Monday, July 06, 2015

sunday special - saganaki eggs

I don't know about you but my breakfasts are pretty routine - bircher muesli during the week and porridge during the weekend. I thought it was about time to get out of my breakfast rut and from now on, I've decided to make something a bit special for my Sunday breakfasts. Every now and again I'll be posting one of my Sunday breakfast recipes - my Sunday Special.

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Here's the first Sunday Special, a recipe for tomato baked eggs with feta. The recipe is so close to a saganaki recipe, I've decided to rename the recipe, Saganaki Eggs. So far I've made it twice. 

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I made the first version with some chorizo sausage and a fresh long red chilli but it didn't taste quite right. I remade this during the weekend pinching the saganaki sauce recipe from this Gourmet Traveller recipe, but replacing the wine with some tomato passata. This version is far better.

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The tomato sauce takes about 10 minutes to put together and the eggs need about 10 minutes in the oven so this is a pretty quick dish. I served the eggs with this wholemeal bread but bought some rolls just in case the bread didn't turn out. The bread turned out so the bread rolls are now languishing in Siberia, aka the freezer.

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If you're hungry this will serve 2. If you're not so hungry then this will serve 4 people. Of course you could bake all 4 eggs in a single dish but I made the saganaki eggs in individual ramekins so the cooking time reflects the size of my little dishes.

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Here's the recipe for you. For all my recipes I use 60 g eggs and a 20 ml tablespoon and a 250 ml cup. 

Saganaki Eggs
2 tbs olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 440 g tin cherry tomatoes
¼ tsp dried chillies
125 ml (½ cup) tomato passata (I use Mutti)
3 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
60 gm (2 oz) crumbled Greek feta
4 eggs

To serve: crusty bread, fresh mint leaves, oven roasted cherry tomatoes


Preheat oven to 220ºC/425ºF. Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until starting to soften about 2-3 minutes, then add the tinned cherry tomatoes and their juice and dried chillies and cook until the mixture thickens slightly, a further 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato passata and herbs and cook gently for 5 minutes. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

Spoon the tomato mixture into 4 ramekins or 1 larger dish and then crumble the feta over the top of the tomato mixture. Using a spoon make hollows in the tomato and feta mixture and crack in an egg. Sprinkle the top of the eggs with salt and pepper. Transfer ramekins or the larger dish to the oven and bake until the egg white is cooked but the yolk still a little runny, about 8-10 minutes.

Serve hot with toasted bread then top with some fresh mint leaves and roasted cherry tomatoes.

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Sorry I wasn't able to bring you the Plate 2 Plate column this week but it's going to be delayed for a few weeks. See you later in the week.

Bye for now,


Thursday, July 02, 2015

the fumari inari shrine, southern higashiyama and gion

Do you ever have one of those days when you're travelling when you bite off more than you can chew? Well the day I visited Southern Higashiyama was one of those days.

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I started the day with an early morning trip to the Fumari Inari Shrine with it's thousands of vermilion coloured tori gates.

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Then I decided to go on an ambitious walking tour that tested out my poor feet no end.

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I started the trip at the Kyoto Railway Station which is right next door to the Sky Tower.

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I walked from Kyoto Station to Sanjusangendo but got hideously lost along the way so I started the walk a little later than planned. 

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This is a very popular temple so it was very crowded inside. Unfortunately you're not able to take photos of the golden kannons and even if allowed I couldn't get close enough due to the crowds. Instead here's a photo of the very impressive doors. I bypassed the Kyoto Museum in favour of a visit to Kawai Kanjiro's House, which is tucked away down a little side street.

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Kawai Kanjiro was a famous Japanese potter and his home has been turned into a museum. Visiting the house gave me a chance to look inside a traditional Kyoto house.

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The next part of the walk was hot, dry and dusty and I was starting to regret my choice of walk. I climbed up a steep hill to the Kiyomizu Temple, one of the hectic brightly coloured temples.

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Then I walked back down the hill through the crowded streets of Sannenzaka.

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I was looking for the Kodaiji Temple but couldn't find it, even though I was standing right outside it. That's what happens when you're tired. I walked back to Gion, retraced my steps and ended up right back where I'd started!

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The Kodaiji Temple is famous for it's gardens.

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The temple is set around a lake and it has it's own bamboo grove.

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Once again I'm sure this garden would be spectacular during autumn.

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From there I limped to the Gion district where I found this kitchen shop tucked away in the back streets.

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I also found some goldfish,

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and a much loved and very well fed cat but unfortunately no geisha.

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See you all again next week with the next Plate 2 Plate post. Juliana and I are making a dish I've never heard of, seen or eaten before so that will be something of a challenge.

Bye for now,


Monday, June 29, 2015

moist carrot cake with butterscotch cream cheese icing

Last month's Australian Gourmet Traveller featured a carrot cake on it's front cover. I made the carrot cake last weekend and although it tasted lovely it was very dense and chewy and not quite what I was after.

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It tasted a little too earnest and worthy to me so I decided to revisit my old carrot cake recipe, however making some butterscotch flavoured cream cheese icing to top the cake sounded like a mighty fine idea.

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I baked the cake on Saturday; made the glazed pecans on Saturday night and made the butterscotch icing on Sunday. That gave me time to ice and photograph the cake in time for work on Monday to celebrate some more June birthdays.

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I've made the maple glazed pecans before but last weekend I tried making the glazed carrot slices for the first time. I really like the way the edges of the carrot ruffle when they're cooked turning into carrot flowers. The carrot slices do tend to stick a bit to the baking paper so you need to be careful when removing them from the tray.

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Here's the recipe for you, which makes a 16 cm layer cake. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C. To make a 23 cm layer cake, double all the ingredients and follow the instructions. The baking time will stay the same. 

I had about ½ cup of icing left over so the quantity of cream cheese icing should just about stretch to a 23 cm cake. If you're worried it might be a bit stingy use all the butterscotch mixture and 50% more butter, cream cheese and icing sugar.

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Moist Carrot Cake
170g (1 cup + 2 tbl) self-raising flour
½ tsp each ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg
¼ cup canned, unsweetened, crushed pineapple, lightly drained
½ cup (110g) caster sugar
¼ cup (40g) brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
60g (2 oz) pecan nuts, roughly chopped
2 eggs
cup vegetable oil
1 cup peeled, grated carrot

Butterscotch Cream Cheese Icing (Inspired by this recipe from AGT)
30 g (1 oz) butter
30 g (1 oz) brown sugar
30 mls cream
2 tsp golden syrup
125g (4½ oz) cream cheese, softened at room temperature
60 g (2 oz) unsalted butter
2 cups sifted icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Glazed Pecans and Carrot Slices
½ cup pecan halves/half a carrot, very thinly sliced
¼ cup maple syrup or maple flavoured syrup
Pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 170°C (150°C fan forced). Line base and sides of a 16 cm spring form pan with baking paper.

Sift the flour and spices into a bowl. Mix in the pineapple, sugars, vanilla, nuts, eggs, oil into the flour mixture. Mix together until lightly combined then add the carrot and mix well. The mixture should be quite runny.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake on centre shelf of oven for 60 minutes. If not cooked when tested then cover the cake with a sheet of baking paper and cook for a further 10 minutes or until centre of cake is firm. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan. Allow cake to cool completely before decorating with the butterscotch cream cheese icing, the nuts and carrot slices. You can also top the cake with a handful of coarsely chopped toasted pecans if you don’t feel like making the candied version.

Butterscotch Cream Cheese Icing
First make the butterscotch. Combine the butter, brown sugar, the cream and the golden syrup in a small saucepan. Cook over a low heat until the butter melts and the mixture is smooth. Cook for a minute or two until the mixture thickens then add a pinch of salt and set aside to cool. You’ll need to use 2 tbl of the butterscotch for the icing.

In a small bowl combine the cream cheese, the butter, icing sugar, the vanilla extract and 2 tbl of butterscotch. Beat the mixture until it’s soft and creamy.

Glazed Pecans and Carrot Slices
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F (conventional).
Toss pecans and sliced carrots in maple syrup then spread out in a single layer on a baking paper lined baking tray. Keep the carrots separate from the pecans. Sprinkle the pecans with a few flakes of sea salt. Bake until maple syrup is caramelized and pecans are toasted and carrots have developed a frilled edge, about 10 minutes. Normally I check the carrots after 5 minutes, and then turn them over. Let cool completely on baking sheet before storing the carrot slices and pecans in separate airtight containers.

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This recipe makes a lovely old fashioned moist carrot cake and the addition of butterscotch flavoured icing adds a modern touch to an old classic.

See you later in the week.

Bye for now,


Wednesday, June 24, 2015


When I arrived at my hotel in Kyoto, I was taken to my room by a lovely young lady who suggested a few must see places while I was in Kyoto. She suggested I visit Gion, the Fushimi Inari Shrine and the Bamboo Grove in Arashiyama. As it happened they were all on my list of must-see places. On my second day in Kyoto I decided to visit Arashiyama. It was a bit of a cold, wet day so I briskly walked to the Tenruji Temple

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The temple is set in beautiful gardens. I meant to buy a ticket which included entry into the temple but instead managed to buy a ticket for the garden only. 

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In the end I don’t think it mattered much as the gardens are the most beautiful part of the temple complex.

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The temple overlooks a lake and I imagine the gardens would look spectacular during autumn when the leaves change colour. 

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The temple backs onto the Bamboo Grove so there are plenty of bamboo trees in the garden. 

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You can access the Bamboo Grove directly from the temple grounds. 

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Now in my mind, I was walking through the Grove on my own and enjoying the wind rustling through the leaves. The picture on the right is in fact the reality.

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As you walk along the Grove there’s a sign pointing in the direction of the Okochi Sanso Villa, the former home of a movie actor. 

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The villa, which is not open to the public, is surrounded by gardens.

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The garden is green, lush and very quiet looking out over the hills of Kyoto.

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After the crowds along the Bamboo Grove, I really enjoyed the solitude. As part of the entry fee you’re given Japanese tea and a Japanese sweet. That was my first taste of matcha tea but it wasn't going to be my last as I went to a Japanese tea ceremony later that day. 

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I don’t have any photos of the ceremony at the En Tea House, but I can tell you although I’m not much of a fan of matcha tea (way too bitter for my taste buds) I found the ceremony very graceful and balletic. I bought some matcha tea from Ipoddo and now have a tea scoop and whisk as a memento of my time in Kyoto. I’m sure there will be some matcha flavoured goodies on the blog in the future.

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I walked back to my hotel and passed by this cute little shop. I planned a return visit to buy some goodies but ran out of time. They don't have a website, so I guess I might just have to go back Kyoto.

See you all again next week with some more baking, I think. I just have so many recipes I want to try and not enough time to bake.

Bye for now,


Monday, June 22, 2015

lemon dream cake

It was my birthday a few weeks ago and to celebrate all the June birthdays at work, we had a big morning tea today. I wanted to make something a bit special for the occasion, so I made a Lemon Meringue Cake also known as a Lemon Dream Cake.

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I made this cake a few years using a different recipe and it was a disaster. The cake was really dry and with the meringue layer on the bottom as suggested, the top layer slid off the bottom layer in a slick of lemon curd and cream. I don't like to be defeated so when I saw a picture of this cake by Nadine Ingram in the April issue of Gourmet Traveller I decided to give it another go.

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I downsized the recipe to fit my mini cake tins and changed the recipe just a little to up the lemon quotient. I added some grated lemon rind to the cake mix instead of the vanilla paste and substituted lemon juice for the milk. I used my own recipe for the lemon curd, which I made in the microwave.

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This recipe makes a double layer 16 cm cake. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C. To make a 22 cm layer cake, double all the ingredients and follow the instructions. The baking time will stay the same.

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Lemon Dream Cake, adapted from
this Nadine Ingram recipe

Lemon curd
2 egg yolks
⅓ cup caster sugar
⅓ cup lemon juice
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
60 g (2 oz) softened unsalted butter

125 g (4½ oz) butter, softened
125 g (4½ oz) sugar
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
112 g (4½ oz) self-raising flour
13 g (½ oz) cornflour (cornstarch)
½ tsp baking powder
1 - 2 tbs lemon juice

2 egg whites
150 g (5 oz) caster sugar

To serve
150 ml (⅔ cup) cream
Lemon curd (recipe below or good shop bought)
Icing sugar

Lemon Curd
Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, juice and rind in a heatproof bowl until just combined. Place bowl in the microwave and cook on medium high for 5-6 minutes, whisking every minute, until the temperature of the curd reaches 85ºC/185ºF when tested on a sugar thermometer or thickens to the consistency of whipped cream. If you like you can also cook the curd in a bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Strain the curd through a fine sieve. Add butter to the lemon curd a little at a time, whisking well between additions. Cover the curd with plastic wrap and refrigerate to chill and set (at least 4 hours or overnight).


Line the base and sides of two 16 cm-diameter springform cake tins with baking paper. Preheat oven to 180ºC (conventional) or 160ºC (fan forced).

In a large bowl beat the butter, sugar and lemon rind until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating between additions and scraping down sides of bowl, until all incorporated. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and then add to egg mixture in batches. Add enough lemon juice to make a soft batter, then divide the batter evenly between the prepared tins and set to one side.


In a large bowl whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until the mixture forms soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisking until meringue is glossy. Dot half the meringue evenly over each cake, and swirl the meringue on one cake to make a decorative top layer. Bake both cakes on the middle shelf of the oven until the meringue is slightly golden, about 30 minutes. Rotate the cakes halfway through the cooking time. Test the cake is done by inserting a skewer or cake tester through a crack in the meringue into the layer below. Cool completely in tins (3 hours).

Remove cakes from tins and carefully peel baking paper off. Spread lemon curd evenly over bottom cake (you won't need to use all the curd. I did and there was a bit of a volcanic eruption when I placed the second layer on top), top with whipped cream, then place second cake on top. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

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The cake is pretty delicate as you can see, so if you can I'd assemble the cake just before serving. If you don't want to make a double layer cake I think this would be just as nice made as a single larger cake, perhaps baked in a 9 inch tin, topped with the lemon curd and dollops of cream. You'd need to cook it a little longer though, maybe 45 minutes to 1 hour.

I made this cake on Sunday, stored the cake in the fridge overnight then took the cake into work where it somehow survived the train journey. The cake was surprisingly easy to slice and it was deemed delicious by all. I had a sliver and it was pretty yummy but how can you go wrong when you combine lemon curd with meringue and cream?

See you all bit later in the week.

Bye for now,


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

kyoto - northern higashiyama

Much as I don't enjoy getting sick, it did give me some downtime. I spent my sick days languishing in bed with my laptop working on my photos of Kyoto. Kyoto is such a photogenic place I took loads of photos so narrowing the selection was a bit of a challenge. As there were so many photos, I'll split the images across a number of posts. 

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I spent Day 1 in the Northern Higashiyama area as that was where I was staying. I started the day early and arrived at my first destination, the Nanzen-Ji Temple, before opening hours.

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This is the imposing main gate

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with it's massive doors.

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Nanzen-Ji is a Zen Buddhism temple. A service was taking place which we watched in silence and here are some of the participants leaving. The temple is surrounded by beautiful lush greenery.

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There's an imposing aqueduct on site with some amazing light streaming through the trees.

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I decided it was a vision worthy of a black and white image. From Nanzen-Ji I stumbled around searching for the Path of Philosophy.

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It's a beautiful quiet tree lined walk, home to many cats.

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It's where I found this elderly lady taking a stroll. The Path of Philosophy led me to the Honen-In Temple.

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The Honen-In Temple is another of the lovely quiet contemplative green temples, my favourite kind.

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The beautiful sand sculptures.

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The temple is set in lush greenery which manages to out lush the Nanzen-Ji Temple.

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Time for reflection before returning to the Path of Philosophy for the short walk to the Gingkaku-Ji Temple.

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Now this temple is a very popular one in Kyoto, which means it's also very crowded. I couldn't get a clear shot of the famous sand sculpture so I concentrated on a detail shot instead.

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The Silver Temple is surrounded by beautiful gardens and a lake. I was too late for cherry blossoms but I was right on time for the azaleas.

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Beautiful gardens require maintenance and I found this gardener hard at work.

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Next time I blog about my trip to Kyoto I'll be posting photos from Arashiyama but I'll be back before then with some baking.

See you all again next week. 

Bye for now,