Apparently I do kids’ birthdays

Kids' birthdays When it comes to my friends, I’m the token foodie. Over the years, I’ve catered various shindigs, assisted with catering at other shindigs and I’m generally the know-it-all people go to for advice. In fact, I’m pretty sure a friend of mine’s parents think I’m a caterer (I’ll take that as a compliment).

It’s lucky that I really enjoy making people happy with good food. That’s why I often ask about 10 times “is it ok?”. It’s nice to know that someone has enjoyed what you’ve lovingly crafted.

A couple of months ago, my friend (the one whose parents think I’m a caterer) asked if I wanted to help with her soon-to-be-seven year old daughter’s kids' birthdaysbirthday party. She wanted a cooking party. Well, that sounded right down my alley, so I said “sure thing”. I figured I could borrow one of Dad’s chef jackets and do what I do best – make a fool of myself.

For the next few weeks we Facebooked, texted and chatted about what we could do and the final decision was: pizza with handmade bases, a sorbet spider and ice cream with homemade cookie bowls. There would be food related games and a decorate your own apron station.

I won’t lie, I think I got a bit excited looking through websites and thinking about all the things we could do. That’s the event organiser in me though. I always have to remember to pare back my ideas.

beckparty4On the day, I made my pizza dough early in the morning shipped myself off to my friend’s place. When I got there, I did a bit of prep – cut up vegetables, attempted a caramel sauce (managed to burn it and my hand the first time around due to a very high heat) and portioned up the dough for little hands.

I can only imagine that making pizza is a very artistic experience for seven year olds. Tomato sauce was painted on to mis-shaped dough and toppings were added both carefully and with abandon. There was a lot of happy chatter and some brave calls for different toppings never tried before. It looked and sounded like they had beckparty3fun.

The sorbet spiders didn’t turn out quite as planned, but they loved them. I chose a mango sorbet and we mixed it in with lemonade – plenty of sugar and quite tasty!

Lastly, the kids went on a hunt for ingredients to make cookie bowls and then helped ‘Chef’ Karis mix the dough up. Then it was time to mould the dough into pie tins and in the oven they went. When they were done, they were cooled, filled with a scoop of ice cream and topped with anything from gummy bears to popping candy.

beckparty2It was a fun party and could easily be replicated if you were looking for inspiration! Thanks to my friend for letting me be involved!

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It’s my party and I’ll eat street food if I want to

Mels street foodIf you’ve been following us on Instagram or Facebook, you’ll have noticed that I recently celebrated my birthday, and this year I celebrated in style! I’m not usually one for birthday parties per se, but after a long conversation with an old friend I said, “I just want to be in the company of my good friends, with good food”, and there you go, the ‘Street Food Party’ was born.

For those of you who may be confused, ‘street food’ is ready-to-eat food or drink sold in a street or other public place, such as a market or fair, by a hawker or vendor, often from a portable food booth, food cart, or food truck. Most street foods are also classed as both finger food and fast food.

Here’s the concept, I asked everyone coming to bring a plate of street food to share, so I wouldn’t have the burden of cooking for 20+ people myself, and it worked. All I made was some fried rice, sausage rolls, Vietnamese rice paper rolls and a huge batch of sangria (I’ll share my sangria recipe in a future post, I promise).

Aside from the fact that my kitchen was a logistical nightmare – thank you Karis for taking over as Head Chef while I was entertaining my guests – it was a great night.

I am really happy that we had so many food options, from so many parts of the world. What made me happiest though, was that so many of my friends came up to me surprised by how much they liked a particular dish that they have never heard of or even tried before.

So, what did we eat?

  • Tomato bruschetta
  • Mexican corn
  • San choi bow
  • Indian inspired flatbreads
  • Beef tacos
  • Mini cheese kranskies with sauerkraut
  • Mini beef mignons
  • Proffertjes
  • Vietnamese rice paper rolls
  • Thai chicken satay skewers
  • Fried rice
  • Buffalo wings with blue cheese sauce
  • Sausage rolls
  • Meat balls
  • Argentinian caramel cookies

After all this food you cannot imagine that we would even need a birthday cake. Karis made me the most delicious cake I think I’ve ever had. It was a chocolate and orange layer cake with salted chocolate ganache, and it was to die for! She decorated it wonderfully with my favourite chocolates – malteasers – and silver cachous. Ohh and I guess you all now know how old I am!

As you can see, there was, what felt like, a tonne of food! There was also a lot of sangria…Ole! Won’t say anything more on that subject.

For those of you who made it, thank you for coming I really had a wonderful night, and thank you for bringing excellent fare to share (see what I did there? Opps!). I honestly couldnt pick a favourite, they were all so delicious and nobody went home hungry.

Here’s to another great year! Vamos de fiesta!

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Pear brownies

I’m a real sucker for brownies and blondies, so I’ll use any excuse to whip up a batch. Last week, there were a number of pears leftover at work, so I took them home with plans to make something. The last time I did that, I came back to work on the Monday having totally winged it to produce a very moist chocolate and pear cake (and it was received very well).

Chocolate and pear go so well together!

This time around, I wanted to do the easy thing and just run with a recipe I knew would work, so..pear brownies!

My failsafe (for me, anyway) brownie recipe is:

  • 250 grams of milk chocolate
  • 250 grams of dark chocolate
  • 250 grams butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup plain flour (or almond meal)
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla essence
  • 150-250 grams of mix-ins of your choice – I’ve used nuts, cherries, berries, more chocolate!

To add the pears into the mix:

  • 4-5 pears, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup extra flour/almond meal

Method:

  1. Put your pears with the sugar and water in a pot over a medium heat and let it cook down until the pears are super soft. I sometimes like to give mine a mash to see if they are soft enough and to help them cook even faster.
  2. Put the pears aside to cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  4. Line a tin with baking paper (I like to spray the tin with oil, then put the paper in so it sticks. I also cut down the corners so it sits nicely).
  5. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and melt over a pot of water (ensure not to let the bowl touch the water!). Keep an eye on this process because you don’t want the chocolate to burn. Once melted, remove from the heat.
  6. As the chocolate mixture is cooling, whip up the sugar and eggs – they will get a bit thick.
  7. Add the vanilla to the chocolate mixture and mix.
  8. Combine the chocolate mixture and the egg mixture while stirring.
  9. Fold in the 1.5 cups of flour, and the pear mixture until well combined.
  10. Pour the mixture into the tin and pop in the oven for around 25-30 minutes (look for a flaky top).
  11. Once cool, put it in the fridge for a few hours, then you can cut up.

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The Sunday edition: Granola

Okay, so our frequent readers will know by now that I love getting ahead for the week by cooking up a storm on Sunday. Aside from my love of eating out and trying new food, my day to day diet is very healthy. I avoid sugar as much as possible, and have reduced the amount of processed foods and carbohydrates I eat.

I wanted to put together some of the recipes that I’ve created, which have become staples in my kitchen. When I am in a rush in the morning – let’s face it, it is most days – I love nothing more than a big bowl of full fat Greek yoghurt with whatever fresh berries I have in my fridge, some chia seeds, and a large handful of this granola. Even though, I’ve made a few different granola recipes before, some with crazy flavours and cost a fortune, this recipe is full of ingredients I normally have in my pantry. It’s so versatile that you can always adapt to include other fruits, nuts and seeds if you wish!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rolled oats (Gluten free if possible)
  • ½ cup almonds roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup walnuts roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup pepitas
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup goji berries
  • 1/3 cup sultanas
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (fresh is best)
  • pinch sea salt
  • ½ cup 100% pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup coconut oil

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with baking paper.

2. Melt coconut oil and mix with maple syrup, salt and spices.

3. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl, pour over coconut oil mixture and mix until evenly coated.

4. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Leave on the tray to cool – the granola will appear soggy, though will harden up whilst cooling.

5. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Note: You can mix up the ingredients as much as you like, sometimes I don’t use oats, and sometimes I substitute almonds for macadamia nuts or pecans. Another nice addition is chopped dates!

To serve, I like to mix 3/4 cup of full fat greek yoghurt with 1 tablespoon of chia seeds, top with whatever fresh berries you have on hand and a very generous scoop of fresh granola!

Do you have a favourite granola recipe? I’d love to give it a go!

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The Cook Book Club!

These days, we’re all pretty time poor. Work commitments, family commitments, friends, hobbies, gym, household chores, general living (eating, sleeping etc.)…the list goes on. The last thing any of us need is another ‘thing’ to go to!

Fair call, really.

You know, with all of those activities on my To Do List, I don’t have hell of a lot of time to leaf through my cook books, try something new and perhaps even experiment with the recipe. To be honest, I’m not particularly good at a following recipes anyway, but testing out a new recipe could be the basis for a new favourite dish or perhaps experimentation is not required because the dish is perfect as is.

I came to the above realisation a few weeks ago, when I read a Serious Eats article about about why cook book clubs should be the new way we entertain. This is not a new thing and I can’t believe I’d never heard or thought of this before, but what I loved about the idea of a ‘Cook Book Club’, was the use of all of those cook books sitting on shelves in kitchens and lounge rooms (and storage boxes, quelle horreur!)  around the world. It’s so often that even if we do get the chance to try a few recipes from a book , we quickly move on to the next book – there’s just never enough time to cook and eat all the things! Such a waste.

Of course, just holding back on buying new cook books is also a solution, but where’s the fun in that?!

We wanted to hit a few birds with one stone and get some use out of our cook books (and yours), so we’re starting our own Cook Book Club! Every two months, we’ll pick a few books to vote on, choose one and share the recipes. Then we will share the food either picnic style for lunch or like adults for dinner. You don’t need to find hours to read a book and you don’t need to feel guilty that your cook books are lonely.

This time round, we’ve chosen River Cottage Every Day and we would love you to join us! Check out our Facebook page for the details.

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New in Brisbane: Fitz + Potts, Nundah

fitz and potts dumplingsWe were invited along last Friday to the much anticipated opening of new Nundah bar, Fitz + Potts, and it was definitely worth the wait!

When you arrive it’s kind of hard to guess what you’re in for from the outside. Up the stairs we went, greeted by ‘lush green grass’ and what looked like a small balcony. Before we grabbed a drink, we we did a little reconnaissance to see what we could find. And we found a seriously funky place – from comfy lounges to the usual bar set up, there were plenty of nooks and crannies to settle in to for a quiet drink (or a loud one if that’s your thing). Outside, there’s a great view from the wrap-around balcony and plenty of room to bring a few friends. I loved fitz and potts tapsthat so many of the original fittings in the building were kept, giving the whole venue character (without being hipster, I promise! Also, please forgive the photography, my phone isn’t what it used to be!).

Food was provided by Ali Orchard, a mix of cuisines, but all vegan. My partner didn’t realise everything he had eaten (aside from Goat Pie Guy’s pie) was meat free. Everything was really tasty – my favourite was the Cherry ripe ‘fonut’ (pictured to the right). I know a good thing when I still regret not taking a second one days later!

When I made time for a pit stop, I loved that in place of a mirror, a message on the wall said, “looking like a total fox”. Positive vibes at their finest!

fitz and potts fonutI loved the bar in particular, taps with different wooden ‘tiki’ heads to distinguish them, and lovely staff to boot! Just chatting with a few different people, we all agreed that we felt like we were at someone’s home having a great time. I was speaking to a lovely couple who had already booked their Christmas party at Fitz + Potts after they fell in love with it during a work related visit during the venue set up.

Foodwise, from my understanding, there won’t be a huge menu to choose from, but everyone is covered by what will be on offer. ‘Gourmet’ jaffles will be a mainstay and a range boards with cured meats, cheese and other goodies. Vegans can enjoy some of the options with smoked Tempe, tofurkey and grilled vege.

fitz and potts venueIf you’re grabbing a drink, they have a great range tasty Australian brews, including some limited editions; boutique spirits with mixers on the side – like an old friend used to say – ‘I’m sorry sir, I can’t serve you this $30 per nip whiskey with a mixer, but I will put it on the side if you need it.’; Australian wines; and cocktails.

I think Fitz + Potts is the perfect venue for a quiet mid-week meet up, a fun Saturday night out or a relaxing Sunday session. Speaking with Cassie Potts (yep, the Potts in the name), she mentioned that there will be music nights, movie nights and she had some ideas for some fun sessions that people can enjoy later down the track, so keep your eyes out.

The details
Fitz + Potts
1180 Sandgate Road, Nundah (upstairs)
M-T: Closed | W-T: 3pm-10pm | F: 12-12 | Sa: 11am-12am | Su: 11am-10pm
http://www.fitzandpotts.com.au/

 

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