Monday, 6 August 2012

A couple of weeks ago we had one of those crisp, sunny winter days – you know, the ones that are utterly gorgeous? – so we decided to visit the Botanical Gardens for a picnic. One of my favourite things to eat on a picnic (or any time really) are these brownies. Velvety and intensely chocolatey, studded with crunchy hazelnuts and scented with the fresh citrus notes of orange, these brownies are one of my all-time beloved recipes.

Of course, you can take the basic chocolate brownie recipe and do whatever you like with it – plain chocolate brownies are certainly more-ish, or perhaps you prefer walnuts to hazelnuts? Sometimes I make two lots of mixture, bake the brownies in two cake containers, sandwich them with whipped cream and strawberries, and drizzle with a chocolate ganache – it certainly makes a fun birthday cake…

This recipe was inspired by the brownie recipe in Tessa Kiros’s wonderful book Apples for Jam – the hazelnuts and orange are my addition.

Makes around 9 squares

175g butter
150g dark chocolate, broken or chopped
30g cocoa powder, sifted
3 eggs, separated
175g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour
1/2 cup (around 70g) hazelnuts, roasted, cooled in a tea towel and rubbed so the dark brown skins are removed
zest of one orange

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Butter and flour a square baking tray (mine is about 21×21 cm) that is at least 3cm deep – I also like to line mine in baking paper for easy extraction.

Put the butter in a heatproof bowl that has been placed over a small saucepan of simmering water (don’t let the base of the bowl touch the water). When it begins to melt a little, add the chocolate. Stir until all the chocolate has melted.

Once melted, remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder. Leave to cool a bit.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. In another large bowl, wish the egg yolks with the sugar and vanilla until creamy, then fold in the flour. Add the cooled chocolate mixture, mixing well, then add the hazelnuts and orange zest. Carefully fold in the egg whites, until everything is thoroughly mixed.

Put the brownie mixture into your prepared baking tray and cook for around 25 minutes, or until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean. The brownie should still be quite moist in the centre with a crunchy top and edges. Leave it to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , , — Katrina @ 8:30 am
Feathers and Cupcakes
Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Images by Melanie Watson via Design Sponge.

Browsed through Design Sponge last night and came across these delightful images. The home looks so cosy, with charming vintage touches, lots of artwork and hand-stamped wallpaper – love that idea! Rebekka chose a bee stamp and used gold ink to hand-stamp her wallpaper… will definitely have to file that one away…

Filed under: Decor — Tags: , , , , , — Katrina @ 8:30 am
Feathers and Cupcakes
Thursday, 19 July 2012

Images by All Cut up by DG via Etsy.

Whenever looking at paper cuts I can hardly believe someone had the patience to cut each piece by hand – imagine all that time…

Particularly love the quote captured in this one:

To love someone is to learn the song that’s in their heart and to sing it to them when they have forgotten.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Katrina @ 8:30 am
Feathers and Cupcakes
Tuesday, 17 July 2012

I often think that Monday nights should be used for nothing more than a glass of wine, a home cooked meal, a spot of television, a bath, book and bed. Oh, and a sticky dessert glistening with maple syrup wouldn’t go astray either.

That was (fortunately) my lot in life last night, and it was just what I felt like.

Armed with the best intentions for, oh years, I’ve been meaning to make tarte tatin. And who wouldn’t really? All that gleaming caramel, flaky pastry and luscious apples…

But as we all know, the chasm between having the best of intentions and actually actioning intentions, is as large as my ever-increasing cookbook collection. Which is to say: nearly insurmountable. Not that I am complaining, mind you, about The Cookbook Situation – I will not be swayed from my firm belief that it is impossible to have too many books.

But for some reason last night I found myself thinking of a recipe for tarte tatin spotted in a Donna Hay magazine a while ago, and I decided that – thanks to some crisp apples picked up on a road-side stall in the Huon Valley on Thursday – today was The Day for tarte tatin making. And, wouldn’t you know it, I simply could not remember which issue it was in – even a desperate Google search provided no clues regarding the particular recipe I had in mind.

Fortunately this story has a happy ending, as you have probably surmised, owing to the photo of said apple tarte tatin in this post. Google came to the rescue, serendipitously providing me with a link to this Donna Hay tarte tatin recipe. Not the one that I was looking for, but this one, instead of requiring a partial zombie (it was post-work, you understand) to make a caramel, merely requires the baker to pour in some maple syrup – genius!

The most tedious part of the whole recipe is coring, peeling and chopping two apples – hardly strenuous work. Oh, and waiting for the baking time to finish, obviously, which can be highly strenuous.

If you haven’t yet tried tarte tatin and you’d like a simple little dessert to add to your repertoire may I suggest this one? It may not be strictly authentic French fare but it is undeniably good.

Serves 4 generous serves

25g butter
1/4 cup (60ml) maple syrup
2 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (thick-ish is fine)
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed and cut to a round that will snugly fit the inside of your oven dish

Preheat oven to 200°C. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan over high heat (NB: to save on washing up, I like to use an oven-proof pan).

Add the maple syrup and apple and cook for 4-5 minutes or until the apple is just tender.

If you are using an oven-proof pan drape the pastry over the top of the apple and maple syrup mixture. Otherwise, transfer the apple and maple syrup mixture to an oven-proof container before draping the pastry on top.

Bake for around 15 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden. Allow to stand for 2 minutes. Use a serving implement, loosen the pastry if necessary before turning out.

Serve with cream or ice-cream (I read a suggestion somewhere that honey and lavender ice-cream would be nice, but vanilla is also divine).

This recipe was adapted from Donna Hay magazine, issue 52, p. 134.

Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , , , — Katrina @ 8:30 am
Feathers and Cupcakes
Friday, 13 July 2012

Image by Virginia Cummins for Country Style Magazine.

Oh dear, I couldn’t resist sharing this gorgeous photo of a beautifully rambling, colour-filled flower garden. It has definitely confirmed that I will need to one day plant foxgloves and poppies in my garden…

Filed under: Garden — Tags: , , — Katrina @ 8:30 am
Feathers and Cupcakes
Thursday, 12 July 2012

Image by Anthropologie.

Realised I hadn’t looked through an Anthropologie catalogue in a while last night, so of course I felt the need to flip through the latest. While doing so I came across this visually arresting image – love the high ceilings, the colour and texture of the bed linen, and those huge windows.

Filed under: Decor — Tags: , — Katrina @ 8:30 am
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Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Images by Christopher Baker via Camille Styles.

I’m sure that by now you’re aware of my absolute weakness for vine-y, rambling, beautiful gardens. So it should come as no surprise that as soon as I saw the gardens of this property (captured by Christopher Baker) I may have been grinning from ear to ear. Of course I love the ivy (it’s a weakness of mine – one of the things that first attracted me to the university college I stayed at was the fact that the buildings were covered in vines), but I also admire the restrained colour palate of the gardens as well as the fresh, abundant greenery that is so calming.

Filed under: Garden — Tags: , — Katrina @ 8:30 am
Feathers and Cupcakes
Monday, 2 July 2012

Image via Fleur.

Bonjour! Last week was wonderfully relaxed, taking off a couple of days to celebrate our wedding anniversary (we are toddlers – three years)! Enjoyed a few days at a day spa retreat getting massages, enjoying the spa and drinking plenty of bubbly – bliss. We have made a mental note to remember to do it more often; we’ll see how that resolution goes…

Filed under: Accommodation — Tags: , — Katrina @ 8:30 am
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Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Image 1: Georgianna Lane via Flickr; image 2: France Monthly via Round the Breakfast Table.
I find myself day-dreaming about Monet’s garden more and more regularly… what a magical spot! And, of course, one can never go past pale pink roses, vine covered houses, drifting along a lily pond in a row boat, weeping willows, and wisteria covered bridges.

One day I would love to attempt to capture all that beauty with my watercolour paints and a camera (will have to put that on the ever-increasing to-do-one-day list)!

Filed under: Garden — Tags: , , , , — Katrina @ 1:06 pm
Feathers and Cupcakes
Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Recipe from At my French Table by Jane Webster.

Last Sunday I found myself with an absolutely free afternoon, so I decided to fill it with baking a new recipe that I’ve been desperate to try all year. At my French Table by Jane Webster is packed with gorgeous photographs, a heart-warming story and delicious recipes (one of my favourites is mussels with chilli, ginger and garlic).

Prettily plump, airy madeleines flavoured with a combination of honey and lavender? They’ve been calling my name ever since I read the recipe. The flavours remind me of a lavender ice-cream served with honey tuiles that I enjoyed on our honeymoon a few years ago. But (you know how it goes…) it has taken me ages to actually try making them. On Sunday, try them I did, and now I’m going to make them regularly – regular madeleines are certainly delicious, but these may just be a new favourite…

Although I’ve always felt that purchasing a madeleine tin was a tad silly (how often, I asked myself, am I really going to make madeleines?) every time I look at the delicately scalloped shape of the little cakes, I am always glad I purchased the tin.

Apart from their innate prettiness, madeleines also have the endearing quality of being relatively quick to prepare – there’s not too much difficulty involved in making the batter, baking time is quick, and there’s no icing to worry about (just a sprinkling of icing sugar is all that is required). They’re so simple that it is entirely possible to quickly whip up a batch of these for an impromptu afternoon tea!

Makes approximately 16

100g butter, plus extra for preparing the madeleine tin
2 tbsp honey
3 eggs
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
100g self-raising flour
2 unsprayed lavender sprigs, flowers pulled off and finely chopped
plain flour, for preparing madeleine tin
icing sugar, for dusting


Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Prepare the madeleine tin by greasing with butter and then dusting the moulds with plain flour.

Melt butter and honey in a small saucepan over low heat and put in a medium-sized bowl to cool. Once cool, add eggs one at a time, then add the caster sugar, soft brown sugar and vanilla extract. Sift in flour. Stir in lavender flowers into the mixture.

Spoon 1 tbsp of batter into each madeleine mould (don’t be tempted to over-fill!) then bake in oven for 10 minutes. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto wire racks to cool. Dust cooled madeleines with icing sugar before serving.

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Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , , , , — Katrina @ 8:30 am
Feathers and Cupcakes
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