Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Oven-baked olive bread with sage and oregano

 Olive bread on a special chopping board made by my uncle Simon as a wedding gift

It was a beautifully sunny day here in Melbourne this Saturday but there was still no doubt we are well entrenched in winter. It was very chilly out of the sunshine and comfort food was in order. A good day to bake bread and tick something off my mental 'to bake' list!

My hankering to bake fresh bread has been growing stronger since I started smelling the amazing aroma of a colleague's home-baked bread toasting in the work kitchen. We spoke about the wonders of her bread machine and I wished that my heaving kitchen cupboards could fit one. Then my resourceful self kicked in, gave me a swift slap and reminded me that bread was being baked well before we had machines for everything imaginable. So on Saturday, I pulled out a trusty Australian Women's Weekly book on muffins, scones and bread to get all wholesome and knead my way to delicious, fresh bread. Nothing like bread straight from the oven. Unfortunately, home-baked bread doesn't stay fresh like its commercial preservative-laden counterparts so this is best eaten within 24 hours of baking.

Olive bread with sage and oregano

4 teaspoons (14g) dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
310ml (1¼ cups) warm milk
250ml (1 cup) warm water
300g (2 cups) plain flour
80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
3 ½ cups (525g) plain flour, extra
1 teaspoon salt
1¼ cups (150g) seeded black olives, halved
2 tablespoons shredded fresh sage
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (herbs straight from the garden take the wholesome baker feeling to a whole new level!)

Combine yeast, sugar, milk and water in large bowl, whisk until yeast is dissolved. Whisk in sifted flour, cover, stand in warm place about 30 minutes or until mixture is doubled in size (I sat the bowl on top of the preheating oven).

Stir in oil, then sifted extra flour and salt. Turn dough onto floured surface, knead about 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic.

Place dough in large greased bowl, cover, stand in warm place about 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size.

Turn dough onto floured surface, knead in remaining ingredients. Roll dough to 30cm x 35cm oval. Fold dough almost in half, transfer to large greased oven tray, shape dough into an oval. Cover dough, stand in warm place about 45 minutes or until dough has increased in size by half. Sift about another 2 tablespoons of flour over bread, bake in moderately hot oven (200-210C) for about 45 minutes.

Now all you need to do is marvel at the monstrous mound you've created.


Inhale the yeasty aroma of delicious carbohydrates!

 Eat every last slice fresh from the oven spread with butter -sharing recommended!

It's naughty to even mention it, but next time I bake this I'm going to sprinkle the top with some salt flakes. The salty tang could take this bread to a new level of yumness, especially if I use my favourite Murray River pink salk flakes. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Black and white ottoman makeover

For a simple makeover, my chesterfield ottoman has taken some time. Its been used between all the coats of paint and being able to use something during a refurbishment certainly reduces the urgency. Unfortunately, it also allows so many other projects to come before it. No matter, it's done now and I'm loving it.

Here it is sitting in our hallway, painted in Dulux Whisper White. The first two coats were painted in an untinted white acrylic semi gloss paint and it just didn't look right. Without any tint at all, it looked a little cold and sickly. I left it that way for weeks on end unsure if I should do the final coat and hope for the best or sand it back and try another colour. Eventually, I remembered the tin of Whisper White paint in the cupboard and applied two coats of that. Amazing how a slightly off-white made all the difference.

Here it is in it's original state with brown legs. Do you remember when I picked it up on eBay and dreamed of all the vignettes I could create on it (see here for that post)? If you read my living room inspiration post, you'll know this is going in that room and I'm going for a black and white base so all traces of the chocolate hues of yesteryear need to go wherever possible.

After taping the row of tacks on each leg, I used a foam sanding pad to remove the varnish and smooth the surface. Two coats of the pure white were applied before it was brought inside, masking tape and all, to be forgotten for weeks on end.
 I provided a sneak of the ottoman in its half-finished state in the Treasures from Bali post.

 Then the Whisper White came out and it all came together.

Once the masking tape was removed, there was a distinct line where the paint stopped under the rows of tacks. Before the final coat, I used a small artist's brush to paint carefully between the tacks. That helped the paint blend in more to the piece and got rid of the line.

Et voila! A lovely ottoman and another small step closer to achieving a modern, vintage, black and white space for our living room.

Linking up with:

The DIY Show OffThe Lettered CottageMod Vintage Life

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cafe Love: Three Bags Full

There are few perks for a small-time blogger, it is mostly a self-gratifying pastime with a frequent feeling that no-one is really reading, bar those kind souls who may be bound by friendship (or blood!). One lovely perk that does come to mind is the recommendations I'm given for cafes and shops I might like to eat at or visit. A highlight is Three Bags Full in Abottsford - a cafe suggested to me for the light fittings and the excellent coffee.

The lights did appeal, especially the quirky cups and saucers dangling over the bar. Of course I loved the industrial light over the til and the bare bulbs over the tables by the front windows. Nothing new there, I've professed my love in that department many times. The pleasant surprises really delighted too, like the touches of yellow in both the pepper grinders and the road signs repurposed as stools.

Located in a converted warehouse, Three Bags Full is a natural at industrial chic style and sits close to the border of grunge. With so many quirky touches, high marks must be given for decor, even if personal taste dictates a larger dose of feminine comforts before a space can be declared 100 per cent swoonworthy. Take this menu below, for example. It is cool, yes, and it does have touches of my beloved yellow but it looks dirty and I'm not so keen on dirty. Pretty, white paper may be boring but it does help in reading a menu easily.

Speaking of the menu, Three Bags Full offers some exciting choices that make selection very tough.

Eventually I chose this toasted house made fig and raspberry bread with vanilla bean mascarpone, fresh strawberries and passionfruit ($14.50).

House made anything gets me excited and this dense fruity bread did not disappoint. The mascarpone was fresh and heavenly, if a little too indulgent. Not that this thought crossed my mind until every morsel was consumed and I was beginning to think I shouldn't have ate every last scrap. How could I not eat it though?!

The ricotta hot cakes with poached fruit and orange infused ricotta ($14.50) caused me to develop a heavy dose of food envy. Oh my. Good by all reports.

The last dish to grace our table was a special and my memory of the details are sketchy. They are fritters with asparagus and poached egg, although I'm not sure if they were cauliflower or corn or both! I do remember that the sauce was mild and could have done with extra zing.

For good reason, throngs of Melburnians descend upon Three Bags Full on weekends. There are lots of seats (although you may still have a short wait), the food is delish and the decor provides some interesting delights.

A return visit would be welcomed, a sure sign of my approval (as described here). I love it when others know what I love!

Three Bags Full on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Curtains - the preview screening

Between working, socialising, exercising and other leisurely pursuits (like sewing classes), renovating is slow going. We made some progress painting a little of the exterior of our house last weekend, but the big task of moving out of our living room to paint, re-carpet and instal a new mantle remains on the growing to-do list. The good news is that most other elements of this room are now done so the inspiration file I posted in February (here) is becoming reality, including some lovely curtains with Greek key trim to replace the wooden venetian blind. The full reveal will come when the walls have been painted but I'm so happy with them that a sneak peak was in order. Firstly, here are my some shots from my inspiration file.

Ron's Hotel Sweet - via Apartment Therapy


No source for the next few pics, sorry!

First step in my own curtains was buying Greek key trim from Turkey through Esty seller kirevi88.

Fabric and curtain rod were found at Ikea - the fabric is MINNA, a heavy duty bleached cotton and the curtain rod is a LUMMIG. Wooden curtain rings from Spotlight.

Here is a sneak peak of the top of one side of curtain now in our living room.

In full, they are almost three metres long and while that makes them a slightly more dramatic backdrop than a wooden venetian blind, they also feel much more homely.  Curtains seem more fitting in an older home than a wooden blind, though I still have four others to replace. One thing at a time.

Thanks to Naomi of the Live Breathe Decor blog for bringing these to life. I so appreciated your patience and expert advice. After a month, we're still gazing at them lovingly each time we enter the room and we couldn't have asked for more than that.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A red velvet showstopper

Nothing says happy birthday quite like a cake and nothing makes my heart sing more than a cake with layers. Imagine my delight at a cake with layers and food colouring! Before I even conceived making this red velvet cake for a colleague's birthday, I'd been wanting to make red velvet cupcakes and fell in love with Nigella Lawson's recipe in her book 'Kitchen'. 

The maiden baking of these beauties took place to commiserate the resignation of a colleague. Cake makes everything better! Rich, chocolately cake and cream cheese icing. Need I say more? If you'd like to try these lovely morsels and you don't have Nigella's book, the recipe is here.

With another colleagues birthday approaching, I took heed when she exclaimed over the delights of red velvet. As delightful as cupcakes are, especially these ones, a full-sized cake seems in order for a birthday so I just had to combine these two ideas, didn't I? Plus I got to make layers, so everyone was happy.
Red Velvet Layer Cake
Inspired by a recipe from The Australian Women's Weekly book Afternoon Tea
125g butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
250ml buttermilk
2 tsp red food colouring
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
1.Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease two 22cm round cake tins.
2.Beat butter, vanilla, sugar and eggs until light and fluffy.
3.Stir in sifted flours, cocoa and the combined buttermilk and food colouring, in two batches.
4.Combine vinegar and bicarbonate soda, allow it to fizz, and then fold into the cake mixture.
5.Divide the mixture into two pans, and bake for 25-30 minutes. Once cool, wrap cakes or place in a plastic container and freeze for half an hour (or refridgerate for a couple of hours - this helps reduce crumbling when you cut the cakes).
6. Make cream cheese icing (below).
7. Cut cakes in half horizontally. Spread one-fifth of cream cheese icing between each layer, saving two-fifths to spread over the top and sides.

Cream cheese icing
250g cream cheese
60g butter, at room temperature
1 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
300ml thickened cream

Beat cream cheese and butter until well combined, then add sugar and vanilla until smooth. Finally, beat in the cream.

I hope you will try this scrumptious recipe. Otherwise just enjoy these photos and send me your ideas for other layer cakes. I've previously done layers of dreamy vanilla, a Donna Hay layered chocolate and a black forest, so what now for me and my need for layers of decadence?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sartorial Sunday: Wardrobe planning

I can't claim to be fashionable these days, in fact I'm not sure I ever have been. I've always found it too hard to spend with abandon, no matter how gorgeous the cloth. Instead, I try to buy items that fit into my current wardrobe and make old items feel fresh. Buying things that coordinate ensures they will be worn more, making them good value purchases even if they weren't the cheapest initially. Buying pieces and styles you love is also a sure way to get good wear from them. Personally, I love jackets, especially military ones, so I have a few of them in different colours and I wear them to death.

My wardrobe philosophy is not for everyone. It's a little boring and a little organised but I like to hope there is some style to it or a stylish restraint at the very least. Style over fashion, I say. To stop it becoming totally dull, some "wardrobe shopping" is sometimes required, as is some experimentation with mixing and matching to find new outfits. A couple of times a year, I like to take a photo of my outfit each morning for a week. I set up the self-timer on the camera then stand in the same spot and talk to my invisible friend like a real dork as the flash goes off.  I have a good old laugh about what a nerd I am. Here's a recent week.

Quite a few items from this week are a good five years old and others have spent mere weeks in my possession (like the tan belt I was coveting in my previous post on winter office wardrobe inspiration). Mornings are not my prime (as proven by the Wednesday photo) so for years I have been dreaming about an App to take outfit photos that you can later catalogue and tag so that the next time you feel like wearing your yellow cardigan, you can see what other items you normally wear with it and even where you wore it last so you don't always catch up with the same people in the same outfit. Genius, right? I reckon it would help me avoid wearing the same combinations over and over - a concern if you're not buying new clothes and accessories each week. Not to mention the time it would save staring blurry-eyed into the wardrobe unable to remember what looks good with what. There are a few wardrobe planning programs around but nothing that really makes my heart sing. So for now, I will continue with my own little system and bore anybody with any technological nous with the boring but fabulous details of my App idea.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cafe Love: Wee Jeanie, Yarraville

Sitting in my sewing class after returning from Bali last month, I felt very out of touch when discussion turned to Yarraville's newest cafe. I'd never heard of it, so I made it my mission that week to scout out this place called Wee Jeanie in my lunchtime.

With the same owners as old favourite, The Cornershop, this newcomer is the last shop before Yarraville Station on Anderson Street and occupies what used to be a record store (or so say the fine folk at the next table) . Coffee is good, and so it should be when served from this impressive Slayer, said to be worth about $30,000.

Staff seemed understandly proud of this beast.

Something warm is in order so soon after returning to chilly Melbourne. My enourmous serve of chicken and sweet corn soup ($13) would warm the coldest heart. Fresh and tasty, the soup contains small chunks of succulent chicken and is served with rosemary bread that has a deliciously salty tang.

Such a large bowl takes some time eating but it is quite enjoyable to stay awhile in these surroundings. Wee Jeanie is a little like a fish bowl with so many windows, allowing views on three sides of the cafe. All that people watching must make washing dishes less of a chore by the window.

The fitout is largely utilitarian, with natural wood and lots of white in the painted brick and subway tiles making for a fresh, welcoming space. Subtle, rustic features in the exposed brick, enamel jugs and light fittings get me excited. The clusters of dangling Fowlers vacola jars make an interesting twist on the bare bulb craze. Maybe my mother is right hanging onto her vintage collection of these, even though her preserving days are few and far between nowadays. I was even more excited about these lights when I found this post on the blog Small Acorns that very evening. Bright ideas, indeed!

The display cabinet holds several things I'll be heading back to try. Mushroom and feta quiche, bacon and broccoli quiche, baguettes, interesting salads, strawberry brûlée tart and orange almond cake to name a few. This is cafe-style fare so most things are pre-prepared or partly so, making it a good destination for a quick, simple lunch. I'll also be back to try their take on the avocado on sourdough, one I always enjoy at The Cornershop.

Stools down the back overlooking the courtyard which in turn overlooks the station and the car park at the back of the Sun theatre.

One look into the courtyard and the sight of yellow stools is enough for me to declare that Wee Jeanie has my tick of approval.



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