Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Engagement party perfection

The big engagement party has been and gone, and I had the hangover to prove it. Gosh, was I sick! But it was worth it - all the research, all the preparation, all the indulgence . . . all to celebrate the wonderful engagement of Pete and Michelle. Congrats you two! Can't wait for the big day xo

This is where my pathetic attempt at food photography falls flat on its face. I tried to capture the tiny perfection of our bite sized bundles, but the pics above just don't do it justice! First, we've got the classic smoked salmon blini, then goats cheese and caramelised onion tarts, then pumpernickel with camembert, caramelised onion and pistacchio, then roast lamb tartlets with sage and tzatziki, then smoked chicken, apple, wholegrain mustard, spring onion and mayo on wonton and dainty little pavs with fresh kiwi and cream. Heartbroken I didn't get a pic of my crowd pleasing tandoori curry cups - they were a hit! Oh, and the gorgeous little lemon tarts.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Take me away

I don't really like Winter. I wish I could hibernate like a bear and stay under the covers. But I think if I could wake up to this magic every day, I think I could - only just - get through the day. Can you BELIEVE how stunning this place is?

Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island has won bucket loads of awards since it opened last year. It's truly magical - and waaaay out of my price range. But oh, how a girl can dream! Every tiny little detail has been thought of - right through from the reception lounge to the outdoor dining terraces - the artwork to the mud wraps - the eco-friendliness to the uninterrupted views. STUNNING. And as a proud as punch South Aussie, I'm always thrilled to see local produce used with such glamour and decadence. Bit like Sunday night dinner at my place (ha!).

So now, I just have to save my pennies . . . or keep dreaming.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sticky fingers . . .

Picture perfect sticky date pudding

Yes, I'm still obsessed with Masterchef. Have found myself rushing home from work to a) turn off the slow cooker (an ah-mazing aroma hit me this arvo when I walked through the front door - beef and red wine, yum!) and b) get settled in my jarmies before 7pm. I've had lots of things on after work lately, so have had to catch up on recipes via the Masterchef website. And it's fabulous!

Mum is hosting a Jingle Bells in June dinner party at her place this weekend (thank goodness there's no Boxing Day cricket on the next day, so Dad has no excuse not to help clean up!) and she was searching for an easy, warming winter dessert. Think classy affair - not something with red and blue tinsel and some tacky mistletoe by the front door! We're talking ivory crockery with gold edging and crystal champagne glasses. So ice cream sundaes are out!

We've all attempted sticky dates before, but this one takes decadence to a new level. OMG. Thank you Masterchef! Best caramel sauce I've EVER had - and even better the next day when you're scooping it out of the pan with your fingers. And yes, invest in the dariole moulds - we experimented with muffin tins and they just didn't have the same impact. Too dense or something.

180g dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1¼ cups (310ml) water
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¾ cup (165g) firmly packed brown sugar
60g butter, softened chopped
2 eggs
1 cup (150g) self-raising flour

Almond praline
½ cup (110g) caster sugar
¼ cup (35g) slivered almonds

Butterscotch sauce
50g butter
1 cup (220g) brown sugar
1 cup (250ml) cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Makes 8

  1. Preheat oven to 180˚C (160˚C fan-forced). Lightly grease eight (½ cup capacity) metal dariole moulds.
  2. Place dates and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a high heat. Remove from the heat. Add bicarbonate of soda, stir until dates start to break down, set aside to cool, stirring occasionally.
  3. Beat butter and sugar in a bowl using a hand beater, gradually add eggs one at a time, beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Add date mixture, stir to combine. Carefully fold through sifted flour, divide mixture evenly between the eight moulds, until 2/3 full.
  5. Place moulds in a baking tray, carefully pour water in tray until it comes up 1/3 of the side of the moulds. Bake in oven for 40 minutes or until golden and skewer comes out clean.
  6. Meanwhile, for the almond praline, combine sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a saucepan over medium heat and cook caramel without stirring, swirling pan, until deep golden. Scatter almonds onto a baking paper-lined oven tray, pour over caramel and cool until set. Break praline into pieces.
  7. For the butterscotch sauce, combine butter, sugar, cream and vanilla in small saucepan over low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Bring sauce to the boil, reduce heat and cook for 5-6 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.
  8. To serve, invert the hot pudding onto a serving plate, top with butterscotch sauce and shards of praline.

And big sigh of relief for all those time-poor hostesses with the mostest out there - these freeze a treat xo

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Passionate Foodie

Bree and I hit the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmers Markets last weekend. Love. We did about four laps of the place, stopping at a different stall each time, falling for some delightfully fresh and colourful addition to our baskets with every slow step. Such a gorgeous start to a Sunday.

I walked away with a very heavy bag of goodies - lemon curd tart for my mum, all sorts of goodies for my retro crockpot creations, bunches of fresh herbs, the Sunday Mail and some candied balsamic. Candied balsamic? YUM!

Walking down one of the aisles, we had to push for some room at the oh so popular Passionate Foodie stand. What was all the fuss about, we wondered? Then we spotted the samples of salt and pepper squid and turkish bread with a sweet, sticky balsamic. That explained the hysteria! Bree then realised the guy behind the desk was Adam, the caterer from her gorgeous wedding at Glen Ewin Estate. GORGEOUS food, this guy CAN cook! And now he's set up a little gourmet food business - The Passionate Foodie. Yum, check it out! Awesome presents for interstate guests or the Mums who have everything.

And that candied balsamic? Heavenly!

All pics from The Passionate Foodie

Eat Wild. It's Thyme

Something I love about visiting BK and Lill in Melbourne is the sense of occasion that goes with having breakfast out and about. There's something so special and indulgent about it - who could ever face Weetbix on the weekends when there are heavenly poached eggs and breakfast trifles on offer!?!?

I'll do a blog soon on my favourite breakfast haunts around town (and across the border), but thought I'd just give you a sneak peak into one of my new little discoveries.

Wild Thyme is organic market cross cafe cross escape from the outside world. Just walking through the doors is an uplifting experience and you automatically feel like you're breathing in pure air or something!

I was tickled pink to be dining out with my dear friend Kate on this cold Winter's day. Kate has just announced she's upping stumps and moving to Canberra (insert sob). All my friends are jumping ship! Anyway, Kate's a go getter and I wish her all the best in the Capital. Couldn't be happier for her.
So, we had a kind of final supper over eggs and mint tea. I ordered poached eggs with Wild Thyme beans - ah-mazing. They were the most delicious baked beans I'd ever had. And those eggs! Bright yellow and full of flavour. Then we wandered through the market, discovering all sorts of organic treats.
The cafe and market is just gorgeous - lots of cute little quotes on the walls, extensive menus, friendly staff and oodles of pre-made goodies to package up for home. It's a really sustainable approach - a feel good dining experience that weighs light on your conscience!
Next time Kate flies in from the Roundabout City, I'm dragging her out for the spinach roulade . . . oh, and the dairy free brownie. Do you think because it's 'organic', it's good for me!??!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Winners are grinners

Yes, I have been slack. There's no denying it - and I don't really have any excuses for my lack of blog activity. I've been embracing Cabaret fever - can I put it down to that? No, I don't think I really can!
Anyway, I re-entered the Pantry this weekend to be completely over the moon with the news that I'd been awarded a 'One Lovely Blog' award by Le Moulin. How hilarious! The only things I'd ever won before included a Junior Journalist award in Year 7 and a behind the scenes VIP meeting with Human Nature in Year 9. Oh yes, my life's been full of fabulous wins!
So I'm just tickled pink to win this award after such a slow start to my blogging life. Things will get better and I promise to inspire with more pretty pictures, but in the meantime, make sure you try out the recipes - they're all completely fool proof. Speaking of great recipes, the lovely Le Moulin has great pics with her recipes - something I'm yet to master.
Now, having been awarded the One Lovely Blog Award - I have to pass it on to other deserving bloggers. Hmm, where do I start?

These are the rules . . .
  1. . Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link.
  2. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you've newly discovered. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

The Polkadot Pantry proudly passes the One Lovely Blog award on to:

Brown Button
The first ever blog I discovered. Love love love Kimberlee's stylish take on the world. And now she's ventured into retail, love it.

White and Wander
Such a lovely way to stay in touch with an interstate friend - what style she has!

A Summer Picnic Wedding
This is truly beautiful, an absolute delight to escape to every day. I've got my whole wedding sorted thanks to Gabrielle - just insert groom!

Quirky Bird
Just can't get enough of Gabrielle!

Shona Henderson Photography
Local gal with fabulous vision

Green Wedding Shoes
So pretty. Full stop. But enough with the weddings, Kate!

Cannelle et Vanille
Oh, if only my blog could look this pretty! One of my favourite food haunts

The Wednesday Chef
Such a classy food blog, I love

Barn House
Vintage chic at its best

MA Belle
American style to die for!

All the best
Read this for the first time tonight. Stunning.

The House that A-M Built
Wow, this woman just oozes style - can you believe someone actually lives in something this stunning? It's like something out of a picture book.

What is James wearing?
I love this! Another brand new blog I've just stumbled across - your mind boggles with what he'll come up with next and where he'll be photographed.

Coco's Tea Party
Wow, I should go randomly searching for new blogs more often - this is GOLD! I LOVE this blog. Check it out.

Chez Pim
Gotta love a foodie blog

Okay, so I cheated a bit and included some blogs that are not so 'newly discovered'. But I just love them and check them every day. Do forgive me!

Will be back with some inspiring pieces throughout the week xo

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Eee-eye ee-eye ooh!

I was over visiting White and Wander this evening, catching up on all the goss in Emma's life and was completely thrilled and surprised to find out she's jet-setted across the world to visit her sister Lucy in France. Oh, what a life!
Once I was over the shock and extreme pangs of jealousy, I was excited by her recent little piece of blog love for the Barn House. What a gorgeous find! I am obsessed with this place (yes, it's taken me all of 7 minutes to develop this obsession) - best described as an eclectic mix of vintage chic where nothing matches but everything fits. Basically (from what I can gather), it's a huge big old barn in Washington that only opens a few times a year for flea markets and season sales. Can you imagine counting down the sleeps til the wooden doors opened? You'd be beside yourself waiting to see what the boys had collected in between seasons.
I would love to have something like this one day - it's no secret I'm a try hard country girl, so I'd love a project where I could incorporate the charm of the bush, the style of city living and the flavour of mum's kitchen. One big open house where people could pop in and read a mag by the open fire, nibble on some local cheese and catch up with friends. Hmm, perhaps in the Clare Valley? No, the Adelaide Hills - closer to town and better for sauv blanc!
In the meantime, I'll let the Barn Boys do all the hard work and stick to my day job! Great find Emma, hope you have fun in La Belle France!
PS. Oh, and what about that cake in the first pic? Ah-mazing!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Petite party treats

1. A posh version of the ever crowd pleasing wedges with sour cream
2. It's an Aussie backyard party, so how could we go past a meat pie?

3. I love trendy takes on old time favourites

4. Our caterer at work does these and lightly fries them before serving. Heavenly

5. Tandoori cups make for lots of fun

6. Spinach pies are a good option for those vegos out there

7. A new take on duck pancakes - thank you Mr Oliver!

8. Yum

Before the big wedding, we've got the big engagement for Michelle and Pete and I've been dobbed in to help out with the food. Very exciting, we have a gorgeous theme to work with and I'm lucky to have the creativity of my fellow bridesmaids to inspire me - I just hope I live up to the standards!
'BK' lives in Melbourne and is the most innovative and spontaneous cook I've ever come across. She puts the kids from Masterchef to shame - the invention game is her nightly challenge!
Kelly hails from the bush and is the living definition of 'hostess with the mostest', one of these girls whose pantry is always stocked with Maggie Beer treats and home-made sausage rolls.
So the bar has been raised! Long gone are those uni days when we thought tzatziki and toasted pita was the height of gourmet cuisine!
How do any of these sit with you? Remember, it's an indoor/outdoor party at home, it's Winter in Australia and the invites were gorgeous orange and chocolate with pretty ribbon and polka dots. Think Martha Stewart meets Donna Hay!
  1. Salt and pepper crusted baby baked potatoes - dont' these just look adorable? Bite size explosions of winter warmth. And the blokes will love them - grown up versions of potato wedges with sour cream.
  2. Lamb and mint meat pies - these could be perfect . . . if I could make them earlier and freeze them for simple reheating. Always love a funky take on an old favourite.
  3. Basil and feta red-hots - just the name has me hooked! I love those little bake at home rolls, and these would be a hit with the boys.
  4. Asparagus and prosciutto bundles - these look great on a big white platter and are good either hot or cold.
  5. Tandoori chicken curry cups - love these, they not only look good but they're easy to plate up and taste amazing. I have been warned though (thanks Kristabel!) that they can get soggy very quickly, so would be all hands on deck to get these babies out stat!
  6. Spinach and feta quiches - always a winner and a vegie option that's not too 'out there' for the meat eaters amongst us.
  7. Turkey salad pancakes - an interesting spin on peking duck pancakes. I'm obessed with the duck variety (hello Luv-A-Duck!) so these could be a cheaper option? Would be awesome to have a DIY pancake bar set up so people could make their own - would save so much time!
  8. Fig and prosciutto crostini - something about figs has me completely captivated lately. This could easily be modified to go onto blinis with goats cheese spread, or mini bagels even. Yum!
So, let me know what you think - I've got a reputation to uphold!

Crazy for my crockpot

Can't wait to impress with my old/new crockpot (pity it's not pretty and pink like this one)

Most people count down the days, hours and minutes til big events - like birthdays, weddings and first dates with cute boys. Me? I count down the seconds til trying a new recipe!

This long weekend (thank you for having a birthday, Queenie!) I'm trying out my new crockpot -sorry, make that my mum's old crockpot circa late 1970s. It's hilarious - it's bright orange with kind of a browny/olive ceramic inner that you can't remove from the outer shell. I'm guessing it's going to make cleaning a nightmare, but my housemate's away for the weekend, so it doesn't matter how much mess I make.

Lots of my friends have been gushing about their slow-cookers lately (albeit the funky stainless posh types) and when I mentioned it to Mum she was more than happy to make room in her kitchen and gladly hand over her ancient pot to me. Who knows if the wiring still works or whether I'll short circuit my power board - I'll guess we'll have to wait and see!

Any suggestions for crockpot recipes? They can't be too hard, can they?!?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Winter warming meatballs

Pic and recipe from here

Okay, so I promised the meatball recipe to end all meatball recipes a few weeks back and I'm not one to go against my word.

This is Anyd Bunn's (from Vogue Entertaining & Travel April/May 2009) take on the Italian classic that I discovered while I had the sniffles a couple of weeks back. I'm still dreaming of the ah-mazing flavour and ultra smooth textures - and the best bit is, they freeze up a treat!

60g butter, chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tspn each chilli flakes, ground cumin and ground nutmeg
1/4 tspn ground clove
1 kg veal mince (I used lamb and it was fine)
1 Tbspn sea salt flakes
1/3 cup firmly packed mint leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup firmly packed flat leaf parsley, finely chopped, plus extra to serve
150ml pouring cream (I know, how decadent!)
3 x 55g eggs, lightly beaten
150g (1 1/2 cups) dried breadcrumbs
50g finely grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
375g dried tagliatelle (I used angel hair and loved this lighter take on pasta)

Tomato sauce
2 Tbspn olive oil
60 g butter, chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic
5 (about 500g) roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
200ml tomato passata
1/4 tspn chilli flakes
  1. For sauce, heat oil and butter in a pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for 10 minutes until softened.
  2. Add all tomaotoes, passata and chilli and cook over low-medium heat for one hour or until thickened.
  3. For meatballs, heat butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes or until soft. Stir in spices, transfer to large bowl and cool.
  4. Add mince to onion mixture with salt, herbs, cream, eggs, breadcrumbs and parmesan. Using hands, mix well to combine. Shape into balls (I made mine cocktail size) and place on a plastic wrap-lined tray. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or until chilled and firm.
  5. Preheat oven to 200C. Heat olive oil in frying pan over medium heat, add half the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally for 5 mins or until evenly browned. Drain on paper towel, then repeat with remaining meatballs.
  6. Place meatballs in a large ovenproof dish, pour over tomato sauce and cover with foil. Bake for 30 mins or until cooked through.
  7. 1o mins before meatballs are ready, cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling water until al dente, then drain.
  8. To serve, scatter pasta with extra parsley, chop with meatballs and sauce, and sprinkle over extra parmesan.