the chocolate and place it on a wire rack to set.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Jelly Worms in Biscuit Dirt

Happy Halloween!

I've never grown up celebrating Halloween, but this year the Jelly Worms recipe was going viral so I had to try it. Seemed easy enough.

The recipe I used as a guide can be found here. However, I made a few adjustments.

- 1 packet jelly crystals (best to use a red/pink flavouring like raspberry)
- 2 tablespoons powdered gelatine
- 1 cup boiling water
- 150ml cold water
- 50ml cream
- Green and red food colouring (optional)
- Plain chocolate biscuits (I used Arnott's Choc Ripple)

1. Place the packet of jelly crystals and powdered gelatine into a large jug (this is to help make it easier to pour into the straws later).
2. Pour in the boiling water and mix until crystals and gelatine have dissolved. Allow to cool.

3. Meanwhile, flex out all your straws then bundle them and secure with a rubber band. Pop them(bendy side down) into a tall glass or even an empty milk carton (The higher your container is, the longer the worms.
4. Pour in the cold water and cream into the now slightly cooled jelly mixture. Stir well.
NB - Now is also the time to add green and/or red food colouring to get your desired worm colour.

5. Carefully pour your mixture into the straws and chill for at least 4 hours in the fridge. 
It can get a little messy
After 4 hours
6. Crush some chocolate biscuits (I used about 5) and scattter them onto a plate.
(I crushed the biscuits by wrapping them in baking paper and using a rolling pin)
7. Pull out the straws from the glass and you should be able to squeeze them out individually. If there is too much resistance, run it under luke warm water (NOT hot water as it will melt the jelly mixture)

 My son had fun squeezing the "worms" out 

8. Place them over the crushed biscuit dirt and there you have your plate of worms!



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Building a Wood Fired Oven

Here's a treat, my first guest blogger is my husband. Here to explain how he set about building a wood fired oven. Thank you so so so much!!!

Having borrowed a wacking plate it was time to get started on a long awaited project for my dear wife - her wood fired oven.
Firstly I read up alot on a very informative website to get the basics right - 

Then it was time to get stuck in. I compacted the dirt behind a garden wall and filled it with road base and compacted it some more to get a solid base to start. Then it was time to call in the reinforcements to put a layer of sand on top.
Stablising the sand with cement ready for a sheet of compressed 15-20mm concrete1800mm*1800mm approx.and getting the levels right

There is a few steps here just not captured by the photographer, the compressed comcrete sheet was laid on the bed in the previous photo and a concrete footing for the outside wall was poured around it between the brick and timber above then the fun part, a row of bricks layed to the outer edge of the compressed sheet.

Moving on, two rows are now layed on the outer edge and the internal filled with loose bricks filled with sand and clay mix for stability.

Here I and the apprentice grabbed some hebel and layed a bed for insulation under the fire clay tiles to hopefully retain the heat.

Hebel layed and taking shape

From a distance the barbecue on the right will need some TLC next.

On top of the hebel I’ve layed the fire bricks in a rectangular pattern with the entrance taking shape. It is nessary here to think about your choice of oven door and flue. I will be able to close off the flue and use an external door so I don’t need to step the bricks so the door has a ridge to seal against in the opening.

Now comes the floor refractory tiles 300*300 layed on the fire clay sand mix thin layer over the hebel so I can get the surface as even as possible.

Then the arch way, with patience and a grinder anyone can do it build a wooden former or have a fun like I did with packing

After it all set it was time to build some form work for the concrete roof unfortunately the camera wasn’t handy and I dropped the ball with taking photos a bit. But basically I used two semi circular pieces front and back and put ribs lengthways across the top I filled this with sand and covered the whole lot with plastic and started to mix the refactory concrete. This is where the kids got to have a little fun again the concrete needs to be packed by hand little by little and left to dry.
The two kiddies got to use it as a cubby house once they cleaned out the sand

With a little help I got a damper made up for the chimney so I could close it off when not in use and keep heat in too

Final clean out and patch up inside

Bren - We lost 3 days of work because husband dearest lost his ring. But 3 days is nothing as the whole oven took around 4 months in total to complete.

In desperation we rigged up a sturdy net made from chicken wire so we could sift through half a tonne of sand, one shovel full at a time, but to no avail. Eventually found it cemented into the oven....surprise surprise! Like father like son. Except my father-in-law never found his wedding ring. And my mother-in-law suspects he welded it into the pipework of their old family home!

But hey, it was totally worth it in the end! And no damage to the oven except for a small patch-up.

Happy days! Now back to work!!

Starting to take shape now I rolled out the fibreglass insulation blanket and covered it with chicken wire before adding the sand and cement render above the first coat is thin and messy but it gives you a solid base for the next coat when it dries
Two further coats of render and one still to come the final one is a premix acrylic render I got to give a nicer finish and hopefully water proof a little better
After a month of small fires we finally got it to a reasonable temperature to cook so with a few homemade tools its time to get cracking


Pizzas are cooking pretty good at approx. 300 to 320 degrees.
Using the residual heat for dinner the next day the heat holds over 24 hours above 180 so it’s great for slow cooking.
The finished oven with final cement layer
And here is some of the food we've made in the oven already:
Overnight slow roasted pork
Beef casserole