Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May Favourites

May would have to be one of my favourite months of the year and it's not just because it happens to be the month of my birthday. You see, I love birthdays, Easter, Christmas, you name it! Sharing a great meal with family and friends, relaxing on public holidays and giving presents are just a few of the little things that we can all look forward to in our busy lives. We are all in a hurry, whether its fighting traffic to get to work, rushing to make an appointment or to make that gym class, grocery shopping, or spending some quality time with loved ones.We all know what it feels like to be in the express lane of life. So sometimes its just nice to stop, relax, and take some time out to do something that grounds us. For me its taking a yoga class, it helps to clear my mind and realign my body, especially after sitting in an office most of the week.  


Here, I wanted to share with you some of my favourite things for the month of May.


Enjoy x


1. CHURCHiLL BLUE WILLOW TEA POT


I received this gorgeous teapot from Mum for my birthday along with matching cream jug and covered sugar bowl. It was prefect for making a pot of  my second favourite thing...


2. HARI HAR CHAI TEA

I was given this tea to try by Girlfriday and hadn't opened it as I was planning on buying a nice teapot big enough for more than cup. It is a traditional spiced tea made with nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, dry ginger, cinnamon and licorice root and its grown in the Daintree Region in Queensland. What I also love about it is that it is tannin and chemical free. I add milk and honey to mine and its perfect for this cooler weather. Speaking of honey,


3.  CLAYRIDGE HONEY & POPCORN


I recently attended Sydney's Mind, Body & Spirit festival and I really enjoyed it, particularly because I got to try some new foods. Clayridge honey and popcorn were two of the products I got to sample and subsequently purchased. 


The honey comes from Jervis Bay in NSW and is cold extracted, unprocessed and not heat treated or pasteurised which is nice as a lot of commercial honey we buy these days has been pasteurised. The less processed the better I say.


I purchased their Blue Gum & Wildflower variety of honey in the 500gm squeezy bottle. Its flavour is rather mellow and it tastes quite similar to ironbark honey varieties. Its perfect for my chai tea and on hot buttered toast, mmm.


I just had to buy a bag of the honey popcorn too as it brought back childhood memories of Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs minus the nuts. It was really crispy and despite the honey, had a lovely caramel flavour. Pete and I demolished the bag in no time.






4. BOWAN ISLAND BAKERY'S RASPBERRY & OAT MUFFIN

I have been obsessed with these muffins ever since I discovered them about 2 years ago but have been on a hiatus and only just started buying them again. They are full of goodness including oats, buttermilk, organic unbleached flour and fresh raspberries. I even tried to make my own version, but they just didn't compare, I'd love to know their secret. They come in small and large ($4) and I figure the small ones just aren't enough.  Bowan Island Bakery have stores in Drummoyne, Five Dock and Chatswood so if your nearby make sure you try one. They are perfect for breakfast and whilst you are visiting why not pick up one of their sour dough loaves or Irish soda bread.




5. BON VOYAGE: A TRAVEL JOURNAL

Girlfriday bought me this gorgeous travel journal for my birthday last week to use during my upcoming trip to Bali next week with Pete. It has postcards, 'things to do' , and other little quirky suggestions to record during your trip. 


I cant wait to start using it, Love it!


6. *NEW* CADBURY DAIRY MILK MOUSSE BLOCK CHOCOLATE

Have you seen the new ad for this chocolate on television where the woman hides a block of this chocolate from her husband in her Pilates DVD case? If not watch it here. Its a great commercial. So when I received a pack of this chocolate to sample I was pleasantly surprised by its discreet packaging. So to were my girlfriends who I shared it with. It comes in chocolate, hazelnut and caramel mousse flavours. 


What I love about this chocolate is that it super sweet and rich and therefore you can't eat it all at once. The texture is a nice change from traditional dairy milk and it is rather creamy. The pieces are an unusual shape too and quite large so it makes it the perfect block for sharing. I actually really like the unusual shaped pieces. 


I didn't quite like the caramel flavour as I tend to not like caramel unless its oozing out 'Caramello Koala' style. Instead, I much preferred the hazelnut and the chocolate variety of this chocolate. Now, if you are a dark chocolate nut then this chocolate won't be for you but if you too like ALL chocolate then you will quite enjoy this one. 




I've also kept the DVD case for future chocolate block stashes.

7. *NEW* PHILLIPS AIRFRYER





We have been busy testing the new Phillips Airfryer and it has become one of our favourite kitchen appliances. Here we tested some frozen beer battered chunky chips and they turned out even better than their deep fried counterparts. They were super crispy and gone in seconds! The airfryer can be used to cook a whole range of foods without all that nasty oil, and we are really enjoying using it. Stay tuned for an upcoming review.




8. MAX - THE CAT WITH REAL PERSONALITY


Max the crazy cat will always be one of our favourites, but this month he has been the subject of many photos as I learn to use Pete's Canon SLR. Max has become particularly lazy of late due to this cold weather and the rain has prevented him from venturing out too far. He can be found controlling our heater most evenings and gets really moody if we try and move him.




9. BRESAOLA 


This month we have continued our love affair with this delicious food. Bresaola is a salted, air dried beef that has been aged for several months. We discovered this through our local deli who urged us to try some one day, suggesting we serve it the traditional way: drizzled in olive oil, lemon juice and a good crumbled pecorino. We've been eating it ever since but after recently discovering truffle pecorino ( again through our wonderful deli) we now use the it in place of regular pecorino. The flavour combination is just amazing and we sometimes eat it on its own for lunch on a weekend or as an entree. If you do decide to try bresaola, make sure you ask your deli to slice it paper thin, as it is at its best served this way.






10.THE DAILY/SUNDAY TELEGRAPH'S MINI COOKBOOK COLLECTION


This promotion has run from the 8th May and finishes this Thursday 2nd June. I have been lucky to get my hands on all of the cookbooks except Abla's Lebanese Kitchen but I wasn't too concerned about that one because I already own the full version. The books are great and Pete and I plan on working our way through them. 


A little out of order, Maggie what are you doing up there?




I was lucky in my second week of this promotion to meet up with Martyna from Wholesome Cook for the Penelope Beveridge Food Styling & Photography Workshop and Martyna brought along the mini Gary Mehigan book which I had nearly missed out on. Thanks again Martyna!


To read more about our evening with Penelope Beveridge click here. It too was one of my favourite things during May.




Well, I hope you have enjoyed reading about some of my favourite things this month.


Tell me, what were some of your favourite things during the month of May? How do you relax?


Erin x

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Delicious Blueberry Sauce - Cookbook Challenge # 10

For this cookbook challenge we had to work with the colour blue. Blueberries instantly came to find as I had some in the freezer. 


Numerous scientific studies have sprouted about the nutritional benefits of eating blueberries including its high vitamin C and antioxidants.However, some of you may not be aware that a 2007 study in the International Journal of Cancer reported that compounds associated with the antioxidants in blueberries were also linked to the lowest rate of ovarian cancer in women. Another of these antioxidants is believed to reduce lung cancer in smokers, reduce anxiety, depression and inflammation. So go out and buy some today!


One of the best things about blueberries is that they can be frozen so easily and whilst their vitamin C is slightly reduced when frozen, the important antioxidants remain just as potent as they would if the blueberries were fresh.


I hope you enjoy making this super easy and delicious blueberry sauce. Its great for just about anything. Serve it spooned over a good quality vanilla bean icecream, with some creamy Greek yoghurt and muesli, or in a smoothie.


Enjoy xx


Super Easy Blueberry Sauce  
from The Australian Women's Weekly - 501 Low Fat Recipes






Ingredients
300g blueberries
1/4 cup (55g) caster sugar
2 tbs orange juice
1 tsp cornflour


Method
Cook blueberries, sugar and half of the orange juice in a small saucepan, stirring, until the mixture dissolves.


Stir in blended cornflour and remaining juice; cook, stirring, until mixture boils and thickens slightly.






Remove from heat; cool 10 minutes.



Friday, May 20, 2011

Sangria, Bubble Tea and The Mind, Body & Spirit Festival - A Great Friday

Today was a great day to end the working week. 


Started work early.


Finished work early.


Had a great team lunch which included a few jugs of sangria and some Spanish tapas. Love patatas bravas!


Feeling slightly merry from the 1 glass of Sangria and 1 glass of tempranillo I enjoyed with lunch ( Yep, it doesn't take much for me to become merry - cue the Cadbury chocolate slogan here ) we moved on to one of the pubs in the city. 


After a few sobering soda waters ( I drove)  I walked down to Darling Harbour contemplating a bubble tea at one of the thousand stores between George street and Darling Harbour. I stayed strong and didn't succumb to the power of the pearl.

Have you been on Sydney's version of  'The Eye' ??
After exchanging something at a shop in Darling Harbour, I noticed the Hard Rock Cafe! I instantly had memories of when it was in Crown Street, many years ago. I celebrated a number of birthdays there as a teen and it was fantastic. Think - funky staff, cool music, super thick shakes, burgers, buffalo wings with blue cheese sauce and celery dippers, apple cobblers. Wow. Yum! A cafe and merchandise store has already opened with a sign saying the restaurant will be opening soon. I may have to visit just for old times sake. 


Actually, scrap that.


I WILL be visiting when it opens.


I then walked past the exhibition halls and noticed that the Mind Body & Spirit festival was on and open until 7pm. 


Enter Erin.






I often find at these type of events I wander around aimlessly chopping and changing aisles and I always end up missing stuff so today I decided to approach each aisle with precision. Like one of those annoying snake queues at the airport.


I found some interesting gadgets a few of which I felt were snake oil type things, but overall everything was great. I sat down for a while and participated in a free meditation session and then listened to the gorgeous  tunes of Eve Goonan who was really amazing! She performed four of her songs and gave a brief intro before each song explaining her inspiration for writing. This was a great highlight!


I then wandered up and down each aisle, I chatted to a few people and sampled some gorgeous tea, honey, chocolate, vegetable chips and some Acai products. I also purchased a few items and will review them here soon, so stay tuned.


I then walked up through China Town, side stepped the other hundred Easy Way stores ( which I love by the way), walked past the long line at Mamak and considered buying Pete some BBQ duck and a few tasty treats from Bread Top but quickened my pace as we are trying to be good in preparation for our upcoming trip to Bali where we are sure to eat our way through loads of satay and other tasty Balinese treats.


We were going to head out for dinner, however Pete wanted to cook something simple out of my new LEON cookbook so who was I to argue with that? It smells great and I'm sitting here enjoying the Masterchef Masterclass.  Not sure about this trifle though.... nothing beats my Nan's traditional trifle with jam roll sponge, sherry, custard, jelly and peaches. Yum!


Heater is on.


Life is good.


Tell me, what are you up to this weekend? 


Hope you all have a great one xx




Find out more about Mind, Body & Spirit Festival on this weekend here


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jamie Oliver's Moorish Crunch Salad - Cookbook Challenge # 9 - Crunchy



This Cookbook challenge (Crunchy) had me a little stumped to begin with. You see, I wanted to make something absolutely delicious and I wanted it to be savoury for a change as I have been notching up some serious baking over the last few months. 


I was looking through Jamie Oliver's cookbook titled 'jamie's kitchen' and came across this gorgeous crunchy salad aptly titled Moorish Crunch Salad. Pete and I enjoyed this salad with Maggie Beer's roast chicken and garlic which I roasted after watching her Masterclass a few weeks ago on Masterchef. The salad complemented the roast chicken really well and was a nice alternative to baked vegetables as it didn't leave us feeling too full and heavy.  


Also, this salad is super healthy, crunchy and indeed very moorish.




Moorish Crunch Salad
Ingredients
300g carrots, peeled
150g radishes
2 crunchy eating apples
1 small handful of raisins or sultanas
1 handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1 handful of fresh mint, roughly chopped
4 tablespoons sherry or red wine vinegar
8 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon tahini
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted in the oven



Method
First of all, finely slice your carrots into matchstick-sized batons. 




Finely slice your radishes – you can leave a little of the tops on if you like. Quarter your apples, remove the cores and finely slice. 


Add all these to a bowl with the rest of the ingredients, apart from the sesame seeds. Toss together, carefully checking the seasoning, and serve with the sesame seeds sprinkled over the top. 




Eat straight away.



Serves 4.

Tell me, have you ever made something from a Masterchef Masterclass? If so, what was it?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Afternoon Tea fit for a Queen - The Langham Hotel, London

Did you watch the Royal Wedding? I did, and I loved every minute of it. It reminded me of our honeymoon where we spent some time in London. And in keeping with the theme of celebration I wanted to share with you all a snippet of our trip to London where we enjoyed a delightful afternoon tea at The Langham Hotel in London. 

The History of Afternoon Tea @ The Langham

Dating back to 1865, English Afternoon Tea is credited to the Duchess of Bedford. The legend says that the first lady to enjoy 'afternoon tea' was Anna Maria the 7th Duchess of Bedford who lived at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire and was a lady-in-waiting for Queen Victoria.

The Dutchess of Bedford is said to have experienced a 'sinking feeling' in the middle of the afternoon one day and asked her footman to deliver all the tea making equipment and some bread and butter to her private room. She found this new meal so satisfying and enjoyable that she soon started inviting her special friends to join her for 'afternoon tea'. Even when she went to stay with her aristocratic friends in their manor houses, she took her own kettle and tea making items with her so she could continue her afternoon tea parties when she was staying away from home. The simple platefuls of bread and butter that first accompanied afternoon tea developed into much more elaborate selections of sandwiches, scones, muffins, cakes, biscuits, gateaux and fruit desserts.

The centre piece of the five-star Langham, London hotel, the dazzling Palm Court is famed as the place where traditional afternoon tea was born over 140 years ago, an indulgence that lives on today. 






Buckingham Palace Gates




After watching Season 2 of Masterchef where the final few participated in an afternoon tea challenge at The Langham I knew it was a place we HAD to visit! Who could forget those gorgeous violet coloured macarons made by Callum?


The Langham Hotel has hosted traditional Afternoon Tea at Palm Court, the centre piece of the hotel for over 140 years. The hotel itself is one of the 'Leading Hotels of the World' located in London's West End not far from the major shopping district of Regent, Bond and Oxford Streets. 




Palm Court offers a variety of choices for afternoon tea and after being seated we meet our host who gives us an afternoon tea menu and goes through the various choices available.We decide on the Wonderland Afternoon Tea served with a glass of Laurent-Perrier NV. 




Next, we are greeted by a tea sommelier who runs through the various teas available and offers us selections based on our tastes.The tea selection is extensive and includes several Langham Blends, Tregothnan Blends, Black Teas, Scented Black Teas, Green Teas, Scented Green Teas, White Tea, Puerh Tea, Yellow Tea, Oolong Tea, and Tisanes. Phew!




Pete & I both select our tea from the Langham blends which have been created by master of tea Alex Probyn whose creations are said to be world famous.


I choose the Jasmine Silver Needle with Rosebuds described as the finest Chinese Silver Needle white tea that has been dried with aromatic Jasmine flowers, combined with delicate pink whole Iranian rosebuds


Pete decides on The Langham - a sophisticated blend of second flush Indian Assam for a malty flavour, First Flush Indian Darjeeling: the 'champagne' of teas with delicate muscatel charm and Uva season High Grown Sri Lankan; for a light, citrus character. 


Blurry iphone pic of a beautiful English rose
Our glass of bubbles arrives first and we clink glasses, it is afterall our honeymoon. We are then given a little cup of Blackcurrent & Hibicus syllabub. The blackcurrent layer on top is rather tart and brings a nice balance to the rich creaminess of the hibiscus layer.


Blackcurrent & Hibiscus Syllabub
Our pots of tea arrive and this is quickly followed by a selection of finger sandwiches which includes the following:
  • Cornfed chicken breast with honey mustard
  • Roast Castle of Mey beef with horseradish - this is my least favourite so Pete eats my share.
  • Cucumber, cream cheese and chives - the sweetness of the cucumber on white bread is just so classic and the cream cheese and chives add a nice flavour.
  • Free range hen's eggs and Secretts Farm mustard cress
  • Poached Scottish salmon creme fraiche.
All the sandwiches are fresh and flavours are well combined. My favourite would have to be  a tie between the cucumber and the chicken & honey mustard sandwiches.


Whilst we are enjoying the sandwiches a selection of hot scones arrive. YUM, I love scones! There are two sultana scones and two plain, served with a generous amount of clotted cream and strawberry preserve. During all the excitement and eating I forget to take pictures.


We are barely through the scones and a selection of French pastries and gorgeous mini cakes arrive.




Amongst these are:
  • Blackforest Domes, 
  • Valrhona Chocolate Mousse, 
  • Mini Cupcakes
  • Mini Handmade Lollies ( orange swizzle)
All are absolutely delightful and I particularly like the pistachio cream icing on the mini cupcake. Our host continues to fill up our tea pots and we settle in and enjoy the sounds of the grand piano across the room. 


We are getting so full and are unable to finish all of our sweets, I know - this is a tragic moment!


I decide that a long walk is needed so we head off toward Carnaby Street for a little more shopping, and we head out back into the cold.


Cool London Dude, near The Langham
Afternoon Tea @ Palm Court - The Langham Hotel
1C Portland Place,
Regent Street
London

Wonderland Afternoon Tea
38 Pounds per person
50 pounds per person with a glass of Laurent-Perrier NV