January 25, 2009

Crispedi (Sicilian Doughnuts)

Soon I'll be attending my first Melbourne Food Bloggers event, kindly organised by Duncan at Syrup and TangSarah at Sarah Cooks and Thanh at I Eat, Therefore I Am. Everyone is going to bring along a dish to share. Although I'm extremely nervous at meeting so many new and talented people, I'm definitely looking forward to tasting all the wonderful food prepared. I decided I would bring along Crispedi, little Sicilian doughnuts. Depeding on where you come from, they can also be called Zeppole or an array of other names. They are similar to the Loukoumades from Greece and as I found out, almost all mediterranean countries have their own 
version of this pastry delight.


You can flavour your crispedi with a multitude of flavours. I've even seen savoury versions with olives and/or anchovies. I prefer the traditional sweet version so I'm going to bring along saltana and aniseed (fennel seed).

So for the recipe (sultana flavour), this will make quite a few crispedi. I've never stopped to actually count how many, so you must forgive me.


3 cups of plain flour
1 tbsp dried yeast
pinch of salt
1 cup of warm water
1/3 cup sultanans
3/4 vegetable oil

castor sugar for dusting


1. Dissolve yeast in warm water (not too hot, about body temperature). 

2. Mix flour, salt and saltanas in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture and combine eveything together to make a wet dough, you may need to add a little extra water to make the mixture wet. It the dough is too hard, they turn out a little denser, but still yummy. Cover bowl with a tea towel and place in a warm spot. Let the dough prove until doubled in size.

Dough batter before proving


Dough batter after proving

3. Heat oil in a small heavy based pan until 180C. To make crispedi, and this is where it gets very messy, use your hands to squeeze walnut sized balls straight into the oil. In small batchs, cook until golden in colour (4-5 minutes).

Crispedi getting crispy and golden

4. Once they are golden, transfer to absorbant paper. While they are still hot, roll them in castor sugar. They are best eaten straight away, they'll keep their cispyness on the day of making, after that they became a little chewy.

"Take that you miniature blob!" They are no match to castor sugar


Roll, roll, roll your ball, glenty round the sugar.


1 basket full is never enough!

Hopefully everyone will like them, but in my expeirence they are quickly eaten and gain lots of fans.

January 21, 2009

3 Part Birthday Feast - Part 3

And now for the long awaited dessert.

Zabaglione cake with berries

I made individual Zabaglione cakes from a recipe in Gourmet Traveler. I adjusted the amount of ingredients and made a couple of changes. I also cheated. I didn't have alot of time, so instead of making the sponge myself, I decided to buy a Madeira cake and use that as the sponge. For the original recipe, please go here.

But here is the way I made the dessert.


Makes 6 1 cup capacity cakes

1 plain madeira cake

To serve

1 punnet each of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries
For dusting, pure icing sugar
extra raspberries and white sugar


4 egg yolks
50 gm white sugar
100 ml dry Marsala, plus extra for brushing
1 gelatin sheets (titanium strength), softened in cold water
150 ml thickened cream, whisked to soft peaks, refrigerated


1. First assemble 1 cup capacity ramekins and line with plastic wrap. Make sure to get the plastic wrap right into the corners, and to leave enough so that you can fold it over the top and cover the cake. Cut Madeira cut into 1 cm thick slices (my opinion is the thinner the better).

Sliced Madeira cake

2. Cut round pieces of cake to be placed into the bottom of the ramekin. I don't have any cookie cutters yet, so these would be ideal to cut the perfect circle every time. I had to resort to using a knife, not as pretty, but did the job.

Cutting round pieces of cake for base

3. Cut cake slices vertically into 1-2cm-wide rectangles and arrange around sides of bowl, leaving a gap between each. Halve remaining sponge rectangles diagonally to form triangles and fit into gaps with pointed ends towards the base. This is tricky, because my ramekins weren't perfectly round, but with a little extra trimming it all came along nicely. Brush prepared sponge lining with Marsala and set aside.

Arranging pieces into ramekins


4. For zabaglione (straight from the original recipe), place egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl and whisk until thick and creamy (5-10 minutes). Place bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, then add the Marsala and whisk until mixture is very thick and holds a ribbon (10-15 minutes). Squeeze excess water from gelatin and whisk into egg mixture until dissolved. Remove from heat and place over ice, whisking occasionally until chilled (10-20 minutes), then gently fold through cream and spoon into cake-lined ramekins. Trim edges of sponge flush with zabaglione. Make another round piece of cake to fit into the top of the ramekin. Brush with Marsala, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set (6 hours-overnight).

Filling cake moulds with Zabaglione goodness


Romeo (right hand bottom corner) making sure that ramekins are filled to his standard


5. For Raspberry sauce, take half a punnet of rasberries and place in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Cook of medium heat until sauce become thick and raspberries are completely broken up. Cool slightly then strain to remove any seeds (optional)

6. Serve cake topped with berries, dusted with icing sugar and a drizzle of raspberry sauce.

Cake ready to go into the fridge with the larger version in the background

I really enjoyed this dessert. I really enjoyed making it, even though it was really fiddly and time consuming, I especially enjoyed eating it. The soft sweet smooth cream in the middle was well offset by the tangy berries and sauce. I really want to make this again soon. I reminds me of the whole essence of summer.

The finished product

By the way, the birthday girl really enjoyed her birthday feast.

January 18, 2009

3 Part Birthday Feast - Part 2

For the entree I decided to make miniature duck spring rolls. For two reasons; 1. I had some duck in my fridge and 2. I cannot resist when things are in the miniature form, they're just so cute and easy to eat!

Miniature Duck Spring Rolls

I used the recipe from the slow cooked duck from a previous post to prepare the duck meat, although I only did one leg. I know that sounds excessive for just 1 duck maryland, but the results are worth it.

Makes about 20 miniature spring rolls


Duck confit, meat shredded
1 carrot, julienne
4 spring onions, julienne
1 garlic clove, diced finely
1 tbsp flour
20 small spring roll wrappers
1 egg
3/4 cup peanut oil


1. In a little olive oil, saute carrot, spring onion and garlic until soft.

2. Add duck meat and then 1 tbsp of flour. Continue to cook until flour thickens the mixture (2-3 minutes) Season with salt and pepper. Let mixture come to room temperature.

3. Using about 1 tablespoon of mixture per wrapper, roll the spring rolls up. Making sure to secure all the edges closed with a little egg wash.

4. Heat peanut oil to 180C and fry spring rolls, about 4-5 at a time, until golden brown.

5. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce. I made a dipping sauce by combining a little sugar, fish sauce, lemon juice, sesame oil, fresh ginger, garlic and chilli flakes. But plain old sweet chilli sauce would taste great too.

Duck Spring Rolls all wrapped up ready to go

The entree's went down well. They were eaten quickly and then it was time for the mains. This time we did something a little different. Daz and I rarely cook together. It is usually one or the other, with very little help from the person sitting out. This time we worked as a Duo. We had bought some aged 2 inch Poterhouse steak's from the market, mainly because Daz was hipnotized by the thickness of them. So he cooked up the steak's while I prepared the sides. I made Potato and Cabbage Gratin and some garlic green beans. The steak's turned out quite well, but the thickness proved to much. Many of us left some steak on our plate, to the delight of our little kitty Romeo.

One Last look

With entree's and main's over, that only left dessert to come.

January 17, 2009

3 Part Birthday Feast - Part 1

One of my very close friends, Miss V, recently had a birthday. And as a surprise I decided to invite her and her partner over and cooked a 4 course gourmet meal. Well my interpretation of gourmet, not exactly restaurant worthy.

Since every birthday should be celebrated with bubbles, I decided to start with Cocktails and Canapés. It was a lovely evening, except for the usual Melbourne chilly breeze, so we decided to have the C & C course alfresco.

For the featured cocktail I made Fuzzy monkeys. The first time I had this cocktail was at Society on Bourke Street. I fell in love with it instantly, so when I got home I found a recipe and ever since I've been making them at home.

Fuzzy Monkey

Here is the recipe I use. They don't taste exactly the sam
e as the ones I had at Society, but pretty damn close!


10 mL Voka
10 mL Peach schnapps
10 mL creme de bananas
30 mL peach nectar


Put all ingredients into a shaker with some ice. Shake for a few minutes and then strain into a talk champagne glass. Top the glass up with your favourite bubbly. I used Asti Ricadonna because its incredibly sweet and goes well with the peach flavour.

Onto the canapés. I wanted to make something very easy, but at the same time impressive. What better way to impress some one then with miniature pancakes. I'm a particular fan of bilinis, only for the simple fact that you can put almost anything on them and they'll taste like a little bite of heaven. I made three different canapés.

Bilinis with smoked salmon and sour cream
Garlic crispinis topped with duck liver pate
And chilli anchovies 

Platter full of canapés

I wont bother explaining the anchovies and the crispinis because they were so damn easy. Oh ok....I'll give you a quick explanation. The chilli anchovies were literally chilli infused anchovies on a toothpick and the garlic crispinis were sliced bread cut into triangles and then toasted in some garlic infused olive oil and then topped with some Maggie Beer pate. Very delicious, even more so when I put in 0% effort to make them.

The bilinis were a little more involved, but only slightly. The only work needed was to make the miniature pancakes. Make about 1 cup worth of your favourite unsweetened pancake mixture and then fry them in a little butter in 1 table spoon sizes. One cup makes about 20 bilinis. Make sure to let them sit on some absorbent paper, if you don't they can be a little greasy from the butter. Then top these little discs with your fav topping. 

Naked and not shy bilinis

It didn't take long for all the fuzzy monkeys to be drunk and all the canapés to be eaten. That meant that the next course needed to be served.

January 14, 2009

Portarlington Mussel Festival

On the weekend we decided to go to our very first mussel festival, held annually at the Portarlington Pier. It was a beautiful day, and the long car trip from Melbourne down the coast had made us all hungry and so we eagerly anticipated the awesomeness of fresh mussels, delivered in the unique way that only festivals can! We all kind of expected there to be mussels cooked in all manner of unique and tasty ways. I think we all secretly wanted our own "wish" flavour to be present, I was hopeful for some Spanish style mussels, and I think Daz was pretty much happy with anything.

When we arrived at Portarlington, the sheer mass of people congregated on the pier could only be a good sign. So, stupidly we thought that the epicentre of the festival HAD to be at the end of the Pier. Nope.....wrong, it was in the other direction.

Portarlighton Pier, with lots and lots of people.

So we decided we should walk to the end of the Pier. Past the quaint Jazz band and fishing die-hards who despite the amount of noise and people around, were still hoping for a bite.  Along the way I was getting a little bit suspicious. I would look at the people walking back from the journey and no yummy mussel morsels to be found. Not even the scent of the bounty that awaited us. I really thought that was odd. Then we started seeing more and more people with large boxes, obviously filled with fresh mussels, to take home and cooked to your liking. I all of a sudden got a terrible feeling that there would be no cooked mussels to speak of, and the only mussels present here today were the kind you would have to prepare yourself. Thankfully, after some quick investigation work from the detective in our group, Miss V, we discovered we needed to walk up the large hill behind us, and there we would find all the splendours that would make our day perfect. So off we went. 

Crowd of people walking along the pier


Jazz Band


One of the many vessels on the water that day

Once we got to the top of the hill, there seemed to be all of the sort of stuff you would see at any run of the mill festival, German Gourmet Sausages, Dutch Profiteroles, wine/olive oil tastings, ice-cream and 'you name it' funky jewellery store.....but.....no mussels! We walked to the very end of the main drag, and there we saw a line of people. Lines made up of people at festivals are a good sign. A) it means you've found the right thing and B) it means that it will be GOOD.  So we got in line.

After a little bit more investigation work, care of me this time, we discovered there were only two places that were selling mussels and the flavours were; Larger, cream and thyme (which in the end I think was white wine instead of larger) and Garlic, tomato and chilli, all with crusty bread.....to soak up the juicy goodness. So we bought our tickets, at $10 a pop, and got into the right lines, left for chilli, right for cream. Soon thereafter all hell broke loose (well not really I just like to over exaggerate).   

At first they were cooking each pot of mussels using fresh mussels. Which was very time consuming, the lines did not seem to move at all. Not to mention that there was only one man person flavour station.

Poor guys slaving away in the heat

Soon after they abandoned the idea of cooking them from fresh and started bringing out large boxes of what looked like half cooked mussels. The lines then started to move again. Woo hoo! Then it looked like the guys were going to get a bit of help. An assistant came to help. She was to take the bowl of mussels from the guys and then hand them out. She managed to totally stuff it up. At one point she announced there was no more bread. When Miss V said to me 'oh man they've run out of bread' I said, what are you talking about there is stacks of bread over there (I pointed to bags of bread). The assistant must have given out 10-15 bowls of mussels without bread until one patron pointed out the bread to her. Oopps. 

Then she started selling tickets from the very front of the line and handing out mussels, they obviously hadn’t been waiting in line and got to jump the queue. At one point we notice she was giving out mussels without exchange of money or tickets. Then, to top it all off, she totally ruin the whole organisation of the lines. She started handing out whatever flavour the patron wanted. People had figured out that if you got into the cream line she would just give you what you wanted, and hence holding up the chilli line, which now was very long. We waited an hour for our mussels. After we got really grumpy, Miss V pointed out to her what she was doing (by the way, she is officially my hero now). She stopped doing it for about 3 seconds and then went straight back to what she was doing.

I had been through the line and collected my cream mussels, the other guys were in the exact same position as me to get their mussels in the chilli line. After all the stuffing around this girl did to the organisation my mussels managed to get stone cold by the time the other guys finally got the chilli mussels dished up. I asked for a heat up, and the guys were nice enough to just give me another bowl. 
Finally, hot and juicy mussels


Mussels baby.....ooooh yeah!

After all that waiting I would love to say to you that they were the most delicious mussels I have had the pleasure to eat, but unfortunately....they were terrible. Because the wok's had been working away all day long, and the ingredients didn’t seem to be put back into the pot to restart the process, it just tasted like old gym socks. 

In the end, we walked back to the end of the pier and bought ourselves some mussels to cook up at home. I made my own version with white wine, garlic and cream and I finally got to satisfy my mussel expectation. I must say though, the batch I cooked up, after three days in the fridge were really fresh and flavoursome. I don’t know what these guys did to them to ruin the flavour.

On the way back to the car we saw a doughnut van. I was really puzzled by the picture on the side. They were called Devil doughnuts, I can explain the diaper, maybe it was a baby devil, by why the elf ears?? Strange.

Despite the let down of the quality of cooked mussels, it was a pretty good day. Daz got sun burnt, I got to each Dutch profiteroles, Miss V got to buy some sherbet and rekindle her youth days and Mr V got to play with army trucks.....but that’s another story. 

January 7, 2009

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Banana Cake


A long time ago I found this recipe on Recipezaar, the prospect of taking a cake straight from the oven and putting it in the freezer intrigued me. So I had to try it myself. Of course the results were awesome! The cake turns out very dense, but the moistness is LOCKED in by the quick cooling method, and makes for great eating. Over the years I've added my own twists and additions to the cake, but regardless it is always a winner and quickly devoured. I once took it to work for a co-workers birthday, I even went to the effort of decorating it with their name and pretty flowers, ever since its been my most requested cake from my work mates. I thought it might just be easier to give them the recipe rather than baking a cake everytime they ask. Especially when there was the Great banana depression of 2006. So for everyone else, here is the recipe for you too.


1 1/2 cups really ripe bananas (roughly two large bananas)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 cups plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
2 1/8 cups castor sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk


1/2 cup butter, at room temperature (cut into cubes)
1 package Philly cream cheese, at room temperature (cut into cubes)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
Juice from half a lemon
3 1/2 cups pure icing sugar


chopped walnuts/pecans/pumkin seeds


1. Preheat oven to 150°C and grease and flour a 9inch x 13inch cake tin.

2. Mashed banana with the lemon juice.

3. In a bowl sift together dry ingredients, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

4. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

5. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then add vanilla extract.

6. Beat in the buttermilk followed by the flour mixture.

7. Stir in banana mixture.

8. Pour batter into prepared tin and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour - 1 hr 15 min or until
toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

9. Remove from oven and place directly into the freezer for 45 minutes. This will make the cake very moist. Instead of placing into the freeze, lets face it sometimes we just dont have room, you can wrap it tightly in glad wrap and let it come to room temperature.


1. For the icing, cream the butter, vanilla extract and cream cheese with and electric beater until smooth. Add the lemon juice and mix to combine. This amount makes alot of icing. I cut the amount in half because I only wanted to ice the top of the cake.

2. Add icing sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed until icing is fluffy and smooth.

3. Spread on cooled cake and sprinkle chopped walnuts/pecans/pumpkin seeds over top of the frosting, if desired. I decided to go for a plain topping this time round.