Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Lorne accommodation: Grand Pacific Hotel

I can't resist a gorgeous historic building.  So when I was looking for accommodation for an overnight stay in Lorne, I was delighted to find a room in the Grand Pacific Hotel (dating back to 1875).  It was not quite as central as a lot of other accommodation but I will sacrifice location for an amazing cast iron verandah any day.

We were in one of the cheaper rooms.  As we weren't spending much time at the hotel I was happy to pay less for a double room that the website clearly stated did not have a view.  That meant it did not look out onto the sea, though as we were on the second floor, if we craned our necks we could see a bit of sea.  I was surprised that although there wasn't much space around the bed, that we had a rather spacious bathroom.  I spent some time thinking about if they could have designed it so we had more bedroom and less bathroom.  But it was a nice enough room.

What made it all worthwhile, even the two flights of stairs (no elevator), was that we could walk out onto the balcony which had a magnificent view.  I really loved at the West side that the sun shone through the cast iron work to make even more beautiful shadows on the verandah.

The views of the ocean where really wonderful.  If we had had time, we could have sat on a chair with a good book and a spectacular view.  As well as being able to see the beach, we could sit on the beach and gaze up at our hotel in the distance.  This was particularly lovely as we ate fish and chips on the beach in the evening and watched the lights turn on in our hotel like a welcoming beacon.

As we stood on the balcony, this rather bold kookaburra flew down to the railings and sat there rather close to us for a while.  We were also able to watch cockatoos swooping, the setting sun and the pier from up high.

The hotel has a bistro but it seemed to be mostly seafood and steak when we were there (though the website suggests more vegetarian options so maybe we will check it out another time).  There was also Lorne Pier Seafood Restaurant very close by, which according to the website has a few vegetarian dishes.  If we had stayed longer I would have checked out these options.  Or even taken a walk along the pier.  But not on this flying trip.

As I have mentioned, the location wasn't the best.  Ideally I would like a place to park and be able to walk everywhere.  But we had to drive down to the beach.  Not great on a busy day when parking is hard to come by.  However there was a little path down to the beach and I think you could walk along there to the main beach.  Or it would be nice to spend time here with the splendid view.

However be warned that the signs ask you to go slow, even when snakes are nearby!!!!  (I know you are not meant to make sudden moves when you see a snake but I think if I did see one I would be tempted to run like I stole something!)

I hope to return to the Grand Pacific Hotel.  It has lots of lovely period details: the verandah, lead lighting, chandeliers and archways.  These give some charm to the lack of an elevator and the occasional creaking floorboard. And perhaps one day I shall get to see the grand ballroom too.  But for now I am pleased I have sampled some of the splendour.

Grand Pacific Hotel
268 Mountjoy Parade, Lorne
(03) 5289 1609

Monday, 22 April 2019

Lorne holiday and eating out

Lorne is a sentimental favourite seaside town of mine.  We went there a lot when I was young.  So I am probably biased when I say it is one of the best beaches in the world.  It was a surprise when I suggested to Sylvia we go for a quick overnight break and she said she did not remember going there.  Seems our trips there when she was much smaller had no impact!

We drove along the Great Ocean Road which always sparks joy.  It is so beautiful.  And I appreciate it even more because I think of the returned soldiers and unemployed men who carved the road into the side of the cliffs so we can enjoy superb views on the way to Lorne.

There are quite a few places to stop along the Great Ocean Road to admire the beauty of the ocean

Our first stop upon arriving at Lorne was Louttit Bay Bakery.  Sylvia had an apple turnover full of cream.  She was so happy that it was all the things she loved in life: pastry, cream and apple.  I had a chocolate almond croissant.  I was so happy because it was all the things I love in life: bread, chocolate and nuts.  Both were huge and so so filling.

Then we went to the Swing Bridge.  I loved going to the Swing Bridge as a kid.  We used to sometimes swim at the mouth of the Erskine River just near by.  Actually part of the reason I went there was that parking in the main street was really busy.  But I also wanted to go there.  The bridge was replaced in 2013 and is not quite as wobbly as I remember.  We had lunch by the bridge (cafe post up soon), had a lovely time in the sea and then headed to our hotel (that Grand Pacific which I will write about).

For old times sake, we went back to Lorne Fish and Chips where we went on a previous visit.  We took our chips, corn jacks and potato cakes down to the beach.  It was stodgy but piping hot, crisp and great comfort. 

We went there early enough to enjoy watching the beach in the twilight.  Visiting the beach in April means that there are no long light evenings.  At this time of year we were lucky to have a balmy evening but the sea seemed freezing cold if the way people dipped in and out.  In fact the next morning after breakfast the sea was still so cold that our feet felt like ice blocks.

Lorne is great for kids with so much to play on near the beach in the huge grassy area.  Sylvia had a 10 minute session on the outdoor trampolines (for $7 which seemed a bit pricey compared to city trampolining centres but someone suggested this was the way to make it viable).  And she had lots of fun.  Then we went to the park, which is huge and impressive.
When we told my sister that we went for fish and chips (or at least to the fish and chips shop if not for fish), she said she hoped we went to the Salty Dog.  So we had to check it out when we walked along the main street.

Whereas the Lorne Fish and Chips was pretty old school with off white walls and old style booths.  Salty Dog has more colour and zing about it., Salty Dog is far more modern and cheerful.  It has a large menu, including deep fried mars bars and fried pumpkin cakes.  There are cute picture around the place, wooden benches and key dates in Lorne's history written on the walls.

The Salty Dog Fish and Chippery had baked potatoes.  We decided that sounded great for lunch.  Sylvia had the baked potato with garlic butter and cheese.  I had the baked potato with the garlic butter, cheese, sour cream and coleslaw.  I added baked beans too.  The baked potato was good.  It was a bit weird that the cheese was melted over the whole lot and I would have liked the potato skin more crispy.  However it was a pretty decent lunch.

What I can rave about is the pumpkin cake.  That means a slice of pumpkin dipped in batter and fried.  It was so good I must come back for some chips and corn jack some time soon.  Sylvia loved her hash brown too.  Sadly we were too full for deep fried mars bars.

Even though we were too full for deep fried mars bars, Sylvia still needed an ice cream at the place next door.  She had a really good english toffee ice cream and some so-so mini melts.  We had been discussing mini melts recently and had to sample them.  A spoonful was enough.  Not surprisingly, neither of us could eat much of either. 

We also had ice creams the previous day, and it was not terribly successful either.  Butterscotch and brownie sounded good but big chunks of brownie in the ice cream did not work for me.  And Sylvia hardly touched hers.

The main street of Lorne has a lot of places to eat.  Kaos Kafe, where we ate years ago, is still there.  So is the Bottle of Milk.  We wanted to try the Chopstix Noodle Bar.  But there just wasn't the time.  I loved the above sign even though I don't drink either coffee or wine.

We had a last paddle in the waves, climbed over some rocks and drove home along the Great Ocean Road, stopped at my parents in Geelong and then were very happy to be home.  But it was great to be at the beach.  It is good for the soul.

Louttit Bay Bakery
46B Mountjoy Parade, Lorne
(03) 5289 1207

Lorne Fish and Chips
42 Mountjoy Parade, Lorne
03 5289 1843

The Salty Dog Fish and Chippery
1/150 Mountjoy Parade, Lorne
(03) 5289 1300

Friday, 19 April 2019

Overnight Sourdough Hot Cross Buns (no knead)

If the fates were kind this week, they might have offered a warm autumn night last night for rising hot cross bun dough.  I can't complain though, as we managed to spend a couple of days at the beach over the past week.  But warm weather does make a difference to sourdough rising.  And today being Good Friday, my sourdough starter has been doing amazing things with hot cross buns.

Given that I made overnight sourdough bread often, I am surprised it has taken me until this year to make overnight no knead sourdough hot cross buns.  Now there is no turning back.  This post is quite a long one with lots of comments about what I did to help me (and you) to make these buns.

This Easter season is particularly conducive to baking hot cross buns because it is so late this year.  I have been baking hot cross buns every year for a long time.  However, I usually find that by Good Friday I am just starting to hit my stride with hot cross buns.  This year we have had the school holidays before rather than after Easter.  So I have had some time to bake a few batches before Easter.

The first batch we tried had green crosses and were filled with grated apple, chopped hard toffee and grated apple.  The green crosses were fun but I realised I preferred the white crosses.  It was a shame as I had visions of dried blueberries with blue crosses.

I was very happy with the hot cross buns.  We took some to a friend when we picked up her daughter for a sleepover with Sylvia.  She was rather impressed.  However I wanted more traditional ones.  Sylvia is fixated on the dried apple and cinnamon buns from Bakers Delight.  I didn't want to buy dried apple while I still had so much dried fruit left from Christmas baking.  We made a deal that she could buy some apple buns while I made more traditional ones.

This second batch of dough was slightly less sticky but still very soft.  I found an old scraper in the drawers that has been great for cutting dough.  I think I have benefited from regularly baking bread rolls with the overnight sourdough dough.  Doing no knead bread means treating it very gently to keep as much air in as possible.  I have tried to give some instructions as well as step by step pictures below.

This second batch were amazing.  Soft and flavoursome and so so so so good.  I did as my mum had suggested and increased the spices.  My main problem with them was that the roasting dish makes them a little mishapen around the edges.  Rustic is ok with me but I want them approximating round rather than triangular.

Otherwise I was very proud of my buns.  They were adapted from a previous sourdough hot cross bun recipe I made a couple of years ago.  It seems I have been gradually simplifying my sourdough hot cross buns recipe until I just dump all the ingredients in and leave it overnight with no kneading.  Honestly I think I was perhaps too tired this year to knead with life being so busy.  I also was inspired by seeing Karen's no knead sourdough hot cross buns at Lavender and Lovage.

One of the changes I made was adding pumpkin.  It did not make much difference to the taste but I think it made the buns much softer.  I have made some suggestions in notes about other options if you don't have pumpkin.  As I just mashed mine with a knife, there were a few small pieces of pumpkin visible.  Sylvia hates pumpkin and was most displeased.  Of course, if anyone was going to find a tiny speck of pumpkin it was her.  Despite this she has managed to eat a few buns, mostly picking out the dried fruit.

I have also reduced the amount of glaze I was making.  I used to make a lot in a saucepan and brush the crosses over and over, based on a recipe I found years ago.  This year I reduce the glaze and then I burnt it in the saucepan.  I have never done this before.  So I made more quickly in the microwave which I find much easier.  My mum says this is what she does too.

We gave some hot cross buns to my neighbour and some to my mum and dad when we went to Geelong prior to a couple of days in Lorne.  I will tell you more about Lorne is some coming posts.  It was great to get some relaxing days at the seaside.  I came back for a busy day of work before Good Friday.  Today I made more hot cross buns.  It is a treat to have already made a few batches and know what I am doing.  And it is so wonderful to eat hot cross buns warm out of the oven with butter melting into them.

So with more time today I have taken some step by step photos to help me next year and to also explain to you if you have a sourdough starter and want to try this recipe.  I have also made some notes about how to make variations to suit what you have about your kitchen. 

You might notice that I made this third batch of buns on a large baking tray so they had a better shape and I could make 16 rather than 15.  The main problem I had with this was the when I went to turn the tray around halfway through baking, the last row of buns stuck to the back of the oven tray so I had to prise them off and get them back on the tray before turning.

I have also included the above collage to show a few things.

The top two photos show that the buns don't rise much from when I shape them to when they have sat for about 2 hours.  The main rise where they get lots of air in them is overnight (as you can see in the step by step collage higher up).  But it does seem to help them to sit before going in the oven.

The middle photos are to show that my cross mixture is quite thick and not so smooth.  I use a silicone piping bag and a tip that is perhaps 0.5cm wide.  My crosses are pretty plain but work well between the bun and the glaze.  I suspect they are what one of the journalists in the age called wallpaper paste crosses.  But we love them a little thick and fight over the crosses.  In fact I have found one or two buns with the cross eaten off it by Sylvia because it is the best bit.

And the bottom two photos show that when the buns come out of the oven they can look a little dusty with flour but once they are brushed the flour dissolves and is no longer visible.

So today I cut up some fruit to have with our hot cross buns.  I like that the pumpkin and the fruit reflect us celebrating Easter in autumn down under.  The fruit came from a few different sources.  The plums were from the supermarket.  The grapes were leftover from a cheese platter at an evening meeting last night.  The apples came from my mum's backyard tree.  The fruit makes me feel a little healthier but honestly I could just eat these hot cross buns all day and not need any other food.  They are so good.

Five fun online articles about hot cross buns:

The history of the hot cross bun - Gourmet Traveller
History going back to pagans, monks and Queen Elizabeth I.  I like the idea the hot cross buns would protect the house from bad spirits

10 crazy ways to eat hot cross buns 2019 - Biffens Kitchen
We have all heard of hot cross buns in bread and butter pudding and french toast but who ever heard of it in treacle tart or with beetroot and feta.  Wow!

How to eat hot cross buns - The Guardian
A comprehensive article on different styles of eating HCBs.  I say no to marmite (or vegemite in Australia's case) but yes to a slice on cheese on the HCB.  I am surprised that they only give toasting or microwaving as reheating options.  Since I have been little I have had HCBs reaheated in the oven.

Hot cross buns get political at Ballarat Station - Power 103.1 FM
Clever union slogan on the napkins served with hot cross buns: "Liberal wage cuts make us hot and bothered".  Yes there is a federal election campaign in Australia right now and even hot cross buns are fair game!

Can eating hot cross buns put you over the drink driving limit? Criminal Defence Lawyers
Don't worry the police say there is little concern that hot cross buns will give you a drink driving conviction but this also means they wont take "I've just eaten a hot cross bun" as an excuse for a high blood alcohol test reading!

Ten fun variations on Hot Cross Buns on the internet:
No knead sourdough hot cross buns - Lavender and Lovage
Vegan chai hot cross buns - Seitan is my Motor
Hot cross pancakes - Tin and Thyme
Nutella swirl hot cross buns - Not Quite Nigella
Miffy hot cross buns - I am a Food Blog
Sultana, lemon and thyme hot cross buns - Only Crumbs Remain
Hot cross bun loaf - Bit of the Good Stuff
Orange blossom banana hot cross buns - Cardamom and Tea
Hot cross buns with marmalade glaze - Kitchen Sanctuary
Vanilla glazed choc chunk hot cross buns - Laws of the Kitchen

You can also read more of my Easter recipes.

Overnight sourdough hot cross buns
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
Makes 15-16

1 cup pumpkin puree (approx 325g unpeeled chunk of pumpkin)*
250g ripe starter (100% hydration)
3/4 cup soy milk, room temperature
1/2 cup aquafaba*
100g vegan margarine, room temperature
200g dried fruit
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp dried ginger
550g white bread flour

1 cup water
1 cup flour (or a little more)

2 tsp water
1 tbsp caster sugar
good shake of mixed spice

Peel and dice pumpkin.  Microwave in a covered container until soft (about 4-6 minutes) and
roughly mash with a fork.

While the pumpkin cooks, measure out the starter (mine is best when it is rising and had lots of little bubbles and smells lovely and is still a bit thick in texture) and stir in the margarine.

Once pumpkin is cooked and still hot, stir in milk and aquafaba from the fridge and the mixture should be room temperature and ready to stir in.  (If not room temperature, cool or warm as needed.)

Add remaining ingredients and stir well.  Leave for 30 minutes.  Knead in the bowl for 15 seconds.  It will be very soft still but you should be able to knead it and wipe most of the mixture off your hands.  Cover well with clingwrap or beeswax and leave overnight - about 8-10 hours until well risen.

When dough is risen, scrape out onto a well floured surface.  Cut into 15-16 pieces (depending on the size of your tin - 15 in a rectangle and 16 in a square tin).  I use a plastic cutter but a large sharp knife will do - and might need some flouring.  The dough will probably need some flour to make it easier o handle it.

Gently roll each piece into a ball.  Do this by putting the corners as tightly as possible around the bun (without squishing the bun) so the floured bottom of the bun is like a little blanket around the bun.  Toss in flour as though it is very fragile just using finger tips so it is not sticky.  Then use your hands to shape into a smooth ball. 

Line a large dish with baking paper (or grease) and arrange balls in it quite close to each other so they are just touching but not really snug against each other.  You can do this on a baking tray or in a roasting dish (about 13 x 9 inches).  Cover buns with beeswax or clingfilm and leave to rise for 30 to 2 hours.  Heat oven to 220 C while buns rise (or 30 minutes before you are ready to put in the oven).

Mix flour and water together to make the mixture for the crosses once buns ready for oven.  It should be thick enough to be almost stretchy and drop off the spoon in soft clumps.  Pipe crosses onto the buns.  Bake for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown and sounding hollow when tapped.

Five minutes before buns come out of oven or just as they come out, mix glaze ingredients together and microwave for about 1.30 minutes on high.  Remove buns from oven.  Transfer to a wire rack.  I have found it this easier if the baking paper has some overhang so you can use it to pick the buns up (even easier with another person who can pick up the other two corners to help you lift it).

Brush buns with prepared glaze and see if you can wait for them to cool before you sample one.  They are good for 2 to 3 days or can be frozen.  I reheat my buns from room temperature for 10-12 minutes at 180 C.

  • This is not a quick recipe to put together.  It has taken me about 30 minutes to get the pumpkin cooked and organise all the ingredients for the dough.  Additionally there is shaping the dough, doing the crosses and glazing.
  • You could substitute all sorts of things for the pumpkin: tinned pumpkin puree, mashed potato, fruit puree, grated apple, mashed banana, applesauce, fruit mince etc.  It should be something to keep the dough moist. 
  • If you don't have aquafaba (water drained off a tin of chickpeas) then use more milk or some water.
  • These buns are vegan but you could easily use an egg instead of 1/4 cup of aquafaba and make up the difference in milk and use butter instead of margarine.
  • You could use your own spice preference - nutmeg, cloves or cardamon could all be in here, though not too much of any.  If you don't have mixed spice, pumpkin pie spice or your favourite spice mix could be substituted.
  • Use your own preference for dried fruit: apricot, apples, cranberries, figs etc.  Or use choc chips or jersey caramels if that is your thing!
  • The dough is really sticky and it seems it might be too sticky but it does become more cohesive after the overnight rise.  And it is the high ratio of liquid to flour that makes these so soft.  If the dough is too sticky, use a bit of flour to handle it.
  • This recipe can be quite flexible with timing and the rising dough and rising buns can wait til you are ready.
  • Don't worry if the cross mixture seems a little lumpy.  as long as you give it a good stir it should be fine.
  • Don't worry if the buns seem a little floury when they go in the oven and when they come out.  Once brushed with glaze the flouriness will go.
  • The glaze should be just enough to brush all the buns once.

On the Stereo:
The very best of Marianne Faithful

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Chickpea, potato and cauliflower curry

This recipes does not feel terribly original.  It is the sort of thing I have made many times before and no doubt many readers have too.  Though it is a long way from when I first moved out of home and decided I could make curry with no recipe and ended up with a curry that clumped around the wooden spoon when I picked it up.  This curry is one I made to please my 10 year old daughter.  It is always special when she eats a dish that is not a usual one for her.  So I was happy that, while it was not perfect, it was good enough for her to eat.

The recipe began with the Chickpea and Cauliflower Curry we found in the Woolworths Fresh magazine.  My first instinct was to look in the fridge and find all the vegies that needed using up.  Then I discussed it with Sylvia.  She loves chickpeas.  In fact, it is not unusual for her to open a tin of them and eat them cold.  I decided to add potato which is another of her favourite foods.  I left in the cauliflower.  But the most controversial vegetable was onion.  She is not a fan, despite my reasoning that it is sweet and everywhere.  I had overlooked the seeds.  I love a curry that starts with seeds.  Sylvia does not like seeds.  They did not go down well.  She asked what were the seeds looking at her like eyeballs.  But she ate it two nights running, with only a few complaints.

As for E and I, we were very happy with the curry.  I would have liked some peas or sultanas.  It was the sort of golden curry I grew up on and have made many times before.  It was easy to make and easy to eat.  I might try it for Sylvia another time with some dried cumin and mustard but I am very partial to some seeds so I would happily have it this way again.

More easy chickpea curries on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Chickpea, peach and pumpkin curry (gf, v)
Chickpea and potato curry with mango chutney (gf, v)
Chickpea tofu and pea curry (gf, v)
Kitchen sink vegie curry (gf, v) 
Spinach and chickpea curry (gf, v) 

Chickpea, potato and cauliflower curry
Adapted from Woolworths Fresh magazine, April 2019
Serves 5-6

2 tbsp rice bran oil (or other neutral oil)
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp curry powder
1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
3-4 medium potatoes, diced
1/2 cauliflower, broken into florets
1 x 400g tin diced tomatoes
2 cups water
1 tsp stock powder
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained and rinsed
parsley or coriander and rice to serve, optional

Heat oil over medium heat and fry mustard seeds and cumin seeds for about 2 minutes or until they start popping.  Stir turmeric and curry powder in for a minute.  Add onion and garlic.  Cook for about 4 minutes and add potato, stirring frequently for another 2 minutes.  Stir in cauliflower to coat with spices.  Then add tomatoes, water, stock powder, tomato paste and chickpeas.  Bring to the boil and simmer covered for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are soft.  Serve with rice and chopped parsley or coriander if desired.

On the Stereo:
When we all fall asleep where do we go: Billy Eilish

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Strawberry, plum and orange juice

As I sadly farewell the summer fruits, I have to remind myself of the bounty of autumn. It has been really busy at work which means less energy for eating well.  This juice has been the mainstay of our breakfasts lately.  It it an easy start to the day and an easy way to get more fruit into our diet.

I am relieved to finally be in the midst of holidays.  It is wonderful to have lots of time to catch up with friends and family, to clean and bake, to head out to the shops and cinema (we enjoyed Wonder Park).  Yet there is much to do.  The days go quickly and I am still grateful for the juice.  Rather than waking early and rushing to get out of the house, we are rising later and being a little slower to start the day.  This juice is very good for these sort of lazy days too. 

The juice does not need an electric juicer but is made very easy with a high power blender.  I think the ice helps keep it from getting too intense but you could always add still or fizzy water.  I love it nice and cold with the ice.  Sylvia likes to spoon the froth off the top before she drinks hers.

And now that we have started to make hot cross buns, it means that if I am focusing on baking, I can quickly whip up the juice and get back to my buns.  The juice also goes very well with a warm buttered hot cross bun.

More fruity breakfasts at Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Baked figs on toast
Baked porridge with raspberry and apple (v)
Blueberry, banana and oat smoothie
Breakfast smoothie bowl (gf,v)
Cranachan-style breakfast parfait
French toast served with baked rhubarb, strawberries and banana (v)

Strawberry, plum and orange juice
serves 1-2

juice of 1 orange
1 black plum, diced
4-5 strawberries, diced
1 very generous handful ice

Blend (preferably in a high powered blender) until smooth.  Drink immediately.

On the Stereo:
If you're feeling sinister: Belle and Sebastian

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Kids punch - for a birthday lunch

Sylvia wanted punch at her party.  So many punch recipes are alcoholic but we found one that was suitable for kids.  Of course punch is about a pretty drink with lots of ice and mint and fruit.  We liked this one so much she had it at her party and then when we had a birthday lunch with my family.

I only made a small amount at Sylvia's party as it was a small gathering and I didn't want lots of of leftover with fizzy drinks in it.  (And I didn't even consider ice cream that was in the recipe we adapted because ice cream is something you put in a individual drink but not in one that will sit around with ice cream melting in it!)  I think we might have made up more than one lot.  Sylvia insisted on red lemonade.  I would have preferred ginger beer in the mix instead.  It is interesting in the above picture that the raspberries float and the tinned pineapple sinks.

We had all sorts of robust discussions about a cake to take to a birthday lunch in Geelong.  She really wanted the lamington 10 from the classic Australia Women's Weekly Birthday Cakes book.  The logistics, esp with cream on top, got the better of me, esp when we had a leaking tap and decided maybe I could change the washer myself.  My dad ended up coming to help and it ended up needing some mucking around and visits to Bunnings for washers and o rings.  My energy did not extend to cake!

Instead we focused on familiar food.  My mum did a bbq so Sylvia made her favourite potato salad.  I made a batch of grubs for dessert.  There was cheezels and pav and Sylvia bought some lamingtons from the supermarket to make a lamington man.  And everyone enjoyed the punch.

I finished off changing the washers after the lunch.  At first it seemed to work and I was very proud of myself.  Then the shower taps began to leak badly again.  We turned off the water except when we needed a shower or to do dishes and survived on jugs and buckets of water until the plumber came after the end of the weekend.  But kudos to my dad for his help and for then helping with fixing the flywire on our front door after our cat scratched it off.  He has a great knack from doing stuff around the house.

More non-alcoholic party drinks on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Blackberry limeade (gf, v) 
Delia's festive punch (gf, v)
Lemonade (gf, v)
Purple passionate pine pom juice (gf, v)
Raspberry punch (gf, v)

Kids punch
Adapted from Natasha's Kitchen

500ml raspberry lemonade
500ml soda water
250ml pineapple juice
250ml tropical juice
juice of 1/2 a lime

To serve:
mint leaves
tinned pineapple chunks
ice cubes

Mix all punch ingredients together in a jug not long before ready to serve.  Serve with raspberries, mint leaves, pineapple and ice cubes.

On the Stereo:
Bande à part - Nouvelle Vague

Saturday, 6 April 2019

We Bare Bear cupcakes for a birthday party

As always, there were many discussions on the theme of Sylvia's birthday this year.  She insisted on a We Bare Bears theme.  It is not a tv show with which I am very familiar.  Sylvia had lots of ideas and turning 10 years old meant she was able to be involved in a lot of organisation.

Here is a selection of her birthday presents on her birthday.  She is lucky to have some generous overseas family as well as friends and family more close by.  For her party she invited 3 friends and one couldn't come so it was a cosy group.  Initially they were going to come after lunch but then it was easier for one parent to drop her kid before and so we asked the other to come earlier as well.  Which meant it was a 4 hour party rather than a 2 hour party.  But at this age, the girls are able to entertain themselves so it was fine.

We decided to make rice paper rolls for lunch.  Sylvia had been keen to make them and it was a fun group activity.  I made them like these rice paper rolls.  It had been so long since I had made them that it took quite a few til I hit my stride.  It was a messy and fun thing to do.  My mum came to help which made the party much easier.

Sylvia had taken charge of a lot of the activities.  The kids did a What We Bare Bear Are You quiz (based on one at the Cartoon Network).  It was a good ice breaker because they all had their personalities to discuss.  Sylvia and one friend were the solitary, stoic and clever Ice Bear whereas the third kid was the easy going outgoing Grizz.  Sylvia had wanted a cake decoration party.  They started by making some tick tock teacups.  We had heaps of buttercream icing so it was useful here.

The main event was the We Bare Bear cupcakes.  Sylvia wanted each kid to decorate three cupcakes with fondant to represent each of the bears.  As we don't do a lot of fondant decoration, we had a practice a week or two beforehand.  This proved very useful in getting out head around some basics of fondant and how the cupcakes might look with what we had.

I looked into Sylvia doing a cupcake decoration course but they were so pricey that we decided to do it at home which was pretty easy.  After all, part of these courses are just having the chance to experiment.  It was very interesting watching the three girls at work and their different approaches.

I took very few pictures of the cupcakes because I was too busy advising the girls and then getting the afternoon tea ready.  I had to remind the girls to use icing sugar so the fondant did not stick.  We purchased some candy eyes which made the cupcakes look pretty cool.  I had organised a table for the girls to decorate outside but it was warm so they decorated inside and that was fine.  They aren't as messy now they are a bit older.  I didn't have enough mini rolling pins like the pink one above so we ended up using a cylindrical wooden block so everyone had one.

Once the decorations were finished, the girls went outside to do pin the tail on the We Bare Bear with E helping out.  I realised the We Bare Bear cupcakes were too cute for candles so I decorated a few leftover cupcakes with chocolate melts and sprinkles quickly.  My mum and I tidied up and put out  fruit and cakes.

There was heaps of food, singing, candles, a birthday punch (that I will write about another time) and colourful cardboard boxes so Sylvia's guests could take their creations home. Sylvia and her friends had great fun.  For me it was pretty easy to prepare.  I just tidied the house, made some cupcakes and saved my energy for helping out while the kids made most of the food.

To celebrate 10 years of Sylvia's birthdays, I have made a collage of her previous 9 birthday party cakes.  I wonder what sort of cakes and celebrations the next 10 years will bring!

Top: Baby Pram, Dinosaur Farm, Georgie Pig's dinosaur
Middle: Pirate Treasure Chest, Toadstool House, Frozen Castle
Bottom: Minion, Hedgehog, Cat cupcakes

How to make We Bare Bears Cupcakes


1 dozen of vanilla cupcakes (or cupcake of your desire)
Buttercream (see below recipe)
White fondant
Brown fondant
Mini oreos (or other small dark round cookies or chocolates)
Mentos mints (or other small white round mints or candy)
Dairy milk melts
Edible eyes
Edible black pen
Icing sugar (confectionery sugar)


Wooden boards (not smelling of onions)
Small rolling pins
Round cutter (for faces)
Spreaders for buttercream

To decorate cupcakes:

1. Firstly check you have a round cutter that will cut a circle about the size of the cupcake top as you will want to cover it.  If you don't have a scone cutter or cookie cutter, you can use a well dusted (with icing sugar) glass or cup of the right size.

2. Take a small blob of white fondant and keep the rest of fondant in an airtight container.  Roll out the blob on a wooden chopping board with a rolling pin, keeping both board and rolling pin lightly dusted with flour.  The fondant can stick: to avoid this, pick it up and turn over regularly while rolling out.  The fondant should be about 2-3mm thick.  While it is important to use the icing sugar to stop the fondant sticking, it is also better not to have lots of icing over the fondant, esp the brown one.

3. Spread buttercream in a thin layer on a cupcake.  If required, neaten buttercream around the edges so it isn't ragged.  Cut a circle of fondant and place over the buttercream on the cupcake.  Smooth it down with your hands.

4. To make Ice Bear: Use buttercream to stick on white mentos as ears.  They should be sticking out of the circle of the face slightly.  Use buttercream to stick on candy eyes almost halfway down the circle and have them fairly close together (about 0.5cm apart)  With a black edible marker draw on a nose about the shape but smaller than a jelly bean and a wry smile (or do your own style of nose and mouth).

5. To make Panda: Repeat steps 2 and 3.  As for step 4 but use half a mini oreo with no icing for ears and half a mini oreo with icing for eyes.

6. To make Grizz.  Using brown rather than white icing, repeat steps 2 and 3.  As for step 4 but use milk chocolate melts for ears.

125g butter
125g icing sugar (confectionery sugar)
dribble of milk

Beat butter 3-5 minutes until pale and creamy.  Gradually add icing sugar until it is absorbed by butter.  If it is creamy, you can stop here.  However mine was little pellets of sweet butter and needed me to beat in a drizzle of milk at a time until it just turned creamy but still was able to hold its shape.

On the Stereo:
Songs from the South: Paul Kelly's Greatest Hits