Category Archives: Australia

Diner en Blanc Brisbane

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You might have heard of the famously exclusive Diner en Blanc pop up picnics that started over 25 years ago in Paris by François Pasquier.  What started as a gathering of a small group of friends has grown to over 15,000 people in Paris each year and has since expanded to cities around the world.

The rules are simple, yet strictly enforced and specify that you must dress elegantly in head to toe white, bring a table of a certain size, 2 white chairs, white table linens, white dishes and cutlery, and your own food for an elegant picnic. The location is only revealed just before the picnic begins and has historically been held at iconic locations in Paris such as the Eiffel Tower site, the Louvre Pyramid, the Château de Versailles, and the Champs-Élysées. The highly coveted invitations first go to friends of the organisers and their recommendations, then are open to the public waiting list, which reached over 30,000 just a few hours after registration opened for the New York City event.

Thanks to my dad’s obsession with Twitter, I found out about Australia’s first Diner en Blanc event in Brisbane early enough to get my name on the waiting list and buy tickets through the general registration.  I now know that it was a stroke of luck that I was able to get through the online ticket purchasing process since it sold out in 20 minutes and ended up with a waiting list of almost 7,000.

After several weeks of anticipation and preparation gathering all of our white essentials, the big day arrived on the first day of Spring.  We were assigned one of the 5 transport locations in Brisbane where we had to meet a bus that would take us to the secret location.  When we arrived there were 3 white buses and a swarm of white clad picnic goers buzzing around trying to guess the secret location we were about to descend upon like a flash mob.  We were only told once en route that we were heading for the Queensland Performing Arts Complex Forecourt at Southbank  (an easy guess) – right on the Brisbane River across from the city skyline with the white Wheel of Brisbane as the backdrop and views of the white Victoria Bridge, an iconic location and the perfect spot for Brisbane’s first Diner en Blanc.

When we arrived at Southbank we disembarked the buses and were instructed by our table leader to our row and began setting up our tables and chairs in an organised formation on the lawn while confused onlookers and theatre goers tried to figure out what was happening.

The protocol is that everyone must wait for all of the tables to be set up for the start of the dinner, which took about 10 minutes from the time we arrived and  was signalled by everyone waiving their white napkins in the air.

Setting up

We spent the diner meeting the people on our table row, swapping interesting nibbles, and admiring the effort that everyone had gone through to decorate their table.  There were full silver services, 3 tiered stands, meringue towers, elegant candelabras, even white painted sticks that formed a canopy over two tables (see picture).

There was live music that meandered through the rows of tables serenading the guests and people mingling, eager to see who else had received one of the coveted 1,000 places at the event.

At 9pm we all lit sparklers, which signalled the beginning of the dancing, which brought everyone together for an eclectic all white dance party under the stars with a backdrop of the Brisbane city skyline.  It was unforgettable.

After the last song was played everyone disassembled their temporary elegant creations, packed up their belongings and left the location, leaving no trace behind.

It was a magical evening that I encourage everyone to seek out and attend wherever possible.

For information on Diner en Blanc visit their website.

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Oreo Blondies

I’m a big fan of Donna Hay, who is Austraila’s answer to Martha Stewart.  I’ve tried a few recipes out of her 10th anniversary magazine from October, which had an entire feature on brownies, one of my all time favorite simple classics.

You are probably wondering what is so special about brownies that would make them worthy of Donna’s anniversary magazine, but this was not just any ordinary brownie feature.  She has created brownie cookies that you sandwich around peanut butter frosting and blondies with crumbled Oreos in the middle – both were absolutely amazing.

I’ve made both this month but since the brownie cookies disappeared before I could take a decent photo, I’m writing about the Oreo blondies.

Donna’s recipe calls for cream cheese to be dropped into the mixture in the pan before baking, but I found the flavor much too tangy and would suggest replacing the cream cheese with chunks of white chocolate.  The cream cheese chunks also started to look a bit funny after a day so if you are planning on serving these the day or 2 after baking then definitely go with the white chocolate chunks instead.

Oreo Blondies adapted from Donna Hay

Ingredients

  • 200g (7oz) softened butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 200g (7oz) white chocolate
  • 125g (4.5oz) white chocolate chips or softened cream cheese (see note above)
  • 150g (5oz) Oreos

 

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C  (350° F)
  2. Place butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until pale and creamy.
  3. Gradually add eggs, beating after each addition.
  4. Add vanilla extract.
  5. Add flour, baking powder and melted white chocolate and beat.
  6. Spoon half the mixture into a lined baking tray. (20cm x 30cm or 8in x 12 in)
  7. Place spoonfuls of white chocolate chips on top (could be substituted with cream cheese if you wish).
  8. Sprinkle with chopped cookies.
  9. Spoon remaining brownie mixture on top, covering the cookies completely.
  10. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

ANZAC Biscuits

In honor of the Australia v. NZ Rugby World Cup game that’s on tonight I thought it would be appropriate to write about Anzac biscuits.  Anzac biscuits are the most traditional Aussie biscuit (or cookie) that I can think of, due to their Australian origins during World War I.  Anzac stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps and these biscuits were the creation of Australian women during World War I who were looking for a food that would be able to survive the 2+ month Merchant Navy ship journey to the soldiers and still have the maximum amount of nutritional value.

In order to withstand the long journey, none of the ingredients in the biscuits are perishable.  Instead of eggs these biscuits used golden syrup or treacle as a binding agent.

They were first called Soliders’ Biscuits but after the ANZAC soldiers’ landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 they were renamed ANZAC biscuits and are commonly eaten on ANZAC Day, which is celebrated on 25 April to honor all Australia and New Zealand War Veterans.

This recipe is from an Australian Day to Day Cookery for “Home Craft” Students that’s from my boyfriend’s mum’s high school home economics class.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ¾ cup shredded coconut
  • ¾ cup sugar (raw sugar is best)
  • 4 oz butter
  • 3 level tbsp. golden syrup (or corn syrup in the U.S.)
  • 2 tbsp boiling water
  • 1 level tsp baking soda

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 C (320F)
  2. Sift flour into a bowl.
  3. Add rolled oats, coconut and sugar.
  4. Melt butter in a saucepan, add syrup and water.
  5. Add soda, allow to foam and pour immediately into dry ingredients.
  6. Mix well the take small pieces of mixture and press out thinly on greased baking trays, allowing space between each biscuit for spreading.
  7. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Deep Fried Ice Cream – a modern marvel

I’m from the Southern United States so I’m accustomed to seeing odd experiments with deep fried foods, my favorite being the deep fried Mars bar.  But I had never before seen deep fried ice cream until I moved to Australia, where it is on nearly every Asian restaurant’s menu.  It must be something that they’ve created just for the Australian market because I’ve been all over SE Asia and have never encountered deep fried ice cream, but I’m not going to call out the un-authenticity of the dessert because it’s simply amazing.

Basically, in order to make a deep fried scoop of ice cream you have to pre-scoop the ball of ice cream and deep freeze it so that it’s rock hard.   Then you can batter it, freeze it a little longer and flash fry it in oil before drizzling it with caramel or chocolate and dusting it with coconut.

When served, it is surrounded by a thin, warm, gooey layer of cake on the outside and is frozen solid on the inside.  I am always amazed by how hard the ice cream actually is after being immersed in a vat of boiling oil!

I found this recipe on taste.com.au if you are brave enough to try it yourself!

Deep Fried Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 qty vanilla-bean ice cream (see related recipe)
  • 250g digestive biscuits (or Nilla wafers if you are in the US)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • sunflower oil
  • icing sugar and maple syrup, to serve
Preparation
Working quickly, scoop ice cream  into 6 round balls and place on a paper-lined tray in the freezer. Freeze for about 2 hours until very firm. Crush a pack of biscuits to fine crumbs and place in a shallow bowl. Again working quickly, roll frozen balls in crumbs to coat, then freeze for 1 hour. Lightly beat eggs with milk in another bowl. Again working quickly, coat each ball first in egg mixture, shaking off excess, followed by a second coat of crumbs. Return balls to freezer for another 1 hour. Half-fill a deep-fryer or large saucepan with sunflower oil and heat to 190°C. (If you don’t have a deep-fryer thermometer, a cube of bread will turn golden in 30 seconds when oil is hot enough.) In 2 batches, fry ice cream balls for 10-15 seconds until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain briefly on paper towel, then serve immediately dusted with icing sugar and drizzled with maple syrup.

Hot Cross Bun French Toast & Easter in Australia

Obviously it’s been a while since Easter but this was such a hit that I thought I’d share it anyway just in case there are any hot cross bun fanatics out there that are already gearing up for next Easter!

We spent Easter this year on Coochiemudlo Island in Queensland, Australia, which is about a 45 minute drive plus a ferry ride from Brisbane.  Since this was my first Easter in Australia I decided to wholeheartedly embrace the Aussie traditions of hot cross buns and chocolate bilbies.

Cadbury Chocolate Bilby - the Aussie take on the Easter Bunny

I ended up averaging about a hot cross bun a day for the month leading up to Easter because I loved them so much but by the time I got to Easter Sunday I was starting to toy around with the idea of a hot cross bun bread pudding or breakfast sandwich….then I came across the hot cross bun french toast idea in the Coles supermarket monthly magazine and decided that it was going to be the easiest way to get a little crazy with my hot buns.

Hot Cross Bun French Toast adapted from Coles Supermarket Autumn 2011 Magazine

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 250 ml milk
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 pack of day old hot cross buns (with or without fruit, or choc chip!)
  • 50 g butter
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup, to serve

Preparation

Whisk eggs, milk, vanilla and sugar in a bowl until incorporated.

Cut hot cross buns horizontally into 3 segments.  Soak each of the slices in the egg mixture for a minute or two, until saturated.

Melt butter in the frying pan and cook bun slices over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and the egg is cooked.

Repeat until all buns are cooked.

Serve drizzled with maple syrup.

Next on Darling – Brunch in Sydney’s Rozelle

One thing that I love about Sydney is that they know how do to brunch, my favorite meal of the day.  Yes, they are pricey ($10-$20 including coffee) but you really get what you pay for.  Case in point was the breakfast paella at Rozelle’s Next on Darling Café.  You definitely have to bring your A-game to eat this one early in the morning but it’s worth the $17 price tag because it’s unlike any other brunch you’ll find in the area.  It’s also definitely big enough to split.

Next on Darling had some other killer brunch items on their menu that we tried such as pesto scrambled eggs with tomatoes and feta, the BLAT – bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato, and poached eggs on corn fritters.

Don’t be fooled by their small shop front because there is seating in the courtyard behind the café, which is toasty on a hot day but much quieter.

Definitely don’t miss out on this place if you are ever in Rozelle!

618 Darling St, Rozelle

Coconut Lime Banana Bread

I’ve made this banana bread three times in the last three weeks so it’s definitely time to share the recipe.

It’s a basically banana bread with a tropical twist because it has a hefty amount of lime juice, rum! (optional) and some coconut.  The obsession with this bread all started when we bought too many bananas after cyclone Yasi hit Queensland because we were afraid we wouldn’t be able to buy them for a while, at least not at $3/kilo.  I ended up having a few left over bananas at the end of the week that were too brown to eat but just perfect for banana bread.  My boyfriend’s cousin bakes all the time and said that this recipe had her stamp of approval so we tried it and loved it.  I’ve been buying extra bananas every week now hoping that no one will eat them and I’ll have another excuse to make the bread…and so far so good because it’s happened for the past 3 weeks!

Coconut Lime Banana Bread

Recipe Adapted from Cake Bible

Ingredients

Bread:

  • 8 Tbs (120g) softened butter
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (2 normal sized)
  • 3 Tbs buttermilk (I make my own with 1/3 cup milk + 1/3 Tbs white vinegar)
  • 1 Tbs fresh lime juice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 2 cups self rising flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ cup shaved coconut

Glaze:

  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs rum (optional)
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 3 Tbs fresh lime juice

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350F (175C).  Lightly grease a loaf pan and line the base with baking paper.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy with an electric mixer.  Stir in the eggs, mashed banana, buttermilk and lime juice and combine.  Sift the salt, ginger and flour into a mixing bowl with the bicarbonate of soda.  Stir into the batter and combine until smooth.  Stir in the coconut. Spoon into prepared pan and sprinkle with a little more coconut.  Bake for 55 minutes.  Allow cake to stand for 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack.

Meanwhile, heat all the glaze ingredients in a saucepan.  Stir for about 5 minutes to form a smooth syrup.

Coat the top and sides of the cake with the glaze.  Serve while warm or at room temperature.