Tuesday, 8 April 2014

IQS - I quit Strawberrythief

It's been a good almost-four years but it's time for something new.
I've enjoyed the eating, the baking, the nostalgia, and the sharing. I'll continue to do all of these things but the eating and baking will stay on the @strawberrythief Twitter account and the nostalgia and sharing will move to a new blog which is more about me and less about what I eat and drink.

It's been so great to know that there are people out there reading what I've written and I'll be leaving the blog up so people can still read and access the recipes if they want to.
So long and thanks for all the Shiraz.
Nicki - The Strawberrythief

Friday, 17 January 2014

Summer, Secrets, and Shiraz

With the first Secret Cake Club of 2014 fast-approaching, I remembered that I hadn’t yet blogged about the last (amazing, spectacular, bigger-than-Ben-Hur) Secret Cake Club of 2013.
The theme was “Summer” which gave endless scope for creativity. When I think of summer, mostly I think of the British summers of my childhood where any day over 20C was considered hot and the high 20s were positively tropical. I think of beach holidays in Cornwall, barbecues in the back garden, long summer evenings, Wimbledon and all the things that went with it – strawberries and cream, gin and tonic, lemon barley water, cucumber sandwiches.
But I’ve lived over half my life in Australia now, so I also associate summer with Christmas and sunburn, pavements too hot to walk on, sunshine too strong to go out in. The barbecues are still there and so is the beach, but I also think bushfires and swimming pools and cold, cold wine.

In the end I decided to go for the cold, cold wine in dessert form. My go-to drink is sparkling Shiraz which I think of as inherently Australian as I had never seen it or even heard of it before I moved here. The depth and substance of red wine with the fun of champenoise bubbles – how could anyone not love it? Besides, it means that I can continue to drink Shiraz during the summer rather that wait for the cooler months to come around.


I used this recipe from Maggie Beer because it is simple yet stunning. It’s perfect to finish a Christmas feast, but doesn’t have to be limited to Christmas - any time in summer will do. Maggie uses raspberries in her recipe so I did too, but you could use any other summer fruit. Maggie burns off the alcohol in her recipe which I didn’t do. I like a decent boozy dessert, but if you are catering for the family, it might be worth making a booze-free batch for the kiddies.
I made my jellies into individual portions for the Cake Club people and prettied them up with edible gold and candied rose-buds. They looked great. They tasted…powerful. The tartness of the raspberries provided a good contrast to the heavy sweetness of the jelly. You could serve this jelly with cream or ice-cream or, as I did, just on its own.

It was a show-stopping cake club. Emma, our host at Table Culture in Subiaco, had gone above and beyond to make sure that we were taken care of. There were cool pitchers of iced water with chunks of fruit in them. There was a lavishly decorated table on which were two decadent Christmas cakes. There was champagne and there was barista-brewed coffee. Oh, and I mustn't forget the generous in-store discount that was offered on all products.

 Not only did we get the chance to participate in a raffle and win some great prizes, but, to the delight of all the guests, Emma had organised for us each to have a loaf tin to take home, courtesy of her friend, the representative of Le Creuset. There under the Christmas tree were the tins all stacked up. (If it looks a little bare in my picture that's because I was one of the last to leave and all the tins had been taken)

As always, Cake Club members provided an intriguing array of food.
I came home with my usual box of delights which never lasts quite as long as I think they will.

I also now have a very handy dessert recipe for those days when it is too hot to be in the kitchen but where a great dessert is necessary. There might also be some sparkling Shiraz left over. I said 'might'.


Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Plain sailing


It’s not a great photograph.

I was asked if I would like a picture and I said ‘yes’, handed the Captain my iPhone, and let him snap away. The filter in the app was randomised which is why the odd sepia colour. It’s not remotely flattering. I look, quite honestly, like a madwoman with particularly bad hair. I am grinning like an idiot. I’d had about 3 plastic cups of cheap sparkling wine beforehand. A tipsy madwoman with particularly bad hair. We won’t speculate on whether anyone should have let me behind the wheel.

But I'm posting it regardless because, even with the weird tone and me looking grotesque and toothy, it is my favourite picture of all the pictures that I have from my vacation because I think that was the point where I was at my happiest. I was steering a 1922 Baltic Cruiser in full sail back into port. Behind me you can see the Sydney Harbour Bridge which we had just sailed underneath. The Opera House is also in view. I’ve got the Australian flag whipping me in the face and a mouthful of hair – blame the harbour breezes – but I am controlling this amazing vessel, so all is right with the world.

December was a mix of the sublime and the utterly depressing.  The to-be-preserved-in-a-photograph moments were thrown into sharp relief by the what-the-hell-am-I-going-to-do? moments. Christmas sent me into a panic. The few days before New Year were the worst –a period of displacement and dejection and aloneness. But here’s the thing, with the help of dear friends, it all came good and the sense of being cast adrift was replaced by a sense of having a destination and, ultimately, a safe place to weigh anchor.

I know that all is starting to be well again because I am writing again. This is a good sign.

So I did a lot of fun stuff and I managed a lot of shitty stuff, but the upshot is that I had my longest holiday in 6 years and have come into the New Year with a lot of plans and ideas percolating in my brain. This year will definitely be a year of changes, but the one thing that won’t change is the food adventures and the kitchen experiments and the writing that goes with them.

A few holiday snaps are below, some of which will make it into the many blogs posts which I need to catch up on, and then it’s time to batten down the hatches and set sail for the uncharted territory which is 2014.
The excitement of a journey
New places to see (the Southern Highlands)

Giving in to nerdiness (Ultimo Centre, Sydney)

Remembering how to relax (The Langham Hotel, Sydney)
Treating myself to the good stuff
A toast to the friend who saved Christmas

A heart-breaking return
BFAMS to help me through the bad stuff
The relief of New Year's Eve.

An unexpected addition to the new household