Sunday, 31 October 2010

Spooky Hollow: A Hallowe'en Special

Happy Hallowe'en (or Halloween)!!! Welcome to Spooky Hollow... where nothing is quite what it seems!

For Hallowe'en, the Boy decided to make something extra special for my blog readers (and tweetpeeps)... He planned this entire thing up himself. The result being something quite beyond my imagination and wildest nightmares...

The Planning
The Materials

There are several recipes already published on the world wide web, but in your interests and convenience, we meshed them all up to get our own recipe (as usual), but if you really want to see other recipes online, feel free to serve and plunder as you wish :)

Recipe for Meringue Mushrooms
2 Egg Whites, room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup super fine sugar (caster)
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (melted)
Cocoa powder                                                                                   
(Makes 25-30 Meringue Mushrooms)

Preheat oven to 100 degrees Celsius. Mix egg whites in a bowl on medium speed. once they are very frothy, stop the mixer and add the cream of tartar. Continue beating the eggs until soft peaks are formed. Increase to high speed and gradually add the sugar. Beat until stiff peaks are formed.

Spoon the meringue mixture into a piping bag and start forming the mushroom caps and stems. For a more descriptive method, read this.

Bake the meringues at 100 degrees Celsius for about 60 minutes. Once done, the meringues should be hard and dry to touch.

To assemble the mushrooms, make small incisions on the base of the mushroom caps. Paint the base of the mushroom caps with the melted chocolate (using a pastry brush). Dip the top of the mushroom stems in melted chocolate, and attach it to the hole made on the mushroom cap. 

Place on a baking tray to set. Once completed, lightly sift cocoa powder on the tops of the mushrooms.

Recipe for Meringue Ghosts:

2 Egg Whites (~ 60 grams)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup super fine sugar (caster)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of whole black peppercorns (for the eyes)                            
(Makes 12 Meringue Ghosts)


Preheat oven to 100 degrees Celsius. Beat the egg whites on a low-medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat the whites until soft peaks are formed. Adding the sugar slowly, continue beating the eggs until stiff peaks are formed. Beat in the vanilla extract. (Should be a smooth, non-gritty consistency).

Transfer meringue mixture into a piping bag and pipe (with even pressure) a 2 inch high mound of meringue onto a baking mat (or sheet). For tips, click here and here.

Carefully press two peppercorns into each meringue ghost for the eyes. Alternatively, you could use silver candy sprinkles or chocolate chips.

Bake the meringues for approximately 60 minutes or until they are dry and crispy to the touch. Remove the meringues from the baking mat (so that they unstick from their spot) and transfer onto a separate baking paper or re-use the mat. Once they are dried, use immediately or store in an air-tight container.

Recipe for Trees:
Grape Stems
Dark Chocolate (melted)
Dried seaweed (Soak in water to revive)

To get the grape stems, buy a bunch of grapes, pluck all the grapes out and cut the grape stems to form "trees".

For an amazing recipe for a different kind of edible tree, click here.

Melt the chocolate and using your fingers, coat the grape stems with the chocolate to "paint" it. (Note: I find that it gives a streakier effect (Tree bark-like) rather than dipping it whole into chocolate. Alternatively, you could use a small pastry brush)

Drape the seaweed on the edges of the grape stems to give it an eerie look.

Using the remainder of the melted chocolate, stick the base of the grape stems onto a board (we lined ours with aluminium foil).

Recipe for Edible soil
120 grams of Nutella
80 grams of tapioca maltodextrin                                                      
(Ratio: 3:2 (Nutella: Maltodextrin))

Combine ingredients in a food processor and process until the mixture has a soil-like texture.

Once the texture has been achieved, pass the mixture through a fine sieve to lighten the texture.

Scatter the soil on the pre-prepared board.

Recipe for Purple Swamp:
Please view my post on Lavender Sorbet recipe.

In the middle of the board, cut out a small square opening). Line the board with aluminium foil. Using the remainder of the melted chocolates (from above recipes), paint the edges of the board with it.

Line a deep roasting tray with black cloth and place a scoop of dry ice in the roasting tray.

Assemble the ingredients onto the board. Place the finished board on a wire rack, taking care to decorate as you go.

For the smoky effect, we used a mixture of Papyrus essence (from our Egypt trip) and hot water (not boiling) and poured it into the sides of the tray as well as into the cut-out opening of the board (use a funnel for the cut-out to prevent splashing onto the board).

The essence of the papyrus really added an amazing dimension to the whole effect of Spooky Hollow. The papyrus has a sweet, heady, woody scent.

This was the most fun we've had in a while and I hope you enjoyed it!

Happy Hallowe'en!!

The entire Spooky Hollow project was conducted by the Boy (minus my purple swamp). I contributed to the naming of the ghosts (Curly, Wonky, Sharpie, and friends!).

The Boy was inspired by Heston Blumenthal's Gothic Feast and Nicolas Poelaert's forest floor.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Il Fornaio Dinner & Dessert Review - Part III @ 2 Acland Street, St Kilda

Third time lucky as they say. Ms Fashionista was down here for a weekend and the Boy and I decided to take her out to try out the dinner and dessert menu at il Fornaio.

She must have been our lucky charm! We got a seating (we were early, 6pm - the person over the phone told us that it is super busy around 8pm --> they don't take bookings either)

We had an absoultely great night, with good food, fantastic dessert, great company and exceptional service! The last was indeed a pleasant surprise given our previous two visits here was a bit... err... how do I say... abrupt and interesting (let's just leave it at that) albeit the food was good.

We put in a few savoury orders to share, but our main purpose for the night was of course to try their dessert menu... my eyes scanned the menu and rested at the "Sweets" section and had an extremely hard time deciding what to order... Between the 3 of us, I decided we could do two appetizers, one main and 3 desserts (all to share of course)...

So for starters we had a Lentil and ham hock terrine with Dijon and cornichons (a type of gherkin)... $18

Whilst the terrine was fabulous and went really well with the crispy toasted bread, the Dijon mustard really didn't add much to the flavouring or the dish

Next we had a serving of Home smoked salmon classically garnished (served with egg, capers & creme fraiche $ 17)

This was delicious, but again it wasn't outstanding or special... and the toasted white bread that came with it was a bit err.. over buttery

For the mains, we tried the special of the day, which was a roast lamb dish with a bean salad (I can't remember the price, but I'm sure it was in the high 20's)

We were quite pleased with the service at this stage, our nice waittress checked on us often enough (but not intrusively) and continuously topped up our water!

A snapshot of dinner
But I was eager to eat my dinner quickly as I knew that dessert was on the way! And what a spectacular round of dessert it was...

Million Dollar Bullet $22
First up was the Million Dollar Bullet and boy did it look a Million BUCKS! The chocolate was really dense and intense.... the licorice ice-cream was an absolute divine pairing with the intensity of the chocolate... just amazing really...

Snow White & Rose Red $18
The Snow White and Rose Red arrived with a pair of beautiful Meringue Wings (I wish I could do that) and sugared rose petals...

Ms Fashionista commented that it reminded her of "Air Bandung" (which directly translated means Bandung Water --> as in the place in Indonesia)... Air (pronounced, ah-ye) Bandung is a rose syrup milk drink...

I didn't think about the similarities until she pointed it out.. I'd rather have this dessert tho :)

And finally, to the Snickers (caramel parfait paired with salted peanut caramel and milk chocolate mousse) ..

The dessert that brought me back here not once, but 3 times!

The dessert that stumped the Masterchef contestants in the second season...

The dessert that has made it into the top 5 most memorable desserts in Victoria...

Is it worthy of all those accolades? Yes, and much much more...

I know quite a lot has been written about this.. but clearly I have to have my say in this as well... A mouthful of this dessert is equivalent to jam-packing a whole Snickers bar into your mouth...

The tempered chocolate snapped with a resounding "crack".

The salted peanut caramel... MmMmmm.... the salted peanut caramel... remembering it almost makes me want to drive over there right now and buy a few...

I asked the Boy (two weeks after this visit), if he would return and pay $19 for another Snickers.. and he immediately replied, "Of course!"... Apparently I was asking a redundant question...

Read more about other visits here:
Tea Time
Breakfast & Lunch

*Disclaimer: All food ratings are purely based on my own experiences and how I feel about the service, food and quality

Food/ Cuisine: Modern Australian
Dining Style: Cafe/ Restaurant
Overall Food Rating (Based on the Dining style): 8/10 (9/10 just for the desserts!!!!)
Restaurant ambiance: 8/10 (it was a lot quieter and less chaotic during dinner time)
Service/ Attitude: 8/10
Value for money: 8/10 (those desserts are hard to make!)

2 Acland Street
St Kilda, VIC 3182



Il Fornaio is open from
Monday - Friday 7am-11pm
Saturday & Sunday 8am - 11pm (closed from 5pm-6pm)

How to get there:

View Larger Map

Il Fornaio on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Il Fornaio Brunch Review - Part II @ 2 Acland Street, St Kilda

The shot I was aiming for in my first post
We returned to il Fornaio the second time, in hopes of catching the ever elusive Snickers dessert. So since we  failed to catch it the last time (due to us arriving when the kitchen closed), we decided that the next visit would be done early! Brunch early!

Breakfast/ Lunch menu
Look! A menu!! This time we had a very charming waiter, who was very pleasant and easy to talk to. Armed with magazines and the Boy's iPad, we were ready for a nice day along the beach (we did take a stroll on the very crowded beach).

We asked the waiter, "Will you have the Snickers dessert today? Now?"

Waiter, "Snickers? Of course! How many would you like? Just one? Excellent"

We placed our orders for our main meal and drinks (a caffe latte and a mocha)

The Boy decided to stick with breakfast and ordered the il Fornaio Benedict (poached eggs, smoked ham and hollandaise $ 15)

Hand rolled potato gnocchi
I decided to go with lunch and ordered the hand rolled potato gnocchi with lamb ragu, marjoram and black olives $21 (also available on the dinner menu $24)

The Boy clearly loved his eggs Benedict and only allowed me a tiny taste... and I absolutely loved the gnocchi and the lamb ragout... oh my.. that Lamb Ragout.. was AMAZING... delicious, with the flavours all working together to bind the sweet sweet gnocchi in the mouth... *sigh*

Now on to the dessert...

Wait a minute, where's the dessert?


Just before our dishes were served, a rather sheepish waiter came by our table...

"Madam, so sorry. I've just been told that the Snickers will only be ready at 3pm."

I smiled sweetly at him... and vowed to give them another chance... One more time, eh... Third time lucky?

I'll catch them, at DINNER!!!

For my previous encounter and to fully understand the irony, please read Part I.

*Disclaimer: All food ratings are purely based on my own experiences and how I feel about the service, food and quality

Food/ Cuisine: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner/Dessert - Australian/Contemporary
Dining Style: Cafe/ Restaurant
Overall Food Rating (Based on the Dining style): 8/10 (That ragout sealed my fate and smoothed my temper)
Restaurant ambiance: 7/10
Service/ Attitude: 6/10 (still staying the same)
Value for money: 6/10 (for $21, I was hoping the gnocchi dish would be a lot more)

2 Acland Street
St Kilda VIC 3182

Tel:(03) 9534 2922

Il Fornaio is open from
Monday - Friday 7am-11pm
Saturday & Sunday 8am - 11pm (closed from 5pm-6pm)

How to get there:

View Larger Map

Monday, 25 October 2010

il Fornaio Review - Part I @ St Kilda, 2 Acland Street

When we first heard that Phillipa Sibley had taken over il Fornaio in St Kilda, the Boy and I were ecstatic! The QUEEN of desserts had arrived in town and we were just around the corner! Minutes to her famed Snickers dessert! MINUTES! (Yes, I'm a food groupie)

The decoration adorning the wall
So one Sunday afternoon, the Boy and I took a leisurely drive and arrived about 3pm. Walked in, sat down and I eagerly looked around to see what everyone else was eating.

No one was eating any desserts of any kind. I walked up to the cake/bakery counter, and NO famed desserts. Only a few pieces of cakes, sandwiches and some quiche...

The bread and cake counter
Quite depressed, I walked back towards the seated Boy, who had kindly waited for me before putting in an order for tea and coffee (coffee apparently is a must have, since they get their stock from St. Ali)

Cane Sugar
The coffee arrived and I put in my order for the most lively looking cake behind the counter, and the Boy ordered a tea time quiche...

Coffee was good, but still only second best to Brother Baba Budan and Seven Seeds...

Caffe Latte and English Breakfast Tea
The cake arrived, and although not quite the amazing dessert I was looking forward to, it was a really good cake. Moist and full of flavour, the orange and almond was a perfect pair matched in the oven :)

Flourless Orange and Almond Cake
The Boy said that his bacon and pea (Not quite sure if it was a Lorraine), was really good. The quiche had a delicate balance of creamy and rich, which is quite often hard to find at other bakeries and cafes.

Quiche Lorraine
Although quite disappointing that we didn't quite make the try out for the dessert, the Boy and I vowed to return to try our luck again.

We weren't offered any explanations either when we asked the waitress who served us if there was a menu and where were the famed desserts. She just said, "No menu. The kitchen shuts at 3pm", and then walked away.

A bit taken aback with that answer, we did not dare to ask any more questions. We did however return the following week for breakfast...

*Disclaimer: All food ratings are purely based on my own experiences and how I feel about the service, food and quality

Food/ Cuisine: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner/Dessert - Australian/Contemporary
Dining Style: Cafe/ Restaurant
Overall Food Rating (Based on the Dining style): 7/10 (That cake and that quiche was amazing.. especially that cake)
Restaurant ambiance: 6/10
Service/ Attitude: 6/10
Value for money: 6/10

2 Acland Street
St Kilda VIC 3182

Tel:(03) 9534 2922

Il Fornaio is open from
Monday - Friday 7am-11pm
Saturday & Sunday 8am - 11pm (closed from 5pm-6pm)

How to get there:

View Larger Map

Sunday, 24 October 2010

International Incident Lavender Party - Lavender Sorbet

My first International Incident Party! Yayy!! iip for short, is hosted by Penny from This monthly event attracts global participation!!

The theme for the month of October was to be Lavender!... Thank Goodness I'd bought some dried culinary (edible) lavender flowers from Prahran Market a few weeks ago, in my attempt at making macarons (failed, we shall no longer speak about it...

Lavender Sorbet with Strawberry Drops
What I decided to make instead, for this months iip party, is Lavender Sorbet (there aren't many Lavender recipe's sitting out there that doesn't invoke thoughts about hand creams and soap... hence why I decided against my initial plan for a Lavender Panna Cotta...

For this sorbet recipe, I used an ice-cream maker machine (I guess you could do it the hard way of freezing the liquid and waiting for it to chill and then take it back out and break it with a fork/ice-pick/food processor/blender and then freeze it again)...

The crucial ingredients
Half a cup of granulated sugar (I used 1 cup of caster sugar and it was way too sweet)
2 cups of water
1 tablespoon of dried lavender (edible) - never use lavender flowers from the florist or garden due to chemicals
2 tablespoons of vodka (I used Absolut Vanilla)
2 and a half tablespoons of freshly squeezed (and sieved) lemon juice

This recipe makes 8-10 servings

Dissolving sugar
In a medium saucepan over low-medium heat, combine sugar and water and heat up until the sugar has fully dissolved.

Once the consistency of the liquid is clear, add in the lavender flowers and turn to medium heat.

When it is boiling as such, change to low heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes
Let the flower infuse into the syrup. Once it starts boiling, reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, cover and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.

Pour the lavender liquid into a clean bowl (sieving out the flowers), add in the lemon juice and vodka. Make sure to stir and combine it thoroughly.

TRIVIA: Can you guess why Vodka is being used?

Lavender syrup, lemon juice, red and blue colouring
Because the the lavender syrup is a completely colourless liquid, I decided to use some colouring. I mixed red and blue colouring to achieve a nice vibrant purple (not too bright)... I used less than half a teaspoon of each to do this (I didn't measure, but I would estimate 3 drops of red and 3 drops of blue).

Once the lavender syrup has cooled down, cover the bowl with some cling wrap and chill in the fridge for 2-3 hours (more if you like)...

Lavender Sorbet in the making
Following the instructions on my ice-cream maker (and your's too), the sorbet was ready for some rock and rolling!

After 45 minutes, my sorbet was done!

Plated by the Boy
Serve with fresh fruit (I have strawberry drops here) and fresh lavender flowers from the garden...

Extremely fun and easy, a definite hit with kids and parties!!! I do hope you enjoy it!

Do visit the other blogs listed below on their fun International Incident Lavender Party recipes

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