Tag Archives: dessert

Masterchef 2020 – My Friends in the TV.

Over the years, I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned that I’m a die-hard Masterchef tragic. Indeed, I might not have let on just how much I long for Masterchef season to come around every year. Indeed, I’m there poised on the very edge of the couch with the same intense enthusiasm as a  Rabbitoh’s footy supporter longing for kick-off.  By the way, in case you’re wondering what a Rabbitoh’s supporter might be, they’re a particular crazed breed of Rugby League fan with actor Russell Crowe as their fearless leader. They’re anything but your average fan. So, that really says a lot about me and Masterchef. Indeed, I’d be wearing the apron if you didn’t have to go on the show to earn it for yourself. To the best of my knowledge, this is something money can not buy.

However, my love of Masterchef doesn’t stop at the couch.

I’ve also mentioned in one of my recent travel posts, that I’d consider moving to Melbourne for Masterchef, trading in my Sydney stripes for good.

That says even more!!!

Juli Rabbit Rowena in kitchen

Julie Goodwin (right) photographed in my kitchen. Rabbit and Julie hosted the breakfast run on  our local radio station.

Also, just to show off just a little bit, Australia’s very first Masterchef,  Julie Goodwin, has even been to our house to cook us a meal. My cousin also works on the show. However,  she has to adhere to a code of silence, and she also moved to Melbourne.

Anyway, every other year, I’ve been in parked on  the couch in front of the box gripped with tense anticipation on opening night. However, somehow what with watching all the coverage of the coronavirus, and all the car restoration shows my husband and son have been watching on some random channel, we not only missing the first night. We missed the first week. I was in shock! I know we’re living in a very strange world atm what with all the changes the coronavirus has wrought. However, the fact I missed the start of the new Masterchef season, shows just how far the earth has shifted from its axis,  taking us into very alien territory.

However, all was not lost. Last night, I wrestled with catch up and went to bed very, very early in the morning after binge watching five episodes of the show.

For those of you who follow Masterchef and many of you who don’t, you’d also be aware that Masterchef 2020 has had major changes of its own. At the end of last season, all three of the original judges (Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan) left, leaving a very big question mark over Masterchef’s future. Could the series survive? What was it that made the show Masterchef, and could that go on? In many ways, it felt like the end of the world with a bunch of survivors escaping through the flames on a life raft.

However, this show clearly has a lot of bedrock underneath it. In Masterchef 2020, they cleverly launched the new judges within very familiar territory. They brought back previous contestants…the people we know, love and have been gunning for in the past. Moreover, just to ensure the new-look season went off with a bang, they launched off with Gordon Ramsay Week. Could the show start off with more fire and brimstone?

I don’t think so.

Since we’re all in isolation, I haven’t been able to talk about the show with my two support workers who are just as passionate about the show. Obviously, I haven’t talked about it on Facebook either yet. However, this post might generate some discussion.

Reynold at Koi

Reynold Poernomo photographed at Koi a few years ago.

Personally, I love Masterchef 2020 just as much as usual, and I must say that I’m personally very glad to see Reynauld back. I’ve been to his Koi dessert bar in Sydney and his desserts taste just as exquisitely scrumptious in real life as they look on TV. I also have loads of other favourites on the show. Poh Ling Yeow, who placed second in the first season, has been a major personality on the show so far, and had been tipped to be one of the new judges. However, all of the contestants have unfinished business and are back to win.

Nomtella inside at Koi

A treat from the Koi…yum!

Binge watching Masterchef last night was also strangely comforting in this very strange world we’re currently living in. You see, it was filmed three months ago pre social distancing and the contestants are all standing in their regular positions at their benches. Indeed, they’re even HUGGING EACH OTHER!!! Wow! It’s absolutely wonderful to be a part of all that love, joy, friendship and community, even if it is on TV. I miss all of that in real life so much, and as we all know, the lines between the people on TV and us at home has always been blurry, and we feel we know these total strangers in quite an intimate and personal way. However, now more than ever, we need our TV friends and some sense of normal when reality is anything but.

So many people I know, especially people living alone, are really longing to hug someone, especially their friends. For huggers, it’s just such a part of who we are, our joie de vivre and even more importantly, our love and connectedness with people. I really miss that too, even though there are four humans and three dogs under our roof.

Although we’re all doing isolation together, not everybody here feels like a hug, and might not feel like a chat at the same time either. We’re not always on the same page. Indeed, my husband and I have ended up in different time zones, where I’m night and he is day. Of course, binge watching Masterchef only compounded this scenario last night. That was the latest (or should I say earliest) I’ve ever been to bed since university!!

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Jonathon & Amelia Jan 2007

Kids learning how to cook January 2007.

Before I head off, there’s one other thing I love about Masterchef, and that  hasn’t changed this year either. That’s how it inspires my cooking and certainly raises the bar several  notches. While I’m fairly strong on the sweets front, I’m not so versed on the savoury side, and every season, I at least pick up a few extra ingredients. I started baking fennel last year, and I should be inspired to get my herb patch at home up and running. In my typical style, I bought a few punnets from Bunnings and they haven’t made it past the front door and are still in their punnets. I would love to be able to experiment with liquid nitrogen and see how that works for myself. However, that’s well beyond the scope of my home kitchen. So, I’ll just have to keep on dreaming.

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A current view of the whiteboard in our kitchen.

By the way, speaking of my home kitchen, while Masterchef is playing in our lounge room, our kitchen’s been converted into a dance studio. As you might be aware, our daughter is a dedicated, aspiring dancer and ballerina. Thanks to social isolation, all her dance classes are now being transmitted via zoom. She’s currently on school holidays, but rehearsals for a production whose performance date is very much in the air, continue and when you have a look at our whiteboard, you can see that is no small undertaking involving serious commitment from the studio and families alike. For the first time ever, I’ve truly wondered whether it’s all worth it. Of course, anyone with a more practical mindset, would already be questioning the viability of  career in the performing arts. However, I come from a family of professional musicians and so this world isn’t quite so foreign or precarious to me. I also have my own writing dream inside my heart, which was buried in the corporate world for quite awhile, but has found release. Even if I’m not paid to write, that should never detract from who I am. I’m still frantically working towards that one day which I’m believing will come. Thanks to the coronavirus, it’s taken another hit, although perhaps this time at home will finally mean it’s done. I hope so! Yet, my own dreams also mean I understand our daughter’s vision.

Have you been watching Masterchef 2020? What are your thoughts? Are you hooked just as much as ever? Or, perhaps, you’ve called it quits. I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I would also like to acknowledge those of us whose dreams are currently in suspended animation with this incredibly powerful song from Les Miserables. Better still, I’ve chosen Susan Boyle’s audition for Britain’s Got Talent: I Dreamed A Dream

I’ve dreamed a dream too. How about you?

 

Weekend Coffee Share…31st December, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s already New Year’s Eve here in Sydney and I’m briefly putting my feet up after leaving the pizza dough to rise and making Chocolate Mouse and Pavlova for dessert. We don’t go out on NYE. It’s not easy to venture into Sydney city for us to view the fireworks in person due to my mobility restrictions, and it’s not the safest time to head into the city either. Moreover, we also have the added complication that at least one of our dogs, Lady, is terrified of fireworks and breaks into a sweat when local fireworks get set off illegally. No doubt, that also happens where you live as well, and you’re also aware of how many pets go missing as a result.

Couple Ocean Beach best

I’m struggling to remember what happened during the last week and I had to confirm with Geoff that today is actually Monday. That’s a common phenomenon in between Christmas and New Year However, I should’ve remembered that there was a minor event called Christmas. How could I forget? Well, I’ll blame the heatwave for that.

We had a family dinner at home on Christmas Eve and headed out to Church for carols intermingled with the traditional Christmas tree manger reenactment.

We spent Christmas Day at my aunt and uncle’s place where we met up with my parents and the extended family. These Christmases fuse tradition and change. Much to my concern, there’s an increasing Melbourne contingent and missing persons from the celebrations. If you’re not aware of the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne, it’s not quite as intense as it used to be but to have family exodus to Melbourne of all places, is a concern. Need to stem the tide. The highlight for me of this Christmas celebration was taking part in a jam session with my cousins with two on guitar, another on cello while I played my violin. It was a very interesting experience because my cousin was playing chords in a blue grass style and I was trying to listen deep into the music and pick out what became something like a song line to play on my violin and my violin actually sounded like a harmonica which surprised me. I usually play classics on my violin of the likes of Bach so playing blue grass ad lib was quite a change and I was very proud of myself for stepping so far out of my comfort zone and doing so well. Our son also joined in with the jam on guitar and also took over my violin plucking the Peter Gunn.Monopoly Go to Jail

We received this local fundraiser Monopoly for Christmas from my parents. Playing Monopoly is a good this time of year. I ended up in jail a few times.

After Christmas, we’ve been catching up with friends and we’ve also braved the post-Christmas sales. Not unsurprisingly, I found my way into yet another book shop.  where I bought Cicero’s: How To Be A Friend which was written in 44BC in Latin. I’m almost halfway through and highly recommend it. I also bought Oliver Sacks’: The River of Consciousness. In case you’re not aware, Dr Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who has written quite a few books including: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. Have you stuck your nose in any great books lately?

heat wave

The weather around here has been fairly intense lately. After having three or four storms the week before Christmas including blackouts and hail, we’ve been caught in a heatwave, which has largely forced us underground. Indeed, we’ve been hibernating at home although I did venture to the beach two days ago for a photographic walk. That was a lot of fun, and despite initially thinking I wasn’t going to find much, the light was particularly good the clouds seemed to dance in the setting sun especially for the camera. I was also quite fascinated by the watermarks in the sand. All those wiggly lines of sand along the beach which resemble secret messages.

Well, it’s now 10.00pm  and after watching the 9.00PM fireworks, we’re listening to the NYE entertainment and Ross Wilson has just finished singing Can’t Get No Satisfaction and has moved onto his own hit Eagle Rock. This music is a good distraction from the choking smoke leaking in from the kitchen. Somehow, the hot plate which I swear I didn’t use tonight, ended up on high and the left over pizza has apparently been incinerated and it’s not safe for me to enter the kitchen. Indeed, even the rest of the family is covering their mouths going in there. Hoping the air is going to clear soon so we could put together our NYE dessert  of pavlova, chocolate mouse, fruit and cream. I was even thinking of chopping up some Tim Tams and sprinkling them over the top for a bit of added chocolate crunch.

Have you set any New Year’s resolutions? I’m still working on mine and as you can see by the dessert we’re having tonight, that my sins are continuing to mount.

I’ll be back in the New Year to share a snapshot of the Sydney Fireworks.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Chocolate Brownie with a Stick on the Side.

It’s been awhile since I’ve dobbed in a dog on Beyond the Flow. However, when I found one of Rosie’s sticks parked on the plate  right next to my chocolate brownie, duty called. All of a sudden the quirkiness of living with dogs was flashing like neon lights and I couldn’t keep my amusement to myself. I had to share it with you.

Above: Zac top left, Lady bottom right and Rosie has the red collar and spots.

Just to recap on the dogs in our family…We have Lady, a 6 year old Border Collie x Cavalier who is more Cavalier in temperament. Left to her own devices, she’d love to eat and sleep all day and chase the occasional moving critter. She totally ignores balls and sticks and refuses to chase inanimate objects. Last year, after Bilbo our beloved Border Collie passed away, we fostered two Border Collie x Kelpie pups from the same litter…Zac and Rosie. They’re now about one year old. Zac and Rosie are like twins and it’s not uncommon for each of them to grab an end of the stick and play tug-of-war with each other. Lady has absolutely no interest in chasing sticks or balls, which was a big reason we adopted the pups. We were used to a crazed, ball-obsessed dog and as much as he drove us crazy, we couldn’t live without this harassment. We needed that constant pestering.

That might explain how I’ve allowed myself to get manipulated and dare I say trained into perpetually throwing the stick , or even the teeniest splintered fragments to Rosie. I’ve also found myself feeling rather fed up, and it’s a natural instinct to throw something away when it’s annoying you. However, you don’t need to be a human or dog psychologist to know that this is only reinforcing the very behavior I’m trying to curb.  Clearly, I’m being out-manipulated by a dog. Or, you could say that I’m  very well trained.

Being a true blue desperado, Rosie keeps depositing these bits of stick right in front of whatever I’m watching. Quite often, she’ll hover over my laptop and delicately remove the smallest fragment of stick out of her mouth with surgical precision and place it on the keyboard. This might even be accompanied by a gentle nudge with her paw as a polite but rather insistent reminder.  “Come on, human. Get moving!” Or, as one of my teacher’s used to say back in primary school in around 1978: “Wake up, Australia!” (I wonder if this was because Australia was generally seen to be asleep???!!)

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I’m not sure why I found it particularly funny that Rosie had deposited a stick on the plate next to my brownie. There are random stray bits of stick scattered all around me and I’ve even had a stick or two go down my top. That was rather disturbing and quite an invasion of privacy. So, having bits of stick turn up in unexpected places is nothing new around here. However, it did look particularly striking on the plate and like it had been dished up…Chocolate Brownie Served with Fragment of stick. Humph…I can see it appearing on the menu at Heston Blumenthal’s  The Fat Duck in However, the very near future. The must have dish!

However, perhaps it’s what happened next which really caught my attention. Rosie goes over to my plate and unlike your average dog who would’ve helped themselves to the brownie if they’d had the chance, Rosie picks up the stick and brings it closer. Drops it on my lap. I don’t know about you, but if I had the choice between a brownie and a stick, it’d be a no brainer. Just in case you’ve been infected by a similar madness, let me just confirm. I’d take the brownie.

Rosie! Rosie! Rosie! Hasn’t anyone told you that you’re just a tad too obsessed? Trust me! We’ve tried. We even get her up on our laps, massage and pat her and try to get her to relax. It occasionally works. However, most of the time she’s looking trapped and is squirming to escape.

Clearly, she’s taking the whole working dog thing too seriously, and needs to learn about holidays.

Has your dog been up to anything “interesting” lately? Feel free to dob in your dog in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Welcome to My Birthday Coffee Share 30th July, 2017.

Welcome to My Birthday Coffee Share!

It’s my birthday today. So, come along and join me. We can grab a huge chunk of sludgy chocolate cake with our coffee and swing from the chandeleir, until the whole  darn thing rips out of the ceiling. I might just leave out the bit about us falling to our doom.

I cherish each and every birthday and am grateful to be getting older…most of the time. I’ve never looked in the mirror and seen the wrinkles. However, I must confess that I’m profoundly short-sighted and as time’s gone by, I’m near sighted as well. So, I’d be lucky to see a fault line on my face, let alone a wrinkle without my glasses.

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Birthday Breakfast.

Anyway, we’ve had a fantastic day. It started out with a sleep-in. Our daughter made me a cheese and salami omelette, which she cooked up in heart-shaped silicone moulds. It really touched my heart.

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Mother and Son.

Not to be outdone by his sister, our son made pancakes for lunch and effortlessly flipped it. The smile on his face from pulling this off was priceless. He was stoked. I spent much of the day in my PJs, which I feel is the perfect birthday attire, especially for the middle of Winter. Then, we were ferrying our daughter to and from a last dance class before her exam tomorrow. She was be sitting for the RAD Grade 4 Class Award.

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Next, we were off for dinner with my parents at theThe Coast Bar & Restaurant, located on the Gosford Waterfront. I ordered a Pina Colada by some other name and shared a seafood platter. I wasn’t too sure about whether I would like the oysters. I’ve never been a huge fan. However, your tastes mature. So I thought I’d give them a try. I loved them. My mother has always been a huge lover of oysters and she’s always said that they taste like the sea. This was the first time I’ve ever eaten oysters where I’ve got that. They had that flavour of the sea and then, it suddenly intensified. Boom! They also had some charcoal coated prawns which were very crunchy and yum. Oops! I almost forgot to mention the lobster mornay. unfortunately, there was so much to enjoy and limited capacity.

Greed is good

Glasses? This might come as a surprise to you, but I always wear glasses but almost always take them off for photos. This is how I see myself. However, Geoff and the kids see me like this and think I look weird without them. Geoff actually likes to catch me with the glasses on. My shameful secret. 

For dessert, I had the cheese cake with salted caramel and chocolate ganache. That was so smooth and the presentation was incredibly artistic with a wave of caramel poised in suspended animation just asking to be photographed. Naturally, we had my camera there and that was more fun capturing those priceless memories of the family, and exploring some creative, photographic options.

Rewinding now to the rest of the week…

Yesterday, I went to an all-day drug and alcohol seminar at the local community centre. While this was geared towards people caring for someone living with drug and alcohol addiction (which I am not), it was also providing information on drugs and I thought my husband and I need to be more clued up. However, I not only learned so much about drug addiction, but I also learned some new strategies for getting through traumatic and conflicted family situations. So, it was really worthwhile.

During the week, my parenting skills were sorely challenged yet again when I caught our dog skyping the Queensland Governor’s do, Gavel from MY laptop at 2.00 AM. She gave me a bit of a woman-to-woman glance and crooned: “There’s nothing like a dog in uniform!” Turns out Gavel was training to become a Police dog. However, after being snubbed for being  “too friendly”, the Governor kept him on and he’s now been recruited as the Vice-Regal Dog. Well, thinking of herself as a real blue-blood, Lady’s fallen deep for Gavel. Or, was it all that bling on his coat and connections with the Royal Corgis.

Of course, I  snatched back my laptop and it’s now being stored in our room overnight.

However, my close friend who also has the rabbits and chickens which were of great interest to Lady, will be driving to Queensland this week. With a carload of kids all running helter skelter, I can just picture this sneaky little black dog who’s colouring enables to move with great stealth. She can’t chase a ball, but she can hunt AND she can hide.

You can read about Lady’s love life here: Love Is A Dog In Uniform. 

Rowena Backpacking

I also took part in Friday Fictioneers again this week. This week’s effort was inspired by my trip to Europe in 1992. A week after I’d left, I’d had wallet stolen, I’d lost my passport and I was missing a love interest back home in Australia, and I burst into tears as I was locking my backpack in a locker and wanted to go home. I found a telephone booth and phoned the bloke back home. I still remember standing there feeding that handful of coins into the phone with such desperation. I’d fallen apart on the other side of the world, where I knew nobody and nobody knew me. That thought didn’t hit me at the time. However, in hindsight it does. That utter dislocation from everyone and everything you know. Back then, it wasn’t like now where you can leave home without leaving home and Skype people. You also have email, Facebook. Travel just isn’t travel anymore. You’re still attached to the umbillical cord. Not doing it tough. You can read my flash Here

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Well, that just about covers it. Can’t remember the rest. So, it must’ve been good.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at Part-Time Monster Blog.

I hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend.

Best wishes,

Rowena

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.

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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.

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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!!

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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

The Walk, Sydney.

Last Thursday, I ran away. Absconded.

Well, to be precise, I walked. However, “walking” doesn’t sound as good.  It doesn’t conjure up that same sense of theatre. Lacks drama. Walking also sounds, dare I say, rather “pedestrian”.

After going down to Sydney for a doctor’s appointment, I decided to pop into the Koi Dessert Bar in Chippendale. Koi was roughly “on the way home”, even if it was in the diametrically opposed direction. Koi is co-owned by Reynold, the Dessert King of Masterchef 2015. So, I was more than willing for my sweet tooth to lead me astray. Mum was taking care of the home front. So, I was a free agent. Cinderella dancing away at the ball with no thoughts about midnight.

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After catching the train from St Leonards to Central, I was walking to Broadway via the Devonshire Street Tunnel. This long pedestrian tunnel houses buskers, the homeless, beggars, along with a vendor selling The Big Issue. The tunnel itself has been there since 1906, but the characters keep changing. Today, I was mesmerized as the notes of a saxophone rose above scuffling feet into some kind of heaven. At least, heaven in a dingy tunnel. I didn’t feel like dancing, but I certainly felt my spirit soar.  It felt like the scene out of a movie. Indeed, I made my own so stay tuned.

I walked on, emerging into daylight and city streets.

 

My destination was only a few streets away. I was heading to the Koi Dessert Bar in Kensington Street, Chippendale. This is not any ordinary restaurant or cafe. Rather, it is home to Reynold, the Dessert king of Masterchef 2015. Moreover, so many of the current Masterchef contestants end up doing work experience at Koi, after they’ve left the show. I was hoping to experience a touch of Masterchef. I’d met Reynold on my last visit to Koi and enjoyed watching their open kitchen at work and was hoping to see someone and talk Masterchef.

Above: I met Reynold and watched him and the team in action at Koi last year.

However, neither Reynold nor any familiar faces were there. So, I didn’t feel I could gush like a Masterchef tragic.

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Dessert Heaven at Koi.

Rather, I had to choose my dessert…not an inconsiderable process. With so much yum on display, it creates that impossible choice. You know they’re all sensational, and it’s just a matter of personal taste. I chose the Nomtella…a dome with Espresso mousse covered in chocolate, and a mousy salted caramel centre nesting on a chocolate brownie base. I loved it, but found that half was enough. My sweet tooth hasn’t been quite so sweet lately and I blame the increased exercise for that. I bought an Orange Creme Caramel and a citrus dessert to take home and they were much more to my palate, which surprised me. They were truly sensational.

After leaving Koi, I ended up walking up Cooper Street into Surry Hills. I explored a few alleyways, chasing images of autumn leaves back-dropped against a deep, blue sky. I was swept off my feet by a special kind of Autumn magic, which was a world away from to do lists, action plans and responsibility. I still haven’t forgotten what it was like to wander the world as a backpacker, but now I have the love and security of home and my family to go home to. I only seek temporary escape. Not a one-way journey.

I don’t know what it is that keeps drawing me back to Surry Hills.

My Dad’s side of the family, Irish immigrants from County Cork mostly following the Irish Famine, settled in Paddington and Surry Hills and the family stove making business was at 90 Fitzroy Street for many years. However, that was long before my time and even my father’s. Yet, the stories were passed down. Indeed, there’s a photo of my grandfather and his Dad standing by their truck, which gives me that sense of belonging…origins. That at least a part of me, harks back Surry Hills, back when it was a surrogate Ireland and not the rough slum that it became.

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The J Curtin Truck with my Great Grandfather and Grandfather.

Moreover, although I’ve never lived in Surry Hills, I did live in neighboring Chippendale for a number of years. Lived in a range of terraces, and even a converted warehouse a life time ago.

Surry Hills is an eclectic, constantly changing place, and you never know quite what you’ll find or what to expect. There was a little cafe I’d found, which made the most scrumptious Coconut Chai Lattes, but it closed about 2 years ago. Gone, but not forgotten. On Thursday, I went to see what I knew as the art dungeon in Campbell Street, but it now sells shampoo and looks so sanitized. It’s such a travesty…a sell out. A place with so much character, gone.

Surry Hills is expensive real estate, and yet it retains its sense of grunge. Crumbling, run-down terrace houses can still be found, along with signs of Struggle Street. I can’t account for that. After all, I’m only passing through. Picking out bits and pieces through the lens, and immortalising what I’ve seen today on my hard drive. My perspectives or interpretations of an ephemeral, kaleidoscope world.That’s without even delving into its characters. I merely chat to a few people in shops, not knowing whether they’re local or not. Then, I go home.

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I was starting to fade.

Walking along Crown heading towards Oxford Street, was a long walk and I was starting to look out for passing buses….a magic carpet to carry me home. Or, at least, back to Central Station. My legs can struggle to keep up with all I see and it’s easy to conk out half way.

 

Yet, I kept walking until I finally staggered into Museum Station and caught the train to Central. I walked over to Country trains and slumped in my seat. Unlike most of the daily commuters, Too excited to sleep and pulled out the mag I’d bought in Surry Hills:

I was heading home.

 

Before we leave Surry Hills, I thought you might like to join me on some of my previous visits:

Window Shopping, Surry Hills.

Surry Hills to Gore Hill, Sydney/

Surry Hills…A Sense of Place.

Have you been on any epic urban walks that you’d like to share?

xx Rowena

 

 

Waffling About Perfection.

How long has it taken me to actually use my waffle machine for its intended purpose and actually make waffles?

I’m not telling. This is a blog, NOT a confessional!

While I’ve crushed, fried and crunchified boiled potatoes in the waffle iron before, I’ve NEVER ever made a waffle. Yet, tonight I finally walked the plank, jumped over the edge and straight into the raging waves only to find absolute calm…still waters!

The waffles worked. Were delicious! I succeeded!

So why have I put it off for so long?

Of course, you know why. You know the crazy reason why. I’ve been too scared. Scared I’d make a mistake and botch them up.

That’s right. I’ve been yet another a paralyzed perfectionist.

How about you? Are you also guilty as charged?

There’s nothing more annoying than a perfectionist who isn’t perfect…especially when it’s yourself!

Perfectionism is a sneaky, cunning beast. It doesn’t knock on your front door and announce its arrival. It doesn’t have flashing neon lights with ringing sirens either. Instead, it silently sneaks in through the back door and creeps up on you from behind and grabs you by the throat.

It also gets you busy. In the case of the waffles, it threw a bamboozling array of recipes at me, followed by a plethora of different waffle irons and that was before we’d even considered toppings. By this stage, there so  many rats going round and round in spinning wheels inside my head, for me to do anything.

Although it might be cliched, paralysis by analysis is real. Too many cogs spinning all at once and your exhausted, over-worked brain is blowing a gasket. Boom! Bang! Crash!

So, as I said, I made waffles for the first time tonight and they were great. Covered in creamy vanilla ice cream and maple syrup dripping off the fork…So yum!

Why on earth did I put it off for so long?

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The Lutheran Church in Wollongong put this recipe book together in the aftermath of WWII. Having members from a multitude of European countries, some being enemies at home, the idea of the cookbook was to bring people together and sharing recipes is a great way to start.

We didn’t have a waffle machine growing up at home. Even though I ended up using my grandmother’s recipe to make our waffles tonight, she’d never made them for me either. I found the recipe in a Church cookbook she’d edited back in the 1950s. Of course, all the measurements were in “ancient” and had to be translated. I also wondered whether I really did have to separate the eggs, or whether I should use a simpler recipe, which just throws the ingredients together? I chose the complicated path, hoping for fluffier waffles and I used my egg beater as well. It’s also ancient.

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As I was saying, we didn’t have a waffle machine growing up and I have to admit that making the waffles, was like magic. The batter looked just like pancake mix and I admit that as I spread it over the waffle iron, I doubted it could actually make a waffle and I had that child-like sense of wonder, when I opened up the machine, and found the sculptured waffles cooking inside.

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Abracadabra!…Waffles!

I’m proud of my waffles. Not just because they were good, but also because in tackling that challenge, I crossed a new frontier…just like an explorer crossing a mountain for the very first time. I did it. I actually extended my wings and allowed myself to leave my cage and truly soar.

While making waffles might only be a small step for woman and nowhere near actually landing on the moon, all these steps add up and could ultimately build a ladder. You never know.

So, in case you want to follow in my esteemed footsteps, here’s Grandma’s Waffle Recipe:

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My Grandmother’s Waffle Recipe taken from the “Around the World With Cooking” Cookbook.

Grandma’s Waffle Recipe

250g Plain Flour

Pinch salt

1 teas Baking Powder

1 generous cup of milk and a splash (270 mls)

2 eggs, separated.

50g melted butter.

Directions

  1. Start preparing the batter about an hour before required.
  2. Take eggs out of the fridge 30 mins beforehand and at room temperature.
  3. Sift flour & salt into a basin. Make a well in the centre.
  4. Separate eggs and put the whites aside.
  5. Beat egg yolks and add hald the milk. Pour into the flour and mix into a smooth batter, gradually stirring in the rest of the milk.
  6. Beat mixture and allow to stand for an hour.
  7. 15 minutes before the mix is ready to cook, beat egg whites until stiff. Put aside.
  8. Once the hour is up, add the melted butter to the mixture and then stiffly beaten egg whites and baking powder.
  9. Spray waffle iron with oil or butter and have it hot to make the waffles.

Enjoy!

By the way, just to encourage you and humble myself a little further, when I went to reheat my cup of tea in the microwave, I found the melted butter for the waffle mix in there. That’s right. I’d left it out. This could explain why the waffles weren’t quite as crunchy as expected, but I’d instinctively added butter to the machine for the second batch.

Have you ever made waffles? How does your recipe compare to mine and do you have any tips and topping suggestions to share?

I look forward to hearing from you!

xx Rowena

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My Grandparents.

Nigella’s Nutella Cake with Rowena’s Raspberry Cream

After a very extensive preamble, here is my revised version of Nigella’s Nutella Cake. The ingredients are the same but I’ve added more detail to the directions after I encountered difficulties.

If you check out Nigella’s recipe online, she writes: “Not only is this one of the easiest cakes to make, it happens – joyously – to be one of the most delicious. My household is totally addicted!”

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Yum! Just check out all that Nutella and melted chocolate.

To be perfectly honest with you, this cake is NOT easy to make. You have to separate eggs and whisking the egg whites by hand, is open to disaster and exhaustion and after two attempts, we’re still fine tuning the cooking time. It also generates a lot of washing up.

However, there’s something about this cake that encourages me to persevere. It definitely improves after a night to set in the fridge and I love it served with fresh raspberries and cream and I needed a good coverage of roasted hazelnuts on top to break up the richness of the cake. They also provided that much sought after “crunch”.

So, I would consider this a special occasion cake for adults.While my kids do have a very sensitive palate and don’t like dark chocolate, they found the cake “too bitter” and really didn’t like it.

As I found Nigella’s icing too runny after two attempts, I have included an alternative recipe for dark chocolate ganache, which has worked for me in the past.

Nutella Cake

Ingredients

For the Cake

6 large eggs (separated)

1 pinch of salt

125 grams soft unsalted butter

400 grams nutella (1 large jar..NOT the jumbo size)

1 tablespoon frangelico (or rum or water)

100 grams ground hazelnuts

100 grams dark chocolate (melted)

Dark Chocolate Ganache

  • 250g dark cooking chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 cup double cream

100 grams hazelnuts (peeled weight)

Raspberry Cream

Double Cream

1 punnet fresh raspberries

Sifted icing sugar to taste.

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4/350ºF.
  2. Melt chocolate in the microwave, following packet instructions. Put aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl 1: whisk the egg whites and salt by hand until stiff but not dry. This means soft peaks but not until the foam starts to ball up. Put aside but you need to move quickly or the foam will liquefy.
  4. In Mix Master bowl 2: Beat the butter and Nutella together, and then add the Frangelico (or whatever you’re using), egg yolks and ground hazelnuts.
  5. Into Bowl 2: Fold in cooled, melted chocolate, then lighten the mixture with a large dollop of egg white, which you can beat in as roughly as you want.
  6. Bowl 2: Fold in remaining egg white a third at a time.
  7. Pour into a 23cm/9 inch round greased and lined springform tin and cook for 40 minutes or until the cake’s beginning to come away at the sides, then let cool on a rack. The cake will still be moist and wet inside, so do not overcook.
  8. Hazlenuts: Toast the hazelnuts either in a moderate oven or in a dry frying pan until the aroma wafts upwards and the nuts are golden-brown in parts: keep shaking the pan so that they don’t burn on one side and stay too pallid on others. Transfer to a plate and let cool. It’s imperative that they’re cold they go on the ganache while If your hazelnuts have skins on then after toasting in the frying pan transfer them to a slightly dampened tea towel and rub them while they are still warm to remove the skins.

To Make The Icing

  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the cream, liqueur or water and chopped chocolate, and heat gently. Once the chocolate’s melted, take the pan off the heat and whisk until it reaches the right consistency to ice the top of the cake

Assembling The Cake

Unmould the cooled cake carefully, leaving it on the base as it will be too difficult to get such a damp cake off in one piece.

Ice the top of the cake with ganache, and cover with whole, toasted hazelnuts.

Slice cake into small portions, as it is quite rich and plate up with a generous scoop of raspberry cream.

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….

Enjoy and if you do make the cake, please let me know how it goes. I’m rather curious.

Nigella’s Nutella Cake Revisited.

Nigella Lawson is a legend in the kitchen…the original “Domestic Goddess”.

Sadly, we mere mortals can only dream of finding a magic wand to convert our TV dinners, burnt offerings and tinned spaghetti on toast, into something out of the pages of her cookbooks.

Actually, I’m not a bad cook. Indeed, I am renowned for my pavlova, pancakes, Chocolate Chip Cookies and roast dinners. I’ve even successfully tackled Jamie Oliver’s Lasagna.  Moreover, I’ve also been teaching my kids to cook and I must admit, they’ve also been teaching me. I’m not that arrogant to believe that this teaching the kids stuff is a one-way street. I learn a lot too.

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Nigella’a Nutella Cake with Rowena’s Raspberry Cream.

 

However, my trouble is with consistency, which more and more, I’m also attributing to NOT being in the Masterchef kitchen. I know you’re probably thinking that only a bad cook blames their appliances but you just tell me the last time you saw frozen eggs appear in the Masterchef kitchen? That’s right…NEVER!!!

Indeed, I had NEVER EVER seen frozen eggs before either. By the way, when I say frozen eggs, I’m not talking about the ingredients of an IVF stew. Rather, I’m taking about raw hen’s eggs. I store our eggs in the fridge and somehow the temperature control had been moved and we had frozen eggs. Not all of them, just a few. When I cracked them open, they’d turned into sloppy ice cubes and couldn’t be used..especially for Nigella’s cake, which  was built on fluffy egg white. After all, I could hardly separate the yolk from the white when they were fused together in an amorphous blog of ice. Moreover, freezing destroyed the cell membranes. So, even once the eggs finally defrosted, they were completely useless and looked in need of Viagra. I’ll say no more.

So, when I blame my cooking disasters on my appliances, I’m not just making excuses. It’s true!

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“The Avalanche”…My first Attempt at Nigella”s Nutella Cake with Milk Chocolate Ganache.

Indeed, I think there’s some kind of appliance mutiny or rebellion going on in my kitchen and it’s spreading beyond the fridge. In what might seem an unlikely union of forces, the fridge is in cahoots with the oven.

You see, our oven has a faulty fan. That same fan makes your oven “fan-forced”, which makes quite a difference to the temperature of your oven and cooking times. Moreover, when the fan isn’t working, it also means that your food doesn’t cook evenly and horror of horrors, you might need to open the oven door and turn things around. If you know anything at all about baking cakes, especially sponges, you’ll know that opening the oven door is the kiss of death, which deflates your lofty sponge faster than a speeding bullet.

Just to complicate things further, our oven fan sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t and turns itself on and off during a bake.

Clearly, that oven is not my friend.

So, with a faulty oven and frozen eggs, for a second time I set out to replicate Nigella’s Nutella Cake. I don’t know whether you’d say I was brave or crazy because even before I’d melted the chocolate or whipped up the egg whites, there was trouble. While all those motivation types would tell me: “Never give up” BUT haven’t they heard of what’s meant to be? Or, more pertinently, that something “wasn’t meant to be”.

Quite frankly, I don’t think it’s being a a quitter or a loser when you decide to stop banging your head against a brick wall and try something else. Use a lateral approach. Everybody’s different. We’re not all meant to fit into the one, same pair of shoes.

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Our son smothered his slice with Nutella. Found the cake too bitter. That was without the icing. Neither of our kids like dark chocolate.

The other problem I had with Nigella’s Nutella Cake is that my kids didn’t like it. My son slathered his slice in Nutella to mask the “bitter” taste and my daughter didn’t eat it. Even though the cake does have Nutella in it, which my kids absolutely adore, it also has dark chocolate which they can’t stand. Based on their comments, I’d say it’s more of an adult cake and even then, you only need small portions. It’s quite rich. I also felt it I needed raspberries and cream in addition to the generous covering of whole roasted hazlenuts found in Nigella’s original. She also recommends eating it with a glass of Frangelico and perhaps I should have tried that, but it was a busy night.

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I hope half of this is still in the fridge. I’m feeling sick just looking at all that Nutella….even though I really love it!

So, at this stage, I don’t know whether I will make Nigella’s Nutella Cake again…even with my modifications. Most of my cooking is for our family and I can’t see the point of going to so much trouble to make a cake my kids don’t like when there are other cakes and desserts we all enjoy such as Apple Crumble with fresh custard.

Although the recipe says it’s easy, you’re separating eggs, whisking egg whites by hand, melting chocolate, using two separate bowls…that’s a lot of fiddling around and cleaning up for one cake, which I still haven’t been able to perfect on my second attempt. This time, the cake was good but the icing was still runny.

Still, my husband and I enjoyed it.

On a more positive note, I’ve just returned for a second piece 24 hours later and really loved the cake…with or without the cream and will be making it again. The cake much much more moist. The icing had set and it was a great flourless hazlenut chocolate cake. Something I really would be proud to serve for guests. With Masterchef gracing the airwaves, that’s quite an endorsement.

Perhaps, I am a Domestic Goddess after all and my spirit is soaring… on chocolate wings!

My baking no longer human. It’s divine.

xx Rowena

PS I will be posting the recipe in my next post.

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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                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.