2013 Gingerbread house

gingerbread house

Well, it’s 2014 and it’s been a long time between blog posts. Oops. Whilst I know everyone is probably sick to death of turkey, ham, trifles and pudding and madly trying to work off the post-Christmas indulgence, I thought it might be worthwhile still posting a few pics of the 2013 Gingerbread house. I haven’t bothered posting the actual recipe here (but you can find it in last year’s post).

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Blood orange meringue cupcakes

cooked blood orange meringue cupcakes

Market ingredient: Blood oranges
Difficulty: Fail safe cake. Guaranteed.
Deliciousness: Bitter sweet
Did The Beard like it? I’d serve them up for afternoon tea

Before this post goes any further, I have to ask one question:  Why the hell do I not eat more blood oranges? Damn. These things are good. I never give oranges in general a chance. I discount them over other seemingly more interesting fruit all the time. I get distracted by peaches, persuaded by pomegranates, and lured in by perfect pink lady apple. But the humble orange – I just walk on by. Until this week. I was actually on the hunt for ruby red grapefruit as I’d sort of been set a little challenge (although that’s the opposite of what this blog is about – I’m supposed to find a food and be inspired to cook, rather than thinking of a recipe and seeking out an ingredient). Whilst there was not a grapefruit to be seen at Eveleigh Markets this week (or any other week now that I think about it) I was stopped in my tracks by the deep crimson flesh of these organic blood oranges. See you later grapefruit.

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Banana & coconut muffins

cooked banana muffins sitting on a wire rack

Market ingredient: N/A 
Difficulty: Quick & easy
Deliciousness: Very banana-ry
Did The Beard like it? Apparently.

I don’t have a market ingredient this week, but what I did have was 2 overripe bananas that I just had to do something with. They were so ripe that they were giving off that all-pervading heady banana smell; too ripe to eat on their own. As I kid, I hated bananas and I think it was because of that same intense smell. Also I had (for some unknown reason) masses of shredded and dessicated coconut in the cupboard. I think I had intended, once upon a time, to make a coconut cake, but just forgot about it.

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Gingerbread house

gingerbread house completed

Market ingredient: Not applicable this week
Difficulty: Can be fairly difficult, depending on the degree to which you decorate
Deliciousness: So sweet
Did The Beard like it? He didn’t even get to try it. Unlucky.

A gingerbread house is really a labour of love. And man do I love making them. A bit of a family tradition in the Brown household, they were always the most hotly anticipated aspect of Christmas when we were kids. My Aunt & Uncle would bring one along every year and we would wait patiently all day, only to destroy it as we all scrambled to claim the lolly-filled chimney for ourselves. Whilst I could never take replace T&S’s role of gingerbread creators for family Christmases, I’ve taken it upon myself to be come the bearer of all things gingerbread at the Christmas party my friends & I have every year. Generally about a month out from Christmas, we get together to eat, drink and open ridiculous Secret Santa presents. Each person brings something and my role is always the house.

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Beef, mushroom & spinach lasagne

beef, mushroom and spinach lasagne

Market ingredient: Pasta Gallery Fresh Lasagne sheets (although the mushies, spinach and basil were also from the markets)
Difficulty: Easy but bechamel takes a lot of love
Deliciousness: Hearty
Did The Beard like it? It’s apparently his favourite lasagne (just don’t tell his Mum)

So, it’s a bit of an excited blog post for 2 reasons:

  1. I’ve finally opened up some fantastic box lights that were given to me by Stevie-from-across-the-road’s wonderful wife-to-be, the divine Miss H. Miss H is a spectacular designer and photographer. Not only does she take better photos of food than I could ever hope to take (my iphone isn’t really helping my cause much either) but she is also ridiculously generous. When she told me she had two box lights just sitting under her desk at work and they were mine if I wanted them, I was tres excited. So this is my first crack at banishing yellow-lit food from this blog.
  2. The Beard and I are in the middle of planning a big holiday to North Africa / Sicily / Malta. Those that know me know that I’m a bit of an Italian-want-to-be and have a bit of a romantic notion of that country. I’ve just spent the entire weekend reading up on Sicily, where we are going to be spending 2 out of the 4 weeks away. After picking up some of Pasta Gallery’s Fresh Lasagne sheets this week, it seemed only appropriate that we finish the weekend out with some hearty Italian fare.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like…

Gingerbread house of 2010So it suddenly occurred to me in the wee hours of this morning that Christmas is almost upon us and I haven’t put a second’s thought to this year’s Gingerbread house! For those who are unaware of this event, I’ve made it a bit of an annual tradition to make up a gingerbread house for Friends Christmas Party we hold every year. I generally put the word out for feature requests and see what I can come up with. And each year I try to incorporate at least some of the features.

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Rhubarb cupcakes

Rhubarb cupcakes in white cupcake liners

Market ingredient: Rhubarb
Difficulty: I always find baking difficult
Deliciousness: This is my favourite icing flavour now
Did The Beard like it? The icing saved the cake

I love the tartness of rhubarb. Raw, it will make your eyes water, but when cooked gently with sugar, it is such a delicious flavour. Like apples, it goes beautifully in pies and sauces. However, rather than baking a typical pie with the rhubarb this week, I wanted to be a little creative. It was Wee AB’s birthday during the week, so a fruity cupcake felt like it should be on the cards.

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Chicken and Leek Pie

Chicken and Leek Pie straight from the oven

Market ingredient: Leeks
Difficulty: Easy but you end up using heaps of bowls.
Deliciousness: A snuggie for your soul
Did The Beard like it? “I liked it; it just needed a bit more salt” (this seems to be a bit of a theme for The Beard).

It’s Winter. It’s cold. Beautiful bluebird days that lead to f*$king cold nights (apart from my love of skiing, I’m essentially a summer person). Our little terrace in the Inner West, with its floorboards, gaps in the skirting boards and lack of direct sunlight only serves to exacerbate the situation. It’s these kind of nights that force me to cook something that warms you to the core and nothing is more warming than a piping hot pie. Like a snuggie for your soul.

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Tarte Tartin with a twist

Tarte Tartin ready to serve

Market ingredient: Pink Lady apples
Difficulty: This version was a little fiddly
Deliciousness: Childhood in a dessert
Did The Beard(‘s friend) like it? “This was worth driving up from Canberra for.”

I was struggling a little for food inspiration this week. I was doing laps of Eveleigh for at least 40 minutes, struggling to work out what should be my key ingredient. That was until I discovered the new apple guy who’d arrived this week. Actually, it was really so much the apples that caught my eye, but the crazy contraption this guy had going that peeled, cored and cut the apple into one curly snail of fruit all at the same time that actually excited me. I’d never seen one of these things before and I couldn’t help but laugh as this this sliced so efficiently. As a result, I walked away with 10 apples; a mixture of tart Pink Lady & slightly sweeter Fuji’s.

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Macadamia and coconut tart

Macadamia and coconut tart

Market ingredient: Macadamia nuts from Hand ‘N’ Hoe
Difficulty: One you’ll whip out all the time
Deliciousness: You have to love macadamias
Did The Beard like it? He was expecting something sweeter

I have a very nostalgic feeling towards the macadamia. Growing up, my grandparents had a huge macadamia tree in their backyard that we would climb, run around and forage for the fruit. The excitement that would build as the tree would begin to drop the nuts. If we could climb to reach them, we would; otherwise we’d just wait for them to fall to us. I have fond memories of long afternoons, piles of macadamias in front of us, one by one peeling back the fuzzy green outer shell and using all the strength our little child biceps could muster to crack through the tough, hard brown inner shell. Hammers, nutcrackers, bricks; anything was used. It was one of the most satisfying moments when the shell would split open to reveal the beautiful, fresh macadamia nut. Every time I see macams, they make me smile.

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