37. Italy – Tiramisu

So it has been a while since I’ve blogged, mostly because cakes, kids and the day job have been all consuming of late! But I have been missing my little cooking project and blogging about it, so I’m going to get back into it. Plus I’m nearly half-way there. I have actually made way more things than what I have blogged about, so I’ll try and catch up on some of the entries I haven’t yet written about, such as gravalax, katsu curry, macarons, paella, mmmmmmmmmm……

But today’s entry is that delicious Italian dessert tiramisu. I’m not actually a coffee drinker, but I do love a good tiramisu. According to Wikipedia, the translation of tiramisu is ‘pick me up’, or metaphorically speaking ‘make me happy’. And tiramisu you certainly do that :)



Serves 6

500ml cream
250g tub mascarpone
75ml marsala
5 tbsp golden caster sugar
300ml strong coffee, made with 2 tbsp coffee granules and 300ml boiling water
175g pack sponge fingers – I used savoiardi or ladyfinger biscuits
25g chunk dark chocolate
2 tsp cocoa powder

1.Put the cream, mascarpone, Marsala and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk until the cream and mascarpone have completely combined and have the consistency of thickly whipped cream.

2.Get your serving dish ready. Put the coffee into a shallow dish and dip in a few sponge fingers at a time, turning for a few secs until they are nicely soaked, but not soggy. Layer these into your dish until you have used half the biscuits, then spread over half of the creamy mixture. Using the coarse side of the grater, grate over most of the chocolate. Then repeat the layers (you should use up all the coffee), finishing with the creamy layer.

3.Cover and chill for a few hrs or overnight. This can now be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days. To serve, dust with cocoa powder and grate over the remainder of the chocolate.

(Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food magazine)

36. New Zealand – Sour Cream Plum Cake

sour cream plum cake

Sour cream plum cake

Today was Waitangi Day in New Zealand, so that means a day off work. It was a gorgeous sunny day so we made the most of it and went on a picnic. It is Black Doris plum season at the moment too, so I made a yummy sour cream plum cake to make the most of these delicious plums.

Sour Cream Plum Cake (from the La Cigale cookbook)

185g butter
300g sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp almond essence
250g flour
3tsp baking powder
45g ground almonds
340g sour cream (I used lite)
stoned and halved plums, enough to cover the cake (I used 4 big plums)
2tbsp raw sugar mixed with 1/2 tsp ground ginger (optional)
icing sugar for dusting.

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar together well. Beat in the eggs one at a time and and add the essence.

2. Sift the flour and baking powder and add the almonds and sour cream, then gently fold everything together.

3. Spoon the mixture into a greased 20cm cake tin or French paper mould.

4. Place plum halves on top, cut side up. The number of plums depends on their size – they need to be close but not overlap. Sprinkle the sugar and ginger mix on top if using.

5. Bake for 50 minutes. Cool a little, then remove from the tin and dust with icing sugar.

Note: My cake was still uncooked in the middle at the 50 minute mark, so I ended up cooking for about 1 hour and 5 minutes.

The recipe says you can substitute for any stone fruit, rhubarb and I can’t wait to try this out when it’s feijoa season in a month or so!


35. Indonesia – Sate Siap Sate Lilit Ayam (Chicken Satay on Bamboo Sticks)

Here’s another dish using the basic yellow sauce. See – it might be a bit of a faff making it, but there are a myriad of uses for it!

This recipe is for delicious chicken satay on bamboo sticks. At the class we cooked them the traditional Indonesian way – over a charcoal brazier, but they would be just as good on the barbeque!

Cooking chicken satay over the charcoal fire.

Cooking chicken satay over the charcoal fire.

Sate Siap Sate Lilit Ayam (Chicken Satay on Bamboo Sticks)

Approximately 15 serves

1/2 kilo minced chicken breast
1/2 cup grated fresh coconut (or if frozen, add 1 tablespoon of coconut cream)
2 tablespoons of base gede , basic yellow sauce
1 tablespoon palm sugar
1 wedge lime
1 tablespoon deep fried shallots
salt and pepper to taste

15 bamboo sticks – thicker than skewers or ice-cream sticks

1. Add the minced chicken, base gede, coconut, palm sugar, fried shallots, salt and pepper into a bowl and squeeze the lime over the mixture before mixing thoroughly.

2. Take one tablespoon of the mixture and form a bal. Mould the ball onto the end of a bamboo stick. Repeat the process to make fifteen sticks.

3. Grill the sticks over charcoal or a hot-plate until the meat browns then serve as an appetizer or as a main course with steamed rice.

A photo of the finished sticks can be viewed at the basic yellow sauce recipe.

34. Indonesia – Be Siap Mesanten Kare Ayam (Chicken in Coconut Curry)

Chicken in coconut curry

So you’ve got your basic yellow sauce as a base, now you’re good to go to whip up a number of delicious dishes. Here’s a yummy chicken and coconut curry which is simply divine.

Be Siap Mesanten Kare Ayam – Chicken in Coconut Curry

Serves 4-6

3 chicken breasts
1 cup cubed potato
7 cloves garlic
3 shallots
1 spring onion
2 red chillies
3 tablespoons coconut cream
1/2 litre chicken stock
2 tablespoons of base gede, basic yellow sauce
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 bay leaves
5 kaffir lime leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon deep fried shallots for optional garnish

1. Slice the red chillies and remove seeds. Slice shallots, garlic, spring onion and the chillies. Peel and cut potato into 2 centimetre cuves. Cut the chicken into small slices.

2. Saute shallots, garlic and spring onion on a medium heat until light brown. Add the base gede then the chicken and stir together.

3. Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Break the bay and kaffir lime leaves then add them to the stock, with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Add the coconut cream and keep on a lower heat for 2 minutes before serving.

5. Serve in a bowl with deep fried shallots as a garnish.

I was too busy cooking to take many photos! But you can see the completed curry here.

33. Indonesia – Base Gede Bumbu Kuning (Basic Yellow Sauce)

Yummy Balinese feast.

Amazing Balinese feast. (Clockwise from left to right) – Chicken in coconut curry, chicken satay, deep fried tempe in sweet soy sauce, gado gado, coconut and snake bean salad, rice.

Well it’s been a while since I’ve a.) cooked very much and b.) blogged about it. The build up to Christmas was super-busy, then we went on an amazing holiday to Bali, Indonesia in the New Year, and returned to our house for a couple of nights before moving out again while it has been painted from top to toe. So the kids and I have been hanging out at the beach with various family and I either haven’t had to cook or kept it simple.

But I have very itchy cooking feet and can’t wait to get back to slaving over a hot stove! I’ve got some super exciting plans for 2013 that have been keeping me busy that I can’t wait to share in the coming weeks. In the meantime I’m going to share some yummy Indonesian/Balinese recipes from our lovely trip.

We spent a day at the Paon Bali Cooking School in Ubud, Bali. If you ever go there, I would highly recommend taking a class. The day began with a trip to the local market where we saw all the amazing vegetables, fruits and spices – and avoided the smelly meat-sitting-in-30+ degree-heat section!

Vegetables at the Ubud Market

We then went to the cooking school and cooked 8 different dishes that we devoured over lunch.

The basis for a lot of these dishes is Base Gede Bumbu Kuning (Basic Yellow Sauce). From this you can make a variety of curry, satay and other delicious dishes.

Base ingredients for yellow sauce.

Base ingredients!

Base Gede Bumbu Kuning (Basic Yellow Sauce)
Serves 4-6

10 shallots
15 cloves garlic
2 thumb size pieces of lesser galangal
2 thumb size pieces of ginger
2 thumb size pieces of tumeric or 1 teaspoon of tumeric powder if fresh tumeric is unavailable
2 hot chillis
3 red chillis
4 candle nuts or macadamia nuts if unavailable
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg powder
1 tablespoon palm sugar
1 stalk lemon grass
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons of shrimp paste (Indonesian shrimp paste, Terasi, if possible)
3 tablespoons of coconut oil

1. Slice and remove seeds from the chillis. Finely chop shallots, garlic, galangal, ginger, tumeric, candle nuts and chillis.

2. Blend the chopped ingredients, coriander seeds, nutmeg and cloves in a Balinese lesung (giant mortar and pestle!) or in a conventional blender until they form a fine paste.

Giant lesung

The ingredients sitting in the giant lesung or mortar and pestle.

3. Saute the paste in the coconut oil. Crush the lemongrass stalk then add salt, pepper, palm sugar, bay leaves and the lemon grass to the paste. Saute for about seven minutes on a low heat.

Saute the yellow sauce

4. This basic sauce lasts for 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator.

32. New Zealand – Christmas Cake

Christmas cake

Festive cakes have apparently been made for over 2000 years, however today’s Christmas cake as we know it came about in the 17th century. It was a bread-like cake made with expensive dried fruit, nuts, candied peel and wine and was part of Twelth Night celebrations. The legendary Mrs Beeton printed the first Christmas cake recipe in the 1800’s, but her cake was similar to gingerbread.

Our family Christmas cake recipe isn’t quite that old, but my Aunties tell me that it is over 100 years old. It comes from one of my Aunt’s mother-in-law (Nana Littlejohn) and has been passed through the family.  I have fond memories of sitting on the bench as a child helping my Mum to make the cake, and the amazing smell that would permeate through the house as it was baking. We always had our cake on the 28th of December as it doubled as my brother’s birthday cake, and would take it away on camping holidays with us to have a piece most days for morning tea. We’ve also used it for other celebrations in the family, first communion, wedding cakes and one of the more recent ones I made was for my daughter Sophie’s baptism. I got lots of compliments for that particular one, my Aunt and Mum saying it was one of the best versions of the cake they had ever tasted, so I was pretty chuffed :) We all make it in a slightly different way too, my Mum swears by having the oven only on bake whereas I fan bake mine.

So I’m sitting here typing this out while I’ve got this year’s cake in the oven, and that smell is amazing. This year the cake is going to serve a dual purpose – my son Jack is getting baptised in early December so we’re going to have it as his baptism cake and an early Christmas cake. Two year old Sophie helped me this morning while I was making it, sitting on the bench stirring it as I must have all those years ago. Maybe Jack will be there next year too and I hope that one day they take the recipe and make it for their family too :)

Christmas cake

450g butter
450g brown sugar
9 eggs
450g flour
1 tsp baking powder
400g sultanas or raisins
400g currants
2 packets glace cherries (3 oz each)
1 packet mixed peel (8 oz)
1 tsp vanilla, lemon or almond essence
1 Tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
3 oz blanched almonds to decorate the top of the cake (optional)

1. Prepare the tin (see notes below) and heat oven to 125 degrees fan bake.

2.  Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs 3 at a time. Mix well then add golden syrup, flour, baking powder and spices. Mix well.

Christmas cake

3. Next add fruit and essence and combine well.

4. Put into the tin and bake for approximately 4 to 4.5 hours. If you are not going to ice the cake, then you can add a pattern to the top with blanched almonds if wished.

Christmas cake

5. When cooked take out and sprinkle the top with brandy. Let the cake cool completely in the tin, then stand upside down for a day or so on a cake rack.

Keep feeding the cake brandy until Christmas! I always try and make this cake at least a month out. To store, wrap in greaseproof paper and store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

Preparing the tin

I have cooked this cake in both a square and round 9″ tin. Grease the tin, then line bottom and sides with 1 layer of newspaper, 2 layers of brown paper and 1 layer of baking paper. This helps to prevent the cake from burning. The ‘collar’ should be at least 3 inches high. Here’s a picture of Obama and Mitt Romney lining my cake ;-)

Christmas cake

The key to making this cake is get organised, have everything ready to go and measured before you start. You need a really big bowl too, I use a cheap wok to fit it all in!

Christmas cake

31. England – Parkin Cake


Today is Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes night as we call it here in New Zealand, so I made some Parkin, a traditional cake from Yorkshire, England that is eaten on Bonfire Night. The cake is like a ginger bread, but contains oatmeal and molasses.

I first came across Parkin Cake when I lived in the UK and one of my work colleagues from ‘up North’ told me about it. I went down to the local Asda supermarket at lunchtime and bought some, it was kind of ok but I was a bit underwhelmed by it all. However like most things that are mass produced, the home baked version is much tastier! Kind of a cross between gingerbread and toffee, it’s delicious.


Makes 16 squares

200g butter
1 large egg
4 tbsp milk
200g golden syrup
85g treacle(I used molasses)
85g soft light brown sugar
100g oatmeal
250g self-raising flour
1 Tbsp ground ginger

1. Heat oven to 140 degrees celcius. Grease and line a deep 9″/22cm square cake tin and line. Beat the egg and milk together and set aside.

2. Gently melt the butter, golden syrup, treacle and brown sugar together in a large pan until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat.


3. Mix in the oatmeal, flour and ginger and stir to combine. Stir in the egg and milk.

4. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour until the cake feels firm and a little crusty on top. Cool in the tin.

Wrap in parchment paper and foil and leave for 3-5 days if you can, it will become softer and stickier the longer you leave it. It lasts up to 2 weeks. Probably not in our house though!

Recipe from BBC GoodFood.

30. USA – Halloween Cupcakes and Cake

Halloween is obviously a US tradition, but I think every year it seems to get more popular here in New Zealand. I think it’s kinda fun for the littlies to get dressed up, not so sure about the teenagers that don’t even bother and go around demanding treats! When my kids are a bit older I think it will be fun to get together with the neighbours and have a little trick or treat fun.

In the meantime, I made some Halloween cupcakes to take to a family gathering, using the ever popular Annabel Langbein Ultimate Chocolate Cake recipe. I just love this cake, it’s so quick and easy to make.

Halloween cupcakes

My husband’s work social club was also having a Halloween party, so he volunteered me to make the cake which was all good with me! It had to be a BIG cake to feed the masses, so I made a yummy chocolate cake (different recipe to the Annable Langbein one) and decorated it with pumpkins, spiders and not so scary wee ghosts.

This cake was the 9 inch version, you need a high sided tin – I used a standard tin and I had to do a bit of a patch up job on it where the baking paper had partially collapsed under the weight of the cake, oops. It uses a lot of butter and eggs, but will feed an army. You also need a massive mixing bowl to combine all the ingredients. I did it with my Kitchen Aid mixer, and it was just about overflowing!

Chocolate cake

Halloween Chocolate Cake

1.5 tbsp white vinegar
1.5 cup of milk
250g softened butter
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 3/4 C caster sugar
2 1/4 C plain flour
3/4 C cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
4 large eggs

1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees (fan bake). Grease and line 7 inch round tin, allowing baking paper to rise up 2 inches above the tin.

2. Combine the vinegar and milk in a jug and leave to go sour.

3. Dice up butter, then add this into a large cake mixer, along with the vanilla, sugar, sifted dry ingredients, eggs and the milk. Beat on low speed until ingredients are combined. Then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes until smooth. Pour into tin and bake for 1 hour 40 minutes or until skewer comes out clean. Cool in tin.

For an 8″ round tin, 1.5 x the recipe

For a 9″ round tin, double the recipe, cook for 2 hours at 140 degrees.

Decorate as you wish :)

Halloween Chocolate Cake


29. New Zealand – Pavlova


So there’s much debate as to where the pavlova comes from – was it invented in New Zealand or Australia. Well being a Kiwi, of course I’m going to say New Zealand. Apparently it was named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. The meringue dessert was created in her honour after her tour Down Under.

I’ve recently had a birthday and lucky girl that I am, I got given a Kitchen Aid mixer by my lovely family. I have coveted one for ages, so it’s great to have one in my very own kitchen, and try out lots of different recipes using it.

The first thing I wanted to try was a pavlova, a chance to truly get that whisk working! Plus as summer is now almost around the corner, the first New Zealand strawberries are appearing in the shops, and pavlova and strawberries is such a wonderful combination.

I’ve adapted this recipe from the Kitchen Aid cookbook.


Serves 8

4 egg whites
pinch salt
220g caster sugar
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white vinegar

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees. Whisk the egg whites and salt until frothy, then beat until stiff peaks form.

2. Add the sugar to the egg whites 1 tablespoon at a time. Wait until the the previous tablespoon of sugar has been incorporated before adding the next one. When the mixture starts to look glossy, continue to beat and add the sugar. When all the sugar has been added the meringue will be very stiff and glossy.


3. Sieve the cornflour over the meringue, then sprinkle over the vinegar. Fold both into the meringue with a large metal spoon.

4. Spread the mixture onto a circle on some baking paper.


5. Place the pavlova in the oven, then immediately reduce the heat to 130 degrees. Bake for 1 hour. The pavlova is ready when it feels dry to the touch and can be easily lifted off the baking paper. Turn the oven off but leave the pavlova in the oven with the oven door ajar until it has cooled completely. This will prevent the pavlova from cracking.

6. Serve smothered with whipped cream and strawberries – or any combination of fruit.

28. New Zealand – Ava’s cake: Chocolate and Raspberry Petal Cake

Chocolate and Raspberry Petal Cake

My little niece Ava turned one so I made her a birthday cake.  I wanted to have a crack at decorating the cake in the ‘Petal’ style. It looks complicated but is actually pretty easy, just pipe a row of dots, then spread with a knife or a spatula.  You do get a bit of RSI along the way though!

The cake is Annabel Langbein’s Ultimate Chocolate Cake recipe, sooooo easy and so good, a real ‘go to’ for birthday cakes in my opinion! I iced it using a buttercream flavoured with raspberry essence, and using a teeny amount of Wilton peach gel colouring.

Ultimate Chocolate Cake

3 cups self-raising flour

2 cups sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda, sifted
200g butter, softened
1 cup milk or unsweetened yoghurt
3 large eggs
1 cup boiling hot coffee

Heat oven to 160°C. Grease the sides and line the base of a 30cm round cake tin or 2 x 20cm round cake tins with baking paper.

Place all ingredients in a bowl or food processor and mix or blitz until the ingredients are combined and the butter is fully incorporated. Pour mixture into prepared tin or tins and smooth top. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin. If not using at once, the cake will keep for about a week in a sealed container in the fridge. You can also freeze it uniced.

Chocolate and Raspberry Petal Cake

Fill and crumb coat your cake, then stick it in the fridge for at least half an hour to set.

I followed the Petal Cake tutorial on the Hungry Housewife blog.

Chocolate and Raspberry Petal Cake

I was quite pleased with how it turned out for a first attempt, but I was a bit rough with my crumb coat, and because it was a chocolate cake and a light coloured icing, it showed through a bit. The petals were not perfectly straight and a bit wonky the whole way round, but hey that will improve with practice :)

I finished the cake off with a pretty bunting. The birthday girl seemed to enjoy it!


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