mmmm… Nikumaki Honpo!

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If you are lucky enough to be driving around the Southside of Brisbane with a hunger craving that needs filing then look on further then Nikumaki Honpo. So, what is a nikumaki you’re thinking?

Nikumaki Honpo

I first came across Nikumaki Honpo while being designated the task of picking up a lunch time pizza at the in-laws place a couple of months ago. As I whizzed past the little unassuming shop, the little meat wrapped rice parcels caught my eye and I ‘mental ‘ noted  Nikumaki Honpo as a place to try.

Thank God I did! I love them! nikumaki are little parcels of rice wrapped in thinly shaved marinated pork, each one is garnished with a lettuce leaf and offered with free accompaniments of coriander and chilli (warning the Chilli is HOT!). Cheese is an optional extra for an additional $0.50 and worth the small cost in my opinion plus, the cheese gets a quick visit from Mr. Blow Torch, leaving it nicely browned and dripping down the sides of your meat parcel – yummo! Your meat parcel comes nicely wrapped in a cute little paper package, ready for easy transportation and consumption. The perfect takeaway food!

Nikumaki Honpo

You have to admire the Japanese for the simplicity yet scrumptiousness of their food and these heavenly parcels of meat, rice and cheese are just another example – they are just delicious!

I personally find it hard to stop at one as no matter how often I treat myself to them, I’m left wanting for more…. so go on, you’ve been working hard and deserve to indulge yourself,  stop by Nikumaki Honpo and pick one up… or two … or three!

Little M loves these too, finished ¾ of his own nikumaki. Not bad for a 9month old!

Nikumaki Honpo

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Buffet Breakfast at Thyme2, Sofitel Brisbane

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My very first Mother’s day coincided with my birthday this year and to celebrate this momentous occasion I was treated to breakfast at Thyme2, the buffet restaurant in the Sofitel Brisbane. Mother’s day is one of those holidays where a cafe or restaurant is the last place I’d want to be! Any food establishment half worthy of eating in, is packed full to the brim of loud, noisy kids and slow grannies – not fun at a Buffet when my ravenous stomach is demanding a feeding!

So, I opted to enjoy my special buffet breakfast the day after – today – and what a great idea it was! We were seated in a quite spot of the restaurant, probably thanks to little 8 month old M (… one of those noisy, loud kids I was complaining about…) at a table by the window overlooking Anzac square. The morning looked glorious from inside the cosy, luxurious surrounds of the Sofitel.

After organising a plate full of breakfast foods for little M, I was off – Plate in hand to satisfy my own stomach rumblings. The selection is what you’d expect from any respectable buffet: hot food, cereals, bread & toasting station, bircher muesli & porridge, pancakes & waffles, fresh fruit etc.

A nice little novelty I hadn’t previously come across in a breakfast buffet was the self serve juicing station. A selection of fresh fruit and vegetables in bowls were positioned around a big trough full of ice to be selected and used at will with the adjacent juice extractor – what a great idea! Of course, if self serve juice extraction is not your idea of a fun time, you can take your pick between the made to order hot beverages, ready to drink juices or bottled juices.

The hot station was as you would expect from this level of Buffet dining. A chef was on hand to make fresh omelettes, fried or poached eggs as requested. The waffles were particularly good, one of the best I have had in Australia – a light fluffy batter with just the right ‘crisp’ on the outside. However, they could have been a little hotter for my tastes and although they offered a fair selection of sugary sweet accompaniments (including marshmallows), I was disappointed that ice-cream was nowhere in sight. I did manage to find a bowl of cream and happily piled a big blob on top. J

The pastry selection left more to be desired, I ended up skipping this part all together. I had expected more from this station as the desserts in the lunch and dinner buffets at Thyme are quite extensive and there was NO CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN in sight! Surely, there would be no shortage of patrons lined up to dip all kinds of breakfast foods into their infamous chocolate fountain (one of my favourite aspects of the later buffets).

A selection of Asian breakfast foods were offered, including wonton soup, rice and sushi – a nice international touch. I also enjoyed the slab of fresh honeycomb, which seems to be quite fashionable in the luxury breakfast buffet world of late, having come across the same little novelty at the Sheraton Mirage and Versace Hotels on the Gold Coast.

I give Thyme2 four out of five little hands for being family friendly. A highchair for M was quickly brought out to the table and there was plenty of space to safely park the pram away from our table and out of the way of other quests and staff. M was able to quietly play on the clean floor after his breakfast while we continued our buffet exploration and sipped on the complimentary freshly brewed, cafe quality coffee. (I had two :P ) There was also plenty of food for M to eat and he had many ‘firsts’ for new flavours today – lucky boy!

The verdict: a nice breakfast buffet, but not unlike any of the other buffet breakfasts you’d find in other luxury hotels. If you were thinking of dining at Thyme2, I’d recommend the lunch buffet. They offer essentially the same foods as the dinner service at a slightly better price – it’s one of the best buffet lunches I’ve come across!

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Baked Pineapple Glazed Ham

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It’s unanimous around my Christmas table, this ham has a permanent invite for the annual holiday celebration. It is Delicious!

This is a very easy roast to whip up. With the ham already cooked all you need to do is heat it through in the oven and glaze at regular intervals during the baking. The outside of the Ham crystallises with the glaze while a subtle pineapple flavour infuses throughout the roast.

This ham has made an appearance at the last two Christmas dinners. Last year I was fortunate enough to make it twice, once with a specialty butcher Ham in Australia and the second with a scrumptious New Zealand ham. The produce in New Zealand is really something special, I am envious all New Zealanders – they don’t know how lucky they have it! I’m not sure what happened to the produce in Australia? We have lost our quality in compromise for volume and ease of transport. It is inevitable in a large city but sad none the less. Of course, good produce can still be found as long as you are willing to drive and pay big bucks to get it.

So here it is and you simply must try it, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

Baked Pineapple Glazed Ham

Ingredients

Half leg of Ham

For the Glaze:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 300g (10 ounce) can crushed pineapple in juice
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon corn flour (corn starch)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Method
  1. Preheat over to 180c (350f.)
  2. Place all ingredients for the glaze in a small saucepan including the juice/syrup from the canned pineapple.
  3. Cook over a medium heat and stir constantly to prevent burning.
  4. Continue to cook until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil.
  5. Allow mixture to boil for approximately 1 minute to thicken. (If mixture refuses to thicken, add more corn flour – a little at a time. Be sure to mix your corn flour with a little cold water in a cup to make a smooth mixture before adding it to the hot sauce.)
  6. Peel off the skin of the ham leaving the fat intact and score the fat in a criss-cross design.
  7. Baste the ham with the pineaaple glaze and bake for approx 2-3 hours until the Ham has warmed through. Baste with the glaze every so often until it’s all used up.


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Quit Sugar?

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If I’m honest with myself I would probably say I have a sugar addiction. It only takes a minute to look at the recipes on this blog to see that the majority of them are delectable sweet treats – all fabulous I might add! But there has been a quiet whisper around the place that sugar just might be BAD for you. Could it be so?

Surprisingly, I’m actually willing to find out. I’m going to do it – I’m going to try the ‘sugar free’ diet. Will it be a fad? A passing phase? Or a permanent change? I cannot say, but I’m going to find out!

My first awareness of the ‘sugar free diet’ was introduced to me by my cousin Kym. She has always been pretty health conscious and about a year ago she announced she was on a grain free, sugar free diet. She set herself and her family the goal of a few months and away she went. She rid herself and her pantry of any sugar temptation and set out to discover a new world… one without the shackles of breads and sweets. She is actually still going strong down the sugar fee road.

The idea intrigued me at the time and I thought it might be something I’d like to try in the future….. the distant future LOL! I’m not cutting out the grains at this stage – but the sugar has got to go!

So why now? There are a combination of reasons. One of them being, I feel like crap :( I’m constantly drained of energy, and always tired and anything that may help this is worth a shot. The other reason which is highly motivating - I’m now the Mum to a beautiful 5 month old little boy who is just about to start on solids. Yes, that’s right I am now responsible for the complete diet of another person and I don’t take this responsibility lightly. After being raised with an appalling diet (the staples being meat, chocolate, and fast food) which has taken MANY years of work to get to where I am now (actually eating vegetables LOL) the last thing I want to do is inflict this kind of abuse on to my off-spring. (Abuse? Sounds a little harsh, I know… sorry Mum and Dad… I’m sure you tried your best but to be honest it was crap! As a result I struggled with eating healthy, got fat in my early 20′s when my metabolism slowed and spent the next 5 years yo-yoing with my weight and feeling bad about myself. Tell me that isn’t abuse?)

So what now? I guess getting rid of all the sugar in the house would be a good first step!

Oh, did I mention I’m including fruit and natural sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup in my sugar free diet? … this is going to be fun! :S

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Ferrero Rocher Cheesecake

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I’m always up to try anything flavoured ‘Ferrero Rocher’. My eyes light up when I see Ferrero Rocher ice cream in little boutique ice-cream shops. So when my birthday came around what better cake to make then one inspired by these little golden balls of pure delight.

My cake ‘media’ of choice was the humble Cheesecake, I wanted to be sure the true intense flavour of the Rocher could really be captured and not lost in a cake like a light and airy sponge. I wanted a rich intense flavour with every element of the cake more decadent and packed full of more scrumptious calories then the next. This cake certainly is overkill on the calorie scale, this is not a cake your thighs want you to make on a weekly basis!

This cheesecake is absolutely delicious! You’ll only need a slither of it to satisfy your needs so one cake goes along way.

Ferrero Rocher Cheesecake

Original creation by myfoodobsession.com

Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 350g (8 oz) plain chocolate cookies (I used Arnott’s Choc Ripple)
  • 90g (3 oz) unsalted butter, melted
  • 750g (26 oz) cream cheese, chopped
  • 2 1/2 tbs cornflour
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g (5 oz) caster sugar
  • 220g (8 oz) Nutella
  • 300ml (10 oz) sour cream
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g (3 1/2 oz) Roasted Hazelnuts
  • 5 Ferrero Rochers, halved

For Cake Decoration:

  • Chocolate cooking buttons – melted and pipped into decorative triangles
  • Whipped Cream
  • Ferrero Rochers, halved
Method
  1. Preheat oven to 200°C (400f) and line a 23cm springform cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Finely crush cookies in a processor, then pour in melted butter and pulse to combine. Press cookie mixture into the base of the prepared cake tin. Bake for 8 minutes, then remove tin from the oven and reduce temperature to 160°C (320f).
  3. Meanwhile, place cream cheese in a clean processor bowl with cornflour, eggs and 100g (3oz) sugar. Process until smooth, then add Nutella and process until combined.
  4. Pour half the mixture over the biscuit base, then scatter around the roasted hazelnuts and Ferrero Rochers. Cover with the remaining Nutella mixture. Bake for 45 minutes until set.
  5. Meanwhile, place sour cream in a bowl with the remaining sugar and vanilla extract and mix until combined.
  6. Remove cheesecake from oven and top with sour cream mixture, then bake cake for a further 15 minutes until set. Leave in the switched-off oven with the door slightly ajar until completely cooled, then chill overnight.
  7. When ready to serve, remove cake from tin and place on a platter. Decorate with whipped cream, ferrero rochers and chocolate triangles.
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Zucchini & Pistachio Spice Cake with Lime Frosting

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Can’t get the kids to eat Zucchini? I bet they won’t be turning their noses up at this cake!

This cake is really moist. The use of Zucchini is great for something different, you will have all your guests intrigued and trying to guess the ‘special’ ingredient. Plus, you don’t have to feel too guilty about eating it, with every bite you get closer to your recommended daily vegetable intake.

With food intolerance in the family, this recipe was only two ingredients away from being completely lactose free. The cake was already perfect, all that was needed was a couple of little adjustments to the frosting. I used a tofu cream cheese instead of real cream cheese and a lactose free margarine to replace the butter. It worked surprising well – I still couldn’t keep my husband from ‘cleaning’ up the frosting bowl!

Zucchini & pistachio spice cake with lime frosting

Serves 10

Recipe Adapted from Delicious. magazine

Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 3/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsalted pistachios, chopped
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup hazelnut meal (could substitute for almond meal)
  • 2 cups grated zucchini (about 3-4)
  • 2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1/2 cup plain flour

For the Lime Frosting:

  • 180g unsalted butter, softened (I used a lactose free margarine)
  • Approx. 3 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 250g cream cheese, softened, chopped (I used tofu cream cheese for a completely lactose free cake)
  • Finely grated zest  of 3 limes
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Nuts to decorate
Method
  1. Preheat oven to 170°C (340f). Grease a 22cm springform pan and line base and sides with baking paper.
  2. Using an electric mixer with whisk attachment, beat the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla until thick. Stir in chopped nuts, meal, zucchini and spices. Sift over soda and flours, and stir to combine. Pour into pan and bake for 70 minutes or until a skewer inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool in pan for 20 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack and cool completely.
  3. For frosting, use electric beaters to beat the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. With motor running, gradually add sugar. Add zest and juice and beat until smooth.
  4. Using a bread knife, slice the cake into two rounds and set aside top. Spread a third of the frosting over the bottom half, then replace top and spread cake with remaining frosting. Decorate with nuts of your choice, I used Walnuts.

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Double Chocolate Birthday Cake

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I was delighted when I was asked to make my niece Sahara’s very first birthday cake! Mum left it completely up to me and I spent the next week sifting through design ideas and recipes. I soon settled on a fondant covered cake and not long after picked a classic chocolate cake recipe. I can’t remember the last time I made a chocolate cake, when I first started baking Chocolate seemed to be they only flavour I desired but now I find my preference leaning towards the more fruity varieties but who doesn’t love a good chocolate cake?

Next was the cake design. I knew early on I didn’t want to go with a ‘pink’ theme. It bothers me at times just how much little girls are drowned in the colour. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a gorgeous colour and I am a fan (owning lots of pink things myself) but little girls seem to be constantly bombarded with it. I went to a baby shower for a baby girl recently and seemed to be the only person who didn’t wrap their present in pink paper! Does this bother anyone else?! Anyhoo, after much searching I decided on a cake design inspired by Sunshine1102.

I made fondant icing for the first time with this cake. I must say it worked wonderfully, tasted better and cost a lot less then the store bought variety. I went for a ‘Marshmallow Fondant’ which is extremely easy: essentially you just melt the marshmallows and slowly add icing (confectioner’s) sugar until you reach a moldable, rollable consistency your happy with. I made my fondant the day before needed but I think next time I will make it at the time required, I found it a little hard to get back to a moldable consistency. It had gone hard and required a few zapps in the microwave to soften it back up again. It was no big deal really, but I loved how soft and perfect it was when freshly made.

Chocolate Cake

Recipe adapted from foodnetwork.com

Ingredients
  • 1 3/4 cups plain (all-purpose flour)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups good cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Method
  1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Line 2x 20cm (8-inch) round cake pans with baking paper.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl and whisk until combined. In another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Slowly fold in the dry ingredients to the wet. Then add the coffee and stir until just combined. Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
  3. Place 1 layer on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, bottom side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake. Cover with Marshmallow fondant if using.

Rina’s Chocolate Frosting

I did a cake decorating course a couple of years ago. Our teacher, Rina had some fantastic recipes which she shared with us. This is her chocolate frosting recipe.

Makes enough to cover 1 double cake or 2 regular cakes.

Ingredients
  • 6-8 cups icing (confectioner’s) sugar, sifted
  • 4 very heaped tbs of cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 eggs
  • 500g (1.1 pound) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3tbs of strong freshly made coffee, cooled
Method
  1. Add eggs, butter, coffee and cocoa powder to a large bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer until combined.
  2. Beat in 1 cup of icing sugar to the butter mixture at a time until the desired consistency is reached. This mixture can be frozen.

Marshmallow Fondant

Click here to see the guidelines I followed for the Marshmallow Fondant.

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Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

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These cupcakes turned out to be amongst the prettiest I have made when coupled with The Cupcake Wrapper Co.‘s stunning  Yellow Spot cupcake wrappers. They have some gorgeous designs available, the Pink Paris featuring the Eiffel Tower is one of my favorites. All the wrappers are made from card stock and are lightly laminated so you can use them over and over again! I also got to use my kitchen blow torch for the very first time which was extremely fun. Every kitchen should have one of these – I can now toast marshmallows whenever I like.

It’s been a busy festive season for me, starting early with the birth of my niece on the first of December, two more nieces birthdays followed shortly after. Then of course the mad rush of Christmas took hold and finally the New Years Celebrations. I have really enjoyed all the festive cooking and look forward to sharing all my recipes over the next few weeks. It really surprises me just how fast my ‘waiting to blog’ recipe lists grows. I have always enjoyed trying new recipes and cooking a wide variety of food (well, I should say ‘baking a wide variety of desserts’).

The idea of creating something with just a few simple ingredients still mesmerises me. Baking is quite diverse when you think about how limited the ingredients are. Almost everything starts from a base of butter, eggs, sugar and flour and yet the range of cakes, pastries and cookies created from this handful of ingredients is immense. I love the transformation the oven brings…. one minute a bowl of sloppy but delicious mess and within no time it’s a transformed to a edible delight with the most beautiful aroma. I can’t think of anything better then enjoying the scent of freshly baked anythings oozing out of my oven and filling my house and kitchen. Bread would have to be at the top of the most delicious oven scents along with Chocolate Chip Cookies.

These delightful cupcake wrappers were courtesy of The Cupcake Wrapper Co. to view their extensive range click here.

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Makes 12

Ingredients

For the Cupcakes:

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
  • 2/3 cup (150g) caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup (60g) desiccated coconut
  • 1¾ cups (185g) self-raising flour
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) milk

For the lemon curd:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup (75g) caster sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) lemon juice
  • 40g butter

For the meringue:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup (220g) caster sugar
Method
  1. For the lemon curd: Combine ingredients in a small saucepan; whisk constantly, until mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat. Cover surface with plastic wrap; refrigerate until cold.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Line 12-hole  muffin pan with paper cases.
  3. Beat butter, rind, sugar and in a small bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated.
  4. Stir in the coconut, then sifted flour and milk. Divide mixture among cases; smooth surface. Bake for about 20 minutes or until cooked. Cool cupcakes on wire racks. Increase oven to 220°C (200°C fan-forced).
  5. Cut a 2cm-deep hole in centre of each cake, fill with Lemon Curd; discard tops.
  6. For the meringue: Please egg whites in a large bowl and beat with an electric beater until soft peaks form. Add sugar 1 tbs at a time and continue beating until thick and glossy and sugar has dissolved. Spoon meringue into a piping bag fitted with a 0.5cm (1/4 inch) round tip. Pipe meringue on cakes; lightly brown with a kitchen blow torch or place on oven tray. Bake about 5 minutes or until is browned lightly.

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