Monthly Archives: July 2013

Black fingernails, red wine

In the spirit of the cooler weather that is still lingering in Sydney and July, I wanted to experiment with a mulled wine recipe this week. If you are having a party, it would be perfect to make up a big batch and have it keeping warm in a slow cooker for your guests to ladle.

For me, christmas inspired spices include cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Lots of recipes call for sugar and orange in their mulled wine recipe, I decided to substitute marmalade to give some sweetness and citrus tang. Use a red wine you would be happy drinking, I used an Australian shiraz. It is important to only gently heat your mulled wine and not let it boil, otherwise all of the alchohol will evaoporate away. If you want to pimp up your mulled wine in the alcohol stakes you could add a wee nip or three of brandy.

What I was cooking this time last year: Zucchini Fritters

Mulled Wine


  • 1 bottle (750mls) red wine
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, lightly crushed
  • 6 cloves
  • I star anise
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf
  • 1 tablespoon marmalade


  • Add all of the ingredients to a saucepan.

Mulled wine spices

  • Heat over a low heat until warmed through.
  • Ladle serves into mugs or heat-proof glasses, avoiding or straining off the whole spices.
  • Your mulled wine is ready to serve with a cinnamon stick as a stirrer. Enjoy.

Mulled wine cinnamon stick

What is your favourite warming drink? Has this post inspired any new ideas?


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Filed under Cocktail, Orange, Recipes, Spices, Sweet, Vegetarian


Oranges are beautiful in Sydney at the moment, and I wanted to use them in a cake. I was lucky enough have some help with my baking today from my three year old niece – her favourite part was taste testing as we worked our way through the various steps. My favourite part was spending time with my niece, and playing with my sister-in-law’s purple KitchenAid mixer. I paired the citrus flavour from the orange with coconut. Instead of icing, I created a syrup to soak into the cake.

What I was cooking this time last year: Winter Punch

Coconut and Orange Cake



  • 125g softened butter
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • zest from 3 oranges


  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • juice from 3 oranges


  • Turn the oven on to 180°C.
  • Beat the butter and vanilla together until pale and white.
  • Add the sugar to the butter and beat until light and creamy.

Cake batter

  • Add the eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition.
  • Add the orange zest and mix until combined.
  • Mix in the coconut until combined (stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed).
  • Mix in the flour until combined (stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed).

KtichenAid mixer

  • Transfer the cake batter into a cake tin.

Cake batter

  • Cook the cake for approximately 25 minutes or until it springs back when touched in the center.
  • While the cake is cooking, juice the oranges, and add the juice to a small saucepan.
  • Add the sugar for the syrup to the saucepan and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes until it reduces and thickens a little.

Orange syrup

  • Remove the cooked cake from the oven, remove from it’s tin and place on a plate with high / curved edges.
  • Pour over the syrup and allow to soak into the cake.

Orange and coconut cake

  • Serve warm or allow your cake to cool. Enjoy.

What is your favourite flavour combination? Has this post inspired any new ideas?

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Filed under Baking, Cake, Coconut, Orange, Recipes, Sweet, Vegetarian

Birthday cake

I was inspired by this cake by Raspberri Cupcakes, and my friend’s upcoming birthday celebration.

I started off with a classic butter cake, and doubled it. The cake recipe came from my Australian Women’s Weekly recipe card collection, but it is a classic cake so similar details can be found in various recipes. I use raw sugar in my cooking, because it’s less processed. I used 5 cake tins to make this cake, if you don’t have that many tins you can cook the cakes in shifts. I was sparing with the food colouring to start with, but ended up needing to add quite a bit to get the increasing gradients of colour I wanted (I was unable to track down the colouring gel mentioned in Raspberri Cupcakes post, and ended up using liquid natural pink food colouring). Pink was a special request from the birthday girl, but of course you could go with any colour you like (if I was making this for me, it would be purple). To decorate the cake I went with a white chocolate icing, decorated with edible red glitter and served the cake with raspberries.

What I was cooking this time last year: Salmon Pastries with Thyme Lemon Hollandaise Sauce

Vanilla Layer cake with White Chocolate Icing

* The cake recipe ingredients list is taken from a Women’s Weekly Recipe Card recipe.



  • 250g softened butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cups self-raising flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • food colouring


  • 400g white chocolate
  • 900mls cream
  • 100mls condensed milk


  • Turn the oven on to 180°C.
  • Beat the butter and vanilla together until pale and white.
  • Add the sugar to the butter and beat until light and creamy.

Buter and Sugar

  • Add the vanilla and salt and beat until combined.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition.

Butter, sugar, eggs

  • Mix in a little of the sifted flour alternately with the milk, until everything is combined.
  • Divide the cake batter into 5 portions.

Cake Batter

  • Leave one portion uncoloured, then add food colouring to the remaining 4 portions so that you have increasing shades of colour across the portions.
  • Spread each portion out in its cake tin.

Layer cake

  • Cook each cake for approximately 15 minutes or until it springs back when touched in the center.
  • Allow your cakes to cool.
  • To make the icing, add the white chocolate, condensed milk and cream to a bowl.

White chocolate and cream

  • Suspend the bowl over a saucepan of hot water and gently heat until the chocolate is melted and everything is combined.
  • Cool the icing mixture in the fridge until firm.
  • Whip the icing to make it light and fluffy.
  • To assemble the cake, add one layer at a time to your serving plate, add a layer of icing in-between, then add the next layer of cake in decreasing colour gradients as you get to the top of the cake.

Layer cake build

  • Finish the cake by the top and edges with icing, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Layer cake icing

  • Add any final decorations (I used edible red glitter) and birthday candles. Your cake is ready to serve. Enjoy.

Pink Layer Cake

What is your favourite colour? Has this post inspired any new ideas?

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Filed under Baking, Cake, Chocolate, Recipes, Sweet, Vegetarian

Roast risotto

This is not so much a baked risotto, but a risotto with roasted flavours. I wanted to experiment with some winter ingredients and used roast chestnuts and roast butternut squash.

Chestnuts are not that common in Australia, but are referred to in British and American literature – I thought I was missing out on something exciting. I’m still not sure what all the fuss is about, but they did add a nice texture contrast to the risotto. If you can’t get your hands on chestnuts, or don’t like them, you could use some toasted pine nuts instead. The first time I tried to roast chestnuts, I didn’t realise that there were some tricks to preparing them, and they consequently exploded and splattered all over the inside of my oven. For tips on how to successfully roast chestnuts, refer to this article over at the Healthy Chef blog.


If you have some home-made vegetable stock, feel free to use that instead of the stock powder and hot water. I used a little butter to finish the risotto, and skipped the cheese, but feel free to add some parmesan or other cheese as well as or instead of the butter.

What I was cooking this time last year: Date, Apricot and Walnut Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Roast Butternut Squash and Chestnut Risotto

Serves 2


  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup of arborio rice
  • 250ml white wine
  • 500g butternut squash
  • 8 chestnuts
  • 30 sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable stock powder (I use vegeta brand)
  • hot water from the kettle
  • 20g butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Turn the oven on to 200°C.
  • Peel the butternut squash and scoop out the seeds. Chop into small 1cm dice.

Butternut Squash

  • Add the diced squash to a baking tray, drizzle over 1 tablespoon of oil and tuck in the two garlic cloves unpeeled.
  • Put the squash into the oven to start roasting while you prepare the chestnuts.
  • Cut an x into each chestnut top, place them in a baking tray and add to the oven.
  • Cook the squash until it is tender, then remove from the oven.
  • Cook the chestnuts until they split their shells and are cooked.
  • Remove the cooked chestnuts from the oven and wrap them in a tea-towel until they are cool enough to handle.
  • Shell the chestnuts.

Roast Chestnuts

  • Finely chop the red onion.

Onion, Sage, Rosemary

  • Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.
  • Fry the sage leaves until crisp, then remove from the oil with a slotted spoon. Set aside to use as a garnish at the end of cooking.

Sage leaves frying

  • Add the chopped onion to the sage infused oil, cook for a couple of minutes until the onion starts to soften.
  • Squeeze the roast garlic cloves into the pan, the soft centers should end up in the pan and you can discard the skins.
  • Add the chopped rosemary, vegetable stock powder and rice to the pan, and stir to combine.

Risotto rice

  • Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the white wine and stir. Keep cooking and stirring occasionally until most of the wine has evaporated.
  • Add 1/2 a cup of hot water from the kettle at a time. Keep adding liquid, cooking and stirring occasionally until most of the liquid has evaporated and the rice is almost cooked. Taste to test the rice, it should be slightly too firm but almost ready.
  • Add the roast squash and stir to combine. Cook for a couple of minutes more until the squash is heated through and the rice is cooked.

Pumpkin risotto liquid

  • Add the butter and chopped chestnuts and stir to combine.

Pumpkin Risotto

  • Add the salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine. Sprinkle with the fried sage leaves to serve. Enjoy.

Roast squash and chestnut risotto

What is your favourite winter ritual? Has this post inspired any new ideas?

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Filed under Herbs, Pumpkin, Recipes, Rice, Savoury, Vegetarian