Thursday 5 February 2009

Birthday treats, heat and intrigue

Planning at this time of year is difficult because Melbourne’s summer weather can be so fickle. With my birthday last week, my family visited a couple of weekends back to share afternoon tea in our backyard. We were lucky because the weather was a mild 24 C.

Birthdays are the perfect excuse to indulge so I made my favourite Walnut Fudge Cake and Grubs. My mum made some scones (including a few gluten free ones with GF flour for my niece) and brought her own home made apricot jam and whipped cream. We also had a fruit platter that I think my sister brought. But I wanted to make something a little lighter than my chocolate treats. I found a recipe for Apricot and Cheese Balls in Vikki Leng’s A Vegetarian Feast.

I made the Apricot and Cheese Balls in the morning before everyone arrived. The recipe said to let the mixture sit for 30 minutes but after this time it was still quite gooey and hard to roll into balls. I think next time it would be better to cool the mixture in the fridge for a few hours so it firms up more. The balls were nice on the day but I think they were better the next day after more time in the fridge. Not that many were eaten at the afternoon tea but I loved having them in the fridge over the next week - they were absolutely delicious and refreshing during the heat wave. They tasted predominately of dried apricot after sitting overnight rather than of the cream cheese.

I have a photo* of a beautiful plate that my family gave me for my birthday and wanted to tell you the story of my parents buying it. On our recent trip to Daylesford, we had stopped in an Art Gallery which had a display of Onta Pottery from Japan. I admired a plate and my mum had asked if I would like it for my birthday. It was lovely but I always feel a little concerned about if I have room for extra in our place. I swithered and we left empty-handed. Later I thought maybe I should have asked them to buy it after all because I kept thinking about it.

When I opened the present, my mum and dad told me how they organised it. While we were wondering around Daylesford, my mum disappeared and my dad said she must be looking at prices in a real estate agents window. Meanwhile I kept browsing in the giftshops, little knowing that my mum had gone to get the plate and asked my dad to keep me occupied. It was such an unexpected and delightful surprise and even better served with some intrigue!

Unlike the pleasant weather for the afternoon tea, I was less lucky that my actual birthday fell in the middle of the heatwave. Weeks before, E had been organised and booked us a table at Shakahari, one of my favourite vegetarian restaurants in Melbourne. However the air conditioning struggled with the heat - the staff apologised for it at the end of the meal – but I can’t help but think this is why I didn’t enjoy their food as much as usual (although when we left we realised that it was even hotter outside). I considered a separate post on Shakahari but I decided to wait for another time when it is cool enough for me to have my favourite chocolate pudding for dessert and take more note of the meal. The photo is of an interesting stuffed injera which I had for starter. Between us we also had tempura avocado, madame fang’s croquettes, laksa, and cheesecake.

So I was glad I had an early celebration with my family because my actual birthday was just too hot to be hugely enjoyable – but I managed to keep a small piece of my lovely walnut fudge cake aside for the day – and chocolate cake can’t fail to cheer me up! Meanwhile for those fellow Aussies feeling the heat, I highly recommend these Apricot and Cheese Balls as great hot weather snacks.

* Finally I have got through my backlog so this post has the first photos from my new camera and I am still puzzling over how to sort and edit photos on my new mac - makes me miss my PC!

Apricot and Cheese Balls
(From Vikki Leng)

250g cream cheese (I used low fat), softened
1 tbsp honey
125g apricots
cup (60g) coconut

Mix cream cheese and honey to combine. Mix in apricots. Place mixture in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (preferably a few hours) to firm up a little. Shape into balls and roll in coconut. Keep in fridge. They will last for at least a week.

On the stereo:
Now hear this: 15 great tunes handpicked by The Word, December 2008 (Magazine sampler): Various Artists


  1. A belated happy birthday to you, Johanna! That is indeed a beautiful plate, I'm glad it eventually made its way to you. :-)

    It's a shame you didn't enjoy your meal at Shakahari so much, but it was difficult to enjoy eating at all last week! I've not seen that injera entree there before and will have to go back to try it.

  2. Thanks Cindy - it is a gorgeous plate isn't it! I agree that it is hard to enjoy food in such a heat wave. I did enjoy the injera which I think was cold but found the laksa (which I normally love) too much for such a night.

  3. Darls, happy late birthday!

    24 is MUCH yummier than its reverse...just thinking about the heatwave tommorrow makes me quesy...

    Anyhoo - what a plate! Or should I say prop?? Lovely sneaky mum, yours.

    Haven't been to Shakahari yet. One day! XXXXX

  4. Happy Belated Birthday! What a lovely gift from your parents, too. I love handmade pottery. I also keep forgetting to mention that I tried your grubs over the holidays and they were delicious--we just didn't get a good photo of them because I tried to take it while they were still too soft! But the apricot balls sound very rich and cooling.

  5. Happy Birthday for last week Johanna! I hope it was filled with lots of fun and laughter :)

  6. Belated Happy Birthday Johanna! I'm sorry it was so hot for your actual birthday. Being a September spring lamb I was always struck down by rain (which is fine with me now I'm not a kid but it made for a whole lot of inside birthday parties back then).

  7. Oh! I forgot to say, I absolutely love your plate!

  8. Hey Johanna, Happy belated Birthday! I am just about to do the weekly shopping so I am so glad I decided to have a quick browse first, I will be adding cream cheese and dried apricots to the shopping list, they look delicious and the boy LOVES anything to do with cheese :)
    Oh and very cute plate, display worthy even.

  9. Happy Birthday. Those apricot balls look great and I think I could easily veganise them (with tofutti 'cream cheese' and agave/maple or some other sweetner), thanks for sharing the recipe!

  10. Happy belated birthday. Love the look/sound of your birthday spread - all looks delicious.

  11. Thanks Lucy - not looking forward to the heat either - advise you don't try shakahari on such a day but it is worth a visit

    Thanks Ricki - glad you enjoyed the grubs - the apricot balls aren't as rich

    Thanks Lorraine - I did manage some fun and laughter though the heat doesn't leave a lot of energy for such merriment!

    Thanks Vegetation - September weather can be fickle but at least you don't get a heatwave - I remember one birthday I planned a picnic and we ended up having it in someone's loungeroom because the weather was so wet

    Thanks Catherine - hope you enjoy the apricot and cheese balls - and I would display the plate if I had space for it but will just have to use it more

    Thanks Kristy - good to hear you could make the apricot balls vegan - I had wondered but I think you are right - esp as it is the dried apricot flavour that comes through most strongly

    Thanks Katie - yes there was lots of good food

  12. Sorry I'm so late for the birthday.
    That is really a very grand memory with the plate (and yes it is lovely, I can see why you would remember it). So cool it's now one that didn't slip through your fingers.

  13. Thanks Tanna - I was quite late to post about my birthday so don't expect anyone else to be punctual :-) and yes the plate is lovely - always nice to have good memories with the crockery I use!


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