Friday, 29 November 2013

The Vanilla Hub Photography

Hey everyone! I decided to start a new blog with a sole focus on my non-food photography. You can access it through the 'Photography' tab on top. The blog will feature landscape photography, people and portrait photography and projects that i'm starting up. Click on over and enjoy!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Cinnamon and raisin bread

Today I will just flood your feed with loads of pictures. Pictures of nice fluffy, cinnamony bread. It's comforting to make. It's soft as a baby's bottom. It brings alive your kitchen. It's nourishing to the soul especially when you spread on some floral honey. Honey, cinnamon and raisin, such a delicious combination. 

Recipe is taken from The Pastry Affair, with minor adjustments. I substituted half a cup of wholewheat flour into the bread flour and added some walnuts into the dough to give some contrast in texture. For the 'cinnamon swirl' I added nutmeg and roughly chopped walnuts. It's delish. 

Friday, 22 November 2013

Kale, mushroom and tomato salad

Summer came along so abruptly. One week I'm all layered up drinking tea and stuck behind my desk till the quiet hours of night. The next week I'm out in shorts and tees, slathering sunscreen on my gradually tanning skin while tramping with friends. What contrast. It certainly is a much welcomed change (apart from the mossies that come with it). After so many weeks of sitting (I kid you not. Uni does that to you), it feels so good to be out running around in the sun. In the past week I had mild insomnia, my mind wouldn't stop racing about what to do about my future and my body clock would wake me up at 8.30 in the morning no matter how late I sleep. But today, after a full day's worth of walking and climbing, at just 9pm I'm feeling exhausted. Of course I can't wait for a satisfying night's sleep but I shall share with you this deliciously simple salad! It's perfect for the weather Auckland is currently experiencing. But for those on the other half of the hemisphere, it'll go fantastically with a warm creamy bowl of soup.

True to my style of cooking, it really is use-whatever-you-have-in-your-fridge. For this salad, I combined the brilliantly green kale with earthy mushrooms, silverbeet, raw and cooked tomatoes and croutons. It's sort of inspired by Jamie Oliver's tomato salad that he made on 30 Minute Meal. Unfortunately in Auckland you can't get all those fancy tomatoes! Nonetheless, it still tastes delicious with that drizzle of olive oil, lemon and parmessan. Use this 'recipe' as a 'template' and turn those leftover veg in your vege drawer into a healthy lunch!

Kale, Mushroom and Tomato Salad

Serves 3 

4 thick slices of bread, broken into bite size pieces
3 leaves of kale, washed and chopped into 2cm strips
1 leaf of silverbeet, washed and chopped into 2cm strips
3 tomatoes, washed and chopped into 1-2cm cubes
6 medium sized button mushrooms, cut into quarters or sixes
Handful of oregano, chopped
Handful of grated parmessan
Olive oil
Zest of half a lemon
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Coat the bread in olive oil and toast in oven until crunchy, about 10 minutes on 180C. You may add some garlic to perfume your croutons. 
2. Toss mushrooms in olive oil and fry until golden and shrunken. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside in a large bowl.
3. Wilt kale and silverbeet in the same pan used to fry mushroom. Place into the bowl containing mushrooms. 
4. Take half of the chopped up tomatoes and soften in pan with olive oil and oregano. The tomatoes will turn into mush and the flavours will intensify. This will act like a sauce for the salad. Add to the large bowl.
5. Add in the lemon zest and croutons and drizzle in some olive oil. Season and toss to mix well. 
6. Serve as is or with a warm bowl of soup. 

Monday, 11 November 2013

Apple cinnamon cake

At the very end of each semester, marked by the stern voice of the examiner announcing the rounding up of the 3 hours and the ordering of 'pens down, that's it', I always feel a sense of loss. This time around, there was no stern voice declaring that it is over. Rather, I left the exam early, something that I have not done in years (though I was still the last one of my class that left). Without that statement that that was it, it's taking a while for my 'freedom' to sink in. 

I'm not sure if it is to do with age. But this morning in the shower, I was thinking, how odd it would be for exams to be over. After a full on marathon and parade of a semester, the constant striving to do better, to absorb information, the thousands and thousands of words being typed for essays after essays, I actually feel like I'm going to miss studying. It is true. What 'they' say. Studying and getting degrees is addictive. Although I do have some far-fetched dreams of being a free-lance photographer or a food magazine contributor or even opening and running my on food establishment, there are no concrete plans for my future. After what... 5 years in primary, 2 years in intermediate, another 5 in college and 5 more in university, totalling to a whopping SEVENTEEN years in education, I still don't feel like I'm properly armed with the skills and knowledge required to enter the work force. Of course, I have had odd jobs working at cafes and what not, everyone does. But to march into a proper career? Nope. Not ready. Perhaps that is why I feel like I have to continue this journey of education, to further acquire skills and knowledge. But is that out of not wanting to feel idle, to feel like, right, this is it, time for me to take my own future into my own hands and make something out of myself? Is it out of the sense of insecurity that I'd rather succumb to another two years of studying, just because that system's been all set out and that I'll know what is expected of me? I'm not sure. 

Perhaps after a good night's sleep this feeling of yay! Exam is over! will start to present itself. Meanwhile, let's just talk a bit about this cake shall we. I am pretty proud of myself actually! Normally during study period, I'd scrounge around for things to do just so I don't have to study. But this time, wow, a full three weeks without the urge to come here and blabber, that is some achievement (Though apologies for you readers for that lack of post. I will make up for it!). This cake was made for my mum's friend's birthday a few weeks ago. It's the second recipe that I tried from Jude Blereau's amazing book, Wholesome Baking. I only altered minor components to the recipe. Really guys, if you want to invest in any book, this is the one. I had serious doubts regarding the texture of the cake - is it going to be too dry, too 'healthy' tasting (you know, those healthy cakes that have really rough textures), but after making this cake, those doubts are completely wiped clean. I would even go as far to say that the texture of the cake, seriously, is much better than ones made from plain white flour. It's moist, it's spongy, it's a perfectly ratio-ed emulsion that gives that perfect cake crumbly texture. The flavour is ah-mazing. Nuttiness from the flour, sweet spice of cinnamon and the apple really makes it. There was none of the soggy mess that I (shamefully) expected from the apple. And it is SO SIMPLE to make. No need to lug out that stand mixer. 


Recipe adapted from Jude Blereau's Wholesome Baking 
As mentioned by Jude, the cake does stay moist even after a few days.
You can also make this into 12 muffins. 


Dry ingredients
 2 cups wholemeal flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup blended raw sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Nuts and fruits
1 cup lightly roasted pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped
3/4 cup raisins
Zest of 1 lemon 
3 apples, cored, cut into 1cm pieces

Wet ingredients
185ml of olive oil
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
70g yoghurt

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 9 inch springform cake tin. 
2. Sift together the dry ingredients. 
3. Add nuts and fruits and mix well. 
4. In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.
5. Stir into the dry mix until just combined. Transfer into tin.
6. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until nice and golden, and the skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool on wire rack completely before icing. 


250g cream cheese, softened
40mL cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
4 tablespoons sugar (adjust to taste)

1. Whip together all ingredients until smooth and lump-free.
2. Cut the cooled cake in half. 
3. Spread about half the cream cheese on the cake. 
4. Place the second half of the cake back on.
5. Using a piping bag, pipe little swirls on the cake. 
6. Chill in fridge for a couple of hours to set the cream cheese icing. 
7. Serve!