Microwave Cake? – Passionfruit Sponge with Marinated Berries and Whipped Cream

Market fresh Aussie passionfruit mmmmm!

C’mon,  I’ve baked for many, many (toooo many!) years, and yes, I’ve owned and loved using a microwave for at least 25 years.

yuk calvin face
Like, really?  Microwave cake??

But, babe!  You know it, I know it, how come everyone on Masterchef doesn’t know it?  YOU CAN’T BAKE A CAKE WITH A MICROWAVE.  What is going on people?

There has been the inevitable, take over of the world, of microwave mug recipes.  Late night or quick dessert fixes, I get it;  I really do!  I even bought my daughter a mug cake recipe book for Christmas.  But, microwave sponges seem to be the biggest thing since Matt Preston, himself!  I am dragging my ‘Vans’, I know, but traditional techniques are what I taught myself, so even though this recipe is from 2014…


I’m testing it out, ‘coz I have been sucked in by the hype, over 1500 people have rated it 4 stars, and I NEED to know!!

How ironic that my ramekins were too big and I had to use teacups!
After 40 seconds in a 1100 watt microwave and it isn’t cooked
Another 20 seconds has done it
Ran a knife around the edges but it is still a little rustic when turned out


Texture was a little dense and rubbery but quite acceptable to eat warm with cream and berry compote as the recipe suggests.


Cooled to stale cake consistency after about an hour, dry and hard



“Definitely a mug cake.  Great eaten warm but a little bouncy and slightly dense.  Tastes great and is a perfect, quick treat for pudding.  Cools to stale cake consistency within an hour.”

Taste heart emojiheart emojiheart emoji

Texture heart emojiheart emoji

Do I have a good recipe for…heart emojiheart emojiheart emoji

DeleteRedNot a recipe I would do gluten free.  The texture would suffer even more with any substitutions

tickUnrefined sugar substitution suitable.  Raw castor sugar or Stevia would work well.

tickRecipe as written, is nut free.

 tickI would be happy to substitute any kind of vegetable or nut oil for the butter in this recipe

when nothing goes right go  left
Image from www.upnorth.com

What would I change? Hmmm, probably it’s name!  It is a great warm pudding or mug cake but would I call it a sponge cake?  Probably not.  It also needed 50-60 seconds in my 1100 watt microwave on high, not the 40 seconds as written in the recipe.

The flavour was great and would definitely have been great with the Chantilly cream. I personally wouldn’t want to serve the passionfruit pudding with berry coulis though.

To ‘Bliss’ it, I would serve it with double or triple cream or even a custard.  I think a matcha infused custard with white chocolate, would have been gorgeous with this little pudding!

This recipe has definitely not convinced me that I can make cake in a microwave.

I hope you  have enjoyed this recipe review, and found it useful?  Would love to hear what you think.

See you next time 😉 X

Moist Chocolate and Beet Cake

Have you dared to try it?
I’ve put it off for years but the time for testing and tasting is finally here!



Beetroot in a cake??!!!

‘Chocolate beetroot cake,’ has been a phrase that has both intrigued and repulsed me for YEARS!   No, I just couldn’t do it.  So many opportunities to do a trial and so many reasons to not go there. Please, don’t get me wrong, I am a big beetroot fan in its many of its guises; most importantly; a burger is no burger of mine without it.  But, no matter how many people said a beetroot chocolate cake was all kinds of wonderful, I just couldn’t make the leap….until today.

When I decided to listen to my family and post reviews of the recipes I tested, I knew there were 2 recipes that I have avoided for decades yet, never been able to let go of.

Time to make the plunge; this Moist Chocolate Beet Cake recipe is originally by Nigel Slater but I found it via David Lebovitz website.  I followed the recipe to the letter, although I did not have an 8 inch springform so used a 7 inch and had batter left over.  You definitely need an 8 inch and in fact I probably could have used a 9 inch pan.

Beautiful, just set and wobbly in the centre
Sank a little while cooling. Not a big deal. Maybe another 5 minutes in the oven?
IMG_5821 cropped
Looking pretty with the entire tub of creme fraiche poured over it, and sprinkled with poppy seeds





“A beautifully textured cake, full of deep chocolate flavour and just enough sweetness to balance the bitterness of the cocoa. If you  like chocolate and beetroot paired, this is a spectacular recipe!  For the adventurous, definitely try it, you might find you enjoy it.”

Taste heart emojiheart emojiheart emojiheart emoji

Texture heart emojiheart emojiheart emojiheart emojiheart emoji

Do I have a good recipe for…heart emojiheart emojiheart emojiheart emojiheart emoji

tickGluten free substitution suitable.   I would feel happy to bake this cake with a gluten free flour substitute.  It may have a slightly gummy feel to it though.  Another option would be to substitute half almond meal and half gluten free flour.  I feel all almond meal would change the texture too much.

tickUnrefined sugar substitution suitable.  This cake would actually take on a whole new complexity of flavour using coconut sugar or rapadura sugar.  The caramel flavours of these sugars would really give you a lovely depth of flavour.  To avoid grittiness, process the sugar until it is finer before you use them.  Raw castor sugar or Stevia would also work.

tickRecipe as written, is nut free.

DeleteRed Not dairy free.  The flavour that is added by this amount of butter would make it difficult to change out for anything else.

when nothing goes right go  left
Image from www.upnorth.com

What would I change?  As a chocolate beet cake it was beautiful, I wouldn’t change it at all.  Although, I found the flavour of beetroot had mellowed even more after 2-3 days.Since I am a big believer of allowing chocolate cakes time to develop in flavour, I would even consider making it 2 days ahead of serving.

I personally, would consider cutting the beetroot with some green apple to help smooth the transition between chocolate and beetroot.  But hey, that’s just me!

To ‘Bliss’ it, I would serve it with sour cream on the side to give it a punchier flavour and a creamier accompaniment.  Creme fraiche was a little bit delicate in flavour and texture for me and I didn’t really think the poppy seeds did anything for it.  I would consider a really airy cream cheese frosting for it as well, but it would definitely have to be whipped within an inch of its life!

Wow, so there it is; Nigel Slater’s Moist Chocolate and Beet Cake.  What a great start!

I hope you  have enjoyed my first recipe review, and found it useful?  Would love to hear what you think.

See you next time 😉 X

PS if you are looking to get a springform pan, it is definitely worth spending a little bit more money to get one that won’t leak!
This is a link to Amazon.com, for a particularly highly rated tin by Kaiser, that won’t break the bank.

Kaiser Bakeware Noblesse 8-Inch Round Non-Stick Springform Pan

Whose tradition is it anyway? Bread for Toni, Lemon Myrtle and White Chocolate, Ice Cream Cake Recipe

Please don’t judge me. I have a confession to make… it is the middle of January and I still have half a panettone left.
It is difficult to explain but no one else in my family will eat it, and since I enjoy a slice only at breakfast, lightly toasted, with a cup of tea, there is really only so much one can get through!!

However, it seems, that I may actually be the odd one out here, as there is an entire school of thought that believes panettone is a an inedible passing food fad Are they right? How many of us are actually secretly hiding, unopened or rather large chunks of left over panettone, in the pantry or refrigerator? Or is yours just out in the open, (like mine) taking up square footage on the kitchen counter?

Am I perpetuating the myth that no one eats panettone?  Here is another great recipe idea for left over panettone!
Am I perpetuating the myth that no one eats panettone? Here is another great recipe idea for left over panettone!

I’m not convinced though, try telling the Italians that panettone is a passing fad! It seems that the original, flatter, and probably much smaller (aka manageable) version has been around since the fifteenth century. Hmmm, five hundred years give or take, it seems like a fairly strong trend to me!
All traditional festive foods have a legend or 10 behind them and my favourite story of the origins of this paradox, of slightly dry yet buttery fruit bread is this one;

“Does the name “Panettone” derive from Pan de Toni? According to tradition, Toni, lowly scullion at the service of Ludovico il Moro, was the inventor of one of the most typical sweets of the Italian tradition. On Christmas Eve, the chef of the Sforza burned the cake prepared for the feast. Toni decided to offer the mother yeast that he had kept aside for himself for Christmas. He kneaded it several times with flour, eggs, sugar, raisins and candied fruit, until obtaining a soft and leavened dough. The result was a great success and Ludovico il Moro called it Pan de Toni to honor its inventor.

Truly generous act on behalf of Toni I think, as I am sure that as a lowly scullion, to be able to make bread and have yeast available for his family, was not a trifling luxury. Secondly, it must have surely been a charitable master to not only name the sweet invention after Toni, but to not send the entire kitchen staff to the gallows for burning the Christmas cake in the first place!! Ha ha, I like it, and I pay due respect to all, who, when faced with dire need, fall back on creative dessert making!

The Italian cultural influence in Melbourne, which peaked with Italian migration back in the late 60’s and early ’70’s really helped give birth to Victoria’s current food and European style cafe culture. You can see the influence in our streets with the number of coffee shops per capita, it is truly astounding to most overseas visitors as to how many coffee machines they can spot in one quiet suburban shopping strip. You can also see it in the basis of so many ‘modern’ Australian menus which have strong Italian foundations. Who would have imagined that the home made antipasti found in the sandwiches of first generation migrant kids, school lunches, would now be routinely served up anywhere you care to eat? Everywhere from lowly cafeteries, to gourmet modern Australian eateries offer such a wide range of ethnically diverse dishes, that it would be strange not to see it on the menu!

It is so universally accepted that Italian cuisine is part if the strong foundation of modern Australian food, that when I recently asked an overseas visitor, “What is your favourite Australian dessert?”, they replied, ” Tiramisu.”

Looks a little like tartufo! How could you resist an Italian ice cream based dessert?
Looks a little like tartufo! How could you resist an Italian ice cream based dessert?

So, here is my recipe that I dedicate to ‘Toni’. I don’t actually know an Italian Toni, but to all my Italian friends, I hope you enjoy my Bliss, Australian take on, enjoying panettone well into January.

I am giving this blissed, ice cream cake, panettone, lovely citrus aromas by using lemon myrtle. Lemon myrtle has a flavour very, very much like lemon grass. It is green and woody with a good citrus kick to it but with none of the acid associated with lemons, so there is only a heightening of the already rich flavours in the panetonne. Lemon myrtle pairs so nicely with white chocolate that it only makes sense to marry them up and serve everything with ice cream! Since no one needs a reason for ice cream; ice cream is my choice for this new Aussie summer dessert. Heston’s recipe, from ‘Heston Blumenthal at home’, seems as good a place as any to start, given the unusual pairings and the nature of this creative dessert, so here is another great culinary genius’ recipe thrown into the Bliss grinder ;P. May be you can serve it for Australia Day? After all, who’s tradition is it anyway?

Panettone and Lemon Myrtle Ice Cream Cake
3 thick slices panettone, cut to the size of a small, loose bottomed cake tin (approximately 6 inch round)

Chocolate Ganache
150g 35% cocoa chocolate
1/2 cup whipping cream
Bring cream to boiling point. Add in chocolate, stir occassionally until melted and smooth. Leave to cool and thicken, stirring occassionally (at least an hour).

Lemon Myrtle White chocolate Ice Cream
180g Full Cream Milk
70g Caster Sugar
35g Milk Powder
420g Whipping Cream
90g White Chocolate
1 tspn Lemon Myrtle (or 1/2 tspn lemon zest, if you can’t get Aussie herbs!)

Heat milk, sugar and milk powder over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved.
Add cream and bring to the boil.
Add white chocolate and lemon myrtle or lemon zest, stirring occasionally until chocolate has dissolved.
Cool thoroughly.
Turn on your ice cream machine and churn for about 45 minutes or until the beater can no longer turn.

Work quickly to;
Place a layer of panettone into the botom of your cake tin.
Spoon a layer of ice cream over it, and smooth over with the back of a spoon.
Place second layer of panettone over the ice cream and press down lightly.
Spoon a second layer of ice cream over the panettone, as above.
Place third layer of panettone over the ice cream and press down lightly.
Cover the cake tin in glad wrap and place in the freezer.


When chocolate ganache has cooled to a runny fudge sauce consistency.
Take cake tin out of the freezer and run a knife around the inside of the tin to loosen the ice cream and turn the ‘cake’ out onto a plate.
Pour a generous amount of ganache over the top of the cake and smooth it out towards the edges allowing it to run over the sides of the cake.
Place ‘cake’ back into freezer.
Place remaining ganache into fridge to firm up (at least an hour)
Use a melon baller to scoop little balls of ice cream, and place them onto a cold tray and place ice cream balls back into freezer to firm up.
When ganache has become firm but not hard, use a small spoon or melon baller to scoop spoonfuls of ganache and roll them in Dutch cocoa powder, and keep them in the fridge.

When you are ready to serve, place mini ice cream scoops and ganache balls on top. The panettone is even drier, coming out of the freezer, but in combination with the ice cream and the ganache, it is a great textural compliment and the flavours work beautifully together!

Happy Birthday Australia xxx

Can you see the Southern Cross?  Happy Birthday Australia in all the finest, chocolatey, tradition :)
Can you see the Southern Cross? Happy Birthday Australia in all the finest, chocolatey, tradition 🙂

If you are enjoying being blissed, please drop me a comment with any feedback or comments!  I would love to know what you are enjoying most and what you would like to see more of.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my email list or follow me on wordpress to see all my latest ramblings 🙂

Chocolate Ripple Cake with Roasted Wattle Seed and Creamed Honey Recipe

Entertaining season is on us with a vengeance! Are you ready? How many family and friends’ barbecues and Christmas parties are you attending over the next 2 weeks? How many pavlovas and chocolate ripple cakes will you see this December?

Bliss it up!  A new Aussie Classic as far as I am concerned.  If you are making a chocolate ripple cake this Christmas, try this truly Australian version, I promise you will love it!
Bliss it up! A new Aussie Classic as far as I am concerned. If you are making a chocolate ripple cake this Christmas, try this truly Australian version, I promise you will love it!

After posting on facebook, a photo of an American version of a chocolatey, cream cheese and cool whipped easy to assemble, mad indulgence, my sister reminded me of the importance of keeping it real! Let’s get back to our roots, let’s not forget a good old, Aussie, chocolate ripple cake; ‘Blissed’ of course!

Pavlov's dog...who doesn't need a cup of tea when they see this iconic logo?
Pavlov’s dog…who doesn’t need a cup of tea when they see this iconic logo?

Arnott’s was the biscuit company of our time. We grew up with great Aussie faves such as Chocolate Ripples, Tim Tam’s, Chocolate Royals (yes, I took inspiration for the name ‘Royale’ for one of my cakes from this!), Tic Tocs, Iced Vovo’s, Nice, Marie, oh my goodness….too many to name! This simple line says it all, “Arnott’s is more than a food company, it’s a piece of Australia’s history.”

You can’t go wrong with a chocolate ripple cake and I am sure it sounds like a good idea to most, but I bet you are feeling hesitant about reading ‘wattle seed’ in the title. Biscuits, check, creamed honey check, but seriously wattle seeds? When I tell you, you can get bottles of roasted wattle seed at the local supermarket, and after you have taken your first lick of whipped cream with wattle seed, believe me, we as a nation, will all be wondering what we were waiting for!

Showers of golden, wattle flowers, bane of hayfever sufferers, and muse to photographers and artists across the country :)
Showers of golden, wattle flowers, bane of hayfever sufferers, and muse to photographers and artists across the country 🙂

Wattle is far better known by everyone, within Australia and overseas for the incredible masses of golden flowers it produces and the great green and gold colours which are synonymous with our sporting teams. Wattle is our national flower, so for goodness sake, why isn’t roasted wattle seed our national flavouring? Chocolatey, coffee, and hazelnut aromas are all what Melbourne cafe culture is about!! You get instant heady mocha aromas when you open the jar and then when you add it to a few spoons of Beechworth creamed honey, which is not too sweet, bursting with honey flavour and the perfect consistency for whipping into cream …. yes, you will know you are in heaven 🙂 Add some Victorian strawberries for a really Bliss-ed up version of the old chocolate ripple cake, and a new Aussie classic has been born!

Australian Herbs, Roasted Wattle seed...my new best friend.  What a gorgeous, amazing bottle of magic!
Australian Herbs, Roasted Wattle seed…my new best friend. What an amazing little bottle of magic!
A match made in the lucky country.  Smooth and sweet creamed honey with amazing mocha flavoured roasted wattle seeds.  I am claiming this combo as a Bliss specialty!
A match made in the lucky country. Smooth and sweet creamed honey with incredible mocha flavoured roasted wattle seeds. I am claiming this combo as a Bliss specialty!

I have done a little bit of a sexy version, however, feel free to leave out the alcohol and pile up the layers in little dessert or cake cups with extra sliced up strawberries for a more casual and kid friendly take.

Double or triple the quantities if you are doing a big party!

Blissed up Chocolate Ripple Cake – makes 6

1-2 packs Arnott’s Chocolate Ripple Biscuits- you will need 18 bikkies for this recipe

300ml bottle of thickened cream

1 tspn Roasted Wattle Seeds

2 tblspns Creamed Honey

1 tspn Kahlua

1 punnet strawberries

Pour thickened cream into a large bowl. Beat on low until frothy.

Add in roasted wattle seeds, creamed honey and Kahlua (or not, if you want it Kid friendly).

Whip until stiff peaks form.

Sexy version:

Transfer cream into a piping bag with a rosette nozzle.

Pipe a swirl of cream, that does not quite reach the edge, onto the first biscuit. Place a 2nd biscuit on top and press down lightly.

Repeat the swirl of cream, top with 3rd biscuit, and finish top with a swirl of cream.

Place in an airtight container and refrigerate over night.

Casual version:

Place first biscuit into a dessert cup, one of those paper ones with the stiff sides is perfect.

Spoon a generous tablespoon or so of cream to cover the biscuit. Top with second biscuit.

Repeat the dollop of cream, top with 3rd biscuit and finish top with a dollop of cream.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

Top it up:

Decorate with strawberries and mint sprigs. Or rosemary sprigs, if like me, you want a more adventurous flavour combination, or truth be known, you have found that all your mint has died!

Yes, it is as delicious as I described!  So,  go out and buy yourself some roasted wattleseed!  Delish :)  xx
Yes, it is as gorgeous as I described, so go out and buy yourself some roasted wattleseed! Delish 🙂 xx

I hope to post a second Christmas inspired recipe post next week, however the best laid plans can go astray, so let me take this opportunity to thank you all for supporting my little Aussie blog. Have yourselves a very merry Christmas and see you in the new year xxx

Ms Maclaine and My Pear and Buttermilk Chocolate Cake with Passionfruit Ganache

The first time I ever came across Shirley Maclaine was as a sassy, smart talking, lady of questionable repute in ‘Sweet Charity’ and of course, I LOVED her.

Hmm, short hair, red lipstick, AND a tattoo.  Why couldn't I be just like Shirley?
Hmm, short hair, red lipstick, AND a tattoo. Why couldn’t I be just like Shirley?

Julia Roberts may have caused an uproar about morally questionable role models in the ’90s, but way before then, my poor Mum really didn’t know what to do with her little primary school child wanting to be Shirley Maclaine and questioning why it was a bad idea to wear fish net stockings and get a tattoo!

Well, fast forward many years later, after I had worn my share of fish net stockings, have had my hair long, short and shaved, and tattoos are the accepted norm;   I fell in love with the indomitable Ms Maclaine all over again, when I found this quote in one of my recipe books;

LOVE that Ms Maclaine :)
LOVE that Ms Maclaine 🙂
Juicy and sweet, Bartlett pears peeled, sliced and ready to go!
Juicy and sweet, Bartlett pears peeled, sliced and ready to go!

Love it….love being able to play with chocolate cake and even more so when I pick up inspiration from fresh or home-grown produce.

So, in my grand tradition of walking into a shop and picking up ‘stuff’ that looks good, I found myself surrounded by mountains of Bartlett pears and, believe it or not, some great looking passionfruit!   Pears are a mainstay of cold weather but passionfruit?  From New South Wales, what’s more, so we are talking passionfruit in the middle of winter…I am guessing hot-house, but hey, my taste buds were talking, I was going to make an exception today 🙂

Bartletts are not my choice for eating straight up, that sweet, sticky juice, running generously through your fingers, as you try not to make a single handed mess, which inevitably turns into a double fisted, wet, napkin soaked drama; ending in a limp, and soggy mess with an urgent need to find a running tap!

Ha ha, maybe the Bartlett pears I am trying to eat for lunch are just too ripe, but for a dessert or a cake, they are my absolute favourites.  Suddenly all those sad and sorry, downfalls are in fact, the attributes that make them perfect!  Soft and melting, sweetly blessed with juice that flows and flavours everything that it comes in touch with, permeating with a fragrant, slightly caramel aroma that is unmistakable.

That's what I like to see, nice chunks of sweet and soft pear surrounded by a soft and light bed of...cake!
That’s what I like to see, nice chunks of sweet and soft pear surrounded by a soft and light bed of…cake!

I wanted to pair (no pun intended!) this luxurious texture and flavour of cooked pear with a lighter cake and decided on a buttermilk cake with just a hint of cocoa, to help the pear juice to be tasted through it.  The buttermilk gave the cake a slightly tangy flavour as well, which worked really nicely.

However, on its own, I have to say it was not a cake that had me jumping for joy, it definitely needed a little more.  Not exactly worthy of the  Hollywood aspirations of my childhood!

I decide that nothing tarts up a simple, wall flower of a cake, like a crowd pleasing 35% couverture ganache, but I wanted to lift it a little, so as to compliment the pear and to give it a little zing that even Charity would be proud of 🙂

Passionfruit in the middle of winter?  They look so good, I just have to break my seasonal rule today.
Passionfruit in the middle of winter? They look so good, I just have to break my seasonal rule today.

Please step in, passionfruit.  It may not be seasonal, it may not be home-grown but by stirring through the pulp of this little purple orb, and dribbling that thick and creamy chocolate concoction over my homely little cakes…yes, you guessed it; Bliss.

No, I know it is not Hollywood, walk of fame stuff, but served warm on a mid winters evening, I have to say this little cake makes me feel pretty sparkly, and special inside 🙂

Homely no more :)  A little white chocolate decoration gives my little cakes star treatment :)
Homely no more 🙂
A drizzled white chocolate piece, gives my little cakes the star treatment 🙂

Orange blossom honey cake with yoghurt frosting, grilled figs and couverture collar

Do you live in a dream world like I do?
In my fantasies, I wake up late, have leisurely breakfasts of gourmet produce under a hanging wisteria bough, that is softly swaying in a warm, gentle breeze. Somehow in this dream I still make it to my local farmers market to stroll at my own pace, stopping to chat about, taste, and spend, without limit, on all the yummiest offerings of the season.

Food of the gods.Honey grilled figs, just lay gently on a bed of French toast and dollop generously with Greek yoghurt.  My idea of  heavenly breakfast!
Food of the gods.
Honey grilled figs, just lay gently on a bed of French toast and dollop generously with Greek yoghurt. My idea of heavenly breakfast!


Look what I found on my milk run :) mmmm
Look what I found on my milk run 🙂 mmmm

Of course in reality, I just go to the supermarket like everybody else, rushed after a full days work to pick up milk, and in just a little nod of respect to buying fresh, maybe pick up some meat and vegies, wrapped under plastic for dinner. That sounds so much better than it is, in fact such is the life of a working mum, who can’t even make meal planning for the week, work for her.

It was on one of these trips to the local Coles, rushing to the aisle where milk in plastic containers lives, that my eye was caught by this little jar with a handwritten shelf talker. Handwritten? In Coles? It says ‘Seasonal’ and I just happen to have a weakness for honey, (amongst many other things). Grab jar, drop in basket, keep walking very quickly.

My fantastic orange blossom honey cake.  Not strictly a chocolate cake but come on... Bliss!!
My fantastic orange blossom honey cake. Not strictly a chocolate cake but come on… Bliss!!

It was all the inspiration I needed for a new seasonal cake.
There is no better way to eat figs than the age old, Mediterranean way. One of my best friends, who happens to be Greek, first introduced me to the pleasures of fresh figs with Greek yoghurt, drizzled with honey. Really, some things don’t need changing, but you know me 🙂

Moist and full of honey flavour with just a little hint of citrus, this gorgeous cake is layered with a tangy vanilla bean, Greek yoghurt frosting, topped with sweet as heaven, orange blossom honey grilled figs.  Finished with a dusting of cinnamon. Take each mouthful with a little of the 55% couverture dark chocolate collar, for a dusky cocoa hit, for balance. Food of the gods by Bliss xxx

My seasonal cakes are limited and may not be the same every year.  Please enjoy them while you can! 🙂

My dream gourmet breakfast Bliss-ed!!  Nothing beats cake even if it's not technically chocolate ;p
My dream gourmet breakfast Bliss-ed!! Nothing beats cake even if it’s not technically chocolate ;p

Whose tradition is it anyway? The Kitchen God

Interesting that Dr Charlie Teoh, has inflamed a racist debate just as I was writing this post.  Not only is it the week before Australia day, but also only a few days before….

Firecrackers, lucky red packets, dancing lions and dragons, loud drums and clanging gongs…have you got it yet?

Hong De Lion at Melbourne International Airport giving travellers a taste of Australia!

Chinese New Year marks the beginning of the new lunar year by well, pretty much everyone in Melbourne!  Anyone who is Asian or who has friends of Asians descent are familiar with the noise, spectacle and general good cheer of Chinese New Year, in the same way all we non-Christians recognizes Christmas as a time of family, good will and gift giving.  Although celebrations have certainly been going on for about 150 years in Australia, since the influx of Chinese migrants during the gold rush, Australians do not all celebrate it…yet, ‘though it will be interesting to see if it become a national holiday over time?!

Australia has moved over the last 40 years, towards a whole new, embracing, national identity that leaves the “White Australia”* policy as an embarrassing foot note on a developing nations history.  From a very personal view,  even though one arm of our family is now 6th generation Australian, I grew up during a period in time where it was a struggle understanding my identity as an Australian of Chinese descent, dealing with blatant racism, even as a small child by fully grown (non-drunk, take note Politicians) adults, having my face, clothes and food laughed at, and of course not being blonde and blue-eyed, I would just feel outright, alien.  In fact, my identity is something I still struggle with and subconsciously, always try to hide.  I am sure that this feeling of being an outsider no matter what colour your skin, no matter what your age, is more common than any of us care to admit.  And yet, at the same time, I have never felt so accepted and ‘normal’ within the community.  Life is always changing, I look around me and feel that it is an amazing time for me to be living in and celebrating Chinese New Year in Melbourne!  There will always be small-minded, ignorant, and just plain rude people in any society, however, as I said in my New Year’s Eve post…with a bit of effort, we can always improve.

Well, with such an ancient celebration it is not surprising that there would be many, many  traditions tied to its very mention, but given my slant on the world from the suburban kitchen of Bliss, I want to have a stab at Bliss-ing my favourite tradition…FOOD!!!

For foodies of all cultures, one of the best new year stories would have to be that of the Kitchen God.  Every new year, the Kitchen God leaves his post on the altar in the family kitchen ( yes, that is

Now, who wants to get a bad report when the Kitchen God heads off on his yearly mission?

probably where you would expect to find a kitchen god!) to travel up to heaven and give his report to the Jade Emperor on the goings on in the family as they talked, argued, laughed and cried over their family meals.  Now, who doesn’t want to look good on their report, I ask you?  So, being as ingenious as the Chinese race is,  a wonderful and crazy, sticky, sweet, concoction known as ‘Nian Goa’  is offered to the Kitchen God on new year’s eve to stick his mouth together so that he can’t say anything bad in his report!  Aaaaaaah, love the creative use of dessert!

The recipe for Nian Goa floored me! Basically, it is brown sugar caramel with rice flour steamed to within an inch of its life….truly…hours and hours and well, hours!  So long in fact, you wonder if the original wasn’t just forgotten on the stove, while the cook went out to tend the fields, chat with the neighbours, buy groceries, get her hair done…..No wonder we never made it at home!!

With a texture like mozzarella and a brown sugar caramel flavour…it’s really not that weird when pan fried with egg!

Nian Goa has a crazy rubbery texture, when you get it home from the shop.  (No, seriously, it is round. bouncy and brown, it could make a really good tyre substitute for a small go-cart!)  Then, being of Southern Chinese origin, we cut it into slices and then into squares, dip it in egg and pan fry it slowly until it has the consistency of mozarella cheese with a slightly crisp, egg-y outer.  Insane!!! But, I love it 🙂

Hubby, is from Malaysia where they sandwich the slices between sweet potato, or taro and then dip it into batter and deep fry it.  Crispy on the outside, biting into aromatic, flour-y, potato-y, texture and then a gooey caramell-y centre. Crazy!!!  But he loves it 🙂

So, Lynnette and Hubby met, fell in love and live in Melbourne  where I have decided I am going to put a Bliss spin on it.  Hmmmm, will it work?  Well, let’s see then… Love the egg-y combination with the brown sugar caramel flavour of mine, love the crisp outer shell of his and I especially love how Aussies  make everything their own by adding Beer!  My most striking memory of TV as a newly migrated 4-year-old was the Vic Bitter ad.  “A hard-earned thirst, calls for a big cold beer.  The biggest beer is Vic, Victor-ia Bitter”, how do I remember it?  It is burned into my memory as being the most incredibly Australian thing I had ever, ever seen in my very short life!  No, not even Skippy the talking kangaroo could do it.

So, there we have it, ‘Egg yolk dipped, beer batter, nian goa strips, tempura style’ ha ha, what a mouthful!  Dust liberally with icing sugar and serve with vanilla bean ice cream on the side, in fact, give it a real Aussie feel and make the ice cream yourself with amazing fresh Australian dairy products, like Gippsland cream.

Uh huh, mmmmmm what a mouthful.  I think Kitchen Gods all around Australia will be toasting to the Jade Emporer’s health with a dash of cognac after a dessert like that and offering all mere mortals a resounding A+ 😀

Crispy and light, just a hint of fragrance from the egg and soft and sticky on the inside. A+ from me 🙂

Health, Wealth and Heaps of Happiness for a magnificent Year of the Dragon everyone.  Goong Hei Fatt Choy xxx

*embarrassing footnote:  White Australia policy favoured Anglo-Saxon migration over all other cultures and nationalities to , I guess, produce a White Australia!

Strawberries and Cream

Melbourne really turned it on last week, teasing us with the possibilities of clear blue skies and bright sunshine.  Spring has sprung (!), or at least that’s what we thought when I bought the first box of antihistamine, for my hay-fever prone family. Daffodils are nodding, my magnolia has put on it’s fragile, short lived, display, and the sprawling jasmine is beginning to bloom.

Strawberries and cream, my way!

For me, the strong, heady perfume of jasmine has always been able to bring me straight back to long, balmy evenings spent in the garden. It is one of the Heralds and  also one of the long standing Lords of Spring and early Summer in Melbourne. I will even trail long strands of freshly picked flowers in the house and in my car, knowing that there is a very strong possibility that my poor boys may suffer the consequences, just to prolong my nostalgic enjoyment for a few extra minutes!

And, what of that other precursor of warm weather?  The most classic of Spring/Summer fruits?

Aaaah strawberries!  Strawberries are already starting to make their appearance inmarkets .  Although, these strawberries have probably come down from warmer Queensland, it is only a few short weeks away until Melbourne has it’s own harvest. Even though I will be able to buy farm fresh, strawberries from the market, I am most looking forward to October when I can  head up to Ladybird Farm to get my hands dirty and pick my own organic strawberries for my new seasonal cake!

So, what have I come up with this time ? When I think of strawberries, cream just has to tag along!  So, I am hoping that it is how everyone else thinks too.

Bliss’ take on light, bright and happy.  Spring inspired, Strawberries and Cream 🙂

Generous chunks of fruit! Now that’s what I’m talking about 🙂

An entire punnet of strawberries, adding an aromatic sweetness to a moist, white chocolate cake.  Bite into a slice to find generous amounts of chunky fruit, folded in for an indulgent fruity hit.  Topped with a smooth as silk, jasmine and green tea infused, whipped, white chocolate ganache, dusted with green tea macha and topped with a single fresh strawberry and white chocolate shavings.

Perfect for sharing in the sunshine,  and with Spring racing season coming, don’t forget the Champagne!

Available 1st September-30th November 2011.   My seasonal cakes may not be the same every year so I hope you take the time to enjoy them while you can!