My apartment herb garden has been going strong for over six months now and we have produced more basil than I know what to do with. We usually make a margarita pizza and just sprinkle over the freshly cut basil, but the plant is starting to flower so it was time to cut most of the leaves and make a yummy basil pesto. Oh so classic and so easy. The fresh basil really does make a difference. I don’t think I could go back to pre-made, store-bought pesto again!
I used the same recipe as I have posted on this blog before, but I made double as I had a lot of basil. Again I modified the oil content by adding a tablespoon at a time until I was happy with the consistency. I really enjoyed making and shooting this recipe, sweet and simple. If you didn’t try this last time, I hope this inspires you to this time….and maybe even grow your own basil!
Makes approx. 1 cup (enough for 500g/1lb cooked pasta)
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted at 180 C (350 F) for 10 mins
3 cups fresh basil leaves
4 garlic cloves
100g (3.5oz) grated parmesan cheese
5 tablespoons good quality olive oil
Place pine nuts, basil, garlic and cheese in a food processor and blitz until fully combined and the mixture resembles a paste. Add 1 tablespoon of oil at a time, and pulse for 20 secs until incorporated. Continue to add the oil until all combined. Monitor the oil content of the pesto after each addition to get it how you like it.
Serve immediately with you favourite pasta dish. Also keeps well in the freezer. Empty into an ice cube tray and use as needed.
For those of you who don’t know me well, my favourite cuisine is Asian. I would eat Asian fusion every night if I could and there is no shortage of amazing Asian fusion restaurants in Melbourne. I also have a love affair with soup. One of the first recipe books I owned was the ‘Soup Bible’, so it is no surprise that I get beyond excited when I have a delicious Asian soup put down in front of me. Matt makes the most incredible Hot & Sour Soup, from boiling up the stock himself, with fresh ingredients, lots of sauces and even a fire cracker chilli from our little chilli plant. It is a heavenly aroma that fills the house all day, and then I eat about 4 servings at dinner until I am nearly physically sick! I get him to make double the recipe so we have left overs for days, but we only mange to have left overs for about one day! A serious soup addict.
I have included the stock that we make during the day, but if you don’t have the time then you can use stock cubes or bought stock instead.
This was the first soup pic that I have ever done! I have always been daunted by how to make liquid look good, but this soup is just so photogenic with all the bits and bobs of tofu, shredded chicken, shiitake mushrooms, noodles, egg and green onions. I have also been saving a newspaper that Matt picked up for me on a work trip to Adelaide – City Mag. Such a wicked read, its design is so beautiful that I have stashed some pages to use as backgrounds. A page or two also made it into my Beet Chips post.
1-2 chicken carcasses
1 large carrot
1 celery heart
2 garlic cloves
5-10 whole peppercorns
3 bay leaves
Small handful of fresh thyme (optional)
Large pinch of salt
8 tablespoons rice vinegar (extra to taste)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons sesame oil
4 tablespoons ginger, minced
8 cups chicken stock (from above or a pre-bought one if you’re short on time)
500g (1lb) silken tofu, cut into cubes
1 small can bamboo shoots (230g/ 8oz)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-3 fresh chillies (depending on how hot you want the soup), finely minced
Shredded chicken bits from the stock (from above)
10 shiitake mushrooms, finely sliced
125g (4.4oz) long life noodles (egg noodles or ramen)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 green onions, sliced for garnish
Sriracha sauce to serve
Preheat oven to 210C (410F). Place chicken carcasses onto a roasting pan, and roast until they begin to brown, approx. 15-30 mins. In the meantime, roughly chop the carrot, celery heat and onion. Turn off the oven and let the carcasses sit in the warm oven.
Over medium heat, add a lug of olive oil to a large saucepan and the roughly chopped veggies, garlic and salt. Lightly sauté until they soften up. Add the carcasses to the saucepan and fill with water, about an inch from the rim of the saucepan. Add the peppercorns, bay leaves and fresh thyme. Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer. Simmer for at least 1 hour. From time to time skim any fat and particulates from the surface. The longer you simmer the more flavour will develop.
Remove the carcasses and place them onto a chopping board. Allow to cool. Strain the stock through a fine sieve. Discard the stock ingredients. You should be left over with 5-7 cups of stock. Add enough water to make up to 8 cups.
Once the carcasses has cooled, use your fingers to remove the left over meat. Cut this into small pieces and discard the remainder of the carcass.
In a small bowl, combine vinegar and cornstarch until thick and smooth. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, heat the sesame oil. Add ginger and sauté for 1-2 minutes, but don’t let it brown. Pour in chicken stock and bring to the boil. Add the tofu, bamboo shoots, soy sauce, chillies, chicken bits and mushrooms. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Add cornstarch mixture and stir until slightly thickened.
Taste the soup. If needs more salt, add more soy sauce. If needs more spice, add more chilli or sriracha sauce. If needs more sour, add more rice vinegar. Add each or any of these to taste.
Add the noodles to the soup and allow them to soften. Stir in the lightly beaten eggs just before serving. Serve with sliced green onions and sriracha sauce on the side.
Sunday fun day! My favourite season, Autumn, is peeking its head around the corner and the light is changing. Its calming nature is much nicer than the harsh Australian summer sun, and right now summer fruits are still everywhere. I have been using white peaches in a lot of dishes and this past Sunday I used them to accompany a delightful pancake brekkie.
I managed to master pancakes this past holiday season when I family was down to visit and we bought an awesome new fry pan, so today I thought I would make pikelets instead. For those of you who don’t know what a pikelet is, like my auto correct, it is essentially a mini pancake – 2oz of pancake batter makes a pikelet. This recipe serves two, although Matt ate about 2/3 of the pikelets he loved them that much. The thyme really packs a flavour punch and compliments the peach perfectly. The recipe is a basic pancake batter and can easily doubled or tripled for 4-6.
White Peach, Thyme & Cinnamon Sugar Pikelets
Makes approx 15-17 pikelets, (serves 2)
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup milk
1 white peach, cut into slices
Handful of almond flakes
Handful of thyme sprigs
Cinnamon sugar for dusting
Gold Syrup for drizzling (maple syrup/ molasses)
Butter if you don’t have a non stick pan*
In a large bowl, combine the flour, milk and eggs and whisk until combined and silky. Using a non-stick pan on a low-medium heat, pour batter into the pan in 1/4 cup (2oz, 60ml) batches. (1/4 cup, 2oz, 60ml will make one pikelet. Cook 4-5 pikelets at a time depending on how big your fry pan is). Cook for approx 2 mins until you see bubbles appear on the top side of the pikelet. Carefully flip over each pikelet and cook for around 1-3 minutes until firm and spongy. (I tend to use a low heat so cook them for around 2-3 mins, but if you are using a medium heat around 1 minute will do).
Keep the pikelets warm whilst you cook the rest of the batter.
To serve, place peach slices onto each pikelet, sprinkle with almond flakes and cinnamon sugar and top with a small sprig of thyme (or just the leaves if the stem is too thick and woody). Drizzle with golden syrup and serve.
*Melt a small amount of butter in the pan before you add each batch of batter so the pikelets do not stick.
It’s 2014 and I am totally excited to share a project that I started late last year, my very first e-book – woohoo! It’s a collaboration project with a kick-ass babe, (literally, she is a 2nd Dan Black Belt holder in Taekwondo), named Talia. I met Talz at a leadership course and she would bake cupcakes for us to get through the long days. The girl’s got skills – totally rad icing skills. She loves a classic vanilla buttercream cupcake and practically bakes every weekend for friends events and parties. I’ll often ask what she is up to over the weekend, and her reply is usually, ‘Oh just baking off a half dozen cupcakes for this and that’.
She gets absolute joy from people trying her delicious creations, seeing the satisfaction on their faces and in their smiles. It is such a pleasure for her that her dream is to start up her own cupcake business. She has the passion, the drive, the recipes, the flavours, the flare, but what she is missing is a kitchen she can operate a business from. Requirements of starting up a business where food is involved are pretty strict, as they ought to be, and this is the major hurdle between Talia sharing her creations with the masses of cupcake fans out there.
Talia and I would often have conversations over text messages about how we could get around this hurdle and that’s when we decided to come up with a e-book about her cupcake dream – Talia’s Cupcake Dream. By sharing 5 of Talia’s loved cupcakes, we are spreading the word about Talia’s cupcakes and starting up a ‘Talia’s cupcake fund’. Filled with gorgeous photography from yours truly, ( I am usually more modest ), and Talia’s deliciously wicked cupcakes, half of all the proceeds from the book are going directly into this fund for Talia to overcome this major hurdle and allow her to share her baking dream with the world.
Get your hands on Talia’s Cupcake Dream, help make her dream come true and satisfy your cupcake craving with: caramel beer cupcakes; classic red velvet cupcakes, double chocolate cupcakes and vanilla buttercream cupcakes; and her dreaming in the clouds cupcake – white chocolate and whipped cream.
Whilst we were toying with the idea of a dream cupcake and what would make a good cover photo, Talia made up some cupcakes with whipped cream icing and we loved the idea of having blueberry syrup drizzling down the rustic lumps of cream. Although, it didn’t make it into the book, it is just too good not to share. If you make this cupcake and totally love it, I urge you to get the book; you really are helping to make her dream come true!
Vanilla Cupcakes with Whipped Cream and Blueberry Drizzle
Makes 12 cupcakes
1 ½ cups self-raising flour
125g (4.4oz) unsalted butter, softened and chopped
½ cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
½ cup milk
300ml (10oz) thickened cream
2-3 tablespoons caster sugar
Blueberries (fresh or tinned) and blueberry syrup (from tinned blueberries)
Preheat oven to 180°C (375°F). Line a 12 hole muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
Place butter, caster sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla essence into a mixing bowl, then sift in the flour. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until pale and smooth.
Spoon mixture evenly into the cupcake liners, about 2/3 full. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden and the cupcake is spongy and bounces back when touched. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Once cupcakes are cool and closer to their serving time, place the thickened cream into a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium until the cream begins to thicken. Increase the speed to high and slowly add the caster sugar. Continue to beat on high on combined.
When ready to serve, generously dollop the cream onto the cupcake, dress with some blueberries and drizzle blueberry syrup over the cream.
How is it that it is nearly the end of January already? I just looked at my page and thought, I still have the holiday post up – better do something about that! I have had a little time off lately, and was lucky, [or unlucky as it was in the prime of the heat wave we just had here in Southern Australia], to enjoy the first few opening days of the Australian Open with my dad. We roughed three days in 42+ C heat [ 107 F ] to watch many big names slog it out on court. Very enjoyable and super hot. I didn’t get anything done the remainder of the week, so this week I have made up for that. Putting finishing touches on my first e-book; to come out in the coming weeks; meetings, jobs, interviews and making more backgrounds for photography.
Today I was shooting a concept and wanted to try out my new table and decided to make some simple lemon and blueberries muffins. I made these on a whim and hope that I got all the ingredients and directions right! At the moment I am working on 6 new backgrounds and I am either having great successful or failing miserably. There is lots of DIY info out there, but I can’t find exactly what I want – so I am going through a little trial and error at the moment. As I have had so much fun putting together my first e-book, I am thinking of doing one on the food photography backgrounds I am making. Would anyone be interested in that do you think?
Looks can be deceiving!
I have taken down this recipe as I have had some feedback that these muffins do not taste at all as good as they look. Some of you will know that I often comment on my [hideous] baking skills, and muffins baking skills sure elude me. I never want my readers to make something from this space and be disappointed. I manage to ruin every muffin recipe that I have ever attempted and these turned out better than I have ever made and so I thought I was onto a winner. I guess not. Why do they look so good then? I only used the ingredients that I had posted about, no tricks, but dense, dry muffins do not always translate in a photo. I wanted to thank my reader who contacted me – I always appreciate feedback.
If anyone can point in the direction of a fool-proof muffin recipe I would be forever grateful – baby steps!
Less than a week until Christmas and although there is no rest for the wicked, (and certainly no time off or holiday in sight), I am pumped, so pumped for my family to come and join me for Christmas this coming weekend. I am looking forward to spending some time with my sister well into the new year before she shoots off to Hollywood and I have friends popping down for a visit also in the new year.
I will be working on my e-book throughout the new year and am hoping to launch it in late Jan early Feb. Fingers crossed.
I hope that you all have a wonderful holiday season and spend it with those you love the most.
I know your all wondering, what will I be having as a Christmas feast? Traditional Aussies Christmas, seafood, champagne, summer fruit, my Dad is brining a triple smoked ham and Matt and I are going to make a Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream.
The hope you enjoyed the pics of our baking weekend just gone, we made Czech Christmas cookies and I hope there is actually some left for Christmas Day!
It is officially the holiday season! Our Christmas tree is up, our first Christmas party is tomorrow night, our Christmas cookie baking day is next weekend, and it’s nearly time to take this years Christmas card photo. I am really excited about Christmas this year as I am receiving the best gift of all, spending time with my flesh and blood. My parents and sister are coming down to Melbourne for an extended visit. It’s the simple things about Christmas that mean the most, family, love, Christmas lights, laughter and good food.
We can all sympathise that this time of year is so busy, and any time that I do have has been spent working on two e-book projects that I have on the go at the moment. (There is a lot more work involved in putting one together than I expected! Maybe that is because I am a perfectionist, or just need to face the fact that I am not a graphic designer and get someone to do that bit for me.) So it may seem like it’s a little quiet over here at the moment – so today I thought I would share some little Christmas gifts I am making.
I volunteered at a charity event a few weekends ago and was for a lack of a better word, bartending. I brought home quite a few open red wine bottles thinking, I’ll do something with those. Well, Red Wine Sea Salt it is. It is a no-brainer to make, tastes and looks good and can be given as a gift in a little jar, decorated with some Christmas trimming.
Any red wine will do, and you can use any coarse sea salt. The finer the salt, the richer the colour. I used rock salt as I like the chunky look and the fact that when it is ground to go on top of food, it will become a lighter pink as the colour isn’t as rich in the larger granules. Smaller granules will also dry quicker.
Red Wine Sea Salt
3 cups red wine
1 1/2 cups sea salt (coarse or rock salt)*
In a saucepan over medium to high heat, bring the wine to a boil. Reduce the temperature and simmer until the liquid reduces to 1-2 tablespoons and is thicker and a little syrup like.
For every tablespoon of reduced wine, add 1 – 1 1/2 cups of sea salt. Add one cup first, stir and if the liquid hasn’t absorbed as well as you would like it to, add some more. Stir until completely covered. Lay out on a try overnight to dry.
Store in clean air-tight jars, add your favourite Christmas trimming and give as Christmas gifts.
The finer the salt, the richer the colour. I used rock salt as I like the chunky look and the fact that when it is ground, it will become a lighter pink as the colour isn’t as rich in the larger granules. Smaller granules will also dry quicker. If you only have rock salt or large granules, blitz in a food processor before you add to the red wine.
My table is my canvas and the food my paint!
Hi! My name is Rachel Jane and food photography excites me. This is a space where I share my journey into combining my two loves, food and photography.