Friday 30 December 2011

2011 in review

To eat, or not to eat: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the belly to suffer
The aches and pains of outrageous excess,
Or to take pause amongst a sea of temptations,
And by abstaining defeat them?

2011 was a big year for me. As a food writer I notched up quite a few achievements.

First off were some online recipe development jobs. I had an absolute blast creating and testing recipes – and getting paid for it!

I also started freelance magazine pieces, in particular some on again off again writing for the fabulous new SBS magazine: Feast. I love the multicultural Australia ethos of the magazine – real food, real people – and found it so rewarding to interview average, passionate Aussies, watching them transform raw ingredients into a dish that embodies special meaning for them. A true pleasure.

But best of all, my first book was published.

Seeing my name on the cover, in book store displays, on billboards and the side of a bus . . . what a feeling!

Pride? Hells yeah!

The Losers of 2011

My time.

Since I started this beauty in 2006, this year marks the least number of blog posts I’ve written in a year.

In 2011, freelance writing (and a restructure and subsequent promotion in my day job) has lead to a distinct lack of personal time that would have otherwise been dedicated to this blog.

This lack of time is evident in my failed 2011 food challenges, where I only completed 18 out of 34 and didn’t even get a chance to blog a chunk of the ones I actually ticked off.

I hope I can get back on track in 2012.

The Winners of 2011

2011 saw a lot of winners.

I met/worked/bonded with some lovely new and interesting people this year. Through conversation and inspiration, I really feel like I’ve grown.

With my new found skills, I feel the quality of the blog improved.

M&M went through a redesign, thanks to my talented friend Suzy, although I still need to create some buttons and other bits and pieces to finish it off. Nonetheless I feel like the new black and white site looks much cleaner. Overall I’m pretty happy.

It seems Americana won out overall, for me and for Sydney, as evidenced by the explosion of dude food venues, burger joints, hot dog bars, fry-ups, taquerias and other old-school US culinary salutes that sprouted up in parallel to hipster fashion trends.

As my taste buds continue to evolve, quite a few hated food items suddenly scored top points:

Almond: amaretto and marzipan had made me gag since I was a kid, but now I could drink a gallon and even found myself making marzipan truffles!

Caramel: I had always considered it to be ho-hum but it’s now a soft, fudgy favourite (especially salted caramel).

Fresh mint: I add it to all my drinks these days but previously had detested it in both food and drinks. I could never order a mojito for all the terrible mint but now it’s a preferred summer option.

Brussels sprouts: one of the world’s most hated veggies moved from my “pinch my nose in disgust” list to my “gee whiz mom, can we have brussels sprouts for dinner?”.

Vanilla: These little black pods had seemed like the most overrated and dull of all the spices. It’s strange, but this year I realised how much I enjoyed it in almost everything.

Custard: I suppose the new-found-love of vanilla helped fan this flame, but custard transformed from boring to luscious in 2011. Chocolate custard is a particular favourite.

Rhubarb: I see a pattern here. What better to go with vanilla, custard and almonds than the tangy sweet-sour flavours of rhubarb.

Things I always enjoyed but in 2011 become a passion:

Chardonnay & Shiraz: the bold, punch-in-the-face flavours of these two varietals charmed me into submission

Bacon: Jonas has taken to saying “everything tastes better with bacon” and although I’m not sure I agree with this challenge that seems to be taken literally in many food circles, bacon is still pretty darn tasty.

Bourbon: this sweet, golden, corn-based, oak-barrel-aged nectar coming from the counties of Kentucky has found a special little place in my heart and has opened the doors to other kinds of whiskeys and whiskies from around the world.

Favourite M&M recipes of 2011

Achiote & Tequila Cured Beef w Pozole Rojo

Bacon Jam

Braised Purple Heirloom Carrots

Caramelised Fig Baked Custards

Cherry, Feta & Oregano Salad

Argentina's chorizo hot dog

Christmas Trifle w Cinnamon Cherries,
Eggnog Custard, Port Jelly & Clove Pound Cake

Crispy Brussels Sprouts & Bacon

Earl Grey & Rhubarb Jam

Grilled Avocado w Melted Cheese & Hot Sauce

Passionfruit Ganache Truffles

Persian Orange Cakes w Quince, Rose & Pistachio

Polish Pickle Soup

Smoky Pulled Pork

Wholemeal Blueberry Bundt Cake

Stay tuned for my traditional 1st of January post where I outline my annual food challenges!

Wednesday 28 December 2011

prune & vanilla smoothie

The holiday season is a period of excess and, after all that overeating and drinking, often our bodies rebel at the abuse we’ve inflicted.

This little smoothie is an excellent way to start the day. The prunes add the sweetness and the, ahem, cleansing properties while low fat milk and yoghurt give you calcium without the calories.

If you want this as a refreshingly chilled wake-up drink then use the ice. Alternatively, boiling water turns it into a warm, soothing start to the day.

Prune & Vanilla Smoothie

Anna’s very own recipe. Makes 2 small drinks.

10 ice cubes or ¼ cup boiling water
1 cup low fat milk (chilled or warmed)
2 tablespoons low fat vanilla yoghurt
10 prunes

Blend! Drink!

Sunday 25 December 2011

christmas trifle

Merry Christmas!

When waif-model Kate Moss said “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”, she clearly hadn’t eaten Bloodwood’s trifle.

Moist, dense pound cake soaked in eggnog custard, topped with cinnamon poached cherries and luscious port wine jelly. It doesn’t get better than that.

Jonas hates jelly. All Swedes seem to.

Once I made some for his little sister, who was 6 at the time, and she wrinkled up her nose in disgust and looked at me as if I was trying to poison her.

How can an entire people hate such a wonderful thing?

I digress, but my point is that this trifle is so good that, after one mouthful, Jonas declared that this ought to be the dessert our family ate at Christmas this year

Thus, my quest to master the components began.

After some kindly tweets between me and the Bloodwood crew, I was merrily on my way to Christmas Trifle heaven.

Clove Pound Cake, Port Wine Jelly
Cinnamon Poached Cherries, Eggnog Custard

So here’s my festive recipe for you. I’ll be enjoying the trifle this afternoon, and I hope your Christmas is filled with equally delicious food too!

Christmas Trifle

Anna’s homage to the Bloodwood Trifle. Serves 12-16.

1 clove pound cake (see recipe below)
1 batch of port wine jelly (see recipe below)
1 batch of eggnog custard (see recipe below)
1 batch of cinnamon poached cherries (see recipe below)


1. Prepare all ingredients the day before. Wrap the cake but refrigerate everything else.

2. When ready to assemble, cut cake into cubes.

3. Layer bottom of a large bowl or individual serving glasses with half the pound cake.

4. Scatter with half the cherries, two thirds of the custard then top with half the jelly broken up into pieces.

5.  Top with remaining pound cake, custard, jelly and cherries then refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cinnamon Poached Cherries

Anna’s very own recipe.

1kg cherries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 cinnamon quills


1. Pit cherries over a large saucepan, catching juices and keeping both flesh and stones.

2. In a saucepan, combine water, cinnamon quills, cherries and their pits then bring to the boil.

3. Simmer for 2 minutes.

4. Add sugar, stir to dissolve. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes.

5. Cool and strain. Keep cherry flesh, discard stones. Use syrup for drinks or other desserts.

Clove Pound Cake

Based on an Australian Gourmet Traveller Recipe.

250g softened butter
250g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
250g eggs (approx 4-5 eggs), at room temperature
250g plain flour, sieved
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking powder


1. Preheat oven to 170C.

2. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla in an electric mixer until pale and fluffy (5-6 minutes).

3. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then stir in cloves, flour and baking powder.

4. Spoon into loaf tin buttered and lined with baking paper, smooth top.

5. Bake until golden and cooked through (45 minutes-1 hour), cool in tin for 5 minutes then turn onto a wire rack.

Eggnog Custard

Based on an Australian Gourmet Traveller Recipe.

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
600ml pouring cream
300ml milk
6 egg yolks
150g caster sugar
125ml brandy


1. Combine vanilla, nutmeg, cream and milk in a saucepan and over medium heat bring almost to boiling point.

2. Beat/whisk egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until pale and thick.

3. With the beaters or whisk continuously moving, pour in a cup of the hot cream and beat vigorously to combine hot liquid and avoid eggs scrambling. Gradually pour in remaining milk/cream mixture until completely combined.

4. Pour hot cream mixture over egg mixture, whisking continuously to combine, then transfer to a clean pan.

5. Cook, stirring continuously, over low-medium heat until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

6. Stir in brandy then strain into a bowl. Cool completely and refrigerate until ready to use.

Port Wine Jelly

Based on an Australian Gourmet Traveller Recipe.

750ml good-quality port
295g caster sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
7 titanium-strength gelatine leaves, softened in cold water for 5 minutes


1. Bring port, sugar, vanilla and 400ml water to the boil in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.

2. Squeeze excess liquid from gelatine, add to pan and stir to dissolve, then transfer to a 20cm x 30cm deep tray.

3. Refrigerate until set (4 hours-overnight).

Thursday 22 December 2011

razor clams w garlic & parsley butter

On a recent visit to the fish market, I was one happy girl when I spotted a bevy of razor clams.

They came from Scotland, so I don’t even want to think about the carbon emission from those food miles, but eating razor clams is a rarity for me, and I love them.

The best way to eat them is simply grilled in their shell with a little garlic butter and parsley, just the way they served them to me on Barceloneta beach.

Razor Clams w Garlic & Parsley Butter

Razor clams
Butter, softened
Parsley, chopped
Garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper, to taste


1. Mix the garlic, parsley, salt and pepper with the butter. Roll into a log then wrap in plastic and refrigerate until hard.

2. When ready to cook, open the razor clams and cut out the dark sections which include the gills, stomach and intestines.

3. Place on a layer of foil on a grill tray.

4. Cut strips of the garlicky butter and cover the length of the clam.

5. Grill for a minute or until the butter melts and the clam flesh firms but doesn’t get too tough.

Saturday 17 December 2011

strawberry, vanilla & rose iced tea

One of my 2011 Food Challenges was to try and cook with tea and make more iced tea.

Now iced tea is a pretty normal drink option, but it’s funny to think not long ago it wasn’t so readily available in Australia.

I used to drink it often as a kid because my American grandfather made a lot of it (and sun tea) and
Australia’s Asian population helped to boost iced tea popularity with bubble tea stores opening up around the country, but it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that Lipton released an iced tea range and everybody started to enjoy it as an alternative to soda.

Making iced tea at home is so easy and it’s a great way to get creative over summer.

I’ve been coming up with a lot of different combinations and here are some of my favourites:
• Strawberry, Vanilla & Rose Iced Tea
• Lychee, Lime & Iced Green Tea
• Apricot & Earl Grey Iced Tea
• White Peach & Thai Ginger Iced Tea
• Honey & Lemon Iced Camomile Tea
• Mint & Pomegranate Iced Rooibus Tea
• Star Anise, Tangerine & Black Iced Tea
• Passionfruit & Jasmine Iced Tea Soda

I’ll be posting some of them randomly over the coming summer weeks, so stay tuned.

~ ~ ~

This iced tea is just so pretty.

Served in elegant little glass cups it makes for a perfect afternoon tea with the girls, and if you want to be a little naughty you could always add a splash of vodka or strawberry schnapps for the sweet tooths.

The tiny dried rose petals (I use Pariya) need to be added just before serving to ensure the fragrance rises gentle from the glass.

Serve it with a fat slab of sticky Turkish Delight, heavily dusted in icing sugar, for an extreme indulgence.

Strawberry, Vanilla & Rose Iced Tea

Anna's very own recipe. Makes 1 litre.

2 bags of Dilmah Rose & French Vanilla Black Tea*
400ml boiling water
500ml water
100ml rose syrup
200ml sugar syrup
5 strawberries, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon dried rose petals
Ice, for serving


1. In a jug, pour the hot water over the tea bags and steep the tea for 30 minutes.

2. Remove tea bags, add the remaining water, sugar syrup, rose syrup and allow tea to cool to room temperature then refrigerate until completely cold.

3. To prepare iced tea, combine the sweetened tea with the strawberries and ice, then stir in rose petals just before serving.

*You could use black tea, vanilla essence/pod and some rosewater to get the same effect.

Monday 12 December 2011

chocolate, cashew & honey granola

This is an amazing granola recipe. The chocolate intensity comes from using pure Dutch-processed cocoa rather than cocoa mixed with sugar and other ingredients.

In fact, the recipe is quite healthy with only small amounts of oil, sugar and honey in comparison the amount of nuts and grains involved.

The flavour is a wonderful mix of chocolate and honey, with your cereal milk turning into a beautiful chocolatey drink at the end. I adored the results.

The recipe was one of the four granolas I managed to create this year, as part of my 2011 Food Challenges.

Chocolate, Cashew & Honey Granola

Anna’s very own recipe. Makes around 8 x ¾ cup serves.

3 cups rolled oats
2 cups halved raw cashews
½ cup raw sunflower seeds
½ cup linseeds
¼ cup dedicated coconut flakes
¼ cup chia seeds
½ cup Dutch processed cocoa
⅓ cup honey
¼ cup raw sugar
⅓ cup canola oil
Pinch of salt


1. Preheat oven to 120’C.

2. Combine oats, cashews, coconut flakes, sunflower seeds, linseeds, chia seeds, Dutch processed cocoa, honey, sugar, salt and canola oil until fully combined and all the grains are well coated. You want the granola to clump together, so if it’s too dry or too wet adjust with a little extra oil or oats.

3. Cook in oven for around 1 hour, stirring granola every 10 minutes until it’s crunchy. Take care when stirring not to break clumps up too much.

4. Remove from heat and leave to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Friday 9 December 2011

czech garlic soup

Česneková Polévka

Back in 2003, I went on a little road trip through Slovakia and the Czech Republic with my cousin (Jožko), his girlfriend (Miška) and his pal (Braňo). It was an awesome journey taking in Prague, Karlštejn, Hluboká, Tabor, České Budějovice (Budweis) and Český Krumlov, not to mention the ingestion of copious amounts of beer and wine and slivovica - as only people in their youth can do!

Since the crew were Slovaks, we often ate in tiny traditional restaurants that rarely saw foreigners. It meant I had fantastic guides who explained the indecipherable menu thoroughly which allowed me to try some seriously delicious, authentic, local food.

My favourite food memories were the Bryndzové halušky (Slovak potato gnocchi with a sheep’s cheese sauce), utopenec (Czech pickled sausages), smažený sýr (a crumbed cheese steak, like a schnitzel made entirely of cheese) and this wonderful garlic soup.

We were eating in a small sporting club, somewhere in Bohemia, and the little restaurant served this rich, clear garlic broth. It was cold outside so the broth was intensely warming.

But what really lifted the soup to dizzying heights was the discovery of melted cheese and smoky pieces of pork at the bottom of the bowl. Each mouthful was an oozing spoonful of molten cheese and garlicky broth. Perfect!

For these past 8 years I have thought of that soup so often. Now that I’ve made it, as part of my 2011 Food Challenges, I can honestly say my own version is an excellent tribute to the original experience.

Cook it, and you can experience the joys of Czech food too.

Česneková Polévka (Czech Garlic Soup)

Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 4 as an entree (starter).
We used Eumundi Smokehouse's
pork fillet

1 bulb garlic
1.5 litres chicken broth
Grated zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon marjoram leaves, picked over
300g peeled and cubed potatoes
50g smoked pork fillet, thinly julienned
125g edam, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste
Knob of butter, for frying
Teaspoon olive oil, for frying
A few extra marjoram leaves, for garnish
Crusty bread rolls, for serving

1. Peel the skin from all the garlic cloves and slice each into thin slithers.

2. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pot then sauté garlic until very soft.

3. Add lemon zest and chicken stock, then bring to the boil.

4. Add salt and pepper, marjoram and potatoes. Boil for 8 minutes or until potatoes are soft.

5. Meanwhile, either in a large oven proof serving dish (or individual oven-proof serving bowls) spread the pork on the base and top with grated cheese. Grill for a few minutes until the cheese has completely melted. This way it sticks to the bottom of the dish when you add the soup.

6. When the potatoes are ready, taste the soup is seasoned properly, then ladle into the serving dish and sprinkle with a little more marjoram leaves. Eat immediately with crusty bread.

Note: If you can’t get hold of smoked pork, use a smoky ham. Also, you might be able to tell from the photos that I used thyme. Marjoram is the traditional ingredient; I just couldn’t find any that day! Thyme is a good substitute in a pinch.

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