Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fabulous Food Adventure

I finished work this afternoon at 3pm. I picked the kids up from school and we are now on holidays until the 19th of April! Tomorrow we're driving to Leura where we will stay while we go to Easter Convention. We'll stay an extra day in the Blue Mountains, for chocolate shops, cafés and bush walks before heading down to Sydney for a few days. Andrew, Jossie and Toby are going to the Royal Easter Show while Bethany and I go on a food adventure.

I'm thinking we might go to The Rocks and visit La Renaissance. We could eat this....

Or this......

Or this.....

But I could also go to Zumbo's, whose website has much bigger pictures, and eat this...

Or this.....

Or this.....

Macarons are available at both places. Which shall I choose? Would anyone like to come on an adventure on Thursday the 8th?

Friday, March 26, 2010

A day in town

One of the great things about working in public libraries is the professional development. The State Library puts on plenty of training and subsidises travel for regional and rural library staff. On Tuesday Chrissie and I went to Sydney for a readers advisory seminar about crime fiction at the State Library called Murder in the Metcalfe.

These days in Sydney are very long. Having made school lunches the night before I was able to sleep until 5am but Chrissie got up at 4. She picked me up at 5.40 and we caught the 6.30 flight.

We landed in Sydney at 7.30 and caught a train to Museum before walking through Hyde Park. I love the living corridor of towering trees, so peaceful in the middle of the city.

First stop, the Lindt Café. Carrying these bags around all day prompted many others to pop in on their way home.

This is what we bought. The original plan had been to have a delicious breakfast at La Renaissance, on Kristy's recommendation, but we were given rather more to eat on the plane than we expected and also didn't have as much time as we thought. So, we bought these macarons for later and had coffee.

No sprinkling of powdered drinking chocolate on skinny cappuccinos at the Lindt Café. There was a delicious puddle of real chocolate in the bottom of my cup.
Fortified with caffeine we wandered down Macquarie Street to the State Library. The seminar was great and we learnt a great deal about the many sub-genres of crime fiction and got some great ideas. Neither of us read much crime, though I enjoy watching it. I learnt that I like cosy crime which is when the murders happen "off screen" and the focus is more on characters and settings. Midsomer Murders (or the books they are based on) and Agatha Christie are cosy crime.
The last time I went to the State Library I'm sure we were sent out to find our own lunch, Japanese, of course. This time, we were given lunch and a short break. Having been up for so long did make the session straight after lunch a tough hard to stay awake in and we we very grateful when it was afternoon tea time but the doors were locked - they had forgotten to order afternoon tea! So, when we finished early, we headed down to the QVB for a necessary pick me up.

We shared pistachio and lemon friands.

Not real chocolate, but still good. We got sushi at the airport and were home at 8.30. I had eaten two macarons by 9 :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Party Time

We had three invitations for Saturday morning so I asked Jossie and Bethany which party they would like to go to. Thankfully, as is was the one that we were all invited to, they both chose Jack's.

There was a jumping castle!

If you enlarge the photo above you will see the bubble machine.

There was so much delicious food. Kristy made sausage rolls and I made Belinda Jeffery's cheddar biscuits and lemon cheesecake slice.

I love Gumby, he shows up in such odd places.

Jossie enjoyed Kristy's wig.

Kristy made an excellent Shawn the Sheep cake.

Jack blew out the candles.....

And promptly ate Shawn's eyes.

Bethany ate a fair bit of hoof which was pure, black fondant....delicious. We had a lovely time and needed all afternoon to recover. Today I went to Sydney for work but I'll post about that later, now to bed.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Crazy Hair Day

Bethany's class is, of course, learning the alphabet. They are learning H at the moment and celebrated with crazy hair and hat day.

Bethany woke up super excited because we have a can of hair spray.

Mim gave it to us after she went to the Book Week parade as Anne of Green Gables.

We received four party invitations for this weekend, three of the parties being held on Saturday morning. The madness began this evening when I drove Jossie to a party at five, went home for a little bit to wash Bethany's hair....twice, drove Toby to Kids' Club at six, went home for a little bit, picked Jossie up from the party at seven and took her to Kids' Club and then, in lieu of going home for another little bit, went for an affogato with Narelle before picking up Joss and Tobes at eight and taking them home.

Jossie had her face painted at the party and then had her make-up and hair done at Kids' Club where they had secret men's business (involving fire and sport) and girls' stuff.

Tomorrow we're off to Jack's party - the winner of the three options. There's going to be a jumping castle and everything.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Nigella's Chocolate Marsala Cake

I love to make birthday cakes, any excuse at all to bake. I especially like making cakes that taste as good as they look, though I do also make themed children's cakes, unexciting as they usually are to eat. Natalie, from Bible study, had a birthday last week so I asked her what sort of cake she would like and she requested chocolate. I made Nigella's chocolate marsala cake, as I often do, because it is ethereally light, supremely chocolately and delicious before and after baking ( I do so love to lick the bowl). The recipe is from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson, a brilliant book.

Chocolate Marsala Cake
100g unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate, broken up
4 large eggs
175g caster sugar
50g self-raising flour, sifted 3 times
3 tablespoons Marsala
for the Icing:
100g dark chocolate
1 tablespoon Marsala
100ml double cream

22cm Springform tin, greased and lined.

Preheat the oven to 180C / Gas Mark 4.
Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave or a double boiler, and then set aside to cool slightly. Beat the eggs and sugar together until thick, pale and moussey, and greatly increased in volume; it should double, triple even. My Kitchen Aid does this beautifully.

Gently fold the sifted flour into the egg mixture, trying not to lose all of the air. Now fold the butter and chocolate very carefully into the cake mixture.

Pour into the tin and cook for 35 minutes, by which time the top should be firm and the cake underneath dense and desirably damp.

The cake will have risen beautifully but will soon sink, leaving a crater perfect for dousing with Marsala and filling with ganache.

Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, and then pour over the Marsala. I find it easier to do this by the teaspoonful so that the liquid is evenly distributed. Leave the cake to cool completely before releasing it from it’s tin.

So, the icing: melt the chocolate, Marsala and cream in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a gentle heat. Take it off the heat, and whisk until it reaches a good icing consistency; smooth, thick, but not solid. I like to spread this just on the very top of the cake, which anyway sinks on cooling so that you have a roughly circular sunken pond to fill, leaving an outline of cooked-cake rim. When set, you're left, beautifully, with a Sacher-shiny disc of ganache suspened on top of this dusty-brown, matt cake.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Flood water

We had 110mls of rain in one day! I was thrilled that our house kept us dry. At least five work mates had leaks! It was so very wet and noisy that we brought Milo inside, all soggy.

I dried him as best I could and Bethany kept him amused.

The rain stopped overnight so I hopped on my bike to ride to work and found this sight. This is a paddock, not a lake.

I had to ride through flood water! It's going across the road just behind the tree. This was at 8 o'clock this morning.

I rode past again at 7.30 this evening and the water was no longer on the road. I do wonder why the cows are in the water - only half their paddock was submerged.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Let it rain

What a shock to our system. Real, soaking, sustained rain - such as we haven't had for years.

This afternoon I went to a surprise high tea for Bronwyn's 40th. Sadly, DIY high teas are the only ones we get in Wagga. I was not called on to make anything but I did lend my tiered willow plate.

What I am eating - Lemon ricotta biscuits.
What I am reading - Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
What I am watching - Vanity Fair, the BBC production, not the rather sad film with Reese Witherspoon. The BBC version is fantastic. It is funny, the music, not something I usually notice, so perfect, and it is great to see Philip Glenister play a kind, tender and loving man, so unlike Gene Hunt. Now I'm ready to watch season two of Ashes to Ashes.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Our Revisiting Retro Recipes event was so much fun. Around 50 people came to the library to remember/laugh at dinner party food of the 50s, 60s and 70s. I talked about the 50s and 60s and Sara spoke about the 70s and demonstrated the making of Coronation Chicken before we all got to taste it. Events like this take a fair bit of effort and I didn't get to take very many photos. Sara and I dressed up and Kristy took this photo in between making the porcupine and the asparagus rolls. We chose the position very carefully - two rubbish bins and a fire extinguisher.

I am very sorry that I didn't get a photo of Kristy who looked gorgeous in a retro black dress and pink cardie. The evening wouldn't have been nearly as much fun without her. She made this spectacular porcupine.

She purchased these nostalgic sweet treats.

And she assembled the asparagus rolls when I ran out of time.

I showed Andrew this photo that I took from the front a few minutes before we started. He exclaimed that there were only old ladies there! That is such an unfair exclamation as there were two children,two teenagers and at least ten people my age and younger. The children and teenagers were male and there were three whole adult males! I will admit that still leaves a lot of Nannas.

Sara did a brilliant job and may get a book deal out of it.

The Coronation chicken was a big hit and please note that all the floating cheese and pickled onion spikes were gone at this stage and by the end of the evening the orange was almost bare.

Margot videoed (not a real word, apparently) the whole thing so I'll let you know when it goes up on You Tube.