Eating Tiramisu with a Long Spoon- and No Cricket

Some people look horrified when I tell them how much I hate cricket.  It is as boring as watching paint peeling off the wall. The cricket invades many Australian households in the days following Boxing Day. It is the sound of summer, of endless holidays and heat. For me, it is the excuse to dig out my boxed set of Blackbooks, the English TV series starring those three outlandish characters, Bernard, Manny and Fran. I identify closely with them all, and often greet people with quotes from one episode or another. Only my friend Ally P totally understands this obsession.

In one episode, Manny, referring to himself, says “He’ll be watching the test match in bed eating tiramisu with a long spoon.” I’ll just have the Tiramisu thankyou,and the rest of you can keep the test match, the Ashes and all of those other bits of crickety tedium.

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This is a recipe adapted from the SBS recipe site. I have added more soaking liquid as the original used insufficient for the volume of bsicuits and marscapone. The recipe can be halved.  I usually make it for Christmas Eve,then get to eat leftovers, with a very long spoon, on Boxing Day. As the dish is a “pick me up”, it relies on the strength of the coffee and the alcohol.

Ingredients

  • 6  eggs, separated
  • 220g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 500g mascarpone
  • 2 cups freshly made hot, strong, espresso coffee
  • 100 mls of Tia Maria or Brandy/Frangelico/Marsala
  • 400 g packet pavesini biscuits or savoiardi biscuits (The skinny ones are better)
  • good quality dark chocolate, grated, or sifted Dutch Cocoa.

Instructions

  • Beat the egg yolks and the sugar for at least 15 minutes, or until thick and white. Add the mascarpone and beat until just combined but smooth.
  • Beat the eggwhites until thick and stiff, then gently fold into the mascarpone mixture.
  • Combine the coffee and liqueur in a bowl. Quickly dip the biscuits into hot liquid, and lay them in the chosen serving dish or dishes.
  • Add a layer of the mascarpone mixture, then more soaked biscuits, and so on until all is used.  Refrigerate for at least 2–3 hours, or overnight.  Before serving, top with a generous dusting or Dutch cocoa and/or grated dark chocolate.ImageImage
  • The success of a good Tiramisu depends on the strength of the coffee and alcohol and the generous soaking of the biscuits.

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  • The dessert keeps well, covered for a few days.
  • A multi layered version is tastier than a low layered one

 And save some to eat with a long spoon while hiding from the cricket.

Buon Natale – Merry Christmas 2013

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A warm and sunny day awaits us.  No cloud, no wind. No threat of tropical downpours, arctic winds or heatwaves, all of which are possible in Melbourne on Christmas Day.Image

Preparations are in progress for the feast. I am so pleased the venue for the family gathering rotates and will be held at my sister’s house this year.  Best wishes to all, but especially to the those who cook for the day!Image

The Mother of all Christmas Trees

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

The hunt is on to find a pine tree to chop down for Christmas. Pine trees ( Pinus Radiata) are considered weeds in Australia: they invade bush areas and starve indigenous vegetation of moisture, nutrients and light. They also increase soil acidity and spread easily. Unlike our other invasive weed, the blackberry, pine trees are difficult to remove when large. We recently spent $4,000 removing an ancient specimen from our land. It was the mother of all Christmas trees.Image

Each Christmas we search for a sensible looking pine tree in the bush. This annual ritual has become a family joke. Mr Tranquillo and sons head off into the bush with axes while I hum the tune I’m a lumberjack and I’m Ok , a memorable tune and one worth glancing at when needing youtube procrastination time.

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It’s always the same old story. They return grinning sheepishly, dragging a ridiculously large specimen, while I run around like some mad strega on steroids, dodging the branches that invade the whole living room, threatening to buy a Kmart plastic tree or go without if another dainty one is not found.

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This year I am accompanying the lads. Where’s my checked flannelette shirt?Image

Lakes Entrance Seafarers’ festival 2013.

“Are we there yet?” That’s me in the passenger seat, in between texting everyone I know.

A trip to Lakes Entrance from Melbourne seems to take forever. There are a few unscheduled stops along on the way, a quick $15.oo meal of flathead tails at the Trafalgar Hotel, a visit to an Op Shop or two on route, a stop at the Thorpdale Potato Shed for some fresh Nicola or Dutch Cream potatoes.  And what about that Turkish Magic shop in Stratford for an exotic ottoman?  No wonder the trip to the Lakes seems to take forever. Mr Tranquillo is a patient driver: I justify the stops in the interest of leg stretching.

Lakes Entrance is 318 kilometres from Melbourne and in theory, the trip should take 3.5 hours. In your dreams!Image

Each year this seaside town holds a Seafarers Festival, which occurs on the Saturday following December 6, the feast day of St Nicholas of the Seas. The festival commences with a march through the main street, the green statue of St Nic leading the way.  He is then carried to the sea and watches silently while a group of pastors conduct the Blessing of the Fleet,  a simple Christian event,  preceded by an Aboriginal tribute.This year’s Aboriginal  welcome to country  included a remarkable didgeridoo performance, the melancholic sound silencing the gathered crowd. Today both Lakes Entrance and LakeTyers retain a strong Aboriginal community  and presence.

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Three large marquees were set up for the day’s entertainment.  The first cooking demonstration was conducted by Mark Olive, or the black olive, as he calls himself. Mark is really funny and engaging: he introduces us to indigenous foods as we taste a huge variety of peppers and herbs from the Australian bush. He is a great advocate for local produce, and sees the day when our herbs and animal meats become mainstream.ImageAlthough St Nicholas was known for his abstinence, this doesn’t deter us from indulging in a full wine tasting. This year only one wine company tempted us with their goods: in previous years, the Gippsland wine industry was better represented.

With a glass in hand, we moved on to the next event, conducted by Mark Norvoyle and his handsome apprentice Samuel Smith.Image Within 40 minutes Mark and Sam deftly pin boned a side of fresh salmon, making one simple gravlax, some salmon and eggplant spring rolls, salmon confit, and a sashimi and tofu salmon. They made it look all too simple.ImageSalivating from the food demonstartions, we headed off in search of tucker, finding a wondrous Paella stall. The serves came in small buckets, with a generous supply of calamari, scallops and mussels for $8.00. We scoffed these down as we watched a troupe of Greek dancers spinning around in the big marquee.ImageImageImage

Off to another cooking demo by Matt and Mike, from My Kitchen Rules fame. These two were hilarious. Not cooks, these entertainers gave us an insight into the world of MKR.

A quick rest, then off to the Lakes Entrance Bowling club for an Italian Buffet night, with all you can eat pasta and pizza. The food was so- so, and that’s being kind, but the main attraction was the band, I Viaggiatori. Kavisha Mazzella and her troupe, performed beautiful Italian folk songs and ballads from the album, ‘Suitcase Secrets’.ImageIncluded was the Australianised version of Mamma Mia Dammi Cento Lire, one of my favourites, and Canzone della Lega, the radical womens song from the rice growing area of the Po Valley. Kavisha is a Melbourne legend, having initiated and led Le goie delle donne, an Italo- Australian womens choir, in the 90s. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jse5tqHTIdc

And then on Sunday we rested and ate more fish.

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Italian Product Trial – Farro, Rice and Barley pilaf, with Broad Beans

Every so often, a new product leaps from the shelf and says, “PICK ME, PICK ME.” This was the case recently when I was strolling along the vast aisles of the Mediterranean Wholesalers in Brunswick. This magic emporium of Italian gastronomy ( with a bit of Spanish thrown in ) is disturbingly tempting and I seem to come back with things that were NOT on the list.Image

This was the case with this box of grain by Gallo. 3 Ceriali- Riso, Farro e Orzo. The instructions are in Italian but are simple enough. Non Mettere a Bagno – don’t soak, and Tempo di cottura– cooking time- 12 minutes. Obviously, the grains are par-boiled. This small detail on the box led to moments of internal struggle. The purist traditional wholefoody lady was bowled over by the 12 minute promise; the pragmatist furtively smuggled the box into her basket.Image

As I opened the box, my mind wandered to the hearty soups of Lucca, the farro of the Garfagnana mountains, the trattorie of Urbino. But it’s summer here, and these cereals, simply boiled, could make a wondrous salad base. Or stuffing for peppers and eggplants. Or a filling for silver beet leaves, a big involtino of goodness. Or taken on camping trips. Or, or…. a Pilaf.

I followed the instructions, simply boiling the grains for 12 minutes. I believe the grains need longer- around 18 minutes. Image

Note- my recipes are flexible and are based on the ‘handful of this, a bit of that’ approach to cooking.

Recipe for a simple pilaf style side dish

  • 1 cup of 3 cereal (Gallo brand)
  • 4 onions, sliced finely
  • a big glug of EV olive oil
  • two garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • fresh herbs of choice, example oregano
  • a big handful of broad beans
  • salt, pepper

Method

  • Cook the grains in a large pot of boiling water for around 18-20 minuutes or to taste. (no salt)Image
  • Meanwhile, caramelise the onions in a pan with some good olive oil for 10 minues, adding the chopped garlic towards the end.
  • Then shell and cook the broadbeans in boiling water for two minutes, drop into cold water, drain and peel off outer shells.
  • Add the cooked grains to the onions, add herbs to taste, then add the cooked broad beans.Image
  • Season.
  • Serve as a side dish.

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Note: as a part of Australian law that require bloggers to disclose any kickbacks they receive, I must add that I am not receiving any gratuity from the meditterranean wholesalers, or any one else for that matter. I just happen to like the place. If only our radio shock jocks were as transparent.

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Lake Tyers Dreaming and Fish Frenzy Recipes.

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The waves pound the coastline, often breaking like thunder, along the Ninety Mile Beach in Eastern Victoria . It’s a rugged and isolated stretch with few settlements along the way. Lake Tyers is one of those magic spots, a small town facing the gentle lakes which protect it via a sand spit, from the wild seas of Bass Straight. The town consists of beach houses, a few camping grounds, one milk bar/general store and delightful pub set right on the lake,the Waterwheel Tavern.Image

It’s the place I choose to visit out of season, usually in early December, and sometimes in winter, away from shopping malls, job lists and the internet, which is generally unreliable. We are here to ponder the view, read, walk and eat fish.Image

On clear nights, the horizon sparkles with fishing boats and trawlers, night’s glittering promise of tomorrow’s fresh fish. The catch is landed at Lakes Entrance, a major commercial fishing port which is a short 10 km drive away. Two outlets stock local fish and a few imports from interstate. The Fishermens Own Omega 3 fish shop. (which is basically the fish Co-Op ) and Ferry Seafoods, which is a little fish shop underneath a restaurant of the same name. It’s a fishy surprise each day!ImageImage

On rough nights I ponder the lives of these commercial fishermen who love and respect the sea and I think of my ancestors who earned their living fishing off the coast in the nearby town of Port Albert, many of whom met ‘their watery graves’.Image

The fish feast began on the first evening with a half kilo of freshly caught wild school prawns. To this we added bread and butter,lemon, and beer. A fitting start to the holiday!Image

The following day the ‘fishermens’ own shop’ had some beautiful slippery grey mauve calamari, a steal at $13.95  a kilo. We dusted them with flour, gave them a quick minute fry, then dressed them with chilli flakes, salt, spring onions and lemon. Say no more!Image

On the third day, the wonderful folk at the same shop had filleted a ton of school sand whiting. I would not normally buy these little fellas as they are so boney, but when filleted, bring them on! I bought a huge pile for $9.00- so delicate and transparent and silvery. These were popped into a Thai green curry, loaded with ginger, garlic, chilli, red onion, kaffir lime leaves, basil, lime juice, fish sauce and coconut milk. I added a few beans and zucchini, to avoid growing fins! The fish were stirred through at the end and cooked in a minute.

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The Fish gods were still smiling on us. On the fourth day some wild caught scallops turned up for a song. In the evening, these little gems were stirred through a simple spaghetti dish with lots of garlic, extra virgin olive oil,basil and a hint of chilli. The halved scallops cooked in the heat of the pasta.ImageImage

Accommodation is available in camping grounds or in apartments and beach houses. These are usually cheaper out of season, which is anytime outside of the Christmas holidays and Easter.

This post is dedicated to my sister Kerrie, who has inherited the same fish gene from Port Albert, and to Bruce, who is always so good natured.

Watermelon Salad with Sardines – 10 minute fast food

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It’s that time of year again. Things are speeding up, the dance card looks full. Shops pump out annoying Christmas Carols making shopping unpleasant, police breathalizers are on the road even in the morning. Fast food is the now the go. No, not the stuff one grabs from the place with the golden arches (or one of its ugly cousins). However we do reserve the right to visit a Maccas in Paris when in need of a toilet!

The following little feast makes dinner for two.  Measurements are flexible, things are thrown together. Ordered Chaos.

The Sardines

8 fresh sardine fillets ( already butterflied)

grated parmigiana cheese- 1/2 cup

dry breadcrumbs – around 1 cup.

1 -2 eggs

  • Mix the parmigiana with the crumbs in one bowl, beat the egg/s in another.
  • Dunk the fillets in the egg first, the coat generously with the crumbs.
  • Rest them while making the salad.Image

The Salad

A big chunk of watermelon

a handful of mint leaves, torn

fetta cheese, such as Dodoni

a handful of pine nuts, toasted

lemon or lime juice

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • Cut the watermelon into big chunks. Cut the fetta into small cubes.  Add these to the serving bowl.
  • tear in a generous amount of mint leaves ( destalked) some toasted pinenuts ( or other nuts on hand- toasted).
  • Add juice of one lemon or lime and a drizzle of oil.Image

Fry the fillets in olive oil for one minute on each side.  Lay on paper towels to remove excess oil. Toss the salad and serve, preferably all’aperto, outside or by the pool. ImageImageImage

Apricot Almond Cake with Amaretto. Easy Frangipane

I found this recipe some years ago: it lives in my special hand written cake book- the one that is devoted to cakes that really work. It is my favourite cake recipe and gets adapted according to the season.

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The best part is that it doesn’t have a pastry base and so is really quick to prepare. The original recipe calls for pears, but I am substituting apricots. Ripe peaches and nectarines work quite well too. I am yet to try it with cherries. The apricots are in season, and I must be quick before Mr Tranquillo and the visiting humanoid fruit bats eat the lot!

Torta di Mandorla, Albicocca e Amaretto

Italian Almond and Apricot Cake with Amaretto.

Ingredients

  • 125 g softened unsalted butter
  •  150 g castor sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 50 g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 375 g almond meal
  • 2 Tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
  •  7 or more apricots large, ripe, enough to fill the tart
  • 25 g flaked almonds

Method

  1.  Preheat oven to 180c /160c FF. Grease and line a 25 cm loose bottom tin.
  2. Place butter and sugar and eggs in a stand mixing bowl and beat for 5 minutes until thick and pale.Image
  3. Stir in the flour mixed with the baking powder, then fold in the almond meal, followed by the Amaretto.  Pour into the prepared tin.
  4. Arrange halved apricot over the top and lightly press down so they are submerged. Scatter the top with the flaked almonds.
  5. Bake for 45- 50 mins. Cool in tin.
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Cool, dust with icing sugar. Serve with a small glass of Amaretto.

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This keeps well in the fridge for a few days. Re- warm slices briefly in microwave.

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In My Kitchen

Some people think I am really anal when it comes to my passion for green accessories in the kitchen. And I’m not even a Virgo. This month, it’s all very green in the vegetable garden (next month the reds will arrive). Rather than display these crops, I thought I might dust off some of my green kitchen babies as part of an IMK post ( my first).Image

I was walking down Sydney Road, Brunswick yesterday and found these lovely green colanders for a song. The large one- $3.00, the baby – $1.50. It was hard to resist all the other mad colours but I stuck with the green ones.

Bargain Depot Supermarket Clearance and Party Supplies – 775 Sydney Rd, Brunswick VIC 3056

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I  love that bargain shop so much! I always grab a few more little milk jars ( $1.00) to add to my collection. Good for herbs, flavoured oils, the odd flower, table place settings, irresistable.

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This roll of string was bought at great expense from ebay. It lives on my kitchen shelf with its green friends and is largely used for tying up gifts wrapped in brown paper or newspaper, tying up tussy mussies or hanging oregano to dry.Image

I love my colllection of retro Hong Kong thermoses. The little green army came down from a high kitchen shelf today for a dust. I have used one for yoghurt making, but on the whole, they are decor items.  I am searching for one which has the TWO GOATS gold label, then my collection will be complete.Image

Above are two green marble bowls purchased last year in Yangon, Burma. Great for special salts.Image

I can’t live without a jar of Furikake. I have to resist eating it out of the jar. Nice sprinkled on poached eggs or fresh poached salmon salad, or steamed rice.

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Finally we have my beautiful Fowler bowls in apple green, a retro Propert anodised sifter and a selection of green jugs.

These little green things enjoyed their moment in the limelight for an In My Kitchen post.

In My Kitchen is hosted by Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. http://figjamandlimecordial.com. What a lovely idea. Thanks Celia.

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