26 July 2012

Dreams, cheesecake filled strawberries and ricotta zucchini rolls

When a dream becomes reality, these tasty finger delights are a must to help you celebrate.

Cheesecake filled strawberries

We've all had dreams, and I'm sure many of you have even had some of them come true. Often the bigger the dream the harder we have to work to see them grace the light of day.

Recently I was very proud to witness a dream become a reality for my dear friend Sonia and her husband Ian. And it was fantastic!

First, let's turn the clock back to 2003. Sonia and Ian purchased an old (and I mean old) Queensland cottage in Paddington, Brisbane, to turn it into their dream home. Now I remember this 'old' house. I would happily liken it to a block of swiss cheese; especially when I had the pleasure of sleeping in it one winter thinking I was going to wake up in the morning with hypothermia. You think I'm being dramatic...but I tell you the truth.

Over the years I have watched Sonia and Ian slowly, patiently - and sometimes not so patiently -renovate this house into a beautiful, cosy, blissfully warm home.

All those that have renovated, or those that have had the pleasure of hiring trades people, will understand the stress, frustration and expense you are confronted with when dealing with people you do not know, about a subject matter that you do not know, and about things, that frankly, you also do not know. Or is that just me?

Here enters reviewatradie.com.au. This brain child has been 12 months in the making and will benefit all of us in Australia to provide us access to reviews about tradies and also allow us to write those reviews ourselves.

Looking for a plumber? Check out reviewatradie.com.au

Looking for a carpenter? Check out reviewatradie.com.au

Now please remember this is in early stages so Sonia and Ian need your help. If you have a tradie that you think is fantastic and would like everyone in your area to know about them then jump on to the site and write a review. The more people who do this, the more we give those good people some work.

So where's the food in all of this? Well, I got to make a couple of tasty treats for Sonia and Ian's big launch afternoon tea that I have just had to share with you. They are simple, delightful and positively scrump-diddly-umptious. I made cheesecake filled strawberries and ricotta zucchini rolls. Both were thanks to my new found addiction to pinterest.

Ricotta zucchini rolls
Adapted from Apple pie, patis and pates blog

makes approximately 24 zucchini rolls

Ricotta zucchini rolls

4 small zucchinis
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil

For the ricotta filling:
ricotta cheese, about a cup
juice from about half a lemon
mint leaves, about a handful (the original recipe uses basil)
roasted slivered almonds, about a handful

This is one of those recipes where exact measurements do not matter. Add more or less of anything that is to your liking.

Cut off the stem end of the zucchini. Using a mandolin or a vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini lengthwise into thin strips.

Season with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Leave to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. The zucchini strips will be more translucent and pliable after resting.

Zucchini strips marinating in extra virgin olive oil.

Mix the ricotta cheese with the lemon juice. Season with salt and mix vigorously until thoroughly incorporated.

Finely chop the mint leaves. Add the mint and almonds to the ricotta mixture and mix until evenly distributed.

Fresh ricotta mixture

Place about 1 tablespoon of the ricotta filling on the cut end of the zucchini strips.

Roll the zucchini strip over the filling and plate.

So easy and healthy: Ricotta zucchini rolls.

Cheesecake filled strawberries
Adapted from The Sweets Life blog

Tasty little morsels of cheesecake filled strawberries
4 punnets of strawberries, washed and top cut
125g cream cheese, softened (or spreadable)
1 tbsp caster sugar (to taste. Add more if you want a sweeter mixture)
½ tsp vanilla extract
zest of one small lemon
about 5 crushed biscuits of any sort. I just used a honey oat biscuit.

Prep all strawberries and set aside.

In a food processor, blend cream cheese, caster sugar, vanilla and lemon zest until creamy. Add a little cream or milk, as I had to, to get a smooth enough consistency to get through a piping bag.

Cheesecake mixture piped on to strawberries

 Add cream cheese mix to a piping bag or a freezer bag with the corner snipped off. Pipe mixture onto strawberries. Dip the top in your biscuit crumbs. If not serving immediately, refrigerate until serving.

Dipping the cheesecake filled strawberries into the cookie crumbs

Cheesecake filled strawberries - they look good enough to eat!

Wishing you all happy cooking adventures!

04 July 2012

Tranquility & simple fare: beef with caramelised onion jus

How to eat like royalty when only a few ingredients are at hand.

I was sitting in the passenger seat. I had packed for all occasions. I had prepared a little food. The puppies were being looked after. There was no more I could do. Patience was needed.

He was sitting in the driver seat. He had packed the coffee machine. He had a grin on his face. He remained silent, at least about where we were going. It's a surprise, he kept saying.

We drove north. Ah ha, I thought, we are going to Noosaville, I'm sure. My beloved loves the water, you see - well, who doesn't? - so I decided to humour him and pretend I still had no idea where we were going.

We were winding our way through the Noosa Hinterlands; what an exquisite area it is. I figured my beloved was taking the scenic route before heading out to the coast. But after a few stops and some muttering under his breath of not being about to find 'something' around a village called Pomona, I realised we must be close. Are we staying in the country?

Finally, we turned onto a dirt driveway, the sign read Noosa Avalon Farm Cottages.

I caught my breath and looked at my beloved, are we staying here? On a farm?. He nodded and I squealed like a little girl having just woken up in the middle of Willy Wonka's edible forest (a constant dream I had as a child, and a story best left for another day).

Owned and run by Linda Lee since 1986, Noosa Avalon Farm is 30 hectares of breathtaking bush and forest, tenderly rejuvenated by Linda herself after the area had been demolished for grazing land.

A beautiful lake on the farm available for guests to treat themselves
to a swim on a warm summers day - which ours was not.
Both my beloved and I dreamt of our adventures here
if we had come as children.
When we drove up to our cottage, which happened to be the honeymoon cottage, I was giddy with excitement at the sight.

The honeymoon cottage - our home for three
incredibly relaxing evenings

Honeymoon cottage is one of two
1920s Queensland cottages on the property

Our incredible view from the balcony of our cottage

This was the sort of place that as soon as you drove through the gate your worries were left on the other side. From breathing fresh country air into my lungs and hearing the tender sound of birds in my ears, I felt complete calm wash over me.

If I hadn't already been completely captivated by the tranquility of this place, up walked a cow to welcome us to the farm:

One of the many Murray Grey cows that wander around the
farm 'mowing' in the afternoons
She even came right up to our balcony to start eating this palm tree.
She did let us pat her a little while after this photo was taken, too.
While walking around the farm we came across Avalon's resident horse Sassy. She was adorable and followed us, at a distance, right along a long dirt road. We would stop, and she would stop. We would start walking, she would start walking. It was hilarious.

Sassy the resident horse…and stalker.
On our walk around the farm we even found where the Murray Grey's have a little rest during the day.

Cows soaking up some winter rays at the
back of the property

The great thing about these cottages is that they are all self contained. So you can bring as much or as little food as you like. You can visit the local IGA store in Pomona to pick up supplies, but note there is no microwave only a gas stove and oven.

As I was completely unprepared for where we were staying I had only brought one meal along, leftover chilli con carne. But after a drive around the local area we came across one of those wonderful roadside stalls where I picked up some vegetables.

Driving through Kin Kin we came across this
roadside vegetable stall

We had some local porterhouse steaks back in our cottage so dinner plans were being hatched.

Please, let me share with you how to eat like royalty while on holidays with only a few ingredients at hand.

Steak with caramelised onion jus
by The Self-Raising Kitchen
Serves 2

2 portions of steak (I used porterhouse)
1 orange*, juiced
Red wine (you could also use port)
Sugar (use brown if you have it, or any other sugar you can find)
Your choice of steamed vegetables.

I had an onion, but no garlic (the horror). I had picked an orange from the orange tree beside our cottage, we had plenty of red wine (it was cold and we had to stay warm some how) and we had raw sugar supplied by Linda for tea and coffee. Perfect!


Finely slice the onion and put it in a small saucepan with a lid. Add a couple of glugs of red wine (no measuring is really required), the juice of the orange and about 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Cook on a medium heat with the lid on until your onion is deliciously soft and the liquid has been cooked down to a sticky caramelised consistency. If you added a little too much liquid, just cook with the lid off and allow it to steam out.

Leave your steak out of the fridge for about an hour so the meat isn't so cold when putting it in a hot pan.

Coat steak with olive oil and not the pan - I've been watching and reading many chefs who say this is a better way - and then generously season with salt and pepper.

Heat your pan, add your steaks and cook to your liking.

Once cooked either let the steaks rest in your pan (but ensure if you are using an electric stove, remove it from the hot element) or let it rest on a plate covered for about 5 to 10 mins. During the resting stage the steak will release some of its juices, you want to use this for the jus.

Place the juices (if you rested meat on a plate) in the pan you cooked your steak in. Add a glug of red wine and turn the heat on to high. Generously add some pepper and a little salt, add your caramelised onions. The caramelised onions will give the jus a little thickness so no thickener is required.

Serve with your choice of steamed vegetables. It's that easy and no gravox need be anywhere in sight.

Disclaimer - we received no payment or discount for this post. We did, however receive a completely rejuvenated soul and a love of our beautiful Noosa Hinterland. Thank you, Linda, Sassy and all the cows and birds.

Noosa Avalon Farm Cottages are located at 292 Pomona Kin Kin Rd , Pomona Noosa Hinterland, Qld, 4568. Please check out Linda's website for more information and how to book your next getaway here http://www.noosacottages.com/