Monday, December 27, 2010

eat; panettone (and bonus recipe!)

I had such a great response from my Chrissy blog special that I decided to try and make a Panettone for Christmas day. Katya was coming from Chicago so I thought it would be the perfect time to create one for my first time EVER! It is a chore (lots and lots of  waiting, kneading and beating!) but the rewards are totally worth it!

We had sooo much fun hanging in the kitchen catching up on what was news in our lives and enjoying the smells that were coming from the oven. I had prepared an orange and green vegetable lasagna (recipe coming soon!!!!) the day before so I was free to prepare the panettone on the day of Christmas while the lasagna was in the oven. I initially put WAY too many packets of yeast to foam up and had to throw two thirds of it away. Changing grams into ounces is still confusing me and after a google search, I found out compressed yeast is different in weight to dried yeast!!!! I have changed the recipe below to cater for dry as it is easier to get a hold of.

Another thing I discovered was to take off the handles from a 23cm pot so I could bake the Panettone in it. It made the perfect mould and allowed the Panettone to rise high. If using a pot, make sure the handles are either metal or that you can unscrew the plastic handles! You could purchase a panettone paper mould or a non stick panettone pan if you are serious about it.

I also made Amaretti biscuits as the Panettone recipe had called for three extra egg yolks and I didn't want to throw the whites away. I hear you can freeze the egg whites for another time but I have never had luck with doing this. You have to make sure you write on the outside of your container how many egg whites are in there, otherwise you will forget!!!!! So today, being my last post for the year, you will get a double bonus and get two recipes in one!!!!! 

This recipe is from Womans Weekly Italian cookbook. I have tried and tested their biscuits over and over again and I have found the simplicity very successful. Give this a go for New Years Day! It will make the house smell amazing and it also makes great french toast! YUM!

What you need:
1 1/2 cups sultanas
1/2 mixed peel*
1/2 cup of Masala (or rum)
30g (1 1/4 oz) dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup lukewarm water
3 eggs
3 egg yolks, extra
6 TB sugar, extra
5 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
the rind of 1 small lemons, grated
100g butter
1 Tb oil
1 cup lukewarm milk
1 egg, extra for glazing

*(candied orange and lemon. If you can't get this, double the lemon rind and add the rind of an orange)

Take the butter out of the fridge a few hours before preparation so it will be at room temperature when you start cooking. Combine sultanas, chopped mixed peel and Masala and let soak for 45 mnutes, turning every 15minutes.

Combine yeast, sugar and lukewarm water in a small bowl and mix well. Let stand in a warm place for 5 minutes or until the mixture becomes frothy.

Beat the eggs, extra egg yolks and extra sugar until combined.

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl, add lemon rind (and orange if using), butter and oil. Stir in egg mixture, lukewarm milk, then the yeast mixture and the undrained fruit mixture.

Take a wooden spoon and beat the dough quickly and vigorously for about 5 minutes. This beating is very important so do not be a slacker!

When you start beating, the dough is almost like a cake batter. You have reached the desired texture when the dough is elastic, leaving the sides of the dough.

Cover the bowl with cling wrap and let stand in a warm place without drafts for 45 minutes or until the dough has doubled in bulk. 

Prepare a pot as mentioned above (23cmD 16cmH) by using grease proof paper. Place  the pot onto a sheet and trace around it's bottom to create a circle. Cut it out and place it on the inside. Cut some more paper to wrap around the inside of the pot, making sure it goes a few centimeters higher than the pot itself.

Once the dough has doubled in size, turn dough onto a well-floured surface and knead lightly. Cut dough in half and knead each half on the well-floured surface for 3-5 minutes or until the dough loses its stickiness. Place the two halves on top of each other in  the prepared pot and let stand in a warm place for 20-30 minutes or until the dough has doubled in bulk.

Once the Panettone has risen, brush the top with the extra egg that is lightly beaten.

Bake in a moderately hot oven (220-230c 425-450f) for 15 minutes then turn down the heat to a moderate oven (190-200c 375-400f) for a further 30 minutes. Check it after 20 minutes and if you find the colour is great on top, cover the Panettone with aluminum foil with the shiny side up. Use a skewer when time is up to check if the inside is cooked.

Turn out immediately onto a wire rack to cool. Once cool, you can dust with icing sugar if you wish.

My first Panettone!!!!! OMG!!!! I was soooo impressed when I turned it out that I wanted to kiss it!!!!! I will never buy one again! My house smelt soooo amazing all day. We ended  our Christmas day by eating roasted chestnuts and Panettone and washing it down with Champagne....What a great day! Thanks Katya for coming from freezing Chicago to spend Chrissy with me in California!!!!!

Buon Apettito!!!

So here is what to do with the left over egg whites. You can keep the egg whites in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two days before having to use them.

Amaretti biscuits have an amazing chewy texture on the inside and a crunchy outside. They are soooo morish!!!! Whenever I bake these infront of guests, I cannot keep up with the dissappearing act that goes on! Eveyone loves these and they are sooooo easy to make!!!! They store well in the pantry for a week or so, thats if you can resist them!!!! 

What you need;
190g ground almonds (place whole raw almonds into a blender if you can't get almond meal)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 lge egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 or 2 drops almond essence
blanched almonds for decorating (to remove skins, place in a bowl and pour boiling water on them. Wait till the water is cool and then peel)

Place all the ingredients except for the blanched almonds which we will use for decoration later, in a small bowl of an electric mixture.  With a spoon, mix all the ingredients together. 

Beat the mixture on a medium speed of your electric mixer for three minutes and then let stand for 5 minutes.

Spoon the mixture into a piping bag. If you don't have one (my share house aint got one!) do as I have done in this photo and simply clip the corner of a zip lock bag with scissors to create a hole. Cut about 1 cm in, across the corner.

Pipe the mixture onto a grease proof sheet of paper into about 4 cm in diameter rounds. Place a half blanched almond on each one and pop into moderate oven (190-200c 375-400f) for about 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Leave on the trays for a few minutes before using a metal spatula to move them onto a wire cooling rack.

Buon Apettito!!!!

pink; art is a guaranty of sanity

Today, I wanted to pay homage to an artist who died this year and with her work, say goodbye to her and the year 2010. Theoretically, Louise Bourgeois is no longer our contemporary because she is no longer with us, but her spirit is still alive and well. She had created many works using the colour pink in her lifetime and is an artist I will not be able to ignore within the pink section of this blog, well, not for another year at least!.

There are two reasons why I have chosen this work in particular for my pink category this week. The first, as mentioned above, is to pay homage to an artist who died at the tender age of 98 and the second, because this work hit home base with me, particularly when I think of this past year. This year, I have been tested with ill health, which caused me to stop practicing as I healed myself physically, while around the same time, dealing with a swaying mind that had caused me grief and a bitter attitude towards the artworld that I am involved in. I have since printed myself a copy of this work and it now sits up on my wall, framed, where I can see it everyday. It reminds me of why I create, why I need to create, why I have no choice but to create and brings me back to a place where everything is ok.

Art Is A Guaranty Of Sanity was created in 2000 and is pencil on pink paper.  Bourgeois elegantly presents us with a work wrapped up in pink, a colour that has been known to suppress agressive antagonistic and anxiety ridden behavior. When we look at this work and read the words, we instantly feel calmed and relaxed, as if we needed to hear these words and for it to be presented in such a way. The writing suggests the remains of tension and anxiety, but the background soothes us, giving us hope that our world will be ok.  It feels really, really good to look at this piece; to experience this piece. We can easily imagine how we would feel sitting down and scrawling these words for ourselves.

The work is simple. There are no bells and whistles. It has the naivety of a child and blows a punch of truth in such a obvious manner, just like children can sometimes do. Bourgeois' work does that with honesty and elegance. She emotionally punches you in the face making you feel raw and exposed, yet with a gentle hand on the lower part of your back, pushes you along your way. There is no escape from her world (or our own for that matter). Her work is really powerful. She lays it out and forces you to deal with it, but totally understands you at the same time, surrounding you with a metaphorical big bear hug.

Creativity, in all its guises, is what we all need in life as human beings. We need to feel free to fall into our imaginary worlds, to create them, escape to them, for them to be a part of us. It is the natural order. Without a form of expression, we become no use to anyone, let alone to ourselves.  Her simple words stir our most intrinsic fears, feelings and desires about our own lives. With this work, we feel human, we feel safe, we feel normal.

I thank Louise for her practice, her bravado and her perseverance to create when no one was looking and keep creating when everyone was. She had stood the test of time, exploring themes from her childhood and using her art as therapy, to externalize what she felt and what she had bottled up inside. Her art was her sanity and she reminds us that it is ours too.
 R.I.P Lousie Bourgeois (25/12/1911 – 31/5/2010)
and the year Two Thousand and Ten

love; 10 things i loved about 2010

1. Disneyland. Oh I know those of you out there that simply HATE Disneyland, but let me tell you, I WAS IN HEAVEN!!!!! It was my first time there, ever and it truly is a magical place. Everything is pruned and sparkling clean and lots of colours and things moving all the time! LOVE!!!!

2. Going sailing for the first time in my life! How magical it is to glide along the water without sound.?!?!?! I felt like a bird feeling the wind against me and enjoying the stillness of the water. LOVE!

3. Watching the sunset over the water. I had only seen this once before when I went to Perth to visit my cousin. Here in L.A they are even more beautiful and special as they are leaving me here in L.A to go and wake my friends and family in Australia. LOVE!!!!

4. Being able to eat at many raw restaurants here in California and the endless vegan product options in supermarkets here! Gotta love that! Apparently there is only one in raw place in Melbourne and the reviews aren't that great. Here, they're everywhere!!!!! LOVE!!!!
5. Discovering the joy of reading! I have read more books in the past year than I have in my lifetime!!!! I have really enjoyed what a book can offer; knowledge, amazing conversation, and me time! LOVE!

6. Going to a pumpkin patch! I couldn't believe that they actually exist! How great to see people out for the day choosing a pumpkin to carve! And what an experience carving one is! Cleaning out the seeds and goo is a bit wrong to touch but once that bit is over, it truly is an exciting thing to do! I must admit, mine turned out to be very impressive indeed!!!!

7. Halloween in the States!!!!! How amazing to see it in its origins! EVERYONE gets into it doing up their houses with orange lights, jack-o-lanterns and fake spider webs with skeletons. I loved the dressing up!!!!! Might be my favourite American celebration! It also coincides with the Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations so it is doubly colourful and a real bonding session happens with everyone here. LOVE!!!!

8. Catching the train from Los Angeles to New York. Wow what an effort! I had been planning it for months and even though a one way ticket was more than a return air fare, it really was worth the experience. Even Americans  are impressed with it! I must admit though, it did nearly kill me! 
9.Having two summers in 2010! I left Australia at the end of summer and came to L.A at the beginning of thats what I call a wonderful year! It is my ideal scenario and one that I am aiming for, two houses, one in the Northern Hemisphere and one in the Southern, moving between the two to never experience winter again! I'm going for it! Hoping L.A will be my spot...

10. Outdoor ice skating on Christmas Eve in downtown L.A!!!!! Soooo great! It wasn't as cold as I thought it might be, but we are in L.A afterall!!!! What a lovely feeling to be skating while surrounded by trees lit up with coloured fairy lights, tall buildings and a clear starry night. Why doesn't Melbourne do this in July?!?!?! LOVE!!!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

eat; chrissy special!: how to roast chestnuts

Castagna in Italian, pronounced 'kustania'

I grew up with chestnuts roasting every year, but it wasn't around Christmas. In Australia, (apologies to all the Australian readers out there who wont be able to do this at this time!) chestnuts are not in season in December but around June so the whole "roasting chestnuts over an open fire at Christmas" was yet another story I could only imagine, along with snow at Christmas!!!!. My mum always told us stories of her childhood in the South of Italy in Calabria, carrying a big heavy basket full of chestnuts for miles and miles on her head, in the cold and snow around this time of year, as part of her 'child labor' experience during the second world war. This year, I have the chance to roast chestnuts at Christmas (YAY!!!), even though there is no snow here in sunny California.

(Sorry guys but I had to do it!!!!)
I know I have introduced many of you back home to chestnuts and just recently, my friend Marg who met me in New York for my birthday, was introduced to the nut when I bought them from a street peddler. Last night, I roasted chestnuts with my housemates who both hadn't tried them either. Nat grew up in Canada so I find it really strange, with all that cold and snow, that she had never tried them before. It was a nice night of showing them something new and watching as they discovered a new flavour in their mouths and educating them on how to prepare the nut for roasting. It is always a great feeling introducing a food from my childhood I took for granted to someone who has never tasted or even heard of such a thing. 

Roasting chestnuts can be done in a variety of ways and you can even purchase a chestnut roasting pan to cook then over a flame on your stove top or roasting over a fire. My mum would cook them under the griller so this is how I will cook them in this post. You guys in the States, grilling is broiling so just replace the word.

photo by Natalie Baack
To start with, you are going to have to make an incision into the chestnut.  As you can see from the photo above, cut away a small section from the bottom. 

 This is how the chestnut should look after cutting away to reveal a little of the flesh. The reason why this is important is so you wont have exploding chestnuts when roasting them!

 Place them on a grilling tray that is lined with aluminum foil.

I did mention my electric toaster oven in my first recipe within this blog and that's what I'll be using for roasting the chestnuts. Here are the chestnuts as they are beginning to roast.  I put the toaster oven onto the high setting (about 220c 450f). After about 10 minutes, try turning them so they wont burn too much on the one side. They will be very hot so be careful! They will take about 20 mins or so to cook through. Check one at this point to see if they are cooked. It should be fleshy and fluffy on the inside yet a little crunchy on the outside.

Once done, wrap up the chestnuts into a tea towel for a few minutes. This will  help the peeling process. The way to shell the chestnuts is to cover it with a tea towel and then lightly bash it with the palm of your hand, just once to crack the shell. If cooked properly, the shell should fall away easily. Keep the rest covered while you are cracking and peeling, as the chestnuts become hard to peel once cool. If you get to a point where you can't eat anymore, go through and peel all that remains whilst hot. Place into an airtight container once cooled completely. They should be fine for a few days.

As Nat, Dolphina and I were eating away, I suggested champagne would be the perfect drink to accompany the chestnuts. Champagne and Chestnuts...YUM!!!!! I definitely suggest this!

Buon Appetito and Buon Natale!!!

pink; chrissy special!

I've decided to open up this post to contain any contemporary artist creating works in pink after Hennessey Youngman's raid on F.B and his comment about works having a different meaning depending on the sex of the artist. Check out this vid on how to be a successful artist. The guy is onto something!

Meanwhile, most of you have seen my obsession on F.B with Paul McCarthy earlier this year, and even though this work is not pink, there is a pink wall within the installation (ok?!?!). For this Chrissy special, I couldn't go past Paul McCarthy's Peter Paul Chocolates. It is a hilarious installation created in New York in which the 6,000 square-foot Maccarone Gallery was transformed into a completely functional Chocolate Factory and retail store open to the public seven days a week from mid-November through to the end of 2007. It produced 1,000 chocolate figurines daily with the melting, tempering, molding, and other processes of making visible to visitors through observation windows created within the space.

So whats soooo special about the chocolates produced?!?!?! Well, they were a 10", 1-lb. chocolate figure called Santa With Tree And Bell. But if you look closely, Santa's tree certainly looks alot like a butt plug and the bell that he clasps in his hand looks like...well....hmmmm....and the bit dangling from his hand...ummmm....(?).  McCarthy has been known to use ketchup, mayonnaise and chocolate sauce as representations of bodily fluids within his entire practice and so these chocolate Santas holding a 'tree' become interesting objects up for discussion with this knowledge (check out last video at the bottom of this post).

McCarthy's practice is hilarious or disturbing, depending on who's looking at it and from which angle. I could start raving on about what this work means, it's criticism towards consumerist culture, the effects of  the commercialism of fairytales and myths, etcetera, etcetera, but that wouldn't be fun!  Watch the video below and have a chuckle with Paul. The guy is brilliant and states the obvious about what this project is for him. The video is a little slow to start with and the sound is terrible, but bare with it. It is sooooo funny and I really like the way the gallery owner expresses her enthusiasm for the piece!

Below are images from the instalation...gee I wish I could have seen it!

And here is the pink wall I promised!!!!

Check out the hand work below!!!!! Too funny!!!!!

I do love these images. Paul McCarthy likes the 'bit shit' look and thats what's going on here. I can imagine these Santas were not quite perfect, ended up in the bucket to be re-melted and here comes Paul going "They're perfect!!!!!", and vola, a great work!

Below is a funny video of art professionals sampling Pauls chocolate. It is ridiculous and funny. Wine and chocolate are meant to be a great partnership! There is a mention of Echo Park where Paul did a performance....ummmm....AT MY LOCAL PARK!!!!!!!! Soooo love living here! Oh and he lives in Pasadena which is a few suburbs away...gotta meet this guy!

Buon Natale to you all!!!!

love; chrissy special!:10 things I love this week

photo by Natalie Baack
1. Our Christmas tree! Natalie bought it off a friend and it stayed in it's box downstairs until a few weeks ago. I must admit I was dubious about a pre-lit plastic tree, but this is AMAZING! We actually hang out in our loungeroom in the evenings together now that our room looks soooo beautiful and Natalie plays a DVD of a crackling Christmas fireplace on our TV! We've also agreed to turn it into a Valentines Tree once Christmas is over, replacing the Chrissy decorations with all things pink and naughty!!!! LOVE!!!

2. Having fresh Holly in the house!!!!!!! Soooo great and looks perfect in a big wine glass! Our house is now complete, looking all Christmassy! LOVE!

3. Our Chrissy Stockings!!!! Dolphina and mine are the sparkly sequined COURSE!!!!! We don't have a fire place so we're hanging them on the bookshelf. Can't wait to fill them and see what I end up with on Chrissy Morning!!! FUN! LOVE!
4.  PANETONE!!!!!!! I FOUND SOME!!! I was thinking I might have to have my first Christmas EVER without it but Trader Joes came through with the goods! YAY!!!! If you have been soooo unfortunate as to never have tried one of these, they are like a fruity croissant without the crunchy exterior. LOVE!
6. The Christmas light explosion that happens with houses. The ones I love the most are the tackiest of all!!!!! My mum, brother and myself have always made room for an evening of driving around to look at the houses all light up. This year, I am in the land of Chritmas house lights!!! It seems EVERYONE makes an effort here and some are soooo over the top it's ridiculous!!!! They even bring out cherry pickers to get up high and decorate their big trees out front!!!! Natalie has said she will take me around to see the tackiest of them all!!!! LOVE!!!!!
7. Love this article on how not to electrocute yourself while putting up your Christmas lights! Funny!

 8.. Oh My GWAD!!!!! Disneyland at Christmas time?!?!? Yes please!!!! I'll be going there with Ashley and her sister who are visiting from Australia at the purrrfect time! Katya will be coming from Chicago too!!!!! Are you all gel!?!?!?! LOOOVVVVEEE!!!! Check out this video of candy makers at Disneyland making candy canes!!!!!

 9. My naked Santa as my profile pic for Chrissy! LOVE this photo!!!! Soooo wrong, but soooo right at the same time!!!
10. Christmas in the Summer! All you guys in Oz STAND PROUD!!! This is something that I'm missing this year  for the first time in my life but at least I wont be in a place where I'd be snowed in!!! Snow is sooooo over rated! Enjoy your barbies guys!!!!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

eat; cru raw food class

I woke up really early on Sunday 4th of December, even before my alarm had a chance to wake me! My housemates were still asleep as I left the house with a belly full of green smoothie goodness and excitement that I almost couldn't contain. I was heading out the door to Cru for their "A Few Of My Favourite Things" raw food class. Yep, I finally took the plunge and went to learn some secrets of raw food cooking!!!!

The class was filled with all sorts of people, mainly middle aged women. I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of an audience for a raw food cooking class, but the demographic of middle aged women somehow threw me off. There were about 12 of us and the room was filled with such excitement, you wouldn't have guessed it was sooooo early on a Sunday morning!

The room was structured so that we sat in rows in front of a table set up with all the ingredients and equipment. Unfortunately, we were not doing the cooking, but we sat and watched, listened and learned the tricks of the raw food trade. I even learnt how to make nut milk, which is surprisingly easy! It's a good substitute for cows milk in any dish.

I took some photos but was soooo captivated by what was going on and the information being thrown at me that I forgot to keep it up during the whole lesson! So here are some photos I did take with a little commentary.

I was like a total nerd on the first day of class sitting with a front row seat so I could see everything! This is the view into their kitchen at Cru. Our menu to learn for the day was as follows; Cheesy Kale Chips, Curry Carrot Soup, Zucchini Pasta with a Red Pepper Cream Sauce and Banana Ice-Cream. My favourite was the Curry Carrot Soup (recipe to follow!)                                                          
The ingredients for the day consisted of kale, red capsicum, zucchini, carrots, frozen banana, raw soaked cashews, pine nuts and a few spices. The equipment was a blender, juicer, dehydrator and an amazing little machine called a Turning Slicer/Spirooli.
Our teacher was Kristan Andrews who is part owner of Cru with Executive Chef Rachel Carr. Kristan is a Raw Food Chef and Educator also catering for the stars here in Los Angeles. She is not a total rawist but her diet is mainly raw. She looked so vibrant and healthy it was unbelievable.

Kale is one of my least favourite things to cook, maybe because i was only introduced to this leafy superfood when I arrived here at the beginning of the year and am unfamiliar with it. I have tried to make salads with it, make chips with it even sautee it. Nope, don't like it. I am now throwing it into my smoothies every morning and that suits me fine. Even these Kale chips Kristan made in the dehydrator did absolutely nothing for me as everyone in the room were umming and ahhing. You know how some people describe some foods as like eating cardboard? Well, i'm going to be that person and say that about Kale chips. Big call, I know, but Kale chips just aint my thing!

Kristan is blending away the Curry Carrot Soup in this pic. Now this aint no cardboard tasting soup!!! LOVE!!!! So creamy, colourful and full of flavour, I'm definitely going to try this at home soon!
This above is the Turning Slicer/Spirooli which was such a crowd pleaser. Here, Kristan is making the 'spaghetti' out of the raw zucchini. Yes, as you can imagine, every bit of my Italian blood was sooooo dubious about this thing called pasta, that wasn't actual pasta like I knew it. How can anyone call strands of zucchini anything like spaghetti?!?!? So there I was, arms crossed, with all my spiritual ancestors egging on my suspicious glares, waiting to taste this 'spaghetti'.

It was fun watching the zucchini being spun around into long spaghetti...and yes...IT WAS AMAZING TO TASTE!!!!! The texture was exactly like al dente pasta and defintiely does not leave that heavy feeling pasta can sometimes. The Red Pepper Cream Sauce was divine! It was made with pine nuts and olive oil and had a beautifully light creamy constancy. Definitely going to have to add this machine to my kitchen!
Banana Ice-cream....WOW!!!!! Similar to a soft serve ice cream in consistancy and texture, this is the easiest thing ever to make and is WOWOWOWOW!!!! It's simply frozen banana that has been put through a juicer. Thats it! No cream, no stiring, no fussing and it is AMAZING! YOU MUST DO THIS!!! If you don't have a juicer, cut up the banana before putting it into the freezer and when frozen, put it straight into a food processor and wizz away until you get a creamy consistency! You can leave them peeled and whole if using a juicer. Make sure if you're using a juicer to cover the bit where the juice comes out so the banana exists where the skin normally does. YUM!!!!! Also great with mango.

So here is the recipe for the Curry Carrot Soup which blew my mind!!!!! Don't use baby carrots, the flavours in them are not developed enough.

Raw Curry Carrot Soup
What you need;
2 cups of peeled and chopped carrots
1 1/2 cups cashew milk
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup of chopped shallot or onion
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp of fresh grated ginger
1/2 tsp of curry powder
salt to taste


Blend it all together in a food processor until smooth and serve!!! This makes a great summer soup but if you want to put it on the stove to warm up a little, I promise I won't tell any rawists I know!!!

Serves two.

Buon appetitio!

P.S Cashew Milk is made by soaking 3/4 cup of raw cashews for 2-4 hours. Drain them and pop them into your blender with 1 1/2 cups of water. Blend until really smooth and then drain it all through a sieve, using a spoon. Vola, cashew milk!!!!