Month: January 2014

Goodness, Gracious, Great Balls of Rice? (Daring Kitchen Arancini)

Ever made food where just looking at it made you feel happy?

Spinach and Cheese Arancini
Spinach and Cheese Arancini

That’s how I felt with the December Daring Kitchen Challenge.  Just looking at these golden balls of goodness made me smile.

Yes, I did just say golden balls of goodness, and yes, I did have a little smirk as I did.


I so have the mind of a 12-year-old boy.  And you know what?  This whole post is full of stuff like that.

So, you know, take a moment….watch this clip from a British tv show called, I kid you not,  Golden Balls, which appears to be a game show version of the Prisoner’s dilemma.   (Yay, I knew that Philosophy major would come in handy one day!  Stay tuned, next week…Baking with Nietzsche…)

Anyway, marvel at the British nuttiness of it all and come back ready to talk about arancini….

Golden Balls

Ok, I’m ready.  Arancini.

January’s Daring Cooks’ challenge was a ball! The lovely Manu from Manu’s Menu brought our taste buds to the streets of Sicily and taught us her family tradition of making arancine – filled and fried balls of risotto. Delizioso!

These were super delizioso but believe me, you’re not making them in any sort of hurry.  These babies need some time and devotion to the cause.

First you’ve got to make:

The Risotto

Arancini Ingredients
Arancini Ingredients

I’ll put the full recipe at the end.  but this is actually a great risotto recipe.

What you end up with is this.  How gorgeous is this bright yellow?

This lovely sunshiney yellow is well on its way to becoming my favourite colour. And mmmmm…butter….

Saffron Risotto
Saffron Risotto

Then you lay it into a tray to cool and then you make…

Golden Balls o’ Sunshine…

Saffron Risotto Balls
Saffron Risotto Balls

And you know what?  You could stop right here and crumb these babies and they would be all kinds of delicious.  But in the daring kitchen, we’re turning that flavour experience up to 11.  Yeah.  EL-EV-EN.

Starting With:

The Bechamel

Wow.  has there ever been a bigger moment of cognitive dissonance?

Did you all just fist pump the air Eye of the Tiger style and then do a double take?

Bechamel?  WTF?  BlecHHHHHamel  more like.  Isn’t that the creepy white sauce that tastes like glue?

Bear with me..this one’s good.

You need to make it quite thick.

Bechamel Sauce
Bechamel Sauce

And finally:

The Filling

I chose to do a spinach and mozzarella filling.  The recipe has a meat ragu version and  a cheese version.

I didn’t get  a photo of the sauteed spinach.

But it looked like sauteed spinach.

Trust me.

Filling the Arancini 1
Filling the Arancini 1

You make a hole in the Risotto ball and add the filling ingredients – sauce, cheese, spinach.

And close.

Word to the wise.  Do the sauce first.  I’ll show you what happens in a moment if you try to do the sauce last…

Filling the Arancini 2
Filling the Arancini 2

One of these things does not quite belong…guess which one of these was the one where I put the sauce in last?

Filled Arancini
Filled Arancini

See what I mean about this being a labour of love?

It’s not all over yet folks, now you gotta egg them, crumb them and fry them up.

Bet you’re thinking you can sit down and have a quiet bottle of vino and some valium  now aren’t you?

Not so fast, Speedy.  These are fabulous and you could quite easily eat them as is.  Look at that oozy goodness….

Yep, oozy goodness from my golden balls…don’t roll your eyes…you were warned.

Spinach and Cheese Arancini 3
Spinach and Cheese Arancini 3

But remember when i said we were taking this up to eleven?

For eleven you need my spicy tomato relish (recipe below)

The arancini have a delightful crunch, then the aromatic risotto and the creamy cheesey garlicy goodness of the filling. The relish brings some heat and some tanginess. And that my friends is the five food groups covered.

Plus it has spinach so it’s good for you.

Like I said.  Eleven.

Spinach and Cheese Arancini with Tomato and Date Relish

Arancini recipe:


And just because I love you all, here’s the classic Spinal Tap clip about….


Have a fabulous week,  And what ever you love doing – this week, take it to eleven!

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Watch Me Pull a Magic Cake Out Of My Hat

Magic Cake
Magic Cake

Anyone else out there remember Saturday morning cartoons and the gang from Rocky and Bullwinkle?

One of the running gags was that Bullwinkle was forever trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat…

Rocky & Bullwinkle

And failing miserably…

Rocky & Bullwinkle Magic Trick

Maybe Rocky’s disdain was hardwired into me at an early age as I have never been a fan of magic tricks…although, having just said I really liked the movie The Prestige.  Then again, Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman and David Bowie playing Nikola Tesla?  What’s not to like?

Bowie Tesla
Bowie Tesla

And that dorky kid from Harry Potter growing up to be handsome as hell?

Now that’s the kind of magic I can get behind.

Neville Longbottom

But in general, my David Copperfield tends to be more of the Dickens rather than the disappearing Statue of Liberty variety.

However, recently a thing called the Magic Cake has been  haunting my Pinterest feed and, it had me intrigued.  The blurb promised  that the Magic Cake would “come out of the oven with three distinct layers…a dense layer on bottom, custard-like layer in the middle, and a fluffy cake layer on top”.

WTF?  No…this can’t possibly work.

And yet…

There are photos…

Magic Cake
Magic Cake

And Lemon Delicious Pudding somehow manages to make itself into awesome pudding and sauce…so there is some sort of precedent.

But three layers?

No way.

Mind you, last time I went into a recipe with a “that trick never works” mindset I was proved semi wrong…(see here for my icecream muffins.)

Magic Cake
Magic Cake

Still, it was the so-called beloved’s birthday and…I feel terrible for all you people born in the first week of January because…oh boy…I love to cook, I love to entertain…but by the time his birthday rolls around I’m usually kind of over it.  Not to mention broke.

Which is another reason why the Magic Cake seemed too good to be true.

i thought it may be one of those things where  the magic would only occur if you added the blood of seven virgins harvested  on the 29 of February under a full moon.

Magic Cake Ingredients
Magic Cake Ingredients

But quelle surprise, there was just normal stuff…flour, butter, sugar, eggs…not a drop of virgin’s blood to be found.  Good thing really, I don’t recall seeing a line of it at the local supermarket.  Although I didn’t look too closely at the Heston Blumenthal range.  Funny thing is, it doesn’t even seem too outrageous anymore does it?  Browsing the shelves and seeing Heinz Tomato Ketchup, McIlhenney’s Tabasco Sauce, Blumenthal’s Virgin Blood…

But does it work?


Magic Cake 3
Magic Cake 3

Best answer I can give based on a sample size of one is… kinda, sorta, maybe.

There was a definite top layer but it was more meringue-y than cakey.

There was definitely a custardy middle.  This was delicious by the way, sweet and creamy.

And, you can’t see this in any of the photo’s but there was a thicker layer of…..custardy type  stuff on the bottom. The third layer was definitely discernible to the tooth if not the eye.

Hmm…if you notice, even in the original description the bottom layer is left  bit vague…

To call this a cake is a stretch there was nothing cake-y about it.  The thick later at the bottom was a little rubbery and not altogether pleasant.  It tasted ok, it was just an odd texture which I didn’t really care for.

Magic Cake
Magic CakeS

So, on a scale of magic, how does the Magic Cake rate?

Better than Bullwinkle, nowhere near as good as Neville Longbottom.

Hope your week is magic, whatever you get up to!

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My New Year’s Resolutions

I think we all know that the holidays can be stressful.

Hands up how many of you silently vowed to kill at least one family member over the festive period?.

Yep, nearly everyone…

Now, hands up how many of you gave it a red-hot go.

Just me huh?

Oh,  and the creepy looking guy in the corner.  Dude, you may have issues.  Mine was an accident….

Oysters with Citrus Salsa
Oysters with Citrus Salsa

This is how it happened.

If you ‘ve been reading this for a while you probably know I am a huge fan of Vietnamese food.

Since our first visit there in 2012, the so-called beloved and I have been exploring Melbourne’s Vietnamese restaurants.  We finally settled on a favourite which we have visited  at least once a month since then. The food has always been fabulous, the prices are great, the service is good, and the ambience is of the bustling, cheap and cheerful sort which is actually quite reminiscent of Vietnam. And it was hugely popular with people lining up for tables.

Chicken Salad with Peaches
Chicken Salad with Peaches

And for the last few years I have been trying to get my family to try the food there.

The reasons for the refusals have ranged from the casually racist and formally ludicrous “I don’t want to eat dog” to the slightly more realistic “I don’t want to have my car stolen/be robbed at knifepoint”.  Because this restaurant is not in the most salubrious of areas.  The first time we visited it, walking through the local car park, I nearly stepped on used syringes…twice.  And I don’t think they were due to a meeting of the local diabetic society.

TimTam Cheesecake
TimTam Cheesecake

But there is such a thing as a Christmas miracle and on Boxing Day, maybe they were all still a little drunk, or just hungover and hence in a weakened state, I managed to convince three family members to visit this restaurant.  Yay me.  This was going to be the best meal ever.  And once they tasted it, they too would love this restaurant as much as I did.  And the world would be a better place full of  sunshine, lollipops and rainbows or grilled beef in vine leaves ,claypot rice and pho.

Chistmas Snack Plate
Chistmas Snack Plate

So we went and we had a fabulous meal.  They really liked it.  Even started to make plans for a return visit.

But you know the saying about something being too good to be true?

Thus it was with this.

Christmas Snack Plate 2
Christmas Snack Plate 2

A few days ago my aunt who had eaten with us called my mum.  “That restaurant she took us to?  It’s in the news.  On every channel”.


And not in a good, it’s won some great award way either.

In short. Three people in hospital.  Another 18 ill, all diagnosed with salmonella poisoning.  Restaurant shut down.

Best guess at date of poisoning because apparently salmonella can take a few days to develop – somewhere between 27 and 31 December.  We were there on the 28th so bang in the wheelhouse of potential death.

Salad By Mark
Salad By Mark

And you know what’s even worse than taking your family to the salmonella restaurant?

It’s the knowledge that they will never, ever, ever, let me forget it.  I’m going to be living this one down for the rest of my life!

Chilli Con Carne Meatballs
Chilli Con Carne Meatballs

So my New Year’s Resolution is…no, not to do a better job of it next time I try to kill my family (but thanks for the input creepy guy in the corner).  My resolution is never to recommend another restaurant to anyone ever again.  I’m done with that.

And to find a new best restaurant.

So, what are your New Year’s Resolutions?

And just in case you’re wondering, the photo’s this week were of some of the food I made over the holidays. I didn’t think we really needed pictorial representation of the subject matter.

Have a great week!

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Belle & Sebastian’s Plum & Feta Salad


I can’t believe it is almost time to go back to work.  Where did the summer holidays go?  Actually, the whole of summer was M.I A.  I wore winter boots the other day.  We’re living in crazy times….

Belle & Sebastian Plum & Feta Salad
Belle & Sebastian Plum & Feta Salad

But maybe because the réntrée, as the French would say, is about to commence I have had a particular song stuck in my head for about the last four days now.  Luckily, this was one I could tolerate, unlike the last time which was Rooms Are On Fire by Stevie Nicks.  Can you imagine 6 days of “There is magic all around you, if I do say so myself…”?

Ever wanted to bang your head into a wall just to MAKE IT STOP?  That’s what that week was like.

This time is the fabulous Step Into My Office Baby by Belle and Sebastian. Who I love with an almost unrivalled deep and deadly…They’re clever and funny and named after a French book from the 1960’s. They have great album covers and witty whimsical lyrics…

Belle and Sebastian

Smart, funny, savvy, slightly nostalgic for a past that probably actually existed…If I was a band I’m almost sure I would be  Belle and Sebastian.

Even though this says I am The Beatles.

What Band Are You?

And, as if all of that musical talent wasn’t enough, they’re also creators of a super refreshing salad!

I found this recipe in “Lost in The SuperMarket: An Indie Rock Cookbook “by Kay Bozick Owens and Lynn Owens and have been waiting for plums to come into season ever since.  And those happy days have finally arrived. The shops are full of them.

As a complete digression…they are also full of hot cross buns.  WTF is wrong with people?  It’s JANUARY!!!.  Ok, don’t even get me started…here’s the book….


And here is more of the Belle & Sebastian Plum & Feta Salad!  Tangy from the plums, salty from the feta, sweet from the honey, fresh from the mint….and just look at the fabulous colours…

Belle & Sebastian Plum Salad2
Belle & Sebastian Plum Salad2

I had mine with a very simple grilled salmon steak and it was a match made in heaven!!! The tanginess and saltiness of the salad cut through the richness of the salmon perfectly.

Belle & Sebastian Plum Salad3
Belle & Sebastian Plum Salad3

But I think the Belle and Sebastian Plum and Feta Salad would also go really well with chicken or pork and it would be super wicked amazing with duck….

I’ll give you another B&S anecdote just for free…for YEARS, I thought their gorgeous song Piazza, New York Catcher was called PIzza, New York Catcher….food obsessed or what?

So here are my tips to make the réntrée more bearable:

1. Make this salad….it will cheer you up

2. Listen to some Belle & Sebastian… here’s some I prepared earlier…

  1. The Blues Are Still Blue
  2. Dress Up In You
  3. Piazza, New York Catcher
  4. Step Into My Office, Baby

3. Don’t look up “The Boy With The Arab Strap” at work thinking you will just get the Belle and Seb album cover.  You won’t.  And some of the images you will get will be definitely NSFW. Not to mention unsavoury.

So what song is stuck in your head?

And what band are you?

Have a great week!

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