I was recently invited by Rachel (aka CreamyMiddles) to accompany her on an all expenses paid weekend away in Canberra – yes please! This is all part of a great marketing concept known as The Human Brochure - they invited 500 humans to come and experience Canberra first hand and then spread the word online (using the hashtag #humanbrochure) about all the great things we get up to.
We set off Friday afternoon and began our drive to Canberra. Bad traffic meant we arrived late, missing the bus to our welcome meeting, gah!
Fortunately the guys at Human Brochure had a backup plan and we were swiftly driven to the War Memorial in time for the welcome speech.
We were led on a tour around the War Memorial, the stained glass window inside the tomb of the unknown soldier was gorgeous.
And they had laid out a DAMN good dessert spread, I was in heaven!!
Then it was time to return to our hotel and properly explore it. East Hotel, is a 4.5 Star hotel pitched as a “contemporary design and lifestyle experience”. It’s pretty freaking amazing, from the modern artwork on the walls to the retro-styled furniture (and our room was larger than my apartment!)
The East Hotel’s mustard chair proved very popular with everyone who saw it and I spent a lot of time Instagramming in it!
Design quotes in the foyer
We were up early (for a Saturday!) and off to our first stop… Parliament House! The moody clouds provided a perfect backdrop.
Rachel and I were approved for security clearance! Phew.
I loved the ceiling inside Parliament House.
And there were beautiful courtyards…
And we were lucky enough to be allowed into our Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s office!
And then I stared at the flag pole… I think I prefer it from this angle.
Food time! Hooray! We had lunch at Two Before Ten, a fabulous cafe with great design.
Lunch was delicious and included great coffee, duck rillettes with figs, trout with brioche, tomato and ricotta salad, fresh baked grisini and a fennel salad.
We met Hank the Coffee Roaster and his human Sam gave us a talk on roasting coffee beans (which smells like popcorn to my untrained nose).
In the afternoon we headed off to the National Gallery of Australia. This “floating” ball was amazing.
What are we here to see? Toulouse-Lautrec ofcourse! Lautrec had a thing about painting redheads and prostitutes.. and in those days only prostitutes wore red lipstick. As a (faux) redhead who happened to be wearing red lipstick at the time, I was bought to the front of the group by our guide and declared that Lautrec “would have chased you through the streets of Paris to paint you”. Cheers.
Rachel viewing one of his works.
I bought a poster of my favourite work of his.
We headed off to the Sculpture Garden for champagne (as you do) and I was taken away by this amazing installation by Indonesian artist Dadang Christanto. It certainly had a bit of an Antony Gormley feel to it.
This fog sculpture by Fujiko Nakaya was another favourite of mine.
What time is it? It’s dinner time! We were off to Italian restaurant Mezzalira. My favourite was the ricotta, pumpkin and leek tortellini with burnt sage butter, delicious!
Next up was beetroot risotto, stinging nettle and caprino (cheese) – also very tasty and I will be trying to make this at home. I love bright pink risotto!
And our main, rare salt crusted Rangers Valley beef with cannelloni bean, roast beetroot, tarragon and horseradish. I’m usually a bit funny about eating meat so pink (I was vegetarian for 10 years after all!) but this was perfectly done.
And finally, cannoli with ricotta, rum and chocolate, pistachio and cherries.
I arrived back to my hotel and squealed with delight as they had left us another gift, this arvo it was wine, and that night it was salted caramels! Hands down the best salted caramel I’ve ever had.
Quite a few of us were nursing hangovers of varying degrees the next day (curse you matched wines) but we fortunately had a very pleasant morning – they gave us picnic blankets and breakfast boxes and we picnicked in the gardens of Old Parliament House.
We also sat for a group photo on the steps of Old Parliament House and there was a paparazzi shoot off!
That afternoon we headed off to the Old Bus Depot Markets, an amazing weekly market full of delicious produce and showcasing the wares of emerging designers.
I got *very* excited by these handmade cupcake stands from vintage crockery! I bought the mint green one on the far left :)
Our final stop on our whirlwind tour of Canberra was the Canberra Glassworks. We each got to design and make our own glass tile which was loads of fun! Here I am, concentrating very hard on my tile.
And here I am looking like a complete dweeb in my gumboots and safety glasses. Also samples of the coloured glass I used and my tile ready for the kiln (I will upload a picture of the finished tile when it has been posted to me!)
And we finished off the day with an amazing exhibition by glass artist Kirstie Rea. Beautiful!
An amazing weekend and huge thanks to the guys at Human Brochure. I had such great fun participating in all the activities you organised and had a great time promoting Canberra! Now I can say more than “Canberra has nice bike paths” next time I get asked :)
I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day, however I do love receiving gifts AND kitschy baking so I can’t complain. I found the most gorgeous Valentine’s Day cake toppers months ago and have been dying to bust them out. I pimped out my standard red velvet cupcake recipe by adding a white chocolate cream cheese icing (heaven, I can assure you) and putting a little surprise inside each cupcake…
I love you!
Sweets for my sweet
And what is the surprise inside each cupcake, I hear you ask? Something I see as synonymous with Valentine’s Day – Lindt balls! I used a selection of milk, dark, white and hazelnut balls.
- 120g butter (room temperature)
- 2 eggs
- 1⅓ cups caster sugar
- 4 tsp cocoa
- 4 tsp red food colouring
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 240ml buttermilk (or add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to normal milk)
- 2½ cups plain flour
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 tsp white wine vinegar
- 100g butter at room temperature
- 250g cream cheese at room temperature
- 250g white chocolate, melted and cooled
- 4-5 cups sifted icing sugar
- 24 Lindt balls
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line 24 muffin tins with cupcake papers.
- Cream the butter, sugar and eggs until light and fluffy.
- In a separate bowl mix the vanilla extract, cocoa powder and red food colouring into a paste. Add the paste to the creamed mixture.
- Add half the buttermilk and mix until combined, followed by half of the flour and baking powder. Mix until incorporated and then add the remainder of the buttermilk and flour and mix thoroughly.
- Add the salt, bicarbonate of soda and white wine vinegar and continue mixing for another 5 minutes until combined.
- Spoon the mixture into prepared muffin tin and fill approximately ¾ full. Pop a Lindt ball on top of each cupcake (they will sink as they bake).
- Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the cupcakes slightly spring back when touched.
- Allow the cupcakes to cool slightly in their tin before turning out onto a wire rack
- Melt the white chocolate in short bursts on a medium heat in the microwave. Set aside and cool until lukewarm.
- Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth in a large bowl. Add in the lukewarm white chocolate.
- Gradually add in the icing sugar until incorporated. Continue mixing for 5 minutes until the icing is light and fluffy.
- Spoon icing into a piping bag and pipe swirls onto the cooled cupcakes.
I also made some little chocolates – hearts and cats, because I love cats! The heart moulds were a gift from a friend and the cat moulds I found in Japan.
My favourite is the sleeping kitty.
I’ve been seeing some amazing travel videos springing up on Vimeo lately and have been bookmarking each to share them with you. They sure are giving me itchy feet to explore the world again! I’m excited my new camera has HD video – I am looking forward to creating travel and food videos in the near future. Enjoy!
Happy World Nutella Day everyone! Every year on 5 February, Nutella fans around the world celebrate this delicious chocolate hazelnut spread, sharing recipes, photos and more. Hosted by Bleeding Espresso and Ms Adventures in Italy, it’s a fun way to think up new Nutella based recipes and basically just a good excuse to eat more Nutella (than usual).
I wanted to create a delicious and decadent Nutella cheesecake after being requested to bake something “chocolate or cheesecake” for a dinner party. Why not combine both together? I stumbled upon this super easy Nutella Cheesecake recipe from Chocolatesuze a while back and decided to combine it with a hazelnut crunch base, dark chocolate ganache and cover in toasted hazelnuts.
- 250g packet of sweet biscuits, crushed (I used butternut snap biscuits)
- ½ cup desiccated coconut
- 4 tbsp roasted hazelnuts, chopped
- 120g butter, melted
- 500g cream cheese, room temperature
- 100g icing sugar
- ½ cup double cream
- 400g of Nutella
- 115 grams dark chocolate, chopped
- ⅓ cup double cream
- 1 tsp butter
- ½ cup roasted hazelnuts, chopped
- Preheat oven to 180ºC. Arrange hazelnuts on an oven tray and roast for 10 mins.
- Transfer roasted nuts to a clean tea towel and gently rub off the bitter hazelnut skins.
- Chop hazelnuts as finely as possible, putting 4 tbsp aside for the base and the remaining nuts for the topping.
- In a food processor, finely crush the biscuits. Add coconut and hazelnuts.
- Add in melted butter and pulse until combined.
- Press the biscuit mixture into a 23cm/9″ round spring form cake tin and put in the fridge to set.
- Place the cream cheese and icing sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth.
- Add in the Nutella and double cream, beating until smooth and creamy.
- Pour onto the biscuit base and return to the fridge to set.
- Bring the cream and butter to boil in a small saucepan over medium heat.
- Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate and stir until smooth and glossy.
- Pour the ganache over the Nutella cheesecake and sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts over the top.
- Return the cheesecake to the fridge and let set preferably overnight.
- To serve, release the cheesecake from it’s springform pan and serve on a cake stand.
It’s February and I am getting excited about that special day looming in the near future. No I’m not talking about Valentine’s Day, or ever Chinese New Year. I am talking about World Nutella Day! The founders of World Nutella Day, which falls on 5 February, describe Nutella as more than just a “chocolaty hazelnut spread,” it is a way of life. Want to get in on the act and help celebrate the joy of Nutella? Here are some recipe suggestions:
A super simple and delicious recipe featuring buttery cookies with a huge dollop of Nutella in the middle. Heaven.
You can also stuff the Nutella inside the cookie for a nice surprise!
This cake combines the flavours of Nutella – chocolate and hazelnuts, a decadent Nutella buttercream, and Nutella’s best friend, Ferrero Rocher!
Bake these delicious Devil’s Food Cupcakes, and substitute the chocolate ganache for this Nutella Buttercream. Thank me later.
And what am I baking this year for World Nutella Day? Well, here’s a teaser:
Hell. Yes. Stay tuned on Tuesday 5th February for proper photos and the recipe!
Happy Australia Day for tomorrow, everyone! Australia Day is celebrated on the 26th January and the date commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788. As Australia Day falls on a Saturday this year, we get to enjoy a long weekend and take Monday off work, yippee!
For Australia Day, I wanted to combine 2 iconic Australian snacks foods – Tim Tams and Milo. I also wanted to incorporate the good old lamington into the recipe (like I made last year) and ended up rolling my Tim Tam & Milo truffles in coconut for the effect (and to satisfy my ongoing coconut obsession).
You know that old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do”? Well it certainly applies to this recipe! DO follow the recipe and only use 3/4 can of sweetened condensed milk. DO refrigerate for the suggested amount of time. Considering I wrote this recipe you think I would follow my own advice, no? Well I was a little heavy handed with the sweetened condensed milk, I insisted on baking on a hot and humid day and I impatiently didn’t give them enough time to properly set in the fridge. By the time I had stacked them into a little truffle pyramid and anointed them with their Australian flag, they were starting to look a little… droopy.
I ended up transferring them into mini cupcake cases and returning them to the fridge where they hardened up nicely – and it proved to be a cute way to serve them to guests.
- 200g packet of Tim Tams (I used the dark chocolate ones)
- 4 tbsp Milo
- ¾ of a 400g can of sweetened condensed milk (save the rest for Viet iced coffee)
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- Blend Tim Tams in a food processor until finely crushed
- Pour the contents into a medium bowl and stir in Milo
- Add in ¾ of the sweetened condensed milk and stir until well combined
- Transfer mixture to the fridge and let set for at least an hour
- Once the mixture has firmed up, roll mixture into teaspoon sized balls. I find it easiest if your hands are slightly damp
- Roll each ball into the shredded coconut and transfer back to the fridge to firm up before serving
After returning from a wonderful holiday in Vietnam I had a new found appreciation for tropical fruits. I was constantly snacking on a variety of fresh pineapple, dragon fruit and lychees and drinking copious amounts of fresh coconut juice (straight out of the coconut of course!)
This month’s theme for SABH is Tropical Paradise and I instantly wanted to recreate some highlights from my Vietnam holiday within the dessert. Inspired by the piña colada cocktail, these cupcakes will have you reminiscing about your last tropical holiday in no time.
I loved the idea of sticking a cocktail umbrella in each cupcake to echo the piña colada theme, however after trying 5 different stores I gave up. They were ALL sold out of cocktail umbrellas. Have people been partying too much this summer?!
I ended up making pineapple flowers to decorate my cupcakes. Slicing the pineapple thinly can be a bit tricky but drying the rings out in the oven and shaping them into flowers is super easy. They are an eye catching decoration that really set the cupcakes off.
- 2 cups self raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 50g toasted coconut (I used shredded)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 150g butter, softened
- ½ cup coconut milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 x 400g tin chopped pineapple, drained
- 600g sifted icing sugar (4-5 cups)
- 100g butter at room temperature
- 250g cream cheese at room temperature
- 2 tbsps coconut essence
- Shredded coconut to decorate or 1 pineapple for pineapple flowers
- Preheat oven to 160°C. Line 24 muffin tins with cupcake papers.
- Spread the coconut onto a baking tray in an even layer. Toast until golden brown which will only take around 2 minutes (watch like a hawk!)
- In a large bowl beat butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk. Do not overmix!
- Add the pineapple and toasted coconut and stir to combine.
- Fill cupcake liners about ¾ full with mixture and bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden brown. This recipe makes approximately 20 cupcakes.
- Allow to cool in tin for 15 mins and then turn out onto a wire rack.
- Cream the butter and icing sugar together until well mixed.
- Add the cream cheese in cubes slowly until incorporated.
- Add in the coconut essence and continue mixing for 5 minutes until the icing is light and fluffy. Pipe onto cupcakes.
- Decorate with shredded coconut or pineapple flowers
- To make pineapple flowers, turn over down to 110°C.
- Thinly slice a pineapple (or split pineapple rings in 3 horizontally) and arrange rings on several lined baking trays.
- Bake for 30 mins, then turn and cook for another 30 mins.
- Transfer rings to a muffin tin so they form the shape of a flower.
Disclosure: This high tea was provided by Groupon for my review
I love high tea and always jump at the chance to try out a new place around Sydney. The guys at Groupon offered me the chance to try out one of their current restaurants that were being offered and when I received an email advising me of a high tea at Bistro Fax at the Radisson Blu, I couldn’t wait. This particular deal was $79 for two with a bottle of French sparkling rose and was worth $175.
The Groupon process was pain free and after acquiring the deal, the voucher was emailed straight to my inbox. I then emailed the Radisson to book in my high tea and received an almost instant reply to my request and we were good to go.
We arrived at the Radisson on a rainy afternoon, the perfect weather to cozy up on the couch and eat and drink as much as possible. I presented my Groupon voucher to the hostess and we were shown to our table.
We ordered our hot beverages, a (rather average) Vittoria cappuccino for my friend and Twinings English Breakfast for me.
Our three tiers of treats is soon brought to our table and the waiter rushes off without so much as a hint of what we have to eat, let alone plates or cutlery. We spend the next 5 minutes fervently trying to get the attention of any of the waiters, finally flagging down another waitress who brings us cutlery and plates and talks us through the tiers upon request.
On the bottom layer is a selection of cucumber dill sandwichs, salmon toast with cream cheese, dill and capers, rare roast beef and horse radish sandwiches and curry chicken puffs. The standout was definitely the curry puffs, full of flavour and the right amount of spice.
Tier 2 consisted of a selection of plain and fruit scones, with cream and jam. The scones were lovely, the perfect texture and not too dry.
Saving the best to last, we attack the top dessert tier. My favourite was the key lemon tart with its rich and tart filling, closely followed by the strawberry Swiss roll (I’m a sucker for anything with strawberries and cream!) The passion fruit jelly pots were very tasty but unfortunately the jelly wasn’t set properly. I only managed a mouthful of both the seasonal fruit and custard tart and the chocolate walnut brownies with double cream – by this stage I was stuffed!
We noticed other tables having their wine topped up regularly, however we were left to our own devices. Overall we had a lovely afternoon enjoying wine, tea and delicious treats at a heavily discounted price – I just hope Bistro Fax makes significant improvements to their service.
I recently stumbled across this series of gorgeous and quirky food art by German art director Sarah Illenberger. I would love to hang any of these on my wall. Hello disco pineapple!
For more of her work check out sarahillenberger.tictail.com
December was ridiculously busy, fun and featured an embarrassing amount of food and cocktails. Plus it was my birthday, so more the reason to celebrate!
♥ The Beach
I was finally convinced to go to the beach on a beautiful sunny day, I hid in a cave at first. I eventually got in the water and gave snorkelling a go, I had a great time! I have since returned for beachside walks and post-work swims – something I want to do on a more regular basis.
♥ Ticking more restaurants off my list
I managed to check out quite a few places on my never-ending list of places to eat around Sydney. Brunch at Orto was amazing and I can’t wait to return (why did it take me so long to get here when I live around the corner?!)
Queenies was delicious Jamaican food featuring jerk chicken, sweet potato fries and bammies (a traditional Jamaican cassava flatbread)
Santa Barbara is a Hawaiian Restaurant with delicious bings (asian-style tacos), more sweet potato fries (obsessed), chicken burgers and popcorn with pineapple and bacon chunks! They also have a great cocktail menu and it’s fast becoming one of my favourite places in Sydney for a drink and nibble.
Ippudo – so far I have only tried the takeaway ramen so I can’t comment on the famous pork buns which are sadly unavailable for t/a (tear). The broth was delicious but I found the noodles underwhelming.
And I finally made it to The Milk Bar by Cafe Ish to sample their delicious treats. The caramel slice and malteser pie were particularly amazing! I must return to give their milkshakes and burgers a go.
♥ An Embarrassing Amount of Cocktails…
I didn’t realise just how many cocktails were consumed during December until I went through my photos (and I haven’t even included the 1 litre mojito that was consumed at my work lunch!) Here are some highlights of the tastiest.
Clockwise from the top left we have the Amazing Perfect from Lil Darling, a Downtown Iced Tea from Santa Barbara, a giant cocktail made in a watermelon from The Norfolk and finally 2 very delicious cocktails from 4Fourteen.
♥ Iced Coffee Obsession
After drinking iced coffee daily in Vietnam I have been getting huge cravings for it here as the weather warms up. Unfortunately I can’t find the authentic Viet coffee with sweetened condensed milk too easily around where I work, so I have been settling for a “skim latte over ice”. Delicious and the perfect summer caffeine fix. Oh and the odd iced coffee with the works – ice cream and whipped cream, when I feel like a treat!
♥ My Birthday
And then it was my birthday and I decided to celebrate for a week because why not? Firstly I was taken to 4Fourteen for an absolutely amazing dinner featuring a ruben roll (pictured), roast pork, colcannon and the most amazing white chocolate sandwich with dulce de leche. I need to return.
A few nights later I was taken to Movida for my second birthday dinner. Here we have anchovies, goats curd + quince cigars, air baguette with “rost biff” and beef cheek in Pedro Ximenez.
And spicy pork ribs (best!!), salt cod fritters and grilled asparagus. A wonderful treat!
Then I had a birthday picnic Saturday morning with lots of lovely food bloggers! We went to Flour and Stone, bought out half the store, then headed to The Domain for a picnic. It was such a lovely way to spend the morning of my birthday with my new friends I made through this blog.
They stuck candles in the lamingtons and sang Happy Birthday to me, aw! (Life changing lamingtons, btw).
I had my second birthday party at The Norfolk and I wore a cat dress! I will not post any more photos from that night for fear of incrimination… I may have worn a watermelon on my head at one stage.
I had a nice time catching up with the family and actually loved the rainy stormy weather that Sydney encountered on Christmas Day. I baked ginger cupcakes, brownie cupcakes with strawberry santa hats and peanut butter M&M cookies plus I painted my nails coral and mint green to try and look “festive”.
I had a lovely dinner at Longrain for NYE with a great bunch of friends and got to wear my new sparkly dress. What a great way to finish a great year!
♥ A New Toy
Not much has happened in 2013 thus far as I got sick on the second day of the year and was bed ridden for a while. Hmmpf. But I did buy myself a new toy… the Olympus XZ-1! It’s been years since I have used a point and shoot camera, however this one has a lot of custom settings and the ability to set the focal point so I have high hopes for it.
I hope everyone had a wonderful festive season and is settling back into the reality of work!
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