Sunday, 14 August 2011

Ban Live Export & RSPCA Vanilla and Pink Frosting Cupcakes

Today was the day- Australians final chance to be the voice for our animals. I was there, amongst the hundreds of others who turned out to the National 'Ban Live Export Rally' on Parliament Lawns in Hobart today. I was most moved buy the number of people, and also by the number of children. It's uplifting to know that children are being raised aware of animal welfare. They were holding the cutest signs which said 'Treat animals kindly'. So simple really isn't it.

I could go on and on about my views on this topic- but I don't want my blog to be a preaching page. If you are interested however- head along to the Animals Australia web page for all the facts or feel free to contact me or leave a comment. 

Cast your vote against live exports at

The RSPCA have been a huge supporter of The Ban to Live Export also, having helped launch the large advertising campaign with the release of the above advertisement. I'm always asking myself what can I do to help? Well it turns out that tomorrow, Monday 15th August is RSPCA Cupcake Day! 

So in honour of that I headed straight home after the rally to make cupcakes! I was excited at the thought of it, and also a little nervous, as sweets aren't my strong point, but I gave it a good shot- and I must say they turned out to be quite yummy. 

I used a basic vanilla cupcake mixture which I sourced from the classic and never fail Australian Women's Weekly Cook Book. I then  went to one of my favourite blogs, Cannelle et Vanille for ideas on gorgeous presentation. I used her recipe for a wonderful vanilla butter cream frosting. Unfortunately mine don't look anywhere near as elegant, but for a first attempt I was happy.

I will be taking these little numbers into the office tomorrow and selling them, with all monies going directly to the RSPCA. The RSPCA continue to inspire me and I am so glad we have these organisations in Australia looking out for the welfare of our animals. 

A final big thank you to the woman who has inspired me beyond disbelief- Lynn White. She opened our eyes to the horrible practices of slaughter houses in Indonesia where our animals are being sent. It takes such a strong woman to have done what she did. Words alone really can not express how amazing she is. Another huge thank you to Andrew Wilkie, Hobart's Independant Federal Member. He will be the animals voice on Thursday in Canberra when a decision is made on Live Animal Export. Head along to his website the read his recent speeches on the topic.

Get This
Cake Batter-
125g unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean
2/3 cup caster sugar
3 free range eggs
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1/4 cup milk

Pink frosting-
150g egg whites (about 4 eggs)
300g caster sugar
450g unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean
Pink food colouring

Cook Now
First make the cake batter by beating together the eggs, sugar and butter. Add flour, milk and continue to beat until smooth. Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds, add to the batter and mix well. 
Place cupcake patty cups into a muffin tray. Fill each with a tablespoon of the batter. Cook in a 180 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool. 

For the frosting, add sugar and egg whites in a heatproof bowl. Sit over a water bath until the sugar is disolved. Beat with an electric beater until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the butter, a tablespoon at a time. Add the seeds from the vanilla bean and a few drops of colouring. 
Transfer frosting to a piping bag and pipe onto the cooled cupcakes. Place in refrigerator until ready to eat. 
Makes 15

Monday, 1 August 2011

Pasta with Broccoli

It's safe to say the reason I am so passionate about food is due to my family and my upbringing. My father was born in Trento Italy, and his parents raised him there until they migrated to Australia in 1959. Dad was 9 years old at the time.
He tells me stories of his childhood which are so reminiscent of the movie The Wog Boy that it's not funny. His lunchbox would be full of salami and other meats, olives, pasta and essentially anything that had been cooked in the home the night prior by my Nonna. Unlike the movie however, all the kids would be envious and he told me how he would sell his lunch to the other kids and make a quick buck. Typical.

Well, I had the exact same childhood. I never went to school with a packed sandwich. I never had muesli bars. Actually I never had anything that was pre-packaged like we see too much of these days.  I would have containers full of left overs, and boy did I love it.

On the flip side my mum came from a very true blue Australian family. They only ever cooked pasta to eat it with milk and sugar over the top. Um.. what? Yes I still don't understand it today. My nan (her mother) was an amazing cook and I cherish photos of the extravagant dinner parties she used to hold. She would be cooking for days prior just so everything was perfect.

When my mum met my dad, it was instilled in her to try Italian cooking. She would go to my Nonna's for dinner and would ask for cooking tips. She learnt in the same way I have by watching and writing down the ingredients and method as Nonna cooked away. When  mum would cook a meal for them, they would sit to eat and criticism was always given. Whilst constructive I'm not sure it would have been pleasant- anyone who knows a true Italian knows what I'm saying here. But this essentially ensured that she learnt quicker and became the fantastic cook she is today. 

All this said and done however, there are some dishes that neither my mum, nor I can perfect quite like Nonna! I don't know why. Maybe she adds something when we aren't looking?

This recipe I post today is one of my all time favourite Nonna meals. I have so many memories associated to eating this pasta. It is just so unbelievably good, and so simple. That is the biggest thing you can learn about Italian food. Its simplicity. Good flavours that aren't complicated. 

The key is to cook it slowly, and don't let the pan get too hot or it will burn. It may seem like a lot of oil, but remember this essentially is the sauce for the dish. You will notice the appearance will change drastically as the broccoli cooks down. Don't skimp on the Parmesan, and make sure you get a good one. I'd also say the same for the pasta. I bought this fantastic Italian made pasta from Bottega and Rotollo, a new Italian deli in Bathurst Street Hobart. It was delicious and ensures a nice quick and easy meal!

One last thing. Broccoli is the wonder vegetable. It is low in calories and carbohydrates, yet full of vitamin C, B-vitamins, calcium and fibre. So don't waste any of it. I see so many people cutting off and throwing away the stems. Don't! This is the best bit and tastes so great when cooked in this way. Also if you are unable to get organic produce be sure to wash it thoroughly as broccoli is sprayed heavily with pesticides. 

It wasn't quite as good as Nonna's, but gee it came close! 

Get This
1 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic
2 shallots
3 broccoli bunches
2 teaspoons Vegeta
500g packet Farfalle pasta
Salt and Pepper
Parmesan cheese to serve
Cook Now
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. I use about 2 tablespoons of table salt to 4 litres of water.
Wash the broccoli well and cut the stem into small logs. Cut the main head into its individual florets. 
Meanwhile crush the garlic and finely chop the shallots and add them along with the olive oil to a large non-stick saucepan. Heat over a medium heat until the garlic turns golden. Add the broccoli and Vegeta and stir to coat in the oil. Cook for approximately 25-30 minutes, constantly stirring and checking. If it seems to be getting a little dry, add some water.
Add pasta to your boiling water and cook for 12 minutes. Strain and toss broccoli and oil through the pasta ensuring it coats the pasta evenly. 
Season and serve with Parmesan cheese.
Serves 4-6