Cook Book Review: Bake, Sizzle, and Simple

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Bake, Sizzle and Simple are three new bite-sized cookbooks from Valli Little and the team behind Australian food magazine, delicious.

I have Sizzle and Simplefrom the collection, and can guarantee I’ll also be checking out Bake in the near future. While these cookbooks might be small, they each contain sixty recipes – all of them simple and achievable even for those who aren’t so awesome in the kitchen. The layout is clear, with one recipe and the corresponding colour photo across each double page spread. The gorgeous photos alone are enough to get you cooking.

sizzle simpleSizzle concentrates on food that, well, sizzles! Hot flame cooking. BBQ and grill. This one is definitely for the carnivores, though it does have a small number of vegetarian recipes. Dishes are drawn from cuisines all over the world, and while a couple are more decadent main meals, most are easy brunches or mid-week meals. There’s Eye Fillet Steak with Raspberry Sauce, Salmon Skewers with Fennel and Orange Salad, Tuna Wasabi Burgers, Strawberry and Brie Sandwiches and Fried Eggs with Bacon Jam. Yes, you read that right. Bacon Jam. With ingredients like bourbon and brewed espresso. Oh, my… I think I’ll be checking that one out first…

Simple is just as the title portrays. Simple, fast recipes that rely on pantry staples such as pasta, rice or couscous and match them with fresh ingredients. See? Simple. There’s twists on the old standards like Spaghetti and Mussels, Homestyle Meatloaf and Singapore Noodles. Then there’s the Macadamia Crumbed Chicken Strips with salsa, Prawn, Chilli and Pesto Pizza and the Lamb and Haloumi Sausage Rolls. Like Sizzle, Simple also has a small number of vegetarian dishes.

Bake, Sizzle and Simple join Spice, Indulge and Slow in this series of mini-books. You’ll find loads of inspiration between the pages, and their small size makes them easy to store in an easy-to-access kitchen cupboard or shelf.

Sizzle and Simple

by Valli Little and the delicious team

Sizzle ISBN – 978-0-7333-3363-7

Simple ISBN – 978-0-7333-3364-4

ABC Books

Sponge Kisses

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With Father’s Day imminent here in Australia, I thought I’d make one of my own Dad’s favourites for this month’s Cook Club – Mum’s Sponge Kisses. Now, mine didn’t turn out quite as soft and fluffy as Mum’s (what IS that phenomenon that makes your mother’s cooking better than anything, ever?) and they did collapse a little as they cooled…but hey, it was my first go and my family still gobbled them up, so I’m going to take small successes where I can.

Sponge Kisses are basically two small rounds of sponge cake sandwiched together with jam (any flavour. You pick) and whipped cream, then dusted with icing sugar. Kind of an old-fashioned treat, I guess. They’re quick, easy and make minimal mess in the kitchen.

WHAT YOU NEED:

1/2 cup plain flour

1/2 cup corn flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 eggs, separated

3/4 cup caster sugar

Whipped cream and jam to fill

Icing sugar to dust

sponge kissesHOW IT’S DONE:

Pre heat oven to 200c, line oven trays with baking paper

With your electric mixer, whip egg whites until they have stiff peaks. Gradually add caster sugar, then egg yolks one at a time.

In a separate bowl, sift plain and corn flours together, along with the baking powder. Gently fold this mix through the egg mix.

Cooking in batches, spoon heaped teaspoons of mix onto lined trays allowing room for them to spread. They only take 4-5 minutes, or until you notice them beginning to change colour. Remove carefully using a spatula – they’ll still be very soft – and place on a rack to cool.

Sandwich together using jam and whipped cream (or just cream if you prefer). Some people like to add the Kisses to the fridge at this stage for a couple of hours to soften up. Personally, I prefer to serve immediately after adding the filling, with a generous dusting of icing sugar. If needed, you can store the unfilled Kisses in a sealed container until serving time.

Next time, I might try tweaking the recipe a little by adding a touch more plain flour and baking powder.

My Cook Club: Easter Chocolate Loaf

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It’s almost Easter, and I have to confess this recipe was one of the trickier ones I’ve put together for Cook Club! After being inspired by an extremely delish photo I found online, I set about making my own version (of what looked like a really simple recipe) to share with you guys. Alas, I need to remember things on the internet can be deceiving! But never fear, Cook Clubbers, after three trials, we now have a simple, pretty much fail-safe Easter Loaf so full of chocolatey goodness it might just send us all into a diabetic coma.

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Easter Chocolate Loaf


WHAT YOU NEED:

Mixed chocolate bars. I used Cherry Ripe, Peppermint Crisp, Crunchie, Kit Kats, Wonka’s Cookie and Cream and mixed mini Easter eggs (but nothing too creamy – I made that mistake in attempts one and two). Look for bars that have colourful insides.

400g dark chocolate, chopped

50g butter, cubed

1 tin of condensed milk

A loaf tin

Grease proof paper (or similar, to line your tin)

choc loaf 1

Ingredients


HOW IT’S DONE:

Prepare your chocolates by unwrapping them all, maybe cutting some in half. You’ll need to work fast so have everything handy. Line your loaf tin with cooking paper.

In a medium saucepan set to a low heat, melt butter and condensed milk together, stirring constantly. Once they’re combined, add the chopped chocolate all at once and stir like crazy. It will come together thick and fast, so use your muscles.

Once your fudge base is combined, layer it in the tin with your prepared bars and Easter eggs, giving the tin a light tap between layers to get rid of any air bubbles. Continue layering bars, fudge, bars until you fill the tin to the top. Refrigerate for 24 hours, or at least overnight. When set, turn out of tin – you might need to give it a good tap on the bottom – and slice.

**Confession – my loaf tin is quite deep, so I ended up doubling the fudge mixture. Next time, I think I’ll add more bars and less fudge.

** Don’t be afraid to experiment! I think using milk chocolate in the fudge mix would work well – dark choc made this recipe very, very rich…though my family aren’t complaining! I’d love to see what variations you guys come up with.

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Yum!

choc log

The inspiration!

My Cook Club: Triple Layered Chocolate Pavlova

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For Cook Club this month, I decided to make one of my favourite desserts – spectacular and far simpler to make than you’d think, but it’s a bit too full-on for everyday. Here in Australia, where we celebrate Christmas in summer and our delicious berries are in season, well, a triple-layered Pavlova has to be the perfect Christmas Day dessert ~ Mandy

What You Need:

  • 200ml of egg whites. I find it easier to measure egg whites this way, because at my place the eggs come in all shapes and sizes from our backyard chickens.
  • 1 ½ cups of caster (super fine) sugar.
  • 200g of dark chocolate.
  • 400 ml of cream: 200ml for whipping, plus another 200ml for mixing with the chocolate.
  • Mixed berries. I used strawberries, blackberries and blueberries.
  • 2 ½ teaspoons of white vinegar.
  • 3 tablespoons of cornflour.

????????????????????????????????How it’s Done:

Preheat oven to 130 degrees C. Line three baking trays – I use pizza trays – with baking paper, and mark a circle on each, aprox 20cm in diameter and set aside.

Very carefully separate your egg whites from the yolks. I use a groovy little kitchen gadget that I think came via Tuppaware years ago, but on the days when that gets lost in my junk drawer, just cupping your (clean) hand and letting the whites slide through your fingers does a pretty good job.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites on their own until they turn white with foamy peaks. Add the caster sugar little bit by little bit on medium-high. Be patient! Make sure each sugar edition has dissolved before adding the next lot. An easy way to check this is by rubbing a little mixture between your fingers. If you can still feel grit from the sugar, beat a little longer. Once complete, your mixture should be white, stiff and very glossy. At this point, add the vinegar and cornflour to stabilise the mix (Confession – I forgot to add the vinegar and cornflour, but it still worked.)

Divide mix into three, and spoon onto your baking trays. Using your circles as a guide, smooth out mixture as much as possible, and keeping the sides tidy. Add to the oven, turn heat down to 120 C. Bake for 1 hour, 10 mins (Confession – mine were ready at one hour exactly, so do keep an eye on them), then turn off the oven, open the door and allow the meringues to cool completely.

While your meringues are cooling in the oven, melt the chocolate over a double boiler with 200ml of cream. A double boiler is basically a saucepan with a little bit of water in it and low heat, and another large bowl placed directly over it. Don’t allow steam or water to come into contact with your chocolate. Stir constantly, and eventually it will come together in a chocolate sauce. Allow to cool.

Prepare berries, and whip remaining 200ml of cream. I always add a dash of vanilla extract. On a serving dish, very carefully place one of your cooled meringues. Using about a third of your chocolate ganache mixture, smooth on top of the meringue, followed by a third of the whipped cream and berries. Place your second meringue on top and repeat the process, then the final meringue, chocolate, cream and berries.

For serving on Christmas Day, you could add more berries to the plate, tinsel or baubles to decorate.

Good luck Cook Clubbers, I’m looking forward to seeing what Bel comes up with!

My USA foodie adventure #2

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On our last night at Disneyland, we all (as in, all 16 of us) headed out to dinner at Napa Rose. Napa Rose is a (very) fine dining experience, located within The Disney Grand Californian Hotel, where we stayed.

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Both the food and service were exquisite. Five big fat stars from me. After a couple of days of fast or mass-produced food, it was so good to sit down to fresh produce prepared with plenty of care. While I might be handing out big fat stars, that’s the last thing the meal made you feel. Sure, we left feeling full and satisfied, but it was a nice change to eat two courses (plus bread) without feeling bloated and greasy.

For starters, I – along with a few others on our table – chose the Pan Roasted Diver Scallops on a Sauce of Lobster and accented with Vanilla. Seriously, *I die*. This has to be one of the most amazing dishes I’ve ever eaten. So delicate, so delicious. The balance of textures and flavours was just divine.

For main course I had the Smiling Tiger Salad with Fried Lobster, Spicy Beef, Asian Greens and a Coconut-Lime Vinaigrette. Oh. My. Now, I’m not much of a drinker these days, especially when it comes to wine, but I did share a bottle or two of Moscato with my sisters-in-law, Tamzine and Kerrie. The sweet wine was a great balance to the spice of the Smiling Tiger Beef.

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What a way to say good-bye to Disneyland! While Napa Rose might not be the cheapest dining option, it really was a special evening. The staff were efficient and full of personality, and treated the children of our group with just as much care as the adults

None of us could fault The Grand Californian Hotel either (except maybe to say that it is MASSIVE and the hallways are reeeeally long and it’s easy to get lost. But err, maybe that was just me…) If you’re ever fortunate enough to get the opportunity to stay there – DO. With exclusive park access to both Disneyland and California Adventure Park, and also to Downtown Disney – there’s not a location more convenient. And, no other location has Napa Rose.

 

My USA foodie adventure #1

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Hello! We arrived safe and sound at LAX very early on Saturday morning after leaving Melbourne, Australia early Saturday morning. Isn’t time travel awesome? We flew with Qantas, and though the food was typically airline standard, it could have been worse. Like when, 6 hours into a fifteen hour flight, my ten year old became awfully air-sick. All over my lap. Yep.

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Day One passed by in a blur of exhaustion, but we did manage to get into Disneyland for a few hours. We stayed at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, and just…WOW. So highly recommended, in every way. Seriously, just wow. We’re travelling with the extended Wrangles family – my parents in law, their three sons (one of whom is my husband), three daughters in law and eight grandchildren, so just getting a table together in a restaurant is a bit of a mission.

For lunch on that first day, we ate at The Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney, which was just outside our hotel. I had the Green Goddess Salad with shrimp – which tasted a whole lot better than it looked – and Simon (significant other) had the Cheesesteak Po-Boy. Both, apparently, dishes typical of New Orleans. Honestly, we were both so tired and hungry we would have eaten anything, but it was a very tasty welcome to American food.

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Day Two was a BIG day at Disneyland, which meant hot dogs and sugary soft drinks all day. California is in the midst of a record breaking heat wave (Aussies, I’m talking 38 – 40 c each day. And dry), so again, I was happy to go with a salad for dinner.

We all ate at the La Brea Bakery in Downtown Disney (so convenient!) I had a Wedge Salad, which was delivered as a full quarter of iceberg lettuce with bacon, beetroot, chicken breast and a blue cheese dressing. Holy Moly, it was amazing! My sister in law, Tam, had a BLT with a side of yam chips – again, delicious.

After dinner, we headed back into Disneyland itself for more exploring and the fireworks over the Disney castle – one of my highlights so far. Just beautiful, and very sentimental for this big sook!

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Mandy Reviews: Guardian by Jo Anderton

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anderton_Guardian-coverI was thrilled to learn FableCroft Publishing had picked up Book Three in Jo Anderton’s Veiled World Trilogy – Guardian.

I’d already read and loved books one and two– Debris and Suitedand was really looking forward to finding out how Anderton would manage to tie up such a complex storyline. But before I begin, a little disclaimer–I’m intentionally vague with this review. Being the last in the series, it’s all too easy to drop spoiler-bombs for the first two books, and these stories are far too good for that.

The Veiled World trilogy is big. I don’t necessarily mean in page numbers (though they’re all decent sized books, just not door-stops), I mean in the sheer scope of story. I’ve mentioned before that Anderton is a master world-builder, and she well and truly proves it here in the final instalment when protagonist Tanyana begins to slide across the veils–or through the doors–to even more worlds: worlds that are still connected to the one she shares in Movac-under-Keeper with Kichlan and her Debris collection team–Tanyana’s home.

As with Suited, Jo Anderton kicks this novel off with a deft recap of the last book. Rather than a “Previously…in The Veiled Worlds” type of summary, she manages to give the reader swift and unique catch-up by means of a report from a character whose thoughts we don’t usually get much of. Not only is this a clever tool to jog the reader’s memory, but it places the story smack into what we once believed was nothing more than the mythology of the Veiled Worlds.

In my review of Suited, I wrote about the fantastic character development from book one to two. So many novels with complex world building drop the ball when it comes to giving the reader characters they can really care about. Anderton has again pushed further than I expected. I felt comfortable with both Tanyana and her supporting cast–maybe too comfortable–and loved the way I was propelled forward alongside the characters as they were forced to keep moving, keep fighting, with little more than hope to keep them going. The Veiled World trilogy is written at a frantic pace, and the character development keeps up with the plot. These are people who can’t be unchanged for what they have seen and endured, both mentally and physically (oh, the physical!) Even after a long break between reading books two and three, I slipped straight back into an emotional investment in Tanyana and…and I’m so not going to say who else (I did say no spoilers).

Tanyana herself undergoes the biggest changes, and it is her strength and growth of character that impressed me most. Over the course of three books, she has grown from a talented and privileged member of society (though maybe a little too privileged?), to scraping the bottom of that same culture, to becoming the strong and deserving champion.

I felt Guardian was more science fiction than fantasy, and definitely more cyber than anything else. This is a little change from the first two books, though the mythological elements still hold this story together at the end of the day. Jo Anderton slips the reader information like jellybeans (or Lindt chocolate–whichever is your poison), only the smallest morsel at a time, which makes it hard for the type of reader who likes to problem solve ahead of time. I found the author to have great control over what she wanted us to know and when we could know it.

My single frustration with Guardian was with the evil Puppet Men. As antagonists, I found them to be a little too nebulous–though that could well have been Anderton’s intention, as I’m sure Tanyana felt the same.

There’s tragedy, relief, and still plenty of ‘a-ha!’ moments. I’ll give fair warning…there will be tears, so have the tissues handy. After three books, it’s impossible not to lose it a little when a story like this comes to an end. For this reason, even though Guardian could possibly be read as a stand-alone novel, to get the most from it, I recommend reading Debris and Suited first if you haven’t already done so.

 

Guardian

Book Three of the Veiled Worlds Trilogy

By Jo Anderton

Fablecroft Publishing 2014

ISBN – Print: 9780992284442 (RRP: $16.99)

ISBN – ebook: 9780992284459 (RRP: $7.99)