Introducing… Whisk!

Whisk_Banner v3Amongst the numerous things I have planned for the year, the one I’m undoubtedly most excited about is one I’ve been working on the last month or so.

I have been wanting to start a little something for quite a long while now and with a little nudge from the boyfriend, we figured there was no better time to get started on it while I was on sabbatical leave.

So with that, I’m so proud and excited to announce that we’ve started a small home-based bakery, Whisk!

Whisk

We’ve spent the last couple of weeks spent testing recipes, experimenting and perfecting with techniques, sourcing for boxes, designing the labels and website so we couldn’t be more psyched that it has all finally come together.

As we’re keeping it really small at the moment, we currently only sell our much loved cream puffs.

(We did a soft launch over the festive period, selling to just family and friends. We were so thrilled by how well received they were!)

We will be expanding on our flavour range for the cream puffs as well as adding more of our favourite baked goods to the menu in time to come.

So come on by and check us out! We’ll see you on the other side!

To New Beginnings.

2012 - In the Kitchen!

Wow.

Can you believe it’s 2013 already?

2012 was, for me, a year of challenges and new beginnings.

I welcomed the addition of the most adorable red toy poodle, Poppy, into our home, attended new fantastic food events (yes, Savour, I’m talking about you), spent a good part of the year working my butt off almost round the clock. Then I made one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made in my life- to take a six months sabbatical leave from work – and spent the last two months working out a lot and traveling to both new and old favourite places; namely, Japan, New Zealand, Bali and Bangkok.

Culinary-wise, this year was the year I really found my feet in the kitchen.

While I’ve always loved being in the kitchen and pottering around the stove and oven, I found myself cooking on the fly, experimenting with what I thought I knew and learning to trust my culinary instincts a whole lot more.

While I woefully neglected this site, I cooked up a storm in the kitchen, growing and honing my culinary knowledge. I taught myself to make pasta from scratch (with an old fashioned pasta roller the boyfriend gifted me for my birthday!), filleted a sea bass, experimented with a lot of Chinese cooking and had friends over for dinner parties more often than usual.

It seriously was a great year, all in all, and one I have so much to be thankful for.

In this new year, I have so much I have lined up, both in the kitchen and out, to look forward to and seriously can’t wait to see what the new year has in store.

I certainly do hope to be posting here a little more regularly, perhaps changing my post layout slightly so I spend less time behind the camera and more time enjoying my food, as I have become accustomed to doing in the last couple of months.

Until then, thank you so much for dropping by in the last year. I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and hope the new year brings you much love, laugher and adventure!

xx

Laureen

A First with Fish.

Roasted Bacon-Wrapped Sea Bass

I’m not really big on superstitions. I mean, sure I always drank Brand’s Essence of Chicken the morning of every university paper much as I hated it and used the same pen throughout my exams each term but beyond that, I don’t really pay much attention to superstitions at all.

Signs from universe and I are, however, on a totally different page altogether. I chance upon a bookstore having a closing down sale? I take it a sign from the universe that I should pick up a couple of cookbooks I have been eyeing. Nigel Slater’s new book was released a day before my birthday? I’m convinced that it was just made to be my birthday present.

So when I was waiting at the seafood counter at a supermarket a couple months ago and was asked by a random stranger if I cooked, I (surprise, surprise!) took it as a sign from the universe that I really should learn to do more with seafood than just eat.

Now, to get how big a deal this was to me, you have to understand that most seafood- whole fish especially- kinda scares me. I just never quite know what fish to buy, what quite to do with it when I get home and how to cook it. But thanks to that guy at the supermarket, I sure as hell was gonna do something about that.

Roasted Bacon-Wrapped Sea Bass II

Okay, while we’re still treading down the path of honesty here, I’ll admit that the whole time I was choosing a sea bass and waiting for it to be cleaned up, I was kinda freaking out a little inside about how I was gonna get two neat slices of fish fillets I had envisioned having for lunch from this whole fish (and terribly missing the neat little fillets I used to get at the Queen Victoria market back in Melbourne).

Thankfully, with a little pictorial guidance from Martha Stewart- can I just add that her Cooking School cookbook really does cover everything?- filleting the fish didn’t prove to be quite as difficult as I thought it would be. A little seasoning and wrapping in bacon later, I was well on my way to cook my sea bass fillets for lunch.

I have to say, I really was quite proud of how it all turned out; that I actually bought a whole fish, filleted it and cooked it for lunch. As Jamie Oliver’s recipes tend to go (Nigel Slater and him are my two go-to guys I know will never steer me down the wrong path when it comes to chartering in unfamiliar waters), lunch was really clean-tasting, delicious with the smokiness and crispiness of the bacon pairing off well with the slightly lemony, flaky fish fillets.

Believe me when I say I was practically beaming all throughout lunch so proudly of how this turned out you would have thought I had rear the fish and caught it myself.

I’m so, so thrilled to have finally turned this corner with seafood. The kitchen is now officially my oyster (ha!)!

Roasted Bacon-Wrapped Sea Bass [Adapted from Jamie Oliver's Cook with Jamie]

Note: I omitted the lemon mayonnaise the original recipe calls for to make the dish a little healthier and flavours a little lighter and cleaner- and loved it that way. I really splurged on the smoked bacon (yeah, my faith in Jamie Oliver’s recipes knows no limits apparently) and was duly rewarded with a really delicious fillet of fish that had a slight smokiness to it. And as an added bonus, I now have a freezer full of smoked bacon. It’s official; there’s no way to lose when smoked bacon is involved.

Roasted Bacon-Wrapped Sea Bass III

Ingredients
2 200g sea bass fillets, about 2.5cm thick, pin-boned
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves finely chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
8 rashes of smoked bacon
Olive oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Season the fish fillet with rosemary, zest of a lemon and some freshly ground pepper. Lay four rashes of bacon together, slightly overlapping, on the countertop. Place a fish fillet on top of the bacon and wrap the rashes around it. Repeat with the other fillet and the rest of the bacon rashes.
  2. Heat a large ovenproof frying pan till hot. Add some olive oil and fry the fish fillets for about a minute. Place the pan in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes until the bacon is crisp and the fish fillets are cooked through. Squeeze the lemon juice over the fish fillets and serve immediately with some blanched asparagus and roast potatoes. Serves 2

Of Birthdays and Tarts.

Mixed Berries Custard Tart

My brother has always loved pastries so when his birthday rolled around a couple of weeks ago, it really was kinda a no brainer what I was gonna make him. Especially since he single handedly polished off half of this tart.

But in an effort to make something everyone (i.e the boyfriend who isn’t a big fan of cheese) could enjoy, I figured I would make a tart that didn’t involve mascarpone cheese in spite of my love of aforementioned strawberries mascarpone tart.

And I knew no better person that I could turn to for a tart that would be no less delicious than Maida Heatter.

Mixed Berries Custard Tart II

I have to admit that making the tart itself was thankfully so much easier than picking just one recipe from her pies and tarts book (butterscotch pie, frozen peanut butter pie, salted almond chocolate pie; how does anyone choose among such deliciousness?) to make.

I made the pastry the night before and left the tart shell in the freezer overnight so all that was left to do the next day was to whisk the custard together, blind bake the tart shell and then bake the filled tart. It really doesn’t get any simpler than that.

And the tart (and Maida, naturally) truly didn’t disappoint.

A light, buttery crust with a smooth custard filling, this tart was such a delicious way to enjoy and showcase the berries from the glorious semi-annual berries influx we get this part of the world- and so refreshingly different from the chocolate cakes we gorge ourselves silly every birthday celebration.

So with that, I think I might have gotten myself back on track with the tart making I had set out to do some time this year. And I certainly won’t be needing another birthday to come round to dust off those oft-neglected tart pans.

Mixed Berries Custard Tart [adapted from Maida Heatter's Pies & Tarts]

Note: This tart really was a breeze to make, from the tart dough right down to the custard filling (no thickening over the stove needed!). To make it even easier though, you could, as the original recipe instructs, bake a punnet of blueberries into the custard tart so you don’t have to bother macerating and layering the berries. However you choose to make this tart though, I suggest baking the tart till the middle is just a little jiggly and letting it firm up completely in the fridge; I baked the tart till it was fully set as instructed by the recipe and found that it had a very slight eggy taste to it. Oh, just one last thing – whatever you do, please don’t skip macerating those berries; it truly makes all the difference in the world!

Mixed Berries Custard Tart III

Ingredients
Pastry
1 3/4 cup unsifted plain flour
2 tbsp caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
125g cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 cold egg
1 tbsp cold water

Custard
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk

Macerated berries
2 pints of strawberries, hulls removed and halved
A handful of blueberries
2 tbsp caster sugar

  1. To make pastry Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and blitz for a few seconds until combined. Add the cold butter and blitz for a couple of seconds at a time until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Beat the egg and cold water together in a small bowl. Add them gradually through the feed tube, blitzing till the mixture just comes together.
  2. Turn the mixture out onto the countertop. Using your fingertips, work the dough together gently till a smooth dough forms. Roll the dough out with a rolling pin till it forms a circle about 30cm (or 12-inch).
  3. Transfer the dough into a 25cm (or 10-inch) tart pan and press it down lightly into the base and up the sides of the pan. Using a fork, prick the base of the tart dough all over. Refrigerate the tart shell for an hour before baking.
  4. Heat the oven at 200C. Cover the base of the tart shell with baking paper and fill it with dried beans. Bake the tart shell in the centre of the oven for about 15 minutes. Remove the tart shell from the oven, gently remove the baking paper and dried beans. Bake the tart shell for another ten minutes until it’s dry to the touch and light golden brown. Remove the tart from the oven, turn down the temperature to 160C and let the tart shell cool slightly.
  5. To make custard Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, whisking until combined, before adding the vanilla, cream and milk. Pour the custard into the baked tart shell.
  6. Bake the tart in the centre of the oven for about 30 minutes, until the custard is set but still slightly jiggly in the centre. Let the tart cool completely before refrigerating at least an hour.
  7. To make macerated berries Toss the berries and caster sugar together in a bowl and let sit for at least half an hour.
  8. To assemble Arrange the macerated berries on the tart and spoon some of the berry juices over the berries. Serves 12
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