Monday, March 31, 2008

Germany 2007: Breakfast at Ikea

A weekend breakfast at Ikea is a family treat, hugely popular in Germany. It's very cheap (it's Ikea, after all), at about 4 euro a person, depending on what you order. On my tray, above, we have a pretzel, 2 bread rolls, scrambled eggs, salami, cheese and teeny-tiny Nurnberger sausages. Ooh, and coffee!!! Unlimited hot drinks - coffee, tea, heisse Schokolade, whatever. Can you imagine how hyper I got after this? Whoooooooooooooooooooo whooo! Let's go shopping and buy a cheap couch!

My host mother's more sedate plate.

For those of you who don't travel much, let me tell you that Ikea is exactly the same all over the world.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


For a family breakfast this morning, my mum requested pancakes.

Me: Do you want thick or thin pancakes?
Mum: Medium!
Me: Ok! What size? Small or big?
Mum: Yeah, that one.
Me: Big?
Mum: No, small!
Me: Ok, what do you want to eat them with?
Mum: Bananas.

I chose to make Nigella's American Breakfast Pancakes from How to be a Domestic Goddess, because they seemed like they'd be the right texture and size.

With the pancakes, we had maple syrup, bananas, Greek yoghurt and toasted walnuts.

For those of you who are interested, maple syrup is a good source of manganese and zinc, and thus supposedly very good for your heart and immune system. (Not diet food by any stretch of the imagination, but much better than, say, white refined sugar). Bananas are low in cholesterol, and rich in vitamin B6, potassium, fibre and vitamin C. Yoghurt is high in calcium, and walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, (source here). Omega-3's are essential for brain health, and a lot cheaper than salmon! Most importantly, the combination (pictured above), tastes great.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tyler's Ultimate BBQ

Woah! Check out the rain in Melbourne!! I have not seen a deluge like this in years! (I was in Germany during the January flash floods). I can't believe that it was only a short week ago that we were having a barbecue in the backyard - sweltering in the heat and combating agressive mosquitoes.

(Important point: in the heat, Total Fire Bans are often in place. Click here for info on barbecuing during Total Fire Bans.)

As you can see from my menu below, I have been quite heavily influenced by my obsessive watching of the Lifestyle Food channel late at night.

Almost-Southern Sunday Night BBQ for 6

Barbecued Chicken with Barbecue Sauce (Tyler's Ultimate)
Frau Margit's Kartoffelsalat
Coleslaw with Pecans and Spicy Chilli Dressing (Tyler's Ultimate)
Su's Roasted Capsicum with Anchovies and Garlic
Assorted Sausages
Garlic Pide

Rhubarb Meringue Pie (How to Eat)

Sangria (Forever Summer)
James Squire Amber Ale

Setting the Scene

I never thought I'd be the type to worry about place settings and decorations, but they really do make a difference, especially with outdoor entertaining at night. When the sun goes down, the candles come out. As you can see in the first photo, I stuck a massive citronella candle in the centre of the table. Mozzies are the bane of Aussie barbecues.

I gleaned the idea for the candle below from Joanna Weinberg's How to Feed your Friends with Relish, a lovely little recipe-book-slash-entertaining-guide I received as a going-away gift from my co-workers last year.
I got a dozen cheap citronella tealights and dotted them about the outdoor eating area, using Joanna's tip of encasing them in old glass jars to prevent them from blowing out. It was my own idea to put old dried pulses in the jars. This not only looks good, but makes the candles easier to light. I also think this is the best way of getting rid of those lentils/borlotti beans/black-eyed peas in your pantry that are years old and will never be eaten, trust me.

I also found a couple of big old candles lying around, so we stuck them in big bottles for more light.

This was previously an olive oil bottle!

The Food

When making a barbecue, I usually pile all the food up on the kitchen table, buffet-style, and let everyone take a plate out into the yard. This saves space in the yard, and prevents flies or excess heat getting at your carefully-prepared feast.

Tyler Florence's Ultimate BBQ chicken.

The chicken is steeped in a salt-sugar-thyme brine for 2 hours, dried, then blitzed briefly on the barbecue. Once it's griddled and charred, you finish it off in the oven, basting with home-made BBQ sauce. It's incredible! So juicy and crispy. The BBQ sauce is amazing too - so much better than shop-bought.

Garlic Pide, cooked on the BBQ.

My brother's girlfriend brought these roasted peppers, with little cherry tomatoes, anchovies and garlic inside. Yum yum.
German Potato Salad. Potatoes, onions and bacon fat. Wooooah!

Tyler Florence's Ultimate Coleslaw with Pecans and Spicy Dressing. The toasted pecans and flavoursome dressing transform the salad from pedestrian to special.

Sangria! A jug of sangria means party time! The recipe is from Nigella's Forever Summer.

For dessert, another Nigella recipe, rhubarb meringue pie. This was my favourite recipe from all the recipes I cooked from How to Eat. I love the contrast of soft, sweet, fluffy meringue to densely sharp rhubarb. Inspired by the Southern Cooking edition of Gourmet Magazine, I doubled the quantity of meringue and piled it up high.

Burnished and billowing.

I did, however, have a little mishap with the pastry, which leaked terribly. And because I baked the pie on the day of the BBQ, I had no time to make or buy a new dessert. It kept leaking throughout the evening, and threatened to collapse. Uh-oh!

However, when we sliced it, it didn't turn out too bad.

Carl: This is what clouds must taste like.

The pie even held together quite well for a few days of mid-week snacking.

Seeing as the rain and cold weather has started with a venegeance, this will probably be my last big barbecue party until next summer! Bring on the stews and puddings!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Japan 2007: Snacks

Cheese-flavoured Curl Sticks. The deliciousness is in the thickness of the stick, don't you know.

Japanese snacks are awesome! Have you been to a Japanese convenience store? They contain a dazzling array of snacks, all in a clean, brightly lit environment. Amazing. I'm not sure if we overdid it on the snacks - from potato chips, to chocolate bars, to biscuits, to drinks and more. I remember that the awesome receptionist at our Kyoto hostel, Nao, gave us a weird look when, in addition to our suitcases, we gave him a massive Supre shopping bag full of Japanese snacks to take to our room.

Nao: U-waah! Sugoi okashi!

Rough translation: Wow! So many snacks!

In our defence, it wasn't a never ending orgy of weird and wonderful snacks every day; we just carried around heaps of snacks in our bags for emergencies - to eat on the train if we got hungry, to have in case we couldn't find a suitable restaurant or the bakeries were closed, whatever. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

A Hokkaido Vanilla ice-cream bar, and a Karamel Monaka ice-cream wafer bar.

More milk chocolate from Meiji. Pretty avo. If you're using expensive and high-quality Hokkaido milk to make your chocolate, why would you ruin it by using vegetable oil instead of 100% cocoa butter? Lindt Milk Chocolate all the way!

Meiji rich Matcha chocolate. Woaaaah! Way too much green tea flavour for me to handle. It was more bitter than sweet!
Supplies for the train. Pizza bread, water, CC Lemon (100 lemons' worth of vitamin C in every bottle), and a salmon nigiri (rice ball).
Wa-hey! Those clever people at McVitie's don't just make digestive biscuits! Accodring to the box, these biscuits are "perfectly suited to wine".
Haha - we just had to buy these. Despite what the packet might lead you to think, it didn't taste at all like Mama's Sauerkraut mit Kassler, but it was still good.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter everyone!

These cupcakes were inspired by a combination of seeing Nigella Feasts on TV late at night, and the Easter special in the free Safeway magazine. The recipe is Nigella's cupcake recipe (How to be a Domestic Goddess, Nigella Express), each stuffed with a mini Easter egg, and topped with royal icing. I used Lindt 70% cocoa chocolate eggs, to give a dark contrast against the sweet, crackly icing, and served them with these cute little Lindt milk chocolate bunnies. If you're eating excessive amounts of chocolate, you may as well make sure it's the best. And in my opinion, nothing beats Lindt milk. (No, they're not paying me).

I hope you're all having a great long weekend!

xox Sarah

Friday, March 21, 2008

Japan 2007: Japanese Department Store Food Halls

We all know how much I loved the Food Hall at Daimaru in Kyoto, so here are some more photos I found from the depths of my Japan trip photos. I am crazy about the food halls in Japan's department stores, and only wish we had something like them in Australia. The beautiful store layouts! The approachable, unintimidating service! The beautiful packaging! And most importantly, the incredible quality and array of gorgeous foods from all over the world.

Here are a few highlights from our heart-stopping, wallet-draining trips to Japanese food halls.

First up is Jean-Paul Hevin at Isetan in Tokyo. They have a cafe here, in addition to a retail shop. We had a seat at the bar in the cafe, and marvelled at the well-dressed staff in cute black caps, the dark wooden tables, and the conscientiousness of the service. They gave us lovely boxes to pop next to our seats to neatly contain our cumbersome coats and bags. Little details are so important.

I am embarrassed to say that I don't remember the exact names of what we ordered - our trip to Japan was back in December (!!), and I've only just got around to blogging this. However, I do remember that everything we ate here was incredible.

A slice of cake...

Mirror shiny-glaze, deeply chocolatey cake, chocolate cream, chocolate truffle. Amazingly, it wasn't heavy at all. Just perfect.

2 Macarons... I believe one was chocolate with raspberry filling, and I'm sad to say I can't remember what the other one was! Apologies to Jean-Paul Hevin.
Hot chocolate. I loved that this hot choc had an intense chocolate flavour, without any overwhelming richness. Some chocolate cafes in Melbourne use double cream in their hot chocs, which just leaves me feeling feral and overindulged without actually satiating my chocolate craving. No such problem here!

A few more gorgeous shops...

Next stop, Mitsukoshi department store in Ginza. I found myself gawking at the wealthy patrons as much as the shops.

Amedei Chocolates. So stylish they should be selling handbags and shoes. I satisfied myself with 2 macarons. (See below).

CUTENESS!!! I am always impressed by the Japanese interpretations of Western baking!

There didn't seem to be much room for eat-in at Mitsukoshi, so I bought my treats to go, and enjoyed them back at the hostel.

One vanilla, one passionfruit-chocolate.

Finally, finally, I am posting about a Mont Blanc! This creamy-chestnut dessert is incredibly popular in Japan (pronounced "mon buran"), and available pretty much universally.

Now, check out the packaging. Japanese shops use heaps of packaging, but it's oh-so-cute! (However, I'm told that their recycling levels are leaps-and-bounds above ours).

Shopping bag...
Box containing Mont Blanc...
...also contains a napkin and a little ice-pack to keep it fresh as you take it away...
The ice pack!

The components of a Mont Blanc are a shiny shiny chestnut...
... a mini-mountain of sweetened chestnut puree...
...and a creamy filling, sitting atop a little almond tartlet.
Oishii sou desu ne!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Good Evening all!

Welcome to the new, improved Sarah Cooks! I hope you like it.

New features to Sarah Cooks are "Coffee of the Week" and the "Slideshow" in the sidebar. The coffee in question is currently a lovely latte from Sweet Source, and the drool-worthy slideshow is of our Kaiseki meal at an inn in Nikko.

Special thanks to Sandra for all the HTML and design work!

xox Sarah

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Japan 2007: MISTER DONUT!!!

Continuing on the donut theme...

Before we got to Germany and all their berliners and quarkinis, we were in Japan. And there was Mister Donut.


Mattcha flavoured "Pon de Lion" donut, cafe au lait.

Forgive my schoolgirl excitement. The first time I went to Japan, it was as an excited 15-year old on a school trip. I fell in love with Doraemon, Japanese high school clubs, and Mister Donut.

On this trip, as a still-excited 23-year old, I took many trips down memory lane and visited misutaa donatsu many times. It's been around for ages, and is very popular in Japan. I daresay it's better than Krispy Kreme, (gasp!) and totally different from those German donuts that I love so much. Whereas the German style donuts are larger and more substantial, usually covered in a blanket of sugar, Mister Donut donuts are light, smooth, sweet pieces of fluff, that are eaten in the merest of moments.

Apple Pie. Mister Donut is not a one trick pony.
Honey Glazed Donut, Cafe au Lait.