Saturday, 30 September 2017

The Desserts Of New York And How To Eat Them All: A Cookbook Review

"Food has always been a gateway to somewhere new. True I will take any opportunity to eat, particularly dessert, but I appreciate the unsung neighbourhoods, nondescript streets and random alleys a food tip has lead me to with equal measure."
Yasmin Newman, The Desserts Of New York.

Seeing this cookbook in the shelves was a "shut up and take my money" moment. One of my favourite cookbook authors, in one of the world's most iconic cities eating nothing but dessert. Total no brainer, full price, don't care, gimme gimme gimme.

If cookbooks had a movie caption this one would be "One woman, 91 days, 169 venues, 373 desserts...". In order to bring us the best of New York's dessert recipes, author Yasmin Newman has taken extreme eating to a whole new level here by apparently eating all of New York's best desserts, for an entire three months no less and she has somehow pulled off this stunt and still looks like a supermodel.

The experiment sure did pay off though. This book is genius. Its as if Humans of New York met Lonely Planet in a dimly lit dessert bar and 3 months later gave birth to this compendium of all that makes New York great. You have the people photographed going about their daily lives, the places you must eat dessert and how to find them and then the recipes. The recipes are where you come into the picture.

It would be cruel just to eat your way through New York and not allow the experience to be shared and Yasmin is the perfect woman to bring the desserts into your kitchen. Her first cookbook 7000 islands is a food portrait of the Philippines, the place of Yasmins heritage. It is so well written , the recipes are so workable at home and the flavours are some of the most outstanding you will ever conjure in your own kitchen and with her follow up book Yasmin has not disappointed us. The Desserts of New York brings us everything you could want from a dessert book and puts each recipe into the context of how it fits into New York's cultural identity.

For beginners I recommend the cookie recipes. The burnt butter choc chip cookies are so American they will virtually sing you the Star Spangled Banner as you bake these babies and they are so simple to make even a total kitchen novice couldn't stuff this one up. For the intermediate home cook I would recommend heading to the cake recipes, a New York cheesecake or the Brooklyn blackout cake are an iconic place to start to get your kitchen in a New York state of mind. And for those who are as confident as Mr Big but in a kitchen sense I recommend the pies, croissants and breads, maybe take a crack at the Boozy blueberry, blackberry and rye pie because nothing says USA louder than a sweet pie. Americans are all about the sweet pie.

Beyond the recipes this book is so grounded in one specific time and place it will quickly become a snapshot frozen in that moment but that's what makes it special. There will never be another 2017, the shops and bakeries will come and go. Trends like rainbows and cronuts will eventually fade with time. Life moves on, sometimes against our will but Yasmin has captured one moment, one we can hold onto and cherish and in that moment she brings us food memories that will stay with us hopefully longer than the extra kilos will.

In speaking with Yasmin about this review I was given permission to bring you a recipe from the book but that brought with it a whole other problem. Which to share? There really are so many fantastic recipes in this book for all skill levels that I urge you to go and buy a copy for your own kitchen, in the meantime and to whet your appetite next week I will be bringing you the recipe for Luxe Oreos. Just to make sure you come back to get the recipe here is what my version of them look like....

Originally posted on Saturday, 30 September 2017 by

Friday, 15 September 2017

Top 6 Cookbooks For Spanish Home Cooking

"The Italians and Spanish, the Chinese and Vietnamese see food as part of a larger, more essential and pleasurable part of daily life. Not as an experience to be collected or bragged about - or as a ritual like filling up a car - but as something else that gives pleasure, like sex or music, or a good nap in the afternoon."Anthony Bourdain. 

Over the last few years I have amassed a respectable collection of Spanish cookbooks. I was drawn to the books as they made me yearn for a place I had not been. Many of them are in the style I love most, part cookbook, part travel seduction. But then one day I realised, I hadn't actually cooked anything from any of them and in my mind that just isn't acceptable. Cookbooks are not a display piece they are to be used, to have little smears of food on your most loved recipes and to have my signature notes on each cooked recipe, what I thought of it, the date I cooked it and what tweaks and deviations I made from the instructions.

I knew this must be remedied so I sat down with the books, trawled through my options and marked out a weeks worth of Spanish cooking, you can't of course know a cuisine or even a single cookbook in a week but it is a good place to start. Going into it I knew virtually nothing of the cuisine. I haven't managed to make it to Spain yet and due to the lack of Spanish restaurants in my city I haven't really eaten at a Spanish restaurant. There is something wonderful about coming at a cuisine totally blind. So often you have preconceived notions of what a nations food should or shouldn't be and you have a tendency to stick with recipes that are familiar but delving into Spanish cooking it was all new and wonderful in that way only brand new experiences can be. 

Over the course of the week I cooked from a range of cookbooks to get a array of perspectives and I was taken with the rustic nature of the food. It took me to that place of long hearty lunches, tapas after work and late dinners in the lingering light of a European summer. Much of what I was presented with in my books was peasant style food which is what I love the most. Unpretentious food you could see on the family dinner table being enjoyed by generations eating together. Even the names of the dishes encompassed the unpretentious nature of the food, we ate poor man's potatoes and a recipe who's title literally translates to "Tatters and Rags".

The cookbooks I used to take me to Spain, metaphorically of course, were an invaluable window into the culture and I wanted to feature those here so you to can be whisked away to another land via your kitchen just as I did.

If you were only going to own only one Spanish cookbook then Claudia Roden's The Food Of Spain is the one I would recommend. It's not that the recipes themselves are necessarily superior to any of the other books it's the authors knowledge and her voice that makes this book stand out. It is one of those books that feel like a life's work. It's a classic even before it has had time to become a classic. This book takes you into the history of Spain and it's food and puts the puzzle of the various regions into context. Each recipe has a comprehensive introduction which explains it's place in the culture of the country and many of the primary ingredients used have their own introductory explanations. You will finish reading this book feeling like you have a strong knowledge of Spain without actually having been there.

The Food Of Spain is one of a series of books by Murdoch books from 2008. It's funny, compared to most modern day cookbooks the presentation of the books is a little daggy but I have now cooked a lot from this one and the other that I own, The Food Of Morocco, and they are fantastic books. Strangely these books don't credit the author on the cover which is normally a sign of a fairly average cookbook but in this case they have actually tracked down experts in their fields. This book was authored by Vicky Harris who has written two other books on Spanish cooking. The recipes here are traditional and primarily peasant style. Lots of lovely stews, hearty seafood dishes. Recipes that feel like home and you would be happy to serve to the family. As far as skill level goes most beginners I think would be fairly comfortable with the Spanish recipes on offer in this book.

Written by an Australian expat living in Barcelona, Sophie Ruggles, My Barcelona Kitchen covers a wide range of Spanish dishes. I particularly like her take on tapas and the pictures make me want to host a little soiree to show off these tasty morsels and her story of packing up and moving the family to Barcelona is what all travellers dream of.

Frank Camorra would be considered the Australian authority on Spanish cuisine. His restaurants are well known around the country and are bustling all throughout the week. Movida Solera is specifically a collection on Andalusian recipes. This is a more regional take than his other books and the beautiful photography of the countryside, it's people and it's food such an intimate take on this region in the south of Spain. I particularly like the regional guides that recommend the best restaurants to try in each region of Andalusia and just wish I was heading to Spain sometime soon so I could try out his recommendations. For now though I will be happy cooking his recipes as they are so evocative it is almost the same...isn't it?

1000 Spanish Recipes is a case of "don't judge a book by it's cover"...or it's title. I have no idea why the quantity of recipes here is relevant and I think it is a marketing fail. The book is by Penelope Casas, someone I hadn't actually heard of till I picked up this book but turns out she was a bit of a Julia Child of her time. In the 1980's Penelope was a major proponent in bringing Spanish cooking to the American people. Her passion for Spain shines through in this book and as the title suggests it is about as comprehensive as a book on Spanish food gets. The book feels very personal and the pictures of Penelope doing her thing as far back as the 1970's helps you understand the long standing relationship Penelope has with the food of Spain.

The traveller in me really appreciates the Lonely Planet take on cookbooks. They are a mini food journey to the best restaurants around the country where each chef brings you their take on a dish of the country. As the recipes are written primarily by chefs it does have a different feel to my other cookbooks, a little more cheffy and a little less homey but it is an impressive compilation including classic recipes and reboots made modern.

And now to the food, here is a small selection of the dishes we cooked and ate.

Poor Mans's Potato's and Migas from Lonely Planet and Food of Spain

Fish in Tomato Braise from Movida Solera

Chicken in Saffron Stew with Braised Asparagus from The Food of Spain (the Murdoch book not the Claudia Roden)

Paella Valenciana, a recipe we created inspired by all the the Paella Valenciana recipes in these books. Recipe here 

Originally posted on Friday, 15 September 2017 by

Thursday, 7 September 2017

The Jewish Princesses Matzo Ball Soup Recipe

I decided to follow up my book review of  The Modern Jewish Table by Georgie Tarn and Tracey Fine with a recipe for my readers. With permission from the publisher I wanted to bring you a dish created by the Jewish Princesses so you can all try out some new flavours but the big question was...which one. 

There are so many good recipes for the home cook in this book but in the end I settled on the Sephardi Saffron Chicken Soup With Fragrant Matzo Balls. There are a few ideas that drew me to this recipe. I know for many Jewish people Matzo Ball Soup is a taste of home. Something they grew up with, something every Jewish mother has their own version of. For me it was something totally foreign and you know me, foreign is what I love. I have also of late had a penchant for broths and this soup has a stunning saffron tinted chicken broth that is about as desirable as food gets.

So here it is...

Sephardi Saffron Chicken Soup With Fragrant Matzo Balls 


Sephardi Soup

8 large chicken wings
8 pints cold water
2 large carrots
2 large celery sticks
1 parsnip
1 turnip
1 large white onion
1 rutabaga, peeled
2 bay leaves
1 small bunch cilantro
3 chicken bouillon cubes
1 pinch saffron melted in 1 fl oz boiled water


Sephardi Soup

Place the wings in a large saucepan. Pour in the water and bring to the boil. With a large spoon, skim off the scum from the top.

Add the rest of the ingredients except the saffron. Bring the soup to back to the boil and simmer for 2 hours with the lid on.

Remove from heat and discard all the vegetables, but keep the chicken wings to one side. Place back in the soup once the vegetables have been removed. Add the saffron to the chicken broth.

Leave to cool and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to use, remove the fat from the top of the soup (you can do this with a spoon or by laying a wad of kitchen paper over the top and removing it.


Fragrant Matzo Balls (makes approximately 24)

3/4 cup medium matzo meal
3/4 cup ground almonds
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 lemon rind, zested
1 small bunch cilantro (reserve 1 tablespoon to serve)


Fragrant Matzo Balls

Mix all the ingredients to form the mixture but reserve 1 tablespoon of the cilantro. Place the mixture in the fridge for approximately 20 minutes.

Remove from the fridge. Wet your hands, take 1 teaspoon of mixture and roll into a ball. Carry on doing this with the rest of the mixture.

Fill a medium sized saucepan with boiling salted water. Transfer the matzo balls into the boiling water and continue cooking on a strong simmer for 20 minutes, turning occasionally.

Remove balls with a slotted spoon and leave to cool.

When ready to serve, heat the soup slowly with the matzo balls until piping hot. Serve 4 matzo balls per person and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro. 

If you would like to see more recipes from this book I recommend grabbing a copy here.

Originally posted on Thursday, 7 September 2017 by

Friday, 1 September 2017

Stacked Cakes: Novelty Cakes Gallery

Finally, here is my next installment of cake photos.As I have mentioned many times before on the blog I spent five years as a cake decorator. Mostly part time around my career as a travel agent but I did take a year off to do it full time. You can read more about that here. So now that I have shut down the website I need a new home for my favourite cakes. These cakes were the subject of countless hours of my labor and like most edible items they were devoured and are gone. All that exists are the photos. So here they are. My favourite cakes I made in my former guise, Stacked Cakes.

And if you want more cakes you can see my wedding cake gallery here.

50 hours of work went into this Dalek cake and at the time it went pretty viral online

Canon camera cake

Porsche cake

African savannah cake

Shoe cakes, I made so many shoe cakes!

Snoopy cake

Harry potter sorting hat cake

Teal'c from Stargate cake

Suitcases cake for some avid travellers

Tour de France cake for a wanna be participant

Vegas cake

I think this is the design I did the most, babies babies babies

I did a lot of cube as well with all different themes

Madhatters, a popular wedding cake design at the time, a bit of a tricky one to pull off

Book vs kindle cake for a reader

So many christening cakes

Buffy cake

Merry go round cake

Christmas box

Another madhatter. So tricky to carve and ice these ones

Baby cookie monster cake

Disney castle cake

Fire engine cake. This took an immense amount of time to get all the details on

Horror themed cake

End of teaching degree cake

Guitar cake. Life sized.

I can't count the number of car cake I made and how many my husband carved to perfection for me

Donuts and Homer cake

Indiana Jones themed cake

Lego cake

Shoes and bags, shoes and bags

Mickey themed cake

Mini Cooper cake

So many cars

Cube, this is the budget version of the Stacked cube lol

Muno head cake. I had never heard of Muno till this cake order

Bringing back memories now.  Old school Nintendo cake

Geeked out Normandy cake. The owners of this cake told me they couldn't bring themselves to eat it

Graduating nurse cake

OPI nail polish cake with the real thing next to it for a perspective of scale

I have no memory of this cake or why there was a monkey on it but it's cute

Zebra print cake

My famous "freestanding" and talking  R2D2 cake. The first of it's kind online and thanks to my free plans it is everywhere. Yay! Follow this link to get the plans yourself and read about the story behind the cake and how we made it talk

Record player cake

Me presenting a segment on Prime Possum morning TV show

Shoes and bags, shoes and bags

Princess cake

My own birthday cake. A girls has to treat herself every now and then

3D Snagglepuss cake. Totally freaked out about hand carving this cake but I think I nailed it

Hope you enjoyed my cakes!!

Originally posted on Friday, 1 September 2017 by