Chinese Almond Butter Cookies

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I used to wonder if my disinclination to play Lego with my son for more than 5 minutes made me a bad mother. I’m sure it must be fun as a child to build tall Lego towers, knock them down, and start over again. And again. And again. But any feelings of guilt dissipate when I am doing something together with my son which we both enjoy, which gives weight to the argument that life is too short to feign interest when you could actually be doing something meaningful. As I am often in the kitchen preparing one meal or another, sometimes the only way to entertain my toddler is to let him help out, and baking with my son is one of those activities where I don’t find myself wishing I was doing something else.

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Chocolate Coconut Cake

chocolate coconut cake

“Why another recipe for chocolate cake?”, you might ask.

For nearly a decade now, I thought I had found THE chocolate cake recipe, namely Nigella Lawson’s Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake, which has been my faithful go-to chocolate cake recipe for every occasion from birthday parties to moments where I simply felt that chocolate cake was the answer (like on Friday nights when I like to be slumped on the sofa watching back-to-back episodes of the Good Wife).

But I think this Chocolate Coconut Cake might be my new favourite cake …

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Carrot Cake with Lemon Icing

Carrot Cake with Lemon Icing | eatlittlebird.com

It’s been a long while since I’ve done a spot of baking. Oddly enough, this period of kitchen absenteeism has seen me eating more cakes and sweets than ever before, thanks to the local pâtisserie shop down the road. I’m pretty sure I have become their best customer since the birth of our baby girl; once a place where I would shop mainly for our daily bread, I now also add croissants, brioches and bircher muesli to the daily routine, sometimes a quiche or chicken salad for lunch, and always a couple of blocks of chocolate to savour around 10:00pm once both kidlets are tucked in.

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Plum Jelly with Elderflower Chantilly

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I have a soft spot for jellies and make them more often than my husband would like. In fact, he only recently confessed that he was not so fond of this wibbly wobbly dessert. In his family, they often make fun of British desserts and I recall someone once receiving a packet of jelly crystals at Christmas as a joke. I didn’t get the joke, of course, and the jelly crystals looked far more enticing than the bar of soap I received that year.

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Salty Honey Pie

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My husband and I recently welcomed our baby daughter into the world, a beautiful bundle of joy who loves to sleep but who is still mastering the art of how to do it well. Some days are better than others, and some nights are better than others. Despite the sleep deprivation that comes with a newborn, and not to mention the pre-existing sleep deprivation that comes with a sleep-walking toddler, my heart feels full and I am slowly adjusting to the chaos that is a family of four.

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Sticky Date Cake with Butterscotch Sauce

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On a recent girls’ night out, perhaps my first in over 2 years, I had the misfortune of ordering fish and chips for dinner at a joint more well-known for its hamburgers. My fish looked unrecognisable in its thick and over-cooked batter; a pierce with a knife revealed mostly air pockets inside and an unappetising oil leak. The French fries were cooked well beyond golden and limping with oil, not to mention smelling of a fishmonger’s shop from having been cooked in the same oil as the fish. Both were delivered on a plate sans any green salad or sauce. I almost laughed at the presentation of deep-fried brownness before me, thinking it was a joke, but the owner came to wish me a good meal and I realised that he actually expected me to eat (and pay for) the woeful meal before me.

The only saving grace that night was dessert, my way of giving the restaurant a second chance because my dinner was returned largely uneaten. Thankfully, dessert was a lovely sticky date cake served with a warm butterscotch sauce and a scattering of tart raspberries. I was sharing the dessert with a friend (who shared the misfortune of ordering the same fish and chips), and much politeness was expressed over who should have the last bite, before I feigned reluctance and happily devoured what remained on the plate.

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Galette des Rois

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I have always wanted to make a Galette des Rois for the Epiphany and finally plucked up the courage today. In France, it is a cake which is traditionally eaten on 6 January, although some shops and bakeries make the most of this event by selling them up to a few months before the big date. But like any seasonal treat, such as the Yule Log or Hot Cross Buns, the window for making a Galette des Rois is brief and I’m glad to have finally tried my hand at making one. Here is Rachel Khoo’s version from My Little French Kitchen.

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Madeleines with Lemon Curd

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I am rather surprised that it has taken me this long to try this popular recipe from Rachel Khoo. In my defence, I already had a madeleine recipe to which I have been faithful to for many years, plus I felt that Rachel’s recipe was a bit fiddly for me. And with a tiny tot distracting me whenever I am in the kitchen, I didn’t think I was safe around multi-step recipes.

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Cheesecake with Plum Compote

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You may have noticed my sporadic presence online over this summer and I think I must, unfortunately, now call an end to what was nicknamed a “summer break” but was more a sofa-slumped summer due to the soggy weather which prevailed. I kept waiting for the hot summer sun to beckon me into one of my new summer dresses but, much to my husband’s dismay when he saw the credit card bill, they all remain unworn, hanging limply in the wardrobe waiting for better luck next year.

And so before I knew it, plums have come into season and the farmers markets are now a celebration of autumnal red, yellow and green.

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Cinnamon Tea Cake

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I love a simple cinnamon tea cake at afternoon tea but, the truth is, I love it even more at breakfast. The combination of vanilla cake topped with a generous sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon reminds me of eating a donut, especially when the cake is still warm from the oven. While eating cake (or donuts) for breakfast, is not something the doctor would recommend, there’s something about this cake’s simplicity and plainness which lends it so well to a cup of coffee first thing in the morning.

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Chouquettes

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The constant deluge of rain this summer has led to flooding in many parts of Switzerland, including our own balcony. The window boxes which comprise my little kitchen garden have been flooded from the non-stop rain and most of my plants look somewhat miserable from having their feet wet for far too long. Perhaps the only solace in having a wet summer is being able to use the oven like I would in winter.

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Pecan Spice Cake

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Once upon a time, I had a terrible Tupperware addiction. Tupperware simply appealed to the Martha Stewart in me, the part of me which dreamt of cupboards filled with colour-coordinated containers, neatly stacked and labelled so that everything had its own special home. I spent hundreds of dollars on plastic Tupperware containers, ranging from the practical modular mates to the cute carry-all picnic sets, and the even cuter apple and grape containers. Once I was done organising the pantry and cupboards, I even invested in special containers to organise and optimise the fridge. It was mad.

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Pavlova with Cream & Passionfruit

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I hope everyone has had a lovely Easter! This Easter has been a fairly relaxing time for us, a time when we we’ve been able to take advantage of the few days off work to slow down and take things easily. And when it comes to relaxed and stress-free meals, I often tend towards a pavlova for dessert.

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Semolina Burnt Creams with Prunes

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I think Rachel Khoo has a thing for prunes, and I’m not complaining. As someone who has a general aversion to dried fruit in baking, I make an exception for prunes. Some recipes which I have recently attempted with much success from her latest cookbook, My Little French Kitchen, include the Kugelhopf with Prunes & Armagnac and Prune & Custard Tartlets. And now I have these Semolina Burnt Creams with Prunes to add to the list.

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Chocolate Éclairs

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You may or may not have noticed from my photos on Facebook and Instagram that I have a weakness for éclairs. Being able to indulge in éclairs from the wonderful pâtisseries in Zurich, it never occurred to me that I should make my own éclairs at home. But when I was recently asked to have a look at Ruth Clemens’ new book, Creative Éclairs, I was instantly inspired to create a batch of my own. After all, I’m no stranger to choux pastry; I often make profiteroles and chouquettes at home, and éclairs can generally be described as profiteroles in a different shape.

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Prune & Custard Tartlets

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A big, big thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway to win a copy of Rachel Khoo’s latest cookbook, My Little French Kitchen. The response was fantastic and I loved reading everyone’s entries on their favourite French food. The entries made me realise how far-reaching and popular French food really is; from the simple baguette loaf and famous croissant to the more exotic Duck à l’Orange, the entries highlighted how wonderful and delicious French food is, and how difficult it is to name just one favourite! The lucky winner will be notified by email shortly.

But my adventures in cooking from My Little French Kitchen are far from over and, this week, Rachel Khoo’s spin on the classic Far Breton has made my afternoon tea breaks that little bit more indulgent.

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Kugelhopf with Prunes & Armagnac

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I have previously professed my love for Kugelhopf in this post. And a quick browse through this website will reveal my admiration for Rachel Khoo and her delightful cookbook, The Little Paris Kitchen.

So it is no coincidence that I have been just as smitten with Rachel Khoo’s new book, My Little French Kitchen, and particularly with her recipe for Kugelhopf with prunes.

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Lemon Curd Tartelettes

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When I think of lemon tarts, I think of the French classic, tarte au citron. However, the following recipe happens to be inspired by the lemon curd of the English kitchen.

A lemon tart is traditionally made with a shortcrust pastry base and filled with a tart lemon custard, and which is then baked in the oven until the filling is just set but still tender.

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Chocolate Mousse with Cocoa Nibs

Chocolate Mousse with Cocoa Nibs

Chocolate Mousse with Cocoa Nibs

With summer in full swing in Europe at the moment, a chilled dessert is the ideal way to end a nice meal. That or a big bowl of ice-cream. And one can hardly go past the quintessential French classic, a mousse au chocolat.

My husband’s grandmother is well-known for her chocolate mousse, a treat which she often served up when my husband was a wee little boy and well into his adulthood. Alas, given her advancing age, she retired from the kitchen some time ago but I was ever thankful when she shared her “secret” recipe with me and my sister-in-law. I was bemused, but not overly surprised, to discover that her secret ingredient was the humble bar of milk chocolate, something which gave the mousse a nursery sweetness and which made it just right for the palates of little (and big) babes.

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Queen of Sheba

Queen of Sheba

Queen of Sheba

I’m conscious that I have quite a few recipes for chocolate cake on this blog, but I suppose one more can’t hurt …

This recipe was given to me by my French mother-in-law after some pleading on my part. One afternoon, after she had served a procession of five courses at lunch, she brought out this beauty for dessert, a plain chocolate cake which tasted anything but.

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Walnut & Coffee Cake

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I ought to be more organised. In the final months of my pregnancy last year, I had busied myself photographing for many future blog posts in anticipation of the little one keeping me away from the camera. In truth, the camera hardly leaves my side these days as there seems to always be some cute baby moment to capture. And, in fact, he seems quite content to share the limelight with my kitchen gadgets that I have actually photographed enough recipes to keep the blog updated for the rest of the year. But if only I had time to sit down in front of the computer to process everything! And it is not even the baby who is keeping me from my “me time”. But more on that in another post (perhaps … if I manage to get around to it!).

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Lemon Drizzle Friands

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It has been roughly seven years since I made the bold decision to quit my job in Australia, electing to become unemployed and to take a chance at life on the other side of the world. At the time, it was one of the toughest decisions I had to make, not least because I couldn’t imagine how I could move for all of the personal possessions my twenty-something self had acquired.

I have never been one to travel lightly, so the idea of packing my life into one suitcase with a limit of 20 kg was going to be unlikely. I made my move from the land Down Under to the land of milk and honey with a half container full of cookbooks and treasured kitchen paraphernalia, all amassed during my years as a poor student and, later, a poor graduate with a ridiculously high student loan. What little spare income I had was inevitably spent at Wheel & Barrow on high-priced tableware, The Essential Ingredient for French-imported pots and pans, or even Country Road for their classy teatowels. I couldn’t imagine a future without my kitchenalia and I was prepared to pay whatever the cost to have them accompany me to my new homeland.

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Madelamingtons

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As an Australian married to a Frenchman, could there be a more perfect cake to represent the union of our two cultures than the madelamington, a French madeleine dressed up as an Australian lamington? No, I didn’t come up with this name, but I am rather disappointed that I didn’t coin this term myself. In fact, as a frequent baker and consumer of madeleines and lamingtons, I wonder how the idea of marrying these two cakes had never occurred to me.

It was precisely this recipe in Rachel Allen’s new book, Cake, which prompted me to buy the book. Not that I really needed a recipe – I could have used my go-to madeleine recipe and the chocolate icing from my lamington recipe. But the idea of the madelamington itself was so cute that I was sold on the book.

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Chocolate Coconut Bars

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With Australia Day approaching, my thoughts have been turning to traditional Aussie cakes and pastries, and these Chocolate Coconut Bars are hard to go past. Perhaps these slices are not what one would think of eating on Australia Day (lamingtons are more common), but this classic recipe from the Australian Women’s Weekly is one which I have grown up with and I was only too happy to be reminded of it recently when the recipe was posted on the AWW’s Facebook page.

True to the style of the Australian Women’s Weekly, this recipe is a doddle to make and uses ingredients which you are likely to have in your fridge and pantry. There are no fancy ingredients required here – the chocolate component is derived from cocoa powder. But, as always, some good quality cocoa powder would be recommended to make these slices extra special.

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Christmas Cupcakes to Celebrate Baby’s First Christmas

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My husband and I are delighted to announce the arrival of our first child, a healthy and bouncing little boy, in late November. He has inherited his mother’s love for sleep and eating, except, of course, his mother has been doing little of either in recent weeks 😉

In preparation for his arrival, I had lined up several posts in readiness for publishing on this blog in the coming months, but pregnancy is so often fraught with periods of distraction (particularly nesting in the third trimester) that my to-do list soon became a to-do item in itself. And since the Little One’s birth, I’m not even sure where that to-do list is anymore …

But as our Little One is approaching one month old (didn’t we just bring him home from the hospital??), bits and pieces of my former life are reappearing and I suddenly feel a sense of normality returning, if only very briefly. So I am stealing a moment right now to try and quickly post something, not to mention that I even found time to do some food photography this morning! Amazing how little sleep one really needs to function 😉

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Apple and Walnut Cake

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Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of Irish cook, Rachel Allen. So when her new cookbook, Cake, was recently released, I promptly ordered it online and eagerly awaited its arrival in my mailbox. I did secretly wonder how it would compare to her other baking handbook, simply called Bake, which I have used quite frequently in recent years. But as it is not unusual for one of her books to find its place on my kitchen counter on any given week, there was no need for me to hesitate when it came to this purchase.

Her new book is filled with beautiful photography and, more importantly, great-looking recipes. I thought I had more than enough baking books on my bookshelf (well, actually, I do!), but I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of inspirational recipes in Cake. Some recipes appear to be tweaks on those found in her earlier books, but many of the recipes will be a refreshing find for readers.

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Scones with Strawberry Jam

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On a recent trip to London, I was reminded of my fond affection for Devonshire Tea, essentially a scone served with jam and cream. In fact, my desire for a daily scone fix made me brave enough to venture into a café on my lonesome most afternoons, just so I could sit down to a proper cup of tea with a plate of warm scones. There is nothing more restorative if you have been on your feet all day, visiting museums and shopping on the High Street :-)

One such lovely establishment serving scones (although not proper Devonshire Tea) was the Patisserie Valerie in Covent Garden, a branch of what seems to be a patisserie/café chain store in the UK, although each one I came across seemed quite charming and unique, not necessarily catering to the masses. I found them to be welcoming enough to enter and sit by myself, sipping a warming cup of coffee or tea with something sweet on the side while I attempted, with travel guide books and street maps spread out around me, to plan my next place of visit. Stay tuned for an upcoming, although brief, travel post on London …

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

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In my last post, I was complaining about the bout of hot weather which we have had recently in Zurich. It seems that the weather has now turned too soon and summer has somehow disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. For all of my complaining, I miss those breezeless afternoons spent on the balcony, lazing about with a good book or magazine. But the return of cooler weather has meant a return to the television room, a somewhat neglected room in our home because we hardly ever watch TV, although I do have a soft spot for watching back-to-back episodes of TV shows on DVD when time permits.

One thing I love to do when the rain is bashing outside is to pop on a cooking DVD; I somehow never seem to tire of listening to Nigella Lawson or Jamie Oliver going about their kitchen with their enthusiasm for the recipe at hand. I was recently watching an episode of Nigella’s Kitchen where Nigella was making a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake, a calorie-laden recipe which is quite true to her kitsch junkie style, not to mention that she made the whole thing whilst wearing a black satin nightrobe, all the while miraculously managing to avoid spilling anything on herself. Perhaps if I, too, donned a silk nightrobe instead of a frilly apron everytime I entered the kitchen, I might make less of a mess??

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Old-Fashioned Tomboy Cake

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I recently offered to help out at a kid’s birthday party and somehow ended up with the task of making the actual birthday cake. My first thought was to make Nigella Lawson’s Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake, a simple two-tiered chocolate cake covered in a thick, chocolate frosting with maybe some (shop-bought) sugar flowers for decoration. Simple. I had made this cake many times before and knew it to be a very reliable recipe.

But as ran my eyes across my sprawling bookshelf of cookbooks, the Miette cookbook caught my eye and, before I could think about it reasonably, I sent a link to my friend to see if she approved of the Tomboy Cake, to which she replied that it was the most beautiful cake she had ever seen. And so I had unwittingly set myself an almost impossibly high challenge and wondered over the coming days how I was going to avoid disappointing the birthday girl.

The Tomboy Cake is comprised “simply” of three tiers of chocolate sponge, separated by a piped layer of raspberry buttercream, and elegantly adorned with an understated rose in the centre of the cake. It is called a “Tomboy Cake” because the sides of the cake are left bare and unfrosted, and thereby does not appear as feminine as it would if the whole cake were to be covered in pink frosting. It is a stunning cake to look at and equally deceptive in the level of skill required to achieve such a simple look.

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Lemon-Syrup Loaf Cake

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Having been glued to the screen the last few months watching MasterChef Australia, I’m not sure if I should be relieved or depressed that the show is now finished. What am I going to do with all of this time now?? It is strange that, whenever I become engrossed in a TV cooking show, I spend more time on the sofa than actually in the kitchen. Most of the time, I am simply in awe of what these so-called ordinary, amateur cooks are getting up to in their Mystery Boxes and Invention Tests. And the Team Challenges, not to mention the amazing trips to exotic, foodie destinations overseas, seem like a lot of fun.

I have to admit that, whilst I am usually only inspired by a few dishes which the contestants cook, I am usually more impressed by the ingredients that they are working with. If I am ever to tinker with the idea of applying to go on MasterChef (which is very highly unlikely), I think I need to start filleting my own fish, cooking with beef short ribs, learn how to use (and invest in) a Thermomix, make my own pasta more regularly, memorise a few hundred dishes …

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Apple Crumble Tea Cake

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I have a terrible weakness for cooking magazines. Even when I left Australia and moved to Switzerland, I couldn’t bear to give up my monthly fix of Donna Hay, Delicious and Gourmet Traveller magazines that I was prepared to sacrifice a portion of my salary to fund an overseas subscription to all three magazines (at a cost of double to triple the local price), and consequently buy a new bookshelf just to house my burgeoning collection.

On top of that, my French and German teachers have been perpetually reminding me that the best way to expand my vocabulary is to read the local newspapers. Except that reading the news in French and German is not a very exciting task for me, especially since I am not even in the habit of reading the news in English. But as I do enjoy very much learning French and German and am ever struggling to one day reach that point where I can declare myself fluent, I have been fuelling my magazine indulgence by also resorting to publications in French and German. The consequence is that I have an almost expert breadth of vocabulary when wanting to discuss recipes and cooking techniques in a foreign language, especially in German when I am perhaps using words which even a local would not be familiar with, but such a vocabulary is unfortunately not very useful for other daily chit-chat.

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Twin Peaks Cherry Pie

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To me, nothing sounds more American than a cherry pie. If you have read the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich, you will no doubt be familiar with (if not envious of) Stephanie’s calorie-infused, sugar-laden diet. This bounty-hunter’s voracious appetite spans from savoury delights like Popeye’s spicy fried chicken and biscuits to an endless array of snacks featuring donuts, waffles, Pop-Tarts and Twinkies. It is through reading books like these and growing up watching American TV shows and movies that I was introduced to the delectable world of American diner desserts, featuring banana cream pie, pumpkin pie and, of course, cherry pie.

So when the opportunity arose in the past few years to travel to the US for extended periods of work, I finally had the occasion to actually seek out these classic American desserts and see if their taste was anything close to what I had imagined them to be.

My first taste of a cherry pie was at a colleague’s home when she brought out a selection of slices of pie for dessert, producing a perfect sampling board for my husband and I. My first bite into the cherry pie revealed that the filling was almost like a jam or compote, though absent of any bits of fruit. I loved the wobbly, ruby red filling and was surprised to find that it wasn’t too sweet. And as our host admitted to having bought dessert that evening, I secretly wondered if perhaps a homemade cherry pie could taste even better, possibly with more of a fruity filling.

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Tahini & Almond Cookies

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I was first introduced to these cookies by my work colleagues who travelled frequently to Israel to visit their friends and family. On one occasion, one colleague returned with a box of these moreish cookies to share in the office, and I was instantly hooked. To say that I helped myself to more than my fair share would be a gross understatement; I embarrassed myself by dipping into the cookie jar every time someone wasn’t watching, quickly depleting the holiday gift that was meant for the whole office to share. But in some ways, I hope my greed was received as a compliment, as an acknowledgment of a culture which was very foreign and unfamiliar to me. Or at least that was the subliminal message I was trying to send. Thankfully, my colleagues have made many more visits to Israel since, each time returning with a box of these delicious treats to my delight.

To look at, these cookies are quite plain and reveal nothing special. But one bite into the crumbly and buttery biscuit and you are instantly hit with the nutty flavour of the tahini. And it is precisely the tahini which makes these cookies so addictive. It had never occurred to me that tahini could be used in baking; the tub of tahini sitting in my pantry had only ever met a hummus. So not only was I thrilled to come across a recipe for these delicious cookies, but this recipe also happens to be a fabulous way of using up that large tub of tahini that might be nearing its best-by date.

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1st Blog Anniversary!

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Wow! eat, little bird is 1 year old!

It is rather incredible to believe that, only one year ago, did I embark on this blogging adventure, extending my forays into the world of food by embracing new technology (WordPress, CSS and html coding were not part of my skill-set prior to the last 12 months), embracing a new medium through which I could share my love of cooking and photography and, most important of all, embracing a whole new community out there who are just as passionate as I am (if not more) about all things related to food.

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Rhubarb, Strawberry & Raspberry Crumble

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I think a fruit crumble would have to be my favourite dessert of all time. A simple apple crumble was one of the first things I learnt how to make in my cooking classes at school and I have fond memories of recreating this dish as a young child, faithfully following the recipe in my Day to Day Cookery book (a standard textbook used in Australian schools in home economic classes). To this day, I am still instantly comforted by the sight and smell of a freshly baked apple crumble but it’s worth venturing out now and then to experiment with other fruits.

With rhubarb in season the last few months, my kitchen has seen countless jars of Rhubarb Compote, a few servings of Rhubarb Custard Tea Cake, as well as an assortment of other baked goodies (such as Nigella Lawson’s Rhubarb Muffins – delicious!). And with berries coming into season recently, I have been addicted to the classic combination of rhubarb and strawberries.

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Rustic Bacon & Cheddar Bread

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I love savoury cakes and this particular recipe is a firm favourite of mine.

Given my New Year’s resolution to cook more vegetarian food, this has frequently been in the form of vegetable soups. After several days of eating rich food like Meatballs in Red Wine Sauce or Boeuf Bourguignon with Baguette Dumplings, a simple and soothing bowl of soup is a great way to restore the body’s balance.

But those who know me will know that I can’t just simply sit down to a mere bowl of soup for dinner. Maybe as a starter, but for a complete meal, I need something a bit more. Some bread on the side is a must, and this Rustic Bacon & Cheddar Bread is a quick and simple way to bulk up a meal.

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Very Good Chocolate Brownies

brownies-1They say that anyone can buy a good house, but good neighbours are priceless.

We happen to be blessed with the most wonderful neighbours in our whole building. Ok, it’s a small building with only 5 tenants, but it is still a wonder that we love to get together regularly for dinner, with a new host on each occasion and dinner being a casual affair where we each arrive in our house-slippers and even bring along chairs or an assortment of dinnerware if need be. We go on picnics together, attend each other’s wedding and even babysit if the need arises. One particular neighbour is so sweet to occasionally leave boxes of Lindt chocolates on our doorstep, he being an employee of this awe-inspiring local institution. If you have had a horrid day at work, coming home to find a little treasure of pralines at your door not only does wonders for your spirit, but almost makes you believe in the fairy godmother.

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Easter Nest Cake

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This is a cake which I love to make when we have guests over, and this extra-chocolatey version is a favourite at Easter.

The recipe is based on the Chocolate Cloud Cake from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Bites which has the inclusion of Cointreau for a liqueur kick and is simply decorated with whipped cream and a dusting of cocoa powder. But Nigella also offers an Easter version in her book, Feast, a child-friendly version whereby the alcohol is replaced with vanilla, the cake is swathed in a decadent chocolate cream, and this elegant concoction is then adorned with pastel-coloured, sugar-coated chocolate Easter eggs.

Whether you are making the original or Easter version, this is the perfect cake to make for anyone who has a gluten intolerance as it does not contain any flour. The absence of flour also guarantees that the cake will be tender and moist within, rich with chocolate flavour. The chocolate intensity of the cake depends much on the type of chocolate that you use. Nigella specifies using “best quality dark chocolate” which I interpret as meaning chocolate with minimum 70% cocoa solids, but I think 60% and upwards is fine (I used 68%). The dark chocolate might not sound kid-friendly but there is also sugar in the batter to sweeten things a bit.

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Rhubarb Custard Tea Cake

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My parents used to sell a cake in their bakery which was made of two brioche-like sponges, sandwiched together with a thick, bright yellow custard and sprinkled on top with flaked almonds. This vanilla-rich cake was called a Bee-Sting, a funny name for a cake which I didn’t think much about as a child, preferring to concentrate my efforts on how many slices I could eat before my mum would put the remaining slices out on the counter to sell. Thinking now about the name, I can only laugh out loud at what it might imply!

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The Carrot Cake Chronicles

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I can’t say that I have always been a fan of carrot cake. Growing up, the idea of a cake with a vegetable component didn’t sound very appealing to me. And coupled with the fact that most carrot cakes I had tried were on the dry, dense and healthy-tasting side, I couldn’t really understand what all the fuss was about. But in recent years, fellow foodie friends have steered me onto the path to carrot cake heaven with their favourite recipes, and now I am a true believer.

I gladly present to you three tried-and-tested recipes …

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Gooey Chocolate Cakes with Raspberries & Nutella

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I have a weak spot for any recipe which contains Nutella. Although it is a welcome comfort just on its own, spoon directly in the tub, I find it equally irresistible in baked goods. Take the Madeleines with Nutella, as an example.

So when I saw this recipe for Gooey Chocolate Cakes with Raspberries and Nutella, hardly any encouragement was required to try this recipe. And I have since made this recipe no less than half a dozen times, a testament to how wonderful these little cakes are.

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This is another fabulous recipe from Katie Quinn Davies of the famed What Katie Ate food blog and who has recently been propelled to stardom with her own cookbook in the pipeline, plus a regular monthly column in Australia’s Delicious magazine. If there is anyone’s career path I admire right now, it is hers. Given her amazing talent as a stylist and photographer, she clearly deserves all of this recognition which has come her way.

Meanwhile, some of us can only dream …

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Custard Cream Hearts

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Having had a frantic past couple of days, I had to re-prioritise a few things in order to squeeze in a spot of last minute Valentine’s Day baking for hubby. On my list of things to do today, Valentine’s Day sat up there with “Advise on price sensitivity of Project X”. For a day which only comes around once a year, I didn’t want to miss out on the festivities, even if I was going to be the sole participant.

Nigella has a lovely recipe for custard cream biscuits in Feast, a recipe which I faithfully follow each year for Valentine’s Day, but also at other times during the year when the craving calls.

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Cheesy Hearts

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I often approach Valentine’s Day with mixed emotions. Once upon a time, when I was a singleton, I would stay sofa-bound at home in front of the telly, à la Bridget Jones. But instead of wailing to Céline Dion on the karaoke machine, I would watch back-to-back murder mysteries, stuffing my face with all of my favourite junk foods, thinking all the while how blissful it was to be a slob without having to worry if this would be a turn-off to any potential suitor. My way of dealing with a potential future as a spinster was to eat my way through it. With a heart-shaped box of chocolate truffles.

Fast forward to today and the realisation that there is some truth to the saying that a leopard does not change its spots. That leopard is me. I still love to veg out in front of the telly with a (family-sized) bag of salt and vinegar chips, watching back-to-back DVD episodes, leaving the laundry and cleaning up to accumulate for another day (or two). What has been a blessing is that my husband doesn’t mind joining me on the sofa to watch whatever soppy TV show I happen to be engrossed in. He may feign rolled eyes at having to watch another episode of the Gilmore Girls but, secretly, I think he enjoys it. A match made in heaven, thankfully :-)

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Happy Australia Day! Lamingtons …

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Happy Australia Day! Although lamingtons have an iconic status in Australia and are enjoyed throughout the year, it seems rather fitting to make lamingtons for Australia Day.

Lamingtons are quite popular at bake sales, and anyone growing up in Australia will know of the lamington drives, a fundraising event (usually in schools) where lamingtons would be sold by the half dozen to raise money for charity.

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Lemon Cake

One of my favourite cakes to make at this time of the year is the Clementine Cake from Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat, a cake which Nigella has quoted as being one of the most popular from her first cookbook, one which happens to be a firm favourite for me – I have 3 copies (UK, US and iPad version) just to prove my point.

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Swiss Walnut Christmas Cookies

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I have never really been a big fan of Swiss biscuits, Christmas or otherwise. In all fairness, I haven’t really sampled too many because, quite frankly, they are not always the most appealing when lined up next to the fancy American cookies or British biscuits. When presented with the choice between a cookie oozing with morsels of chocolate and a Läckerli, the latter doesn’t stand a chance, despite the fact that Läckerli is derived from the German word lecker which means delicious. Indeed, Läckerli – a hard, spiced biscuit made from hazelnuts and honey – is delicious, but just not my everyday biscuit of choice.

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