Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In which we say farewell with soap and trifle...

Is everyone sick of me talking about soap yet?  Apologies.  My sister and her husband are moving to Canada this week and while I'm super excited for them, I'm also really going to miss them.  So rather than writing a maudlin post about how they won't be here for Christmas, I'm going to talk about the soap I made as a little Christmassy/ going-away token!  

For new readers you can read about my first soap making attempt with the basic 'how to' here.  I used melt and pour soap bases bought here.  

The green soaps are green tea, made with matcha powder I picked up in Japan.  The tea is such a bright green that I didn't need to add any additional colouring.  The red soaps are cinnamon flavoured (I used about 1/2 teaspoon per 1/2 cup of soap but it's best to just experiment and see how strong you like it) and coloured with a little red dye.  

I used a little metal brioche mould to get the frilly shape.  I think they look a bit like a christmas tree all stacked up together.  I was a little scared they wouldn't come out of the tins but with a little advice from Martha Stewart it was actually pretty easy.  You just have to make sure you oil the mould (I used olive oil), then when you have poured the soap in, you let it cool for 2 hours.  Then put it in the freezer for 20 minutes after which time it will pop out really easily.  You need to polish the soap with a little paper towel or tissue as there will be residual oil on the surface.

I made this chocolate cherry trifle (from Nigella's Feast) for the farewell lunch.  My brother-in-law LOVES trifle but I have to say I'm not really a fan of the traditional kind.  So this was my way of meeting somewhere in the middle.  The chocolate custard was beautifully light and mousse-like and not at all eggy (which is usually the issue I have with custards).  This recipe may just have converted me to a trifle lover (at least in this liberal interpretation of the term!).

Friday, November 25, 2011

house update

The wall frames are virtually complete and the roof framing is starting to take shape.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to take pictures that really give a sense of the space.  With so much exposed framing my photos seem to end up just looking like a jumbled maze of timber.  I've written captions under these photos to help you orient yourself!

View from the raised living room looking into the kitchen/dining space.

Minty sitting in her bedroom window (she found a block of chocolate on site and started tucking in!)

Minty sitting in the oversized timber window frame in the family bathroom.  I absolutely love this window!  The cast iron claw foot bath I'm restoring will be centred in front of the window.  I'm planning on creating a an enclosed private garden space outside this picture window.

Left: Clerestory windows in the main kitchen space.  The ceiling in here is wonderfully high! Right: Minty in the study / multi-purpose room.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

In which the kids eat an overpriced sandwich...

Turi just loves to cook pretend food.  He often seeks me out around the house, little saucepan in hand and announces, 'dinner time!', with a big grin.  He isn't satisfied until you pretend to eat the contents of his pan and he has offered you a pretend cup of tea.  With this in mind I decided to make him some pretend food for his birthday.

I bought some felt food patterns from here ages ago and never got around to using them… until now.  Honestly hand sewing is not my strong suit.  I'm not very fast and I spend the whole time making mental calculations… if I'm one eighth of the way through making this felt tomato and it has taken me 15 minutes so far, if I were to charge an hourly rate of $20 for my labour, this must be the worlds most expensive sandwich! … When I'm not making pointless calculations I can usually be caught with my arm outstretched gazing at my handiwork to see if it looks ok.  Procrastination is my special skill.  I had intended to make quite a bit more food (maybe some cakes and sushi) but I got a bit worn out after the sandwich!

Also just wanted to recommend this etsy seller if you're looking for lovely felt that isn't too expensive.  I've bought from them a few times and have always been very happy.

The darling little apron in these last two photos was sewn by one of my friends as a gift for Turi's birthday.  I think it makes him look like a tiny sushi chef!  Thanks Lien!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Turi turned two yesterday.  With everything that is going on at the moment it was seeming impossible to find time to celebrate, so I decided to take a little cake down to the building site so we could all sing happy birthday together.  We sat in our future dining room, with a makeshift table and camping chairs and enjoyed the view.

The cake was my go-to quick chocolate cake recipe, 'simplicity chocolate cake' from the nursing mother's cookbook.  I grew up making this cake and I could do it with my eyes closed.  This is the recipe I use for last minute cake emergencies, as it literally takes about 10 minutes to throw together and then 30 minutes in the oven.  I decorated it with a simple chocolate ganache and a sprinkling of edible gold stars.  I've included the recipe at the bottom of this post for those of you who'd like to try it out.

In lieu of traditional party hats I made the kids some little gold lace crowns (inspired by these).  Basically you just paint the lace gold, coat with about 5 layers of mod podge and then hot glue the ends together.  I'm sure these will be an awesome addition to our dress up collection - perfect for those moments when little people decide they need to be a prince or princess!  Besides, I'm trying to make the most of the few short years that people allow me to indulge my whims and put lace on their heads!!! 

After cake, I took the kids to visit our neighbour's horses.  There are so many horses living in the paddocks around our new house and the kids love them so much.  I've already had to start fielding requests for a pony of our own!! (My Little Pony is probably as close as they'll ever get, but I'm not quite ready to crush their dreams!)

Simplicity Chocolate Cake
60grams butter
2 tablespoons cocoa
125g self raising flour
225g sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee

grease an 8 inch ring tin (I used a 6 inch for Turi because I think the proportions look cuter).  Heat the oven to 180C.  Melt butter.  Put all other ingredients in basin and add butter.  Beat for 3 mins.  Put in tin.  Bake for 30mins.

Chocolate Ganache
150ml double cream
150g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
1 tablespoon golden syrup

Put cream, chocolate (cut into small pieces) and syrup in a pan over a low heat.  Whisk until the chocolate has nearly melted.  Remove from the heat and continue whisking until the mix is smooth and glossy.  Pour over the cake.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

In which Minty is a cupcake and I am an idiot...

Sorry for my disappearance this week.  I had a severe allergic reaction to some antibiotics I took and have been coping with a whole bunch of crazy side effects.  

Lessons learned this week (and yes in hindsight I realise these seem ridiculously obvious):
1. Whenever you take medication be sure to read the list of possible side effects listed on the leaflet inside the packet…  especially if you begin to experience strange symptoms.
2. The following people are not doctors: the pharmacist, the nurses at 'nurse on call', the ladies at the health food shop, google.  While they are all probably very good at their respective jobs, they have not been through med school and it is unwise to rely on them to diagnose you.
3.  If you suspect you are having an allergic reaction stop taking the medication IMMEDIATELY… even if those listed in point 2 tell you it is 'highly unlikely'.  Do not continue to take said medication for four days… the results will not be pretty.

In other news… Minty performed in her first ballet concert this week.  She was a cupcake from the Mad Hatter's tea party.  It was all very adorable, with most of the 'tiny creative' class staggering about like stunned deer in the headlights.  Minty loved it.  Sadly I couldn't take even a single photo of her in her costume, since parents weren't allowed to watch any of the rehearsals or go backstage and no photography was permitted in the theatre.  I never even got to see her costume close up.  One can of course pay for a photo from the 'official photographer' of the kids on stage, but I really think it's a shame that there was no opportunity to take candid portraits.  I'm not really sure why a little kids ballet concert has to be such a commercial enterprise.

This is the one and only (slightly blurry) photo I have of the girls relaxing in between performances.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

house update

Saturday, November 12, 2011

five years...

It's our fifth wedding anniversary today.  Looking back at the pictures I can't believe how young we look.  It was such a fun day! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pizza scrolls and an apology...

I've been a bit slack sharing recipes lately.  A few people emailed me asking for details about my calzones (back in August!!!) and I was fully intending to do a post with the full recipe.  Then I got busy and forgot about it.  Apologies, I'll try and get around to it soon.  In the mean time, I hope you all enjoy this recipe for pizza scrolls that I've been playing around with.

This is my answer to those mini pizza rolls that the kids nag for whenever we walk past Bakers Delight.  I always feel a little guilty when I buy them since I think we can safely assume that those weird little processed ham pieces come from factory farmed pigs.  Now that coles stocks free range bacon it's pretty easy to make a much yummier, guilt free alternative at home (and it's also a great way to get the kids to eat a few more veggies at snack time).  The basic dough recipe could be used for all kinds of different scrolls - you could do sweet ones with fruit or even some hazelnut spread or chocolate ganache if you're feeling devilish! 

For the dough:
375g self raising flour
57g butter
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 220C.  Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips to form a sandy texture.  Stir in the milk with a fork then knead to form dough.

Next make filling of your choice.  Here is what I used…
basic tomato pasta sauce (either home made if you have it or from a jar if you're feeling lazy)
grated cheese
1 onion diced
6 slices bacon diced
1 tbspn olive oil
1 finger eggplant sliced finely
1 zucchini grated

Fry the onion and bacon in olive oil until the bacon is crispy.  Add the eggplant and saute until beginning to soften.  Add the zucchini and saute for a minute or two until beginning to soften.

Divide the dough into two parts.  Roll each into a long rectangle (approx 12x6 inches and 1/4 inch thick - don't get too pedantic though these are just rough estimates!).  Spread the dough with a couple of tablespoons of tomato sauce.  Spread over the vegetables and then sprinkle with grated cheese.  Roll from the long edge to form a long sausage shape and cut each of your two sausages into 8 pieces.  Put on a tray lined with baking paper and sprinkle with some more cheese.

Bake for approx 18 mins.  Keep an eye on them - the oven is pretty hot and you don't want them to burn.  If they look like they're getting a bit too brown too early you can always pop some foil on top.

These taste best straight from the oven when they're still warm.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

house update

These first two pictures were taken out at the Rescue Centre in Wonthaggi.  We took the girls there to see a production of Pinocchio put on by a local theatre group.  It really is a gorgeous location, amid sprawling fields of grass and old ramshackle farm buildings.  I'm itching to head out there again for one of the upcoming twilight markets, with the express purpose of taking some more photos.  I didn't really feel like I could make the kids hang around while I got my photography fix since it was right on lunch time!

And now for a house update… we have a floor!  It makes a great stage for twirling!  The wall frames have been delivered but with the threat of tonight's storms looming we had to tuck them all to bed under tarpaulins instead of erecting them.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

In which there is collapsed cake and Minty objects to soap as a gift...

It was my sister's birthday this weekend so I thought it would be fun for Minty and I to make some soap for her.  When I told Minty she became really distressed and exclaimed, 'Oh no, oh no!  A soap present?!'  She could not comprehend why anyone would want to receive soap as a gift!  After getting over this initial distress, she had great fun helping me make the soap.  As I wanted to make this a child friendly exercise I opted to use melt and pour bases (bought here) to which we added our more specialised ingredients.  Basically you just melt some of the base in a glass jug in the microwave, mix in any additions you are using and then pour them into a mould which you have sprayed with vegetable oil.  Spritz the top with rubbing alcohol to remove any bubbles and then leave them to set.  This takes a couple of hours and then you can pop them out.  Our soaps (clockwise from top) were goats milk and honey; camomile; honey and oatmeal; and cinnamon and clove.  This really is a fun thing to do with kids - it's very easy and yields quick results.

Here is the birthday cake I made.  Three layers of meringue, sandwiched with alternating layers of chocolate ganache and mascarpone cream which had been laced with chocolate liqueur.  Though by all accounts this cake was delicious (in a diabetic coma inducing sort of way), it was an epic construction disaster.  I won't go into the details, but let's just say a series of minor baking errors compounded and caused the top layer of the cake to slide off onto the bench in a puddle of ganache.    I tried to remain calm and salvaged it as best I could, though it did end up looking like a bit of a dogs breakfast.  I'm not going to share recipe details now as I'm determined to try this out again when I'm in my new kitchen with a better oven.  Hopefully my second attempt will be more visually appealing!

These are the miniature 'dry' versions of the cake I made for the kids.  I didn't think it would be particularly responsible parenting to inebriate my children with chocolate liqueur, though perhaps they would have gone to bed a bit more easily!  As it was they were bouncing off the walls on a sugar high!