Monday, 31 December 2007

more cookies before the year ends

another day of holiday, another baking day.
it was our friend's house warming, so i thought some house biscuits would make a good gift... little did i know a 'house' cookie cutter was really hard to find... i ventured into myer and djs without success... i was tempted to go to the essential ingredient, but b4 that, luckily, i went into house and there it was a 'house ' cookie cutter... and of course! house housing a 'house' cookie cutter - how appropriate!

i also bought oz and star cookie cutters...

and decorated them with icing figures - yes using the tooth pick method (although i also picked up a discounted icing pipping set from house)


cat under a star...

a paw...

a mouse sneaking around...

and mcduck....

... some music in the air

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

tis' the season of eating

the past couple of weeks i have been too busy to take care of the veggie patches and consequently, some lives have been lost to an army of caterpillars and pests... lucky the season has been abit wet of late and not many have succumbed to the biggest drought of the century...

the caterpillars have been quick on the tomatoes, so i am forced to pick them early and let them blush under the warm sunrays on the window seal

the potato patch have nearly died down too... so i started digging and surprisingly found quite a few earthy knobs...

after vigourous scrubbing, they too gleam in the sunlight... although they look like new potatoes, in definition they are not quite (only the other day i found out that new potatoes are the ones that are dugged up before the potatoe plants have withered away - and the skin are much thinner)



the x mas eve meal preperation started with prawn peeling...
and why waste the prawn shells?! (in true bargain hunter spirit... i recycled the prawn shells)


i boiled the shells in alittle water... blended them and then squeezed the juices out in my trusty muslin bag...

then i boiled to reduce the liquid, before that i poured on it a good several hundred mLs of olive oil... as it reduces, the essence of the prawns are trapped beneath the oily surface... towards the end, there would be little hissing, crackling noises from the oil... and then one would know the liquid has been all but gone and the flavoursome prawn oil ready to be harvested...
liquid gold!
yum! dripped on soups or alittle on salads or bread and of course on fragrant rice!... and the bottom heavy sediment is the gold - when mixed with rice and abit of soy and sugar... yum! it's like shrimp paste but without the smell...

so i served melon (rockmelon) soup with prawns, prawn oil and a sprinkle of sea salt as our x'mas eve dinner starter

onto the next course... it was time to chop some onions and have a good cry... i tried the lighting a match and candle trick, but my tears were still streaming... i saw on tele the other day that chewing gum is as good as wearing goggles in onion tears prevention - yet to give that a try...

a kilo of chicken livers (even the butcher was surprised)... it was for the pate coating our xmas beef wellington...

after snipping off the sinew, i browned the onions and garlic and sauteed the livers and added the cream... then used my foodprocessor again...

pate! and lots of it...
the piece of steak was warming up on the bench

after coating it with the pate and mushroom mix i covered it with puffed pastry and a good eggwash...
35min in an 210 degrees celcius oven (according to various books) was not enough - it was quite rare in the middle... if i could do it again it would be 45 min...


and next time instead of a 1kg slab, i'll be getting a slender roll ( but this time around the butcher ran out of tenderloin fillet, so i had to get scotch fillet instead)...

by the time we consumed a piece of the BW, our stomachs were exploding - must be the filling pate layer... must make it thinner next time...

and look at our "tree" and abundance of pressies on x'mas day!

Sunday, 23 December 2007

no more nail and nail bed separation

nail and nail bed separation? what is that? it is the most painful kitchen mishap, usually happens when large quantities of garlic is required to be peeled... while the tip of he nail is lodged between the plump garlic clove and its protective skin, the tough white skin paper cuts the bed of the nail - OOUCH! many times, this had resulted in a bleeding nail bed in the past and had been excruciatingly painful...



i have search and bought numerous garlic peeling and mincing devices and none have survived... until a few days ago when i meandered into victoria's basement in the city and saw a pile of "garlic twists" stacked up on the side, ready to become stocking fillers for x'mas...



it was priced at $12.95, down (like eveything else in v basement) from $22.95... so i gave it a try...



it looked quite sleek and is easy to assemble and easy to clean...


garlic with skin on in the middle...


then twist and open - to get the skin off... then twist again...





video


opening it up for the ready minced garlic!




video


all collected in the st st container...


easily tipped out...




and this is an australian invention - says so on the box... how cool is that


no more painful fingers! bargain... thank you garlic twist by ciroa...

Friday, 21 December 2007

tis' the season of giving...

so it is the time to use my bargain hunter instincts to create thoughtful (and good value) gifts for everybody... that was how this got started...
must also mention the inspiration from nigella feast (yes... gastro-porn on ABC, wed - on another note, there are quite a few cooking shows on at the moment - food safari *excellent but segments too brief*, jamie at home *full of enthusiasm, but abit staged*, nigella feast *just listen to how she describes the cooking ingredients!*, and iron chef x'mas special *awaiting this weekend*)
first there was the flour ...

abit of dough mixing... (i altered the nigella recipe and popped in some freshly ground almonds - almond meal in addition)
rolling and cutting...
the piggy and man cookie cutters had been resting in my bottom kitchen draw for ages...
TIP: when baking on wire rack... it is better to put the cookies on foil then baking sheet - otherwise they go crooked (not flat enough to receive their icing)
my trusty oven baking in action... TIP: fan forced would brown cookies on the edge v quickly while middle ones are still not... cookies cooling...
more cookies cooling...
time to add more colour and make the gifts more attractive...
alot of people say that using colour pastes are far more superior than liquid colouring, cos pastes give more intense colours? liquid ones worked fine for me and are much cheaper! (3-4 times cheaper - TIP: just add less water to the icing sugar and this is compensated by the volume of the liquid colouring)
another note - i didn't pipe on the icing, i toothpicked it - that's probably why it took so long! have to add to my wish list an "cake icing kit"...
pre-icing ideas - ideas of icing the santas...
other finished products...
and here is how it was done...
first there were the "pressies" with red, blue and yellow ribbons
the ribbons went on first then the leaves
then the christmasy colour dots... and they are diff sizes like real pressies
then... the piggys... they wore x'mas socks first...
then it was the white trim and the snowwhite tail...
and finally the eyes...
santas were the most complicated and time consuming...
they had to be given their red uniform first... (including hats)
after a good drying... it was their white trim and beards...
then the belt buckles and the eyes...
... ooo... forgot the buttons on their uniform
here we go... waving santa
after a period of air drying the icing was set and the biscuits were packaged into "gifts"...
into little friend packs...
others were all wrapped up ready to go to the neighbours...
however... they are still sitting on the bench awaiting for dispatch...