Sunday, January 31, 2010

Markets, Manicures, Cocktails, Tapas and Hedges

It's not often I have such a low key day but we got more excited than anticipated at our cocktails and tapas evening last night. Our friends rode over on their bikes now that we have moved into their neighbourhood, but they were in no condition to ride home. Very funny until we woke up with sore heads. Needless to say, there are no gastronomic delights to report on today as the Mister's delivery of fried chicken and chips to my perch on the couch was hardly worthy of a photo even if it did perk me up. Apart from the fried delights, he also picked up a hedge trimmer and proceeded to do wonders to the overgrown hedges in our courtyard. I was in charge of raking up afterwards, filling our green waste bin and getting some therapeutic fresh air in the process.
One of the hedges - before

So many leaves...

The after shot taken on our digital camera rather than the iPhone.
I was much more energetic yesterday and our first trip to the Footscray market as locals inspired an afternoon of tapas preparation (lamb,pinenut and mint meatballs, sweet and sour vege sticks and tandoori chicken drummettes, mmm!).

It's not all about food though, as there was also my dear friend's birthday to celebrate with a visit to Jade Finger Tips in Yarraville for a spa pedicure for her ($35) and manicure for me ($20).

The gorgeous SJ enjoying her birthday treat
Getting an appointment without simply walking in last week caused me some angst due to their almost non-existent web presence. Just finding their phone number was a challenge, even being told they had moved when I called what I thought was their number. Maybe my profession makes me harsh on small businesses and I do admit that critiquing marketing and PR tactics is a little pleasure of mine. In the case of Jade Finger Tips, I should be grateful that they don't invest heavily in marketing because it may be the reason that their prices remain reasonable. They always seem busy regardless, and most customers just walk in off the street. I definitely recommend sharing the experience with a friend; it’s a great girly indulgence. The cocktails and tapas at home with the boys afterwards rounded off a nice day of celebrations.

Jade Finger Tips: Nail and Spa: 38 Anderson Street, Yarraville VIC 3013. Phone: 03 9687 0881
Footscray Market: Cnr Hopkins Street and Leeds Street, Footscray. Phone: 03 9687 1205

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dreamy Vanilla Decadence

I must confess to being attracted to a decadent cake of nearly any flavour, and the addition of layers screams decadence like nothing else. The downfall is that they are often time-consuming and expensive to make because of the long ingredient list. Further to that, the calorie count can be through the roof, so a keen baker must wait for an occasion where there are more than two present to share the love! A recent extended family gathering provided such an opportunity and I stumbled on a Dreamy Vanilla Cake recipe that looked impressive but was actually very simple to put together and the ingredients were all inexpensive, everyday products that you may not even have to leave the house for. What more could you ask for? Here’s the recipe if you want to give it a whirl:

Dreamy Vanilla Cake
125g unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 ½ cups self-raising flour
⅔ cup milk
Fluffy meringue icing
3 eggwhites
1 ½ cups caster sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 180° C/160°C fan-forced. Grease a 6cm deep, 20cm (base) round cake pan. Line base and side with baking paper. Using an electric beater, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until pale. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.
2. Sift half the flour over butter mixture. Stir to combine. Add half the milk. Stir to combine. Repeat with remaining flour and milk. Spoon into prepared pan. Smooth top. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean (cover cake with foil if over-browning). Stand in pan for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire rack to cool.
3. Make icing. Place eggwhites, sugar, vanilla and ¼ cup cold water in a large heatproof bowl. Whisk to combine. Place bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Using an electric hand mixer, beat eggwhite mixture for 10 minutes or until stiff peaks form. Remove bowl from heat. Beat for 5 minutes or until cool.
4. Using a serrated knife, cut cake into thirds horizontally. Place base on a plate. Spread with ⅔ cup icing. Repeat with middle layer and another ⅔ cup icing. Sandwich with cake top. Spread remaining icing over cake. Serve.
Source: Super Food Ideas Dec 09/Jan 10

Note: A few leftover bits held up well and may have even taken on a nicer flavour as Ros, my master baker pal, thought she detected a hint of white chocolate the following day. Always good to know if a cake can stand the test of time, or at least a day and a half in this case.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Au Revoir Moonee Ponds, Hello Footscray!

What an exciting, exhausting week it has been for us as we moved over a few suburbs to Footscray. A week of annual leave sounded like a comfortable time frame to fit everything in, but with the temperature soaring past 40 degrees celsius earlier this week in Melbourne, it seemed far from comfortable. Thankfully the rest of the week has been far more pleasant with fine, sunny weather, a smooth settlement and a pair of friendly, helpful removalists to boot.

We seem to have used every hour available to finish packing, move, unpack and then return to clean our old place. The good news is that we are super happy with our new pad and despite feeling weary, I haven't even been able to sleep in. Now that's a first, I must be in love. I have been sneaking out of bed to play with the dishwasher and add to the growing 'To Do or Buy' list. Most rooms are roughly in place now excluding the study which is jam-packed with boxes and screaming for some attention before we return to work on Monday. I'll deal with that tomorrow.

Right now I want to rave about our evening exploring our new neighborhood, namely a little fish and chip shop around the corner from our home sweet home. It's called Ebi Fine Food and due to the name, it took us a few days to confirm that it is a fish and chip shop. Tonight we discovered that it's a fish and chip shop with a difference and a pleasant one at that. They call it "Japanese fusion fish and chips" and the staff (or owners?) were very welcoming and kindly gave us some veggie balls ("vegetarian version of an Osaka Street snack") with tasty Japanese mayonnaise on the house while we waited. Sadly, I didn't have my phone on me to capture the neat presentation in a small, curved tray that looked to be made of a dried leaf. The photo above shows our order of the Togarashi Calamari and chips ($10) and the fresh fish of the day (Rockling) in beer batter with salad ($8). We could have chosen tempura rather than beer batter for the fish, but we were advised that the Rockling lends itself to beer batter so we went with that. The home-made citrus mayonnaise and tartare were a nice touch. We are already talking about our next visit and picking something more adventurous from the menu. Maybe a crab croquette, a bento box or the teriyaki salmon. Yum.

After dinner, we were very full but decided we needed a short walk to burn it off while taking the next step in becoming real locals. By that I mean heading to the local video shop to become members! We hired the new Aussie flick Charlie and Boots and I must have enjoyed it as I stayed awake all the way through and laughed more times than I can remember. Now I'm looking forward to tomorrow and some more firsts...first big grocery shop and, hopefully, first bike ride on this side of the tracks!

Ebi Fine Food on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 8, 2010

A dessert dip!

Thank you to my Bunnings bro for sort-of helping me find the watering can
Over Christmas, I tried and fell in love with a White Chocolate and Hazelnut Ball recipe from a PHILADELPHIA cream cheese cookbook (free with the purchase of multiple Philly products at Coles). It was so simple yet so well-received, with multiple cousins and aunts asking for the recipe (the ultimate sign of enjoyment, no?). The recipe makes two balls the size of a large peach and are delicious served on a platter with Anna’s Ginger Thins (a traditional Swedish ginger cookie that I found in Coles supermarket). A pate knife to spread finishes the plate nicely. What a nifty idea to serve in place of dessert over a hot drink.

White Chocolate and Hazelnut Ball

Serves 8.

250g Philadelphia block cream cheese, softened100g white chocolate, melted1 tablespoon caster sugar1 cup chopped roasted hazelnuts
Anna’s Ginger Thins to serve
1. Combine cream cheese, chocolate and sugar in a small bowl. Chill for 1 hour or until firm.
2. Form into 2 balls and coat in hazelnuts. Chill until firm. Place onto serving platter and serve with Ginger Thins.

Source: Simply Heaven - 75 irresistible savoury and sweet PHILADELPHIA recipes for all occasions.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Space and time

Dead tree that caught my eye near Horsham, Victoria
How sweet are holidays? I’m back at work this week after a hectic festive period travelling around country Victoria. The memory of snatching a snippet or two of that dreamy holiday feeling is still fresh in my mind. To me, holidays are about being away from your own environment in quiet locations, preferably with copious amounts of fresh, country air. Limited mobile reception, intermittent news reports and no alarms or awareness of the date and time can be difficult to get used to initially but I find that these are the elements that ultimately allow me to feel disconnected from the everyday. I love the other-worldliness of being disconnected and banishing the routine. Having the space and time to let my mind dream and wander is a luxury that I don’t feel I often have and I wish I could bottle it. It takes me back to my late teens and early twenties when I dreamed of what I would do, who I’d become and all I could achieve. Why do we get so caught up rushing about doing our thing? Is it all this talk of living in the present? Reflection and engaging the imagination seem to me to be key to planning and setting goals for your life. I spent many an hour over my 10 day break driving long distances and gazing out the window dreaming of our new home. Grand plans and room themes manifested in my head. So I may have got a little carried away, and I’m yet to find out if they become a reality, but I do believe you have to have vision. Here are a few iPhone snaps that capture my time way from the office.
View from by big brother's new abode over the Wimmera River.

Old shed doors.

Old books found on a lovely day out with my sister-in-law in Castlemaine. There were many to choose from so we had to be savvy in our selection. The rules were: no more than $3 each, colours should coordinate and the title should be somewhat interesting to us. Admittedly, we weren't buying them to read so the title wasn't much of a concern. I might be onto a new style before I read them! The mini dresser was found propped up against a charity bin in the carpark of Safeway Moonee Ponds (I hope that's not classified as stealing).



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