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Despite all the other members of my household having had at least 2 colds each this year, so far I have managed to avoid one. A couple of  times I have felt one waiting to pounce but my usual preventive strategy of dosing up on garlic/vitamin C/Echinacea/zinc, soaking in a hot bath then heading to bed  nice and early, has stopped the bugs in their tracks. Until yesterday. I couldn’t do the bath thing because I had a rehearsal, so instead, when I got home,  I went to bed with a hot water bottle and some ginger tea but I could tell this morning that I was fighting a losing battle. So far it’s fairly mild but I definitely have my first cold for 2009.

I didn’t feel much like eating, so had a smoothie for breakfast and made myself some garlic soup for lunch. This is great when you have a cold as it is light,  tasty and full of cold fighting ingredients (chicken stock, garlic and chilli). It is also super easy to make.

Garlic Soup for One

1 1/2 c stock or water (I used some turkey stock I had in the fridge)
4 cloves garlic, peeled but not crushed
1/4 tsp salt
pepper and chilli powder to taste
1 egg
a slice or 2 of French bread

Add the garlic to the stock or water along with the seasoning and simmer 20 minutes.
Stir the stock in a clockwise direction, then crack in the egg. Poach according to your preference as to the hardness of the yolk.
Put a slice or 2 of French bread (or whatever bread you have) into a bowl and pour the stock and egg over.
Enjoy!

garlic soup

I didn’t get round to photographing my soup so went looking for a photo on the Internet. In the process of finding the one above I discovered that this recipe (more or less) is actually a Julia Child one. For her version (via Julie Powell) check out this blog.

Modern VegetarianI am not a vegetarian but we enjoy vegetarian food and usually eat vegetarian meals several times a week. I am always on the lookout for new recipes so was keen to check out The Modern Vegetarian by Maria Elia.
 

 

This is an attractive book and it is a useful size. There is one recipe per page and most are accompanied by a full page colour photo. The recipes are easy to follow and most of the ingredients are readily available in New Zealand. Maria has obviously been influenced by the cooking of a number of cultures but has then given things her own particular touch. Many of the recipes sound like dishes that would be listed on the menu of a fancy restaurant – Dukkah-Rolled Soft-Boiled Eggs with Chickpea Puree; Chilli and Rosemary Aubergine Parcels with Smokey Mash; Mushroom, Beetroot, Mozzarella with a Lentil Cartouche – but although this book would suit someone who has some cooking experience, the recipes are not particularly complicated.
With most recipe books I borrow, there are usually only a dozen or so recipes that I can be bothered copying them out, but I think I may have to ask for this book for my birthday as almost every recipe sets my tastebuds tingling. So far I have tried 2 – Sweetcorn Polenta with Asparagus and Shiitake Mushrooms and Banana Baklava Spring Roll with Greek Yoghurt. Both were delicious and I will make them again.
 

 

 

I thought I was done with cake decorating for a while but I had lots of fondant left over from the wedding cupcakes and I needed to make something for the Calf Club day cake stall so . . .

A selection of cupcakes

A selection of cupcakes

There were 24 originally but the dog stole one. Before it was decorated luckily.

They were priced at $1.50 each and didn’t last long. One woman bought 12 of them.

Just before I leave this topic for a while (I don’t think any of my other sons will be getting married soon) I thought I would post a couple more photos.

cupcakes

These are photos of the cupcakes I made for the flowergirls (packed for the journey). I used the Chelsea Eggless Chocolate Cake recipe. The icing is bought fondant icing which I rolled out and cut using a fluted cutter. The rosebuds and leaves are smaller versions of the ones I made for the main cake and the butterflies were also made from the white chocolate plastic. I rolled it out and cut with little butterfly cutters. I put the cut-out butterflies into a V-shaped length of cardboard to set.

buttonholes
And these are buttonholes I made for my sons. I got some spray roses from the supermarket and raided my rosemary bush for the foliage. Because the rosemary was new growth it was fairly soft and wilted pretty quickly but they lasted through the ceremony.

After all the preparations, the time finally came to make the final version of the cake. I picked up the tins on Thursday – a 6″ and a 10″. I made 1 batch of the recipe and divided it between the 2 tins and when those were baked I made a second batch so I ended up with two 10″ cakes and two 6″ cakes. On Friday I levelled the cakes then split each of the cakes in half. I stacked all 4 layers of each sized tier with boysenberry filling in-between.

                                 Berry Filling

   1  1/2  kg               boysenberries
   2  1/4  cup           water
   1  1/2  cup           sugar
   9      Tbs                cornflour

1. Add the berries and  water to a pot. Cook for 5 minutes
over medium-high heat.
2. Sift together the sugar and cornstarch and then stir into the berry
mixture. Cook until the mixture is thick and the berries have broken
down, about 15 minutes.
3. Let cool before using

This recipe made enough for all the layers with quite a bit left over.

Before putting the filling on I piped white chocolate ganache around the edge to stop the berry filling bleeding into the covering ganache.

Once I had both tiers individually stacked I put the first coating of ganache on.

                        White Chocolate Ganache

1.2      kg             white chocolate
 400   ml            cream

1. Melt together using a bain marie or the microwave. Let cool before using.

I warmed the ganache till it was quite runny and poured it over. This worked reasonably well but I needed to add extra on the sides. Once they were done they were put in the fridge till Saturday.

On Saturday I put a second coat of ganache on and got it as smooth as I could. Putting the cakes on a Lazy Susan made this step much easier. After a further spell in the fridge I used the 6″ tin to mark the top of the 10″ cake so I knew where to put the smaller tier. I sunk 4 sharpened dowels into the cake just inside the mark I had made – these were to support the 2nd tier. I had already inserted a longer dowel through the top tier and the foil-covered cardboard base it was sitting on. Once I had positioned the top tier correctly I pushed this dowel through the bottom cake to hold them securely together. I piped some ganache around the join and to fill the hole in the top, then it was back into the fridge till Sunday – the wedding day.

On Sunday I put the cake onto the presentation base using a liberal application of buttercream icing as glue. I then put the cake into a large box with a thin piece of foam in the bottom. The box was then put on another piece of foam in the car and I proceeded to drive very carefully the 20km to the church. I had put a sign in the rear windscreen – “Caution: Wedding cake on board!”. Once at the church the cake was put on the table and I added the flowers, leaves and tendrils. Voila!

DSCF3939

DSCF3940

Chocolate plastic roses

Chocolate plastic roses

Having trialed the top tier of my son’s wedding cake I thought it was time to start making the roses that will decorate it. I found a site that made it sound very easy [www.bakingobsession.com] and with my recent experience making rose buds from fondant, I thought I was set – I even have the proper cutters.

I made my chocolate plastic and put it in the fridge as specified. After 3 hours I took it out and let it sit on the bench for an hour before trying to knead it. It was quite hard and when I tried to knead it, it just crumbled. The only departure from the recipe was the addition of some powdered colouring as the bride wanted red roses. I wondered if that had mucked things up. Or perhaps my ingredients weren’t quite right. I used corn syrup but wasn’t sure whether it was ‘light” or not.  I did a bit of googling and found a site that recommended zapping the chocolate plastic in the microwave for 10 seconds to warm it up. I did that a couple of times and was then able to knead it.

Chocolate plastic roses

Chocolate plastic roses

As I suspected the finished product was pink rather than red but the bride and groom are quite happy to have a mix of pink and white roses.  I made 5 roses before heading to bed and will make the rest tonight and tomorrow. I was quite happy with how they turned out but I think they look more like camellias than roses. The book recommends having a total of 20 roses in various sizes – I think I will make slightly more white than pink roses and will make more than 20 so I can use some on a second practice cake.

trial wedding cake

trial wedding cake

The date of the wedding is approaching much too fast but I have been working on some things.

ringbearer's cushion

ringbearer's cushion

 Having been asked to make the ringbearer’s cushion, I headed to the library (of course) and found a book with a suitable design but then had trouble finding the right laces and ribbons or even some red satin. In the end I sewed 3 strips of wide satin ribbon together and place the lace so it covered the seams.

I decided it was time for a trial run of the wedding cake – the top tier at least. The bride is now on a low-fat diet due to gall stone problems which creates a bit of a problem with the plan of using a white chocolate ganache for the icing. After a bit of lateral thinking, I suggested that I make egg-free, low-fat, beautifully decorated cupcakes for the bride and groom and the flower-girls. This would mean that I could use my tried and true chocolate cake recipe for the main cake and ice it with chocolate ganache.

I should have remembered the last time I tried to make white chocolate ganache! I followed the recipe in the wedding cake book only to find that it was far too runny – deja vue! Even refrigerating it overnight  didn’t thicken it enough. I added the rest of white chocolate and then some icing sugar until finally it was thick enough. I had used all the white chocolate so I couldn’t try making the roses. I think I need a bit more practise with the icing and you couldn’t really taste the raspberry jam I used between some of the layers. One of my Foodlover friends pointed me to a recipe for a filling using fresh (or frozen) berries so I think I will try another cake using that and see if I can do a bit better with the icing.

trial wedding cake - cut

trial wedding cake - cut

vanillaI used to think I didn’t like vanilla, but then I discovered vanilla pods. They smell divine and taste so much better than vanilla essence. But they are quite expensive. I would buy them one at a time and put them in a sugar container to make vanilla sugar. If I came across a recipe that involved simmering a pod in liquid I would pull the pod out of the sugar and use it, then dry it and return it to the tin. Not any more! Thanks to my Foodlover friends I have discovered a source of delicious plump vanilla pods at a much more reasonable price. And they are organic – an added bonus. I ordered some ‘seconds’ and was delighted with what arrived. Despite being in a sealed plastic bag I could smell them as soon as I opened the parcel. I added one to my container of vanilla sugar and put another 2 into a small bottle with some vodka to make some essence. The rest are waiting in the pantry for the right recipe to pop up and whenever I open the pantry door I can smell them.

cupcakes

On Wednesday, I celebrated  finishing my first assignment for the semester by going to a cupcake decorating class at the Culinary Council. In the 2 hrs we were supposed to make 3 different cupcakes but we ran out of time for the last one so ended up making a variation of the 2nd one. It was lots of fun and my family were very impressed with the results but I think they looked better than they tasted – too much icing for my taste.

butterfly cupcake

green cupcake

 

 

 

 

 

 

rose cupcake

Kings Seeds catalogueI look forward to the Kings Seeds catalogue arriving in the mail. On-line catalogues are great but there is nothing like curling up with a printed catalogue and reading about all the new and exciting things you could grow in the coming season. I have been buying seeds from Kings for ages – since they were Kings Herb Seeds – and have found that they have the best range of unusual herbs and vegetables available in NZ.

Once I have looked through and marked everything that looks interesting, I look through my store of seed from previous years to see what I have that is still likely to be viable. My seed packets are stored (alphabetically of course – I am a librarian!) in a old cake tin with a divider down the middle. Whenever I get little packs of moisture-absorbing granules (often found in new shoes) I put these in the tin with the seeds. The tin lives in the larder which is cool and dark.

I then go through the catalogue again adding standard items that I am out of and deleting anything I have already.  When it comes to ordering I usually do this on-line.

The new things I am trying this year include:

Caper bush – I usually pickle nasturtium pods as a caper substitute but thought I would try growing the real thing. I think I will plant this in a large pot so I can put it under the verandah so as to keep it reasonably dry.

Cucumber Mini White – my son (10 yr) doesn’t eat fruit so I like to give him a chunk of cucumber in his lunch. He is a bit fussy and won’t eat it if the surface dries out so these mini cucumbers look like a good option. I can turn some into gherkins too.

Pea Petit Provencal – I have tried various types of peas in the past but I like the sound of these ones which can be eaten as snow peas as well as shelled peas and have tasty tendrils as well.

Pumpkin Baby Bear – Now there are only 2 of us that like pumpkin these mini pumpkins sound ideal. I have grown Pumpkin Austrian Oil Seed for a couple of years for the hull-less seeds but the flesh looks unappetising – pale and stringy – so these pumpkins with their semi hull-less seeds may be a good alternative. I wonder what semi hull-less means – do some of the seeds have no hulls or all the seeds have partial hulls?

Purslane Red and Gold – I have been growing green purslane for a number of years and find it an excellent addition to green salads. It also self-sows quite well – a definite bonus in my books! This variety sounds just as good with the added bonus of different colours to liven up our salads.

Samphire– I read about samphire some time ago in A Country Harvest but at that stage it wasn’t available in NZ. Something else to add variety to summer salads.

Tomato Peron – I like to try a different variety of tomato each year to add to the best varieties I have grown in previous years. This year Peron caught my eye for its resistance to fungal diseases. I have a continual battle with blight so I hope this one will do well.

Water Spinach Bamboo Leaf – Whilst travelling in Vietnam and Cambodia we saw lots of water spinach growing and no doubt ate quite a bit of it too. I really enjoy South East Asian cooking so thought I would give this a go.

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