Friday, 15 July 2016

Bohemian ( Boho ) Themed Party

This is a gorgeous theme for any young lady.  This was for my daughter's 21st, yet the gorgeous theme would suit any girls birthday. Even the boys loved it as they dressed very casual and they enjoyed the huge amounts of delicious food.  All food was homemade and a complete listing is below.  All recipes can be found on this blog.

We went overboard with flowers (fake), candles (used a lot of "flickering" fake candles to eliminate the danger of fire), made dreamcatchers, used jars and vases, birdcages and lanterns, covered all our cushions with gorgeous boho inspired fabrics and borrowed lots and lots of ottomans, floor cushions and pretty cloths.  All the serving dishes were pretty trays and wooden serving boards.  The dinner plates were bamboo platters (from the party shop), with the spoons/forks/knives displayed in mini metal buckets.  The drinks station had four large drink dispensers and an antique french wire planter filled with ice and cold "buddy" bottles of coke, some beers for the big people.  The drink dispensers (four of them) we had mango iced tea, fruit punch, mohito punch (alcoholic) and ruby red punch (alcoholic).    All details described below in better detail:


 We covered our back patio with our huge silver camping tarps to create an extra room.  We hired a space heater to keep it warm (winter in Australia).  We strung fairy lights from the beams and set up the drinks station.  We hung garlands of balloons (700 balloons altogether) created from mini balloons tied to lengths of string with hanging flowers at the tie points.  Comfy seating, rustic scarves, lanterns and flowers all added to the style of the patio room.  Hubby even painted the floor with fresh outdoor paving paint to tidy it up.
 Interior decorations were soooo much fun to create.  The great thing about this theme is you can use all the stuff you already have!  On the wall we had this gorgeous beach rug as our "photo" area backdrop.  On all our furnishings we added boho styled fabric runners, trays, flowers, candles, fake peaches, birds, reindeer.  We used fur throws, rugs and pillows.  This is our Mr 7 dressed in his Boho style.
 The main party room we hung a wire ring from our light fitting and sewed fabric to it.  The fabric we bought very cheaply at a wholesale shop (30 metres of it!) .  The fabric draped from the wire ring to the wall where we attached it with extra strong large 3M hooks with rods of dowel.  Then hanging fake flowers were added to the centre, simply by bending them and hanging on to the wire ring.
 Every doorway had balloon swags with hanging flowers.  This is the entrance from our hallway.  Out the front of the house we had strings of fairy lights from the house to the tree near our letterbox and white balloon swags across the front of the house.
 As guests entered we had this first display (made about 6 displays like this and then 15 mini flower vases).  This consisted of an old birdcage that I found on the side of the road.  A large candle, fake flowers and fake peaches and two mini white porcelein birds I was given as a gift that light up.  The runner is a mini rug from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.  Above the display you can just see we had mini picture frames either side of the door - these usually have paintings the kids have done for me in them, but I simply printed off some Boho reindeer and slipped them into the frames.

In the photo above our daughter is helping hang the balloon swags.  It took us about three weeks to set up everything.  A lot of the food was prepared early and frozen.

Here is a closer view of the ring with the fabric and flowers.  It was really quite simple but looked awesome.

Although the pic below shows all the food - which we'll get to in a minute... it also shows the dream catchers we made.  We had three hanging in this area and some outside in the patio room.  We made them by pressing black doily style placements into embroidery hoops, painting the hoops black to match and then adding wool and lace strips and beads to the bottom.  The runner under the food is a scarf my daughter brought back from India.
 We made her a "21" from thick foam board (available from craft shops) carved into the numbers and used a hot glue gun to stick all the flowers on.  This was fun to do together.  We glue gunned little stands to the back with the extra foam so the numbers would stand up. 
 I love this photo as you can get a feel of the room as it was when finished. 

We used fake candles (battery operated) for safety and meant we didn't have to worry about them all night.  We used as much as we had in our home.  We borrowed trays and serving platters from friends.  I found a gorgeous white reindeer head at a bargain shop and we glue gunned fake flowers around the antlers.


This was the biggest challenge as we wanted to cater for at least 50+ people.  I wanted all the food to look amazing and taste amazing.  I was also doing the cake myself.  All recipes can be found on this blog.
On the wall near the food I printed off this border - hot glued some flowers to the edge and printed off menu selections for gluten free and vegan choices at the party.
 The cake had six layers in three tiers.  It was a caramel mud cake with an Italian meringue buttercream frosting.  The top tier was gluten free.  The decorations are fake flowers.  I made the cake layers in the fortnight before the party and froze them wrapped well.  I defrosted them and iced the day before the party. I used's caramel mud cake recipe and it was delicious... .   The frosting is so much nicer than regular buttercream, much less oily and very easy to work with.   The challenge was decorating - I just watched a LOT of online tutorials and managed quite well.  as you can see the cake is on a mini tray that just fits the bottom cake layer, this was easy to then turn the cake as I smoothed the buttercream to the right thickness on the sides.  The top layer, gluten free I used the same recipe, just substituted with gluten free ingredients.

 This cheese platter we were so proud of, it turned out amazing and yum, was delicious.  We had several home made dips - hommus, beetroot dip and avocado dip (all recipes on blog).  Nuts, meats, cheeses, crackers, homemade green triangle dippers (recipe on blog), fruits etc.  yum.

 Mini lemon tarts - gluten free.
 home made macarons, vegan blueberry cheesecakes and mini chocolate mousse (from a supermarket packet mix shhhh)
 I also had some store bought pastries (ricotta and spinach triangles and spring rolls) and did a simple pasta bake.  Hot food was a Philippino pancit, roasted veg curry, beef rendang curry and honey and soy chicken wings.

 The dessert bar was awesome - made cake pops - you can freeze these!

Gluten Free Mini Lemon Tarts

My Nana used to make the most amazing lemon butter (lemon curd) - it was super yellow from her own little chickens eggs and it was lemon heaven on soft fresh white bread.  As we have some gluten free family members I adjusted my pastry recipe to a gluten free pastry (best eaten on day of baking but yes, can be frozen!) and added my conversion of Nana's lemon butter to make a lemon custard.  These are so good, a little sprinkle of icing sugar, a little dollop of thick cream - yum, impossible to stop at one.  Make them as one big tart or mini tarts as described below.    This pastry is also PERFECT for apple pies, apple roses and if eliminating the sugar - quiche and savoury pies.

Mini Lemon Tarts - Pastry

2 cups gluten free plain flour (or use regular plain / all purpose flour if you don't need gluten free)
3 tablespoons caster (superfine sugar)
150g (5 oz) cold butter, chopped
2-3 tablespoons iced water

  • Using a food processor, process the flour, sugar and butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  • With the processor still running, slowly add enough water till the dough forms into a ball.
  • Knead lightly and wrap in plastic wrap in fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Roll out the pastry between sheets of baking paper and line your pie tin or a cupcake pan with pastry (about 2-3mm thick).
  • Pop in a 180oC oven (350oF) for about 10 minutes or till pastry is just lightly golden.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool.
hint:  I cut my mini tarts by pressing a small bowl on the rolled pastry to create the perfect circle...

Mini Lemon Tarts - Filling

3/4 cup (6fl oz) lemon juice
3/4 cup caster (superfine) sugar
3/4 cup (6fl oz) cream
3 eggs lightly beaten

  • Turn your oven temperature down to 140oC.  
  • Place the lemon and sugar in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Add the cream and eggs and stir continuously for five minutes.
  • Put into a heatproof jug and pour into the pastry shell/tart shells
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until the filling is just set.  
  • Cool completely and serve
Makes approximately two dozen mini tarts.  Tarts can be frozen.

Banana Bread with Chocolate

Recipe given from my good friend Jackie.  This is the stuff breakfast dreams are made of.  Recipe doubles beautifully to make two loaves (one for a gift and one for yourself).  I've also substituted with gluten free flour and it works just as well if only a little bit softer.

The best banana bread EVER!! - with choc chunks. Super moist!

125g butter (1 stick) - chopped and at room temp.
1 cup brown sugar (not dark brown or it will overpower)
2 eggs
3 mashed bananas - the blacker the better!
1 1/2 cups Self Raising flour
2 Tablesp Milk
2 Tablesp Sour Cream
100g Dark Chocolate - chopped into chunks (or choc chips)

Grease 4 mini loaf tins (for best results) or an average sized loaf tin. Line with baking parchment.
Turn oven to 180 C/ 400 F
Put all ingredients in a bowl (except chocolate) and mix on medium speed till has changed colour and gotten lighter (about a minute or so). Fold in chopped chocolate.
Spoon into prepared pan(s) and bake 30 mins for small or 40 mins for large - or till golden and pops back when touched on top.
No need for icing/frosting!!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

French Macarons

At several dollars for just one beautiful cookie I always considered French Macarons an indulgent treat.  I adored visiting the La Renaissance French Patisserie at The Rocks in Sydney or purchasing just two carefully selected Adriano Zumbo macarons popped into a tiny little box.  Even the ones from McDonalds were ok in a pinch.    I would say "oh I'd love to be able to make these" then I decided to try...after a couple of attempts that pretty much failed,  I tried again on a day that was "kid free" and succeeded!  Now that I know the little secrets and have watched gazillions of youtube videos on "how to make the perfect" macaron I am able make these little sweeties myself!   The above platter I made for my eldest daughter's 21st birthday recently.  I made them several days ahead and they all froze perfectly, filled, until the party day.  We had baby pink with milk chocolate ganache, orange with dark chocolate ganache, lemon with lemon curd filling.  I have also made white French vanilla with white chocolate ganache (coloured blue for a "frozen" birthday gift) and today I made chocolate macarons with chocolate ganache filling.

Don't be scared to give these a try, even if they don't look perfect they taste amazing.  Here are my tips to start with:

- measure EXACTLY.
- sit eggs out at least 24 hours until you want to make the macarons
- sift dry ingredients 3 times
- mix the ganache batter to "lava" consistency only
- a finger dipped in water will smooth any tiny last bump on top of the setting macaron
- drop the trays from about 20cm on to the bench at least 3 times to eliminate air bubbles
- allow the macarons to sit for at least 1 hour to form a "skin"
- start with your oven at 190oC.  Reduce to 160oC immediately as you put the macarons in.
- cook for exactly 12 minutes (this will depend on your oven...but this works with mine)

Basic macaron recipe:

2 large egg whites (room temperature for at least 24 hours)
1/4 cup caster sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 cup icing sugar
3/4 cup almond meal

(food colouring of choice - gel colouring is best).

Step 1:  Prep your area.  You will need to line a large baking tray with baking paper (put a circle template under the paper if required for consistency of size).  Have a piping bag ready with a large round tip (mine is about 8mm across).  You will need a mixer, large sieve for sifting.

Step 2:  Sift the icing sugar and almond meal into a large bowl.  Repeat.

Step 3:  Beat the egg whites in the mixer...when they just start to get frothy add a pinch of cream of tartar.

Step 4:  Turn the speed of the mixer up and beat until the eggs are looking white and thick... slowly add the caster sugar a tiny bit at a time.

Step 5:  Sift the sugar/almond mix over the beaten eggs and gently with a spatula mix it all together.  Mix for about 50 strokes until the mix dribbles like lava when lifted up... it will gently form together.  (check out some videos online to make sure you understand this consistency).

Step 6:  Put the mixture into your piping bag and gently pipe little disks on to your baking tray.

Step 7:  Tap the tray to remove air bubbles and sit aside to allow the macarons to form a "skin"

Step 8:  Turn on the oven and heat it to 190oC whilst the macarons sit and form a skin.

Step 9:  Put tray in oven and immediately turn heat down to 160oC.  Bake for about 12 minutes.

Step 10:  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Gently remove from paper and fill with desired filling.  

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Baked Custard

This is a simple warming dish, easy and cheap. Remember this is cooked in a "water bath" and you need to remove the custard as soon as you can tap it with a knife and it is wobbly solid or the eggs will curdle. You can bake it in one big dish or single serving dishes - just remember small dishes will cook faster.

Baked Egg Custard

3 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
450ml cream
½ cup caster sugar
Freshly grated nutmeg, to dust

• Step 1
Preheat the oven to 170°C.

• Step 2
Beat the whole eggs, egg yolk and vanilla extract together lightly (you don't want them to become too frothy).

• Step 3
Place the cream in a pan with the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Heat to just below boiling point then pour onto the eggs and stir to combine. (you can do this in the microwave – 1 minute) Strain through a sieve into a 1-litre (4-cup) capacity baking dish or individual oven proof dishes.

• Step 4
Stand in a roasting pan half-filled with hot water. Sprinkle the top with nutmeg. Bake for about 30-35 minutes: it should still wobble slightly.

• Step 5
Remove from oven and serve hot or cold as desired.  Really beautiful with steamed fruits.

Risotto / Arancini Balls

This is a recipe from an amazing friend and cook, who has competed in several competitions, J. Camilleri.   This while a fiddly recipe is not difficult and the results are awesome.   With mini arancini I don't add the filling. The main problem with this recipe in our house is I make the risotto and everyone wants to eat it hahahaha, so I often make double so I'll have enough for arancini. To make it cheaper I use half a teaspoon of tumeric instead of saffron. You can add finely diced mushroom, fried chicken or bacon and peas at the end stage if you like (when you mix in the cheese and butter to the cooked risotto). I like to use Panko bread crumbs for the best result. 

Arancini - stuffed rice balls

These are great for parties and get togethers - they are risotto balls filled with various fillings and are delish and very morish. You can stuff them with whatever you wish - I like them with a bolognese meat sauce but a simple cheese mix like these have is sooo yum! They are best made the night before you want them so they can firm in the fridge and make it easier to cook

2 Tablespoon olive oil
60 g butter, chopped
1 small onion, diced
2 cups arborio rice
1 litre chicken stock, warmed
pinch of saffron threads (optional)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
80 g grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil and half the butter in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and fry until translucent. Add the rice and sauté for 1–2 minutes, then pour in the warm chicken stock. Add the saffron and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered with a lid, and stirring from time to time, until the rice is cooked (about 20 minutes). Finish by stirring in the parmesan and the remaining butter until well combined. Pour into a shallow dish and set aside to cool.

100g Fetta cheese
1 cup Mozzarella - grated/shredded
1 Tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon Pesto (from a jar - I love the Barilla brand)

Crumble up the fetta and mix with the parsley and pesto then combine with the mozzarella

2 eggs - beaten with a splash of milk
2 - 3 cups of breadcrumbs
Oil for deep frying


Take a heaped tablespoon of risotto and roll it in the palm of your hand to form a ball. Push a hole in one side and fill with a teaspoon of cheese mixture (or whatever filling you are using). Seal the hole and roll again, ensuring the filling is completely enclosed. Keep a bowl handy filled with water or oil so you can lubricate your palms to make it easier to roll each one. Roll the balls in flour, then egg, and then breadcrumbs and then cover and keep in fridge for an hour or over night. Fry in batches for about 4 minutes until golden. Drain on paper towel and serve immediately.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Curry

I've made curries with veg before and they just tasted boring, no flavour - then after a bit of googling and reading discovered that the trick is to roast the veg first!  WOW is all I can say, this curry is fantastic and delicious - my only problem is not eating the yummy roasted veg before it gets in the curry pot!  Delicious with freshly steamed rice, this vegetarian meal will make even non-vegetarians super happy! 


3 x sweet potato (peeled and cut into chunks)
1/2 a cauliflower (cut into big florets)
Olive oil
Sea Salt
30g Butter
1 Onion (very thinly sliced)
Handful of freshly chopped coriander (cilantro)
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup coconut cream
Thai red curry paste


  • On a big baking tray place the cauliflower and sweet potato pieces.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Pop in a moderate oven for about 40 minutes to bake till the potato is soft.
  • In a big frypan pour a little more olive oil and the butter and gently fry the onion till it is soft and translucent.  Add 1 teaspoon of red curry paste (add more later if you like your curry hotty hot) and stir in.
  • Turn the heat down a bit and add the vege stock and then the roasted veg.
  • Add the coconut cream and sprinkle with fresh coriander.
That's it!!!  Add a bit more curry paste if you like a hotter curry and mix it in. 

Want your curry more "saucy" - add more veg stock and coconut cream.

If you would like to add meat, this is delicious with chicken - simply cut up two chicken fillets into bite sized pieces and dust with flour - gently brown in the pan when you are at the onion stage.

Mango Mousse with Lime

These little dishes of delicious sweet softness can be made with or without the gelatine.  So, incredibly simple and easy to make.  You can substitute any fruit for the mango - strawberries, banana...whatever you have.
2 ripe mango - peeled and flesh cut up
1/2 cup icing sugar (confectioners sugar)
2 limes - grated and juiced
500ml thickened cream - whipped till stiff peaks form
2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
1/4 cup hot water
In a little dish or mug, dissolve the gelatine in the water and set aside to cool
Blitz the mango in a blender/food processor/smoothie maker
Gently fold the mango puree, sugar, lime zest and juice in to the whipped cream.
Gently fold in the gelatine mixture.
Distribute evenly into desired serving dishes and pop in the fridge for about 1 hour.