30 September 2006

Happy birthday to me!

I'm not sure how I came to make my own birthday cake this year--usually it magically appears at a lunch or a dinner. It's never anything ornate -- when certain people listen to me, it's a simple chocolate or vanilla cake (sometimes marble), when certain people don't listen to me it turns into a black forest cherry layer cake (which, btw, I absolutely detest). It always arrives with a certain number of candles, and an interesting rendition of happy birthday...off-pitch, off-tempo...but who really notices, right?

For those of you who've been reading me for a while, you know how much I adore chocolate. It really is the perfect celebratory food, and (at least to me) synonymous with joy. You also know how much I like cooking from Nigella's books. For the past few years, my office treats have been based from one of her many, many fabulous recipes. Last year I made her
Chocolate Guinness Cake, a few years back I made her dense chocolate loaf. There were others, but I can't remember them all...This year, the treats I made for the office was her Honey Chocolate Cake, but as cuppycakes (or as I renamed them, Nigella's Chocolate Hunnycakes).

So a few weeks ago, when I was deciding what should be made for my home celebration was a little difficult. I mean, I knew it would be a chocolate cake of some sort, but which one? There were so many in Nigella's books that I'd love to try, but another book called out to me.

Actually...I used my birthday as the excuse to buy another cookbook:
Green & Black's Chocolate Recipes. It beckoned me for weeks...it truly was love at first site.

Maybe it was the decadence of the gold dust on the accompanying photograph that caught my eye (hey, I make no apologies for adoring gold and chocolate), but it was fairly easy for me to settle on their Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake. Even though the strains of Goldfinger rang in my mind, I decided against buying some gold dust, instead opting a much simpler presentation of a dusting of whiter than white icing sugar on the almost abyss-like blackness of the cake, along with a dollop of coffee-flavoured double cream.

The cake is very easy to make and I had no problems with any of it. I took the author's advice and made it a day in advance and put it in the fridge after it had cooled to get a wickedly dense and fudgey texture. It is a flourless cake, so it's perfect for any chocoholic who happens to be on a gluten-free diet.

And the taste? Simply magnificent. I used a combination of 86% and 70% cocoa-solids chocolate, which imparted a very Barry White-like quality to the cake...girls, you know what I mean.

Green & Black's Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake (p153)

Serves 10

1 tbsp ground almonds plus extra for dusting the cake tin
a little melted butter to help the ground almonds coat the tin
300g dark chocolate (minimum 60% cocoa solids)
275g caster sugar (fruit sugar)
165g unsalted butter
pinch of vanilla salt
5 extra-large eggs
icing sugar for dusting

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Prepare a 20 or 23 cm/8" or 9" springform baking tin, or any other tin with removable sides by brushing it with the melted butter and dusting it with some of the ground almond. Shake off any excess and set aside.
  • Melt the chocolate, sugar, butter and salt on top of a double boiler and remove from heat.
  • Whisk together the eggs with the one tablespoon of ground almonds and fold into the melted chocolate. After a few minutes, it will thickend. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes.
  • Let cool on a rack before popping it into the fridge.
  • To serve, dust with the icing sugar.

  • This cake will not rise much, but will poof and then fall, creating a slight crater-like effect.
  • You can try mixing in some good quality flavoured dark chocolate as part of the 300g. G&B's recommends orange-flavoured, but I suppose raspberry would work nicely as well.
  • This is a very rich cake, so be forewarned.

edit: Just a quick note for those who are getting confuzzed...I'm doing a catch up on this month's wining and dining. Far too many meals and not enough posting time!



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Feast: September Celebrations Part Four

Apart from the blog birthday and my birthday, my boyfriend (affectionately known as The Fussy Eater (TFE)) and I celebrated our second year together. As with last year, we decided to celebrate in Stratford: tickets to Twelfth Night and dinner at The Old Prune.

Whereas the play was very uneven and somewhat disappointing (please rein in Brian Bedford...the play is NOT about the butler), dinner was fabulous. I highly recommend The Old Prune--beautifully fresh, local ingredients prepared in such delicious ways. The restaurant is heavily involved with
Stratford Chefs School, well-known for the quality of their graduates. Service is exquisite--nicely timed and the waiter was friendly and knowledgable.

Here's what we had--TFE's on the left and mine is on the right...

The amuse bouche to share: Herbed goat cheese with pickled veg.

left: Warm salad of duck confit and wild arugula with rosemary, parsley and chilli oil.
right: Mesquite-smoked "kanpachi" with spicy marinated cabbage, green apple and maple syrup.

left: Twice-cooked Guelph's Rowe Farm pork rib on rapini and white beans with basil and garlic.
right: Fragrant and spicy lamb tagine with root veg.

left: Sweet ravioli with cherries in rum.
right: Slow-baked chocolate mousse with hazelnut praline tuile and espresso foam.

after dinner sweets to share: homemade truffles, jellybabies, buter cookies, biscuits and blueberry-lemon mini-mini cakes.

Before the show we visited a costume gallery with costumes from previous productions. Although there were pieces from various shows, I thought this costume, from last year's production of Into The Woods, was something you might be interested in...it's very reminiscent of
Giuseppe Arcimboldo's paintings, especially Vertumnus.



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28 September 2006

Feast: September Celebrations Part Three

I looked at the calendar today -- my birthday was how many days away? With everything going on, I never did finish all my feasting posts.

I was going to split my birthday feeding frenzy into two posts, but given there are only a few days left to the month, I thought I'd post the actual birthday festivities in one post.

My very sweet and wonderful friend and I usually take one another out for lunch on our birthdays. We went to a fabulous restaurant, prior to pampering ourselves at the spa.

From Left to Right:
top row:
cheese fritters (Brie, Cambozola and Chevre with marinated veg and a sweet red pepper dip); the soup du jour (sorry, can't remember); beef wraps with slaw.

middle row: seared tuna in nori and tempura; tempura veg; frozen mousse.
bottom row: Chocolate attitude (how aptly named!)--choccie pate, sorbet & brownie.

Then, of course, an afternoon of massage, manicures and pedicures. For those of you who are interested, my toenail colour is "Drama Queen" (yes, a number of people have commented on the appropriateness of that name--and colour).

Afterwards, my darling TFE took me to a really nice restaurant that prides itself on its seasonal menu. I apologize in advance for the quality of the photos. It was getting dark and I hate using the flash in a restaurant.

From Left to Right:
top row: my G&T, sweet potato bread, brie and mushrooms in phyllo with cranberry chutney.
middle row: apple & rosehip sorbet, steak and mushrooms, beef tenderloin with sweet potato brulee.
bottom row: molten chocolate babycakes with white chocolate ice cream.


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25 September 2006

Invitation: Canadian Blogging By Post #2: Our Season's Bounty

Our darling Ivonne sent me a plea for help. Tania, the Candied Quince herself, is in a tizzy with exciting things, she had to pass on hosting the second Canadian Blogging By Post. La principessa dei bignè asked me to help out by hosting this parcel-giving extravaganza. Well, of course I said—er—wrote back letting her know that I’d love to do it.

Canadian Blogging By Post (CBBP) began this past spring when
Sam of sweet pleasure: plaisir sucré came up with a deliciously chocolaty inaugural theme. I received some lovely packages, filled with chocolate, tea, organic sugar and some fun trinkets and toys and I sent out jars of goodies along with spices from our pantry.

This month’s theme shouldn’t be a surprise (at least not for those who’ve been reading my little bit of e-space recently). No matter what part of this great land we are in—city or country—our stores and markets brim with wonderful foods from our farmers’ harvests—apples, beans, corn, grapes, plums, spinach, tomatoes—it only makes sense for CBBP 2’s theme a spotlight on our season’s bounty.

Here's what you need to know about CBBP:
Canadian Blogging By Post is an exchange of care packages by bloggers who reside in Canada.

Here’s what you need to do to participate:
Prepare a recipe—it could be something you’ve found in a book, a family treasure passed down, or something you’ve created.

  • Post your creation onto your site—photographs, although nice, aren’t necessary.
  • Send me your entry information—see below for details.
  • Assemble a care package and send it off once you’ve received an address—see below for details. *
  • Post about the package you receive—again, photographs, although nice, aren’t necessary. *

Here’s what your entry must have:
Please email the following details to: cardamomaddict at gmail dot com (I know you know this, but remove the spaces and substitute the “at” and “dot” for their appropriate symbols). I’ll post your initial recipe entry in a round-up of participants.

  • Your name
  • Your blog’s name
  • Your blog’s front page URL
  • You’re recipe’s name
  • The permalink URL of your Canadian Blogging By Post entry
  • Your postal address
  • Any food restrictions you have (allergies, dislikes, dietary restrictions, etc.)

Here’s what you may want to put in your care package:

  • The recipe you posted for CBBP2
  • Ingredients (e.g. for your recipe; interesting specialty items; local products or interesting finds from your local farmers’ market).
  • An accompaniment that you might pair with the recipe (e.g. a drink, a sweet confection, a photograph, or a text).
  • Something homemade (e.g. a card, a handmade craft, a drawing or a sketch).
  • Anything else that you would like to include.
  • You can put in whatever you want and you can be as creative as you wish. Please ensure what you include is safe and sound for a care package.

The deadline for submitting your entry is Friday 27 October. I will match bloggers up that weekend and send you a postal address. You mail off your package on Monday 30 October. Your parcel, from your mystery sender, should arrive in short order. I’ll post a parcel round up in November.

Things to note:

  • Please use your judgement before including anything fresh – beware of spoilage!
  • You don’t need to include lots and lots of items in your package. Three or four items are just super.
  • Remember, if someone isn’t home, they have to collect it at the post office, so be mindful of weight and size.
  • Please try and post the package on Monday the 30th so it's delivered that week rather than sitting at the post office over the weekend.
  • If you can, please get a tracking number for your package. This will help follow up with parcels that go astray (yes, it happens).

It’s totally up to you how you interpret this theme. Be creative and have lots of fun with it—don’t get stressed over it if you can’t get to a farmers' market and you are stuck in the 24-hour mega mart at 3am with a half-bald head of cabbage and something that can now pass as an apple head doll. Part of celebrating the harvest is doing the best you can with what you’ve got.

If you need some inspiration as to what you might find at the farmers’ markets (at least those in Ontario), take a look at these two posts:

To market, to market…
…To buy a fat…

We all hope you can take part. If you have any questions, please email me directly and I’ll do my best to get you an answer.

*These are really important to the entire CBBP event, and there were some issues last time around. While we can't take away your blogging privileges, nor get you barred from any restaurant, market or back garden, we can (via our secret and potent CBBP powers), send enough bad vibrations your way to have any pasta you make taste like Chef Boyardee and any chocolate you consume to have the mouthfeel of candlewax. So yes, we'd like you to do this, and no we aren't afraid to use our awesome CBBP powers...



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21 September 2006

...to buy a fat...


I got to the other market today--quite a study in contrast to the one I visited yesterday: crowds, farmers, produce. I spent hours there--quite fun. This time I even had a shopping list: peaches (have decided to make a pie) and peppers (for mum)...got all that plus some berries and shitake mushrooms.

I also picked up lunch: perogies with sour cream and bacon...and a box of apple fritters. Yummy!


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20 September 2006

To market, to market...

Not to buy a fat pig, nor anything else.

One of the things I wanted to do this week, since I'm on holidays, is visit the local farmers markets. I'm lucky in that there are at least two within my county, with three market days between them. Today I dragged myself out of bed to get to one of them. I don't know why it was such an onerous task, leaving my nice, warm and comfy bed to go into the cold and the wet of the outside. Oh wait, I think I just answered my question.

I must admit that I really wasn't looking forward to the market. The few times per year that I go (normally on Saturdays) I've noticed a definite upswing in the number of re-sellers (you know, the middle men who buy produce from the Ontario Food Terminal and then sell them to grocery stores), and a decrease in the number of 'real' farmers at the market. Given it's the middle men who seem to dominate the tables, and their prices aren't that much better than what's at my grocery store, I don't see the point of buying much there.

There weren't that many vendors--it's late in the season, I know-- but of the dozen or so who were there, I'd guess that only two, possibly three, were re-sellers. Since it wasn't busy, I was able to talk to the growers--the cheerful lady with the table of end-of-season berries and the most gorgeous cauliflower, the quiet farmer who makes his own summer sausage (mmmmm) and brought in a bushel of his finger potatoes, the nice young Mennonite who had some peppers, as well, the gregarious fruit grower from St. Catherines who had HUGE baskets of really ripe peaches and lovely plums, grapes and pears.... They were all really friendly (well, except two of resellers...they had nasty attitude...the possible third was really sweet) and let me take pictures of their wares.

Tomorrow I hope to go to the other market. Now that's a REAL farmers' market--they still do livestock auctions there--and a bunch of the local farmers show up with their veg, baking and preserves for sale. If I get out there, I'll be taking my camera...and posting about it.

Here are some pictures--I know, I got shutter happy, but things looked so good...



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