shopshoot - the press shop

16 Jan 2017

I escaped Sydney for a few days last week, running away to the Blue Mountains. I didn't take the direct route though and travelled first to Bowral for lunch before driving across Sydney to the foot of the Blue Mountains. 

The reason for the detour to Bowral? To visit the brand new Press Shop Cafe and Bespoke Letterpress shop in the newly redeveloped Dirty Jane's Emporium. The shop and cafe are the brain child of my friend Alischa Herrman.

I visited the shop on a bright sunny summer's day and the cafe was filled to the brim, so much so I had to get my lunch at another cafe!

The cafe is decked out in shades of pale blue, white and marble with timber trims and touches of brass.

I really loved the marble topped outdoor tables and those cute salt and pepper shakers.

At the rear of the cafe is the Bespoke Letterpress shop. This collage gives you an overview of the shop.

You can see the presses through the glass windows.

Some of the stationery goods for sale.

and lastly this beautiful ribbon display.

It was time to explore Dirty Jane's where I discovered the just opened Orangery, part of the Potting Shed in Bowral.

Here's a taste of what I found inside.

An eclectic collection of items on display, all highly covetable.

A few more pretty items I found outside in the Potting Shed.

Lots of  rusty, wire plants and terracotta pots.

I just loved this scene so much, I photographed it twice!

Well maybe three times.

And a final image before I left to find some lunch before driving to Wentworth Falls.

I've lived in Sydney for a long time now but I tend to travel between the east where I live and the north and inner west because that's where my friends live. As I drove from Bowral and headed further and further west, I passed suburbs I'd only heard about but had never visited. I now know where Badgery's Creek is located, home to Sydney's long awaited second airport and I can tell you, it's a long long way away from the centre of Sydney. I also discovered the suburb of Luddenham.

Apparently Luddenham is known for it's strawberries, Christmas trees and a race track but it was this sweet little church, St James, that made me stop and turn around.

It was a really hot day so I didn't linger long but I loved everything about it.

The stone work, the stained glass windows and the simple cross and bell.

And of course the quintessentially Australian galvanized iron roof.

As I walked back to the car I spied this rickety fence. What lurked behind?

I found this old house in an advanced state of decrepitude. 

This was as close as I could get due to all the fencing. Someone clearly didn't want any-one inside this house.

The view from the other side. See what I mean?

My favourite shot of the day - that blistered green paint, the orange vine, the old tin roof and thistles in the overgrown garden. What's not to love?

It's still too hot here to cook, so next time I'll share some photos from my time in the Blue Mountains or the Blue Hills, as my Swiss friend refers to them.

Bye for now,



watermelon mint and feta salad

9 Jan 2017

It's summer in Sydney and so far it's been quite a hot one. With the temperature close to 40°C one day, cooking was out of the question and all I could think of was salad and in particular watermelon, mint and feta salad.

I consulted my recipe books and decided to use a recipe from Nigella Lawson's book, Nigella Summer. I figured the feta added enough salt so I decided to leave out the olives in the recipe and instead added slices of cucumber. Off to the shops I went to buy watermelon, mint and cucumbers.  

It's one of those recipes that relies solely on the quality of the produce, so use in season watermelon, the freshest herbs and the best feta cheese you can find. 

Watermelon mint and feta salad, serves: 8 lightly adapted from this Nigella Lawson recipe.

1 small red onion
2-3 limes, juiced
1½ kilograms watermelon (sweet and ripe)
250 grams feta cheese
1 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley
1 bunch fresh mint (chopped)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small cucumber, strip peeled and thinly sliced
black pepper

Peel and halve the red onion and slice very thinly. Place the sliced onions in a small bowl with the juice of 2 limes and leave until the onion becomes transparent.

Remove the rind and pips from the watermelon, and cut into triangles. Cut the feta into similar sized pieces and put them both into a large, wide shallow bowl. Tear off sprigs of parsley and roughly tear the mint into pieces and add to the bowl.

Enjoy as is or as a side salad.

Tip the onions and lime juice over the salad in the bowl, add the oil and cucumber, then toss the salad very gently so that the feta and melon don't lose their shape. Add some black pepper and taste to see whether the dressing needs more lime juice or additional seasoning.

See you all again soon with some photos from Bowral in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.

Bye for now,


seasons greetings

24 Dec 2016

Christmas week may be over but there's always time for more holiday baking. What would Christmas be without some fruit mince pies? This year I tried out a new pastry recipe from Dan Lepard and although it's tasty, I'm still on the fence. If you're looking for my recipe for fruit mince pies, you can find it here

Wishing all my readers the best for the holiday season. Keep safe and happy.

See you all in the New Year,


5 days of christmas 2016 - rhubarb meringue layer cake

23 Dec 2016

Welcome every-one to day 5, the final day of Christmas week 2016. I've had this Trine Hahnemann recipe bookmarked for a while, in fact I made the cake for last year's Christmas week. I wasn't happy with the final product, so I decided to revisit the recipe and give it an overhaul. 

I decided to turn it into a layer cake, sandwiched with jam and cream in a nod to Nadine Ingram's Lemon Dream Cake.  

I know for some of you rhubarb isn't in season but this recipe can be made with frozen rhubarb. I made this particular cake with fresh rhubarb but I've also made it using frozen rhubarb pieces and it turned out just fine. 

You could use shop bought jam but I was in the mood to make jam and whipped up a batch of rhubarb conserve specifically for this cake.

I reduced the sugar in the recipe so there was still a little of the tartness of the rhubarb. If you'd like to make the conserve, I've included the recipe.

It looks impressive doesn't it?

Here's the recipe for you which makes a 17 cm cake.  As always if you want to make a 23 cm version of the cake just double the cake ingredients but I'd use 3 egg whites beaten with 150g caster sugar for the meringue topping rather than 4 egg whites. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Rhubarb Meringue Layer Cake
125g butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup caster sugar
2 eggs
¼ cup finely ground whole almond meal (skins on)
1 cup SR flour   
½ tsp baking powder
¼ cup butter milk/milk or yoghurt
1 cup (125g) fresh or frozen rhubarb, cut into 1cm pieces

2 egg whites
120g caster sugar

1 cup cream, whisked to soft peaks
Rhubarb or another red jam
Icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line the base and sides of two 17cm baking tins with baking parchment.

Cream the butter, vanilla and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating after each addition.

In a small bowl mix the whole almond meal with the flour and baking powder. Add to the batter, alternating with the milk. Gently fold in the rhubarb. Divide the cake batter evenly between the prepared tins. 

Whisk the egg whites in a clean dry bowl until stiff, but do not over-beat them. Gradually add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, still beating, then evenly spread the meringue over the cakes. Decoratively swirl the meringue on one cake to make a top layer. Bake both cakes on the middle shelf of the oven until the meringue is slightly golden, about 30 minutes. Rotate the cakes halfway through the cooking time. Test the cake is done by inserting a skewer or cake tester through a crack in the meringue into the bottom layer. Cool completely in tins (3 hours).

Remove cakes from tins and carefully peel baking paper off. Spread the rhubarb jam evenly over bottom cake, top with whipped cream, then place the second cake on top. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

If you can, leave the cake in the fridge for a few hours before serving. The cream will soften the meringue making cutting the cake much easier.

Rhubarb Conserve – makes 2 cups
500g fresh or frozen rhubarb, chopped into 2cm lengths
300g granulated sugar
1 peeled green apple, grated
Scraped seeds from 1 vanilla bean
juice of 1 lemon

1. Combine rhubarb with granulated sugar, grated green apple, vanilla bean seeds and lemon juice in a bowl and stand for 2 hours.

2. Transfer mixture to a heavy-based saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then simmer rapidly for 15-20 minutes or until mixture is thick. Remove from heat. Cool.

3. Store cooled jam in sterilised bottles or container.

The cake was very well received and you know, I think the rhubarb conserve was a large part of the cake's success. It was delicious!

It's been a long, hard old year so I'm planning to take a break from blogging for a few weeks. I hope to see you all back here again January 9, 2017. 

So until then, enjoy the festive season with your family and friends and I look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

Bye for now,



5 days of christmas 2016 - stollen

22 Dec 2016

Welcome to day 4 of the 5 days of Christmas. Firstly I have a confession to make. Until I made this Stollen, I'd never eaten a piece before. I remember watching Paul Hollywood make one on a Christmas special a few years ago and it didn't look that hard. As this is the year I've found my bread making mojo, I thought I'd try making a Stollen for Christmas.

I hunted for a recipe on the internet and I found so many. The one I've come up with is an amalgamation of 4 different recipes.

From my research, I discovered that Stollen is a German sweet bread enriched with butter, egg and spices. Some recipes called for loads of dried fruit, whilst others were more abstemious. Some added citrus zest, whilst others specified candied mixed peel. I put together the elements that appealled most to me from the 4 recipes and crossed my fingers hoping for the best. I figured showering the Stollen in icing sugar should cover up any baking disasters.

Not all stollen recipes included marzipan in the centre but most of the recipes did. Some recipes formed the marzipan into a log whilst others rolled out the marzipan. I decided to roll out the marzipan. 

Here's the recipe for you. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, a 20 ml tablespoon and 60 g eggs. My oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce the baking temperature by 20°C.

Stollen – you’ll need to start this recipe at least 24 hours before baking.

Fruit soak
60 gm sultanas
60 gm dried currants
50 gm dried apricots, coarsely chopped
25 gm sour cherries coarsely chopped
25 gm mixed peel, finely chopped
60 ml (¼ cup) dark rum (If you don't want to use rum you could use orange juice or earl gray tea)
Finely grated rind of ½ orange and ½ lemon 

For the dough
75 gm unsalted butter
100 mls milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups plain flour, plus extra for dusting
¼ tsp each freshly grated nutmeg and ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
45 gm caster sugar
1 tsp dried yeast
1 egg

65 gm almond meal
45 gm natural almonds
40 gm pure icing sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten

20 gm melted butter
25 gm flaked almonds (optional)
Icing sugar

Combine dried fruits in a container with the rum, cover and soak overnight.

For marzipan, process almond meal, almonds, icing sugar and a pinch of salt in a food processor until finely ground with a little texture remaining. Add enough of the egg and process until it comes together as a paste. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until required. Marzipan can be made a day ahead.

To make the dough, melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat, add milk and vanilla and heat until lukewarm. Mix flour, the spices, salt, sugar, and yeast in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Make a well in the centre, then, with motor running, pour the beaten egg into the well and gradually add the milk mixture and knead until smooth and shiny (2-3 minutes). The mixture will be quite soft at this stage. If it's not then you might need to add a little more milk.

Grease a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the greased bowl, turn to coat, cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (1 hour) or you can leave the dough to prove in the fridge overnight, which is what I usually do. The following day bring the dough back to room temperature. Mix the grated rind into the drained fruit mix. Gently knead the fruit into the dough and leave to rise for a further hour.

Dust the work surface with flour and tip your risen dough on to it. Flatten out into a rectangle about 22 cm x 16 cm.  Roll out the marzipan to a slightly smaller rectangle and place on top of the dough. Now place the longest side towards you and roll the dough up to form loose loaf shape. Lift on to a floured baking sheet, cover with a towel and return to a warm place to prove for a further hour and a half. Brush half the melted butter over the loaf. Sprinkle with flaked almonds if desired.

Heat the oven to 180°C. Place the loaf in the hot oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes until pale gold. Glaze the top of the Stollen with the remaining butter. Cool on a wire rack, before generously dusting with icing sugar.

When the Stollen has cooled, wrap loosely in waxed paper or cling film and keep in a sealed container.

You can vary the dried fruit as you wish. The original recipe only used sultanas, currants and mixed peel. I added the dried apricots and sour cherries for a more luxe version.

The verdict - delicious and even better when it's matured for a few days.

See you all again tomorrow with the last recipe for Christmas Week 2016.

Bye for now,


5 days of christmas 2016 - walnut macaroon layer cake

21 Dec 2016

Hi every-one and welcome to day 3 of Christmas week. Today I'm sharing with you a Trine Hahnemann recipe for a walnut macaroon layer cake which would be a great do-ahead Christmas dessert. Three walnut meringue layers are sandwiched together with coffee cream and topped with melted chocolate.

There's nothing too complicated about this cake, it's just a little time consuming to make because of the 3 walnut meringue layers. I had 2 tins so baked 2 layers at a time. 

The meringue deflated a bit while waiting to be used, so the third layer was a little flatter than the others. I tucked that layer in the middle out of harm's way and the coffee cream covers a multitude of sins.

For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. The eggs I use are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional gas oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C. Here's the recipe for you if you'd like to try this for Christmas. 

Walnut Macaroon Layer Cake - Serves 10

For the cakes
Butter for the tin(s)
300g walnuts
200g caster sugar
6 egg whites

For the coffee cream
300 mls double cream
3–4 tbs soft brown sugar
1 tbs instant coffee

For the glaze
100g best dark chocolate, at least 60% cocoa solids
20g butter
12 walnut halves

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F. Line the bases of three 24cm diameter springform tins with baking parchment and butter them lightly or, more probably, line and butter the one tin you have and re-use it to make the other two cakes.

Blend the nuts in a food processor with half the sugar until the nuts are finely chopped. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then add the remaining sugar little by little, whisking after each addition, until glossy. Fold in the nut mixture. Pour into the prepared tins and bake for 35 minutes, or pour one-third of the batter into one tin and bake for 35 minutes, then repeat to bake the following two cakes. Leave to cool on wire racks lined with baking parchment, to prevent sticking, overnight if possible. 

Put all the ingredients for the coffee cream into a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until stiff. Take a big round serving dish and place the base layer (usually the least attractive layer) of cake on it. Spread half the cream evenly over, then place the middle layer on top and spread with the remaining cream. Now place the most attractive cake on top. Break the chocolate into pieces, place in a small heatproof bowl and fit over a saucepan of simmering water; the bowl should not touch the water. Melt the chocolate, then remove from the heat, add the butter and mix well. Leave to cool slightly, then spread the chocolate over the top layer and decorate with the walnut halves around the edge. Keep in the refrigerator until serving.

I'm not a coffee lover but the end result was pretty subtle and not too sweet. To ensure even cutting I'd store the cake overnight in the fridge, allowing the meringue layers to soften making it easier to cut. 

The chocolate layer sets really hard, shattering when cut, so I think a dark chocolate ganache topping would be a better option. You can find a ganache recipe here which you'd need to double to top a 23 cm cake.

See you all again tomorrow with Day 4 of Christmas week.

Bye for now,


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