syrupy mandarin cake

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hello! i am still home, still loving life and enjoying doing zero study besides listening to some cheeky chinese podcasts (slow chinese are brilliant if you’re in the market for one!)

so limitations when cooking – such a pain, am i right? being told someone is gluten/dairy/nut/egg free or only having a certain amount of money to spend on dinner – it makes us rack our brains and look at and discard so many recipes. but actually, when you think about it, limitations may actually help us find better recipes and become better cooks. i mean, if you have absolutely free rein on any set of ingredients, cooking method and so on, it’s so hard to come up with something you want to make because the possibilities are endless!

perhaps fortunately, limitations are almost always present when i cook. money is obvious, with being a student, but even at home with the relatively more luxurious budget, the limitations of tastes (luckily no allergies, but cooking with pesto would be dangerous for my health as my brother hates the stuff! i knooow, it’s crazy) as well as what’s in season, what’s currently residing in the fridge/pantry, are all things to take into consideration and narrow my field. the last one in particular is probably what inspires me most, and its crazy how often the meals made of things that need to be used up and so on end up being the yummiest and tastiest ones of all, while the meals i pick for their fun sounding name or luscious picture and require buying up the supermarket can be quite disappointing. perhaps a case of lowered expectations, but i do think that cooking from the contents of an empty fridge or pantry is a valuable life skill to have. as a child i loved the cooking show ready steady cook, where the cooks are given a random assortment of ingredients and required to make something out of them, so i suppose it’s no surprise that older, i love to do the very same!

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we are big fruit lovers in my house, but inevitably some is always left too long in the fruit bowl, or rolls around the back of the fridge, until it is no longer appealing as is and must be transformed! i roasted up a few of such apples with brown sugar and cinnamon, and served them with french toast for a yummy brunch, but the slightly wrinkled mandarins posed more of a problem – i never cook with mandarins! however, i’m a huge fan of flourless orange cake, so i presumed the same thing could work with mandarins. i searched the house high and low for a recipe book i knew had a good recipe to no avail, but my gal donna came to the rescue in the form of a recipe in a recent issue of her magazine (which my mum and sister adore and frequently buy!) what’s more, it even specifically called for mandarins – no citrus approximating required.

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my edits to the recipe were to get rid of the polenta and just up the ground almonds in its place, plus the simple syrup she prescribes, to me is just not worth it – cleaning crystallised sugar pots is one of my least favourite kitchen tasks, and a much simpler take is to just heat the mandarin juice with some sugar to form a slightly syrupy consistency which can then be poured over.

finally, i whipped up a lemony cream cheese glaze which is definitely optional – we had cream cheese in the fridge left over from these and i can never resist cream cheese icing! the cake doesn’t need it, being very sweet, flavourful and moist, but if you’ve got cream cheese on hand feel free to use it – if you don’t, i wouldn’t go for a regular lemon icing here as i think it would be too sweet and drown the delicate mandarin flavour.

it was devoured within a few hours of coming out of the oven, which is an excellent endorsement if you ask me! and, while this cake certainly is not appropriate for people with egg or nut allergies, with the glaze omitted it should be gluten and dairy free (probably pays to check the ground almond and baking powder packets for any traces though).

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syrupy mandarin cake

makes a petite 20cm round cake

2 mandarins
1 1/4 cups ground almonds
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup mandarin juice
2 tbsp sugar (to taste)

cream cheese glaze
160g cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup icing sugar
juice 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla
dash of milk, to loosen if needed

cover the mandarins with water in a small saucepan, and boil for 30 mins.

preheat the oven to 180ºC. line a 20cm springform cake tin with baking paper. drain the mandarins, then puree in a small food processor. whisk the ground almonds with the baking powder and set aside. beat the eggs with the sugar until tripled in size and pale and creamy in texture (donna calls for 10 mins beating, but i think you can get away with less).

stir the mandarins into the ground almonds, then fold in the eggs in two batches, being careful not to deflate the mixture. pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30 mins or until a skewer comes out clean. while it is cooking, microwave the mandarin juice with the sugar until sugar is dissolved. you can add more sugar for a more syrupy consistency (if you don’t have a microwave, just do this in a saucepan on the stove).

remove the cake from the oven, use the same skewer to punch about ten evenly spaced holes in it, and pour the mandarin syrup evenly over it. allow to cool completely.

to make the glaze, beat the cream cheese to a light creamy consistency, add the icing sugar and beat to combine, then the lemon juice and vanilla. if desired, add a dash of milk to loosen. when the cake is cooled completely, top with the glaze and decorate with a couple of thin slices of mandarin, if desired. enjoy!

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portuguese custard tarts

hi! so i have spent the last 6 days (with the exception of one day’s work) reeeelaxing and it feels so good! how on earth was i studying like a maniac for so long? it’s just as well that my next lot of exams are 4 months away and i have a selective memory otherwise i’m pretty sure i would never return to uni haha.

what have i been up to besides lounging around and drinking too much coffee?

i went to Man Up and adored it, just laughed the entire time! it was that excellent breed of comedy that is just plain smart! lake bell was just this fantastic quirky bridget jones-esque but less cringy lead, simon pegg was such a funny affable bloke who had a sensitive side and sean… was just… well sean (you have to see it to believe it!) five stars, big thumbs up, i want to go again immediately (and have a sneaking suspicion that i’d pick up on a lot of jokes that i missed the first time around!)

i went to the theatre: Romeo and Juliet with a dear friend and while i also adored it, i sure did not laugh the entire time (that would cast some nasty aspersions on the actors!) the court theatre is just marvellous and they staged it so very well. they had beautiful strings musicians playing contemporary songs like chandelier, mr brightside and bad romance in between scenes which worked so well!

i’ve read three books, all utter chicklit which has been fine by me! i’ve cooked my poulet espagnol to rave reviews, and learned my mum’s method for mashed potatoes (a true skill – when made badly they really are awful, but made well = scrumptious!)

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posh porridge is always a must do when i’m in town and they never disappoint! as sarah astutely pointed out, she always goes for the healthy, banana option while i pick a roasted fruit, saucy one: i say, when you know what you like why go for anything else! this time around she had banana, pic’s peanut butter, dates and superfood granola, while mine was cinnamon baked apple, oaty crumble and salted caramel, yum!

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gently segueing into another thing that i very much like and always want: custard. (sorry madeleine, i can feel your eyes rolling from here!) broken record? well, you’ve heard me rant about profiteroles, about a way to dress up hot cross buns, and been tantalisingly promised a rhubarb recipe and a spanish one here. everyone gets it! i like custard!

however, you see, what redeems me is that i have a precedent: my aunty, my mum’s youngest sister, is just like me in this respect (it must be our shared middle name AND initials). she loooves custard just as much as do so it’s totally in my DNA! and because my threshold for custard making is extremely low, like, the lowest (what? you mentioned this one time that you don’t totally hate crême brûlée? coming right up!) and that she is very busy with a stressful high school production happening, we agreed that these perfect little morsels would be the ideal treat to make her.

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this recipe for portuguese custard tarts is a true gem and comes from alexa johnston’s a second helping. this book is a collection of old recipes from new zealand ladies around the country, of traditional baking made to ‘fill the tins’. the cream cheese pastry is a particular highlight, as the cream cheese gives it a lovely tangy flavour that offsets some of the luscious richness of the custard filling. i’ve made these tarts many times, often for my darling aunty, and they always turn out so beautifully.

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portuguese custard tarts
makes 15 tarts

pastry
85g cream cheese, cubed
115g butter, cubed and softened
1 cup flour

custard
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
1 cup cream
1/2 cup water
2 tsp vanilla essence

to make the pastry, blitz cream cheese and butter in the food processor until fully combined and creamy. add the flour and pulse until it forms a ball. divide into two balls and sandwich between baking paper, flatten into disks. chill in the fridge while you make the custard.

to make the custard, whisk egg yolks, sugar and cornflour together in a medium saucepan until thick and creamy. whisk in cream and water. gently heat, whisking the whole time. it will take a while to thicken and when it starts to bubble, remove from the heat. allow to cool.

preheat the oven to 200ºC. roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick, keeping it between the baking paper so it doesn’t stick to the rolling pin. use a large round cookie cutter or wide water glass to cut circles approximately 10 cm diameter, and gently ease them into regular size muffin tins. should make between 12 and 15 circles. place in the freezer for ten mins, tidy up or have a coffee while you wait!

get the trays back out and spoon the custard evenly into them. they will seem underfilled but don’t worry because they bubble up lots. place in the oven for 20-25 mins, or until caramelised spots appear on the custard and pastry seems cooked. let cool for ten mins or so and then lever them out with a knife and place on a cooling tray to finish cooling. enjoy!

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grub street diet

I stumbled across the ny times feature grub street diet when naomi from love taza was featured, and spent many study, uh, ‘intervals’ enjoying reading about the different people and diets they had. and it made me want to do one, and since the ny times is approximately 3 million light years away from asking a random girl from new zealand to write one for them, i figured i would just write one for the blog! self obsessed? narcissistic? never! (well i guess you have to be a little to blog right?)

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^^evidence i was at the farm!^^

so here we go:

tuesday 2 june

I’m staying at my grandparents farm for a couple of days away from Dunedin. my grandpa had made me porridge, so all that was left for me to do was reheat it on the stove. he makes good traditional porridge made with water, oats and a hefty dose of salt – i never salt my porridge at home, but i love his porridge. topped with some of my grandma’s stewed apple and a drizzle of creamy blue milk.
i then make myself a flat white on my grandma’s coffee machine – when town is a twenty minute drive, it makes sense to have your own espresso machine! I put my barista skills to good use with a cute fern latte art.

i reluctantly refuse a thick slice of homemade bread toast, as i’ve slept in rather late and i’m informed we’re going out for lunch.
while my grandma goes to yoga, me and my grandpa drive to riverton, a cute seaside village  interwined with plenty of family history. we’re visiting because my grandpa’s aunt: Sister Marion Brown, a nurse in WWI, is on display at the museum. Marion went to care for troops in WWI, and was killed when the ship she was on was torpedoed. the exhibit is very moving and it hurts my heart to think of how many people suffered and sacrificed so much for us: my life seems so breezy and lucky compared!

we go to the beach house cafe for lunch, and while i’m sad to see the announcement “no blue cod” on the blackboard (my very favourite food) my grandpa assures me that orange roughy, which is it’s replacement is just as delicious. he orders seafood chowder, as he is wont to do. our lunch arrives – mine an enormous piece of tempura battered fish on chunky chips and a lush salad, with homemade tartare sauce on the side. i am in heaven – orange roughy is delicious! apparently it was close to disappearing after over fishing but thankfully steps have been taken and it’s doing ok again. (ps i just googled and they live up to 130 years!!! wow!)
upon our arrival home, i put the kettle on and have a cup of english breakfast tea with milk and sugar, along with one of my grandma’s crispy crunchy biscuits.

we have a beautiful selection of nibbles – stewart island smoked salmon, blue cheese and an oozy brie, accompanied by homemade lavosh and homemade quince paste. i am in heaven.
dinner is a big piece of pork belly with lots of crackling, mashed potato, cauliflower cheese, runner beans and carrots, plus a lovely montana sauvignon blanc. it takes me a while but i manage to finish!

a sneaky cup of sweet milky decaf black tea as i sit on the couch with the cricket on in the background and the full cupboard of life on my lap, feeling very satisfied with life!

wednesday 3 june

alas, my time at the farm has come to a close and its time for me to head back to student land (dunedin) and the stuffy embrace of the library. i farewell the farm with another big bowl of porridge, with stewed apricots this time, a doorstop of peanut butter and honey toast (the honey from my aunty’s bees) and another fern topped flat white.

this keeps me going until i get back to the flat at 2 (flooding in dunedin causes delays) and feeling faintly nauseous from the drive, all i feel like is frozen peas, barely defrosted in the microwave. i top this off (figuratively) with a wedge of my grandma’s fruitcake.

sodden from my short walk to the library – the rain really is bucketing down- dunedin experiencing a tempest it seems, i console myself and my revulsion at being back here with a tangy cup of blood orange tea. arriving back at the flat for dinner, we enjoy slow cooker chicken with pumpkin, rice and more peas. i have a cup of english breakfast to pretend i’m back at the farm, and curl up with it in the armchair and watch the news of the dire weather conditions around dunedin – at least our flat’s not flooded, as houses in other suburbs are!

refusing to set foot in the storm again, i use the dining table for desk and have another cup of tea and some more fruitcake to power my economic modelling of tax evasion.

(the next 7 days were a blur of hardcore eco study, so i picked my chronicling back up the day of my third eco exam)

wednesday 10 june

feeling antsy at the thought of my 3rd eco exam in as many days, i decide that some protein is what i need for breakfast. i bought beautiful free range eggs at the supermarket the other day so i decide to have egg with soldiers. the egg is perfect – lovely and runny, a good 5 minute egg. the soldiers are less so as we’ve run out of butter so i have to use the manky pam’s budget spread which makes them soggy rather than buttery, but the rich, red-orange yolk makes up for them. Chased by a long black with a glug of cream, i head to the library to absorb some more knowledge before my exam that afternoon.

clara and i head to our favourite fluid by the library for one last flat white (for her at least, our exam today is her last exam!). they know us and our orders (thanks in part, no doubt, to our trendy keep cups) and we feel terribly flattered. i sip away on it at the library, learning terms which would ultimately turn out to be entirely useless (how is it that we made a list of 54 definitions and we somehow missed out 4 out of the 6 we ended up being asked??)

we head home for lunch after a stop at the language department (me) and the kitten cuddle area (clara). i’m still feeling nervous so i just have a couple of tart granny smiths with peanut butter – i melt it and drizzle it over them like icing!

the exam goes fine – we are miffed over the definitions (the terms she hinted during the semester are nowhere to be found), but long answer are more forgiving. i head home to cook a big comfort food fest – creamy beef stroganoff, garlicky potato gratin, homemade focaccia bread and green beans (i know, why even bother!)

i very much enjoy having the living room to myself while everyone is at the library and watch game of thrones avidly with nothing but a cup of silver tea in my hand (the classy way of saying hot water- still feeling very full from the double carb dinner!)

thursday 11 june

giddy at being close to freedom with just one exam left to sit (on tuesday), i sleep in until 10.30 after binge watching game of thrones until very late last night – my flatmates are up to date and i’m terrified they’re going to let something slip – i absolutely detest spoilers.
I reheat the last of the potato gratin from last night and top it with a crispy fried egg for breakfast, followed by a strong long black with a dash of milk, and sit enjoying the sunshine and relishing the thought of having a day away from the library.

after meeting up with nel who i hadn’t seen for far too long, i return home and watch the latest two episodes of game of thrones – i’m determined to get up to date now! i have another snack of peanut butter and apple and a cup of milky english breakfast.

my friend madeleine comes over with cold brew coffee and cashews in tow. we enjoy the cold brew in my glass mason jar mugs with ice and a little milk. i go to work and enjoy catching up with my coworker, then return home at 8.40 and eat cold beef stirfry that my flatmate made for dinner, followed by some blood orange tea and a couple of squares of the new peanut and pretzel cadbury chocolate. my flatmates get home from the library and we discuss our predictions for the game of thrones finale.

friday 12 june

upon waking up i hear rain on the roof, but thankfully by the time i leave the house it’s cleared up. I have scrambled eggs with some tangy homemade relish and a long black with milk, then i finally drag myself out the door and arrive at the library- not the same without clara’s company, and hanging out for jess to return on saturday.

after some half hearted study, i zip to the gym. oh drat, i’ve forgotten my ID – but thankfully i was at arana with the guy on reception and he waves me through with a smile. after the gym i head back to the library and have a couple of carrots with (the shame!) garlic lovers hummus. hoping the girl next to me doesn’t hate me!

i go home an hour later and have a shower then watch the final of greys with some tea and fruitcake. all this tv watching i’ve been doing in the last 24 hours has been blissful, but now i just feel disappointed to be up to date in everything! my flatmate bounds in the door after a very successful exam (it was basically the same as the last years practise one he had studied!) and we chat for a while then he goes to drop our friend off at the airport – she’s off home for the break. i reluctantly leave too to get back to the library. i complete online french quizzes while nibbling at some organic trail mix my mum sent me in a care package. i come home at 8.30ish and heat up the leftover beef stroganoff with some leftover rice, and eat it on the couch in the warm living room while my flatmates watch the highlanders (otago rugby team) slaughter the blues (auckland)!

~the following thursday: I am home! it is wonderful! i’m the happiest clam to be finished with exams and reunited with my sweet family. now that i have use of the home kitchen expect lots of fun recipes to be coming your way! back soon xxx

links minx

I’m three exams down and feeling done already, hence instead of french study i’m collating some of my favourite links from the last wee while:

fun unrelated picture of me looking like a donkey in front of the clocktower (thanks madeleine!)

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on to the good stuff!

i hope i never stop feeling awe – though i mean new zealand is far too beautiful to! this article was really cool.

and on that note, if you’re in need of some reminding of how awe inspiring this life is, this video is phenomenal!

this buzzfeed piece made me laugh out loud the entire time, and the second and third times when i showed it to other people! ps though – number 18 – such a boy thing!

so happy for lauren and geena with their beautiful new babies!

how good are the cup of jo “my beauty uniform” and hey natalie jean “what’s in your makeup bag” series? i just lap them up, and of course i always love seeing jessica’s monthly makeup favourites!

of course this made my day: especially love the one of george kissing his baby sister! my heart!

drooling over these – and wishing the weather was warm enough to warrant making them! i mean icecream is a year round thing, but with the freezing temperatures we’ve been, um, enjoying, lately, i’d rather take my icecream in the form of a gently melting scoop of vanilla atop a crumble or self saucing pudding.

back soon! i’ve missed you! xx