Ain’t no one got time for that| Banoffee Pavlova

Pot lucks and picnics, dinner parties and barbecues, shindigs and hootenannies. There’s a myriad of pre-Christmas catch-ups in the pipeline for all of us, so in the interest of being prepared (and also greedy) I’m lining up a couple of crowd-pleasing recipes for you to keep in your back pocket!

First up, Banoffee Pavlova.

Pavlova is pretty traditional at this time of year. I mean, why WOULDN’T you take complete advantage off all of that beautiful seasonal fruit? Uh, because everything is made better with cream and caramel, and fruit makes it almost look like healthy, and you know I ain’t got time for that. Obviously.

I made this a couple of weeks ago for a food bloggers picnic (Thanks Bryton for organising!), and good gravy, it was tasty. You know you’re onto a winner when no one could resist eating dessert first!

Meringue remains a current obsession of mine, which is fuelled by the fact that my gas oven is basically a furnace, running faaaar too hot to bake pavlova properly. Every time I make one, it doesn’t fails, which infuriates me, which gives me a steely resolve to get the next one right, which then fails, rinse, repeat. If you’re having some trouble with your pavlovas, I found this to be really helpful with troubleshooting.

Hell, if you get really stuck, you can buy a pavlova and just throw this together… Though, as always, making your own is a thousand times more satisfying. Trust me on this, a well-made meringue is a thing of great beauty.

 

 

Banoffee Pavlova

300g caster sugar
5 large egg whites

2-3 medium sized ripe bananas, sliced
250g tub mascarpone
½ cup whipping cream
½ – ¾ cup caramel sauce, approx (I used El Asador dulce de leche, but you can make your own, or even use Top N Fill in a pinch)
2 Crunchie/Violet Crumble or Flake bars, crushed

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Line a baking tray with baking paper. Spread the sugar over the tray in an even layer, then bake for 5 minutes to melt the edges.

Place the egg whites in a bowl and whisk on low (either with a freestanding mixer or electric beater) until they froth up a little bit, then increase the speed and beat until stiff peaks form. Remove the sugar from the oven, turn the temperature down to 100°C and leave the door open a little to help cool the oven down. With the mixer on high, add a spoonful of sugar to the egg mixture at a time. Once sugar is combined, continue whisking for a further 5 minutes until stiff, smooth and glossy.

Carefully spoon the meringue onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper (I split mine into two), making a little well in the middle. Bake for two hours, then turn off the oven and leave to cool completely.

When ready to serve, combine the mascarpone and whipping cream, and whip together until it forms soft peaks. Spoon half of the cream over each pavlova, then top with 1 sliced banana, half the caramel sauce (there’s no such thing as too much caramel, so if you need more, use more!) and 1 crumbled Crunchie/Flake bar. VERY carefully place one pavlova on top of the other, and serve.

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Image via @brytontaylor Instagram

 

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A day in the life…

Once upon a time, there was a girl.

Now, there are a few things you must know about this girl. She’s accident prone, for one. Has a short attention span for another. Those two things are directly linked. This day, in its entirety, did actually happen recently. I wrote it down to cheer up a friend, and reading it back amuses me, only because otherwise that’s the only choice I have.

Also, I swear I did Real Work, but that’s nowhere near as interesting.

6:30 – Alarm goes off. Without opening my eyes, or lifting my head, I smack the snooze button dead on, first time, go back to sleep. 
7:05 – Actually get out of bed. Curse myself for running late, promise myself I won’t do this tomorrow. I say this every day. 
7:20 – Out of shower. Attempt make up, still half asleep and shivering, with… Interesting results. 
7:40 – Peek out the window, it’s rained overnight. This cheers me up, as I really enjoy puddle jumping. Curse my housemate for not letting me buy wellies. 
7:50 – Definitely late now. Arrrrgh. 
8:16 – Try to sneak into the office. Bash my hand on the elevator door. Curse loudly, and literally run into my boss, who is now second guessing the decision to move the woman who used to sit next to me, as she was the team’s first aid officer. Apparently, I’m the best form of training anyone could ever hope for.
8:30 – Burn myself with boiling water making my first coffee for the morning. I work for the government (kind of), it takes me 5 minutes to convince the OH&S officer that I don’t need to file a safety incident report, and that I’m just clumsy. She now thinks I’m an idiot.
8:40 – Score a hazelnut latte from a buddy, as our barista made two by mistake. The vast amount of sugar in my system is starting to numb the throbbing in my hand. 
9:00 – Finish latte, and the coffee I just made. Not sure how smart that was. Seemed like a good idea at the time though.
9:25 – Heart palpitations and hand shakes are normal in a young person, right?
9:38 – I think I’m dying. Maybe salt would counter the sugar/caffeine. I’m going to pretend chips are a breakfast food. Owwwww…
9:50 – Google sonic screwdrivers while I wait for the chest pains to subside. Wonder if you can order phone boxes on the interwebz. Wonder where in my house I could fit it. Decide that I don’t care, I’ll make it fit if it means I have to cut a hole in the roof. Landlord be damned!
10:23 – The sharp caffeine come-down is making me cranky, and I growl at one of my minions for asking a really stupid question. He now won’t look me in the eye, and I get the feeling he’s afraid of me. As all minions should be. I consider this to be good work.
10:30 – Begin the daily ‘what’s for lunch’ debate. This goes on for some time.
10:52 – Get caught by my division manager doing my t-rex impression. I want to put a bell on this man, where did he come from? This is going to take some explaining…Bollocks.
11:00 – Google ideas for dinner. I’m really really hungry.
11:27 – Rock out at my desk with one of the girls to the Foo Fighters. Whip myself in the eye with my hair though, which really hurts.
12:30 – Return from lunch with various snacks. Proceed to get myself covered in crumbs, and when my boss wanders over to ask me a question, I discover I have cheese on my face. Quietly die of shame.
1:30 – So full, trying not to fall asleep at my desk. Can’t actually fit more coffee in my stomach. Resort to poking myself with a pin to stay awake. Stupid carb coma. Debate the validity of bulimia as a lifestyle choice when you eat as much as I do. Decide it has merits, but I’m too lazy.
2:15 – Get sent on an errand for my boss. Stacked it in the middle of an intersection. In front of many, many people. I think someone clapped. 2:30 – Discover one of the girls I work with doesn’t know who Michael Bolton is. This results in much facepalming, googling lyrics and youtubing ‘How can we be lovers‘ and ‘I said I loved you but I lied‘. Also involves some passionate, overwrought sing alongs, complete with power ballad fist pumping.
3:15 – Try to retain a sense of decorum while I try to explain to a friend that it’s probably a bad day for her to start her new diet, considering we are going out for Italian for dinner tomorrow night. Which was her idea in the first place. Give up.

After an exhausting day, there are few things quite like coming home to an easy, comforting dinner.

This is, without question, one of my all time favourite things to eat. Who would have thought a ham and cheese sammich could be made so fantastic? Uh, the French. They take everything and inject it with awesome.

So, when all else fails (and I fail at life regularly), keep this recipe in mind. It makes everything better.

Croque Monsieur

From Esquire

1 tbsp butter, plus softened butter for bread
1 tbsp plain flour
3/4 cup milk
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Coarse salt and ground black pepper
2 tbsp Parmesan, grated
85g Gruyère cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup).
4 thick slices good bread
Dijon mustard
170g thinly sliced ham,

1. Preheat oven to 180*c.

2. To make béchamel sauce: Melt butter until foamy in a small saucepan on low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes until smooth. Stirring continuously, slowly add milk, and cook for 2 minutes or until it thickens. Add the nutmeg and season with nutmeg and salt and pepper. Stir in Parmesan and 2 tbsp grated Gruyère, remove from heat and set aside.

3. Lightly butter the bread slices on both sides and toast in a pan until they turn just golden brown.

4. Spread the Dijon on one side of each slice of bread. Place the ham and ½ cup Gruyère cheese on two of the slices of bread. Top with the other slice of bread, mustard side down.

5. Spread a layer of béchamel sauce across the top and sides of the bread, sprinkling with remaining Gruyère cheese. Place on a tray covered in baking paper and bake for 5 minutes, then place under a grill for 3 minutes, until the cheese bubbles and turns golden layer  brown.

P.S. SUNDAY! This. It’s going to be amazing, and you should be there. Fact.

P.P.S. Come back Friday. I have an announcement. You could win stuff, and winning stuff is AWESOME. Fact.

Spring! Sprang! Sprung!

It’s OFFICIALLY Spring. I know it’s still raining, but it’s ok. Before long, there will be deliciously sun dappled days for frolicking in fields, dusting off your nautical themed pashmina afghan for a jaunty sail on one’s yacht… Ok, yes, I’ve been watching too much TV. So, no one actually does those kinds of activities. But you know what? I think people should.

Weekends are usually spent running around, frantically playing Life Catch Up. Cleaning, shopping, running around. I vote that you spend one day doing something ridiculously, frivolously fun. For no reason other than you can, and why the hell not?

My awesome friend Jacqui from Where the Wind Blows Her has decided to do one new thing every month, and I’m 100% on board. I’m thinking trapezing, running around in the mud, sailing and mazes. I’m also planning on packing a picnic, a blanket, a really good book and going to lie in the sun (always with sunscreen, peeps) and just chillaxin’. Because doing nothing is good for the soul too.

The Urban Locavore box this month contained some beautiful potatoes and chorizo from Mondo’s. I couldn’t resist this savoury slice I found on the Fitness for Foodies blog, it’s practically good for you! It’s a great breakfast/lunch/on the go/picnic snack. I made it as a welcome home fridge-filler for my parents who had been away from a week – Frankie ate a third of it in a sitting.

Chorizo & Potato Bake

From Equilibre

2 chorizo sausages
4 large potatoes, peeled
1 large sweet potato, peeled
1 bunch spinach
200g plain feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup finely grated pecorino or parmesan
4 free range, organic eggs
250 mls single cream
sea salt and cracked black pepper
Italian parsley, to serve

Preheat oven to 180C.

Thinly slice chorizo and cook in a medium sized fry pan for 2 mins each side until browned. Remove and drain on paper towel.

Cut potatoes and sweet potato in half and place in a large saucepan of cold, salted water. Bring to boil and cook for 8-10 mins until just tender. Drain, cool and slice in to rounds.

Blanch the spinach in a saucepan of boiling salted water for 30 seconds and drain well.

Layer a third of the potatoes in the base of a greased 23cm springform tin lined with non stick paper. Layer spinach and chorizo, sprinkling cheese between each layer, and finishing with potato.

Whisk eggs, cream, salt and pepper and pour over potatoes. Finish with a sprinkling of parmesan.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 mins. Remove foil and bake for a further 50 mins until set and golden.

Sprinkle with chopped Italian parsley before serving.

Eating on the move

I hate moving house.

When I first moved out of home, I had a bit of a bad run with houses/housemates which resulted in me having to pack up my many, many books, and move in the opposite direction from which I’d come. When I found this place, solemnly vowed that I would live and die an old teacup pig lady (because you never hear about crazy old teacup pig ladies, only cats)  in this house.

From having to move so much in such a short amount of time, you realise very quick just how much junk you own. You also realise how much junk other people give you. So when a friend from work moved into her new house last week, and I started to think of what to present her with as a housewarming gift, I couldn’t bring myself to hand over a garden gnome/dust collector/coffee table book which would just end up in a cupboard.

Food, once again, would be the answer.

Sneaky like a ninja, I set about determining what kind of amazing baked sweet she’d like best.
I was promptly deflated with “I’m more of a savoury kind of girl”.
Bollocks.
What the hell do I make for a person who doesn’t have a sweet tooth?
One panicked phone call to mum later (she also doesn’t have a sweet tooth. She tells me I’m adopted), I was back on track

Simple, easy, delicious. Because what goes together better than smoked salmon and creamy camembert?

Smoked Salmon and Camembert Mini Tarts

3/4 cup thin cream
3 eggs
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
100g smoked salmon
100g Camembert, thinly sliced
3 sheets of shortcrust or puff pastry

1. Preheat oven to 190*c. Cut pastry sheet into quarters,and press each quarter into each hole of a lightly greased muffin tin. Trim away any excess pastry. Lightly prick the base of the pastry with a fork. If you wish, you can fill each tart with rice or baking weights. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven, remove weights and reduce the temperature to 180*c.

2. In a large jug or bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, and dill. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange salmon and camembert evenly in the base of each tart. Carefully pour the egg mixture into each tart shell, almost to the top, being careful not to over fill.

3. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the filling is golden and just set in the middle. Cool on a wire rack, or eat immediately.