Brisbane is unbelievably fortunate to have the Gallery of Modern Art, which only opened a few years ago. The timing coincided with us moving back to Brisbane from Sydney! Lucky us. It is my place of choice to wander through if I get a few child-free hours to myself. It is also a regular place of choice to take all four children as the activities and facilities for children are wonderful.
There has been some incredible exhibitions but the Valentino Retrospective has to be the most highly anticipated for me. I have been to the gallery several times since Valentino opened but I had children with me and I knew this was an exhibition where I had to go child-free. A good friend had a free ticket for me so I have been holding out and finally yesterday I went with two lovely friends (ok, there was a baby but it wasn’t mine so I was child-free)! But I need to go again. So much to take in.
If you live in Brisbane or Brisbane is closer to you then Paris, then go to the exhibition. Watch ‘Valentino: The Last Emperor’ first though so you can get an understanding about the man and more importantly how much work and experience goes into those gowns. I studied fashion design and worked in the industry for a small number of years and I see I know nothing compared to those Italians.
We went on a guided tour and our guide informed us that there are less than 100 people wearing haute couture these days. An endangered species – we need more awareness!
There was a dress there that was worn by Nan Kempner whom I did not know about. I have since done a little internet research which was fascinating. Her wardrobe is overwhelming. Yes, there are no Nan Kempners here in Brisbane.
As I had the afternoon off I did feel inclined to make a batch of cookies for Joel and the kids. I have been eyeing off a recipe in Sean Moran’s cookbook ‘Let It Simmer’. Sean Moran from Sean’s Panaroma at Bondi – I have never dined there but it is on my ‘to do list’ for my next Sydney visit.
The recipe is for Chocolate Peanut Cookies but alas I didn’t have the required peanuts or duck fat. However, I don’t think I could bring myself to use duck fat in a cookie. I don’t doubt how tasty it would be and I would happily eat a cookie laced with duck fat if someone made it for me. But for some reason I feel less squirmy about butter in a cookie.
I don’t think I have ever put seeds from a vanilla pod in cookies but it is lovely. Decedent and lovely. The little black dots are visible and it makes for one special cookie. I buy vanilla beans from the fruit and veg shop at Ashgrove. They are $1 each! Yes one dollar! They are from Far North Queensland and they are fresh and so soft and bendy that you can twist them around your finger and they don’t crack and snap like those nasty expensive ones from big supermarkets. I am so excited about them that I keep buying them for people – just as nice as a bunch of flowers to brighten someones day.
I was talking to a friend Sally this morning, one of the recipients of my vanilla bean giving. And she used one of her vanilla beans to make this Strawberry, Mascarpone Cream Cake. How lovely!
I am sure the original cookie recipe would be so good so I will keep it as is. But for the delicious chocolate pecan version – just substitute peanuts for pecans.
chocolate peanut cookies
3/4 cup plain flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup duck fat, lard or butter
80g softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons castor sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half and seeds scraped
3 teaspoons milk
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup unsalted peanuts (pecans)
1 heaped cup best quality dark chocolate buttons
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
In a mixmaster cream together the duck fat (or substitute), butter, brown sugar, caster sugar and seeds from the vanilla bean until thick and pale. Add egg and milk then beat in flour mixture and oats. Fold through the nuts and chocolate.
Use a tablespoon measure to scoop mixture * and pop onto lined baking trays. Leave some space between each cookie so they have room to spread. Bake for 15 minutes then remove and cool on a wire rack.
Store in an airtight container if you don’t happen to eat them all straight away.
* Tip. One of my favourite baking books is ‘Baked: New Frontiers In Baking’. They introduced me to a clever little way to get even sized cookies – the ice-cream scoop. It must be one with a release mechanism. Scoop out your dough, smooth off the top and then press the lever and you have evenly sized cookies. I bought two different sizes. One which is roughly a tablespoon which I use most often. And a larger one which makes super sized cookies.