Tag Archives: cook

Masterchef 2017 Finale…Three Minutes To Go.

Tonight, I wanted to share the magic, pressure and suspense of the Masterchef 2017 Grand Finale with you from the comfort of my loungeroom, which may not be so cosy with all of us in it.

DSC_5836

Fake Bilbo watching Masterchef with the family.

As much as I love Masterchef, it does terrible things to your nerves and loyalties. I had no idea who was going to win this year and the producers were very sneaky. They built up all these other characters and we pinned our dreams onto them, only to watch them fall like dominoes as their hope and dreams were dashed, along with our own.

There’s been much discussion, at least in our house, about who was going to take out this year’s title. It wasn’t who we thought. Indeed, you could say this year’s winner fell under the radar, but in aiming for the thrilling twist at the end, I presume the producers kept her fairly low key throughout. Yet, she was incredibly consistent, had the inner stillness  you need to overcome all these uber-stressful challenges, and she plated up with such flair. Of course, I obviously can’t comment on the taste. Indeed,  watching Masterchef makes the perfect case for taste-TV.

Obviously, in the time it’s taken me to write this post, my three minutes has well and truly expired. The show is over and tonight is almost gone as well.

I know who won.

However, we’re just going to reverse back a bit and go back to the start of tonight’s show. Back to where I was poised in front of the TV set with only three minutes to go.

….

Tonight, we’re parked in front of the TV watching the finale of Masterchef Australia 2017, where Diana Chang and Ben Ungermann are fighting it out. We have watched every single episode at least once. Well, at least I have. I’m hooked.

DSC_5835

It seems it takes more than divine intervention to win Masterchef. It really looks like I caught Ben in prayer in this snapshot.

While they had to get through three challenges tonight, the first two are a prelude to the dessert challenge. I swear the judges must travel the globe to find the trickiest, bastard of a dessert on earth. I’m not even sure that a word exists to describe their dessert challenge which was terror stacked on terror.

Chocolate fruits

Trust me. This is the dessert they had to recreate and not real fruit.

Tonight this involved tackling a dessert by “Queen of Chocolate”  Kirsten Tibballs  When they lifted the cloche to reveal their challenge, there was platter of fruit sitting there and I was thinking…where is it? Where’s the dessert? Well, those fruits were the desserts. If you think recreating the outside is tricky, the interior was worse. As beautiful as it looked and surely tasted, it was pure hell in terms of complexity and technique, with layer upon layer of scrumptiousness. Well, it would’ve been if I’d been there to actually taste this thing, instead of watching the whole thing from my lounge chair at home, feeling like I was on the set of Gogglebox

 

 

Just to share a bit of the action. I took some screen shots with my camera (definitely NOT my phone. Get real!!) and you can see rows of my prized tea cup collection on the shelf above the TV. So, you can feel right at home, even though there are no photos of me. My SLR doesn’t do selfies. That’s justification enough for me!!

DSC_5856

You can get some “interesting” effects photographing things on TV.

So, as it turned out, Diana won Masterchef 2017. Congratulations! Well done and well deserved.

However, I couldn’t help feel sorry for Ben who came in at number 2 and Karlie at number 3. So close and yet, too far.

Of course, this leaves me with the terrible realization that everybody on Masterchef 2017 has gone home, including the judges, and there will be a huge void in my TV wtahcing. Well, at least until The Batchelor starts on Wednesday night. This year’s Batchelor is Matty J, who was the runner up in the Bachelorette last year, so we’re old mates. Not that I watch a lot of TV. However, I do find these TV competititons the ultimate in people watching. They fascinate me. Well, the ones where the contestants are nice to each other do. I switch the rest off. There’s enough bitchiness and hate in this world without adding to it or becoming part of the audience.

Indeed, I’d much rather watch Friends. That’s what the Masterchef contestants were for 2017, and I think for every other year too. Despite the huge stakes, there’s such a supportive and enouraging vibe and I truly love it. So much  so, that I’ll be playing it again Sam. Watching re-runs on catch up TV without shame.

Who knows, one day I might even throw my hat into the ring with Rowena’s Vegemite Toast. 

Something tells me, I might need to reinvent that dish just a little…

Have you ever watched Masterchef and what sort of cook are you? Do you have a speciality dish? Mine would be pavlova.

xx Rowena

Cooking An Alien Being.

“For I am he who hunted out the source of fire, and stole it, packed it in pith and dried fennel stalk”

Aeschyles: Prometheus Bound.

Last night, I took a leap of faith and cooked an alien. Not anything extra-terrestrial. Rather, I made a dish heroing the weird-looking, fennel bulb. Fennel is a flowering plant species from the carrot family. It is a hardy, perennial herb with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. I was challenged to try cooking fennel after seeing it used in every episode of Masterchef. After all, I’ve never even tasted fennel let alone cooked with it myself. While there are weirder looking fruit and veg, than the humble fennel bulb, even how to cut this thing posed enough of a challenge.

Indeed, the last time I bought fennel bulb it sat in fridge until it was only good for the worm farm. I simply couldn’t get my head around trying to cook it.

“There’s fennel for you, and columbines; there’s rue for you; and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of grace o’Sundays.”

William Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’ (1564-1616)

So, this time I turned for help to what many know as the Australian cook’s Bible, Stephanie Alexander’s: The Cook’s Companion. The book is organized by ingredient. So, when you’re stumped by that mystery ingredient, Stephanie’s talking in your ear guiding you through the challenge.

To be perfectly honest, before I opened Stephanie up, I had no idea that fennel had an anniseed or licorice flavour. Not a fan of licorice, I wasn’t so sure about cooking this fennel after all, and was seriously concerned about wasting good ingredients. Yet, I guess its popularity on Masterchef encouraged me to have a go. I found a recipe in the cookbook for fennel with a simple cheese sauce and added a few of my own touches.

So here’s my adapted recipe for Pumpkin and Fennel Gratin. It was absolutely scrumptious and I’d describe the anniseed flavour as subtle and refreshing. I had no mad aspirations of giving this dish to the kids. So, I made it for an adult taste with mature cheese. My daughter helped herself,  and said it was “yuck” and tasted of vomit cheese and licorice. On the other hand, my husband and I loved it and I’d be proud to serve it for a dinner party. Well, that’s if we were to host a dinner party…

Well, at least I’ve extended myself!

DSC_5791

Pumpkin and Fennel Gratin

1 Fennel Bulb

1 cup roast butternut pumpkin

left over chicken, beef or lamb optional

Cheese Sauce

40g butter

2 tablespoons Plain Flour

1 ½ cups warm milk

1 cup grated strong cheese. I used Ashgrove Vintage Cheddar.

1 cup breadcrumbs made using stale bread.

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese.

salt and pepper to taste

a scattering of fresh thyme.

Directions

  • Turn the oven onto 200ºC.
  • Line a baking tray with baking paper. Add olive oil, a teaspoon of mustard,  crushed garlic and a sprinkle of salt. Mix.
  • Slice half a butternut pumpkin into cubes. Place on baking tray and bake until golden brown. Add to fennel in baking dish. Use your own discretion on the ratio of both.
  • Grease an ovenproof gratin dish.
  • Blanching Fennel: remove the outer layer of fennel, wash and drain. Boil in a saucepan of salted water for about 2o mins, turning over to ensure it is cooked through. You should be able to push a sharp knife through the fennel bulb.
  • Slice fennel and line the greased baking dish. Add pumpkin and meat if desired.

Cheese Sauce

  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Try not to let it brown.
  • Stir in flour over low heat and cook for two minutes with a wooden/large plastic spoon, to prevent the sauce tasting like raw flour. This is called a roux.
  • Gradually stir in milk and bring to the boil.
  • Stirring continuously, add cheese.
  • Spoon cheese sauce over veggies.
  • Cover with breadcrumbs.
  • Sprinkle with extra cheese. I used grated parmesan.
  • Bake until golden brown. The top will develop a scrumptious, cheesy crunch.

I sprinkled roughly a handful of finely chopped left over roast lamb into the mix, which also gave it a rich flavour. Well recommended.

Have you made any dishes with fennel which you’d recommend? 

Bon Appetite!

Rowena

PS Next stop…beetroot. It’s been in the fridge for a week. Do you think using it to make a chocolate cake is cheating?

 

Rowena & the Radio Stars.

Well, on Monday morning, I had a bit of fun trading places. Instead of being behind the lens looking out, I was being filmed, inspected and watched under the microscope.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, our local radio station Star FM arrived at my place on Monday morning. While I was expecting breakfast radio host Rabbit to turn up, it was quite a surprise when his co-host, Julie Goodwin, Australia’s first Masterchef, pulled up in our driveway in her gorgeously cute white mini.

Wow!

That wasn’t the only surprise.

Indeed, we were off to make a salad together in MY kitchen.

Cooking with Julie

Talking salad with Julie.

Phew! Thank goodness I was prepared. Geoff had anticipated something like this and warned me about the kitchen. So, when it was looking like I was going to need an orbital sander to remove the black ring around the hotplate, I persisted. Pulled out the big guns…Gumption, the green scourer and pure unadulterated elbow grease. Wow! My stove top could now appear in a commercial.

Or, indeed, on the radio station’s web site.

I also thank my lucky stars that I wasn’t wearing my pink, fluffy slippers.

The dogs are complaining bitterly about being left out. After going through the torturous bathing process, they feel a bit ripped off . Bilbo is particularly grumpy after trying so hard to be nice. (He’s seemingly forgotten, that he was barking so much, that he was removed from the opening scenes.)

Anyway, of course, I had to share this with you. No doubt, it will be quite weird for you to actually see me in person and hear my voice for the first time. I’d love to know what that’s like for you. After exchanging posts and comments with some of you for years without meeting, it’s actually rather exciting that you’re stepping into my real world, after being in my cyber one for so long.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

In case you’re wanting to follow this story through from start to finish…I wrote a post on my blog about meeting Rabbit and Julie Goodwin when Star 104.5 broadcast from my daughter’s school. In that post, I mentioned that as much as Julie had been there for me throughout the years, she’d never brought me a meal. That was until Monday morning when Julie pulled up in my driveway with butter chicken, rice and a salad for dinner. Go Julie! The radio station filmed the whole thing and posted the footage on their Facebook page tonight. It’s already had 964 views…amazing.

You can read more about their visit Here and Bilbo’s view of it all Here Bilbo had quite a lot to say.

I hope you enjoy it!

xx Rowena

Here’s a link to Julie’s recipe for Butter Chicken.

The Masterchef & the Rabbit.

Rabbits are usually the target, and not the decoy. However, this was no ordinary Rabbit.

This was Rabbit as in “Rabbit & Julie Goodwin” Star FM’s breakfast radio hosts. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by our local radio station. I was simply told that I’d won a prize and Rabbit would be at my house on Monday morning. Mia on the phone didn’t say much and was very adept at evading questions.

DSC_5140

Naturally, I had to do something for Rabbit’s visit. Create a bit of theatre. On Sunday night, I finally came up with the idea of Mad Hatters Tea Party…an Alice in Wonderland theme. After all, where is White Rabbit? I have quite a lot of Alice in Wonderland paraphernalia and it all came together very well….especially with some home-made, gluten free cupcakes which our daughter decorated. I also tied a scarf to the massive Norfolk Pine Tree in our front yard so they could find our house (as if they couldn‘t spot the crowd in the front yard and the tea party and don’t have GPS.) Well, my daughter and her friend were feeling “bored” and nabbed armfuls of my scarves and tied them to the tree. It looked fantastic, but very out there.

Suddenly, Rabbit and Mia arrived…along with a cameraman. Now, I should warn you that Rabbit knows how to keep a straight face and tell pure porky pies without flinching. Rabbit apologises that Julie couldn’t be there and presents me with a signed cookbook…Julie Goodwin: The Essential Cookbook.

As much as I appreciated the cookbook, I sensed there was more. That something else was up his sleeve. After all, they could’ve posted the book. AND, a radio station wouldn’t film someone who isn’t the author, presenting a book.

Then…  a dashing white mini convertible with “COOKING” on the number plate, pulls into our driveway and out steps Julie Goodwin, Australia’s first Masterchef. She’d arrived at our place with a meal…butter chicken, rice with saffron and we were off to the kitchen to prepare the salad together…and for the cameras.

OMG!!! Obviously, I’ve never been the mild-mannered reporter type, but I was uber-excited. I was so happy, that I all but burst into song. Julie was here!

DSC_5220

Well, you might ask why Julie Goodwin came here. After all, our place is hardly Masterchef Central.

Well, that’s a long story.

As I said, I received a message from the radio station a few weeks ago saying I’d won a prize. I suspected this was in response to a post I’d written after Rabbit and Julie Goodwin hosted the breakfast show on Star FM at our daughter’s school. I’ve been a mad Julie Goodwin fan ever since I first saw her battling it out on Masterchef eight years ago.

When I heard that Julie and Rabbit were going to be at my daughter’s school, I drove the 45 minutes up the freeway along with her cookbook and my heart was almost palpitating. Once I saw her on air, I was absolutely transfixed and I found it so hard to pull myself back and harder still to watch her leave… “Julie! Julie!”

Pathetic, I know! Yet, there was just something about Julie, which made me feel home. There was something about her which calmed a raging sea I didn’t understand. I was having a wonderful day and yet something inside me was drowning. The waves were crashing overhead and yet there were blue skies and things were the best they’d been in a long time. Indeed, I’d even become a believer in miracles.

rowena-amelia-with-rabbit-julie

My daughter and I with Rabbit and Julie at her school.

Anyway,  when I wrote about meeting Julie, I made a tongue-in-cheek remark about how Julie’s never dropped around here with a meal. Of course, I’d never expected that, but around the time season one of Masterchef went to air, I’d been diagnosed with a life-threatening acute auto-immune disease called dermatomyositis, where your muscles attack themselves causing debilitating weakness. Although I’d improved, I wasn’t out of the woods. Our kids were aged 5 and 3 at the time and with Mummy being an endangered species, it wasn’t uncommon for Church or friends to drop in a meal. It’s what you do.

DSC_5254.JPG

Dinner with Julie (she’s the cookbook at the end of the table).

Now, I’ve not only received a meal from Julie. I also have another of her cookbooks and it’s time for me to share the love. Pass it forward…at least to my own family.

Bon Appetit!

xx Rowena

PS You might also enjoy reading Bilbo’s account of events. I must admit he did write quite a lot about himself: The Queen of the Kitchen.

My Affair With A Chocolate Mookie.

Yesterday, I met my chocolate Adonais and fell deeply in love. Indeed, staring doe-eyed at his lush sensual exquisiteness, it was love at first sight. I was swooning.

Of course, I couldn’t dream of taking a bite and spoiling such untouched perfection straight away. Or, heaven forbid, brutally stab it with my fork.

DSC_1053

Meeting My Mookie.

Oh no! I had to wait.Soak it all up with my eyes.

A flawlessly smooth, dark chocolate dome with a purple pansy on top and a smattering of magic gold dust, I was in love. Not Tim Tam love, which I experience almost every night with my evening cup of decaf tea. No, this was something inter-galactic. A wild, unrestrained passion, which sent all of my senses into overdrive.

Indeed, my passion was so strong, that I even started to question myself. Blown away by feelings so far beyond lust, attraction and soul mates created in the same forge, I felt such a strong vibe between us. Yet, I am a married woman…a married woman with two kids, two dogs and a home. I had a lot at stake.

DSC_1049

So, naturally I had to wonder whether my love for this luscious chocolate creation called a “Mookie”, equated to a betrayal of my sacred marriage vows. Had I committed the ultimate, unforgivable sin? Me who puts such weight on the importance of good character and holds the Golden Rule as my personal holy grail? Would I now be going direct to hell, without so much as a stop at Go to collect my $200?

It was starting to look that way.

Yet, as I said, I still hadn’t taken a bite. I hadn’t actually crossed that line.

Then, my cappuccino arrived.

DSC_1052

It’s a sign….love on a cappuccino.   Photo: Rowena Newton.

That’s when I knew it was love. Not lust, fancy or a momentary lapse of reason but the real thing. There was a heart etched in the foam. It was a sign! We were going to be together forever and ever living happily ever after.

However, if our relationship was really going to kick off, I couldn’t keep sitting there goggle-eyed. I had to make a move, even if it ultimately meant my lover’s death, as we fused together becoming one flesh.

I wasn’t disappointed. Indeed, I could feel myself diving through his lush chocolate sweetness in the same way I’d paddled through that chocolate river as a kid watching Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. It was an out of body experience.

Adonais, who in real life goes by the name Mookie, could well be described as “a work of art”. However, paint never tasted this good. I savoured each delicate mouthful and then, as I’d long suspected, Mookie had a heart…a heart of rich, red tangy raspberry gel.

DSC_1055

Mookie’s Beautiful heart.   Photo: Rowena Newton.

What more could a woman want?

By the way, while I’m delving into Mookie’s anatomical details, I should also mention that he sits on a biscuit base, known as a chocolate sable (I cheated and had to ask. When it comes to food writing, I am very much a novice and could well have described it as a “whatsy-me-call-it” or “thinga-me-gig”). If you have ever watched Masterchef, then you’ll know that a sensational dessert has to have sweetness, creaminess, tang to cut through as well as that all important “crunch”. So, the biscuit provided the crunch, although I thought I also detected a subtle touch of crunch in the mouse but couldn’t be sure.

Naturally, when you fall so deeply in love, you want to spend the rest of your life together. Say “I do”. Walk down the aisle and head off together on the ultimate chocolate honeymoon.

However, I’m a married woman and there’s the added complication of my kids. How could I possibly run away from home? Leave Geoff and the kids, not to mention the two dogs, behind? Trade all of that in for a Mookie? Or, to to be precise, a succession of Mookies. After all, one Mookie could never be enough.

That was when reality threw quite a spanner in the works and I had to wake up.

So, that was it. I had to leave Mookie behind. Be responsible and call it quits. Of course, our final adieu was filled with such anguish but I took a deep breath and made the break. Toughened up.

DSC_1071

Delectable Delights!         Photo: Rowena Newton.

However, before heading home, I had to atone for my sins. Sorry, Mookie. I didn’t take you with me. Wanting to try more of the selection, I bought a Mango Yuzu (a mango mouse) and a Tiramisu for the family (which, of course, included me!)

DSC_1075

Heaven on Earth.

After all, the family would have killed me once I confessed to going to Koi, a dessert bar in Sydney’s urban Chippendale, not far from Central Station, and didn’t bring anything home.

DSC_1074
                Reynold Poernomo                                                  Photo: Rowena Newton

While you could wonder how my kids know anything about a dessert bar in urban Sydney, Koi is owned by the family of Reynold Poernomo who we all fell in love with on Masterchef 2015. Reynold made the most exquisite desserts, which totally tantalized my tastebuds. Indeed, I found out about Koi when Reynold returned to the show last week and the contestants had to make his dessert: “Moss”.

Indeed, as much as I LOVE watching Masterchef, it can be incredibly cruel watching all those scrumptious dishes on TV and you can’t taste a thing. It’s particularly hard, too, when you’re there eating leftovers and the hero of your dish is a limp carrot, which somehow responded to CPR when it should have been “retired” to the worm farm.

“Such is life”, Australian bushranger, Ned Kelly, said before being hanged at the gallows.

I know what he meant.

So, that is what took me to Koi while I was down in Sydney heading to a medical appointment on the other side of Sydney Harbour. It was to fulfil all of my unadulterated chocolate fantasies and I wasn’t disappointed.

Indeed, I know I’ll be back.

However, before I leave, I have one last wish.

I wish I could be a kid again and lick the plate. While it’s not a good look for a 40 something mother of two (that’s how similar acts of insanity are routinely reported in the news), leaving even those few last remaining crumbs, is such a waste!

I’m sure you’d agree!

xx Rowena

PS I will admit that after I finished my Mookie, I did consider buying a second dessert. I was there alone without anyone watching, pointing the finger or calling me a glutton. I could do whatever I liked. Moreover, it was lunch time and surely God isn’t going to strike me down if I have two desserts for lunch just this once…even if I do have a Vegemite sandwich from home stashed away in my bag. It wouldn’t be the first time that a sandwich has arrived home untouched… Thanks kids!! However, I behaved but only because I know I’ll be back!

Koi is located at 46 Kensington Street, Chippendale, Sydney.

Phone 02 9212-1230.

No More Limp Carrot… Masterchef Australia Returns!

If you know anything at all about cooking, then you’ll already know that fresh produce is the secret to cooking like a master chef. After all, a meal is only as good as its ingredients.

However, if you’re cooking at home, you’ll also know that “fresh” can be open to interpretation. As long as that limp carrot hasn’t gone moldy, she’ll be right. Indeed, that very same limp carrot provides its own unique sense of “theatre”. It might not be Masterchef, but once it’s in the mince, it’s an unsung “hero”.

After all, fresh produce isn’t something you can always pull out of a hat. It can mean running back and forth to the shops like a yoyo and quite frankly, I have better things to do.

That leaves growing your own.

Of course, we have our own veggie patch and a corresponding worm farm.

DSC_1028

The Veggie Graveyard: Thyme has become grass & the corn has died.

However, while friends have flourishing veggie patches which could feed an army, ours is sad. The beans died. The peas died. Quite frankly, I’m totally mystified how the tomato plant has not only survived, but metamorphosed into a veritable triffid about to take over the world. Yet, while this monster plant has produced a multitude of green, cherry tomatoes, we are yet to see one RED tomato. We don’t know where they’re going, but even covering them in wire mesh hasn’t produced a yield.

tomatoes.JPG

Tomatoes: At least something is growing!

Sorry, spuds. I almost forgot. We’re also growing potatoes. My daughter just seized my laptop to ensure I didn’t leave them out.

So, despite my best efforts, two somethings are still growing in the veggie patch. All is not dead…yet!

Anyway, last Sunday night, Masterchef returned to Australian TV screens. Much to my deep shame and embarrassment, we weren’t feasting on a sumptuous Sunday roast. Rather, we were eating re-heated chicken and mashed potato without dessert. I remember making Jamie Oliver’s Lasagne during last year’s series but during the intervening months, I’ve lost my mojo. Summer was so hot that I tried not to cook anything. After all, you could fry an egg on the footpath and melt chocolate on the bench. Being a particularly long and hot Summer, it’s only just getting cool enough for me to think “cook”. We’re been eating quite a lot of salad.

So, after this rather long sojourn, the return of Masterchef was an awakening…the call of the wild. It’s only been two days and tonight I was already starting to cook with Matt Preston’s voice talking in my ear. “Flavour…where’s the flavour? Where are you taking this?” I swear I’m toiling away in the Masterchef kitchen…a thousand miles away from home!

Definitely, no more limp carrots around here!

DSC_1024

Shepherd’s Pie.

Tonight, we had Shepherd’s Pie and I can assure you this was no ordinary shepherd. While it wasn’t quite Masterchef, it was well on the way. At least, it would have been if I’d had a bottle of crusty red wine. However, with Dijon mustard, garlic and fresh Basil from the garden (another resilient survivor), the mince was stewing with flavour.

However, I must confess there were also other elements, which weren’t very “Masterchef”. That includes boiling the potatoes in their skins in the microwave and using grated tasty cheese straight from the bag instead of your authentic Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano. However, the cheese melted beautifully in the oven and the smell was divine.

However, what really mattered…I had no complaints. That’s quite a rarity around here. My kids have extremely discerning palates.

That could be one of the downsides of my love of cooking and watching Masterchef. That when I cook ordinary meals in between my more memorable creations, they know it. Aside from a few limp carrots, they’ve never had spaghetti on toast and I have my own peculiar fussiness myself.  Prefer to make things from scratch.

Jonathon Jan 2007 b

Baking with Mister back in 2007, aged 3.

While I’m not on the show, I’m operating against our own clock here. We’re needing to bolt dinner down and bail into Mum’s Taxi and our son is off to Scouts.

Indeed, every night seems to come with its own inbuilt pressure test.

With that type of pressure, why on earth am I watching Masterchef when I should just get a BBQ chook  and have an instant meal?

Personally, despite trying to juggle a multitude of competing pressures, I value and believe in good, nutritious food. While I might not be wanting to cook like a master chef every night, I do want to produce meals which taste sensational, are nutritionally balanced and teach my kids how to put a meal together. Show them how to produce a symphony of flavours bursting with vitamins, imagination and creativity. That food doesn’t necessarily come in a box. That food is so much more, than something to shovel in your mouth to satisfy your hunger.

family at Yoda

Indeed, that food is an experience, producing memories by the mouthful…especially when it’s made with love.

At least, it will be as long as Masterchef is on the screen.

Then, slowly but surely we’ll inevitably return back to that stick of limp carrot.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

Laugh or Cry: Overcoming Birthday Caketastrophes!

Tomorrow, is our son’s 11th Birthday and of course, it’s going to be bigger than Ben Hur.

Surprise! Surprise! I decided to bake a Chocolate Cake and I’m jazzing it up with a caramel and whipped cream filling and smothering the lot with lashings of Milk Chocolate Ganache and a sprinkling of M & Ms. I know that sounds really indulgent,even decadent, but you only have a birthday once a year!

Chocolate cake…You can’t go wrong with chocolate cake.

The meaning of life can be found in Mummy's bowl.

The meaning of life can be found in Mummy’s bowl.

However, you obviously haven’t heard about my luck with making birthday cakes. It’s so bad that I’ve dubbed it: “The Great Birthday Cake Curse”!! For some strange reason, every single birthday cake I’ve ever made has been cursed, doomed, even double-doomed, as all sorts of dreadful complications set in.

Yet, with the precision of a surgeon, I painstakingly restore the cake and save the day.

Hey, who am I kidding?

There’s nothing precise about me in the kitchen. Rather, I’m very “slap dash”, whacking on the icing to camouflage near-fatal, structural craters, which are so deep that you could hide a semi-trailer inside…even an entire road train!!

Yet, despite these devastating catastrophes, I overcame the hurdles and had that cake out on the plate, candles alight with everybody singing “Happy Birthday”.

My husband’s uncle, who was a builder, always used to say that the difference between an amateur and a professional is being able to cover up their mistakes. Looking at how I’ve patched up my cakes, I can’t help wondering how many houses down in NE Tasmania are being held together by lumps of icing? It’s one of the world’s greatest gap fillers!!

Despite my birthday caketastrophes, I’m renowned for my scrumptious pavlovas and choc-chip cookies. Indeed,  when I took my choc chip cookies to scouts recently, I was quite the pied piper attracting throngs of little admirers. Indeed, after seeing the cookies in action, I decided to throw out my copy of How To Win Friends & Influence People and simply hand out cookies instead.

This only compounds my confusion. What’s the deal with the birthday cakes? Why do I have so much trouble? Who knows? It remains one of life’s great mysteries!

No doubt being more practical than yours truly, I can hear you wondering why I don’t just buy a cake instead? Why do I keep torturing myself birthday cake after agonising birthday cake? Talk about a masochist!

Well, if you have ever made a birthday cake for someone you love, you’ll know precisely why I have to make these @#$% birthday cakes myself. That’s right. I add that magic ingredient…my love. You can’t buy, manufacture or even fake that and it’s not something you can buy off the supermarket shelf!

So here I am the night before Mister’s big 11th birthday expecting a tribe of friends at his party. The cakes have been baked without incident.  Everything is proceeding exceptionally well.

That was until it came to whipping the cream . A relatively simple task but that’s what turned the tide. Actually, make that whipping the low-fat lactose-free cream. Mister and other family members are lactose intolerant. I was concerned that being low-fat might be a problem but I’m ever the optimist.

I’d been beating the absolute crap out of the cream and it was still sploshing around like milk in the bowl when it should have been resembling butter, if not cheese. It had also splattered  absolutely all over the bench, anything parked on it and all down my shirt. That was when I dug out my magnifying glass and had a closer look at the label. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be.  Oh my goodness! There it was. “Not suitable for whipping”. The cake was doomed. The party was doomed.Disaster!!!

It was 11.00PM. The shops were shut and I had two cakes which desperately needed to be sandwiched together. In my desperation, I thought the caramel might just be enough. Being my usual Einstein self, I thought that if I scooped the thicker layer of cream off the “milk” and mixed it with the caramel, to put it good old colloquial Australian lingo: “she’ll be right, mate”.

However…

Instead of bulking up the caramel, the cream almost turned it liquid.  My only hope was that it would fill up the bubbles in the cake before it ran off the edge and onto the plate. Taking a chance, I hoisted up the second layer of cake and prayed it would stay put, despite slipping and sliding around on roller skates. My only hope now was that the chocolate ganache would hold the cake together against all odds.

Not to be deterred by my humble prayers, catastrophe followed catastrophe and if I hadn’t developed resilience from all my previous birthday cake disasters, there would have been tears, loud wailing and unceasing sobs  as I cried and cried and cried….the world’s biggest loser of a Mum!

It might not be my party, but I’ll cry if I want to!! You would cry too if this had happened to you!

I'm not the only one who gets stressed out by birthday parties!

I’m not the only one who gets stressed out by birthday parties!

It’s My Party: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCPqaG8sVDE

 

Then and I guess you can see it coming, the @#$% cream stuffed up the ganache, which was sploshing like a chocolate milkshake. Desperate, I added cup after cup of icing sugar, trying to thicken it up. I’d poured in half the bag and it was still looking sloppy but at least, it was holding some shape. I poured the “ganache” over the cake and I looking like a human pretzel, I crossed everything I had to boost my luck.

But no! The ganache flowed over the top of the cake and kept going creating a moat around the poor, drowning cake. The river was so deep, you could literally kayak through it. Definitely not the look I was looking for so I started bailing the ganache out with a ladle and not unsurprisingly, it sploshed all over the bench and that’s when I found the dog not unsurprisingly underfoot.

This is where the birthday cake curse worked in my favour. Not being my first salvage operation, I had a few  tricks up my sleeve. In this instance, the answer had to be M & Ms. They cover up a multitude of sin. Although thanks to that wretched low fat lactose free “cream”, even they mucked up and were sliding down the cake. @#$%!!!

However, just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, there’s salvation.

All's well that ends well.

All’s well that ends well.

I could have hugged one of my son’s friends. As he takes his first mouthful, he speaks up like a true Masterchef:

“I know what this is. It’s chocolate mouse!”

I’ve never been so thrilled. The chocolate ganache monster had a name and it was good.

Guess, it goes to show that you can’t go wrong with a chocolate cake after all!

By the way, here’s a past post about Birthday Cakes: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5947&action=edit&message=6&postpost=v2

Do you have any funny birthday stories to share? I’d love to hear them!!

xx Rowena