Friday, 27 August 2010

When in Rome, do as the Romans do

Today, while on the train on my way to work, I heard an Australian tourist talk about the Colosseum. They were headed to see one if the most famous monuments in the world.

As he was taking, I could see the twinkle in his eye, as he mentioned how once he got inside he was going to take some sand in his hands and rub it between his fingers... just like that scene from "The Gladiator" where Maximus (Russell Crowe) does the same, before going into battle.
It's funny how much we live through movies. So much of what we know, of what we do is dictated and unconsciously influenced by what we see on tv, in the movies or read in books.
Some are true, some aren't.. yet we don't ponder this, we just live vicariously through someone else's portrayal of fact or fiction...
But in this case it IS fiction, dear tourist. I hate to be the one to tell you, but the sand you so fondly mention is long gone.
The bottom wooden floor that once covered the dungeons and other cages and underground areas, has since burned and many other parts of the amphiteatre were destroyed by earthquakes and other natural disasters, crumbled away.
What's left of course is still magnificent and certainly glorious to the eyes of such a "young" culture as the Australian. The earliest stages of the Roman Empire date back to 44 BC and the last signs of its reign are dated back to the year 1453... that's close the 2000 years.
The Colosseum itself dates back to 70-72 AD, that's 72 years after the advent of Christ (considered year 0 of today's calendar.)
The glory of the Roman empire lives on, regardless of the state its "survivors"; this monument stands as a majestic testimony of one of the greatest civilizations that ever roamed and conquered the world.
And I live there!

Roma di notte ~ Rome by night

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Roast beef recipe

Given that my Martha Stewart mood is back (I cannot mention the number of cooking blogs and websites I've been browsing lately...) I've decided to share one of my favourite recipes with you.
If you're a meat lover like I am and you like a glass of good red wine, then this recipe is right up your alley... and "down the hatch", as the Brits would say!

First off, the meat selection. The outcome of your roast will pretty much depend on the choice of meat and for that I mean the cut. I'd say 70-80% of the results depend on the cut, in my opinion.
For a good, tender, tasty roast I'd go with Rib eye or better yet Prime Rib. Yes, it might cost a bit more, but it's SO worth the extra cost!
You can also choose Sirloin, though it tends to be a bit tough once cooked leaving you with that "I can chew this for hours" effect.
As a rule of thumb, any cut that has some fat in it is what you want to use. This provides the flavour and keeps the meat tender.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about, see here. Also, if you ask your local butcher or even the staff in the meat section of your local grocery store/supermarket, they will surely know what to give you. Same goes for amount/weight.

Next, the secret ingredient! No, not the wine.... but mustard! Yes, you heard me, mustard.
Please try to avoid the "squeeze out of the bottle" kind. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, but if it comes in a jar, rather than the Hellman's mustard bottle or the like, it's more likely going to have a better consitency (musn't be too runny) and flavour.

You'll also need 1 glass of dry red wine. No sweet Zinfendale stuff please... I beg you!
If you can't get Italian or French wine, then at least be sure it's dry, with a robust structure. Again, the difference is definitely noticeable. Anything such as a Cabernet, Merlot, or a Bordeaux will do great. (I'm not too familiar with what's available in the US at a fair price, but I'm sure you'll do fine.. just read the label!). And btw... NEVER chill your red wine please!
That's just a crime! LOL

You will also need Olive oil - extra virgin. Honestly, I dunno how people can live without it LOL.
You don't need much... and now all chain stores and grocery stores carry it, you're bound to find a fairly cheap brand, even if it's imported. Many supermarkets will put their label on perfectly good imported olive oil, which cuts the cost.. just check the label to see its origin. European is best.. Italy of course, Greece, France, Spain... They sell small bottles too.
You'll need about 3-4 tablespoons, depending on the size of your roast and therefore of your pot.

So to recap, you'll need: (God I feel like I'm on one of those TV cookery shows... I can literally hear myself speaking to the audience as I type this! LOL)

*1 piece of Prime rib roast cut (or equivalent)
*1 small jar of mustard
*olive oil (3 swirls - what that means is, that you swirl the bottle of olive oil, as you slowly pour it in your pot, circling three times... it basically needs to cover the of the pot by 3/4, so not entirely)
*2-3 tsp of margarine (butter will do fine also, salted or not)

Now for the directions:
Take your meat cut and leave it in the string or netting, if it has any. Gently cover the piece with mustard, making sure to spread a thi even latyer all over. It can be a bit messy, but fun!
It doesn't have to be perfect, so long as the mustard is everywhere, on all sides.
Don't worry about the meat juices watering down the mustard, it's normal.

Add the olive oil to your pot, almost covering the bottom and turn on the flame/heat. You want a nice medium-high flame, in order to get the oil nice and hot. The pot I use is stainless steel, with a thick 1/2 inch (1 1/2 cm) bottom. This helps to evenly distribute the heat and avoids your food from burning. Try to use this kind of pot, if possible.
Now add the margarine or butter to the oil and once it's melted and starting to gently sizzle, add the meat. You'll hear the meat sizzle fairly loud, don't worry, it's normal... and DON'T lower the flame/heat.

photo 1.JPG

Be sure to brown all sides, in order to properly sear the meat and keep all its moisture. DO NOT add salt until your meat has browned and is seared entirely, otherwise this will cause the meat to start "juicing", expelling its juices, toughening the meat, creating a "boiled" effect.

Once salted, add the glass of red wine and then lower the flame/heat some, to a medium-low setting. Not too low or the wine won't evaporate and the juices will start to flow again.
If you feel it's drying too quickly, you can cover the pot (though not entirely) for 10 minutes or longer, depending on the consistency of the juices.
Be sure to turn the roast on all sides from time to time, to cook evenly.

Once the wine and juices have nicely become Au Jus (a light gravy) (about 20 mins or so, depending on size of roast), then it is done. Bare in mind the connsitency of the Au jus is not like the typical think american or british gravy.. it is ahrdly even a sauce. It is more of a dark, slightly concentrated broth almost. You are likely to see dark bits in it, that's normal. It's the mustard that has thickened, together with the natural juices from the meat.

photo 2.JPG

The great thing about this recipe is, it can be served hot or cold (but the Au jus must always be served hot). Simply cut the string (if any) and then thinly slice the roast, and lay it on a platter or a plate topped with the Au jus, or you can serve it on the side, though I highly recommend it on top!
The ideal cook time will allow for nice pink slices, with a slightly darker (more cooked edge). This of course, changes according to taste. If you prefer your meat medium-medium well, simply cook longer (and vice versa).

I really hope you try this recipe out and let me know the outcome and what you think!
Also, feel free to comment or contact me for any questions!

Monday, 23 August 2010

Hello, again!

Well, I'm back at work today and I can't tell you how depressing it is, if only for the fact that the office is so quiet, which means a lot of people are still on vacation.

While I can't get up and leave... I shall console myself with the thought of yummy cupcakes.
They always put a smile on my face!

As for pics of wonderful Paris, you'll all have to wait, my dears.. they're just so many... it's going to take a while to edit them and sort them out!

So... that's all for now.
Lovin' ya and leavin' ya!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Back in business!

"Honey, I'm hoooome!"

Yep, you got it..... I'm back home, and back into business!
Paris was a blast... but all good things come to an end, or so they say.
I'll soon be back to posting regularly, so watch this space!

Meantime, sending positive thoughts and good vibes to my friend Heather for her surgery tomorrow.
Love ya girlie... you'll be fine!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Taking a short break

Off to Paris with the Bee Eff, back on the 20th!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Letting your mind run...

Have you ever fantasized about random people you cross in the street or see in a restaurant or on the subway?

Everyday on my way to work i get off at the same subway stop and for the past week or so, I've seen this same couple on the platform, sitting on the bench, just chatting.
There would be nothing strange about this scenario if it wasn't for the fact that you'd assume that people waiting on the platform were there specifically to wait for the train and step on it, as it arrives.
So... how come the train come and goes, and they're still there sitting on that bench? And I see them rather closely... all huddles up talking, looking at one another, right in the eyes.

I stardard fantasizing to what their circumstance is, about hy they decide to rendez-vous in an undergound subway station rather than on the street in a cafè or at the park, for example.
Maybe they're having an affair and want to keep away from the streets and onlookers. Maybe they have something to hide! ecretly meeting under ground where no one they know can see them...

Or maybe they just like to get to the subway station early so that they have some time to hang out before going to work... but why hang out underground in a humid, hot subway station rather than outdoors, at street level.

What ever their reason.. I find it really curious!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Things I love

I read a friend's blog post yesterday and it got me thinking...

There are so many tiny little things that may seem like ordinary mundane thigns, yet maybe mean so much to us... or that just put a smile on our face.

Here are mine:

* I like it when I hear a baby's laughter or giggle.. it just instantly puts me in a good mood!

* I like all things girlie, like glitter, sparkles, and pink decorations on cupcakes.

* I love sleeping in a bed that's just had its sheets changed

* I love wrapping gifts and the smell of scotch invisible tape

* I love birthdays, especially mine

* I love nailpolish and getting a manicure...

* I love sunny days and blue skies with white puffy clouds

* I love it when i see new shoots, or new buds on a plant

* I love receiving mail... real mail (when they aren't bills of course)

* I love Fridays

* I love being hugged

* I love singing in the car when the radio is blaring and I'm the only one in it

* I love taking the first bite into a freshly baked Custard Cream Krapfen

* I love taking photographs of people I see as beautiful, when they aren't looking

* I love waking up to find it's a beautiful sunny day

* I love laughing so hard you almost have to pee

* I love a brand new pair of heels

* I love getting my hair washed at the salon... how they massage your scalp for what feels like an eternity

* I love the scent of certain candles

* I love lipgloss and the way it shines

* I love summer and how the sun goes down so late

* I love the city and its bright lights

* I love cupcakes and everythign about them: how they look, how they smell, the bright or soft colours of their icing, the decorations applied, and how they're a tiny version of happiness in a box.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Oh My Choc!!

Well... it was me against the Chocolate... and I think I won! don't you??

The task at hand: a chocolate birthday cake for a 12 year old boy.
Guests: 11 (2 of which, kids)

This was the first time I tried this recipe and I must say, the outcome was rather yummy! Not too sweet, nice and rich and smooth frosting, very soft cake texture.
I had fun decorating too...

One tip: Do not try to remove the cake from the cake tin before it's cooled down some... or you end up breaking it liek I did!!
Good job I managed to cover the disaster with the frosting!!
I'm such a baking amature.... can you tell!?! LOL

Anywho... I think I'm going to try this one next.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Weird and wonderful...

I thought I'd introduce you to some of the odd blogs I've come accross.
Some of them are just plain weird, others crack me up and some I just don't get!

Want to see what I'm getting at?
Here... try this.

or this:

See what I mean?
I'm determined to find more!! There's tons out there. All you need to do is browse...

Monday, 2 August 2010

First trial run cupcakes

Well... I did it!!
I foundly found time!
I got out my brand spankling new (even got that new book feel and smell!) recipe books out and starting to browse.

Once I'd found the basic cupcake recipe I liked, I dived into the fridge and slowly set out and arranged all that i'd need...
Took out the butter to let it soften, weighed my sugar, counted my eggs, opened up the brand new pack of self-raising (man, what an awesome invention!) flower... and followed the directions religiously.
I even had my cute little cupcake liners picked out... so many colours to choose from!

Once all battered up and ready to pop into the oven, I wathched as my little marvels grew.
17 minutes (not 16, not 18..) later and voilà.. I had 12 perfect, yes I mean PERFECT, cupcakes ready to be cooled and then iced.

While I studied the decorations I'd bought a couple of weeks ago, decided which of the pretty sparkles or rainblow coloured sprinkles to try, a thought suddenly strucke me... "icing sugar!!"... did I buy icing sugar after finishing it, the last time I used it?

*insert shriek here* Crap ... I) didn't. F&£$k S"HT " @&"'?#§ AAAARGH!

I was so bummed! I had these perfect looking, delicious smelling, wonderful cupcakes... and no pretty icing to go on top!

Needless to say... they smelled just so darned good, we went ahead and ate half of them anyways... you know, just to test them and make sure they came out ok!
Ya know what? They sure did!!