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Multicultural Inspiration from... family :)
It was my beautiful mum's birthday yesterday :) My mum is my biggest inspiration in the kitchen. She's the person who inspired me not only to cook, but to write too. Mum's a fantastic writer, she's been writing forever; I remember finding a book of poems she wrote when I was younger, and sitting on the floor of her bedroom and reading them. She's very smart and well read, with hundreds of books lining the bookshelves in her bedroom. This is a trait I've taken on too - now, in my own home, I have my own big bookshelves lined with books. But what's really impressive is mum's cook book collection. I could (and do) spend hours in her kitchen just flicking the pages and letting my imagination run wild.
I remember being a little kid and helping mum in the kitchen. I got to stir the cake batter, messily spoon it into the cupcake cases, and then best of all, I got to lick the spoons and beaters! My mum and my grandmothers taught me to cook. We're a big Italian family and cooking is in our blood. As the oldest daughter in the family, I think it was expected that I learn to cook. Luckily, I loved it and took on everything I was taught.
And, as the good, Italian woman my mother is, each time one of her family members has a birthday, she takes is upon herself to cook a feast of our choosing for our family birthday dinner. And there's always a magnificent cake to end the feast. And yes, on her birthday, she usually still does all the cooking (and cleaning). This year, I decided we needed to do something different. 6 days before mum's birthday this year, my grandmother (and mum's mother) went to hospital for some pretty serious surgery, to remove a large brain tumour. We didn't know how the surgery would go, or how Nonna would get through it and recover, so Sous-Jeff and I decided to host mum's birthday dinner at our house. Mum's birthday still needed to be celebrated, perhaps more importantly than ever. Over the last week (and in fact years since my grandmother was initially diagnosed and first operated on), mum has been tirelessly driving her to and from hospital and doctor appointments, signing medical forms and translating medical instructions to her and my grandfather (their English isn't awesome). So, at 6:30pm last night, with Nonna recovering well from her operation, mum, dad, my two sisters and their boyfriends arrived at our home to a perfectly cooked and prepared birthday feast to celebrate mum!
They arrived to slices of homemade potato and rosemary soda bread fresh out of the oven, with assorted dips and sundried tomato meatballs to get started. Sous-Jeff popped the bubbly and Kitchen Bug promptly retrieved his tennis ball for a game of fetch with dad.
Next out was my cranberry and pine nut chicken pilaf with roasted veggies and crispy, buttery smashed potatoes. (Next time I make the pilaf, I'll blog it, I promise!)
But the pièce de résistance was the birthday cake. A big, heavy, raspberry and white chocolate mudcake. Coated in white chocolate frosting. With berries on top. Resident chocoholic dad's eyes lit up when he saw it upon arrival, and it was worth the wait!
Recipe is courtesy of Donna Hay's Simple Essentials: Chocolate book, with a little experimentation and addition of raspberries. Here's what happened in the kitchen to create the masterpiece...
- 250g butter, chopped
- 200g white chocolate, chopped
- 495g caster sugar
- 375ml cups water
- 300g plain flour
- 100g self-raising flour
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
Preheat the oven first, to 120°C and grease a 22cm round cake tin or a similarly sized square cake tin like I did.
Place the butter, chocolate, water and sugar in a saucepan on medium heat and stir until melted and smooth. Then, pour the mixture into a large bowl.
Whisk the flours into the mixture, then the eggs and vanilla. Once combined, stir in the raspberries, and pour into the cake tin.
Into the oven it goes, for around 2 hours or until a skewer comes out clean...
... and out it comes, smelling mouth-wateringly good, and it sits in it's tin to cool for 15 minutes or so. Once the tin has cooled down enough to touch, gently and carefully remove it and place on a wire rack to cool completely before icing.
Now, for the icing. The recipe for the white chocolate fudge icing recommended by the book cannot be made as I don't have any cream. So instead, I make it up as I go along. I put the remainder of the white chocolate (approximately 200g) and 4 tablespoons of milk in a metal bowl over simmering water and melt it down. I figure without cream, milk might be my next best option. Once it's melted, I mix in something like 250g of icing sugar - I basically just keep sifting and mixing it in until the icing thickens. And it tastes pretty darn good! I let it cool slightly before slathering it all over the cake, letting it drip down the sides....
Finally, post dinner, it's birthday cake time. Sans candles, we sing an impromptu round of happy birthday, and finally we can't wait anymore - I look at dad, get the nod, and slice it open!
Tragically, I only had defrosted frozen raspberries to work with, not fresh ones, so the juice started running down the icing... but I kinda liked it like that! It was just the way a mud cake should be - moist, dense, rich and more-ish. The combination of white chocolate and raspberries is always a winner, and even more so when me, dad and Sous-Jeff took our pieces to the microwave - you simply cannot beat warm mudcake!
We scrape our plates, with Sous-Jeff and I going back for more, and put a third of the cake on a plate for the birthday girl to take home, along with a bag of the homemade bread and her presents. With Sous-Jeff and I left with a bit of cake, I think, "great, dessert tomorrow!" But here we are, 4:30pm tomorrow, and Sous-Jeff has just polished off what was left of it after my day off. Luckily there's something else already in the oven :)
Happy birthday, mum :) xo