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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.

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.


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!



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

Lemon Chilli Tofu & Noodles 001

Although I have always cooked a lot of vegetarian and semi-vegetarian meals I haven’t used tofu very much although I did actually have a go at making some many years ago – I’m not really sure why. It was a long and complicated process and the end result was a tasteless white blob!

Recently I have been trying out a few tofu recipes. The first one was a cheesecake-like dessert – Heavenly Pie. That went down well with no one guessing the mystery ingredient. A few weeks later I decided to try a recipe for a main dish. I needed to make a few changes when I discovered I didn’t have some of the ingredients but the end result was definitely worth repeating. My 10-yr-old said he didn’t like tofu but he did eat it all so it can’t have been too bad.

                                  Lemon Chilli Tofu & Noodles

3 tbsp  sweet chilli sauce
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
3 tbsp water
2  tsp grated lemon zest
1/4  cup lemon juice
1/2 packet rice vermicelli
1/3  cup flour
1 tsp Chinese five spice
300 g firm tofu, diced 2cm square
2 tbsp  oil
1  large onion, chopped
3  cloves garlic, sliced
1 yellow capsicum, sliced thinly
1 head broccoli in florets
2 carrots, peeled and julienned

Combine sauces, water, zest and juice in a small pot, bring to the boil and then remove from heat.
Place the noodles in a large bowl, cover with boiling water and stand.
Combine flour and five spice in bowl, add tofu and toss to coat. Heat 1 tbsp oil in wok, cook tofu in batches until nicely browned.
Heat remaining oil in the wok, stir-fry the onion, garlic, carrot and broccoli until the onion softens. Add half the chilli sauce and the pepper, stir fry until just tender.
Drain the noodles and top with the vegetables and tofu. Serve with the extra sauce.
Serves 4


blog 001

I love salmon but don’t buy it very often because of the price. This week it was on special so I decided to splash out. I checked my recipe database for salmon recipes and decided to try one for salmon burgers that I found in the BBC Good Food magazine. The recipe specified 550g of salmon for 4 people but when I buy meat or fish I usually only buy 100g/person – most of us eat too much meat. I got just under 500g of salmon and added some cooked rice to bulk it up. When the burger mix was made it seemed too wet so I threw in some rolled oats as well. The recipe said to cook in oil but since I was using a nonstick pan I didn’t bother. I was amazed how much oil came out of the salmon. When the burgers were cooked there was about 3 tablespoons of oil in the pan.

Here is my version of the recipe

                                             Salmon Burgers

 500      g             boneless, skinless salmon fillets
   1      Tbs           Thai red curry paste
   1                    thumb-size piece fresh root galangal, grated
   1      tsp           soy sauce
   1      tsp           coriander and garlic paste
     1/2  c             cooked rice
     1/4  c             rolled oats
                        lemon wedges, to serve
Tip the salmon into a food processor with the pastes, ginger, soy sauce and rice. Pulse until roughly minced. Tip out the mix, stir in the rolled oats  and shape into 5 burgers. Heat a non-stick frying pan, then fry the burgers for 4-5 mins on each side, turning until crisp and cooked through.

We had the burgers with rice and coleslaw – savoy cabbage, mizuna, carrot, yacon and toasted sesame seeds – and they were yummy (and a decent size). Number 4 son left a fewcrumbs on his plate and I told him that the salmon cost $20/kg so he had better eat every last crumb of it. He was horrified and

Tim's fish

Tim's fish

said that it would be cheaper to catch our own. He was remembering our trip round the top of the South Island a couple of years ago. We went to Anatoki Salmon farm in Golden Bay where you can fish free of charge and only pay for what you catch ($18/kg). The pond where you can fish is teeming with salmon and they supply fishing rods and nets. Thinking of our budget we told the boys they were only allowed to catch 1 salmon each but as soon as they cast in it was obvious catching a fish wouldn’t be hard. Reuben tried to make the experience last by not catching one too quickly but that didn’t work too well. I managed to catch one while I was showing Timothy how to cast so then Timothy had to catch his own. Reuben managed to catch another one by mistake so we ended up with 4 instead of 2. We had 2 of them hot smoked and the others filleted and they lasted for 2 dinners and 3 lunches – heaven!

I managed to find a rubber chicken in the pet section of a variety store but didn’t have much luck tracking down plastic vegetables for the Stone Soup story. I thought about buying some of the modelling clay that dries hard but then I remembered salt-dough. For the first Christmas after I was married I made lots of salt dough ornaments for our Christmas tree – hearts, stars and candy canes. Later on I bought some Christmas cookie cutters and made more decorations – angels, Santas, bells, stars etc. Thirty years later, some are still surviving although others have absorbed moisture and crumbled or been chewed by our dogs. While my children were at Playcentre we would make salt-dough ornaments there each year. It has been 10 years since our Playcentre days so I 1853687294_01__SX140_SY225_SCLZZZZZZZ_thought I’d better look for a book to refresh my memory. I found Dough Craft in a Weekend in the library and it even had instructions on how to make some vegetables. I made a carrot and leek following their instructions but then I was on my own. The parsnip was pretty much the same as the carrot but longer and thinner at the end. The celery was pretty easy – I rolled a log and then indented it with a pencil – but I wasn’t particularly happy with my onion. I still had some dough left so made salt and pepper pots, some mushrooms (from the book) and a head of garlic. I baked them overnight and then for a few hours more the next day. Finally I painted them and sprayed them with polyurethane. I’m quite pleased with how they turned out although the dough was too soft so they ended up flat on the back.

saltdough vegetables

saltdough vegetables

Another new recipe this Easter was a case of necessity not choice. I had planned to have a roast chicken with all the trimmings for dinner on Easter Sunday but when I got home form work on Saturday it was to discover my husband was roasting chicken thighs and vegetables for dinner.

We couldn’t have the same dinner two nights in a row so I would need to think of something else. And it would need to be made from the supplies to hand since the supermarkets would be closed on Easter Sunday. I had made some pate on Friday which hadn’t been started so wondered what I could do with that. Beef Wellington sprang to mind but I didn’t have the necessary cut of beef in the freezer. I did however have some schnitzel and wondered if I could wrap slices of pate in the schnitzel and then in pastry. So that is what I did and I was very pleased with the result. Here is the recipe – you can substitute bought pate if you don’t want to make your own.

                                  Garlic & Rosemary Pate
 500 g            lambs liver
   1                   small onion, quartered
   2                  clove garlic, crushed
 500 g           pork or beef sausage meat
   2                   eggs, lightly beaten
   2      Tbs      finely chopped fresh rosemary
   1      tsp       salt
                        black pepper
   4                  streaky bacon rashers, rind removed

1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2.  Trim the liver and cut into cubes. Put into a food processor with the onion and garlic and process till finely minced.
3. Add the sausage meat, egg, parsley salt and pepper.
4. Oil a loaf tin and line the base with three of the bacon rashers. Fill with the pate and cover with the other rashers. Seal with buttered greaseproof paper and foil.
5. Stand in a baking tin filled with enough hot water to come ½ way up sides of the tin. Cook in centre of the oven for 1.5 hours. Cover with fresh buttered paper, place a weight on top and leave overnight.


2 1/2  cups  flour
2 tsp              baking powder
250 g            butter
1/2 cup        milk
1 tsp              cider vinegar

1. Put the dry ingredients in the food processor and combine briefly.
2. Add the cubed butter and pulse till the butter is cut into small pieces.
3. Add the vinegar to the milk then pour most of it into the food processor whilst pushing the pulse button. Add the rest of the milk if needed.
4. Turn onto the bench and press together then cover and leave to rest in the fridge.

Beef Wellington

                                      Individual Beef Wellingtons

   6                    schnitzels
   6      slices        pate

1. Preheat the oven to 200C
2. Use a steak hammer to pound the schnitzels.
3. Place a slice of pate on each schnitzel and fold the schnitzel over it to make a parcel.
4. Roll out half of the pastry until it is a rectangle as long as 3 1/2 of the schnitzel parcels and as wide as 2 1/2 of the parcels. Place 3 of the parcels equidistant  along the long edge of the pastry but about 1/2  cm in from the edge. Brush the pastry around each parcel with water.
5. Fold the pastry in half to enclose the parcels. Press the pastry together around each parcel and then cut the parcels apart.
6. Repeat with the rest of the dough and schnitzel parcels. Brush the parcels with beaten egg and bake for 10 minutes at 200C then 15 minutes at 180C.

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