October 25, 2009

Sacrificing dignity...

Today saw the occasion of the annual Cystic Fibrosis Victoria Great Strides Walkathon. Thanks to the immense and humbling generosity of many of you, I was able to raise $1450. Therefore, as promised…

Mmm… fancy!
Thankfully the weather held out so a pleasant day was had by all and sundry. My competition didn’t quite eventuate (a fast ball to the sternum the day before, apparently; weak if you ask me…), and mercifully the pack of six year-olds who had been pacing me from the start dropped off after about two km’s so the plotting of their demise so to avoid complete humiliation was not required. Some apron modifications were required to adapt to a sportier version, and despite the material impediments, I managed the full 6 km with usual cadence, and according to the unofficial match day statistician (no bias, naturally) came in around fourth of the lady runners, which I suppose isn’t too shabby.

Team Rogerson – CFV Great Strides Walkathon, 2009
Thanks to those who came along to witness the execution of indignity and who made their own personal great strides, and an extra special thanks to all of you who supported me, our families and the CF community with your immeasurable kindness. The gauntlets of challenge have already been thrown for next year, so I must now work on making my sub-six-minute km’s sub-five-minute, and refine my skills of sabotage and verbal mockery. Then there’s always the question of what to wear…

October 18, 2009

Lady Fettiplace of Appleton's forgotten cookies...

Recently, Team Pretty Bake has been observing a kitchen hiatus brought about by a flurry of gardening activity. Following much bed preparation numerous varieties of beans, peas, beetroot, corn and carrots have now been entombed, and our seedlings are well on their way to being planted out. Should efforts to prepare for the long-term care of our thirsty offspring actually eventuate, there will be some very exciting times and produce ahead.

Garden developments – seedlings away, fruit trees blossoming, seeds in, & I even built me a fence!
But despite enjoying some time out of doors and basking in the promise of home-grown seasonal produce, we are bakers by heart and by nature, and naturally yearn for our habitual surrounds. Hence, like the proper ladies that we are, we made true our womanly virtues and got back in the kitchen for a Sunday session filled with frill and fancy.
Now, our methods for recipe selection tend to be rather haphazard, and so to ensure that prose sufficiently intellectual and witty in nature is presented (cough!), I will often try and draw together our cooking exploits into some sort of theme. This week’s twittering allusions gave promise of both cutthroats and a cappella quartets in the guise of all things barbershop, and as exciting as this would be, I must confess that I was perhaps being a tad exaggeratory. In fact, if I were being perfectly honest, I would likely have to admit that the only causal relationship between barber’s pole and TPB Sunday treats was in fact one of coloured aesthetics.
Red and white were our fortuitous primary’s of choice, and as there was also a deliberate undercurrent of taunting due to a questioning of our capabilities, it may be both apt and of interest to note that a barber’s pole was traditionally associated with the practice of bloodletting. Apparently in medieval times, barbers were also surgeons, and it was standard practice to hang clean and blood-stained bandages from shopfront poles, atop and abottom which sat basins for leeches and collecting blood, respectively. Said bandages would twist together in the wind, hence the spiral and optical illusionary pole more commonly seen today. In another stretch to relate TPB activities to useless information, you may also be interested to learn that “on the Barber pole” refers to the maximum safe velocity at which an aircraft will travel, and conceivably the level at which we prefer to operate. Even more interestingly and tangential, there was a decree made in France during the Middle Ages banning facial hair on men. Thankfully, that didn’t persist.
But I digress. Enough of my proclivity for beardyness and on to baked delights.
Before we got on to our candy cane-esque treats, Miss Rose had a hankering for balls, and so we turned to the omnipotent Cook’s Companion and constructed sardine polpette – a delicious combination of sardines, currants and pine nuts.

Sardine polpette
A second craving was also addressed and satisfied by the preparation of hummus laced with cumin, garlic and tahini. Rather moreish, the two combined made for a pretty tidy lunch, and epitomised the lure of unavoidable temptation, causing certain individuals to exclaim as to their fullness while simultaneously reaching for another helping.


Sardine polpette with hummus & Mr Pita
Our first red and white number was rhubarb strawberry mascarpone cheesecake. A buttery, biscuity crust was filled with stewed rhubarb and strawberries, topped with a luscious vanilla lemon mascarpone cream and baked until a delicious golden brown. Finished with a rhubarb strawberry glaze, it was particularly gorgeous and equally heavenly to consume.

Rhubarb & strawberry mascarpone cheesecake
Next I set about emulating my personal kitchen pin-ups by making cinnamon and hazelnut meringues. Using the Swiss method, if food is supposed to represent the erotic, then these would have to be some of the sexiest treats on offer. Any attempt I make to articulate just how silken and luxurious this mixture is will be thoroughly inadequate, so the best I can do is offer some images of the divine, and suggest you craft these yourselves post-haste.

Cinnamon & hazelnut meringues
We finished the day with another sumptuous splendour that was meringue roulade with rose and Morello cherries. Snow white meringue was topped with rose-scented cream and preserved Morello’s, rolled, and finished with sugared rose petals. While I must intimate that such ambrosial creations should be reserved only for those of whom you’re rather fond as preparation of the petals requires much love, persistence and fine motor skills, all of which are deserving of devoted appreciation; I can also assure that this elegant beauty will immediately leave any guest positively smitten.

Meringue roulade with rose & Morello cherries
It is therefore my belief, dear Will, that the answer to your question is yes we do, and we do so rather well.

October 5, 2009

We all need a shoulder to lean on...

You know this whole life thing, right? Well I get the impression that it can be rather unkind; that just when you think you're getting the hang of this newly enforced existence, it takes a moment to quash any notion you may have had of developing inner strength, and to quietly shatter any impressions of an impending happy calm. In the last few weeks, it has taken much from those whom I hold dear, and has been most unforgiving in delivering such devastating sadness. Even the better moments have been tainted by the inner knowledge that they shouldn't be this way, and we are all so acutely aware of what we are missing. And although you think to yourself, I've had fifteen months to get used to it, I should be able to do this by now, the emotional maelstrom still tends to hit with magnificent force, and you're sent drifting once more.
But enough of this - while I appreciate your tolerance of my occasional need to cryptically offload, we don't come here for psychological misgivings. We come here for food; and food it shall be…
Our recent gardening developments have left we of Team Pretty Bake feeling a slightly deeper shade of exhausted, and so our intentions for this weeks Sunday session were put on hold, and it was decided instead that I would host the divine Miss Rose in an intimate tea for two.
Having temporarily uprooted and headed deep into the scrays of foot for a spot of house-sitting, I had the immense pleasure of having a kitchen to myself and space to entertain. Comfort and simplicity were the order of the day, and for me this is epitomised by the virtues of slow cooking. A succulent shoulder of lamb was massaged with a paste made from fresh rosemary, lemon zest, mustard seeds and anchovies, marinated, and then set atop garlic and tomatoes and sent to roast in a slow oven for a good many hours. Served simply with flageolets and a selection of roast vegetables and steamed greens, it was a most pleasurable and relaxing way to dine indeed.

Slow-roasted shoulder of lamb rubbed with rosemary, anchovy and lemon zest
For dessert, nothing says homely like a classic pudding, and so I made my first attempt at the steamed variety using the ever-complimentary pear and ginger. Buerre bosc's were poached in a luscious ginger lime syrup sweetened with dessert wine, then topped with a light gingery batter and steamed until fluffy and moist. To say that I was rather chuffed with the turn-out would be somewhat of an understatement; and when slathered with cream and served with extra pears and syrup, it was a thoroughly delicious end to the evening.

Steamed pear and ginger pudding
So it was nice to settle back and relax with a simple meal shared between good friends. We enjoyed our change of scenery, and although the lamb wasn't quite the shoulder for leaning that I was after, I'm now happier to accept that these days it will just have to do (and yes, technically speaking it was more like a leg, but surely it's virtually same-same when it comes to ovine anatomy, and anyway, why let such things get in the way of a good title?).
…As for those alluded-to better moments - my practically-little-sis and her charming man have decided to get hitched, and gave me the utmost honour of being master baker for their engagement celebrations. Despite a few minor hiccups involving late-night baking, the forgetting of ingredients, leaking tins, burnt cake bottoms and my managing to bruise my ribs with a few cake tins (there is a perfectly logical explanation, but it's probably more amusing if I leave you guessing), the pervading of cakey delights with bitter sentiments was somehow avoided. A (not-so)-show-stopping Ding Dong was tiered with cream and strawberries, ganache and sweet cherry jam, more cream, more strawberries, and just a little more ganache to help finish things off. Thankfully, I do believe it turned out rather well:

K & T's engagement cake
Congratulations guys!