Tag Archives: Pavlova

Weekend Coffee Share, April 1st, 2018.

Welcome to our Easter Sunday Weekend Coffee Share…and April Fool’s Day!

Personally, I’m not too sure about Easter Sunday also being April Fool’s Day and as if that wasn’t already bad enough, here in Sydney, we’re turning the clocks back an hour and it’s the end of Daylight Saving Time. However, you just try telling that hot sun that it isn’t Summer! It’s currently 27ºC or 81ºF and I feel like heading off to the beach.

How was your week? Are you doing anything special for Easter?

We celebrated Easter with my parents last night, to avoid the traffic today and we also wanted to attend our local Church. Things can get a bit crazy at times, can’t they and you just have to spread things out to dissipate the madness.

Anyway, I made a pavlova to take down for dessert. This turned into quite an epic saga, because the eggs refused to separate and I basically went through twice the number of eggs to get 6 that worked. Then, just to totally blow out my stress levels, I dropped he final egg yolk into the five, perfect egg whites and it was looking like I was having to start again from scratch if it wasn’t for a bit of artful “fishing”. Even then, I still wasn’t sure I’d removed all the stray traces of yolk and thought I’d beat them up and see how it went. Fine! Phew! Anyway, of course when I arrive at my parents’ place, my Dad said it looked like the perfect pavlova and by the time our daughter had added the cream and decorative touches, it was. Goes to show, you don’t always knows what goes on behind the scenes to produce perfection, and we could all ease up on ourselves a bit.

Our big news last week was the our daughter had an audition for a speaking part in a musical, and the two of us headed down on Thursday to Surry Hills. Surry Hills is a short walk from Central Station, which is about a 80 minute train ride from here. Our daughter recently turned 12 and she had her first audition for the Sound of Music a few years ago. That was for the second youngest Von Trapp and it was a singing part. So, we had a fair bit of practice in the kitchen. I had the flu at the time and was on the nebuliser for asthma, so it was a surreal experience, but I got her there…along with an army escort from her Godfather who is in the reserves. This time, the reheasal side of things was easier, but I had trouble finding a reasonable head shot. Although I clearly do a lot of photography, she avoids the camera and a head shot is different from your standard photo. It’s like a portrait crossed with a passport photo. I chose a photo which I thought was alright. However, when I printed it up, there was one stray hair across her face and her makeup was ever so slightly cakey. So, I had to dash home and search for some more before the shop shut. I realize that I now need to take some purpose head shots. They’re very demanding and every little freckle or touch of poor lighting shows up so they need to be done with meticulous attention to detail on my part, while trying to capture a relaxed, natural look on hers. That’s going to take some practice, and a bit of luck.

Before and after her audition, we walked around Surry Hills and watched the neighbourhood pass by. Anything goes in Surry Hills, so people watching was a lot of fun and a few of the local dogs also entertained us. You can read about it here: Surry Hills Through the Lens.

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Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to prepare for the Blogging A-Z Challenge, which also kicks of today. This year, my theme is…Letters To Dead Artists. I love my research and am finding it very hard to pull back and actually write. These artists are fascinating and when I’m looking at how their artworks inspired me as well as their bios and background info, it’s very hard to pull back and keep the word limit down. Find a focus and just stick to that narrow piece of what really is a mind-bogglingly huge and complex puzzle. After all, we’re talking about trying to encapsulate creative genius here and that’s no easy undertaking at all. Indeed, I know I’ve bitten off too much and I’m already feeling very stressed and wondering how I’ll ever get it finished in time. Yet, two years ago my theme was Letters to Dead Poets. That was equally intense and overwhelming. Yet, I finished and I had a solid body of work at the end of it. It was a significant achievement.

Well, on that note, I’d better get moving. Are any of you taking part in the A-Z Challenge? If so, please leave a link in the comments below as well as a brief overview of your theme. A inherent part of the challenge is that you read at least 5-10 other blogs every day, which is also why I’ve been trying to write ahead and get this series cracking. Unfortunately, the other areas of my life haven’t got with the plan and so I’m concerned. Can I pull it off? Yes, I can…

Well, on that note, I’d better head off and get cracking. I hope you have a great week!

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Accepting Our Mistakes…

“Even the knowledge of my own fallibility cannot keep me from making mistakes. Only when I fall do I get up again.”

Vincent Van Gogh

As a parent, I frequently find myself encouraging the kids not to give up when they make mistakes.After all, making mistakes doesn’t mean you’re innately hopeless at the task. Rather, your mistake could just be a stepping stone to greater things further down the  track. There are also some tasks which just need to be done, mastered and you can’t just quit and give up. You have to persevere.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Calvin Coolidge

Knowing how to get back on your feet and without letting your mistakes get you down, is as important as growing taller and going through all the usual steps which growing up entails. Indeed, overcoming mistakes and starting over builds resilience… that magic ingredient, which almost guarantees you a happy life if you listen to the so-called experts.

However, does all this psychological mumbo jumbo mean you have to like making these mistakes?

I don’t think so.

Last night, former Australian Cricket Captain, Steve Smith and bowler Cameron Bancroft apologised on national television for their roles in the ball tampering fiasco which took place in South Africa. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone on TV as broken and contrite as these men, and it was painful to watch. Australians are fanatical about their cricket and it’s so easy for lounge room experts to criticize and judge. Something big went on over there. Something which caused three men in the team who from my knowledge, have always towed the line and been exemplary men. They desperately begged for forgiveness. Yes, I know they’ve been labelled cheats, but they are clearly exceptionally sorry. That’s enough for me.  I also hope those men come to forgive themselves, and that perhaps some good will come out of it, although it’s hard to see a sunny side now. Indeed, you have to be concerned. Will they be okay?

Fortunately, most of us don’t have to face the world for any of our mistakes. We can quietly hide away within our anonymity at home. Most of our mistakes aren’t as monumental either. Yet, it’s also important not to be swept away by the proverbial storm in a tea cup. It’s all too easy to cry over spilled milk, a burned bamboo steamer or even eggs that won’t separate.

This morning, our 12 year old daughter had an accident in the kitchen and burned the bamboo steamer. To be honest, she did a good job of it and over 12 hours later, the stench is still hanging round. Indeed, when you start thinking of burning wood, your mind does jump towards the worst case scenario and the potential dangers of cooking.

However, I didn’t want her to think she’s a bad cook, and that that’s an inherent, indelible part of her character. All she needs is more cooking lessons and to follow the cookbook. So, I told her about my own disasters in the kitchen, including burning the base off my mother’s saucepan making rice.

“Mistakes are the portals of discovery”.

-James Joyce

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This pep talk with my daughter this morning set me in good stead for my own cooking dramas tonight. We’ll be heading down to my parents’ place for an Easter dinner and I offered to bring a pavlova. I am well known for my pavlovas, which are made from scratch and are crunchy on the outside with lush marshmallow inside. Yum! Normally, I can whip up these pavs in no time at all, but tonight I just couldn’t separate the eggs and I went through something like twelve eggs to get six. Then to top off my troubles, when I successfully separated the final egg, I drop the yolk into the pond of 5 perfect egg whites. I’m surprised I didn’t scream.

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My husband always says that a sign of a good tradesman is that they know how to fix or cover-up their mistakes. So, there I was desperate to remove that offending egg yolk without even a smear of yolk being left behind (because otherwise the egg whites won’t beat up). I fished the egg yolk out with a large skimmer spoon. That went pretty well, but there was still egg yolk left behind. So, I spooned out what I could, and tried putting the whites through a tea strainer. That’s didn’t look good either and was seemingly too efficient. By now, I could only try beating them up and if it didn’t work, start over. Phew, it worked and the pavlova actually made it into the oven.

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My Miracle Pavlova…All’s well that ends well. 

Sometimes, you can only laugh at your mistakes and no one else will be none the wiser. The pavlova looks spectacular and I am still the reigning Pavlova Queen. I can walk through the door showing off the pavlova with pride and it looks like we’ll be having pancakes beforehand to use up the eggs.

How do you overcome your mistakes? Have you written any posts sharing your cooking mistakes. I’d love to hear from you!

xx Rowena

 

Irish Night…Celebrating a journey from Cork City to Sydney 1854- 2014

While St Patrick’s Day is usually the day when we celebrate all things Irish, we had a special Irish celebration of our own tonight. You see, we celebrated the 160th anniversary since our ancestor John Curtin arrived in Sydney onboard the Scotia on the 4th April, 1854. He was an Able Seaman and worked on board as part of the ship’s crew.

Not only did we celebrate his journey from Cork to Sydney, we also celebrated the end of a quest because it’s taken our family well over 30years to find the record of John Curtin’s arrival in Sydney. It’s been quite a frustrating business not just because we wanted to know more about how we arrived here but also because knowing when your ancestor came out to Australia is one of the very basics of family history research. If you want your research findings to have any kind of credibility at all, you need to know when you’re ancestor came out. That’s just basic, simple Simon stuff and we couldn’t find him. It was yet another gap and it certainly detracted from researching the Curtin family. I had other branches of the family history which were bursting with fruit. I didn’t need to waste my time with such a barren stump. I moved on yet there was always this nagging gap. How did John Curtin get to Australia?

Although we have quite an assortment of ancestors who have come from Ireland, Germany, Scotland, England, we haven’t celebrated any other arrival in quite this way, although we did take the kids down to Hahndorf in South Australia last year to see where my grandfather was from. He was a Haebich as in Haebich Cottage and his father, grandfather and great grandfather had all been blacksmiths in town. We have also taken the kids to London Bridge, near Queanbeyan to see where my great grandmother came from . You could say that I’m addicted to family history and I want to share this love with the kids and also give them a sense of who they are and our family’s heritage or story.

Anyway, we have been looking for John Curtin’s arrival since 1984 and I only found it two weeks ago. I’d really given up any hope of ever finding his arrival and we’d pretty much decided that he’d come out as crew and we were never going to be able to find him because the lists are all about passengers, especially assisted immigrants.

All good things come to she who waits. Well, actually they come to she who never gives up because I decided to have yet another look and fortunately some very nice people have been transcribing the shipping lists and low and behold they have actually added the crew! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! So when it came to actually finding John Curtin now, it only took seconds along with a few minutes for me to do the maths. Because there is such little detail about this John Curtin, we can’t be entirely sure that he’s ours but cross-references work out and it’s good enough.

Anyway, as I was doing my research, I realized that we were rapidly coming up to the 160th anniversary of his arrival and I wanted to do something special to celebrate. Ideally, I would have got my Dad’s family together. However, we didn’t have enough notice and now our family is fighting off a chest cold so we’re in no position to socialize. We’re actually wearing face masks round the house as a chest infection could really be bad news for my lungs and in general as my immunity has been repressed to contain my auto-immune disease.

So that’s a little bit of background to our Irish night.

I decided to have an Irish-Australian menu. So we had Irish Stew served with buttered Irish Soda Bread followed by Pavlova for dessert. I printed off the Irish Blessing and we said that together in lieu of grace. Of course, we needed a bit of Irish music so we put on Riverdance. I also put on a bit of a slide show of images of Cork City and Sydney dating from 1854.

I really recommend you do something similar to share your cultural heritage with your children. In the past, Australia has been a bit closed to cultural diversity and we needed to assimilate but now we can bring all our assorted ancestors out of the closet and celebrate who they were and indeed what is a part of ourselves…our very flesh and blood as well as our cultural heritage.

Here’s our menu from tonight:

Basic Pavlova

I have always understood that the pavlova, named after the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, was created by Australian chef Bert Sachse from the Esplanade Hotel in Perth and prepared for her while on tour.

However, like most great things which are considered uniquely and indisputably Australian, there’s often a foreign element. Hey, even Vegemite and the Australian Women’s Weekly are foreign owned. So it also appears that the Kiwis (AKA New Zealanders) are trying to take over our pav. Is nothing sacred?!! That said, a pav just isn’t a pav without kiwi fruit on top so I reluctantly got to give the kiwis a bit of credit.

This recipe comes from Margaret Fulton who, now aged in her 90s, has to be considered the Grandmother of Australian cooking. I grew up cooking from her cookbooks as a child and even though we have never met, she feels like some kind of surrogate cooking Supergran and I’m sure most Australian women would feel much the same. So much more than a name, she’s part of the family, albeit on the shelf.

This pavlova is my signature dish. It is relatively simple but I always receive gushing praise and have somehow become the “Pavlova Queen”.. With its crisp crunchy crust and soft marshmallow interior, it’s amazing and I find so many people truly love pavlova and nothing compares to the classic home made version. It almost makes everybody deliriously happy.

Ingredients:

6 egg whites at room temperature

Pinch of salt

2 cups caster sugar

1.5 teas vanilla

1.5 teas vinegar

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven. There is quite a difference in settings depending on whether you are baking the pavlova in a gas or electric oven. If you are using electric, pre=heat the oven to a slow 150° C (300°F). If you are using gas, preheat it to a very hot 230°C (450°F).
  2. Grease tray. I use a pizza tray covered in foil and spray it with canola.
  3. Separate egg whites into glasses and transfer each egg white to the main bowl in case a bit of yolk slips through the net. You don’t want to waste the lot!
  4. Beat egg whites at high speed until soft peaks form.
  5. Add sugar one tablespoon at a time beating well after each addition.
  6. Stop beating after all the sugar has been incorporated.
  7. Fold in vanilla and vinegar.
  8. Pile mixture onto the tray and swirl it around creating attractive curls.
  9. Cooking instructions vary depending on what type of oven you have. If using an electric oven, put the pavlova in and bake for 45 minutes and then turn the oven off and leave it in there for 1 hour. If using a gas oven, turn heat to the lowest temperature. Put the pavlova in and bake 1.5 hours or until crisp on top and a pale straw colour.
  10. When pavlova is cooked, remove from the oven and cool completely.
  11. Now you essentially drown the pavlova in cream. You can either buy the tubs of very thick cream which you can pour straight onto the pavlova or you can whip some cream up yourself. We always add a bit of icing sugar and vanilla to our whipped cream. Just to make the pavlova healthy, despite all that sugar and cream.
  12. Top the cream with fresh fruit which is typically slices of kiwi fruit , banana and strawberries along with some passion fruit. My sister-in-law used frozen raspberries, defrosted of course, and these went very well with it as well. She actually put the raspberries underneath the cream and that looked very good.

Pavlova is best made the day before and it’s not something you can easily squeeze into the oven in between cooking other things what with juggling oven temperatures and it needing a slow oven. I have been making this pavlova for many years and haven’t had a flop until recently and I think that’s from trying to cook it straight after having the oven hot for something else.

 

 

 

 

 

Irish Stew

Rowena Newton based on a recipe from taste.com.au

¼ Cup plain flour

1.25kg lamb chops, trim off fat.

¼ cup olive oil

1 brown onion finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

2 carrots, sliced

1 kg desiree potatoes, cut into 2 cm pieces

6 cups of beef stock

Thyme sprigs to serve

 

Directions

1)    Wash, peel and dice potatoes and wash and slice carrots and put aside.

2)    Finely cut onion.

3)    Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large heavy frying pan on medium heat and when bubbling add onion and thyme leaves. Cook stirring for 3 or 4 minutes or until tender and transfer to a bowl.

4)    Place flour and chops in a bag. Shake until chops are coated.

5)    Increase heat to high. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in pan. Add half the chops. Cook for two minutes on each side and transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining oil and chops.

6)    Leave half the chops on the bottom and cover with half the onion mix, half the potatoes and carrots and then cover with the remaining chops and cover these with the remaining onion mix, potatoes and carrots.

7)    Pour over stock.

8)    Bring to the boil, skimming off fat where necessary. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour 30 minutes.

9)    Remove lid and simmer until sauce has thickened to desired consistency. I ended up simmering it for at least an hour and the sauce became more of a gravy, which we preferred to a watery soup.

10)                       Serve with buttered slices of Irish soda bread straight from the oven.

 

 

Irish Soda Bread

This recipe comes from Katherine and I apologise for pilfering her recipe but I have translated it into Australian and will give her credit when I’ve found her site again.

I’ve never tried authentic Irish soda bread so I have no idea what it’s supposed to be like. Unfortunately when I made this for our special Irish celebration tonight, I was rushing to get the pavlova into the oven and as a result neither were cooked properly. When I sliced into the bread, it was still raw in the middle and because the pavlova was now cooking in a very slow oven, I had to use the microwave to finish the job off and nuked it for 5 minutes. No doubt, I would have been tried for murder in Ireland for committing such a crime but the bread seemed to recover and went well with our Irish stew. The family all enjoyed it whether it was authentic or not.

Although I haven’t tried the real thing, I did a Google search and found what looked like a fairly authentic recipe which had quite a preamble initiating the uninitiated into the fine art or is that complications of making the real deal. All these warnings and specifications did make me feel rather wary about taking on the great Irish Soda Bread challenge. There seemed to be so many things to go wrong and this dough really does seem very fussy and demanding compared to throwing everything into the breadmaker or simply buying a loaf of bread at the supermarket. But there’s nothing like making your own bread and wanting to have an authentic Irish night, I had to have a go.

There are a few things to watch out for:

1)      Irish flour is soft and low in gluten so the bread will have a different consistency when other flours are used.. If you can’t get Irish flour, use unbleached flour or Plain Flour. Do not use bread flour. It is very high in gluten and simply will not work in bread which do not use yeast.

2)      NO Kneading and only use a light touch to mix the dough ie use your fingers rather than your full hand to mix the dough.

3)      Work fast and get the dough into a hot oven the minute the dough is shaped. The reaction between the bi-carb and the buttermilk starts as soon as the two ingredients meet and you want that happening while the bread is cooking. Wait too long, and your bread won’t rise

 

Ingredients

4 cups Irish white flour or plain flour

½ teas Bicarb soda

½ teas Salt

2 cups unhomogenised Buttermilk

 

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 230 degrees C . Wait until oven is hot before you add the bread.
  2. Sift flour, bicarb soda and salt into a large bowl and mix.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in about 2/3 of the milk. Quickly and with a light touch bring the flour in from the sides and mix with the milk, until al the ingredients come together into a dough. Use your hands for this, never use a spoon or mixer.
  4. It is impossible to be exact about the amount of buttermilk needed, it will depend on the nature of the flour. The dough should not be sticky and should come together into one lump of of soft, slightly floppy dough.
  5. Once the dough had come together, do not knead it. Simply place it on a floured board and rub flour into your hands so they are perfectly dry and shape the dough into a flat round which is about 5 cm thick.
  6. Place on a baking tray. Dust the handle of a wooden spoon with flour and press into the dough to form a cross. This gives the bread its tradition cross-shape and also helps the bread to cook through more easily, although I have read that this is to let the fairies out. This process should only take 5 minutes and you need to get the bread in the oven immediately. Quick. On your marks. Get set! Go!
  7. Set timer for 5 minutes. Turn the oven down to 200 degrees C The initial high temperature ensures a good crust. Set timer for a further 20 minutes and take the bread out and knock on the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it’s done. If not, pop it back in the oven for a further 5-10 minutes and check again.
  8. This bread should be eaten on the day that it’s made which shouldn’t be a problem. It also makes good toast.
  9. Cook your pavlova well before bake your bread. Pavlova might be a dessert but it needs an hour to rest in the oven after cooking for you do need to allow quite a bit of extra cooking time and the pavlova didn’t like me mucking around with the oven temperatures either. I am known for my pavlovas which have a deliciously crunchy crust with soft marshmallow inside. This pavlova decided to be fussy and it had no crunch at all and was pure marshmallow which still tasted great but it wasn’t the same.

Australian Pavlova

I have always understood that the pavlova, named after the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, was created by Australian chef Bert Sachse from the Esplanade Hotel in Perth and prepared for her while on tour.

However, like most great things which are considered uniquely and indisputably Australian, there’s often a foreign element. Hey, even Vegemite and the Australian Women’s Weekly are foreign owned. So it also appears that the Kiwis (AKA New Zealanders) are trying to take claim to our pav. Is nothing sacred?!! That said, a pav just isn’t a pav without kiwi fruit on top so I reluctantly got to give the kiwis a bit of credit.

This recipe comes from Margaret Fulton who, now aged in her 90s, has to be considered “The Grandmother of Australian Cooking”. I grew up cooking from her cookbooks as a child and even though we have never met, she feels like some kind of surrogate cooking Supergran and I’m sure most Australian women would feel much the same. So much more than a name, she’s part of the family, albeit on the shelf.

This pavlova is my signature dish. It is relatively simple but I always receive gushing praise and have been lauded as the “Pavlova Queen”. With its crisp crunchy crust and soft marshmallow interior, it’s amazing and I find so many people truly love pavlova and nothing compares to the classic home made version. Somehow, it seems to make everybody deliriously happy.

Ingredients:

6 egg whites at room temperature

Pinch of salt

2 cups caster sugar

1.5 teas vanilla

1.5 teas vinegar

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven. There is quite a difference in settings depending on whether you are baking the pavlova in a gas or electric oven. If you are using electric, pre=heat the oven to a slow 150° C (300°F). If you are using gas, preheat it to a very hot 230°C (450°F).
  2. Grease tray. I use a pizza tray covered in foil and spray it with canola.
  3. Separate egg whites into glasses and transfer each egg white to the main bowl in case a bit of yolk slips through the net. You don’t want to waste the lot!
  4. Beat egg whites at high speed until soft peaks form.
  5. Add sugar one tablespoon at a time beating well after each addition.
  6. Stop beating after all the sugar has been incorporated.
  7. Fold in vanilla and vinegar.
  8. Pile mixture onto the tray and swirl it around creating attractive curls.
  9. Cooking instructions vary depending on what type of oven you have. If using an electric oven, put the pavlova in and bake for 45 minutes and then turn the oven off and leave it in there for 1 hour. If using a gas oven, turn heat to the lowest temperature. Put the pavlova in and bake 1.5 hours or until crisp on top and a pale straw colour.
  10. When pavlova is cooked, remove from the oven and cool completely.
  11. Now you essentially drown the pavlova in cream. You can either buy the tubs of very thick cream which you can pour straight onto the pavlova or you can whip some cream up yourself. We always add a bit of icing sugar and vanilla to our whipped cream. Just to make the pavlova healthy, despite all that sugar and cream.
  12. Top the cream with fresh fruit which is typically slices of kiwi fruit , banana and strawberries along with some passion fruit. My sister-in-law used frozen raspberries, defrosted of course, and these went very well with it as well. She actually put the raspberries underneath the cream and that looked very good.

Pavlova is best made the day before and it’s not something you can easily squeeze into the oven in between cooking other things what with juggling oven temperatures and it needing a slow oven. I have been making this pavlova for many years and haven’t had a flop until recently and I think that’s from trying to cook it straight after having the oven hot for something else.

Enjoy and just remember that when you serve the pavlova with fruit, that automatically makes it healthy cancelling out all the other stuff.

xx Ro