September 30, 2009

Blog Birthday and More Cupcake Fun!

blog birthday cake 2

Today my little blog turned 1!! So exciting, I cant believe its been a full year since I sat down and decided to start my own little experience in blogging. You cant have a birthday without cake right? and any excuse is a good excuse to have cake. I popped into Laurent on my way home from work today and got a chocolate mousse cake.

blog birthday cake 1

It was a delicious cake, very rich, but perfect for the occasion.

blog birthday cake

So what have I achieved in the 12 months to date? well so far I've only eaten at 14 out of the 100 restaurants. Thats only 14%...seems like such a daunting task ahead of me! I've only managed to cooked 10 recipes from the restaurants. I really need to lift my game! Well I have holidays coming soon, so there will be plenty of cooking and eating to come! yay!

For a bit of fun I bring you part two of cupcake fun! I love seeing cupcakes in everyday life, and like I said in my previous post, they seem to be poping up more frequently! I apologize for the bad quality photos, but cupcakes attack at any time, and sometimes I'm only armed with my mobile phone!

First up we have a cupcake bib. Its a great idea, get them addicted early and they will have a long happy life....with cupcakes!

cupcake bib

My trip to work takes me past the Melbourne showgrounds and recently the Royal Show was on. While stopped at a red light, I turned my head and what did I see, cupcakes! Yay! I contemplated buying a ticket to go in and see said cupcake, but then the light turned green and I had to go.

Melbourne show cupcake

Next is good old Riot Art Supply. I find alot of cupcake inspiration/material here. The most recent addition is a cupcake apron.

cupcake apron

Lastly from my local newspaper a story about cupcakes! They also featured a recipe for cupcakes. To view a larger version please double click on the image.

cupcake story2

Tucked in the far corner is a price comparison between iced and un-iced cupcakes. My question to you is, is a cupcake still a cupcake if its un-frosted/iced????

cupcake story

Well that caps the first birthday of this little blog. The song was sung, candles blown out and cake eaten. So bring on the next 12 months, at least there will be cake again next september!!

blog birthday cake gone

September 27, 2009

The Art I Choke!

stuffed artichoke

Its spring, the birds are chirping, the bees are buzzing and the snow is falling on the mountains. Hang on a sec, the last ones not right. Looking at the calendar, we're definitely supposed to be in spring, but the weather man decided that we all needed a little reminder of what winter used to feel like. Its not such a bad thing, before it gets too hot I can have the oven on for long periods of time and I can make all those hearty soups and stews I'll be longing for soon. Artichokes always remind me of cold days. Probably because when I was little, as a family we used to go collecting wild artichoke out and about, I remember it being cold and windy with my cheeks stingy from the chill factor. These days I'm not as adventurous and get my artichokes from the local green grocer. Since they are now in season, I thought I'd make my mums stuffed artichoke.

Artichoke 2

You can stuff the artichoke with anything you like, as long as there is enough egg in your stuffing to bind everything together. I guess you could convert this recipe into an entirely vegan or vegetarian friendly dish, with a few exclusions and alternatives. The sweet taste of the artichoke is hard to beat. I remember when I was a kid I would bring friends over to have dinner with us, sometimes artichokes would be on the menu. Most of my friends thought that it would taste horrible and it always took a bit of coxing to get them to try it, after a short lesson in how to actually eat the thing! Once they tried it, they were hooked.

Daz was exactly the same as my friends. I remember the first time he ever tried it, he had such a shocked and confused look on his face. He didn't want to make a fool of himself by eating the artichoke the wrong way, but on the other hand he wasn't exactly up for eating hard chewy fibrous leaf. So quietly while no one way watching I told him how to eat it. On the outer leaves of the artichoke, only the very inner center of the leaf is edible. You put the leaf between your teeth and scrap the soft sweet flesh off and eat it.

eaen rtichoke leaf

As you get closer to the heart of the artichoke, the entire leaf become edible. The actual heart is so soft and gooey its a delight, but it is an acquired taste. It seems to take up all the flavor and becomes very intense. Daz always leaves it aside. I can't convert him on everything!


My mum usually fills the artichoke with a meat mixture, weather it be pork, lamb or beef. I prefer pork. Its a shame that the brown on green is so ugly and these pictures wouldn't make it into a Donna Hay magazine, but sometimes the ugliest foods are the tastiest!

broken apart stuffed artichoke

So heres the recipe:

Pork Stuffed Artichokes

Serves 4 people

4 globe artichoke
400 gram pork mince
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1-2 handfuls of dried bread crumbs
2 eggs
2-3 handfuls of Parmesan cheese (depending on how cheesy you want it)
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

1. First the artichoke needs to be prepared. Peel off the harder outside leaves and discard. Cut the stalk of relatively close to the base of the artichoke. Peel the stalk, this will be added to the pot to add extra flavour. Trim around the base to remove the bitter outer peal. Fan the leave open as far as possible without breaking the leaves off. Rinse the artichoke under cold water and leave upside down to drain.

Artichoke trimmed base

Artichokes peeled and ready to go

2. To prepare the stuffing, all the ingredients into a bowl and mix together. Make sure to season the mixture well. The mixture should be the same consistency as a stiff meatball. If it is too wet add some extra dry breadcrumbs.

everything in a bowl

Mixed meat ball

3. Take the artichoke and a small amount of stuffing. Push the stuffing into the space between the leaves. Continue to fill until most of the artichoke is filling. The heart of the artichoke will remain stuffing-less.

stuffed artichoke before cooking

4. Find a pot, with a lid, that is barely big enough for the artichoke to fit in. They need to all be squeezed together, standing upright. This will take a little work, the fit must be very tight. This is extremely important as the mixture will shrink, and the artichoke will start to fall apart, so the support of its neighboring artichoke will keep it intact.

squeeze the artichokes into a tight fitting pan

5. Add enough water to come halfway up the artichokes. Add the stalks to the pot, and lightly salt the water. The water will evaporate so only a small amount of salt is needed.

6. Put the lid on the pot and cook on medium-low for 45 minutes. You can tell if the artichokes are ready when you pull a lea and it comes away easily. You can also eat one of the leaves, if it is soft and not squeaky its done.

eaten artichoke

When I was cleaning the artichokes I found a baby artichoke disparately clinging to its mother. I couldn't bare separating them so I chucked it in the pot too. When everything was cooked I took it out and though, maybe I could eat it whole. So being the horrible person that I am, I ate the baby whole! Nom Nom Nom, baby back ribs!

baby artichoke

After filling the artichokes I had a fair bit of stuffing left over. I may have mentioned before, theres nothing better than getting two dishes out of one. I often recycle left over mayonnaise or too much icing and I'm ashamed to say that sometimes the spin off dish tastes better than the original! What to do with all that tasty meat filling??? hmmm....I'll make meat balls!! I also had some crumb-less bread crust that I didn't want to feed to the birds. Attracting birds around our cat Romeo is not a good idea! **chirp chirp...meow....pounce! puuurrrrr** So I made little spindle meatballs, fried them off and sat them in little crust boats. I chowed the whole lot down with a squeeze of lemon. I might actually make these again, they were pretty tasty and perfect for a finger food. I will call them PORK BOATS!

left over meat balls

left over meat balls 2

September 20, 2009

Review - Cupcakes by Paolo

I love cupakes

I LOVE cupcakes

Recently I was contacted by Paolo from
Cupcakes by Paolo who runs a made to order cupcake business. He wanted me to try some of his cupcakes. Since I love anything cupcake I gladly and gleefully said yes...yes please!! Paolo not only sells his cupcakes on a made to order basis, but his cupcakes are also stocked at Lutong Pinoy within the Footscray Market. Double score for me! Lutong Pinoy is a Philopino takeaway food store that makes some delicious Halo Halo. I do have one piece of advice though, if you want to try his cupcakes from Lutong Pinoy you better get in early, they sell out pretty fast!

cupcakes by paolo

Lutong pinoy

So onto the cupcakes, the STAR's of the show! When we arrived we had some gorgeous cupcakes already arranged on a platter for us. Wow, we definitely got the royal treatment. I snapped a couple of photos, and then I was given an uber cute box to take them away and sample them. It was 9 am, despite my love for cupcakes, I know having a cupcake breakfast is probably not the healthiest thing in the world. So I decided to eat them a little later in the day.

cupcakes by paolo box

cupcakes by paolo taste the love

First up we had the Aromatic Mocha -"A moist chocolate base with espresso buttercream icing dusted with powdered chocolate. Inhale the rich Aroma"

Aromatic Mocha Cupcakes by Paolo

The cake was delightfully fluffy, a shot of coffee flavor is offered in both the frosting and the cake which ensured you get a double hit of espresso. I love the extra touch of cocoa dusted on top. In a way I wish I had eaten this for breakfast. It would be a great way to start the day. There were two Aromatic Mocha in the box for me, later that night I was meeting up with a few friends, so I skillfully dissected the cupcake into three and handed them out to my friends. They absolutely loved it, in fact one of them exclaimed "that was exactly what I needed"....I need to win lotto, but each to their own!

Aromatic Mocha top view Cupcakes by Paolo

Next we had the Divine Orange - 'A light and fluffy orange base with orange buttercream icing garnished with a orange gummy, so orange its divine'

divine orange cupcakes by paolo

Nom Nom Nom. Orange in a cupcake, what else can I say! I've never experienced a cupcake that is actually refreshing. Not too sweet, and slightly tangy, I love the little extra touch of a gummy orange on top, it was great. Daz cut the cupcake in half but left the gummy intact. He ended up taking a great whopping bite out of the gummy leaving huge teeth marks. I wish I had taken a photo, it look almost violated!

Exotic Buko Pandan - "A light and fluffy pandan base with a pandan buttercream icing garnished with coconut shavings. Bring the holiday home."

Exotic Buko Pandan Cupcakes by Paolo

Think Homer Simpson drooling over a doughnut, freeze the second where drool actually spills out of his mouth, that was me when I took a sniff of this beauty. So coconutty, so fluffy (check out the massive air holes in the cake), the intense green color of the cake and icing was completely reflected by the intense flavor that it offered. There was only one in the box, but at that very second I wished all of them were Buko pandan flavor! By far my favorite. If I had super powers, it would be the ability to instantly metamorphosize one of these into my hand....oh and xray vision! I've been told that this is the most popular flavor, I can totally see why.

Exotic Buko Pandan opened Cupcakes by Paolo

Pavlova Passion - 'A light and fluffy passion fruit base with a wall of Italian meringue flooded with a passion fruit icing. Taste the passion'

Pavlova Passion front view Cupcakes by Paolo

Daz and I were divided by this one. He stood on the side of deadly against, and I was strongly for it. I adored the deep tropical passion fruit flavor with the marshmallowy Italian meringue, I could have eaten 3 more. But Daz instantly hated it, which is kinda strange because he usually likes passion fruit. We don't always have to agree on everything, makes life a little more interesting "awwww babes you don't want the rest of that cupcake? here I'll help, I'll eat it for you"

Pavlova Passion Cupcakes by Paolo

And lastly we had the Pineapple Crush - 'A light and fluffy pineapple base with pineapple buttercream icing dusted with pure icing sugar. Its like falling in love all over again.'

Pineapple Crush Cupcakes by Paolo

I was a little disappointed by this one, but I think that's my fault. I had left it to very last, because as you might have noticed I love tropical flavors and pineapple is just delicious. All week I had been eating dehydrated pineapple, so I was expecting the cupcake to be just as intense, sadly it wasn't. It was still a very fluffy and enjoyable cupcake, but I think the Buko Pandan cupcake has ruined me forever!

Pineapple Crush insides Cupcakes by Paolo

Overall I love ALL the cupcakes on offer from Cupcakes by Paolo. Its obvious that the cupcakes are baked with a huge amount of love and attention. There was no hint of dryness at all and every single one was fresh. Something that I'm slowly, but surely, getting more in tuned in recognizing. Its been about 3 days since I had a cupcake and I'm starting to get withdrawal symptoms, not even good old cake can keep the cravings away anymore. Looks like I'm going down to Footscray on the weekend!

cupcakes by paolo in the box

You can purchase single cupcakes for $3.00 from Lutong Pinoy at Footscray Market within the food hall, right next to the lift.

The power of cupcake within my hand

The power of cupcake within my hand!

September 18, 2009

Cheesy Mushroom Arancini

Arancini 2

Recently the vivacious V1 hosted a hens party for a friend of hers. As she was responsible for all the fun and frivolity on the night, she asked me to help with the catering. We made a range of things, including these Cheesy mushroom arancini and a very "special" cake which I will hopefully bring to you soon. All I'll say is it rated PG-18.

Arancini 3

The hen had told V1 that she wanted good food, so if she was to get extremely wasted and eventually have to throw up she wanted to bring up something that tasted good. Rice balls are both delicious and soft. Great for the hens' purposes.

I usually make arancini with meat and vegies and a tomato sauce, but this time I had a real craving for Camembert and mushrooms, and besides it was good for any vegetarians in attendance. I made them with 4 different types of cheeses, just to pack in the cheesy-ness, Parmesan, tasty cheese, mozzarella and Camembert. The photo doesn't do them any justice, the mozzarella comes out so stringy and oozy its delicious, they are best eaten hot straight from the pan, but they can be kept for the next day and reheated if desired. Hmmm I'm salivating just thinking about it.

open Arancini

They require a little fiddling about and some deep frying, but I promise you the end result is was worth any trouble!! So here the recipe, with step by step photos on how to assemble the rice balls.

Cheesy Mushroom Arancini


Rice needs to be cooked 1 day in advance

2 cups of medium grain rice
500 mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 -6 eggs
1 pinch of saffron soaked in a teaspoon of water overnight (optional)
Vegetable oil (for deep frying)
100 grams Parmesan
mozzarella, rolled up into small balls
tasty cheese
Camembert, cut into small cubes


1. Cook rice in salted water until just cooked. Drain, let it cool and then cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge overnight. Make sure that it is tightly wrapped so that it does not dry out at all. On the next day take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature before using.

rice for arancini

2. Dice mushroom into small pieces and saute with a little olive oil in a large flat frying pan. Add garlic and cook until mushrooms are soft, but not dry, season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.

3. Add saffron to rice (this gives the rice a golden color and a sweet flavour)


break two whole eggs into the rice. Add the yolks of two more eggs and place the whites in another shallow bowl. Add Parmesan and a couple of hand fulls of tasty cheese.

unmixed arancini rice

Using your clean bare hands mix everything together. Feel the consistency of the mixture if it is too wet add a hand full or two of breadcrumbs, if the mixture does not stick together easily, add another egg. Continue this mixing until a sticky but not too wet rice mixture is achieved.

mixed arancini rice

4. Whipped egg whites until they are very frothy and firm, but not stiff. As you use the egg whites you will need to keep whipping them to get them frothy again. Place a shallow bowl of water next to the rice mixture. I find it easiest if I have a helping hand, but isn't that with everything in life?

whipped eggwhites

5. Bring the mushrooms close to you, fill a bowl with dry breadcrumbs and assemble all your ingredients so they are handy including cheese's.

6. Wet the palm of your non-dominate hand with water, this prevents the rice from sticking to your hand. Wet the tips of your fingers with some water and take a generous pinch of rice and spread it on your hand to make a flat section of rice. Remember that the smaller the section of rice, the smaller your rice ball. I suggest starting big and then making them smaller as you get better.

step 1 grab some rice

step 2 make a thin layer of rice

7. Add a tablespoon of mushroom mixture, a mozzarella ball and a piece of Camembert to the flatten riced.

step 3 put filling and cheese onto rice

8. Take another generous pinch of rice in your dominate hand, with the your fingers and thumb flatten the rice to make another section of rice to place on top of the mushroom mixture.

step 4 make a thin layer of rice with your other hand

9. Bring your hands close together and press them gently together, shape into a ball.

step 5 bring your hands close together and press two sides together

step 6 after rice is ontop of filling shape into a ball

10. Roll in egg whites, you only need a little so I usually take a dab or two and coat it in my hands.

step 7 roll it in the egg white

11. Coat ball in breadcrumbs. Deep fry them in some oil on medium heat. Make sure not to roll them around too much as they easily break. cook them until golden brown then drain them on some absorbent paper.

roll arancini in bread crumbs

Some tips and tricks

- After you make your first ball is the true test of rice stickiness. If it doesn't come to together easily, add another egg to the rice mixture

- During the rolling stage if you see any filling coming out poke it back in and seal the hole with a few grains of rice. This is very important as if there is any exposed filling it is sure to burst when cooking.

- When rolling in breadcrumbs if cracks appear or the ball is in jeopardy of falling apart, roll it in generous amount egg white and then roll with a thick amount of breadcrumbs. This will form a "plaster" shell that is more difficult to break, and will mend any cracks.
- Test the temperature of the oil before dropping your first ball in. Take a grain of rice, if it sizzles than its ready. Keep a close eye on the temperature of the oil, if it becomes too hot the outer shell with brown without the inside heating up and melting the cheese.