Monday, 28 May 2007

Friday night drinks

We recently had a meal at a place in Willoughby called Maitre Karl. It was a bit of a celebration because my brother is (briefly) back in the country and it was my dad's birthday ealier in the week. Although we only drank two wines that night but both were excellent. The 2004 Petaluma chardonnay which was a rich, full bodied style of chardonnay but built on a core of lemon/grapefruit acid that resulted in a clean finish. This is the third time I've had this wine in the last 6 months (it is my father's current favourite) and this was the best bottle I've had. The cleansing acid allowed it to go well with everyone's entrees (flammekueche or "Alsation pizza"). The main course was with the main wine, a 1997 Grange. Feeling like a bit of a wine tosser I double decanted this about 30 minutes before leaving home which was about 1.5 hours before we started on the wine with our mains. There is a theory that some hold that wines from average vintages drunk relatively young/not at full maturity are better food wine matched than wines from "better" years. The reason is that "better" years, especially for Australian shiraz, usually equate to riper more fruit forward wines. Because the wine has more fruit, in theory it can handle more new oak and a wine with lots of fruit and oak will either clash with most foods or will require extended aging before it will be suitable with food. Anyway, this wine proved the "off vintage" theory beautifully. By the time we started drinking it the wine was open for business - a lovely floral lift followed by darker fruits and chocolate characters. The palate was super smooth, rich and velvety. I could have drunk a lot more of this, a real pleasure to have. One of the better wines I've enjoyed recently and Keda said that it was fantastic with her veal dish (pretty good with my duck as well!).

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Blueberry Muffins

I've never been a big fan of muffins they always seem like a mouthful of air and dry soapy crumbs - but that's because they aren't home made fresh and have too much raising agent in them. I found these in Nigella Lawson's 'How to be a Domestic Goddess' when I was looking for a quick treat to impress the other mothers at playgroup - something that doesn't have much sugar and that is quick and easy to make and easy for little hands to eat, but will also go down nicely with a coffee for the adults. These fit the bill perfectly because they aren't too full of sugar (there is a standard 5g teaspoon of sugar in each standard size muffin) but they still fall squarely within the realm of 'treat' for the little kids. The first time I made them I used mixed berries from some high antioxidant frozen berry mix that I found in the supermarket and I think they were better than this time, when I just used (thawed) frozen blueberries. When the berries thaw they ooze brightly coloured juice and some of that goes into the muffins (I try and keep most of it out) which makes the finished muffins kind of marbled with bright blue and purple, which I think is cool (and blue muffins will appeal pretty strongly to toddlers and little kids too). I'm going to continue to experiment with this recipe using different fuits.

75g unsalted butter, melted
200g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
75g caster sugar
pinch salt
200ml buttermilk (or 100g yoghurt and 100ml semi-skimmed milk)
1 large egg
200g blueberries

Method- Melt the butter and set it aside to cool
- Preheat to 200C
- Prepare your muffin tin with little patty cases. The recipe makes 12 normal muffins but I have been making 24 little tiny muffins (without patty cases, just with very well buttered trays) and 6 normal sized muffins. This is a pretty ideal amount for having a group of little kids and their carers around.
- Sift the flour and mix with the other dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
- Beat together the egg, buttermilk and melted butter
- Add the wet ingredients to dry, incorporating very gently, not worrying about lumps because you want to avoid overworking the mixture.
- Gently fold in the berries then pop them in the oven. I have been putting my large muffins on the middle shelf and the small ones on a shelf underneath and they have both been perfectly ready at the same time.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
- Eat and enjoy. Nigella suggest eating them hot with butter and blueberry jam but I think that negates the virtuous 'not too much sugar' feeling.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Apple and Honey Cake

This recipe is adapted from a recipe in the the SMH, but it is on a little bit of paper without a date so I can't reference it properly. I made it in two loaf tins so that Sanjay can take one to work tomorrow and I can take the other to show off to Mothers' Group. I like this cake because it uses things that I often have hanging around the house so although this is the first time I've made it I can see it becoming a staple.

Apple and Honey Cake
Preheat oven to 180C and grease a 20cm cake tin (or two loaf tins).

3 eggs
100g caster sugar
70g honey
80g softened unsalted butter
300g sifted self-raising flour
1 level tsp ground cinnamon
3 apples, peeled and cored and cut into 1cm pieces (I used 300g of apple, after it was all prepared, which was 3.5 very small granny smith apples)

Beat together the eggs, caster sugar and honey until the mixture is pale and fluffy. a Beat in the butter (it looked fabulous until I added the butter, but seemed to flatten and reduce dramatically in volume) then stir in the sifted flour, cinnamon and apple pieces.

Spoon the mixture, and it's a bit hard to deal with, being almost all apple, into the cake tin (I think it'll look better if I sprinkle a bit of demerera sugar on the top) bake for 40-45 minutes (test til a skewer comes out clean). Cool on a cake rack.

(Posted the day after baking, after I had a chance to sample and get feedback about it - my verdict is it was a little dry and a tiny bit more honey in the mix or some cream to serve it with might be nice)