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Thursday, 12 December 2013

The best man speech

I'm hoping Matt's mate Wal will spin a yarn like this:

But we'll probably end up with this:

(Kidding, Wal's actually got quite the funny bone)

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The first kiss

How I hope we appear for the first kiss (complete with Lindsay Lohan applause and Hilary Duff giggles):

Notebook VMA kiss from Emma Bennetto on Vimeo.

How we'll probably look:

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Dancing at our wedding

How I hope people will dance at our wedding:

How I suspect people will dance at our wedding:

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

A birthday run

Hey dudes. I wrote this a week ago on my birthday and never shared it. Better late than never!

No baking today babes.  Matty's cooking me dinner (a surprise - he's totally keeping me in suspenders right up until the first mouthful). It's my birthday today and I have to say, nothing has changed. I still wake up clapping my hands with glee. I jump around the house squealing, "It's my birthday! It's my birthday!" I may or may not have run into our bedroom after a shower yelling at the top of my lungs "I'M IN MY BIRTHDAY SUIT". Yeah, birthdays never get old in my book.

I have a birthday tradition. Organise the day off work, for starters. Who needs meetings and filling out forms in triplicate (or processing those forms) when you can lay about and do sweet FA? I'll normally saunter down to the local coffee shop for a lingering breakfast and a couple of strong coffees. One may or may not be Irish. Lunch follows along the same line: eating steak frites, drinking red wine, reading foodie magazines until I burst. Wander home past some shops, buy a dress or a top or some jeans. Just because. Dinner is organised by my one and only. Sounds pretty sweet, right?

This year, I veered totally off course. I went to work, for starters. Why on earth would one choose to attend work on their birthday? I'll tell you why: I genuinely like my job. I've got a great team, great manager, hilarious colleagues and fascinating work to do. My everyday tasks wouldn't keep the average Joe entertained for too long, but I've got to say, I've never been this into a job before. Love it.

My breakfast was scrambled eggs on asparagus with a hit of green chilli sauce. I'm a little obsessed with this situation. Green chilli sauce and scrambled eggs has got to be a gift from God, sent to wake me up and fire me into the city with crazy force. Or maybe I just like the vinegary taste.

Before brekky? I chose to lift the covers at 5:50, throw on my sneakers and venture out of the house for a run. I've been getting out there three times a week of late and I have to say, I've never felt better. Running, personal training and cycling has made me feel healthier, stronger and more clear-headed than, well, ever before. And today I left my one mile and one kilometre record lying in the dust. Killed it.

It's taken me 33 ripe old years on this fine planet to finally get to a place where I feel centred, content and totally at ease with what's going on in my life. It's not one single thing either, but a culmination of a few different aspects of my life that just seem to work right now. Matty's a fine, fine man who has given me calmness, laughter and love. I have friends, old and new, who support me in my darkness but honestly, really inspire the light. My family are the only ones that will ever truly understand what it's like in a Bennetto's crazy brain (hint: crazy like a fox. A fox that see the humour in almost every situation, like someone saying "erect" in a business meeting).

The thing is, nothing's really changed. Matt and I have been together near on five years. I've been in similar jobs for that time and my friends have always been the variety that inspires a giggle at the drop of a hat. Maybe I'm just looking at it all differently. Maybe it's the birthday glow. But I think the secret's in the fitness. Getting out and running or lifting weights or pedalling like a trooper in the rain, I just feel strong. There are abs peaking out from under my soft little belly. And I'm determined to keep this shit up. If I can feel like this at every birthday, I don't see why you'd quit.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Roasted chicken breast with corn, potatoes and green garlic sauce

Roasted chicken breast with corn, potatoes and green garlic sauce

My ugliest habit in this world is talking over people. More specifically, finishing sentences for people that are perfectly capable of wrapping it up for themselves.

The worst thing is, 99% of the time I get it totally wrong. Like, radically wrong. "So I went out on the weekend and bumped into my friend from school. She told me she's...." I jump in: "Pregnant and has cancer and is deciding whether to have chemo because it's risky for the baby?" (All my guesses are Steph Scully storylines from Neighbours). "No, she's starting a new job on Monday". Oh. Right. Sorry.

Most people are pretty patient with me in this regard. But to be totally honest, I wouldn't blame them for getting a bit ticked off. I'm displaying total impatience for people just trying to finish their thought, and total arrogance to think I am soooo insightful I can glean every piece of information they were hoping to express from the first three words of a sentence. Like I said, pretty ugly.

My second ugliest habit is being fairly inflexible when it comes to cooking techniques. I remember have a conversation with my buddies Nellie and Nadia. Nell and I were saying we thought chicken thighs were the best eating, but Nadia insisted a quick pan fry and bake for a chicken breast was the bee's knees. "Hurumph! Outrageous! Never!" was my response. (Now I've morphed from Steph Scully into Harold Bishop. And over cuts of chicken.)

Roasted chicken breast with corn, potatoes and green garlic sauce

I now have to eat my words. And my chicken breast. These babies were out of this world. I picked them up at the Coburg Farmers Market one fine Saturday morning from a mob out in Mirboo North (in Gippsland). It was their first pass at the market in Coburg, and I'm pretty glad they took the leap. This was some seriously good chicken - moist and tender, but a beautiful deep chicken flavour that you just cannot get in a supermarket bird.

Right nextdoor to the chicken stall were some fabulous looking veg. One pile caught my eye. Long, grassy, green stems attached to slim white and purple bulbs. I thought I'd seen these on some food blogs from the States. Ramps, maybe? I asked the friendly chap across the table and he advised they are similar to ramps, but really, they're just young garlic. They hadn't formed bulbs yet and were still quite sweet. You could simply chop them raw (but pretty finely) in salads. I chose to roast them instead and make a brilliant green sauce from the full plant. There'd be no smooching in our house that night.

Roasted chicken breast with corn, potatoes and green garlic sauce

I haven't totally overcome my interrupting habit. I'm working on it though. This weekend, I listened to an old man tell a story about his family and it went for at least 5 minutes and I didn't say a word. The intolerance for alternative cooking techniques? Well, today I told Matt he was stirring the pot of bolognaise wrong. Seriously guys. He was stirring. There's not that much that can go wrong. Let's just say I'm a work in progress.


2 chicken breasts
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp duck fat
3 nicola potatoes
3 corn cobs
2 stems of green garlic
1/2 bunch parsley
1/2 bunch coriander
1/2 bunch mint
1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

Roasted chicken breast with corn, potatoes and green garlic sauce

Preheat oven to 200ºC. Scrub and wash potatoes well to remove all dirt on the skins. Chop into even sized pieces, around 2cm square. Add to a roasting pan with the corn cobs and green garlic. Roast for around 45 minutes, or until crispy and golden.

In the meantime, season chicken breasts and rub with a little olive oil. Heat the first quantity of olive oil in a heavy based pan and add the chicken breasts, skin side down. Cook on each side until a deep golden brown in colour. Add to cook for around 10 minutes in the oven, on top of the potatoes and corn. Remove and rest for around 10 minutes in a warm spot.

To make the green garlic sauce, remove the green garlic from the oven around 20 minutes before the potatoes and chop roughly. Add to the food processor with the remaining ingredients and blend until roughly combined and saucey-like.

To serve, remove kernels from the corn cobs and mix with the potatoes. Slice the chicken in 1cm thick slices and fan over the top of the potatoes and corn on a plate. Top with a drizzle of the green garlic sauce.

Roasted chicken breast with corn, potatoes and green garlic sauce

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Batten down the hatches Melbourne

Thai pork salad

It's not spring in Melbourne if you don't spend at least one night awake, willing your roof to stay attached to your house. Monday night was particularly nutso. So nutso our garage door was blown off its hinges. It was just as spectacular as it sounds.

Between giant metal doors flying through the air and the finale of Breaking Bad, it's safe to say I was more than a little rattled. Matty and I attempted to fix the door in the howling wind: he, with hammer in hand, me, with a 50kg door held above my head. Use your core, Bennetto! This is what all those hours of pilates has culminated to! And they say the hundreds are useless.

I climbed under the covers well after my usual bed time and closed my eyes. Do you think I could sleep? No. It really felt like they were filming Twister right outside our window. Sleep was not on the agenda. Kitty clawing my toes didn't help much either.

Thai pork salad

So how does one soothe the soul after a night of such adventure? Probably not by waiting around for a tradie to come and fix said door, but by whipping up a Thai pork salad. That's this weirdo's meaty kinda pacifier.

This salad is a quadruple threat (like if Beyonce could crochet). It's hot, sweet, sour, salty all in one manic mouthful. It's up to your own personal taste to find the balance of those flavours that work for you. I'm big on the salty kick from fish sauce, so I go pretty hard on that. But you might dig the tang a squeeze of lime gives the salad. Whatever floats your long tail boat.

And as always, there's any number of substitutes you could make with this recipe. Snake beans not stocked nearby? Regular old green beans will do. No galangal? Try ginger. Pork can be mixed up with chicken or even sliced beef. In fact, I used the paste the next day with sliced pork cutlet, and I gotta say, it knocked my knee-highs off.

So the wind in Melbourne isn't due to die down any time soon. Expect more broken tree limbs and dilapidated garages in the coming days. And know that somewhere out there in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, there's a terrified young lady fear-gorging on Thai pork salad. It's good for what ails ya.

Thai pork salad


2 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
4cm piece of galangal, chopped roughly
1/2 piece lemongrass, chopped roughly
1 shallot, chopped roughly
1 chilli, chopped roughly
1 green mango, shredded
6 snake beans, cut into 10cm lengths
10 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 spring onion, chopped into 1 cm pieces
1 handful of bean shoots
2 limes
1 1/2 tbsp palm sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp peanut oil
200g minced pork
1/2 bunch thai basil
1/2 bunch coriander

To make paste, pound the lemongrass, galangal, garlic, shallots and chillies in a mortar and pestle. It helps to pound one ingredient at a time, adding the next once they're properly pastey. 

Add the paste to a hot wok with the peanut oil. Stir fry gently for a few minutes, then add the mince. Cook on high until the meat has browned. Add the beans and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Add the palm sugar and fish sauce and remove from heat.

Add the mango, lime juice, bean shoots, herbs and spring onions and serve.

Thai pork salad

Monday, 30 September 2013

Egg flip fantasy

Egg flip fantasy

I've had something of a Pavlov's dog experience with alcohol this year. The last few times I've had a tipple, I've come down with some freaky-deaky illness. 

We're not talking the two day vapors, but 7 days of cold sweats, body aches and weight loss. And not the good kind of weight loss, just pure lean muscle. Thanks illness - so thoughtful!

So you'd understand that since my last bout of craziness, I've laid off the booze completely. Not even a cheeky sip on my own in the dark of night ( or especially?!). It's been so long now I'm starting to get judgemental. I'm just the kinda person to liven up your next party. I'd sit in the corner and sulk, spitting advice at people who don't want or need it. Delightful!

But some things haven't changed in the least. As a part of my egg series recently, I thought I'd whip up an egg flip of fantastic proportions. One to knock Big M off its perch. So calorie-laden it's like we're surgically removing all goodness that ever existed in the egg. And so fiddly you'd almost never choose to make it at home - cos that's the kind of recipe you want to see on a food blog, amirightladies?

How did I know that, deep down, my old-lady-screaming-at-passers-by-surrounded-by-cats-pushing-a-trolley-filled-with-crap alcoholic tendencies still lurked beneath the surface? Because everyone knows a good egg flip has a nip of something strong included. And my pouring arm has not weakened. 

I had a sip of the flip (yep, been trying to work that line into a post for a while now) and it packed serious punch. So much punch my eyes rolled back into my head. I may have started krumping on the spot. But I knew this one had to go down the sink and whip up a new batch. The recipe below is the safe version. Depending on your definition of safe.

Egg flip fantasy


2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup water
1 shot brandy or your poison of choice
1/4 tsp vanilla paste

Mix the sugar and water in a small saucepan and dissolve over low heat. Bring to the boil and heat to the soft ball stage (once a few drops of the syrup are dropped in a glass of cold water, they should form soft balls).

Meanwhile, separate one egg and beat the white in the bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks have formed. Slowly add your sugar syrup and beat until cool.

In a blender, combine the remaining yolk, the extra egg, milk, vanilla and alcohol. Blend for 20 seconds and pour into a glass. Top with your meringue mixture and serve.

Egg flip fantasy

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Parmesan popcorn with bay leaf salt

Parmesan popcorn with bay leaf salt

There is one single taboo topic left in my family's house. Not what happens between the bed covers, not the colour of your skin, not even the miracle of life. Nope. The unspoken topic in our house was internet banking.

My brothers were (and still are) massive computer nerds. Early adopters as far as the internet goes, they were paying their bills online since the dawn of netbank. Dad, on the other hand, believed Al Qaeda ran internet banking, and payments for your monthly gas bill go straight to funding their next 'operation'. I wish I were joking.

There's a fundamental distrust of technology going on there. Heaters don't keep a room warm for as long as open fires and air conditioners cause colds and flus. Microwaves are a whole other story.
I hate to say it, but I have to agree with that last one.

Parmesan popcorn with bay leaf salt

Microwaves give me the heebie-jeebies. I'll reheat a container of soup, but that's about it. When it comes to popcorn, I'm always reaching for the loose kernels rather than the paper bag of microwave corn. Can I actually pop the corn on the stovetop? No siree Bob!

I've burnt the kernels, and soaked them for hours in oil with no result. Every time we went to chow down on a bowl of corn, we came up greasy, smokey disappointments.

Parmesan popcorn with bay leaf salt

A little research and I stumbled on the best method. Heat the oil over a medium heat. Drop in three kernels and wait for them to pop. Whip them out, then throw the remainder in the pop. Cover, then remove from the heat for about 20 seconds to bring them up to temperature. Pop them back on the heat then let them pop their hearts out.

The flavours? Ain't nothing better than cheese on popcorn if you're living on Savoury Street. But plain old cheese doesn't cut the mustard. My buddy JacDav had snaffled me some bay leaves from her tree and dried them especially. Their scent was totally outrageous. Grind those babies up and they add a totally savoury, herby twist to your regular old popcorn. A bit of smokey salt and we were away.

You'll see that I've enjoyed the corn with a little sweet liquid treat. Egg nog. Uh yeah. That was a cracker. But you'll get that recipe soon enough. Focus: today we're creating the popcorn. And you won't even need a microwave. Now those terrorists won't be able to spy on you while you're watching Hilary Duff's latest blockbuster. Or whatever.


1/3 cup popcorn kernels
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
4 bay leaves
1 tsp smoked sea salt
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Cook popcorn on stovetop according to directions above. In a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle, grind the bay leaves with salt until fine. While still warm, add cheese and butter in three batches, stirring week between each addition. Sprinkle over the bay salt and enjoy.

Parmesan popcorn with bay leaf salt

Monday, 23 September 2013

Eclair ecstasy

Eclair ecstasy

I'm really giving my horn a good ol' toot today, aren't I? But I can't take all the credit for these suckers. The grand ol' dame of Australian cookery, Margaret Fulton, is responsible for the choux recipe. And Shannon Bennett, chef from Vue De Monde (do yourself an expensive favour), created the creme patisserie (I've modified it here). Pretty reliable stuff.

I had planned on posting about these a few months ago, but my piping technique was a little, shall we say, phallic. Bulbous on one end and peaked on the other, I had managed to whip up some crisp golden doodles for dessert. Not really suitable for the office.

It reminded me of a time growing up when we were served sausages and mash. As soon as Mum's back was turned, my brothers were plastering their food into an exact replica of David's most valuable assets. Bennetto's are a classy bunch.

On this occasion I managed to make a far less offensive dish. The eclairs are fairly uniform in shape and there'll be no awkwardness polishing them off in front of your colleagues.

The shining star of this is honestly the pastry cream. This is a new level of richness that just won't quit. The vanilla is so pronounced: it doesn't play second fiddle to the chocolate. It's a good idea to fill these as close to serving as possible. Sog reduction is key.

I've probably made about a thousand different chocolate sauces on this blog before, so at the risk of repeating myself, I've linked back to the crazy old baked cheesecake from a few months ago. You won't be sorry.

Eclair ecstasy

So I promise my next post will be far less bawdy. No more references to anatomy, puerile humour or titter-worthy gags. This is a once-off. I don't usually do this.

That's what she said...


1 cup water
125g butter
1 cup flour
4 eggs
1 tsp sugar
1 pinch salt

Preheat oven to 200ºC. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Bring the water and butter to the boil slowly, melting butter. Reduce heat and add flour, stirring until the mixture comes together in a ball. Remove from heat and add the mixture to the bowl of your electric mixer. Mix on high, adding eggs one at a time. Make sure you mix thoroughly to ensure the dough does not split. Add the sugar and salt and mix until incorporated.

Place the dough in a piping bag. Pipe onto a lined baking sheet in 10cm lengths. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 180ºC and bake for a further 10-15 minutes, or until golden.

Eclair ecstasy

Creme patisserie

1 cup milk
1 cup cream
1 tsp vanilla paste
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
4 tbsp cornflour

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, cream and vanilla and bring to the boi slowly. In the meantime, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until pale and fluffy. Add the cornflour and whisk to combine.

Add 1/2 cup of warmed milk to the yolk mixture and stir to combine. Add to the remaining milk in the saucepan and return to a low heat. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens. You may wish to whisk the mix if it thickens to quickly. Once the creme has thickened and just boiled, remove from heat and strain into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and cool in the refrigerator.

To fill the eclairs, fill a piping bag with the creme patisserie. Poke a small hole in the ends of the eclairs and pipe in the creme.

Top with chocolate sauce.

Eclair ecstasy

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Scrambled eggs with asparagus and mandarine juice

Scrambled eggs with asparagus and mandarin juice

Everyone hates a grandstander. You know the guy: arrives 10 minutes late to a meeting, dominates conversation, argues for the sake of arguing and has an opinion on everything. Mostly stuff they have no clue about.

I also like to call them time vampires. They suck the minutes from your day, using 20 words to explain a 5 word concept. I'm guessing their motivation is to hear the dulcet tones of their own voice. Meanwhile, I'm imagining climbing across the table and socking them in the throat just to. make. it. stop.

Before you quickly delete your Pretty Tasty bookmark and back away slowly from your computer, let me explain. My calendar, both personal and private, is pretty chockas. I spend my day running from one meeting room to the next and I naturally develop a little bit of hatred for people that cause me to run late. I do a good enough job of that myself.

So I like my meetings short and sharp. Get to the point, show people the courtesy of assuming they understand ideas without explaining every last point. The only exception to this would be when we're discussing our latest meal. Wax lyrical for hours. Tell me where you bought that hanger steak! You did WHAT with a an artichoke? I can hardly believe the size of that turkey leg! I'm captivated for hours and my responsibilities float away on a cloud made of Persian fairy floss and marshmallow. Rose flavoured.

This happened yesterday. About to launch into a quick meeting and a colleague mentioned her breakfast that morning. Steamed asparagus topped with orange juice and scrambled eggs. I was intrigued: I'm normally not into scrambled eggs. I find them just a bit too much. They're often loaded with butter or cream and the serving sizes just do me in. I'm more of a poached egg lady myself.

Scrambled eggs with asparagus and mandarin juice

But the addition of orange juice? It could be either really great or bin-worthy. A risk I was willing to take, particularly in asparagus season. I'm in, feet first.

I had no oranges in the fruit bowl, so mandarines were a happy substitute. I gotta say, this recipe is now firmly in the regular rotation. The juice is subtle (if you go easy in the first place) and adds a nice background of sweetness to the fluffy eggs. And asparagus? No brainier at this time of year. If you want to up the fatty ante, you could sizzle some strips if streaky bacon. This soon-to-be bride opted out of that situation.

So my thanks to Sue for holding up our meeting describing this dish. It was worth the five minutes of running around and apologising at my next appointment. Though that could have been my incessant grandstanding. I never said I'm perfect.


5 asparagus spears
1 shallot
1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 eggs
juice one small mandarine

Steam asparagus until cooked to your liking. Slice the shallot and saute in olive oil until translucent.

In a small bowl beat eggs until yolk is broken up. Pour into the shallots along with the mandarine juice and stir to ensure they cook evenly. Remove from heat when mostly cooked but still slightly runny. Season well and serve over the steamed asparagus.

Scrambled eggs with asparagus and mandarin juice

Monday, 16 September 2013

Kale, cheddar and streaky bacon omelette

Kale cheddar and streaky bacon omelette

I wish I could come up with a witty story for you this fine day. But I'm flat broke, imagination-wise. Sucked dry, devoid of all frivolity in my fun-tal cortex. "Why?" I hear you ask. All weekend, my wakeup time has been 5.30am and my brain has been slowing going into meltdown.

5.30 is OK when you hit the hay at a reasonable hour. But I try to extend my bedtime a little later to trick my body into waking slightly later. But alas, my brain is clinging to a time before sunrise. I don't even have to look at my clock now - I know it's stupid o'clock when my eyes open.

Kale cheddar and streaky bacon omelette

So I've been rolling out of bed at this crazy time and hitting the road for a run. Either that or squatting up a storm with some kettle bell swings. Did I ever tell you about my experience in Rebel Sport? I was new to this whole fitness caper and was in search of some equipment. "Do you have kettle balls?" I asked the young salesperson. He quite rightly looked at me like I'd said something reasonably obscene. "Aaahhhhh, over on the far wall you'll find the kettle bells I think you're after." I slunk off and refused to make eye contact with anyone else in the store.

After I've returned from sweating it up, sleepy-style, I've normally got a crazy hunger on. Given my wake time is so early, I've got a bit of time to whip up a cooked breakfast and take the time to enjoy it over a short black. Omelette is my go-to breakfast. Up with protein! Down with carbs! Well, at breakfast time, anyway.

Kale cheddar and streaky bacon omelette

Kale cheddar and streaky bacon omelette

This is a little more indulgent than I'd have on a weekday. I'm a egg-white kinda gal, and don't usually include the cheddar. But now that I have partaken in this delight, it'll be hard to go back to a leaner, meaner version of this dish. There's the salt from the cheese, the sharp bite of the kale and richness the eggs deliver. Smoky salt seals the deal.

So I'm done for today. It's hay time and I've barely lifte a finger. That's a lie. I made an omelette. Time to take a well-earned nap. Toodle-pip!

Kale cheddar and streaky bacon omelette


2 eggs
2 tbsp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup finely sliced kale
2 rashers streaky bacon, thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
smoked salt flakes

In a stainless steel pan, heat half the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the bacon for 2 minutes, then add the kale. Cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring regularly until the kale is wilted and slightly crispy. Keep warm on a plate

Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk until combined. Heat the remaining olive oil in the pan and add the eggs. Cook over medium heat until the eggs are set. Sprinkle over the cheese and some cracked black pepper. Over one half, add the kale and bacon, as well as a sprinkle of salt. Carefully loosen the egg from the pan and fold the bare half over to cover the kale. Slide carefully onto your plate and enjoy!

Kale cheddar and streaky bacon omelette

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Baked eggs with pumpkin, cauliflower and kale

Baked eggs with pumpkin, cauliflower and kale

My Saturday morning normally starts something like this: I wake up at 6am to Kitty mewing at the window. I’ll stumble out of bed, panda-eyed and stinky-breathed, let her in and climb back under the covers to return to a peaceful slumber. That slumber never eventuates because I’m too busy deciding which café to visit for breakfast.

Matty’s Saturday morning? Sleep. When it’s a reasonable time to wake up, sleep some more. Ignore your girlfriend’s subtle elbows in the side. Instead, continue sleeping your mouth open and breathe all over her face until she’s forced to roll over. Once it hits 12pm, start reading the news online in bed. Reject any suggestions for breakfast at a local café.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Broad bean risotto with asparagus and egg


After a week and a half of a funky tummy, I'd had a gutful of potatoes and rice. Pun intended. A limited diet couldn't have happened to a worse person. The first meal back was a big deal: ideally it would consist of some kind of trough arrangement with different kinds of pastas, roast meats and dumplings all ready to be gorged upon. Shit was about to get real.

In the end the pressure was too much. Anything with chilli, dairy or caffeine and I'd be back in Toilet Town. And I couldn't play favourites with my roasts, so I decided to keep it simple. A poached egg on toast. A better choice couldn't have been made. The yolk was runny, the white just set. A sprinkle of sea salt and a grinding of pepper was all that little beauty needed.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Spring has sprung!


But only just. We're two days into spring and Melburnians are already getting a mean sunburn. Sunday topped 25ºC here and by Wednesday we're heading for 26. If you think I'm a little obsessed with the weather, you'd be wrong. Not just a little. It's the first thing I check in the morning, and the last site I read before bed. I've been watching the days grow longer by minutes, day after excruciating day.

With spring, our world has turned technicolour. I've been craving shades other than dull oranges and browns for months and all of a sudden, they've hit. Pinks, greens, yellows, reds and purples have all popped out of nowhere and taken over our garden. I picked up some bulbs from Tesselaar online and threw them in the ground a few months ago. They were late in, but still managed to liven up the place when spring hit.


My intention with gardening is always to plant one or two shrubs and walk away. The trouble is, I see the colour and start scheming my next steps: colours that compliment or shapes to fill in the gaps. My 'easy-to-maintain' garden has just become bigger than Ben Hur.

I've popped in some jonquils, a couple of types of daffodils, snapdragons, tulips, cornflowers and others. When I say "and others" I mean they looked pretty on the website and I paid good money for them and now cannot, for the life of me, remember their names or how to care for them. I figure all plants like a good soak of seaweed and fish solution every so often, right? (Please tell me I'm right.)

Pink flowers

So while I've been unable to cook anything other than rice over the last week (yes, for realsies, this stomach bug is still kicking my butt, both literally and figuratively, 7 days later) my new focus has been my garden. I can potter for 10 minutes or so before I need to retire to the couch to watch an episode of Ellen that's at least 12 months old. Or watch the back of my eyelids. Or, in my cases, both.

I'm figuring over the next week I'll focus on things other than food. You don't need a recipe for baked potatoes and it'll force me to broaden my creative horizons. Let's fancy up this one trick pony.

Front garden

Friday, 30 August 2013


Sorry for the absence dudes. We travelled to Fiji for a friend's wedding last weekend. It was everything I expected and more: gorgeous beaches, piles of seafood as high as your navel, mango tangos out to yin yang. What I wasn't expecting? Picking up a nasty stomach bug somewhere in Nadi airport on my way back home.

It's nearly a week later and my stomach's still making noises like Predator is lurking somewhere in my lower intestine. I've had a week off work right smack bang in the middle of a huge project. Great timing, belly!

So my silence over the interwaves has been due in part to illness and also because I'm limited to ONLY EATING WHITE FOOD. Kill me now. This couldn't have happened to a more inappropriate person.

For the last few days, I've eaten four things: white rice, potatoes, steamed chicken and the occasional banana. No oil, butter, sugar, vegetables, fruit, grains or, more importantly, bacon. For the love of god, not the bacon!

On a side note, Matt's been spending a lot of time out of the house of late. It might have something to do with my behaviour over dinner last night. We were sitting down to baked potatoes, mine topped with rice and chicken. His? Coleslaw, spicy pancetta, mayo, beans and parsley. As he started tucking in, I leaned and whispered, "Can I watch?" He didn't seem to like that.

So that might explain the situation over here at Casa Del Toilet. No recipes because there's only so many versions of plain rice you can cook. Boiled or absorption method? Oh my! The options are limitless!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Vanilla cupcakes with mandarine curd and vanilla buttercream

Vanilla cupcakes with mandarine curd and vanilla buttercream

My phone's been ringing off the hook this week. Every meeting I have, it rattles away, practically screaming to my colleagues "Meeting's over! Emma's got shit to do!" Emails, text messages and calls non-stop. It's a pity 90% of them weren't for me.

Some dude called Moses has been handing out my number to his pals at Uni. "Hey Moses, do you have notes from class today?" Or "Moses, it's Gary from bible studies. Do you want to get lunch sometime?" Fighting my every urge to mess with these innocent souls, I politely asked them to let Moses know he had the wrong number. Thou shalt not annoy Emma with your boring messages, bitches.

So on the surface, it would appear that this week, I've been quite the popular lady. While most of my messages weren't strictly intended for me, I did do something that would increase my popularity in the office. I've baked on more than one occasion and each time, the treat has been well received. Funny that: people go nutso over baked goods.

We had the chocolate and salted caramel cupcakes Monday, and to add insult the buttery injury, I whipped up these babies on the same day. I figure if I'm going to get the team to indulge, we may as well go the full banana/mandarine.

Vanilla cupcakes with mandarine curd and vanilla buttercream

Vanilla cupcakes with mandarine curd and vanilla buttercream

You'll notice these two recipes go a little further than your average cupcake. Anyone can whip up a batter and flavour some icing. We all know how to ram a tiny teddy or a jaffa on top. But sometimes it's nice to have a new trick up your floury sleeve to impress your pals. Like a citrus curd. Oh yeah.

You've had lemon curd right? Smothered on a scone or some plain old white bread. Pretty sweet and tart and we all know how I love a sweet tart, amiright fellas? Mix it up with mandarine instead of lemon and you're onto a winner.

Mandarine is not quite as tart as lemon, so a single raspberry on top upped those stakes to an appropriate level. Topped off with a rich, buttery icing and this cupcake was a refreshing (albeit indulgent) treat for all to enjoy. Well, the 12 lucky sods who got in first.

Vanilla cupcakes with mandarine curd and vanilla buttercream


1 1/3 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
110g butter
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Line a baking tray with cupcake wrappers.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. With the mixer going, add the sugar one tablespoon at a time until it is all incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly between additions.

Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add half to the butter and mix on low until just incorporated. Add some milk and vanilla, then the remaining flour and finally the last of the milk, mixing between each addition.

Spoon the batter into the cake wrappers until around 3/4 full. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until a skewer leaves the cake clean. Leave to cool on the tray until ready for assembly.

Vanilla cupcakes with mandarine curd and vanilla buttercream

Vanilla buttercream

110g butter
3 1/2 cups pure icing sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla paste

In an electric mixer, cream butter for around 5 minutes until light and creamy. Add half of the sifted icing sugar and the milk and beat for a further 3 minutes or until all the lumps have disappeared. Add the remaining icing sugar and beat for 2 minutes, whisking in the vanilla in the last stages.

Mandarine curd

2 egg yolks
30g butter
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 tbsp mandarine peel, finely grated
50ml mandarine juice

Whisk together the yolks and sugar until combined. Pour into a saucepan along with the butter, peel and juice. Over low heat, stir continuously until the curd has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and strain into a bowl. Chill until ready to use.

To assemble

Using a melon baller, scoop a hole out of the top of the cupcake. Fill the cupcake hole with the mandarine curd. Fill a piping bag with the vanilla buttercream and pipe on top of the cupcake. Top with a raspberry and serve.

Vanilla cupcakes with mandarine curd and vanilla buttercream

Monday, 19 August 2013

Chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel centres and peanut praline

Chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel centres and peanut praline

Life is one big test. A test I've been getting straight 50s on for most of my life. That's not a cue for the violins. At least I've been passing (though, had I lived in the States, I may not have been so lucky. Isn't a 60 a pass mark there? That's about as much as I learnt from Beverley Hills 90210. Morale lessons be damned).

I do alright, don't get me wrong. Job, boyf, buddies and fam are all A-OK. But I've never really looked after myself. I cook the heck out of a cupcake and for a good while, ate the heck out of them as well. I'm trying to lift my pass mark to a credit. So life's big test at the moment is trying to stay away from baked goods. That's a test pretty much destined for failure in my kitchen.

It's RSPCA Cupcake Day today. I promised to bring a dozen of my oven's finest to work. I baked cupcakes, stirred salted caramel, beat together some buttercream and dissolved sugar for a praline I'm pretty sure you'd sell your grandmother for. And I didn't eat one. single. crumb. High fives for my inner fat kid.

Chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel centres and peanut praline

When you're trying to look after your health in this way, you expect a few challenges here and there. What you don't expect is your partner to wave it in front of your face. In the last two days he's eaten a bag of Clinkers, two Eskimo Pies (the remaining four are in the freezer practically wailing at me to be eaten) and a milkshake.

When we were driving home from a night out (I was that fun one abstaining from booze) Matt's eyes lit up at the sign of the Colonel in the distance. "KFC", he started whispering. "Let's stop for KFC", he said breathlessly. These were my kind of sweet nothings. He knows that salty, oily business is my achilles heel. "No", I said firmly, speeding up past the beady-eyed saboteur. I looked at Matty's face in the dark and he's got that evil grin on his face. He's not only willing me to fail, but having fun doing it.

For all the crap I'm missing out on, I actually feel a thousand times better than I have before. I'm exercising most days and it's beginning to feel like I'm not being punished for crimes committed in past life. Better than that, I'm actually enjoying it. Don't you just want to vomit? And just the other day, I saw a pile of chips in the bottom of the pantry (another of Matty's cruel traps, I presume), and didn't even consider cracking open a packet.

Chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel centres and peanut praline

So the cupcakes will be taken to work without so much of a taste test to verify their deliciousness. But look, I've made the cupcakes, the caramel and the buttercream before. The praline's new, but really, how can you stuff up praline? (When you crystallise your sugar three times, pretty easily).

The thing I'm looking forward to most? Seeing the salted caramel ooze from the chocolatey crumb - a pleasant surprise for even the most hardened cupcake connoisseur. I'll just have to live vicariously through their joy, smug in my little land of whole foods.


1 1/3 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
110g butter
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp cocoa
50g chocolate

Chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel centres and peanut praline

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Line a baking tray with cupcake wrappers.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. With the mixer going, add the sugar one tablespoon at a time until it is all incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly between additions.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and the cocoa. Add half to the butter and mix on low until just incorporated. Add some milk and vanilla, then the remaining flour and finally the last of the milk, mixing between each addition. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for 1 minute and add to the cake batter.

Spoon the batter into the cake wrappers until around 3/4 full. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until a skewer leaves the cake clean. Leave to cool on the tray until ready for assembly.

Chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel centres and peanut praline

Salted caramel

200ml thickened cream
120g caster sugar
75g liquid glucose
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
50g butter
3g gelatine soaked in 2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat a heavy based frypan over medium-high heat. Bring the glucose, vanilla and cream to the simmer together in a small saucepan. In the heated frypan, sprinkle over the sugar and allow to melt, stirring occasionally to stop it from burning. Once all the sugar has dissolved and the cream is simmering, add the cream to the sugar. Whisk quickly to mix thoroughly - be very careful as the mixture will spit. Cube the butter and add to the caramel, followed by the gelatine, whisking continuously. Remove from heat, add the salt, strain and cool.

Chocolate buttercream

110g butter
3 1/2 cups pure icing sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp cocoa
50g chocolate

In an electric mixer, cream butter for around 5 minutes until light and creamy. Add half of the sifted icing sugar, cocoa and the milk and beat for a further 3 minutes or until all the lumps have disappeared. Add the remaining icing sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Melt the chocolate in the microwave and add to the mixture, mixing thoroughly to incorporate all the chocolate.

Peanut praline

120g caster sugar
70g water
50g salted peanuts

Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan over low heat. Stir continuously until the sugar melts completely. Bring to the boil and stop stirring. Once the sugar colours to a golden brown, remove from heat and pour over the peanuts. Once the praline has cooled enough to handle, stretch the toffee into long strands with a couple of peanuts at the base.

To assemble

Using a melon baller, scoop a hole out of the top of the cupcake. Fill the cupcake hole with the caramel and top with a tiny sprinkle of salt. Fill a piping bag with the chocolate buttercream and pipe on top of the cupcake. Top with a strand of peanut praline and serve.

Chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel centres and peanut praline

Friday, 16 August 2013

Baked cheesecake with chocolate sauce and poached pear

Baked cheesecake with chocolate sauce and poached pear

We lived across the road from a lake in our early childhood. Any opportunity and we were in the water, flicking mud in each other's eyes and painting "dork" on our sister's back in sunscreen. OK, so maybe that was Police Academy, but we did spend far too long in that lake.

Mum spent a lot of her time bribing us to get our homework done or keep up with our chores. Ha! Chores! I make it sound like we were four little chimney-sweeps, toiling away in the hot Mallee sun with cardboard sandals and newspaper for bedsheets. Really all we had to do was pick up our clothes and do the dishes every so often. Do you think we could wrap our feeble brains around that?

So the bribes that worked in our house were pretty simple: television, food or the lake. No swims until all homework was done. That way if Mark was faffing about with his Matchbox cars, he knew he'd cop it from the rest of us for lake-blocking (a more age-appropriate and less sexy version of cock-blocking). No dessert until your dinner plate was clean, which instilled a healthy appetite (read: crazy overeating) from that point on. And of course, no telly until the dishes are done. Pretty effective, that one.

Baked cheesecake with chocolate sauce and poached pear

Baked cheesecake with chocolate sauce and poached pear

So I've pulled a few tricks from the Pauline Bennetto Playbook of Discipline and Motivation. I knew we had a big couple of days at work and needed something to get the team going, and reward them for their hard work. The team nominated cheesecake as their motivator of choice. Bless their cotton socks.

I raced home Wednesday night and whipped up this treat for the guys. It took most of the night but wasn't really too much of an effort. All the effort was expended getting it to work. First up it was hanging in a plastic bag from my handlebars. It sailed through the air and was kicked a few times by my nobbly knees. I ended up balancing it on top of my basket around 6km to work before disaster struck.

I told the story to my colleagues: "Gee, I feel like I've lost loads of weight, I can feel the road beneath my seat." I look down and realise my back tire is flat. Still plenty of padding on my backside, though.

Once I served up the cheesecake, I made the demand. No cake until at least one piece of work was completed by each person. I can't say I was disappointed when they each chose the simplest pieces of work and knocked them over in 5 minutes. Very Bennetto-esque indeed.

Baked cheesecake with chocolate sauce and poached pear


200g butter
100g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp cream
250g flour

500g cream cheese
200g sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
3 eggs
juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
400g sour cream

1 green pear
1 stick cinnamon
2 star anise
1 cup sugar
2 cups water

1 cup chocolate pieces
1/2 cup cream
2 tbsp glucose
2 tbsp caster sugar

To make the pastry base, preheat the oven to 180ºC. Place the butter and sugar into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined well and add the egg yolk and cream. Mix until the yolk is incorporated and add the flour. Pulse briefly until just combined. Turn out onto a floured bench. Knead briefly to bring together. Roll until around 4mm thick. Cut around the base of a springform pan and roll across. Bake for around 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

To make the cheese filling, reduce the heat in the oven to 170ºC. Mix the cream cheese and sugar on high until light and creamy. Add the cornflour and mix again until combined. Add the eggs one at a time until each is incorporated well. Add the lemon juice and vanilla and mix briefly. Add the sour cream and whip until combined. Pour into the springform pan on top of the pastry base and bake for around 1 hour or until just wobbly in the centre. Turn off oven and leave for around 30 minutes.

To poach the pear, combine the cinnamon, sugar, water and star anise in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the pear and cover with lid. Poach for around 20 minutes or until pear is cooked through.

To make the chocolate sauce, combine all the remaining ingredients in a saucepan. Cook over a low heat, stirring regularly. Sauce is complete when chocolate has just melted.

To serve, remove the cheesecake from the springform pan. Top with lukewarm chocolate sauce and sliver of poached pear.

Baked cheesecake with chocolate sauce and poached pear