Hail Mary, Full Of Grace

I've just whiled away a few lovely hours at Melbourne's wonderful Abbotsford Convent. I'm sunburnt and a little sleepy, my fingernails are filthy and I *think* I have goat poop on my tights, but poop notwithstanding I really can't recommend this place enough. Historic buildings, beautiful gardens and plenty of lawn space just perfect for spring frolicking! Farmer's markets, food and drink, antiques, galleries, and the Collingwood Children's Farm just next door. Perfect Right? Right.

Best Lunch Ever! Mighty healthy hangover cure from Lentil As Anything - read about Lentil, they deserve your support

Nature. Turns out it's pretty gosh-darn good

Freshly squeezed OJ icypole - totally worth the sticky fingers

View from The Collingwood Children's Farm

Sleepy baby goat, he and I shared some cuddles

Cranky Sheep, don't mess with him

The beatiful Convent grounds

Today was simply perfect. If you haven't paid the nuns a visit recently I urge you to do so as soon as possible.

Homemade and handmade

My week started with a cooking adventure. I made bread for the first time. It didn’t go too well. But the second time around it worked a charm. So here are some things I've learned about baking bread:
  • There are different types of yeast. Read about them here.
  • You’ll probably use instant or active. The main difference is that instant can be mixed in with the flour, while active should be mixed with water.
  • Instant yeast will last 12 months (after opening) in your freezer.
  • The bread continues to cook while it’s cooling, so be good and don’t cut it for a couple of hours at least. Some people suggest a day or more. But they’re clearly crazy.
  • You should probably make this recipe: No kneading required! But pay attention to temperatures.
  • Fresh bread is the best with ripe avocado, a generous squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper.

Om nom nom.

Apart from making bread, I’ve been blogging about sea creatures over at I Know My Goat. It's not exactly food or music, but there are otters holding hands. I've been recovering from the surreal and wonderful This is Not Art festival, at which I managed to eat a lot of free food, and scored a delicious recipe for rhubarb and strawberry coulis.

And finally, I've been listening to Voss' debut long player, The Inland Sea, which I'm pretty sure you should be listening to also. Especially if you like well crafted songs about myths and maps and legends, sweet and ambling violin, vocal duets, and the sound of rain.

The Inland Sea
is concerned with Ludwig Leichardt's quest to cross the continent, which was, in turn, inspiration for Patrick White's novel Voss. This mess of artistic tribute somehow suits the album, which takes fiction as inspiration perhaps more than fact.

It isn't hard to see much Australian fiction as an attempt to rewrite history - to reinterpret convict suffering not as judicial punishment, but as spiritual trial: at the end of which we receive the promised land, having earned it. This artistic endeavor sees us make heroes of criminals and prophets of madmen. It's an uneasy inheritance, but Voss seems to embrace it. Ludwig Leichardt didn't die: he disappeared into myth. No death mask marked his passing, but perhaps we have been making them ever since.

Recurring themes of domesticity and tribulation, great flights and love, find their way into the lyrics. It's a bit rough around the edges, and hesitant in parts – but it's also surprising and a little bit sublime. A little bit like an inland sea.

Buy it online here. It comes with a gorgeous poster by Alice Carroll (last seen here making jam) and the lyric booklet is tied with string.

Listen to:
Charley's Forest Hall
Leichardt Mask

Check out:

Sometimes Food - Flourless Chocolate Cake with Hazelnut Meringue

One of my favourite lady friends just celebrated her 23rd birthday, and to ring in the beginning of her 24th year I baked her this delightfully girly cake. This recipe is perhaps a little complicated, and unless you have biceps like Agatha Trunchbull you will definitely need an electric beater, but it tastes divine and preparing it makes for an enjoyable afternoon of very busy baking! Don your favourite frilly apron (I rather like this one) and get cooking, your favourite lady friend will thank you!

My super cute new electric beater, you will need one of these!

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Hazelnut Meringue & Raspberries

What you will need:
  • 2/3 cup softened unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 350g good quality bitter dark chocolate (I used the 60% cocoa variety)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
For the meringue:
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts, chopped (see here for how to prepare them)
  • 1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • Fresh raspberries and thickened cream to serve
What you will need to do:

1. Preheat your oven to 180 C and line the bottom of a 20cm spring form cake tin with baking paper. Grease the sides of the cake tin and set aside.

2. Cream brown sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until the mixture is pale and creamy. In a separate bowl melt the dark chocolate, I always melt chocolate using this method.

3. Using an electric mixer, add egg yolks to the butter / sugar mixture one at a time and beat gently until all ingredients are combined. Add melted chocolate and vanilla essence and beat well. Your batter should be like a thick chocolate mousse in texture.

4. This is where things get a little bit tricky. In yet another bowl, beat six egg whites until they begin to stiffen and form soft peaks. Make sure your bowl and beaters are clean and dry before commencing this step, any unwanted moisture will spoil your eggs! Stir about a third of the egg whites through the cake batter - you can stir this first third through the mixture quite vigorously - then carefully fold through the remaining egg whites. Be sure to fold the whites thorough gently, otherwise your cake mixture will separate and become slippery and sloppy rather than creamy. I would suggest using a spatula at this step, and try to fold the cake batter over itself rather than stirring it in a circular motion, folding is preferable to stirring as it retains the air in the eggs.

5. Pour the mixture into your greased cake tin and bake for approximately half an hour. Meanwhile, prepare your meringue. (More egg whites!) Beat four egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt until eggs begin to stiffen and form peaks, then carefully add the white sugar a little bit at a time, continue to beat until the mixture stiffens up. Your meringue mixture is ready when you can turn your mixing bowl upside down without the whites falling out. Once the whites are at this point, fold through chopped hazelnuts and chocolate. As above, I would suggest using a spatula, and fold the mixture as little as possible.

6. After about half an hour in the oven your cake should be firming up nicely, a little bit of a jiggle is ok, but make sure your cake has begun to cook through before beginning this next step. Remove your cake from the oven and spread the meringue mixture over the top of the cake. I spread my meringue mixture with a spatula and then used a fork to create some cute little swirly peaks. Return the cake to the oven and cook for a further 30 minutes, or until the meringue has hardened and is browning slightly.

7. Remove your cake from the oven and stand aside for at least half an hour before removing from the tin. Don't be alarmed if your meringue has puffed up - my cake looked like it was wearing a meringue chef's hat when it first came out of the oven - but never fear! After thirty minutes cooling your meringue should have fallen a bit. Run a knife around the edge of the cake tin to loosen the cake before turning it out. Allow the cake to cool before serving.

I served my cake with blobs of thickened cream and fresh raspberries. You can top your cake with whatever you like, but I would recommend something tart to cut through the richness of the chocolate and the sugary meringue. I must also point out that this cake is incredibly unhealthy! It is high in sugar, high in fat, and presumalby bad for one's cholesterol. In the words of the immortal Cookie Monster, this cake is a sometimes food. Still, doesn't it look lovely?

PS. Happy Birthday Sarah! I'm glad you liked your cake, now take Cookie Monster's advice and eat some healthy greens...