Nana Glen Mum

Wood Fired Duck…. April 16, 2010

A few weeks ago, my brother and his girlfriend Eloise popped down to visit for 2 nights on their way through to Canberra.  We had promised them, that in their honour, we would slaughter one of our birds for dinner.  Being as they are somewhat partial to duck, and we had 2 drakes, we decided duck it is!  Steve and I are both members of a food forum and are quite passionate not only about what we eat, but the preparation as well, so we decided to document the process from duck pen to plate.  There are some photos of a beheaded duck, so if you don’t like that sort of thing, now would be a good time to click to another page.  If you truly love good honest food, and appreciate where it comes from, then read on!

The duck of choice was Frank, the one in the foreground.  Why you say?  Well, for one, the other drake is much larger and better looking, so if we ever want to sell or swap, he would be a better choice.  Also, poor old Frank hurt his leg 2 days earlier and was hobbling around, so we may have had to put him down anyway.

Hubby is in charge of “Catch and Dispatch“, so he took Steve outside as his trusty assistant.  I’m not sure how much help he was though, because he managed to take quite a few photos during the process!

Once the “deed” was done, they brought the duck inside where I had filled one sink with boiling water and a few drops of detergent.  We dunked the duck a couple of times (the hot water and detergent help dissolve the fat that holds the feathers in and keeps the duck waterproof),

then Eloise and I set about plucking the duck (and yes I must admit, the old Hey Hey It’s Saturday Plucka Duck song was going through my head at the time) while Steve took some more photos.

I was beginning to notice that our city boy was taking lots of photos of EVERYONE ELSE doing all the work, and so far had managed to avoid getting his hands dirty all together!  Ha ha says I to myself, I know just the job for him!

When we had finished plucking, I handed the duck and a sharp knife to Steve and said “here you go, you’re turn to do something.”  I figured he could get the gizzards out (at this stage I knew how much they smell, but he didn’t).

He was pretty keen to get in to the action, to be fair, until that waft came out and went straight up his nose.  “Oh, don’t they smell like that when you buy them from the shop” I giggle!

Anyway to be fair, he did a good job (despite the wrinkled up nose and funny look on his face – where was the camera then eh???), we kept the liver for the sauce and gave the remainder of the giblets to Chloe our trusty dog.

Waste not want not!  Next job was to clean out the cavity and rinse the bird thoroughly.

Back inside, and the duck was plunged into a large pot of boiling water, this is to open all the pores to allow the fat to ooze out during the cooking process and provide maximum crispiness to the skin.

After a few minutes, we took it out, and dried it off thoroughly with the hair dryer (and people reckon I never use it!  Meh!  Although I must admit I did send the hair dryer photo to my hairdresser!  Hee hee hee!!!)

Next stage was to season the duck with salt and pepper, drizzle it with a bit of olive oil, and place it on a bed of chopped veggies, whole garlic cloves and various herbs from the garden.

Then in to the oven it went.  No, not your standard gas or electric oven, in to the wood fired oven!  Yum yum yum!

When the duck was cooked, we put some bread rolls in to cook while the meat rested (and yes, a few smirky comments were made about me having “buns in the oven”), and quickly made up the liver sauce to pour on top, eh voila…..

Roast Duck Nana Glen style!  Is Yumalicious a word?  If not, it should be, because that is what this dinner was!

If you liked these photos, you can see more of Steve’s awesome pics on his Flickr page here.

 

More Cakes December 29, 2009

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but between the end of the school year, Christmas and birthdays, I have been busy, busy, busy!

Here are some more cake photos::

These are actually from about July, forgot I had made them!  They were for a school dance with an underwater theme.  I got the idea from the Wilton site.

An Ipod Cake for a friend:

Sorry for the graininess and general bad quality of this next photo, but I had to take it on my phone and it was getting dark, plus I was holding back around 15 kids who were trying to get past me to dig in!!

This one is a Chiffon Cheesecake I made for my bff Ange’s birthday earlier this month.  It is wrapped in dark chocolate with the horses stencilled on in white chocolate, then topped with whipped cream and loads of fresh berries.  It was YUM!!!

This next one was for a really good friend’s daughter who will be off to Kindy next year with Miss M.  She wanted a cat cake.

And finally, this cake was for a gymnast.  The inside was a checkerboard design, but I’ll have to post pics later as they are on a friend’s camera.  The spots on the cake are rain drops:

And last but not least, a yule log made for my neighbour.  It was plain genoise cake, filled with chocolate buttercream and covered with a dark chocolate and jaffa (choc-orange) ganache.

 

Daring Bakers November Challenge – Cannoli November 28, 2009

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

Cannoli are known as Italian-American pastries, although the origin of cannoli dates back to Sicily, specifically Palermo, where it was prepared during Carnevale season, and according to lore, as a symbol of fertility. The cannoli is a fried, tube-shaped pastry shell (usually containing wine) filled with a creamy amalgamation of sweetened ricotta cheese, chocolate, candied fruit or zest, and sometimes nuts. Although not traditional, mascarpone cheese is also widely used, and in fact, makes for an even creamier filling when substituted for part of the ricotta, or by itself. However, cannoli can also be filled with pastry creams, mousses, whipped cream, ice cream etc. You could also add your choice of herbs, zests or spices to the dough, if desired. Marsala is the traditional wine used in cannoli dough, but any red or white wine will work fine, as it’s not only added for flavor or color, but to relax the gluten in the dough since it can be a stiff dough to work with.

Despite not technically a “baking” challenge, I was SO excited to see this month’s challenge recipe at the Daring Kitchen.  I have only had cannoli a few times, but have always loved their delicate crispy shell and creamy fillings.  We had a choice of fillings, so I made half with vanilla and half with chocolate, and dipped the ends of both in melted dark chocolate.  For the cannoli with chocolate filling, I then dipped the ends into candied orange peel also for a bit of a jaffa flavour.  YUM YUM!!

Anyway, if you would like a printable copy of the recipe, you can find it here.

My first batch, I tried the forming them around the premade cannelloni tubes.  Unfortunately, they blistered and cooked along with the cannoli and I was unable to separate the two without smashing the entire thing into smithereens.  Luckily, I had some stainless cream horn shapes in my cooking stash, and they worked a treat.  Had they not worked, I would have opted for the flat, layered version aka millefeuille/napoleon style.  All in all, a great hit with the family and definately will be made again.  Am hoping Santa will bring me an ice cream maker for Christmas, as I can really imagine these with a yummy home made ice cream filling!!  Delish!

 

Lightning McQueen Cake Tutorial – Part 2 – Decorating November 21, 2009

Okay, so if you’ve read Part 1 of the Tutorial here, you have the cake all carved up and ready to cover with fondant.  First of all, you need to cover it in either a layer of buttercream (it doesn’t matter if it is a crusting one or not) or a layer of melted jam to make the fondant stick.  I prefer buttercream because I think you get a smoother finish at the end.  It’s up to your own personal preference though, it’s just to stop the fondant slipping around on the cake or lifting off in places.

Next you want to roll out some red fondant and place it next to the cake so you don’t have to carry it very far (it is most likely to tear while you are lifting it from the bench top to the cake).

Now carefully slide both arms under the fondant and gently lift it up and place it on top of the cake

I usually take off all rings and bracelets before I start rolling out the fondant, but if you haven’t, it’s a good idea to do that now so your jewellery doesn’t dig in to the fondant.  Now with cupped hands, gently press the fondant down following the contours of the cake and then cut off any excess.

If you get any cracks, just rub them gently with warmed fingers, and put a bit of copha/crisco on your hands and rub it in.

Now it’s time for the windscreen.  Roll out some white fondant and cut it like this:

Then gently place it on the cake.  You can make it stick a bit better by lightly brushing a TINY bit of water on the back of the white fondant.

Next up are the facial features – 2 eyes and a mouth from black.  I cut them all out with circle cutters, including the mouth to get a nice rounded smile.

I use a piping tube to cut out the eyes.

Now for the side windows:

and stick ‘em on

Now to finish the eyes, out of some blue fondant, cut circles slightly larger than the 2 small black ones.  I just use a larger piping nozzle turned upside down.  Then stick the black circles on top of the blue ones.

and stick them on too

The side markings can pretty much be broken down into a rectancle, a triangle and a curved bit.  I used circle cutters to get smooth edges on the curves, and just do the triangle and rectangle by eye.

The numbers are cut with number cutters and the wheels are cut as a larger black circle with a smaller circle inside cut out and replaced with a red inner circle.  For the logo on the front, I just print out on paper, cut out and put in place with a tiny smidge of water.

All done!  Now it’s your turn.  It’s really not that hard, so have a go.  At the end, if your kitchen is any less of a mess than this:

then I am REALLY impressed!!

Thanks for reading.

 

Lightning McQueen Cake Tutorial – Part 1 – Carving November 20, 2009

Here is how I made the Lightning McQueen cake for a friend’s son.  I have heaps and heaps of photos for this, so instead of writing notes with each, I’ll just post the photos, but if you have any questions, please let me know and I will answer them and include the information you need in the post.  You need to start with 2 rectangular cakes sandwiched together to give enough height, or if you don’t need to feed as many people, you could start with a loaf cake.

Enjoy!!

So there you have it.  Now you are ready to cover it in fondant.  Here is how I did it.

 

Thomas the Tank Engine Cake – Part 2 – How I Iced It.

Okay, here we go, the long promised part 2 of the Thomas the Tank Engine Cake Tutorial.  Sorry it took so long, but I hadn’t made another since until 2 weeks ago.  So, without further ado, here it is:

You can check out the previous post for how I carved the cake here.

First up, cover the entire cake with buttercream so that the fondant will stick.  It doesn’t matter if it is a crusting buttercream or not, infact just butter and icing sugar beat together will work just fine.  If you don’t want to go to the trouble, just brush the entire cake thoroughly with melted jam.  It’s basically up to you.  Personally, I find it easier to get a smooth finish on the fondant with buttercream underneath, but at the end of the day, it is just personal preference.

It doesn't have to be neat.

First up are the wheels.  Colour some fondant blue (remember it will darken somewhat overnight), roll it out to about half a centimetre thick and roll out at least 6 circles.  I say at least 6 because you are going to need 6, but I like to do a couple extra just in case I break one, or the kids eat one (also, this way you can pick the best ones).

Next, using small cutters or a knife, cut some bits out to make it look like wheels.  The shape doesn’t matter so much, nor how many you put, it’s just to give the impression.  You could even leave them solid if you like.

You really want to do this part a few days (at least overnight) before hand so they can dry and harden.  Once they are cut out, put them aside on a flat surface to dry.

Next up, cut the scrappy bits off the blue and roll it a bit thinner – I like about 3mm.  Put the cake right next to it so you don’t have to carry the fondant too far.

Now carefully slide both hands and arms under the fondant, lift it up gently and drape it over the cake.  It doesn’t have to come right to the front because that is going to be a different colour anyway.

Now carefully using your hands (take off all rings and bracelets first), press the fondant down over the cake, easing it into the crevices and over the bumpy bits.

You’ll have to manipulate it a bit around the corners.

Now y0u need to trim the front edge.  Using a sharp, smooth blade knife (NOT SERRATED!!!), cut across the front pretty much in line with the edge of the round bit, but just a bit back from it (about half a cm).

Now you need to peel off the extra bit at the front that you don’t want.  I don’t usually keep this bit as it has buttercream on it and can’t be rerolled.

And from the side:

Next you need to colour and roll your red fondant, and cut one edge straight with a ruler.

Place this across the front, slightly overlapping the blue and smooth down.

Now with your sharp, smooth bladed knife, trim across the front to the edge of the blue and peel away the excess.

Now trim across the bottom to give an even bottom edge, and cut a wide strip long enough to wrap around the other 3 sides of the cake.

Now wrap it around the base of the cake and trim the ends and bottom edge.

Now cut 3 thin strips and place them across the rounded bit at the front (sorry about the lack of technical train terminology!!)

Next cut out 2 number 1s.  I used a proper cutter for this, but you could easily do it with a knife.  Then wrap another thin red strip around each.

Now stick them one on each side.

All you need to do now is put a face on.  I made a mould from a toy and cut out eyes and a mouth.

Hope this helps.

 

Busy month for birthday cakes! November 16, 2009

Indeed it has been!  Here are a few photos of what I’ve been up to.  Keep an eye out as I will be posting a part 2 of the Thomas the Tank Engine tutorial on how I did the icing (remembered to take photos this time!!) and also a tutorial on the Lightning McQueen cake.

 

The Daring Cooks November 2009 Challenge: Sushi!

The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax
Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge.
Sushi (寿司 or 鮨 or 鮓) is much appreciated for its delicate taste and exquisite appearance. Sushi
actually means vinegared rice, which is the essential ingredient in every sushi recipe. Sushi is
simple and cheap to make at home, needs no special equipment and is an excellent way to use left
overs.
Although sushi in various forms has been around for fourteen centuries, the modern version was
invented in Japan in the 1800’s where a ‘hand-formed’ sliced fresh fish and vinegared rice ball was
eaten as a snack food. Nowadays, sushi is made with various seafood, meats and vegetables, raw
and cooked.

Although I have made sushi numerous times before, this was my first attempt at a decorative style.  It was great fun and much easier than I expected.  The first one was the Dragon Roll:

Dragon Roll

Dragon Roll

It is supposed to be covered in avocado, but I was unable to buy any, so I just sprinkled Nigella seeds on top instead.  the filling was cucumber and smoked salmon.

The second style we made was spiral sushi.  It has 6 different fillings.  I used inari, blanched carrot, cucumber, smoked salmon, red capsicum and fresh asparagus.  Finally, we had to have a go at the hand shaped nigiri.  These I had made before, not that you would guess by the dodgy shaping!!  You can get a printable copy of the recipe here.  Don’t be intimidated by how long it is, they are just detailed instructions, the actual process is surprisingly quick and easy.

Nigiri on the top, and spiral sushi below.

All in all, a delicious challenge as always.  Both daughters loved it and it made a lovely dinner for a mild spring evening, eaten out on the front verandah watching the sun set over the hills surrounding our little valley.  Aaaaaahhhh!

 

Daring Cooks October Challenge – Vietnamese Pho and Sweet Wontons October 14, 2009

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

Having grown up overseas due to my Dad’s job, and spending 6 years in Asia, I was really excited to see that this month’s challenge was a noodle soup – one of my all time favourites.  I mostly make Japanese Ramen, or a Chinese wonton soup, but I have not really ventured too far into Vietnamese cuisine, so I was really looking forward to this recipe.  When I think of Vietnamese food, I think of fresh, tangy dishes, full of flavour and zing.  This one was definately all of those!  Aromatic, wholesome, tasty, and with optional levels of chilli, it was bound to please all.  We had another family over for dinner the night I cooked it, and all of the kids went back for seconds – even knowing full well that there was dessert too!  Us adults had to make do with the few bits and pieces that the kids left!!  Both recipes were fantastic for entertaining as it could all be prepared ahead of time, and when I wanted to serve, all I had to do was bring the broth back to the boil and prepare the noodles.  Everyone loved the idea of adding their own condiments at the table – they could have extras of their favourites, and leave out anything that they didn’t feel like.  If you would like to see a printable copy of the recipe, you can find it here:  Printable Version of Vietnamese Pho.  And yes, I did change one or two things.  My 6 year old daughter is vegetarian, so I made a vegetarian broth and cooked the chicken fillet separately.  Also, bean sprouts were unavailable (I’m in a rural area), so I substituted with fresh snow peas and sugar snap peas from my garden which I sliced as thinly as I could.  They did the trick in adding a crunchy texture and freshness to the soup as bean sprouts would have.  I’ve never used hoisin sauce as a condiment, only as a marinade, and it was fantastic!


As a little something different, Jaden gave us a second course to play with.  Sweet wontons.  My family are HUGE fans of all things wonton, so there was no question that I would have to make both parts of the challenge.  We had never had sweet wontons before though, and I really liked the idea.  In the brief, Jaden encouraged creativity not only with flavours and fillings, but with shape as well.  Having spent 3 years in Japan as a child, I have always been intrigued with origami, so I figured wonton wrappers are a square…why not?  The traditional crane has always been a fave, so I had to go with it.  I decided to sit it atop an island of dark chocolate ganache amidst a sea of rich, luscious creme anglaise.  The cranes were a little fiddly as the wrappers are much thicker than origami paper, and they tended to stretch a little out of true square when separating them, but all in all, I was thrilled with the result.  Here is a printable version of Jaden’s Sweet Wontons.  Mine was pretty simple.  The wontons were folded and then deep fried.  The ganache was just one block of dark chocolate melted with half as much cream, and the creme anglaise was from Ann Amernick’s book “The Art of the Dessert”.  Here is a printable version of her creme anglaise which I used.
Yum Yum!  Bring on the November Challenge I say!!

 

Dessert in a flash! October 5, 2009

Here in NSW, Australia, yesterday was Rugby League Grandfinal Day.  Sorry, but that’s about as excited as I get about it.  Sub intelligence blokes with chunky thighs running forwards down a paddock, but throwing the ball backwards???? Go figure!

Anyway, my friend over the road is a mad keen fan and decided to put on a barbie late lunch/early dinner to celebrate and suggested I join her and her kids with my kids as her hubby was away and mine was at work.  Sounded like a good idea to me, so I asked what I could bring along in the way of food.  It was pretty much all organised, but I always like to take something along (plus any chance to have a play in the kitchen of course!), so I decided to try out something that had caught my eye a while ago made by Helene of Tartelette fame.  I highly suggest you check out her blog.  To call it awesome is a MASSIVE understatement!  She is my culinary idol!  My gastronomic hero!  Now I do have one small favour to ask.  Please don’t look at her magnificent masterpiece and my pitiful, meagre attempt on the same day.  Please???

Chopped Berries

Chopped Berries

Anyway, back to lunch at Liz’s.  I had a few mulberries left over that my friend Tomoko gave me the other day when we went to scab some wood from their fire pile to use as garden borders for my new herb patch, along with some strawberries I had bought for the girls.  My stash of sweet tartlette cases are still surviving in the freezer, so all I needed was some fresh cream.  A quick trip to the general store (didn’t have time to go into town for more complex ingredients) sorted that out and I was well on my way.

As the mulberries were a little tart, I decided on Chantilly cream rather than just plain cream, especially as vanilla goes so well with fresh fruit, so I whipped that up, pulled some tart cases out of the freezer, chopped the berries roughly and put it all in a box to take over the road.  Now for the fun part!!  The stained glass toffee – or rainbow toffee as my girls dubbed it.

It is actually a really easy process.  Line a baking tray with baking paper (I

Tray with drops of food colouring

Tray with drops of food colouring

also sprayed it lightly with oil first to make the paper stick to the tray and in case any toffee spread off the paper on to the tray).  Put a few drops of food colouring around the place.  I used gel colours as they are much more intense than the liquid ones from the supermarket.  Then you make the toffee.  It is really easy.  Just 1 part water to 4 parts sugar,

Toffee

Toffee

heat it gently till all the sugar is dissolved, then let it boil away WITHOUT STIRRING ONCE IT IS ON THE BOIL.  Brush the sides down with a pastry brush dipped in water every now and then to prevent crystals forming on the sides of the pan as they will ruin the toffee.  After a while, (the actual time will depend on how much you are making and how fast you are boiling it down), the syrup will have thickened and look a bit plasticy.  If you have a sugar thermometer, use it.  You want the syrup to reach soft crack stage which is around 140 celcius.  If you don’t have a thermometer, just drop a teaspoonful of syrup into a glass of cold water and it should immediately form a hard solid ball.  I try to take my time bringing the temperature up because I have found in the past that boiling it too rapidly makes bigger boiling bubbles which then pop and splatter syrup up the sides of the pan which then crystallise, fall in to the syrup and make the whole lot crystallise before it’s ready.  Ruined.  Here is a video of how fast I like to boil it and the consistency when it is ready:

Once it has reached temperature and before it begins to colour, take it off the heat and let the bubbles subside.  Then, VERY carefully, pour the syrup onto the prepared pan.  Tilt the pan around to spread the toffee across all the dollops of colouring and voila!

Stained Glass Toffee

Stained Glass Toffee

Aint it purty!!  When it is completely cold, you can snap it into shards of whatever size you like.

After dinner, all I had to do was fold the berries into the cream, dollop it into the cases and top with a shard of toffee.  Quick.  Easy.  Delicious.  Oh yeah, and I added a couple of borage flowers because they are running rampant in my veggie garden at the moment!

Strawberry and Mulberry Tartlettes with Rainbow Toffee and Borage Blossoms

Strawberry and Mulberry Tartlettes with Rainbow Toffee and Borage Blossoms

Just quickly while I’m here, I want to share 2 more photos of things I’ve made in the past week or two.  One is Ange’s new favourite dessert….Chiffon Cheesecake (Printable Recipe here).  It is heavenly.  It is a baked cheesecake, but with a texture half way between cheesecake and sponge cake.  It is lovely and light and luscious and just wonderful with chocolate, cream and fresh strawberries.

Chiffon Cheesecake

Chiffon Cheesecake

and finally, here is what we had for brekkie the other day:

Bacon and Eggs Nana Glen Style.

The eggs had only been laid by our chooks that morning (in fact they were still warm from the chook’s bum!), the salad greens had been out of the ground for minutes only, the beetroot was from our garden and home pickled, and the tomatoes had been collected from the farm gate down the road only half an hour before.  Seriously people, can you think of a better way to start the day?

Bacon and Eggs Nana Glen Style

Bacon and Eggs Nana Glen Style

 

 
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