An epic rocky road, not for the faint of heart

Every Christmas, I quite enjoy spending (at least) a day in the kitchen knocking up some sweet goodies to share with family, friends and colleagues. This year, I did a few different things: two-tone lavender marshmallow, chocolate cookies, salted caramel and date brownies, and an epic rocky road.

After putting a photo of the rocky road on Facebook, Instagram and taking some to work, a few people asked for the recipe, so here we go…

The epicness of the rocky road was entirely by accident when I had a brain fart (also known as a lapse in concentration). I made up a batch of rose marshmallow, a batch of honeycomb (I used this recipe without the chocolate drizzle), toasted some almonds and had some chocolate ready to combine it all. I had a silly moment where I thought I didn’t have much cream left in a container and then thought, “I know, I’ll make the chocolate easier to cut, but adding just a little bit of cream”.

Firstly, I’m not sure why I thought that was a good idea at all and secondly, I’m not sure why I just ‘dumped’ the remaining contents of the cream into the bowl of melted chocolate. Of course, when I did that, it turned immediately into ganache. That’s fine if you’re icing a cake or something, not making rocky road!

My brain stopped farting and went into trouble shooting mode. Here’s my method:

  • I added toasted almonds and some chopped up dates to the ganache.
  • Melted a packet of white chocolate and spread it all over the bottom and sides of the tin I had prepared earlier. This tin is quite large and high, any size would do. However, if I were to do this again, I would have two smaller tins.
  • Added a layer of the homemade rose marshmallow and honeycomb.
  • Added the ganache, in one thick layer to cover the bottom layers completely.
  • This was followed by another layer of the homemade rose marshmallow and honeycomb.
  • Then I melted what chocolate I had left and poured it over the top (thank goodness it was about two bags).

By this stage, the tin I had could most definitely take no more rocky road goodness and it was time to let it cool on the bench before popping it in the fridge overnight.

When I took it out in the morning, I think it took me about 40 minutes to cut it all up, because it was hard and thick! As expected, it was insanely rich too.

rocky road

So, what did I put in it?

  • 4 x 375 gram bags chocolate (any type you like)
  • Bag of marshmallows (I made my own, but you don’t have to)
  • Batch of honeycomb
  • Small packet of slivered almonds, toasted
  • Half small bag of dates, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cream

To (accidentally) make your ganache:

  1. Melt a bag of chocolate (I do half milk, half dark).
  2. When it has melted, add your cream and mix.
  3. When you’ve realized that you’ve stuffed up, have a mini meltdown.
  4. Add the almonds and dates.


Does anyone want a marshmallow recipe?

Let me know how you go and enjoy!

Karis Sign Off-01-01

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My favourite time of the year – making gingerbread

Yes, the festive season has been and gone! Since my years of working in retail are behind me, I’ve really felt like I can really get into the festive spirit!

One of my favourite ways to get ready and excited about Christmas is to get baking. That’s right, crank up the Christmas carols, put the corny apron on, and dance and sing while the smell of freshly baked gingerbread wafts through the house!

I find some gingerbread recipes can be too dry, and others very sticky, but luckily this one is just right. I have been using this recipe for years, it never fails me. Since my family have few traditions when it comes to Christmas, this is one I have started myself and one I want to carry with me for years to come.

This year, I had two amazing helpers, my room mate Beth, and her three year old niece Imogen! It was messy at times but we certainly had plenty of fun.

Ingredients

  • Melted butter, to grease
  • 125g butter, at room temperature
  • 100g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) golden syrup
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 375g (2 1/2 cups) plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • Plain flour, to dust
  • 150g (1 cup) pure icing sugar, sifted
  • Food colouring of your choice

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C and brush 2 baking trays with melted butter to lightly grease.
  2. Use an electric beater to beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy.
  3. Add the golden syrup and egg yolk and beat until combined.
  4. Stir in the flour, ginger, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda.
  5. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth.
  6. Press dough into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
  7. Meanwhile, to make the icing: place egg white in a clean, dry bowl. Use an electric beater to beat until soft peaks form.
  8. Gradually add icing sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Divide icing among bowls (as many bowls as you need colours) and add food colouring. Keep covered in fridge until needed.
  9. Place the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper and roll out until about 4mm thick.
  10. Use a 9cm gingerbread man cutter to cut out shapes. Place on trays about 3cm apart. Repeat with any excess dough.
  11. Bake in oven for 10 minutes or until brown. Remove from oven. Transfer to a rack to cool.
  12. Place prepared icings in small plastic zip lock bags. Cut a small hole in a corner of each bag. Pipe icing over gingerbread men to decorate.

Note: I got inspiration from Pinterest and google for decorating!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do. We ended up making over 120 biscuits, which took forever to ice, but the overwhelming awesome feedback we received from them was worth every second!

Merry Christmas to you all!

Mel Sign Off-01-01

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Review: Firefly Cafe Toowoomba

It’s not often that I come across a country town that understands my need for good food and coffee. As many of you know, I travel a fair bit for my job, and as soon as I hit the country towns, a little part inside of me dies just knowing I’m going to have to deal with instant coffee with long life milk for a few days.

But not this time.

fireflytwo

Knowing I was going to be in Toowoomba for a few days, I did my usual research as to where I was going to eat, what’s happening around town and looking for any new places I should try. In this search I came across Firefly.

I must say, last time I was in Toowoomba they did come across my radar, but they were relocating and was I yet to try out this little gem!

Firefly is tucked away besides Wray’s Organics, it looks small from the outside, but when you walk in you are overwhelmed by the tastefully decorated rustic interior. The friendly staff greet you and guide you to a table. What’s best? There is even an outdoor courtyard to enjoy in the warmer months!

fireflyone

I was there for breakfast and I couldn’t decide what to order as the menu was incredible. So many different but interesting options. I would have to come back again! So I ordered what the waiter recommended: zucchini blinis with whipped pumpkin and chive cream cheese and a poached egg. It was divine. The blinis (think zucchini pancake) were light and fluffy and surrounded by the best accompaniments. The coffee was superb too. What actually blew me away was just how attentive the wait staff were, it really made me enjoy my experience. Knowing I was in town for another night I said to the waiter, ‘I’ll probably come back again tomorrow!’.

And I did.

The second time round was just as wonderful. Excellent coffee, wonderful service. I ordered the fresh avocado with sourdough, beetroot puree, dukkah spice and tomato. For extra sustenance I added some grilled haloumi on the side. It was like a vegetarian/healthy version of a fry up! So many things were happening on my plate it was awesome. I must say the beetroot puree was a bit too sour for my liking but other than that I really couldn’t fault it.

fireflythree

Thank you Firefly, for restoring my faith in small towns’ ability to serve up not only a great meal, but an excellent coffee to boot!

 

The details
Firefly Cafe
100 Russell St, Toowoomba
Monday – Saturday: 7am-3pm and Friday evenings for dinner.
thefireflycafe.com.au

 

Mel Sign Off-01-01

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Review: Nom Nom, Salisbury

Another one of those places I’ve finally made it to. Why did I wait so long?!

In a very quiet block of shops in Salisbury, a clean little cafe is serving some very tasty Vietnamese food.

nomnom     rolls

The menu has a good range of items, from pho to Vietnamese chicken curry. Although I love a good pho, I was in the mood for banh mi. I made the extra difficult decision of which meat and went with the honey pork patties. My lunch date also chose the honey pork patties, but in his bun (vermicelli salad) instead. Both were fresh and light, just the way they should be.

It’s also really hard to say no to rice paper rolls, so we picked two types – the grilled pork and the lemongrass beef. Both full of flavour and I think the paper used was more like the paper used in Vietnam (very thin and you don’t drown it in water before using it). The menu has three sauce options and we chose the hoisin and peanut (boy, I love hoisin). However, when our order was taken, the staff member said, ‘I’ll give you two sauces because I think these will taste better with the nuoc mam cham (fish sauce)’. I loved that! Who knows their food best than the person serving it and he wanted to share his knowledge with us. His nuoc mam cham, was definitely very tasty!

salad     roll

I got my usual soda chanh – a very refreshing lemonade I always order when eating at Vietnamese restaurants. It’s really easy to make: juice of one lemon, sugar or sugar syrup (to taste), topped with soda water or mineral water. Give it a good stir and drink!

coffee     drink

We also ordered a Vietnamese iced coffee. It was brought to the table with the drip filter still doing its thing, which I really liked (but my lunch date didn’t because he wanted it ‘now!’). Before I had a chance to explain what needed to happen, my date asked the staff member who took our order what on earth he was supposed to do because he had never been served one like that before. Much like the explaining the sauce, he was only happy to give a quick tutorial. He probably walked away shaking his head though.

Overall, a really good lunch at very good prices.

The details
Nom Nom Cafe
Shop 1/272 Lillian Ave, Salisbury
M: 7:30am-3pm | W-F: 7:30am-3pm & 5pm-9pm  | Sa: 8am-2:30pm & 5pm-9pm | Su: 8am-2:30pm | Tues: Closed
www.facebook.com/NomNomCoffeeShop

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Review: Bungalow 4171, Hawthorne

Bungalow 4171, an established cafe restaurant, is an institution in Hawthorne, Brisbane. I drive past almost everyday, wishing I had time to stop in for breakfast. It’s visually stunning and a perfect addition to the beautiful homes surrounding it.

It would have to have been my third time eating there for breakfast. My roommate chose to take me there recently for breakfast on my birthday, and as always I was more than satisfied.

When you enter the cafe, you’re surrounded by beautiful decor and funky fresh wallpaper. They always have a large selection of freshly baked (and healthy) goods on the counter, and even more in the cabinet. One of the best things Bungalow 4171 has is a ready made superfood range for purchase – head to their website for more details.

To eat, I chose the bubble and squeak potato cake with wilted spinach, two poached eggs and sherry vinegar hollandaise with toast, which was so tasty. I’m an absolute sucker for bubble and squeak, and one of my other favourites is eggs benny – who knew combining the two would be even better! Genius!

My roommate, Beth, chose buttermilk hotcakes with homemade lemon curd and raspberry compote. I don’t know if it was my evil stares, or the fact that she is an awesome human being but she gave me some to try and it was as awesome as it looked, the lemon curd gave the hotcakes an extra zing!

I generally refuse to go anywhere that potentially has bad coffee, so I wasn’t disappointed there either.

The details:
Bungalow 4171
1/134 Hawthorne Rd, Hawthorne
Mon-Wed: 7am-2pm | Thu-Sat: 7am-10pm | Sun: 7am-6pm
http://www.bungalow4171.com.au/

I will continue to keep going to my favourite local, who will join me next time?

Mel Sign Off-01-01

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Nanna Pat’s Christmas Pudding

Every year Christmas creeps up on us like that unwanted spider in the bathroom while you’re…uh…indisposed. You don’t hate spiders, but you kind of wish they would stay hidden because they can be quite stressful. Also, will someone please explain why we are seeing Christmas decorations come out in September these days! It’s a harsh reminder that soon going to the shops will be even more painful that normal! Plus, I have to start planning the presents I want to buy.

pudding ingredientsAt least there is one good thing about this time of year – Christmas pudding! If you’re like me, and can barely find the time to have a cuppa uninterrupted, you’ll find it difficult to find the time to prepare and steam the pudding too. That’s why it’s a planned affair for me. Traditionally, Christmas pudding needs to be made a few months before the big day, two months is good but you will get away with a pretty decent pudding even one month before. Apparently pudding is made on ‘Stir Up Sunday’, which is about five weeks before Christmas, so I guess I wasn’t too far off when I made this one a couple of weeks back!

My Nanna Pat has been making our family Christmas pudding for as long as I can remember. As far as Christmas traditions go, this is it. In my family, people come and go, we are all getting on with our lives and are so busy doing different things that we actually have very few ‘traditions’, except Nanna’s Christmas pudding.

Five years ago, my Nanna taught me how to make the family recipe. While I would love to share this incredible recipe with you I’m afraid if I told you I’d have to kill you… I think I’m the only one in the whole family that has a copy of the recipe, thank you Nanna!

So the pudding takes two days. The first day involves prepping the fruit and the second is boiling.

Now, the first time I learnt how to ‘prep the fruit’, I tried to argue my way out of it (no I didn’t argue with my Nanna, I just offered other diplomatic suggestions), she absolutely insisted that I did not skip this step and it was imperative to the outcome of the pudding. You know when your Nanna makes you a cup of tea? And it just tastes so much better than any other tea you have had before? Then she says because it was ‘made with love’. Well this is the same thing, and believe me my damn pudding is made with so much love that each and every single raisin, currant and grape has seen my fingers in search for a single stalk! Don’t worry, I wash my hands!

So the first step is washing the 1.5kg of fruit. Have you ever washed sultanas before? I was surprised how brown the water turns, and how many leaves and twigs get caught up in the stickiness of the fruit! Once you have washed the fruit you must (see above) search through the fruit to find any stalks. This is painstaking, your fingers will be brown and sticky and you’ll be surprised how many sultanas, raisins and currants still have their stalks attached…

Made with love…made with love…

MelmakingpuddingThe second day it’s time to get hot. Clear your calendar. You must be prepared to be at home for at least 8 hours. The fruit needs to be mixed in with all of the rest of the ingredients (secret ingredients …remember!) and then you have to do the most important thing..make a wish. Since I don’t yet have a family of my own I try and make sure I have a few friends around so they get to have a stir and make a wish as well, because these form some of the greatest memories of my childhood; cooking with Nanna.

Before you put the mixture into the pudding tin for boiling you can add some coins! I did have a sixpence which I threw in the mixture, but last year my mum decided since it had her birth year on it she would claim it as hers. Good one mum! I remember Nanna always putting coins in her pudding when we were kids to encourage us to eat it (not me though). One year my Uncle Graham was eating his pudding and pulled out a $50 note out of his mouth, it was safe to say all the kids demolished that pudding within seconds.

Lastly, you boil the pudding for 6 hours and then pop it in the fridge until Christmas Day! On the day it needs to be boiled for another 2 hours before serving and you MUST serve it with lashings of brandy butter and brandy custard! Yum!

Some say the traditional Christmas pudding is not as popular with many preferring a lighter, healthier, dessert. Others say its too hot to have this type of dessert during our Australian hot Summers. I say Christmas is not Christmas without a large bowl of pudding followed by a swim in the pool with your loved ones.

What is a traditional Christmas recipe in your family? What gets you excited about Christmas Day?

 

Mel Sign Off-01-01

 

 

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