Treasure Finds

I actually discovered a little treasure of a bookstore on Charlotte Street, here in Brisbane called ‘Archives’. It’s a handsome second hand bookstore. I have to admit, as much as I love the smell and feel of brand new prints, I also share a love for the lovely old browned page of a book someone else in the yesteryear has enjoyed and managed to treasures all these years.

I also checked out another new cafe, Belissimo! with god awful cakes and excellent coffee (that’s a piccolo latte I’m having, my absolute favourite) . I ordered a lemon meringue cupcake with a ‘curd’ surprise in the middle whereas my friend had a white chocolate raspberry mud cake. Both a waste of our money. Both the cakes were dry like as if they have been left in the fridge for a month and the curd tasted like lemon detergent. I found it pretty strange that a joint that made such good coffee was messing up the cakes. Pity. But I signed up for coffee appreciation classes with them and can’t wait till I try it out.

In other treasures I have uncovered, is a 20 minute raspberry cream cheese tart recipe which I made today. The the filling was a Paula Deen (Food Network)recipe and the raspberry sauce was my own.

I used Sara Lee frozen raspberries which were going on discount at $3.99. Not one to say no to discounts I took the liberty to get me a few boxes to last the next few weeks and needless to say I use raspberries in everything except curry. In fact I even experimented with making Raspberry tea yesterday night and maybe I will post a recipe once I have perfected it.

And look! They turned out pretty great and obviously with a 15 min tart you buy your tart shells which always are in the frozen food section at your grocers. I like to use the ‘Pampas’…. mostly because that’s the only brand they have at my supermarket.

They were pretty darn good and I think they could be quite healthy (don’t quote me on that) if you perhaps choose low-fat cream cheese or something like that. I am not familiar with that area of practice since I always go full-fat with milk cheese and butter because I believe it makes my skin glow and my hair shine.


The Starting Chef




Makes 12 tarts

  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 12 frozen Pampas tart shells
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup cold water


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake tart shells for ten minutes and let it cool.

Combine the raspberries, sugar, and orange juice in a saucepan. Whisk the cornstarch into the cold water until smooth. Add the mixture to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the desired consistency is reached. The sauce will thicken further as it cools. You can sieve the sauce if you have time but I like it with the seeds.

 Beat cream cheese with a handheld electric mixer until fluffy. ( I used a whisk and it was fine) Add sugar and vanilla, beating well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Spoon cream cheese mixture over half baked tart shells. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow tarts to cool completely. Serve with raspberry sauce on top.

Lazy Saturdays

I don’t know about yours but I like my Saturdays served lazy.

Waking up to room service knocking on your door , having a nice warm shower and then making your way down to a cute French bakery down the street? I don’t know anything that could be better.

(Except of course not having a shower and going to the coffee shop under my block and having roti prata with fish curry and a steaming cup of black coffee. But this is not an option)

I am not trying to make any of you jealous because… really.. waking up to the breaking dawn and going for 10km run and having muesli for breakfast would be infinitely better for your health but in all honesty I truly believe pastries and coffee give about the same effect on your mood and much more easier to achieve.
Anyway the point I wanted to make was this French bakery I found today morning was brill. Loved the waiters and the counter girl (all of them French no less) , all of them friendly and sweet. (My waiter even fixed my creaky table for me. Very gallant.)
It is called Le Bon Choix and it’s situated in the far end of Queen Street. Cakes, bread, macaron and croissants you name it they have it and all in fine taste.
What impressed me best was the almond croissant. It was warm, crumbly, buttery, sweet with the slight crunch of  the toasted almonds as you bite into it…as the crumbs unglamorously fall onto your lap and nestle all over your chin… Maybe not if you’re one of “those”.

But anyway, point being -they are delicious. The plain croissants are stuffed with a rich almond cream filling known as crème d’amandes. Traditionally French bakeries used this method to give new life to day-old croissants. And boy am I glad I was the one to give new life to this day old croissant. My kind act for the day.

The Starting Chef
P.S: That’s the chocolate donut I had after the almond croissant because life is short.

Food for Thought: Mr Darcy

I was reading all of Jane Austen’s classics and of course Pride & Prejudice has taken its prized spot in being my favourite book of all time and I could not resist writing a post on this, mostly because none of the people I know would care to listen. And also because none of them have read the book. It’s ok I love them regardless.

Millions of women across the globe would have fell in love with Mr Darcy.. So what is it about Mr Darcy that makes women swoon despite the chaste descriptions of Austen?

Darcy was more a romantic than Byronic hero as opposed to Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre. Oh what the heck I think he was both. The Byronic hero was described by the historian and critic Lord Macaulay as “a man proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of deep and strong affection”. It was derived from Lord Byron’s works as a character-type who is a “boldly defiant but bitterly self-tormenting outcast, proudly contemptuous of social norms but suffering from some unnamed sin” .

It is rare to meet such a person and when you do, first impressions would make you cringe or feel inadequate at the least and of course the rare Elizabeth or Jane comes along and squelches his brick walls to dust with their wit, candour and of course not to mention unwavering love and understanding.

As wonderful and sincere as Bingley seemed we all can be quite sure that he didn’t make history. In fact, I feel the common saying used to describe men; tall, dark and handsome was not referring to his skin tone but that elusive mysteriousness of the personality which makes women with a love of adventure to want to solve and of course let’s give a moment of silence to Colin Firth’s portrayal of Mr Darcy in the BBC mini series. ( Though I have to say he screwed up the bit where Elizabeth professes her love for him) But oh well I think the lake scene more than made up for it; and you wouldn’t get the beauty of the scene if you didn’t read the book. 😉

Just saying.


The Starting Chef

Perfect Beaches and Blueberry Muffins

Just for the record I did not make my perfect blueberry muffins during my perfect beach weekend because I was too busy scampering around half asleep trying to stuff things into my bag at 8 on a Saturday morning. As shocking as it may sound, yes, I have been quite the early bird since I have been here in Brisbane and all for good reason. Mainly because… THERE ARE THINGS TO DO OVER HERE.

But seriously, my motto since I have been here is to do things I would other wise never do in the course of my hum drum ordinary life. I even bought myself an expensive Pandora bracelet to remind me of my motto. (Don’t even ask.)

But since then I have climbed mountains and subsequent lofty hills,

attempted to surf (and failed) but couldn’t resist a silly picture anyway,

made a sandcastle,

went to my first live concert in Byron Bay on my first road trip,

walked on a dog beach conquering my fear of dogs (with a friend to protect me of course, just in case),

If you must know, I did an embarrassing  roll from the sea bed to the shore after being smacked in the face by a wave (in my defense, it was a strong and huge wave) right where the couple are walking by and needless to say my friend enjoyed it very much. And no I do not have a picture.

I also kayaked in the vast  Pacific ocean in search of dolphins and whales, which went perfectly fine all the way till somewhere in the middle after about 3 hours in the ocean..

things went a little pear shaped… (that’s me elegantly falling into the sea by the way)

and last but not least I baked a perfect blueberry muffin. 🙂

And here it is.

These are the blueberries I used, they’re big, organic, juicy and frozen. What could be better?
Now you might ask me, why do my muffins have a mucky purple tinge to it. The color of the blueberries seep into the batter, and if you’re one of those who “toss your blueberries in flour” you better run now cos I just let em seep the heck into my batter.
But here’s the thing, it really doesn’t matter! Look at my muffin’s insides! Do they look purple to you??
So listen to me and make this muffin NOW.
Here’s the recipe:
Yields 1 dozen muffins
2 cups self-raising flour
1tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups fresh/frozen blueberries
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1tsp lemon juice
2 tblsp fruit based or plain yoghurt
1/2 cup milk
1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees C and line muffin pan with paper muffin liners
2. Combine 2 cups of flour, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl
3. In a separate bowl beat 1/2 cup butter with 3/4 cup sugar until its light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and stir in  vanilla, lemon juice/zest and yoghurt.
4. Fold GENTLY dry ingredients into wet ingredients whilst adding milk.
5. Fold in blueberries. (General rule of thumb; the folding should be about 12 times)
6. Spoon batter into liners
7. Add some almond slices/break Lindt blueberry chocolate bars into small pieces and insert them into middle of muffin.
8. Bake in preheated oven for 20 mins or more depending on your ovens temperament
The Starting Chef

Easy Peasy Pizza for a Picnic

After a crazy 2011, I was presented with the opportunity to work in Brisbane for 6 months since 3 weeks ago, and I am absolutely appreciating the long due break. And so in lieu of all things new, I went for a hike in the mountains yesterday for the first time in my life.

I went with my French flatmate as well as a girl from Berlin we recently met when we went out for drinks and ice cream on Saturday night. Both were wonderful company and I could not have been more content, though I would have been able to show my content better if my lungs and heart weren’t feeling like they would explode every other second.


Now, that would be the view from the summit lookout, which was breathtaking. The girls exclaimed how “city” I was as I was brimming with excitement with every little thing I saw from white butterflies and little streams to 5 feet long lizards. Not too much excitement about the lizards though to be quite honest.


aaaanyyway, my point is I came up with a cute little picnic for us to enjoy after much walking uphill. I have to emphasize on uphill because you have not walked or ran until you have done it for an hour and a half non stop —uphill. And fortunately I managed the trek with a brave face! (Isn’t the background absolutely beautiful?)

And the pizza came in handy in re-fueling me for the trip towards another track in the mountain. (Recipe at the bottom of page)

And of course a sandwich is in order when we go for picnics. It was basically sliced sour dough bread with tuna at the bottom topped with diced onions, tomato and capsicum which was stir fried first with salt, chill powder, bush seasoning and black pepper.

Soon after we had a little lie down in the grass and rolled about and headed up towards another track and then back home. It was only about 4 hours but I was completely knackered by then.

It was nice.


The Starting Chef .

Easy Peasy Pizza


  • 25 cm by 25 cm Frozen Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet), thawed
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 small green pepper chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 red onion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup diced tomatoes (sliced tomatoes make the pastry base soggy b’cos of the juice)
  • 4 tblspn Prego® Traditional Italian Sauce/tomato sauce with mixed herbs
  • 1/2 cups sliced mozzarella and  shredded cheddar cheese
  •  Ground black pepper to taste
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 Sprigs of Basil
  1. Heat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Unfold the pastry sheet and place onto a baking sheet.  Fold over the edges 1/2 inch on all sides, pressing firmly to form a rim.  Prick the center of the pastry thoroughly with a fork.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.
  4. Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add pepper and onion and cook until they’re tender, stirring occasionally and adding cayenne, black pepper and salt.
  5. Spread the sauce on the pastry.  Top with the vegetable mixture.  Sprinkle with the cheese and add basil.
  6. Bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
  7. Flavor Variation: Add any of your favorite pizza toppers: pepperoni, sliced pitted olives or cooked crumbled sausage.