27 May 2012

Is the dinner party dead?

I love a dinner party! I love a dinner party so much that when reporter for Sydney Morning Herald, Stephanie Wood, sent out a tweet recently asking if the dinner party was dead, I very quickly replied back with a NO WAY! And I wasn't the only one to tell Stephanie the dinner party was alive and well.

You can read Stephanie's article, and what I said in response to her question, in Daily Life here.

So what do you think of the dinner party?

22 May 2012

Turkish Sausage Rolls & Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownie

Once upon a time, not that long ago, I was considered one of the most technologically inept persons around.

From the days when I couldn't work out how to get photos off my digital camera, to absolutely despising getting a new phone because I would have to learn (once again) how to do the most simplest of tasks (like ring someone). I would wait for the very last spark of life from the thing before I would relent and reluctantly walk - with the fear of new technology weighing upon my shoulders - into a phone shop.

But now, my dear friends, I'm a technological Goddess. Okay, I exaggerate but I have improved. A necessity when I ventured into the virtual world of the blog.

Not only have I had to grapple with horrible things like HTML coding and widgets (ekkkk!), but I've also had to learn about the art of food photography. Which, quite frankly, I suck at.

However, I'm not one to give up easily. I'm thoroughly enjoying this little blog world of mine and the fabulous people I'm meeting through it; so I must improve.

I've recently joined Pinterest (you can find me there as The Self-Raising Kitchen) to gain a little inspiration from other people and how they make 'stuff' look amazing. (For the social media virgin: Pinterest is like your old cork board where you once used a drawing pin or thumbtack to pin inspirational photos, articles or pictures on the board. Now it's all online; no hunting for thumbtacks, no pricking yourself while digging around in the bottom of a draw feeling for the tack that you just know is in there.)

Let me share with you my attempts to improve my food photography - all taken on my iPhone - by using applications provided on my Mac and with the thanks to instagram (another very cool photo application that can help filter photos to make them look a little snazzier).

Please, let me know what you think or drop a comment and let me know how I can improve. And for your troubles I've linked to an AMAZING red velvet cheesecake recipe that I found on Pinterest, courtesy of Lick the Spoon blog, followed by a recipe for a Turkish sausage roll that is so delicious and so easy you will undoubtedly knock the socks off your friends at your next afternoon tea.

Once you have made the red velvet brownie mixture
and the cheesecake mixture, separately, place the red velvet
mixture in your tin, then gently place the cheesecake mixture on top

Make sure you leave a little left over red velvet brownie mixture
so you can make beautiful swirls on top.

I used a chopstick and had fun making swirls out of the amazing
red velvet brownie mixture in a backdrop of creamy cheesecake mixture. 

Red velvet cheesecake brownie
thanks to Lick the Spoon blog

Turkish sausage rolls
by delicious. magazine, March edition

Turkish sausage rolls, drizzled with pomegranate molasses
500g lean lamb mince
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin seeds
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried mint
1 tsp dried oregano
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp sumac
*Pomegranate molasses, to drizzle

*Pomegranate molasses is available from delis and Middle Eastern food shops. Some IGAs (Greenslopes, Brisbane) also stock it. Don't want to buy it for one dish? Then try my tasty duck recipe that uses it, too.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. 

Combine lamb, garlic, spices and herbs in a bowl and season. I simply cut the pastry sheets in half to make up a sausage roll. Divide filling between the pastry, shaping it into a log along one side. Roll up to form a roll, brush pastry edge with water (if needed, I found it stuck together without the water) and press to seal. 

Rolling up the sausage roll. You can see where I cut
the pastry to make up one roll.

Brush with egg and sprinkle with sumac. Place, seam-side down, on a baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.

Sausage rolls ready for the oven. I scored the pastry
for ease in cutting once cooked.

Once cooked, slice, then drizzle molasses over the sausage rolls. No tomato sauce is needed with this sausage roll.

Turkish sausage rolls - so simple, so yummy!

Thanks, once again, for joining me on my technological and cooking adventures.

11 May 2012

Haunted houses and the coming of age

I'm a Brisbane girl born and bred. I had a few years living in the UK and have had the good fortune of travelling to many parts of the world. But there is no place like home - at least for me anyway - and Brisbane is my home.

Brisbane has grown up a lot over the last few decades and I think nothing shows this as clearly as the food and wine scene.

I'm very proud to say that my father was even part of this culinary scene back in the 80s and early 90s as the chef of one of Brisbane's very few silver service restaurants, The Clansmen.

My father's legacy to Brisbane's culinary history on a menu from The Clansmen, 1980.

I have extremely fond memories of this restaurant converted from an old Queensland house, after spending many of my weekends as a child with my brother and sister playing hide-and-seek among its haunted rooms. They weren't really haunted - well I don't think so - but courtesy of my delightfully believable older brother, and ably assisted by my incredibly vivid childhood imagination, he told me a story about a terrible crime that had been committed in the house many decades before. Brothers!

However, I still loved the place and would disappear from my mother, who would be washing and ironing all the embroidered tablecloths and napkins ready for the evening ahead, and explore the cigar bar (that would still faintly smell of the evening before's cigar toking patrons), the quaint individual rooms off the main dining area that I always imagined to be for the very rich taking clients out for special business wheelings and dealings, or for a young gentlemen taking his love out to a romantic dinner to speak sweet nothings to her followed by a proposal, all the while surrounded by the old world charm that was the Clansmen. Yes, I was a romantic as a child.

The front of an old Clansmen menu with the history of the past residents of the house.

Of course my most favourite place to explore was the huge commercial kitchen. This was an add-on to the original house and I can still close my eyes and imagine its intoxicating smell fondly. My sister and I, after having enough of our brother trying to scare us, would regularly go foraging in the kitchen for delightful leftovers before Dad would find us and shoo us out again.

Inside one of the Clansmen menus from 1980. Check out the prices.

These were the days when Brisbane was yet to know what a latte was, going out to dinner for the average 'Joe' was a treat to the local pizza restaurant, wine came in cardboard boxes, and no one had even heard of the word sushi let alone the fact that it was something you ate.

Step forward into 2012 and Brisbane's culinary scene has truly blossomed into a vibrant, confidant and fresh city with a love of fabulous food and great wine. Well at least I think so, anyway.

So it is about time that the great people of the Good Food Guide finally launched Queensland's first 2012 restaurant awards to celebrate this great, burgeoning industry in the sunshine state, thanks to Natascha Mirosch, editor of the 2012 Queensland Good Food Guide.

The Queensland Good Food Guide is offering an internet subscription
for only $4.50 for a limited time. CLICK HERE to secure your copy

I'm also very excited to announce that this is my first sponsored post (don't worry, I won't be quitting my day job anytime soon), which means that I have a deal for you. The Queensland Good Food Guide is offering my readers a 50 per cent discount to an internet subscription of the guide, which will provide you with over 570 reviews of eateries in Brisbane, and from Northern Queensland down to and including Northern New South Wales. Never will you have to ask, 'Where do you want to go for dinner?', again. All you need to do is click here and you will have access to the Queensland Good Food Guide for only $4.50 for a limited time.

I was so excited (as only I can get) when the first campaign I received to write about was to spruik Queensland's great restuarants. Growing up with a father as a chef and parents who owned their own restaurant for several years, with a young family, I am only too happy to support others that make their livelihoods in this industry.

This is a RocketFuel sponsored post

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07 May 2012

Working ovens and a Chocolate & Hazelnut Torta

My beloved and I have been in our own home for just over a year now; you can see a pic of her here. She's a cute little house.

But being over 80 years old comes with a certain number of ailments. She has difficulties with her joints, her plumbing and her wiring. Her laugh-lines, however, are delightful and full of character that can only be gained from 80 years of loving inhabitants.

When it comes to repairing the old girl, we are in for a marathon and not a sprint I'm afraid. Unless we win lotto (of which I've never bought a ticket), make a bucket load of cash from my blog (ha ha ha), or our puppies dig up hidden treasure in our backyard (unlikely - finding treasure that is, not the digging).

The point of this story is to talk about my oven. It is crap! Or it was crap.

Allow me to set the scene. Before we bought the old girl we were living in a brand new, 3 bedroom townhouse with a gas stove and electric oven. Tough life!

The gas stove and electric oven in our rental property
When we moved to our very own piece of paradise I inherited this:

The non-working oven and stove top
It actually doesn't look too bad in this photo. However, the two hot plates on the left don't work and the oven has a wonderful knack of burning EVERYTHING that goes into it. This is the reason why I have not blogged about anything to do with baking since moving in. I have tried multiple ways to bake in the thing: put a tray on the bottom to defuse the heat, only place your tray of goodies on the very top part (as it was always burning the bottom), keep the temperature lower/higher/medium, cook for a shorter time/longer time………yes, I have tried it all.

FINALLY my beloved and I agreed to buy an interim oven. In about five years time we are going to renovate the end of the house that the kitchen is in, but I couldn't last that long with the crap oven. So we welcomed:

My beloved installing the new oven
We bought if from eBay for a bargain AUD$311 brand new. It had a couple of dents in it making it cheap. I'm still getting used to have four working hot plates (although they are still electric) and an oven that I can finally bake in. I am still using, however, my little camper gas oven for a lot of what I do. Some of you might have noticed it in a few past posts here and here.

Now for the first time in a very long time I would like to share with you a scrummy cake recipe, that is also gluten free, and one that I could cook in my very own oven.  Enjoy!

Chocolate & hazelnut torta
by Delicious magazine, May 2012 edition
*SRKitchen note - this recipe can easily be halved or turned into two cakes. Because it is so rich you only small slices are needed, unless you have a real sweet tooth.

Chocolate & hazelnut torta
400g hazelnuts, roasted
400g good-quality dark chocolate
400g unsalted butter, at room temperature
300g caster sugar
10 eggs
Good-quality cocoa powder, to dust (optional)
*I also added in a half-cup sour cherries to break up the sweetness of this cake.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease a 25cm spring-form cake pan with butter.

Roasted, then peeled hazelnuts
Rub roasted hazelnuts in a clean tea towel to remove skins, then coarsely grind nuts in a food processor. (SRKitchen tip - alternatively get friends/partners/children to help remove the skins from the
hazelnuts. Makes the job quicker and you get to natter while you do it).

coarsely ground hazelnuts
Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water (don't let the bowl touch the water), stirring until melted and smooth. Cool slightly.

Gently melting chocolate
Using electric beaters, beat the butter and sugar with a pinch of salt until thick and pale.

Beaten butter and sugar
Add cooled chocolate and mix well until smooth and combined.

Melted chocolate added to the butter and sugar
Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time beating well after each addition, until combined.

Crack your eggs in a separate dish, just in case
you get a bad one.
Fold in the hazelnuts

Torta mixture all ready to go in cake pan
Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes until the top is firm to touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. (SRKitchen tip - I am still getting used to my oven, however I found the cake needed a longer cooking time. If this is needed with you place a piece aluminium foil (buttered) over the top of the cake to stop it from burning, something I didn't do).

Turn off the oven, open the door and leave cake to rest in the oven for a further 30 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Dust with cocoa powder, slice in wedges and serve with fresh berries (or mascarpone, as I did).

My beautifully clean oven inside