Monday, 7 April 2014

A Return To Form & A Little Bit Of Happiness.

And now, lets get back on track shall we? I've just had a cautious peek at the backlog of blog posts that have built up while I've been away. I have 647 new posts to read. Haven't you all been busy?! I'm pretty sure that will take me a further week just to catch up!

I've been frustratingly ill as of late and am still recovering today, so instead of cooking up a storm I'm half-heartedly chewing on left overs and contemplating crawling back into my freshly made bed. In light of this, I thought I'd share a few photos of things that have brought me some happiness recently.

First up, leaves. My husband Keith has been caring for me the last few days, a large portion of which entails distracting our son. When I'm sick in bed Oscar tends to think I'm onto a real winner of an idea and decides he too wants to stay in bed, make demands for treats and watch cartoons (I wonder where he learnt that from? ;) ). Yesterday afternoon Keith and Oscar headed to the park and brought me back these leaves from their favourite 'hiding tree'. I kept them by my bedside to cheer me up.


Next up, pizza! Glorious, mouth-watering pizza. I have been to Assaggi Italiani in Malvern 3 times in the last week and a half. If you live in Melbourne, you really need to give their outstanding food a go. I've tried their pizzas and pasta (and tiramisu) and I can't wait to go back again!


Do you have a veggie garden? I used to be one of those people that could kill a cactus with the greatest of ease but over the years I've developed a little bit of a green thumb. We live in a terrace house with a teeny tiny courtyard, which I've heavily adorned with pots of herbs, berries and veggies. I love spending time out there and it's so satisfying cooking with produce you've grown from seed.


Finally, lets finish on a sweet note. Chocolate! Haigh's is a local sweet-tooth institution. Their store's are refined and elegant and their chocolate creations are admired by young and old. We wandered in there, hungrily last weekend. I was trying to justify that a $130 chocolate hamper was a wise choice but instead we settled on a bag of chocolate covered mixed nuts which I've been rationing out for the last week.


What simple things have made you happy in the last week and what makes you feel a bit better when you're stuck in bed sick?



Monday, 24 March 2014

A quick hello!

You may have noticed that I have been a little quiet recently, I thought I should check in and let you know all is not lost! I'll be back in a week with some more reviews and recipes. I have family coming to stay in a couple of days so it's been a mad rush to stock up on bedding, dinnerware and food. Sadly, cooking has fallen to the back burner as of late. When we moved to rainy old Melbourne from Perth we started anew and didn't see much point in buying more than the bare essentials, especially considering our new, teeny-tiny house has no storage. That decision is biting me on the butt right now though!

Apart from sharing some happy family snaps when I return, I'll also be posting an awesome recipe for 'fried gnocchi with lemon, basil and chilli'. Of course there'll be a dessert recipe (which will remain a secret for now) and I'll be reviewing The Farm Cafe in Collingwood.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you! What kind of recipes would you like to see more of? Do you have a great recipe to share that I simply must try out?

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Banana, Coconut & Macadamia Muffins with Brown Sugar Glaze

I have a love hate relationship with bananas. The flavour is sublime, the smell is mouth-watering, the texture is.. revolting. I have cooked with bananas hundreds of times and enjoyed every banana filled baked good, and yet, I still can't eat a single bite of 'au naturel' banana. Avocado, jelly and poached eggs have also suffered from my neglect. Claggy and slimy just isn't my thing, especially if it's cold. So for now, while I battle these unreasonable food demons, I will continue to bake with my beloved and yet unloved bananas.


The unashamedly plain appearance of these muffins is deceptive. They are packed full of flavour, and aren't dense at all like their banana bread cousin. They're light and cake-like without sacrificing on strong banana taste. The coconut is subtle. There's no disputing banana is the star of this show. While the macadamias bring their unmistakable, buttery glory to the game.


I know it can be tempting to forgo the frosting (and the associated calories) but that just isn't an option with these. I'm sorry, I insist! The brown sugar glaze seamlessly harmonises the aforementioned flavours. You won't regret the extra effort, I promise. ;)





Banana, Coconut & Macadamia Muffins with Brown Sugar Glaze

Recipe by A Rhubarb Rhapsody
Total time: 40 minutes
Yield: 12 muffins

Ingredients for the Muffins: 
  • 1 1/4 cups plain flour
  • ¼ cup corn flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 scant teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large very ripe bananas, pureed
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or melted and cooled butter)
  • ½ cup roasted macadamias, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup shredded coconut

To make the Muffins:
  1. Preheat oven to 185°C/365°F. Grease a 12 hole muffin tin and set aside. 
  2. In a large bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, sugar, salt and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl. Stir through the shredded coconut and macadamias. 
  3. In a separate mixing bowl whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla extract, bananas and coconut oil. 
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, gently fold together until just combined. 
  5. Pour batter into the prepared muffin tin. Bake until a toothpick comes out crumb-free and they're golden brown on top (about 20-25minutes). While the muffins are baking make the brown sugar glaze (no rest for the wicked!).

Ingredients for the Brown Sugar Glaze:
  • 50 grams (3 1/2 tablespoons) salted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of corn flour

To make the Brown Sugar Glaze:
  1. In a small pot, mix the cornflour with a few tablespoons of the milk to avoid lumps. Add the rest of the milk and cook over medium heat, whisking until mixture has thickened. 
  2. Add the butter and sugar, whisk until both have dissolved completely. 
  3. Working quickly, dip the tops of the muffins into the glaze and then let them sit on a cooling rack for a few minutes. Serve and enjoy! 




Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Weekend Review: Dukes Coffee, Prahran

It was going to be a busy day, we'd planned for a quick breakfast out and then it was off to the Dandenong Ranges to explore the day away. I'd planned with care, having picked out somewhere that had a decent menu, reasonable prices and was nearby- perfect! We packed up the car and began our journey. After driving around the block for 15 minutes we finally found a parking spot, we aimlessly started wandering the street trying to find a cafe which Google Maps was adamant we had already arrived at. We looked around confused and noticed the locked gate, beyond lay the closed cafe which I had chosen with great care. The one which I had failed to note was closed on Sundays. Back in the car we all slumped, defeated and hungry. At that point my husband shrugged, "Dukes?" and off we went to our old faithful.

Dukes is my local 'go to' for coffee. What keeps me coming back to Dukes? The answer is consistency. I know that no matter how busy they are or what time of the day I go, the coffee will be excellent. I've had coffee as good, occasionally better from other local establishments but the consistency of quality has never been on par with Dukes.

We arrived at around 8:30am. If you know Dukes, you know it gets busy, really busy. We had arrived just early enough to be seated immediately, relieved to be taking up the last remaining table. Our waitress was wonderful, speaking warmly to Oscar and even leaving him with a pen and some paper so he could draw while we weighed up the menu. It may be starting to come apparent that I'm a die hard goats cheese fan. If I see a goats cheese dish on a menu and it's vegetarian, chances are sky high I'll order it. This breakfast was no exception, I ordered the 'Omelette, goats cheese, roasted vine tomato'. Keith chose the 'Avocado hummus toast, poached eggs, honey candied bacon and dukkah' and naturally we required coffee, urgently.



Shortly after placing our order the coffees arrived, and they were sublime. Silky, packed full of depth, strong on flavour without a hint of bitterness.

Latte ($3.80)


Before we'd managed to get half way through our coffees the meals arrived. Considering Dukes was now brimming with eager customers the speed at which our food arrived was impressive and unexpected.

My omelette was a simple affair. The presentation left me a little disappointed, especially when I compared my plate with Keith's! However, the omelette was cooked expertly, the egg was barely firm, smooth and delicate. It encased a light filling of goats cheese and the tomatoes made a ripe and flavoursome accompaniment. My only real qualm was when I found myself carefully rationing out my single piece of toast. Two pieces would've been ideal.

Omelette, goats cheese, roasted vine tomato ($17)


Keith's poached eggs were also cooked with precision (a seemingly rare feat). The contrast between the soft eggs and the crunch of the dukkah was wonderful and the avocado added a pleasant creaminess without making the dish feel too heavy.

Avocado hummus toast, poached eggs, honey candied bacon and dukkah ($18)


We sat enjoying our meals and watching the seemingly endless stream of coffee lovers come and go. Throughout this time the staff were friendly and very efficient. It's a high paced atmosphere but the team at Dukes operate in an organised and calm manner. I watched as a tray of freshly made haloumi paninis were put on display, I've had these before and adore them. I reluctantly left them behind and we headed off for our hilltop adventure, having had a wonderful start to the day.


Dukes Coffee on Urbanspoon





Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Spiced Pear & Dark Chocolate Chunk Bread & How I Learned To Cook



I learned how to cook very young and I was terrible at it for a very long time. My Mum was a divorced, working Mother, which meant that growing up she was often at work during dinner time. So in the evenings I was left with a kitchen at my disposal, no internet or cook books and a hungry belly. My Mum had taught me the basics, how to cook pasta, the perfect hardboiled egg and bechamel sauce. So, you can imagine my meals weren't particularly appetising. Eventually I graduated from using jars of store bought pasta sauce on top of woefully over-cooked spaghetti to learning what 'al dente' is and making my own pasta sauce with olives, garlic, feta and lemon. I happily lived off that for years.


I moved in with my boyfriend (now husband) when I was 17 years old. He couldn't cook beyond making toast, and with our cooking powers combined our diet consisted heavily of take away and store bought frozen meals. Surprisingly one can only live on tater tots and pizza for so long.


By now I had a much-loved connection to the internet and I began to explore the world of cooking blogs. I was inspired by so many people who seemed to be able to create incredible dishes with the greatest of ease. The food looked ethereal and I was envious, so very envious


I soaked up every bit of information I could, how to pick the best ingredients, how to balance flavours and textures, how to leave behind packet mixes and cook from scratch. I loved every minute.

Sure it was hard and frustrating and I never did quite manage to make that evasive white chocolate mud cake, even after 3 attempts and wasting over a kilo of chocolate. But boy I was overjoyed to be able to finally place something delicious on the table that I had worked hard on, with love and patience.



Now that I have a family of my own cooking has become something we do together. Each meal is an opportunity to learn together, to talk, to savour each other's company and the wonderful things we can create when we work together. My son, Oscar loves to "mix mix", scoop and pour. He's a dedicated taste-tester too. I ask him what he thinks, does it need more sugar? Salt? Is it thick enough? I encourage him to create recipes and different flavour combinations. I often catch him flicking through my cookbooks, scanning the pages for something "mmmlicious!.


Cooking with kids is a messy and sometimes disastrous business, but it makes me giddy with excitement to see my cooking passion instilled in that little man. It's a comfort to know that this is one thing ticked off the list in creating a well-rounded and independent adult, not to mention breakfast in bed is just around the corner. ;)

This recipe is largely thanks to my son, I needed to use some pears and the idea to make it a bread and add chocolate chunks was his hungered request. Oscar and my husband, Keith, kindly tested out the recipe for me with winning results. Kid, husband and food blogger approved! This is a moist (not doughy) bread with a hint of spice, it's best eaten warm for the full 'oozing chocolate' effect. I served it with a side of good quality salted butter and some honey-drizzled fresh figs but it was also delicious the next day, plain and simple with a cup of chai tea.



Spiced Pear & Dark Chocolate Chunk Bread

Recipe by A Rhubarb Rhapsody
Total time: 45 minutes
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup greek/natural yoghurt
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 500g (1lb 1oz) very ripe pears, peeled cored and mashed (about 3 medium pears)
  • 2 tablespoons oil or melted butter
  • 90g dark chocolate, cut into chunks

Cooking Directions 
  1. Preheat oven to 175°C/ 345°F. Grease load tin and line with grease-proof baking paper, set aside.
  2. In a large bowl sift flour, baking powder and baking soda together. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Whisk until combined.
  3. In a medium sized mixing bowl mix the mashed pears, yoghurt, eggs, vanilla extract and oil/butter together.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently mix until just combined (do not over mix). Carefully fold the chocolate chunks into the mixture.
  5. Pour the batter into the pre-prepared loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Let the loaf cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack, wait until it's at room temperature before cutting and serving.