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  • A bowl of Rice Pudding & other small Delights

    It arrived wrapped in a textured, hand-painted piece of wallpaper - an offcut from a farmyard scene that lines the walls of their mudroom. I've always liked the idea of a mudroom - a place to hang rain-soaked jackets. De-shoe out of the weather. An in-between area sheltered from the elements of nature before entering the comforts of home, telling the story of any given day, a day that will no doubt have provided many of those small joys we so often overlook in our busy lives; the shift in seasons when my nose picks up the scent of spring after a long, cold winter. The knowing smile between two weary mothers. Getting all the green lights when running late. Receiving a handwritten letter. Sinking my teeth into the tender curve of a blushing, sweet pear. A moment of pause. In order to really feel, hear or see these small pockets of wonder, joy or delight one must be open to receiving them. Once this happens a whole world of daily miracles awaits. A bowl of creamy, vanilla-infused rice pudding sits in front of me. The whirls of steam mesmerise. My spoon sinks effortlessly into the glistening poached pear which is laced with warming spices and brandy. The flavours dance on my tongue. I feel comforted. I feel happy. I feel love. If a single bowl of rice pudding can invoke these feelings imagine the abundance of other small delights that are eager to be felt, heard and seen. As Ross Gay writes in his book, The Book of Delights, "Holding open doors. Offering elbows at crosswalks. Letting someone else go first. Helping with the heavy bags. This caretaking is our default mode..." So, here I am, caretaking and sharing one of my small delights with you - the recipe for my rice pudding with brandy-poached pears. So you too can be mesmerised by whirls of steam. How many small delights must that parcel have witnessed as it travelled from one salty-sea aired province to another salty-sea-infused town, on opposite sides of the world? Many, I am certain. But none more delightful than the moment I peeled away that textured farmyard wallpaper scene to reveal a gift that keeps on giving. As I prop myself up against my pillow, becoming immersed in the words on the pages of Ross Gay's The book of Delights, I am comforted by the thoughts, actions and feelings that are shared and it makes me even more aware that small delights are in fact, everywhere. Rice pudding with poached pears serves 4-6 depending on serving size 3 pears, cored and quartered (I used Rico pears) a thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced peel of 1 small lemon 3 cardamom pods, bruised 1/2 cup brandy 1/2 cup water 70g sugar Chopped walnuts or pecans and chocolate (optional) For serving In a medium-sized baking tray, toss together all the ingredients. Cover tightly with a piece of foil. Pop into a preheated 180c (fan-forced) oven for about 40 minutes. The pears should feel tender when a knife is inserted into the thickest part. Uncover and pop back into the oven for a further 20-25 minutes. Set aside. 1 cup arborio rice 1-litre full cream milk 1 tsp ground ginger 1/2 cup caster sugar 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped While the pears are in the oven combine the rice, milk, ginger, sugar and vanilla in a medium saucepan. I like to use my cast iron pot for this. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 25-30 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Place large spoonfuls of pudding into warmed bowls. Place desired amount of pears, a little of the syrup, a scattering of chopped nuts and a fine grating of dark chocolate over the top if one feels so inclined.

  • Naked corn & a Chicken, corn and noodle soup

    Rummaging around the depths of the freezer can uncover forgotten treasures. A bag brimming with de-kernel-ed corn cobs was the gold I discovered. In my quest to reduce any type of wastage I had collected these naked cobs during the warmer months, squirrelling them away in the hope that I would find a use for them. It was a crisp winter's day when this bag of gold presented itself to me. I had been playing a game of freezer Tetris. I knew exactly what I was going to use them for, corn stock. Golden, sweet, sunshine fuelled stock in the depths of winter. I tumbled the slightly frost-bitten cobs into my largest soup pot, and scattered black peppercorns from up above; a couple of bay leaves followed as well as an onion, quartered and the skin left intact. I also added sticks of celery, about two, and covered the whole lot with water. There it sat, simmering away, for the next three hours before it was strained. The golden nectar was bottled and awaited its final destination where it would linger with thin egg noodles, ginger-infused poached chicken and vibrant green snow peas brightened with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. It was the soup that kept on giving, for in the days that followed it provided nourishment and warmth and dare i say, left me feeling slightly smug at having made good use out of what would otherwise have ended up in the compost. Chicken, corn and noodle soup You can of course just use chicken or vegetable stock in place of the corn stock, but if you do find yourself with naked corn cobs I urge you to give this a go. It takes the soup up a notch. 1 whole chook 1 brown onion, peeled and halved 4cm piece of ginger, sliced 1 tablespoon brown sugar 1/4 cup fish sauce 1-litre corn stock (recipe below) 1-litre chicken stock a tin of corn kernels, or fresh if in season thin egg noodles, I used 6 nests snow peas halved 4 spring onions, sliced juice of a lime, plus extra wedges to serve fresh coriander, sliced fresh chillies (optional) Place the chook, onion, ginger, brown sugar and fish sauce into a large stock pot and then pour over the corn and chicken stock. You need enough to cover everything. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. cover and cook for 1 hour, turning the chicken over halfway through the cooking time. Allow chook to rest in the stock for half an hour. Remove chook, strain stock and then return strained stock back into the pot. Simmer for another half an hour. When chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat and set it aside. Cook noodles according to packet instructions and then rinse with cold water. Add the drained tinned corn (or fresh) along with the noodles, shredded chicken, snow peas, spring onions and lime juice. Taste to see if you need extra salt, some sweetness or a bit more tang. Serve with extra lime wedges, chopsticks and a spoon if you don't intend to slurp directly from the bowl. fresh coriander and sliced chillies would make a wonderful addition too, we have little mouths to feed and they don't appreciate green spindly things nor do they have the tolerance for anything too spicy. Naked corn stock Makes about 1 litre 8-10 naked corn cobs 2 tsp black peppercorns bay leaf 1 brown onion, skin intact, quartered 2 sticks of celery about 5 litres of water Place everything into a large stock pot, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for at least 3 hours before straining and bottling.

  • Overnight Quinces

    The aromatic, bright yellow fruits caught my eye. There they were bulging against the brown paper bag in which they were housed, as if in protest. As I cradled them in my one spare arm, (the other was carrying a rather weighty child), I promised them that I would indeed give them the display that their opulent nature deserved when we returned home. Featuring in many prominent works of art, including Vincent Can Gogh's "still life with quinces" (which by the way is experienced on a whole new level at the immersive sensory experience that is The Lume, Melbourne). As well as many poems which capture the ancient myths, love stories and symbols for which this voluptuous fruit has become famous. But what of its culinary triumphs? A fruit, that when in its raw state is practically inedible turns into a striking shade of rich, ruby-red reminiscent of Royal jewels upon long and leisurely cooking. They can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes alike - moreish spiced slow-cooked lamb shanks. Tossed through a winter salad with a scattering of crumbled blue cheese. Encased in a golden, flaky pastry, or simply spooned over a steaming bowl of porridge to break the fast. It is said that when a baby is born in the Balkans, a quince tree is planted. Symbolising fertility, love and life. I have visions of 100-year-old quince forests, their old-world branches laden with bright yellow fruits as the children of the parents who planted them walk side by side with their own children, perhaps even their children's children. It's all rather romantic, isn't it? But isn't that what the quince asks of us? To marvel in its beauty, its mystique and its ability to transform. It reminds us of what can come to fruition when time is unhurried. When we simply slow down and enjoy life's long and leisurely moments. Overnight Quinces 5 large quinces, peeled, cored and quartered 440g caster sugar a few fine peelings from the skin of an orange juice of a large orange 1/2 cup water 2 star anise 1 cinnamon stick a heaped tablespoon of honey Preheat your oven to 140c (fan-forced) and line a large, deep baking tray with a sheet of baking paper. set aside. Peel and cut each of the quinces into quarters. I find the easiest way to do this is to cut around the core, so then you are left with four "cheeks" you can either leave them this way or if they are quite large then cut each cheek in half. Place the cut quinces, along with the cores into the baking tray. Don't be alarmed when they start to discolour as this will have no effect on the final outcome. Place the sugar, orange peel, juice, water, star anise, cinnamon and honey in a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat slightly to a gentle boil. continue to bubble away for at least 4 minutes. Pour the sugar syrup over the quinces, mixing to combine, then cover tightly with a sheet, or a couple of sheets of foil and place into the oven for 3 1/2 hours. After this time, turn off your oven and allow them to rest in the oven until completely cool. I started mine in the afternoon so left them in the oven overnight, hence the title of this recipe. The following morning, spoon the quinces, star anise, cinnamon stick and orange peels into a large jar, discarding the cores. Pour the river of glistening syrup over the top and store it in the fridge where they will happily sit for as long as it takes you to work your way through them. A few of mine are destined for a spiced cake that I have in mind...

  • Limoncello Syrup Cake

    When I first began dipping my toes, or should I say hands, into the world of layer cakes, I was met with terms such as swiss meringue buttercream, offset spatulas, florists wire and crumb coating to name but a few. All of which seemed a little daunting to this novice celebration cake creator. But, like with everything that was presented to me during those years of running my cafe, I took it on with gusto and had an eagerness to learn how to create these impressive edible delights that took centre stage at many of life's celebrations. It was the generous knowledge that was shared within the celebration cake making community that gave me the confidence to really give this thing a go. Without the many tips and tricks that I picked up along the way, I imagine that it would have been a lot more difficult to work things out for myself. So now I find myself, after many years of learning, practising and refining my own skills, that I am now able to give back by sharing the knowledge, the tips and the tricks that I myself have stored away in my cake decorators toolbox. The beauty with this line of work, whether it be for business or for pleasure, or both for that matter, is that you constantly learn new things along the way. However, it is being able to witness the joy on the faces of each one of the cake recipients that really make taking the time to create a cake like this worth every second. For me, this is the greatest pleasure. My hope is that these recipes below, as well as my tutorial on Instagram (link below), arm you with the confidence to have a go at creating your own celebration cake. Because as the wise Julia Child once said, "A party without cake is just a meeting." Imagine being the one who was responsible for turning that meeting into a party. This recipe is an adaptation of a Gin and Lemon cake from Little & Friday which is an adaptation of English food writer Jane Grigson's Gin and Lemon cake. Limoncello syrup cake makes 2 x 20cm cakes to make one 2 layer celebration cake 250g unsalted butter 1 1/2 cups caster sugar zest of 6 lemons 4 eggs 2 cups plain flour 2 tsp baking powder a pinch of salt 1 1/2 cups almond meal 1 cup greek yoghurt for the syrup 1/4 cup caster sugar 1/2 cup water 1/2 cup lemon juice 6 tbsp limoncello Swiss meringue buttercream 5 eggwhites 1 1/4 cups caster sugar 450g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature 2 tsp vanilla extract Lemon curd This will make more than what you will need, which isn't a bad thing. You can use it to flavour ice cream, serve with shortbread, fill madeleines or friands, or simply eat by the spoonful. It keeps for about 3 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge. 125g unsalted butter 1 cup caster sugar zest of 3 lemons 1 cup lemon juice 3 eggs Macadamia praline 220g caster sugar 1/2 cup water 120g macadamias, coarsely chopped Fresh flowers of your choice to decorate florists wire* florists tape* *both can be found in haberdashery/craft stores Let's start at the very beginning... Preheat your oven to 160c (fan-forced). Grease two 20cm round cake tins with butter and line the base and sides with baking paper then set aside. Beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. I beat mine for a good 8 minutes or so. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat until well combined before adding the next. Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift the flour and baking powder over the top of the wet mixture, followed by a pinch of salt. Add the almond meal and fold everything together until just combined. Add the yoghurt and mix ever so gently to combine. divide the mixture evenly between the two cake tins and smooth out the tops. Place into the preheated oven and bake for about 50-60 minutes, or until they feel slightly firm on top or a skewer or cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Meanwhile, you can make the syrup. Heat the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Bring to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. When the cakes are ready, make a few little holes in the top using a skewer and then pour the hot syrup over the cakes. Allow to cool in the tins and then cover and place into the fridge, still in the cake tins, to soak up all those lovely sticky, syrupy juices overnight. Now let's begin the lemon curd! Place all of the ingredients (except the eggs) into a heatproof bowl (I like to use my stainless steel mixing bowl for this as then I can just transfer directly to my stand mixer) Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and stir until melted and the sugar has completely dissolved. The easiest way to test this is to rub a small amount of the mixture between your thumb and index finger. If it still feels grainy then continue to cook. Remove the bowl from the simmering water, wiping the bottom of the bowl free from any water. Place a sieve over a medium-sized bowl to strain the mixture leaving the zest behind. Beat the eggs in the bowl of the stand mixer until combined, pouring in the lemon mixture in a slow steady stream. Place the bowl back over the pot of simmering water and turn the heat down to low. Whisking every now and then until thickened. This usually takes me about half an hour. Once you are happy with the thickness, remove it from the heat and pour it into an airtight container. Allow to cool and then pop into the fridge. And now it's time for the praline... Line a large baking tray with baking paper, I find that if I scrunch the paper up in my hands and then smooth it out that it sits better on the tray. So do this if you like. Set the tray aside and have a thick tea towel or oven gloves at the ready. Place the sugar and water into a small saucepan over high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and then allow to bubble, without stirring. Once the bubbles start to become slower in rising on the surface the liquid will start to change colour. What you are looking for here, is a light amber colour which means it is time to pour in the macadamias. Swirl the pan around to mix everything together and then continue to cook until it has reached a deep caramel colour. Immediately pour onto the prepared baking tray and then using a tea towel or oven gloves tilt the pan side to side to spread the mixture around resulting in a thin layer of glossy, nut studded glass. Allow to cool and then when hardened, break into shards and store in an airtight container. I find it best to layer the shards between sheets of baking paper so they don't stick to one another. They will happily chill out in the freezer for as long as you like. It not only makes a lovely addition for filling cakes but you can also use it for jazzing up desserts, scattering over scoops of ice cream or simply enjoying it just as it is. Ok, now it is the following day. It is time to make the swiss meringue buttercream... Pour the sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer followed by the egg whites ( you can reserve the yolks for making pasta, frittatas, omelettes, cakes, and pastry. now place the bowl over the top of a saucepan of simmering water, it doesn't have to be full of water, you don't want the water touching the bowl. If you have an electric whisk, now is a good time to use it. If like me you are without one then you can use the good ol' trusty hand beaters for this. Beat (or whisk) the sugar and egg whites over the pot of simmering water until it looks like a fluffy white cloud with soft peaks. transfer to the stand mixer, with the whisk attachment in place. Whisk on medium-high speed for at least 10 minutes to cool the mixture down. Turn the speed to medium and add the butter bit by bit, add the vanilla and turn the speed up again, and continue to whisk until it's thick and glossy. It can sometimes start to become a bit curdled looking, if this happens, don't panic! Just continue to whisk and it will eventually become glossy. You may also need to scrape down the sides using a spatula. Remove from the mixer and gently stir with a spatula to make sure everything is combined well. You are now ready to assemble! Remove the cakes from their tins. I find it helps to run a butter knife around the edges to loosen them a little and then invert. Slice the tops of each one to flatten the surface. These make wonderful kitchen snacks! And then set aside. place a smear of swiss meringue buttercream (SMB) in the middle of a cake plate or cake board and then secure your cake base to this, just pushing down ever so slightly to "glue" the two together. Using an offset spatula, take a generous amount of SMB and smooth over the top of the cake. Create a ridgeline around the edge by pushing the buttercream out to the sides as you turn the cake around (a cake turntable works wonders here, but if you don't have one simply place it onto a sheet of baking paper so it is easier to turn on the bench) This ridgeline will act as a barrier to keep the lemon curd from running out of the middle. Using a teaspoon, dollop about a 1/4 to a 1/3 of a cup of lemon curd on top in the middle and then smooth out to the ridgeline. roughly chop 2 or 3 shards of praline and scatter them over the top of the curd. Flip the second cake over, so that the base is now facing upwards and place it on top of the base cake, pushing down lightly to make it level. Scoop a generous amount of SMB on top of the cake and spread out to the edge, then using your offset spatula, fill in the middle (join) of the cakes before covering the sides with buttercream. You can create a textured finish like the cake here, or if you prefer a smoother finish you can do that too. Neaten up the sides and the top and now your cake is ready to "dress" with a flourish of flowers. You can find a full tutorial on how to fill, cover and decorate a cake with fresh flowers over on my Instagram page. I hope you find it helpful and that it inspires you to give it a go.

  • A Cosy Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

    As the leaves crunch underfoot, and the fading light gives way to the bitter chill that hangs upon the air, the promise of a steaming bowl of hearty soup; a crisp, golden roast chook or any of the myriad of dishes that involve mountains of creamy, cheesy goodness is all that is needed to add that extra layer of warmth and comfort that we all so desperately crave during the cooler months. My appetite turns up a notch and I find myself turning the oven on not just for the delight in cooking or baking something, but for the added warmth it provides in heating up our chilly little home. A pot of rapidly boiling water sends licks of steam up against the coldness of the kitchen windows. A thick, luscious white sauce coats teeny-tiny tubes of pasta that have been flecked with garlic infused mushrooms before being tumbled into an oiled baking dish, only to be pulled from the oven 25 minutes later, transformed into a crispy-edged, golden mess of lava-like gloriousness - the epitome of comfort food - cauliflower mac and cheese. No matter how chilled the air that hangs in the darkness of an Autumn evening, there will always be a warm glow emanating from within our kitchen and the promise of a meal that will gladden the heart. A cosy cauliflower mac & cheese Serves 6 200g macaroni 450g cauliflower, broken up into small florets 100g swiss brown mushrooms, sliced 2 tbsp olive oil 40g unsalted butter 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped 40g parmesan + an extra 2 tbsp 50g gruyere + an extra 2 tbsp 400g ricotta 50g cheddar 2 tbsp unsalted butter 2 tbsp flour 500 ml full-cream milk 2 tsp dijon mustard a generous 1 cup of parsley, chopped Preheat oven to 180c fan-forced (200c conventional). Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil and cook macaroni for 5 minutes, adding cauliflower florets in with the pasta after this time. cook for another 3 minutes, stirring well. drain and set aside. Meanwhile, begin the mushrooms. Heat the oil and butter in a medium-sized fry pan over high heat. Add mushrooms, stirring to coat in the oily, buttery mixture. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook for 4 minutes or until golden. Add garlic and cook for another minute, or until it sends that wonderful aroma of mushrooms and garlic into the air. Remove from the heat, and add a pinch of salt and a good grind of black pepper. set aside. Have all of the cheeses grated and ready and waiting. Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan, add the flour and cook, while stirring for a couple of minutes or until it smells toasty. Pour in the milk, continuing to stir over medium heat until slightly thickened. This should take about 5 minutes. Stir through the cheeses, followed by the dijon, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Stir the mushrooms through the sauce and then mix this in thoroughly with the pasta and cauliflower before tumbling into a lightly oiled baking dish (mine measures 22cm x 30cm) scatter over the reserved parmesan and gruyere and place into the preheated oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, turn to the grill setting and cook for another 3-4 minutes or until it has reached a glowing golden hue. Serve with a simple leaf salad and perhaps a few slices of fresh bread on the side. If you happen to have leftovers, they make a wonderful lunch the following day. Simply reheat in the oven, covered with a sheet of foil.

  • Granny's Pikelets

    As the butter softly crackles on the warm surface and the first spoonful of batter hits the pan I can smell it - the smell of comfort, the aroma of love. The simplicity of these small, extraordinary moments pull at the very center of my heart, projecting those childhood memories to the very forefront of my mind - the way my Granny's hands felt - soft and delicate, and the way they always smelled of butter. Of baking. The prickly texture of the mohair rug that kept her knees warm, and the sound of the pages in her book sliding over one another as I buried deep into the crisp, fresh sheets of her big, cosy bed beside her. So often life's most memorable moments are the ones that seem incredibly insignificant at the time, but when reminded, these smells, textures and sounds transport us back as if in a time machine, and we find ourselves giving in to the warmth and comfort of being just that little bit closer to the ones whom we have lost along the way, but who are indeed never forgotten. I am quite certain I am not alone when I say that the humble pikelet is a direct vehicle to some of the most wonderful childhood memories - After school treats, piled high in front of eager little hands and ravenous teenage tummies; weekend breakfasts and after dinner delights. No matter the time of day there is always a space for these little gems to slide into. Served warm or cold, with butter and honey, or golden syrup, as my Granny suggests at the bottom of her recipe. I'd like to add a good smear of glistening jam to that, applied after lashings of butter, of course. Butter melting in a warm pan, a spoonful of pikelet batter...that's the aroma of love for me, and one that I hope Beau and Viviana will forever hold in the memory files of their minds - those smells, those textures, those sounds and the comfort and connection that these simple, insignificant moments provide at any time, on any day. Granny’s Pikelets 225g plain flour 2 tsp baking powder 1 tbsp caster sugar 1 cup of milk 1 egg Sift the dry ingredients together three times in a medium-sized bowl. I know this may seem excessive but when my Granny says to sift, you sift. In another bowl, whisk the egg and sugar together until combined, followed by the milk. Pour the wet ingredients slowly into the dry ingredients, whisking until a thick batter forms. Warm a large frypan over low-medium heat, grease lightly with a knob of butter and place soup spoonful’s of batter into the pan (I can fit 5 pikelets into my pan). Cook gently until bubbles appear on the surface, flip over and cook until golden. Wrap in a clean tea towel to keep warm while you cook the others, adding a little more butter each time. Serve warm or cold with butter and honey, or golden syrup. I quite like them with a smear of glistening jam too.

  • On Leftovers & Birthday Cake

    Quite often our fridge will be full of leftover cake innards - dribs and drabs of lemon curd, spoonfuls of berry coulis and the most sought after "scrap", the cake offcuts. The latter being the chosen snack to satiate those afternoon cravings. Ben can quite often be found digging around in the fridge after work on a day where I have been creating a cake for one of life's celebrations - be that a birthday or in this case, a wedding. And now Beau and Viviana have cottoned on to the fact that when Mummy has a cake to create they will inevitably end up with crumb coated fingers and the question, "just one more piece?" will follow. I always try my best to think of ways in which to use up these leftovers. So when Viviana had said with such certainty that she wanted an ice cream cake for her 2nd birthday party I was given the opportunity to use these "scraps" to make a multi-coloured 3 layered frozen treat. A 1-litre container of Vanilla ice cream was purchased, split into three and beaten together with a few large spoonfuls of lemon curd for the top layer, a river of deep purple swirled through the middle layer and a thick dark chocolate ganache followed by chunks of dark chocolate cake made up the bottom layer. It sat in the freezer for two days before being turned out onto a chilled plate, decorated simply with paper pinwheels and 2 tall white candles. In the days following on from the party, our fridge was once again full of short, long, round containers stacked haphazardly upon one another. It was like a game of fridge Tetris and my mind was absorbed with the ideas of what our lunches and dinners would look like for the next few days. Of course, Ben made the most out of this opportunity to dive headfirst into the fridge upon returning from work in the late afternoon, raiding the contents. I haven't mentioned where I've hidden the last 2 slices of ice cream cake though.... Celebration ice cream cake *This is not a recipe as such, more of a guide, but I hope it inspires you to try any number of flavour combinations. This recipe is all about ease, so just go with whatever you have on hand or purchase some ingredients. 1-litre vanilla ice cream (I like to use Bulla) about 1/2 cup of lemon curd (store-bought or homemade) a punnet of raspberries 1/4 cup berry coulis (you could also use jam for this) 1/2 cup chocolate ganache 1 cup of dark chocolate cake, broken up into chunks (you could also purchase a chocolate muffin, or make a batch if you don't happen to have cake offcuts) Grease a 1-litre capacity domed cake tin and line with baking paper. I find if you scrunch the baking paper up and then smooth it out before pushing it down into the tin makes it easier to mould it around the sides. Take out the ice cream from the freezer at least half an hour before you want to make this, this will allow it to soften and make it easier to beat in the flavours. Place a third of the ice cream into the bowl of a stand mixer along with the lemon curd and beat until smooth. Spoon into the bottom of the cake tin. Take another third of ice cream and place into the bowl with the berry coulis and beat once again until smooth. Place the raspberries around the edge on top of the lemon curd layer and then cover with the berry layer. Place the remaining ice cream into the bowl with the ganache and beat until smooth, fold through the chocolate cake chunks and then spoon onto the berry layer, smoothing out the top. Cover with a piece of foil and clamp tightly around the edge, place into the freezer for at least 24 hours, two days is even better. Pop a large plate into the freezer too, one that is big enough to turn the cake out onto. When you are ready to unmould. Take the chilled plate out and invert the cake onto the plate. run a cloth under hot water and place it on top of the upturned tin. This will make it easier for the cake to slip out. Peel away the baking paper and serve. Store any leftovers in the freezer. I'll leave it up to you whether or not you want to let the rest of the household know where you've hidden it.

  • The Sound of Summer and an Economical Cinnamon Tea Cake

    Bridge ruffies, Bumble bees, Devilled kidneys and mutton broth. Pint, pound and ounces, and an introduction that reads - "Dear Homemaker, since it was first introduced, Menu Magic has received wide acclaim as being the most comprehensive and economical recipe book available to the Australian Housewife." This spiral bound book with its illustrated pages belonged to my Nanna, my Mum's mum. A recipe book can tell many a story - each splatter, torn page, and batter-encrusted blob leaves a trail of questions and guesses throughout - favourite recipes, and recipes that look as if they have not been given the light of day for the pages on which they reside are in pristine condition. In my Nanna's copy, which now holds space on my bookshelf, it is pages 114 and 95 that tell me Nanna may have put the summer and party drinks to good use - I wonder if it was the lime and strawberry float, or the mulled fruit punch that refreshed their parched throats during the summer months, perhaps it was the frosted coffee cup recipe that provided inspiration, as I do remember tall blue glasses generously filled with a marbled concoction of strong coffee, milk and a scoop of ice cream that floated on top...I can still hear the tinkling of the spoon against the glass as my Nanna and Granny sat in their respective chairs, eyes transfixed on the TV, on what is now the sound of summer for me - The Tennis. But lets get back to page 95, shall we? To a recipe that has been turned to countless times, one that now has the pen-markings of grams and cups next to the "old-fashioned" ounces. It is the very first cake I remember baking when I was younger. Its beauty is in its simplicity, a humble yet utterly delicious cinnamon tea cake that must, and I repeat must always be cut into finger slices, turned onto its side, and spread with lashings of softened butter - so much so that when bitten into, teeth marks remain. This is how my mum serves it and it is now how I serve it because I want Beau and Viviana to have these same wonderfully delicious food memories I had as a child. I may not ever prepare mutton broth nor would I dream of serving devilled kidneys, but I can guarantee that page 95 will continue to gather sticky fingerprints and many butter-encrusted blobs into the future and beyond. Cinnamon Tea Cake 55g unsalted butter, at room temperature 85g caster sugar 1 egg 170g self-raising flour a pinch of salt 2/3 cup of milk extra butter for spreading on top 1tsp cinnamon 1tbsp caster sugar Preheat your oven to 170c (fan-forced) and grease a 19cm square cake tin with butter and then line with baking paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer beat together the butter and sugar until they are light and creamy. Add in the egg and beat to combine. Sift the flour into a medium sized bowl and stir through the salt. Fold half of the flour and half of the milk into the batter, gently stirring until combined. Fold the other half in and then spoon into your prepared cake tin. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a cake tester or skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. It should spring back lightly when pressed with the tips of your fingers and be light golden in colour. Remove from the oven, allowing to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes before placing onto a cooling rack. Spread with the extra softened butter which will act as the "glue" for sticking the cinnamon and sugar on top. Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and then sprinkle all over the top. Cut into finger slices, generously butter and serve on a large platter with cups of tea. It is a humble little cake that makes the most wonderfully delicious morning or afternoon tea treat and never lasts long.

  • Gutter apricots & a mid-summer Jam

    There is a little red raspberry patch on the upper left side cheek of the apricot I hold in my hand. A few freckle-like blemishes here and there on the outer, and on the inner, that soft perfectly ripe flesh sings the song of summer flavour. I can almost always judge when we will be gifted a box of these exquisite gems from our neighbours, for the sight of them rolling down the gutter on our street is a dead giveaway that they are indeed ready for plucking from the branches. Baked, stewed, fresh, you really cannot go wrong with these humble beauties. In fact, their flavour only becomes more intense, in that gorgeous buttery, honeyed way when roasted. And oh my, when paired with a dollop of thick Greek yoghurt, or dare I say, a generous scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, great things happen - simply. Diana Henry writes in her wonderful book, How to eat a peach, 'even the most unpromising apricots - unripe and dull - seem to become vanilla-sweet and develop a balancing acidity when heat is applied. That's why they are so good with pastry, pastry needs fruit with a little tartness.' And yes, pastry - crostatas, galettes, tarts full of frangipane, cobblers, crumbles and the simple pleasure of spreading glistening, sticky-sweet jam onto hot buttered toast - even in the depths of winter one can be transported back to the time of summer days - salty sea air swimming upon the breeze of balmy evenings, and freckle-nosed children furiously licking at the ice cream cascading down their arms. Such is the reward for standing over a hot pot of bubbling jam in the sweltering heat of mid-summer. In a world where we are surrounded by so much uncertainty these days, it's comforting to know that hidden at the back of the preserving shelf (which is merely a couple of pigeon holes in the study) sits half a dozen jars containing pure, certain joy - all thanks to those first sightings of gutter apricots. Apricot and Rosemary Jam You will need approx. 6 jars, Mine differ in sizes. I always like to sterilise more than what I think I will need, just in case. 1.5kg apricots, stones removed and quartered. Reserve about 10 of the stones 1kg white sugar 4 large sprigs of rosemary 375ml water Place the apricots into a large stockpot, along with the reserved stones, I like to use my high sided one for this as it does have the means to spit and bubble once it gets a boil up. Pour in the water and bring to a boil, continue to cook for at least 20 minutes or until the fruit has softened. Add in the sugar, and without boiling, stir until the sugar has dissolved. Once it's all dissolved, bring it up to a boil and continue to cook for at least another 20-30 minutes, making sure to stir often as you do not want to end up with burnt jam on the bottom of your pot... I use a large wooden spoon for this, and take great care when stirring as it can spit hot sticky lava on your hands and arms. I also adjust the heat if I find it is bubbling too much. At this point, you will also want to place a small dish into the freezer so that you can test the setting point of the jam. Once the jam has reached a thickish consistency - it should fall from the spoon in thick teardrops. Place a spoonful of jam onto the plate in the freezer and pop it back into the freezer for 30 seconds. Run your index finger through the middle of the jam on the plate and if it leaves a trail down the middle then your jam is ready. If not, simply cook for a little longer and then test again. Pour into the sterilised jars, wipe the rims clean, secure the lids and place upside down for a couple of minutes before turning right side up. This helps to seal the jars. Store the jars in a cool, dark spot. Once opened store in the fridge. Sterilising jars - I simply pop my chosen jars into the sink and fill up with hot water. I then place the jars onto a baking tray and pop them into the oven, set at 150 degrees C until they are dry and remove them once the jam is ready.

  • Rhubarb, Orange, and Almond Tea Cake

    I find it difficult to call rhubarb a vegetable, just as I find it difficult to call tomatoes a fruit. The perfectly slender pink petioles, or stalks as they are more commonly known, provide a never-ending source of inspiration when it comes to being creative in the kitchen. I only have to look at a bundle of reds, greens, and pinks and I become lost in the countless possibilities that these intensely sour raw stalks provide, what with the addition of sufficient amounts of sugar, these raw stalks are transformed into many an edible delight - Pies, crostatas, crumbles and jam. MY goodness, it even marries well with fatty meat and oily fish. Roast pork with rhubarb and apple sauce anyone? However, it is the way these mouthwatering sour-fruity flavours mingle with almond, orange and vanilla that really make my tastebuds tingle. It is such a versatile gem and one that can be very easy to grow, or so I am told, I have two crowns that I've planted under our kitchen window which I check upon every morning, watching as the green fan-like leaves become larger and larger. The stalks, spindly as they may be at the moment, provide hope for what is to come. Fingers crossed! Harvesting my own rhubarb feels extremely romantic, I have visions of cradling a generous bounty in my arms, bringing them inside, and watching as the droplets of water slide down their smooth "skin", patting them dry with a paper towel and chopping each stalk into chunks, finally folding them through orange-scented, white chocolate studded sugary batter, scattered with a shower of flaked almonds and then baked to golden perfection. This rhubarb, orange and almond tea cake is best enjoyed under the dappled light of a large tree, preferably barefoot, as good conversation flows upon the warm summer breeze. Of course, if this scenario is not entirely possible, then it is equally as good served in the comfort of your home at any time of the day, slicing off mouthfuls each time you pass by the kitchen. I imagine it would make for a very simple dessert as well, perhaps served with a dollop of creme fraiche sweetened with a touch of icing sugar. Vegetable, fruit, whatever you want to call it, it is truly transformative - both in flavour and in the way it can brighten the darkest of days. Rhubarb, Orange & Almond Tea Cake 150g softened unsalted butter, chopped 150g caster sugar Zest of an orange 2 free-range eggs, at room temperature 1 tsp vanilla extract 100ml buttermilk 150g self-raising flour, sifted 150g almond meal 100g white chocolate, chopped 200g rhubarb, ends trimmed and cut into small chunks 25g flaked almonds Icing sugar, to dust Preheat your oven to 170c (fan-forced). Grease a 20cm springform cake tin with butter and line with baking paper. Beat the butter, sugar, and orange zest in the bowl of a stand mixer, (or in a large bowl using handheld beaters), until thick and pale. Add the eggs, one by one, allowing each to combine well before adding the next. Pour in the vanilla and continue to beat until combined. Fold through the flour, almond meal, and milk, followed by the chocolate and rhubarb. Spoon into the prepared tin, and then scatter the flaked almonds over the top. Pop into the oven, on the middle shelf, and bake for about 50-55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool cake in the tin for at least 10-15 minutes before removing and placing onto a cooling rack. When ready to serve, dust with icing sugar. It makes a perfect picnic cake to share with friends and can also be dressed up with a dollop of crème Fraiche sweetened with a little icing sugar for a very simple summer dessert. *If you don’t have a springform tin then you can use a regular tin, just be careful when inverting the cake as you may lose a few almonds off the top, simply pop them back into place. **Raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries also make a wonderful alternative to rhubarb

  • A Weekend away & Anniversary Chicken

    “It is a wet and miserable morning in this little part of the world, so I’ve left you both a stash of firewood and some simple slippers and cosy socks by the door…” explained Cheryl in her message to me. The weekend was forecast to be extremely wet, cold, and would leave one feeling like it was the middle of winter, when in fact we were only three weeks out of the beginning of summer. Ben and I didn’t mind one bit, for we had just arrived at the most perfect place to “hibernate” for the weekend. Low clouds drift through the valleys. The morning chant of cow’s dances upon the breeze as layer upon layer of birdsong fills the cool morning air with the intermittent chiming of bells that comes from the sheep in the opposite paddock. I’ve just woken from the enormous cloud-like bed lined with botanical sheets and a marshmallow doona - the most restful night’s sleep I’ve had in years. An artist’s palette of greens and golds brushes over the rolling green hills, the morning dew sparkles. The fire flickers, taking the chill off. It doesn’t take long for it to provide that cosy heat. I can hear the kettle whistling. The warm liquid hits my lips, my hands cradle the pretty China cup as I wrap the warm, woollen blanket tighter around my shoulders. The view from the front deck, from where I sit, only makes me fall deeper and deeper into the spell that Marge’s Cottage has cast over us. From the moment we turned into the silver birch lined driveway we knew we had arrived somewhere special. The incessant drizzle fell on our heads as we quickly dashed inside to the warmth of this inviting, wee little cottage set in what can only be described as a slice of lush, green pastured heaven. Every little detail has been run over with a fine toothcomb, Making Marge’s instantly feel like a home away from home – perfumed roses in soft blushing pinks and pale buttercup yellows take occupancy in differing vessels throughout the rooms; cookbooks line the shelf by the fireplace ready for escapism into the myriad worlds depicted by their authors. Cheryl had indeed surprised and delighted us with a freshly baked carrot cake smothered in the most delectable cream cheese frosting, adorned with a small crown of garden roses. It made for a very welcome afternoon tea treat. I had carefully tucked Belinda Jeffery’s brand-new cookbook, A year of Sundays into my bag before we left which I took the liberty of making my reading companion in the huge rainwater filled, claw-foot bath, which overlooked the undulating hills from the arched window. I scattered crimson rose petals upon the silky warm liquid and allowed myself to slide into the indulgence of it all. Candles were lit, creating a soft glow as the sun sunk behind the horizon, a simple cheese platter for which I had bought the ingredients at our local deli before leaving home, sat pride of place in the middle of the rustic kitchen table to which we filled our mouths with lavish, creamy d’affoinois; gruyere, muscatels, fiery hot olives, and paper-thin slices of salty prosciutto as we watched clips on the Yorke Peninsula, S.A. – our next destination as a family. Opening the well-loved hutch in the kitchen was like opening the little doors of an advent calendar. This one here filled with flour, sugar, granola, and cut-glass tumblers. And over here, pretty China plates, teacups, and saucers. The one above that housed a fresh loaf of sourdough, a jar of orange marmalade, and a glass butter keeper with perfectly spreadable butter inside. Tea, coffee, and everything else one may need to create the bones of breakfast, or dinner, supplied – olive oil, eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. As I wandered back inside to the warmth, I happened to quickly duck back into the bedroom before the beginnings of breakfast began and my goodness what a sight it was – there is something about that soft country light as it sweeps through the window, landing on crumpled, well-slept bed linen. It made me want to curl right back up into that marshmallow cloud, but our tummies were beckoning. Fresh eggs were swiftly whipped with a dollop of crème fraiche, smashed avocado mingled with the tangy brightness of lemon, and sourdough was sliced and toasted. In fact, upon popping the bread into the toaster I was momentarily kept company by two very cheeky superb fairy-wrens at the window, a female, and a striking blue male. They are my most favourite feathered friends and I do hope that they visit again, they are so quick! After filling our bellies with the fuel needed, we headed out on the winding country roads, its hard not to feel a little lighter when surrounded by these rolling hills. We passed through Korumburra headed towards a town called, Koonwarra, where we met a friend outside the inviting Paddlewheel Farmers market store. Wicker baskets brimming with local, seasonal produce – heirloom carrots in multiple shades of oranges, yellows, and purples; plump strawberries; earth-encrusted potatoes of differing varieties, and strings of Christmas red cocktail truss tomatoes all found a place in my bag. “The jap pumpkins are so very sweet at the moment…” the shop lady gestured, to which a perfect wedge just happened to fall into my hand. Warming cups of coffee and chai were a welcome elixir at Lyon and Bair, a gorgeous little café in Leongatha that made for the perfect cosy bunker to nestle into as the rain outside continued to fall. Café owner and dear friend, Candace, treated us to golden-encrusted sausage rolls and a most delicious veggie pie which was just what we needed to brace ourselves against the elements once we arrived at Eagles nest in Inverloch. It was a very quick dash to the lookout, coats wrapped tightly around our bodies before retreating to the car, destined for our return to our little haven. There was just the right amount of carrot cake left, two slices. So, I popped the kettle on while Ben burrowed into the army-green leather couch. I wrapped a blanket around my shoulders and positioned another on my lap before pouring myself a cup of tea and began to sink deeper and deeper into the stories on the pages of Diana Henry’s book, How to Eat a Peach, as the crisp breeze blew softly across the paddocks. It felt indulgent to do so. To allow another’s words to transport oneself to smoky afternoons of an autumn lunch; lingering over a dish of slow-roast duck legs with sweet-sour plums; celebrating the beginning of summer with burnished apricots atop a tart, and the pleasure that comes from a simple leaf salad with a good vinaigrette. I devoured the words like I would a luscious, golden, herbed-butter roast chook. Which is exactly what we had for dinner. I am going to call it, Anniversary chicken. Sage, thyme laced butter found its way under the skin. Ribbons of prosciutto tucked in on top. There she sat above sliced Dutch creams glistening with olive oil and sea salt flakes, wedges of pumpkin followed onions, garlic, and slender carrots. I placed those Christmas-red tomatoes on top, a bejewelled crown, before placing everything into the oven. The cottage was full of the most wonderfully lip-tingling aromas as the skin blistered under the heat, turning an insipid, pimply covering to a shattering sheet of gold. There we sat in the quietness of the cottage as the sun’s rays slowly retreated towards the horizon, the flicker of candlelight and the joy that comes from a roast chook. The pleasure in cooking for just two, knowing that the following day leftovers would be piled in between two slices of buttered bread, enjoyed somewhere on the return trip home. I am savouring these last few hours here at Marge’s, lingering over my pot of tea for just that little longer before I am going to have to peel myself away from the rustic timber table, gather our belongings, and farewell this land of golden-green brushstrokes, crisp country air, and a cottage that has allowed us to simply just be – to breathe, to relax, and to re-charge those inner batteries at a time when we both needed it most. Oh, and look there, those cheeky fairy-wrens have returned. I see you. I understand why they have decided to call this place home. We will return, one day, to this part of the world and allow Marge’s to wrap her warm, welcoming arms around us once again. It is truly a balm for the body and soul. Anniversary chicken Serves 2 with enough leftovers for sandwiches the following day and a couple of days after that too. Or serves 4-6 depending on how hungry you all are, you may just need to increase the quantities of the vegetables. 1.9kg free-range chook 1 lemon, halved About 60g softened butter 1 tbsp chopped sage leaves 5 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed Sea Salt and cracked black pepper 3 thin slices of Proscuitto Extra virgin olive for drizzling and coating 4 slender carrots, halved 1 brown onion, sliced thickly, skin left intact 4 small Dutch cream potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into 1.5cm rounds A few thinnish wedges of pumpkin, I used jap pumpkin and kept the skin on A string of cocktail truss tomatoes 2 bay leaves Before you do anything else, get your chicken from the fridge and place it on the bench for half an hour while you start prepping the veggies. Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius, fan-forced. Place the potatoes into a medium bowl and toss well with a good glug of olive oil, salt and pepper, then arrange in a single layer in a large roasting pan, keeping them quite close together (the chicken will sit on top of these). In the same bowl add the rest of the vegetables and bay leaves along with another glug of oil and sea salt and black pepper. Toss to coat everything and then arrange in the roasting pan. Pat dry your chicken with paper towel, inside and outside and place the lemon halves inside the cavity. Combine the chopped herbs with the butter in a small bowl and season with sea salt and black pepper. Carefully use your fingers to separate the chicken skin from the breasts, trying your best not to tear it, if you do it doesn’t matter, you can just patch it up as best as you can. Now place a good amount of the herb butter mixture under the skin. Press down with your fingers on the outside so that the butter moves all the way down to the end, continue with the remaining butter. You should be left with a sheet of skin covering herb dotted butter underneath. Slide the prosciutto slices on top of the butter, under the skin. Position your chook on top of the potatoes, breast side up and drizzle with a good glug of extra virgin olive oil, scatter with sea salt flakes and massage all over the chicken. Place the tomatoes around the chicken, still intact, you may just need to halve them by snapping the stem in half. Pop the whole lot into the preheated oven and roast for 1 hour. By this stage, your home should be full of the most wonderfully comforting aromas. Open the oven, the skin should be blistered and a beautiful shade of gold. Now, depending on your oven your chook may be ready at this point. To check, insert the blade of a knife into the thickest part of the thigh, the juices that run free should be clear. If there is a hint of pink simply return to the oven. My chook took another 15 minutes after this, so just keep checking every 5 minutes or so. Once you are happy and confident that she is cooked to perfection, remove from the oven, and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes. This is the time that candles could be lit, and the table set for two (or however many people are joining you) Take to the table, roasting pan and all, and allow yourself, and the others around you to enjoy the simplicity of a good roast chook. my present to Ben sitting by the window. A Sophie Perez artwork capturing the place where he proposed to me. Contos cliffs, W.A.

  • One-pan Roast Chicken Drumsticks with Parmesan, Cream & White Wine

    We have two very cheeky Common Mynas that stealthily squeeze themselves through the wire of our "Girls'" (aka Chooks) yard. I watch them through the window as I stand over the kitchen sink. A red wattlebird startles one of the pair, it makes for an entertaining moment as I clear the dishes. We have been without the luxury of a dishwasher for close to three months now. I really must give that man a call, surely it doesn't take that long for a part to be ordered in, even if it is a turbinado-whats-a-Jigga-ma-thingy. The funny thing is that I actually haven't missed it all that much, well, the unpacking of it anyway. My hands, however, tell a different story. Whether it's been purposeful or not, I have been cooking meals of an evening that require fewer pots, pans, and utensils. A mountain of dishes at the end of the day makes for a very unwelcome gift. This is where the always welcomed one-pan, one-pot meals come into their own. Nothing is quite as simple as combining sliced fennel, white wine, parmesan, and a good dose of cream to a roasting tray. Chicken drumsticks are positioned on top. A bouquet of thyme sprigs. An extra shower of Parmigiano Reggiano over it all for good measure. The resulting dish will inevitably find one, maybe two, reaching for a slice of fresh sourdough to mop up the ridiculously luscious sauce. I imagine that if there were any of these saucy bits leftover that it would enrich slender strands of spaghetti, or enhance a potato salad to the next level. In fact, the fat that forms on top of the sauce once refrigerated makes for a wonderfully golden, crunchy roast potato. At the end of it all, when bellies are satisfied and the last of the daylight slips behind the trees, there will be a pan, a few plates, and some cutlery to wash. Of course, if one is so fortunate to have a working dishwasher, then those dishes would consist of just one roasting pan. Lucky you! One-pan Roast Chicken Drumsticks with Parmesan, Cream, and White Wine serves 4-6 depending on how hungry you and your diners are, we generally get a 4 person meal out of this, (2 adults and 2 small children) but you could very well serve alongside crunchy roast potatoes, beans, and a loaf of sourdough to feed 6, or just pop a few extra drumsticks into the pan. 6-7 chicken drumsticks, approx 1.3kg, skin on 1/2 a large fennel, (350g) cut into 2cm slices 3 spring onions, trimmed 3 garlic cloves, finely diced 1/2 cup vegetable stock 1/2 cup white wine 1/4 cup light olive oil 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (or Parmesan if that is what you have) 2 tsp wholegrain mustard 1/2 cup thickened cream 1/2 cup creme fraiche 15 sprigs of thyme 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano, extra Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius (fan-forced). Have ready a large baking dish or roasting tray, mine measures 23cm x 32cm. Season chicken with salt and pepper, using your hands to massage it in. Place the sliced fennel into the bottom of the tray, followed by the spring onions. In a large bowl, mix garlic, stock, wine, olive oil, parmesan, mustard, cream, and creme fraiche. Season with a pinch of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Pour this over the fennel and sit the chicken on top, turning to coat in the sauce. Tuck the thyme sprigs in and around the chicken. Scatter over the remaining extra 1/3 cup grated parmesan and drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Place into the oven for about 45-50 minutes, or until golden and crispy. *This recipe has been adapted from Alexandras Kitchen.