Mulgrave Makers and Farmers Market

28 Aug

I have just found my new favourite place – The Mulgrave Makers/Farmers Market.

http://www.mulgravefarmersmarket.com.au/

http://www.mulgravemakersmarket.com.au/default.aspx

The ‘Farmers’ are there every Sunday, the ‘Makers’ on the 4th Sunday of the month.

Although there’s lots of great markets around these days, one thing  really stood out about this one. The people. Everyone was so friendly and relaxed. The unexpected spring-like weather may have had something to do with it but it wasn’t just that.  Most food stalls offered very generous tastings and were more than happy for people to try before they buy. Something my partner Scott was most pleased about. He’s much happier to help carry purchases when there’s snacks on offer.

It felt like there was something for everyone. Live music, tables to sit at and grab a coffee or a bite to eat – not to mention the Nemo bouncy castle complete with bouncy slide.

To top things off, the produce and craft alike was of a really high quality. And with great variety too. There were a lot of homemade crafts that I’d never seen before. At many stalls it was hard to decide which item I wanted to purchase most!

In the end we returned home with

  • a beautifully fragranced lemongrass handwash

  • A funny looking vegetable peeler (which hopefully performs as well as the demonstration – will have to report back on that once I’ve had time to take it for a test run)

  • Locally made spinach and fetta spring rolls

  • blue cheese that packs an extra salty punch – maybe not to everyone’s taste but I say yum!
  • home made pizzas to have for lunch
  • prawn dumplings from the ‘Pasta Ladies’

And finally some Orlo and Pearl approved Dog Biscuits – which at $2 were an absolute bargain. Plus the proceeds from this stall went to charity – good times all round.

The next Farmers/Makers combined market is Sunday the 25th of September.

Can’t wait!

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Old School Soup

20 Aug

A couple of months back we held a 1950’s themed birthday party. Everyone dressed the part and brought a 1950’s inspired dish to share.

There were devilled eggs, tangy cheese balls, cheeseburgers, apple pies – it was delicious.  As a party theme I can totally recommend it – we all had a blast!

Looking for recipe inspiration before the big night, I purchased some 1950’s cookbooks on eBay.  Apart from interesting food ideas, the books were fascinating to look through. It’s amazing how much of a feel for the era you get just from reading the recipes.

One recipe I particularly liked was for potato soup.

I found something about the humble ingredients really appealing. The techniques used were equally simple yet really gave the soup a ‘just like your gran used to make’ flavour.

Although I followed the recipe to the letter for the party dish I’ve since re-used the basics of it to make other soups, with whatever produce I have available to me at the time.

Recently we found ourselves with an abundance of broccoli and cauliflower. My partner – being an avid gardener – gets understandably frustrated when our home grown produce gets wasted.

What better way to make the most of our winter veggies than by making a big batch of yummy soup!

Suggested Shopping List – like I said, with this technique you could pretty much substitute anything to suit your veggie glut or taste.

  • 6 cups stock (I prefer chicken but other stock would work just as well)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 brown onions finely chopped
  • 3 teaspoons crushed garlic
  • 3 large potatoes chopped
  • 1 large head cauliflower chopped
  • 2 cups broccoli florets chopped
  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 8 thin slices of salami finely chopped or 8
    bacon rashers (optional)
  • 50g butter
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Optional Garnishes

  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Flat Leaf Parsley
  • Cream
  • Cayenne Pepper

Get your biggest saucepan and put it on the stove at medium heat.

Add the butter, garlic, onion and nutmeg and stir till the butter is melted and evenly coats the other ingredients

Add the chopped potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli florets to the saucepan. Use a bit of elbow grease and a big spoon here to distribute the butter, garlic and onion evenly through the veggies.

Add the 6 cups of stock and 2 cups of water. This should just cover the veggies. If not – add a bit more or a bit less water to suit.

 

Add the bay leaves and the salami/bacon

Leave to simmer for approximately 30 mins.

Do your best to find the bay leaves – I may have forgotten this step so if you do the same or just can’t find them don’t worry – seems they are no match for the blender.

No-one will be the wiser.

(a side note though – many people are under the impression that bay leaves are poisonous and shouldn’t be eaten. This is untrue. Whole bay leaves can be sharp and and a choking hazard, but powdered or blended bay leaves are fine.)

Using a stick blender, puree the now well-cooked veggies. At this point I put my oversized oven mitts on and use the pot lid as a shield. The soup is still pretty hot and tends to spatter a bit. Those of you with more patience than me may wish to wait until the soup has cooled somewhat before attempting this.

How long you blend it for depends on how smooth you prefer the texture to be. If you find the soup is a little thick just add a bit more water, simmer for a bit longer and blend some more. It’s very flexible.

What you end up with is a really easy, incredibly tasty soup. Cooking the veggies in butter to begin with makes them taste
wonderful.  This soup has just enough butter to enhance the flavours but not so much that you get the guilts. Plus there’s a stack of veggies in this soup which more than compensates.  Stuff that’s good for you that’s also full of flavour – the perfect balance.

And if  happen to have some cream in the fridge just going to waste maybe a drizzle of that wouldn’t hurt either – there are a lot of veggies in this soup after all!

White Chocolate and Pistachio Baked Cheesecake

14 Aug

This recipe started off as an experiment. I have two  favourite cheesecake recipes – and only needed to make one cheesecake.

What to do!?

  1. Donna Hay’s classic baked cheesecake recipe as seen on Masterchef
  2. The Taste websites White Chocolate and Pistachio Cheesecake recipe

To be fair to both recipes there was only ever one option – combining the two and making the best cheesecake ever! Oh yeah.

Shopping List –

1/2 cup shelled salted pistachios finely chopped

¼ cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

1/3 cup ground almonds (almond meal)

¾ cup plain flour

1½ tablespoons cornflour

Approximately 1 1/2 cups caster sugar

100g chilled butter, chopped

½ cup thickened cream

330g cream cheese, softened

500g fresh ricotta

400g white chocolate

4 eggs

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1½ tablespoons water

Tip – To get 400g of white chocolate means you’ll need to buy two 220g blocks – giving you 40 grams extra. This leaves 8 squares for you to enjoy. Go on, you know you want to.

Here’s how I went about it…

I made the base from scratch. It’s easy to make and tastes divine. Seems a bit nicer than just crushing up shop bought biscuits too.

Ingredients for the base

1/3 cup shelled salted pistachios
very finely chopped

1/3 cup ground almonds (almond
meal)

¾ cup plain flour

¼ cup caster sugar

100g chilled butter, chopped

Tip – you can use pre-shelled unsalted pistachios if you’re hurried for time but I find that using salted pistachios you shell yourself adds something nice to the overall flavour. Salted Pistachios in their shells are cheaper too and if you have any leftovers they make a great beer snack.

  • Pre-heat oven to 150 degrees Celsius
  •  Place the ingredients for the base in a chilled bowl and rub the mixture between your fingertips – until you have a coarse crumb.

Tip – chilling the bowl helps with keeping the ingredients cool. Especially for those of you like me with warm hands that melt the butter.

  • Line the base of a 20cm spring form tin with non-stick baking paper.

Tip – Donna Hay has a brilliant idea here – flip the base of the spring form tin over so it’s upside down. Place a piece of baking paper over it before snapping the outer rim in place. Makes a great flat non-stick surface.

  • Place the base mixture in the tin and press into place until you have a reasonably even finish. Use the back of a spoon to
    make the base extra smooth.

Tip – If the mixture seems a bit warm from pfaffing about to get it smooth – pop it in the fridge for 10 minutes before baking.

  • Bake for 15 minutes or until light golden, set aside.

Tip – I found 15 minutes wasn’t enough but that could be my dodgy oven. (Hence the finger prints you can see in the shot below – made by me at the 15 minute mark). Take the base out of the oven once you can see the edges are a decent brown. The base hardens up as it cools.

Ingredients for the Cheesecake filling

330g cream cheese, softened

500g fresh ricotta

4 eggs

1 1/3 cups caster sugar

1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

¼ cup lemon juice

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1½ tablespoons cornflour

1½ tablespoons water

200g white chocolate

Making the filling –

  •  Melt the white chocolate

Tip – Melting chocolate can be tricky. The most reliable method I’ve found is to

–         Put the chocolate in a saucepan

–         Put that saucepan inside a bigger saucepan 1/3 full of water

–         Place the lot over a gentle heat, stirring regularly.

The Taste recipe recommends microwaving the chocolate but I feel the totally heavenly taste of white chocolate deserves taking the time to melt it properly on the stove.

Really, it’s is the least I can do.

  • Place the cream cheese, ricotta, eggs, sugar, lemon rind, lemon juice, vanilla and melted white chocolate in a food
    processor.
  •  Combine the cornflour and water until smooth and add to the cheese mixture. Process the mixture until smooth

  • Grease the sides of the cake tin with butter or margarine and pour the filling over the base.

Tip – Gently jiggle the tin to make any air bubbles rise to the surface. Wait a few minutes then pop the bubbles with a skewer. This little step goes a long way to achieving that beautiful smooth look a good baked cheesecake has.

  • Bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and stand the cake in the oven for 1 hour, leaving the door closed.
  • Leave the cheesecake in the tin. Cover with cling wrap and pop into the fridge until cold. Overnight is best.

Ok, so there’s a dirty big crack in it but the top is still oh so smooth. Lucky this recipe has topping!

Ingredients for the White Chocolate Ganache Topping

200g white chocolate

½ cup thickened cream

2 tablespoons chopped pistachios

  • Combine the white chocolate and cream in a saucepan inside a saucepan of water again
  • Place over a gentle heat – stirring until combined, melted and smooth.
  • Refrigerate for 4 hours or until thick enough to spread.

Tip – Use electric beaters to beat the topping for a minute or two before putting it on the cake. It gives it a nice texture and makes it much easier to spread.

  • Spread topping over chilled cheesecake.
  •  Chop up some pistachios

  • Sprinkle the pistachios over the white chocolate ganache.

And voila!

Sorry Pearl – Cheesecake isn’t good for dogs!

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