Saturday, January 25, 2020

Weekend Cooking: Pavlova board

January 26 is Australia Day and so we have a long weekend this weekend. What better time to talk about that quintessentially Aussie dessert....pavlova?

This isn't the first time, or even the second time, that pavlova has featured here on the blog. I have posted about it several times before, and it was even mentioned in a fun conversation that I had with Kiwi blogger Maree who used to blog at Just Add Books. This is because there is a very long lasting battle between Australia and New Zealand about who is the rightful claimant of having invented pavlova. Interestingly, in the course of writing this post, I saw an article which suggested that it was neither of us, but rather a US creation, which is shocking and as such I am going to ignore!!

Just before Christmas social media went crazy with the idea of Pavlova Boards. They were everywhere over social media, and so because I am nothing but a follower, I decided to get on the bandwagon! This is despite the fact the whole craze me laugh because we have been doing DIY pavlovas for years. Pavlova/meringue nests on the bench and then make your own fillings with fruit and cream, but what I have never done, because this is not something I ever really think too hard about, is put it on a platter, make it pretty, post it on Insta, serve it up and then let everyone make their own!!  Full credit to Swish Biscuits for seeing that opportunity.

What was also different this time is that I actually made my own meringue nests. I have talked before about the fact that I find even the idea of trying to make meringues intimidating, and this is still the case, but I have gradually been building up to trying them. I've made meringue buttercream icing, meringue kisses, topping for lemon meringue pie (must do that one again) and more so maybe the time was right to give actual pavlova a go!

While I was generally pretty happy with the meringues I made, they were a little on the chewy side and not as crisp as  I would have liked. But the taste....oh my goodness..... so good. So much better than any store bought one. And I say that as someone who doesn't necessarily go out of my way to have meringue because I often find it way too sweet. But the ones that I made delicious!

The recipe I ended up mostly using was from New Idea Food, but I didn't do the pink food colouring thing. I also made the raspberry sauce and the chocolate ganache which were delicious.

Pavlova Grazing Platter


6 egg whites, at room temperature
1 ½ cups caster sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon cornflour
Liquid pink food colouring


3 ½ cups frozen raspberries (350g)
1/3 cup caster sugar


200g block dark cooking chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup pure cream

Trace eight x 7cm circles, about 2cm apart, onto each of two sheets of baking paper. Grease two large oven trays. Place paper, trace-side down, onto prepared trays.

To make mini pavlovas, beat egg whites in a large bowl of an electric mixer until frothy. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition, until sugar is dissolved. Continue to beat for a further 5 to 6 minutes to form a thick and glossy meringue. Beat in vinegar and cornflour.

Dot six to eight drops of colouring randomly over meringue. Gently fold twice only, to create a marbled effect. Spoon meringue evenly into circles on trays. Gently spread to edges. 4 Dot another drop of colouring onto each meringue and use a skewer to swirl through.

Cook in a very slow oven (120C) for about 1 hour, or until pavlovas are dry and firm to touch. Turn off oven. Leave pavlovas to cool in oven with door ajar for 1 hour. Remove.

To make raspberry sauce, combine raspberries and sugar with 1 tablespoon water in a large saucepan. Stir over a low heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to boil. Gently boil for about 5 minutes or until thickened. Remove. Strain through a sieve over a bowl. Discard seeds. (Makes 1 cup.) Cover and refrigerate.

To make chocolate sauce, place chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl. Sit bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until melted. Remove bowl from pan. Cool slightly. (Makes 1 1/3 cups.)

To serve, place whipped cream, passionfruit pulp and sauces in separate serving bowls. Arrange on a serving platter or board with pavlovas, berries and chocolate.

I decided to serve ours with raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries and mango, the sauces plus a store bought salted caramel sauce with squares of chocolate as well. It was a big hit to the point that I was asked to do it again when we went to dinner a couple of weeks ago. That time, I used bought mini meringues and added peaches to the mix, which was nice, but not as nice as the home made pav!

The interesting thing now is that there are a lot of variations on the theme! Recently I saw a suggestion about a baked potato grazing platter, Fries boards (no really - all different shapes of fries with lots of sauces), pancake boards, and a couple of days ago I even saw what was called an Australia Day platter which is all different types of iconic Aussie biscuits,chocolates and lollies on a board.

Turns out you can put anything on a board!

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation: Daisy Jones & the Six to The Scarlet Pimpernel

I have seen people do the Six Degrees of Separation meme for a long time, and I have thought about trying to do it on and off. Ever since I have been trying to blog more this year, I have made the comment on a few posts that I wanted to try it but I wasn't sure if I could, but here I am giving it a go. I actually ended up doing more than one version which I guess means I found it a bit easier than I expected it to be

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid - Our starting point this month but a book that I haven't actually read. I've seen that was a big hit book last year. Maybe I'll get to it one day but also maybe not.

Staying at Daisy's by Jill Mansell - I've gone with an obvious link here with the titular character Daisy. In this book, Daisy runs a country house hotel that is owned by her family.

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach - Originally published as These Foolish Things, the book was re released as a movie tie in. Our main character here, Sonny, is also running his family's hotel.

Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach - By the same author, Tulip Fever tells the story of when the tulip bulb was the most prized asset that you could own during the period of tulip mania in 17th century Netherlands.

The Masque of Black Tulip by Lauren Willig - This book is the second book in the Pink Carnation series. This series features a series of female spies who take crazy risks to foil Napoleon's dastardly plans, which leads me neatly to...

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy - another dashing adventure where the Scarlet Pimpernel, using various disguises, his charm and his wit, save aristocrats who otherwise would have met their ends under the sharp blades of Madame Guillotine.

Turns out that by taking random leaps of association can be quite fun!

Six Degrees of Separation is hosted by Kate from Books Are My Favourite and Best.

Next month's starting book is Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner which is a book I know absolutely nothing about!! Will you be joining in?

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Top 10 Tuesday: 10 Newest Addition to my TBR

This week's Top 10 Tuesday is the 10 newest addition to the TBR pile.

This will pretty much be a reflection on very early morning purchases that are often prompted by receiving the Bookbub email. I did sign up for Bookbub a long time ago, but then I unsubscribed. About a year ago I signed up again and now I find myself adding new books to my Kindle at a rate faster than I can even think about reading them! I'm sure I am not alone in this.

Anyway, here are more last ten additions to the new TBR pile:

Road Trip to Happiness by Maggie Mundy - This is the first example of a Bookbub inspired purchase at 4am. I got this because I like the sound of a road trip across Australia. Come to think of it my current read is a travel book too. Maybe there's a theme developing here.

The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth -I know a lot of  people who love Sally Hepworth's books but I haven't actually read on myself so I thought I would start with this one.

Hello Stranger by Lisa Kleypas -  The next book in the Ravenel series. Also a non Bookbub purchase.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - I mentioned recently that I needed a book to get completely lost in and so I purchased this book. I didn't get as engrossed in it as I hoped, but in the end I enjoyed it a lot.

Gut by Giulia Enders - It turns out that I am not only a sucker for Bookbub deals, I am also partial to an Audible Daily Deal too. Now I am wondering why I bought it. I think I saw someone talk about it somewhere!

Rolling with the Punchlines: A Memoir by Urzila Carlson - I enjoy seeing Urzila Carlson on TV and then last year took the opportunity to see her live show, so I am hoping that this will be an interesting read. She certainly seems to have an interest story to tell.

The Irish Cottage by Juliet Gauvin - Hmmm. I don't even remember buying this one! I'm sure there was a reason.

Beautiful Fragile by Michelle Montebello - Not too long ago I read The Quarantine Station by this author, which was her first foray into Historical Fiction. I really enjoyed it so thought I would read some of her other books.

The House of Brides by Jane Cockram - This is the February book for the online bookclub that I am. In theory that means that I have a few weeks to read it. Hopefully I'll get to it.

The Vineyards of Champagne by Juliet Blackwell - This was a rare purchase for me as I actually preordered it. I have seen this book all over the place and now I am very keen to read it.

Actually it turns out that there aren't as many 4am purchases as I thought. More deliberate conscious decisions than impulses!!

Top 10 Tuesday  is  hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Monday, January 20, 2020

This week....

I'm reading....

Last week I mentioned that I was trying to work out ways to find time to actually read. Turns out one of the easy ways is to forget your phone but still have your Kindle with you so you can read! Also, not sleeping properly helped me make it through Fangirl, which I ended up finishing early on Saturday morning.

The big news this week is that we booked our big holiday for this year. Without giving away too many details because we are still very much in the planning stage, we will be visiting France, which is one of the reasons that I have picked up Sixty Summers by Australian author Amanda Hampson. It looks as though this author has a number of books set in France, so if I enjoy it, I could be set for a while.

To be honest though, it's not like I have a shortage of books set in France. Even after all of these years, France is one of my favourite settings to read about, and to dream of visiting.

At least one of the places I have on our must visit list is somewhere I read about a while ago, but I'll tell more about that when it happens.

I'm watching...

In my quest to find something new to watch we started watching the The Marvellous Mrs Maisel this week. So far, I am enjoying it a lot, and I like that there is more than one season to watch!

I also watched an episode of Outlander this week. I love the books, and I enjoy the TV series, but for some reason I haven't yet watched the fourth season. I know I really need to hurry up because season five is coming up very soon.

We went on date night on Friday night and saw 1917 in Gold Class. I thought it was a very good movie, and can see why it is receiving so many accolades. I also thought the main actor, George Mackay, was excellent. I have seen him before in the movies Sunshine on Leith and Pride which are both good movies!

In life...

I managed to surprise a couple of my staff this week with my ability to talk books at length. Since starting my new job last year I haven't really found my book buddy yet, so it was great to be able to chat!

Apart from booking our trip (did I mention that yet?), the other thing that we are spending a fair amount of time on is preparation for our bathroom renovations which we are planning to start/finish  when we get back home. Right now we are in planning stage so thinking about tiles, fixtures, colours etc. These things are not really my strong points but having said that, everything we have done so far has turned out pretty well.

We did, however, get a bit distracted at one point. We decided we would go and have a look at display homes to see what is current in bathrooms. All was going well until we walked into particular show home and it took our breath away. We literally walked in with no plan to even look at houses with a view to building a house, by the time we walked out we were practically ready to sign the paperwork. We didn't because moving house is not on the agenda for quite some time, and building has never been on the agenda, but we will be potentially thinking about that house for some time to come! It's probably a good idea for us not go to look at that house again!

The other thing I did this weekend was go to a cocktail event called The Wizards Cauldron. The idea is that you solve a series of clues that lead you to the ingredients that enable you to complete a magic potion spell to create a cocktail! It was a bit of fun for a Sunday afternoon!

I've linked this post to It's Monday, what are you reading? as hosted by Book Date

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Weekend cooking: Blancmange

Recently I was reading a historical romance novel by Lisa Kleypas called Devil in Spring where the characters started talking about a dessert called blancmange. Now, this instantly bought me back to home economics classes in high school where we made this dessert. I've never made it or had it since, but I did then.

In the book, our leading lady, Lady Pandora, is a bit unusual for a lady of her day, and she is contemplating all the ways she would need to change in order to be  more ladylike:

What did ladies think about? Things like starting charities and visiting the tenants, and blancmange recipes—yes, ladies were always bringing blancmange to people. What was blancmange, anyway? It had no flavor or color. At best it was only unassertive pudding. Would it still be blancmange if one put some kind of topping on it? Berries or lemon sauce

Now later in the book, Pandora has had a change of heart in relation to this dessert:

Blancmange, incidentally, had turned out to be a revelation. Everything she thought she'd disliked before, its mildness, its whiteness, and lack of texture, turned out to be the best things about it.

In fact, it turns out to become the only thing in her schedule which cannot be interrupted

"Tell him to visit at his convenience," she said. "My schedule is quite flexible, other than my midmorning blancmange, which cannot be interrupted for any reason."

For those who don't know, blancmange is defined on Wikipedia as "sweet dessert commonly made with milk or cream and sugar thickened with gelatin, corn starch or Irish moss[1] (a source of carrageenan), and often flavoured with almonds." The origins of the word are French with blanc meaning white and mange meaning eat.

The first thing that stands out in that definition to me are the words Irish moss and even after reading the definition of that (it's a type of algae), I'm not convinced about it's usage, but apparently it is used as a thickener in desserts around the world. Anyway, I digress.

I did find myself wondering about how it is that blancmange is not ever talked about and yet every smart restaurant has a version of pannacotta on their menu.There is a difference between the two, in that blancmange is generally made using thickeners that need to be cooked and pannacotta generally uses gelatin as the setting agent and isn't cooked.

Maybe it is something to do with the word itself. I say it as bla-monj which in my mind it the kind of sound that it makes as it come out of the mould!

Have you ever tried blancmange? Or flummery? When I was writing this post I kept on coming across references to flummery as well.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Monday, January 13, 2020

This week ...

I'm Reading....

I decided that I wanted to read a book that I could get completed engrossed in. After thinking about some options, I decided that it was high time that I read another Rainbow Rowell book. There is a slight flaw in this plan as I had absolutely no time whatsoever to just sit and read over the weekend but never mind.

I am enjoying Fangirl, even though as an Australian we don't really do the college thing in the same way. It is a little interesting in terms of location though because if my son had of gone back to US college this year he would have been going to a college in Nebraska which is where this book is set.

I have long been a fan of the idea of stories with stories which this book has because Cath, the main character is a massive fan of a series called Simon Snow, even writing fan fiction. I do find it a bit odd that Rainbow Rowell has then gone onto write two Simon Snow books. Will I read them? Most likely. Do I still find it a bit odd? Yes

I also finished reading Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas. This is part of the  Ravenels series. I enjoyed the book, although I though that the subplot at the end came out of left field a bit, but overall another solid read from this author. I did love that we got to see Sebastian and Evie from Devil in Winter (review here). The hero of this book is their son, and so we got to see the family life that they have build together.

I'm watching....

We finished watching The Witcher and also Friday Night Dinners, so now we wait for new series of both of those.

We have also been watching The Good Place over the last couple of years. Now we wait patiently for each new episode, knowing that before long there will be no more because this series is the last.

I guess that means that we need something knew to watch. Any recommendations

I'm doing...

Over the weekend we went to a big outdoor concert and then to the theatre. Very cultural!

Every summer there are a series of big outdoor concerts that take place at various big wineries. There is usually a good mix of international stars and local legends. This weekend we went to see a lineup that included a local band called Magic Dirt, then Birds of Tokyo, Paul Kelly and finishing with Cold Chisel. The last two are Australian legends, and I hadn't seen either of them live before.

I really enjoy Paul Kelly's music because he is a storyteller within his music, which I love. He is a voice for social justice issues, and he was phenomenal on stage. I am definitely keen to go and see him live again

Cold Chisel are an Aussie band who were huge in the 70s and 80s before going their separate ways. I had seen the lead singer, Jimmy Barnes, in concert several times but not the band as a  whole.  They have so  many iconic songs that had the crowd going wild!

A funny story to give you some idea of how entrenched Cold Chisel was back in the day. The first time I went to America was in 1993 and my friend and I were doing a Contiki tour of the south west corner (San Diego, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas etc). The first morning we got on the tour bus, the guide was talking about playing music during the tour. Basically everyone could send their cassette tapes (remember those) or CDs (fancy new technology!) and they would then be played over the course of the week. After everyone had done so, the guide said that she was somewhat puzzled as were the first tour she had done in 8 years where there were Aussies on the bus and no one had bought a Cold Chisel tape!!

The other thing we did this weekend was going to see the theatre of War Horse!  The puppetry was totally mesmerising and there were times that you had to remind yourself that they weren't real horses on stage. The story can't help be somewhat bleak given the subject matter, but there were moments of light relief, mainly from the goose.

I'm glad we went to see it this time it was here!

I've linked this post to It's Monday, what are you reading? as hosted by Book Date

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Weekend Cooking: Obsessed with Bakeitbox

A couple of years ago I started buy Bake It Box which is a monthly box where you get sent instructions, tools (such as disposable baking trays, food colouring and icing tips) and all the dry ingredients in order to make a bake that I would most likely never choose to make by myself.

Every time I complete a bake I put the printed instruction into a display book, and recently, I realised that my book is full! Now that means I get to start a  new book!

This week I thought I would share what I have made since starting on my Bake It Box journey. Just looking through all the photos reminds me of how delicious they all were and that there are several that I am thinking I should make again one day!

Mirror Glaze Heart Cake (Red Velvet Cake with cream cheese frosting and a mirror glaze). I posted about making this cake here.

Pattern Swiss Roll Cake (Sponge with salted caramel cream filling)

Vanilla Custard Cake (posted here)

Marbled Sugar Cookies

Burger Cake

Lemon Meringue Mousse Cake

Elderflower and Lemon Cake

Chocolate Chess Tart

Number Cookie Cake

Spooky Ghost Yoghurt Cake (Yoghurt and Raspberry Cake)

Emoji Cookie Dough Cake

Chocolate Drip Cake

Gingerbread Wreath Cupcakes 

Pull Apart Monkey Bread

Tres Leches Cakes

Heart Pinata Cookies (see the inside of these cookies here)

Coconut and Lime Cake

Black Forest "Choc Bar" Cake

Russian Honey Cake (see the steps involved in making this cake here)

Red Velvet Santa Cupcakes

Admittedly, this is an Australian company, but I am sure there would be similar options elsewhere. I have recommended this to lots of people as something that is really fun to do!

I do still have a few boxes here to make, which doesn't stop me from still anticipating each new box as it is announced!!

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Top 10 Tuesday: Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020

In my quest to find ways to try to get myself into blogging I thought I would participate in this week's Top 10 Tuesday meme as hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. The theme this week is the books you are excited about in the first half of the year. I don't know if I can join in on the topics on a regular basis and I didn't come up with ten books but never mind!!

Here are the top 8 books I'm looking forward to

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel - The third book in the Wolf Hall series about the life of Thomas Cromwell

The Switch by Beth O'Leary - The Flatshare by this author was my sole 5/5 read in 2019 so I am very much looking forward to this book

Hid From Our Eyes by Julia Spencer Fleming - It has been 7 years since the last instalment in the Rev Clare Fergusson/Russ van Alstyne series which is one which I was well and truly invested in back in the day

The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan - The next book in the Cormac Reilly crime series set in Galway

The Queen's Bargain by Anne Bishop - Another long wait for this book, this time 9 years. In fact, I'm not sure that I even thought that there would ever by another book in the Black Jewels series but here it is!

Something to Talk About by Rachael Johns - Australian author Rachael Johns has been one of my go to authors for a few years now, and I'm sure that this book won't disappoint

The Land Beyond the Sea by Sharon Kay Penman - Confession time. I have loved so many SKP books but despite that I am actually quite behind on her books. Doesn't stop me being excited about a new one though!!

The Women's Page by Victoria Purman -I really enjoyed the Land Girls and The Last of the Bonegilla Girls by this author. This time the author is focusing on the lives of women in the immediate aftermath of WWII.

What upcoming releases are you excited about?


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