Perfume

Have you ever smelt a book?
And I don’t mean walking into your local book store and cunningly sniffing the books; don’t judge, I’ve seen it happen.

It sounds like a peculiar question but in Süskind’s first novel; the classic ‘Perfume’, that’s exactly what you will do.
The book made me feel slightly uneasy, in the same way as a portrait staring straight at you sends shivers down your back. There is something quite disconcerting about having mundane everyday smells picked apart and described to you; the human for instance is comprised of, amongst other things: Cat faeces, cheese and vinegar… just delightful, thanks Pat (I can call you Pat yeah?). It is in descriptions such as that, that you understand the hatred and at the same time longing Grenouille has for normality.
But really, why would not having a scent throw you off-course in life so badly? Well I think the book describes it perfectly here:
“Odours have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odour cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”

This book has two core levels that you could follow, there is the foremost level of a deranged man who lacks any emotion for anything other than scent, who wants only what is in his interest and cares very little for life. And then there is the underlying journey of self-discovery that Grenouille is on throughout the book, from unknown misfit child to his somewhat humbling end. If you so choose the first you may be pleasantly let down by everything but the wonderful language. However I chose the latter, because everybody deserves a chance.
Despite the feeling of unease and hate that are laced through the text, this book does not fail to live up to it reputation as a classic. It is beautifully written, and you finish with a feeling of understanding; understanding Grenouille in a way that many have not, as a person. Despite this book being a story of murder, the one memory I will carry away with me, is not of those scenes but of the scents, from the putrid 18th century France to the sweet girls, the scents that Grenouille covets above all else.

You can buy this book at most bookshops:
Come see me at QBD and I will hook you up
Mary Martin Bookshop
Imprints (on hindley)
This post is also very helpful from the guys at Already Home from the City Council

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Giant Lamington

It is totally amazing the effect the weather can have on your mood, blue skies equals birds singing in the sun and beers on the beach with tanned beautiful people (the first of these days is okay; and then bikini … Continue reading

Smartie Pant Pops

When I was little I lived all over the UK, from Inverness to outer London. I never lived near my grandparents though, so whenever we went to visit them it was a week in kid heaven: dinner at restaurants, sips of wine and lovely baked goods! My favourite childhood treat however had to be by far the most ordinary thing, cookies on a stick. Like a cookie lollipop. The cookie pop reminds me of holidays with my granny, walking to the park (all the way down the longest road ever), warm toast and sitting in her big leather chair.

Last week I received an email from uni about free market they are holding. For some reason my mind immediately went to cookies and cookie pops. What student wouldn’t love a cookie pop?
My ideas for flavours are:
– Smartie Pant Pops (this post – smarties obviously!)
– Salted Pistachio with burnt white chocolate drizzle-pops (Needs a name!)
– Maple glazed bacon and coffee – Morning Pig Pops
– Lavender and honey pops (also needs a name)

Leave your ideas for names below, the best names win a mixed box of 8! (only Australia sorry, the cookies would not last an international post)

These cookies are just a basic brown sugar cookie recipe with as much Smarties as you see fit, I’ve got a 180 g packet in the dough, then I add three extra Smarties midway through backings for a good pop of colour.

Ingredients
345g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
225g butter
170g  sugar
200g brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
180g Smarties plus more for topping

Recipe

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Set the butter aside to soften at least half an hour before starting.
In a large bowl, mix flour, soda and salt with a wire whisk and set aside.
Add the softened butter and both sugars to a mixer and cream until light and fluffy. To this mixture add the eggs and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined.
Add flour in two additions, scraping down the sides in between. Mix until thoroughly combined.
Stir the Smarties into the mixture and set onto parchment paper to shape into a log.

Cover the cookie log entirely and wrap in glad wrap.  Put this delicious log into the freezer and leave for at least an hour.
Slice and roll into balls, I made my cookies about 20g each however I think 30g would be better. Bake for about 10 minutes. You want them to be just browned on the edges; they will continue to bake after you remove them from the heat.

Makes 5 dozen cookies.

21st Birthday Party Planning

I’m still ridiculously in love with the invites I made for my 21st. They would suit any kind of small to medium birthday gathering; cutting out the front 40+ times had me close to the end of tether, I split it up doing about 10 each week for about a month. Small gatherings allow you to have that level of detail that just isn’t possible with a huge amount of invitees.

The invites were surprisingly cheap; I purchased a big block of these floral cards, (I think about 60 in a pack from work but you can find them in most bookshops that sell reduced price books.) some parcel paper, white printing paper, glue and a swivel knife. A guillotine also makes your life 100% easier.

The pictures describe the process pretty well. So I’ll talk more about the party! The theme was ‘wear something that grows’ I just loved that people actually did, we had leaf ties and many many floral headbands! I decorated the space with pots and flowers; but it was all rather rushed because for some reason I forgot about setting up in my schedule.

I gained quite a lot from the party:

  • I learnt that I had my cooking schedule down pat, I estimated a time for things to be done by and stuck to it.
  • Creating a spreadsheet for food purchases sounds crazy but actually saves you time and money, it meant I could pick up bargains whenever they appeared and not double up later on.
  • Creating a triangle out of the food, drinks and dessert tables should be a must; people will move around more!
  • You should start setting up at least an hour before people arrive.
  • You should ALWAYS ask someone to take pictures.
  • You should probably put your name on the invites

I absolutely love throwing parties, but I found that the internet was actually very little help if you aren’t getting married or throwing a child’s birthday. There seems to be a black hole in planning for anything between 15 and 40; let’s change that.

I absolutely detest the over planned mummy parties that get thrown for 5 year olds, it just doesn’t look fun for anyone.

The J Word

Juxtapositions. They are what life is all about, sometimes the best isn’t always the most expensive. I try to remember this; but everyone tries to keep up with the Jones’ at some point in time. It all gets a bit tiring and makes the whole situation a bit pointless.

Possibly the best financial advice I ever heard was to ‘Live below your means’, Warren Buffett said that; in 2008 he was ranked the richest person on Earth, I think he knows about money.

It’s generally a good quote to remember in your 20’s, when you’ve got all of these aspirations that you are trying to work towards. The feeling that you can potentially buy your way to happiness; whilst knowing that’s bull, is never too far away. It really doesn’t help if you read a billion blogs a day and they all seem to be written by wealthy mums! When did mums take over the internet? Gen Y we gotta fix this!

So to look at this in a super light-hearted way; here is the most obvious juxtaposition I own. My Make-Up Bag.

My Favourite lipsticks right now are : Sportsgirl Pout about it in Rosie Posie and Chanel Rouge Allure Velvet in L’exubérante

My favourite face products are this Chanel foundation (none of you are as pale as me so I don’t think we need to divulge quite how pale I am) and Face of Australia Primer, I have read a billion reviews and this is my third bottle, there’s no difference between this and the expensive stuff!

My all time best beauty products have to be these two though, my grandmother has some of the best skin I’ve seen and she has always used Simple, the make-up wipes get rid of everything. Payot’s Paté Gris is the best for stand alone pimples which I tend to get, it either makes them disappear and or it gets it all out, either way it leaves no mark and doesn’t dry out your skin too much.I turned 21 and finished uni (for the semester) in the last week and consequently spent the entire week baking, studying and stressing out. I took no photos of anything which I semi regret but trialled lots of recipes which I’m keen to perfect. That rhymed – gosh I love when that happens, I begin to think my inner Dr. Suess is finally here. But then I just kind of want a beer.

Rhyming baking blog, is that a thing?

Gooey Dark Brownies with Pistachio Praline

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Kitchen disasters always happen at the worst of times, this particular one happened after a week-long baking marathon; my teeth had grown sick of sugar and my hands were well and truly done with being buttered. I shan’t dwell on that though because A.) I love baking and B.) I got to make these AH-may-zing brownies and C.) I ate far too many for my own good.

Now brownies have a special place in my heart. Why I hear you ask?

Well I am the queen of under-baking (note baking – the only time I under cook things are veggie pasta bakes that I am just too hungry to wait until they crisp up; and that is all good!), it most definitely steams from far too many dry birthday cakes as a child – other kids obviously my mum made rocking birthday cakes. Because of this when I bake I just hang out in the kitchen watching the cake and painting my nails. Cakes never hurry up for me, they always take a bazillion times longer than the recommended time. This is where brownies become the saviour of the day, they relish the watch, sometimes it all happens so fast; if you’ve seen Masterchef you will know that you are only minutes away from over cooking.

These were for my pretty awesome boyfriend and they went down a treat! I made these at his house and forget he didn’t have a food processor so the praline was more crunchy bits of caramel than the smooth crunch of praline!

Dark Chocolate Brownies adapted from Joy the Baker
makes 24 brownies
200g unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan.  Line and butter the lining.  This will make brownie removal much easier.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

Place butter and chopped chocolate in a medium-sized heat proof bowl.  Place the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water, being sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the boiling water.  Stir until chocolate and butter are completely melted.  Use pot holders to remove the bowl from over the boiling water. Lets mixture sit for a few minutes.Image

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs and vanilla extract.  Whisk until pale and thick.  Pour the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.  Whisk until completely incorporated.  Add the flour mixture all at once and whisk to incorporate.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.ImagePotentially review size of container for overflow, however if you do have overflow you can totally eat it, that’s cool.

Pistachio Praline

165g caster sugar
1/4 cup water
50g shelled pistachios

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and stir over low heat to dissolve sugar. Increase heat and boil, without stirring, until mixture is a caramel colour. Pour into six 175mL ramekins.
Lightly toast nuts in a hot oven.
Remove caramel from heat once nuts are toasted.
When bubbles subside, carefully stir in nuts. Pour onto a greased baking tray, cool, break into pieces and grind finely in a food processor.
Add some vanilla gelato from Gelatissimo and you have an amazing dessert.
❤ Enjoy!

Glow in the Dark Driveway and other such cuteness.

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This has to be my first totally unplanned post, however I totally don’t have time to finish up my post on the dark chocolate brownies I made last week, which by the way went down a treat. I really feel like I needed to pay more attention to this, as it seems like the rest of my life is getting a teeenie tiny bit uncontrollable.

So I thought I’d share with you some pretty rad stuff from life and the internet.

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I just saw this on A Cup of Jo, which is a super sweet blog with just the most inspiring posts and amazing how to’s. 

Who wouldn’t want to come home to this!

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I spent my weekend browsing the Adelaide Central Markets and picking up some amazing brie and grapes all so I could spend Saturday night in making invites and painting my nails all glittery; I think somewhere in there was an intention to study. But let’s be serious, who studies on a Saturday night. Sacrilegious? I hear you.

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Because not all blogs are written by mothers, and not all lunches are done with children. You can check out more of these cards at the new Irving baby store behind the Austral.

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This picture just makes me laugh so much, this is a G&B (gin and banana), I have a sneaking suspicion that it will most definitely take off at bars nationwide. So watch out.

Disclaimer – I wouldn’t actually advise on the consumption of G&B’s especially consumption in the plural. May taste nicer with more tonic.

Strawberry and Gin Birthday Cake

My dad and I have lots of things in common; I think. We live in the same house, we have the same taste in comedy and a penchant for documentaries; although definitely opposing tastes in the type documentaries…seriously how many doco’s on warships can you watch dad? Documentaries like this are way better.

I know for sure though that overly sweet things are not appropriate for either of us. They make my teeth hurt. When I was little I actively avoided birthday cake in search of the jelly and ice cream, I couldn’t stand that nothing sweetness of white buttercream; even worse is shock horror it was encased with fondant. Gosh I hate fondant. My dad is nicer about the situation; mentions it was little sweet for his tastes and moves on. I have not mastered that level of decorum; seriously fondant WHAT are you bringing to the table?

So when it comes around to his birthday it’s a bit of struggle to make a not overly sweet cake; it’s definitely not a struggle to give him fondant.

This is where Swiss meringue buttercream or SMB comes in. I mastered the art of SMB a while back and now it has to be my favourite frosting! It hasn’t got that gritty texture that icing sugar based buttercreams do. And it isn’t excessively sweet, it’s is light and fluffy. SMB is a meringue-based buttercream, you create the meringue then chuck butter in, it’s a slower process but you don’t end up covered in icing sugar.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream may look really hard but this tutorial from Sweetapolita makes it so damn easy. It’s all about temperatures and timing but once you’ve got it it’s hard to mess up. And it freezes and chills well. I made a massive amount and now I’m ready to frost.

Plus its much, much easier to add alcohol to this frosting; and that is what everyone wants in a frosting yeah? I added gin to this; Bombay Sapphire to be specific and four shots for the frosting one shot for me. That combined with the light vanilla sponge and fresh strawberries is like a cocktail in a cake!

I would suggest if this cake isn’t for a birthday that you eat it with the girls, drinking darned nice cocktails and watching ‘Snog, Marry, Avoid’ your life will seem brighter, happier and more worthwhile after doing so.

 Joy the Baker Vanilla Sponge

226g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

393g granulated sugar

4 large eggs

240ml whole milk

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out

343g all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2-teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour two 8-inch round baking pans and set aside.

In a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to ensure that everything is well mixed.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition.

In a small bowl whisk together flour baking powder and salt.

In a separate small bowl combine the milk, vanilla extract and vanilla seeds.

With the mixer on low speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture in three batches.  Start and end with the flour mixture.  When the batter is just combined, shut off the mixture and thoroughly incorporate the dough with a rubber spatula.

Divide the batter between the two pans.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a pale golden colour, and a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.  For cupcakes bake 25 to 30 minutes.

Let the cakes cool in the pan for 15 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool.  Frost and berry only when cakes are completely cool.

Are you guys sugar tolerant in cakes or do you need much more of  balance? Let me know!

Strawberry and Balsamic Cupcakes

I’d first like to point out that I got 99 problems, and they are all related to university.
Maybe that won’t rap so well. I’ll work on it, sorry Jay Z.

I made this for mother’s day; but let us be serious for a second, it’s an any time cake! I hope you made your mum something awesome; you should totally share your creations, sharing is caring.

The balsamic really tones down the frosting sweetness; which I love! I added a bit of pepper to the cake batter as well, which gives it a kick. Plus I don’t know whether I mentioned this – but I have a major pepper addiction, pepper and lemon. Pepper and lemon and strawberries! If I were making this again I would roast the strawberries for a while and drizzle them with lemon before straining them. But that’s just me.

I also seem to love strawberry and balsamic, remember the strawberry balsamic flatbread  made; I need to make that again!

Join me on a wonderful journey of strawberries; oh man strawberry journeys sound like the best.

Basic Vanilla Cake+ Pepper

I used a vanilla cake recipe from Bake by Alison Thompson
This produces a very cakey flavour, if that’s not what you’re into my next post will have a super light vanilla cake.

250 gr Unsalted Butter – I like to use B.D. Paris Creek Farms unsalted butter
250 gr Caster Sugar
2 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
5 Eggs – always use free range!
250 gr Self-raising flour (make sure your flour is in date, self-raising has rising agents that can go off – your cake won’t rise!)

Pre-heat the Oven to 160C and set out 24 cupcake papers.

Cream the butter sugar and vanilla together until creamy and pale; about 5 minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time; beating well after each addition. Sift in the flour and mix on low-speed until just combined; now is the time to add any flavourings.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and divide equally between cupcake patty pans. Bake for 20 minutes.

Strawberry and Balsamic Frosting from Raspberri Cupcakes

150 gr (a little over half a punnet) ripe strawberries, hulled
280 gr (2.5 sticks) unsalted butter
500 gr icing sugar (about 4 cups), sifted
Approx. 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, adjust to taste (I used a fantastic caramelised balsamic – a sweeter, thicker balsamic is preferable but any balsamic will do, just adjust to taste)

remove the butter from the fridge 30 mins before starting. Puree strawberries in a food processor or blender (if unavailable you can chop it up and try to mash it through a sieve). Place butter in a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth, fluffy and pale. While beating on medium, gradually add sifted icing sugar and then add the strawberry puree and balsamic vinegar (to taste) and beat on high until smooth and fluffy. You may need to add more puree or more icing sugar to get the right texture, you want it to be spreadable but not runny.

A Delicious Debate

Cookie debate, lavender and white chocolate v. Vanilla bean and white chocolate

I don’t really love macadamias. We tolerate each other. The main issue (with my life) is that white chocolate and macadamias are a pretty exclusive pairing when it comes to cookies, and whilst that is okay; it’s not perfect. Yep that’s the main issue!
Well that and how much glitter is too much?

It’s the big questions in life.

And by starts I mean everything starts with chocolate. The recipe however does not.

This is my search for perfection; after some research – browsing baking blogs and drooling over Martha Stewart- I narrowed it down to two flavour pairings:

  • Lavender and white chocolate
  • Vanilla bean and white chocolate

This base cookie is from my go-to lady when it comes to sugar, Joy the Baker. The base is browned butter which gives it a nuttiness that the crowd was split on. Some loved it, some thought it was overpowering.

Lavender won for me, however the crowds were again split.

The debate/recipe – based on Joy the Baker

113g butter
200g light or dark brown sugar, I used a mix about 75% dark, 25% light
25ml  milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
219 g all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8  teaspoon salt
165g white chocolate chunks I used Lindt Lindor White chocolate pieces roughly chopped.
2 Tablespoons of ground lavender OR 1 tablespoon of vanilla paste (equals one vanilla pod)

Place a heavy bottomed pan on a medium heat and chuck in the butter. Stir and swirl until the butter has melted and turned a nutty brown colour. Once browned take off the heat.

Whilst the butter is cooling measure out your dry ingredients. Place the sugar into a large mixing bowl and add the cooled sugar, stir until combined.
Add the egg and stir until just combined.
Add the milk and vanilla extract and stir again.

Scrape down the sides and then incorporate your dry ingredients mixing until just combined. Fold in your chocolate chips and ingredient of your choice. Go with lavender!

No wait vanilla.

I use a small ice cream scoop to get the cookies evenly shaped then press my thumb down to flatten them slightly. If you chill them before they go in the oven then wont spread as much! Bake at 180C for 15 minutes-ish, until golden and still soft in the middle. You want them to be fairly soft when you bring them out as they will continue cooking whilst they cool.

Next week I’m going in search of the chewiest cookie base around. And then adding white chocolate, lavender and vanilla!

The Best Mashed Potato

Having Irish family means accepting that sometimes stereotypes are real. Potatoes for instance, I cannot remember a time when I didn’t know how to roast, mash and bake them. Sometimes you just have to embrace the fact that your mum says things in a funny way, and that potato famine jokes are hilarious.

Potatoes make any meal homely, they add a safety that is hard to beat, and it’s pretty gosh darn hard to mess them up. Just avoid the green ones.

This is one of my favorite potato recipes (others include potato farles, herb-de-provence roasted potatoes and rosemary and potato pizza) it is ridiculously simple and pairs with so many foods. This time, for example, I had a burger and some green beans that needed using up; eat while enviously watching SJP and her wonderful wardrobe in Sex and the City on a Friday night and drowning in gravy.

The Best Mashed Potato – Serves 2

Ingredients
1 Brown onion
2 Garlic Cloves
2 Small potatoes
2 Knobs of butter
Dash of Milk

Recipe

Peel onion and garlic. Slice onion in half.Grill or roast them until they are tender, you should be able to smell them.
I grill them under a high setting for about 20 minutes turning occasionally to ensure they don’t catch on fire. If you are doing a Sunday roast chuck them in with the meat and take them out about 20 minutes before you are ready to mash; this method yields incredible results.

After 20 minutes under the grill remove onions & garlic.

Roughly peel and chop potatoes into chunks and boil in salted water until tender.

Once the onion and garlic are cool chop both finely – this is easy as they are both falling apart anyway, I find it easiest to just squeeze the garlic out of it’s skin straight into the drained potatoes.

Drain the cooked potatoes and add the chopped onions and garlic, mash roughly. Add the butter to the roughly mashed mix and mash some more. Add a dash of milk, no more than a quarter of a cups worth per two potatoes and mash until creamy. Plate and season with pepper.

So Easy!