Monday, March 29, 2010

Crisp pork belly with caramel vinegar

I have never really been a fan of Pork, I think this all came from my childhood when my Mum would make pork chops- the chops were always dry and flavourless, there simply was no amount of apple sauce that could save them. It was only until my cousin made me the most AMAZING pork dish when she was visiting me from Sydney. I can still remember the smell coming out of the kitchen when she was whipping this baby up- and when I tasted it, well I just knew my many years of a VERY strong dislike of Pork had ended. I think the difference was in the cut of meat. Instead of a chop, which can become dry due to the lack of fat in the meat, she used pork belly. When cooked correctly, it is simply divine! Ahhh my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

I found the recipe that dearest cousin used to convert me and it is still unbelievably fantastic! It is a Bill Granger recipe, and of course like many of Bill's recipes with a little work, love and passion, you will have an amazing outcome 100% of the time.

This recipe produces incredible crackling, the type that is crunchy until the last bite with that lovely salty flavour. The meat under this cracking crackling is incredibly moist and succulent, and just melts in your mouth. The tender meat is paired with 2 incredible sauces that just lifts the dish to another level- one sweet and the other sour- a little yin and yang to make this dish a winner.

It is not the prettiest of dishes, but I promise you it is good!


  • 1.5 kg of Pork Belly
  • Sea salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Caramel Vinegar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup of red wine vinegar
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 4 wide strips of orange rind
  • Sea salt

Bok Choy with Sweet Soy and Lime
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 1 ½ tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 ½ tbsp lime juice
  • 3 bunches of pak choy
To make the caramel vinegar start by putting the sugar, vinegar, star anise, and cinnamon in a saucepan over a medium heat stirring until all of the sugar has dissolved.

Then bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until it has turned into a fragrant syrup.

Next stir in the chicken stock and simmer for a further 5 minutes- finally add the orange juice and peel and continue to simmer until the sauce is thick like a syrup.

This will be used for the pork so cover to keep it warm.

To make the Pak Choy with the sweet soy and lime sauce, simply put the soy sauce and sugar over a medium heat and once again stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Simmer and reduce the sauce by half- remove from heat and simply stir through the lime juice.

At this point I also add some freshly chopped red chilli as I like it a little hotter, but this step is totally up to you

Now for the pork…..

Preheat the oven to 220oC.
Firstly you need to score the skin of the pork with a sharp knife (it is probably best to get your butcher to do this for you as you need a very sharp knife) massage the salt into the skin of the pork and leave for 30 minutes.

After the 30 minutes get some kitchen paper and wipe off the salt from the Pork skin and make sure it is really dry (this will help the crackling become crispy and crunchy!).

Pop the Pork skin side down into a large roasting tin with the oil and then drizzle the Pork with some oil and season.

Roast for 30 minutes and then reduce the oven to 190oC and continue to cook the meat for another 1 ½ hours.

After the time is up carefully turn the pork over so the skin is facing up, then cook for about 15 -20 minutes or just until the pork skin is golden and crispy.

Now remove the pork and leave to rest for 15 minutes loosely covered with some foil

Now just serve up with some fluffy white rice, the pak choy and sweet soy and lime sauce and some freshly chopped red chillis!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Perfect Frosting

I love birthdays, it gives me an excuse to spend the afternoon baking my loved ones something special. Since I have a birthday to attend tomorrow, I thought it was the perfect time to try out an icing that I have been dying to make for a while now. I stumbled across the recipe whilst in the wonderful world of food blogs, and with a title like The best frosting i've ever had, I mean you just have to give it a go. At first I thought it was slightly strange, the ingredients are odd and the method, well it is imaginative. Still I figured, there would be no harm done if this icing turned out to be one big disaster, and they always tell you that you learn from your mistakes, so I thought “what the heck!”

Can I just say WOW. This icing is pretty darn good, seriously it is. It starts off as something similar to a roux, was I making lasagne I thought to myself? It is actually quite bizarre, coming from something resembling the glue you would make (and no doubt eat) when you were in the 2nd grade, to being this fluffy, creamy mountain of sweet, sweet frosting.

You have to try it and experience this! However- like all things in life it goes best with something chocolate- so I paired mine with a simple and classic chocolate cake, the 2 together equals an unbeatable combination!!

But I am interested to know, is this a common icing recipe? Maybe I have been living my entire life under a rock? Please do tell if you have tried this and if so, what was your verdict?

  • 1 cup of full cream Milk
  • 5 Tablespoons Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1 cup Butter (unsalted of course)
  • 1 cup caster sugar 


Bake something with loads of chocolate- a delicious cake or cupcakes will do the trick- let them cool totally.

In a saucepan heat the flour and milk over a medium to low heat stirring constantly so that it does not become lumpy. It will become very very thick, but you do not want it to be a paste.  If it becomes the consistency in the photo below just add a little milk to loosen it up.

Take it off the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature- it has to be totally cool. Now feel free to stir in the vanilla. (don't be frightened at what you see at this point, I promise it gets better!)

Next in a bowl cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Now add the milk mixture to the creamed butter and sugar and beat until it looks something similar to thick whipped cream. I whipped it for about 60 seconds- I did not want to whip it so much that things started breaking down.

Now the moment of truth.... grab a teaspoon and have a little taste. Hopefully you will be impressed, and maybe even in love. Who knows?! 

Ice your cake and decorate as you please, the next, and most important step of this entire process is to sit down and enjoy your creation!

Miss SS xxx

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mini Strawberry and Cream Pound Cakes

I loooovvvveeee Alice in Wonderland, I am addicted to the book and as it turns out loved the new Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland! I was very happy that it contained Lewis Carrols classic ideas. One in particular that I always loved, is the cake that makes Alice grow so big that she becomes stuck in the hall of doors. I always loved the little “EAT ME” cakes, and after seeing them in 3D I was I was  inspired to bake a miniature layer cake, something that Alice would find once she had fallen down the rabbit hole.... or this was the plan.

I did not really realise how fiddly this would be. I started off with the intention of making Petit Fours- however as it turns out, the icing is a tricky thing to master. Not only that I decided it was time to get rid of my old piping kit and get something a little more fancy with a proper piping bag and tips, but once again I discovered that my piping skills were not as good as I once thought they were. All in all my original idea of making cute dainty petit fours with the words “eat me” elegantly piped on the top turned out to be something close to a disaster! So I just decided to make to something that I knew would not turn out to be a mess of pink icing and kitchen frustration- little strawberry and cream pound cakes. Phewww crisis averted!

The not so elegant piping skills

I just used a simple pound cake recipe, the reason being is that it is slightly denser than a sponge as it has a tighter crumb, which makes it easier to cut and decorate. The icing for Petit Fours is basically a poured fondant- I found that while easy to make it was hard to decorate the cakes with the perfect amount of icing so that you had a lovely thin layer of sweet fondant without overpowering the whole thing with sugary goodness. I think I will have to practice, practice practice, because my first attempt was not as sucessful as I hoped, but one way or another I am determined to master these delicate French cakes!!

The pound cake was baked in a jelly roll tray- which is just a cookie with sides, this helped to get a cake which could be sliced in half to get the thin layers. Also it is important when baking to have all of the ingredients at room temperature- if you use eggs straight out of the fridge just put them in some warmish water for a couple of minutes.

Normally you would slice fresh strawberries to put with the jam and cream in between the layers, however because they were so small and the layers were thin I just used a thin layer of strawberry jam (store bought of course- I think this makes everyone’s life much much easier!!) and covered the whole thing with freshly whipped cream. All in all my afternoon of baking was not a successful as I had hoped. Oh well what’s a few kitchen mishaps? I am sure we all have had them…. I hope anyway! I promise next time I will have something that I would be proud to serve at afternoon tea!

3 tablespoons of full cream milk at room temperature

3 extra-large eggs, room temperature

1 3/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour- can get this in the flour aisle of a supermarket

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

14 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 cup of jam warmed
1 cup of full fat cream whipped

Strawberries or candy silver balls to decorate

Preheat oven to 175 Degrees Celsius, and line a jelly roll ray with baking paper- have the paper protruding out the side of the tray as this will help you to lift the cake out of the tray.

In a bowl mix together the milk, eggs and vanilla
In a spate bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, then using an electric beater mix in the butter and half of the egg mixture. Beat for 1 minute on a medium speed. Then add the remaining mixture in 2 batches scraping down the bowl each time. Beat for a another 30 seconds after adding the final egg mixture.

Pour into the prepared tray and bake until a skewer comes out clean (keep an eye on how the cake is cooking as it will depend on how deep the tray you use is- mine took about 20 minutes)

Once the cake is done, cool in the tray then turn out onto a wire rack.

Once completely cool carefully the ends of the cake to that you are left with a neat rectangle. Then cut the cake lengthways in half- this is the tricky part just cut slowly ensuring that the knife is level the whole time. The cut each half in half again so that you have 4 thin layers of cake

Then spread a thin layer of the warmed jam onto 2 of the cake quarters. You do not need a lot of jam and you should be able to see the cake through the jam.

Next stack the layers on top of each other, alternating between cake and jam until you have four layers (I only ended up with 3 as my knife nicked the corner my other quarter, it ended up as collateral damage)

Put the cake in the fridge for 1 or 2 hours, this will help the jam to set- ensure it is tightly covered with cling wrap so that it does not become dry.

Now cut the cake into squares- how many you end up with will depend on how big your cake is and also how large you want your mini cakes to be.
Next cover each individual cake with the whipped cream and decorate with fresh strawberries or like I did with the silver sugar balls.

Now I hope that your kitchen creations turn out to be slightly more successful than mine!

Happy cooking!

Miss SS xx

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Chicken and Cellophane Noodle Soup

My friends who are mostly Asian, like to poke fun at the fact that I come from a very “English/ Australian” family, the type of family that calls the man in the red suit Father Christmas and not Santa, and who likes afternoon tea with scones and biscuits. They joke around at my inexperience in Asian food and regularly bring me samples of their favourite meals so I can experience food that is very different from what I am accustomed to. They have tried desperately to teach me to use chop sticks (yes, that's me below "learning") and how to correctly pronounce “Pho”; which evidently is not said anything like the way it is spelt, something I found out when I embarrassed myself in front of a room full of Vietnamese people.

One of my friend’s mothers is the most amazing cook, and after trying some of her thit heo kho I was inspired to begin cooking Vietnamese food. Since my friend can’t actually cook herself and her mother is not very well versed in English it has been a very long and ongoing process as I have trying to teach myself (trying being the operative word). While I am a long way off being able to whip up a bowl of steaming Pho, I am able to make a simple chicken and cellophane noodle soup, something that is now one of my “go to” meals when I don’t really know what I feel like for dinner. The cellophane noodles really make the dish, when cooked they are plump and succulent and taste so delicious once they have absorbed the slightly sweet and salty chicken broth they are cooked in. I think meals like this are so fabulous as they are simple and you can add so many interesting flavours by garnishing with different herbs. I would normally put coriander, bean sprouts, shallots and possibly some mint with this, but I unfortunately did not have any mint or coriander, so I just used some freshly picked basil from the garden, and it did the job beautifully.

1 garlic clove thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1.25 litres of fresh or store bought salt reduced chicken stock
1 cup of water
2 boneless chicken breast
50g of cellophane noodles, soaked in cold water for 20- 30 minutes
2 mushrooms thinly sliced
2 handfuls of chopped baby bok choy
1 1/2 tablespoons of fish sauce
2 teaspoons of sugar
2 spring onions sliced on an angle
3 tablespoons of fresh coriander and mint
small handful of bean sprouts
In a pot heat the oil over a medium heat, add the garlic and shallot and cook for about 20 seconds, or just until they become fragrant. 
Add the chicken stock and water and bring to the boil for about 2-3 minutes, turn the heat down to a simmer and add the chicken and cook for 8- 10 minutes or  until just done.  Remove the chicken and set it aside to cool down.
Add the noodles that have been soaking in cold water, the mushrooms, fish sauce and sugar and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes (you might need too cook for a little longer if the noodles are not soft). Then stir through the bok choy.
Shred the chicken into strips. Then divide the noodles among 4 bowls and ladle over the broth. 
Place the shredded chicken on top of the noodles and garnish with the spring onions, coriander and bean sprouts.  

 It is best to serve this straight away otherwise the noodles will absorb the all of the broth.

Now all that is left to do is eat and enjoy!

Miss SS xxx

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie

My mission over the last few weeks was to find a charming little chocolate chip cookie recipe- one that produced the perfect cookie, a cookie that was everything a good cookie should be- soft, chunky, not too moist and not too dry, one that was able to make you feel at home and happy.

The recipe had to produce a classic chocolate chip biscuit; simple, understated and delicious. I just wanted a something that was easy, uncomplicated and one that did not make too much of a mess when baking. It has been a long and might I say very delicious road, I have made plenty of biscuits over the last few weeks tweaking the recipe as I went along. After the first couple of batches (which I polished off with little help from my friends and family) I decided only to bake when there were 5 or more people in the house, it was a necessary condition, I was not too keen on the idea of having to buy a new wardrobe or spend the next 3 months at the gym (something to horrible to even contemplate!)

I think I have found a recipe that produces a really nice soft and chunky biscuit, I am not a fan of the cookies that are extremely sweet or and chewy, so this is a winner in my books.


125g butter, room temperature
1/2 cup castor sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2/3 cup self raising flour
1 cup plain flour
1 rounded cup chocolate chips (I used the larger variety)


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.

2. In a bowl start to cream the butter on a low speed, then add both sugars and vanilla and continue to mix until pale and creamy.

3. Add the egg to butter mixture and combine

4. In a separate bowl mix together the 2 flours, then add this to the butter along with the chocolate chips and mix well

5. Form small balls of the mixture and place on tray (ensure there is sufficient space between each one as they will expand when cooked)

6. Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until they are a light golden colour and are still soft
7. Remove from the oven, leave to cool for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an air tight container

My dear readers I hope you enjoy these as much as I did!

Miss SS xxx

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cinnamon crunch muesli

It's already March, I can't believe that we are 3 months into the new year! I don't know about you but life seems to be getting busier and busier! When life gets busy I become a "breakfast skipper" - although breakfast is my favourite meal of the day I very rarely eat it- some mornings amongst the eye lash curler, hair straighter and staring into my wardrobe exclaiming "I have nothing to wear!" I can't seem to find the time to make myself something to eat. I am not a fan of cereal, for some reason I have never been able to stomach a huge bowl of milk and special K so early in the day, so a convenience breakfast for me is normally half of a chocolate chip cookie or a handful of grapes and a quick cup of coffee- admittedly not the breakfast of champions. I decided it was time to make a change- so I found some time and whipped up some Cinnamon crunch muesli- delicious breakfast treat by the wonderful Bill Granger, best of all it can be made in advance so you can always have something to nibble on. This is so yummy, admittedly it is quite rich but you only need a sprinkling on some yogurt or fruit to make a delicious morning meal.

Cinnamon crunch muesli

  • 125g of unsalted butter
  • 60g of brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • 300g of rolled oats
  • 160g of natural almonds (skin on)
Pre heat the oven to 160°C (320°F) line a baking tray with baking paper and roughly chop almonds.

Pop the butter, sugar and cinnamon in a large pan or pot over a medium heat and stir until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved- it will turn into a deep rich nutty colour. Take the syrup off the heat and mix the oats and almonds into the mix and coat evenly.

The spread the mixture evenly over the baking tray (you must try to resist sampling as it could be hot)

Pop in the oven and bake for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure that the oats are crispy all over.
Wait until the muesli is completely cool before putting it in an air tight jar.
Enjoy over some yoghurt, poached fruit and a drizzling of honey!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Stylish Kitchen Essential

No kitchen is complete without a recipe stand- they are the perfect assistant in the kitchen and such a help when cooking up a storm! I really wanted to share this gorgeous stand that I came across by Oasis Homewares. Something a little different and very stylish!

I hope you are all having a lovely Monday!

Mss xx

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fabulous Friday Pizzas!

One thing I have learnt over the last week is- never wear ballet flats in the rain- big mistake, I mean huge! It has been raining in Queensland over the past week, so much so rivers are forming where they shouldn't, fields are turning into lakes and.... well it is impossible to do anything outside. I parked my car on Monday night and jumped out stepping right into what seemed to be a newly formed sea! I was drenched- soaked to the bone. My spirit was damaged, as were my shoes (which still have not recovered from the drowning) so for the rest of the week I have tried to stay out of the rain. As soon as the rain starts and the temperatures drop I can feel the kitchen beckoning me- it is my only retreat to this wild weather! Nothing makes me feel better than to put on some Norah Jones get a hot cup of green tea, cosy up and start cooking! Today was a day for homey comfort food- the type of cooking that makes you forget the worries of the world, sometimes only rich flavorful food will do- and today that food was  pizza!

To make a good pizza, really you need homemade pizza base (one that is light, fluffy and crispy), a rich pizza sauce and quality toppings. You really have to make the base by hand- trust me it makes the world of difference! Making pizza base is quite an easy thing to do, and it can be quite relaxing, the kneading could help anyone work out the stresses of life! The amount of dough makes enough for 2 good sized pizzas (each would feed 3 very hungry people) you could also double the recipe if you are ravenous or simply have lots of mouths feed.

The tomato sauce is such a cooking basic- while I used it for the pizza base, any left over’s can be popped in the freezer. It also tastes great tossed through pasta with some grated parmesan on top; it is a very versatile staple. When I make pizza I like to make a tandoori chicken with lime yogurt and coriander, and a pancetta, potato, mozzarella and basil- both very different, but very very yummy! The best thing about making pizza is you can get creative- pretty much put on it what you - it is a safe place for experimentation.


Pizza Sauce

  • 2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

  • 2 ½ tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt

  • Cracked pepper

  • 2 cloves of garlic

In a saucepan cook the tomatoes over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and turn the heat right down to a gentle simmer and simmer for approximately 25 minutes or until the sauce has reduced and has thickened. Remove from the heat.

Pizza Base

• 7g of yeast (one sachet)

• 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

• 500g of strong flour

• 2 teaspoons salt

• 300ml of luke warm water

Pour the water into a bowl, sprinkle the dry yeast in and whisk with a form until all the yeast is dissolved (the water will become milky), then add the olive oil, mix and set aside.

In a separate bowl mix the flour and salt together. With a hand mixer with the dough hooks attached mix the flour on a low speed gradually adding the liquid containing the yeast- I usually leave 1 or 2 teaspoons in order to help to fold in the remaining flour that might have been left behind- also this ensures that the dough does not become too wet, you can always add more if needed. Continue kneading the dough on a low speed for 15 to 20 minutes- or you can knead by hand on a lightly floured surface. After the dough has become smooth and springy, knead for 1 minute by hand.

Place the dough in a large bowl that has been lightly brushed in oil (this will stop the dough sticking to the sides) then brush the top of the dough lightly to stop a dry crust forming and cover with a damp tea towel or cling film. Place the bowl in a warm place or in a very low oven for about 1 hour- the dough will then have become very light and airy and should have doubled in size.

Take the dough out and knead for 1 or 2 minutes on a lightly floured surface- this is called knocking back the dough and helps to get rid of excess air. Turn the oven to 230 degrees celsius to preheat for the pizzas.

Separate the dough out into 2 large portions, or alternatively you can make 4 smaller individual pizzas. Flatten the dough out with your hands as best you can, then using a large rolling pin roll out the dough into the shape of your choice (circle or rectangle is the easiest). Try to get the dough to a thickness of about 3 mm as it will rise when cooking- if the dough is too thick at this stage when cooked the base will become quite thick and will not have as much crunch.

Spread the base with the tomato sauce using the back of a spoon.

Chicken Tandoori, with lime yoghurt and coriander

• 2 chicken breasts- I like to use a BBQ chicken for this as it is easy and the meat remains tender after being cooked in the oven

• ½ of a red onion very thinly sliced

• 1 vine ripened tomato

• 1 tablespoon of tandoori paste- can use less if you do not like it hot

• 2 ½ tablespoons of natural yogurt

• 1 lime

• Grated Cheese

• Handful of fresh coriander

Shred the chicken and mix with 1 tablespoon of yogurt and Tandoori paste and set aside. Can add more yogurt if you do not want the chicken to be too hot.

Top the pizza with the sliced onion then the slices of tomato. I usually put the grated cheese on at this stage as I find that it helps the ingredients to stay put when cooking. Then top with the chicken and you can sprinkle a little more cheese on top if you like.

Put the pizza in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the base has puffed and crisp. Finally mix the left over yogurt with half of a lime and drizzle over pizza, top with the coriander and serve with extra lime wedges.

Pancetta, Potato, Mozzarella and Basil

• 5 slices of pancetta

• 1 small potato thinly sliced

• Mozzarella

• Handful of torn basil

Lightly fry the potato until just cooked through, place on paper towels to remove excess oil. Once oil has been removed from potato place on the pizza base, top with torn pancetta and fill in the gaps with slices of the mozzarella. Like the chicken pizza, cook in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the base has puffed and crisp. Remove from the oven and top with torn basil and enjoy!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Good bye summer, hello autumn!

Well its official- autumn has arrived!! I don't know about you, but I am very much looking forward to mugs of hot chocolate, baking pastries, and cooking comfort food- all of which go beautifully with the cooler days and longer nights that are to come. Well its been nice, but I will see you soon Summer!

Mss xx