Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The real four ingredients

Often the simplest recipes are the best, and four ingredients really is all you need. Not the four ingredients of the cookbook fame, with all their preservatives, flavourings and packaging, but the pantry staples that your great Grandmother would recognise. 

Eggs, cheese, salt and pepper for an omelette. Flour, baking powder, butter and milk for scones. Lemons, eggs, sugar and water for a lemon pudding.

Sure, the recipes aren't always low in sugar, salt or fat, but they're made from real ingredients with no nasties.

Since the birth of the twins, I've found myself relying on my mother-in-law's currant loaf more than once if I need to whip something up quickly. It's easy, can be frozen and relies on ingredients commonly found on my shelves. Although I confess, last time I made it I put out a desperate call to family up the road for some currants. I can happily report I am now restocked.

Janet's Currant Loaf

1 cup currants
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup warm tea
2 cups self raising flour

Place fruit and sugar in a mixing bowl and pour tea over. Let stand one hour or more. Stir flour into mixture and pour into a greased, lined bar tin. Bake in moderate oven for 1 hour (try 160).


I love the flavour the tea imparts and I'm keen to try it with earl grey, or maybe a strong smokey blend. Serve fresh with a little smear of butter... If you can bear to break with four ingredient traditions.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Feeling dippy

I have a confession: when it comes to hors d'oeuvres, I'm the scoffer who eats more than their share. Especially now I'm a breastfeeding mumma - although there's quite a few mums amongst my friends who are either pregnant or have babies younger than mine, so I'm rapidly losing my excuse.

Not only do I eat a lot, I also find nibbles rather expensive. I do love a delicious wedge of European cheese, but it's a treat kept fairly rare by my budget. What DOES fit in my budget are canned chickpeas. And what can you make from chickpeas? Hummus.

This is a recipe I've been making for nearly ten years. I'm really sure how authentic it is, but it's quick, easy and feeds a crowd. What's more, apparently it's quite low in fat.

3/4 cup (150g) dried chickpeas* or 450g canned chickpeas (I use canned)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove, quartered
1/4 cup tahini (available from supermarkets)
1/4 cup lemon juice
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley

Drain cooked or canned chickpeas and reserve 1/3 cup of liquid. Using a stick blender (or food processor), blend chickpeas and liquid with salt, garlic, tahini and lemon juice. Top with cayenne pepper and parsley to serve.

*If using dried chickpeas, you'll need to soak them overnight and cook them.

I find the hummus tastes richer if it's prepared some time in advance, to allow the lemon and garlic flavours to develop.

You can use hummus on pides, with grilled kebabs or on roast lamb. However I serve it as a dip with lavish or Turkish bread, and carrot and celery if I have the time to chop. It forms part of my "holy trinity of easy dips to please a bbq crowd"' with Stephanie Alexander's guacamole (reproduced here: http://nickcancook.blogspot.com.au/2010/11/stephanie-alexander-guacamole.html) and her basil pesto (see  http://www.kitchengardenfoundation.org.au/uploads/09_resources/kg_recipes/Yrs5_6_BasilPestoRecipe_WEB.pdf).

Friday, June 19, 2015

Weekend porridge

Recently I wrote about the demise of my breakfast routine after the birth of my gorgeous twins. I can now report that normality is returning. This is fortunate because it's porridge season and I love a warm bowl of porridge on a Saturday or Sunday morning. It's like waking up to a big warm tastebud hug. Sometimes we get all fancy and make a five grain mix that includes triticale and rolled rice, but I'm equally happy with plain old oats and an unhealthily large topping of brown sugar.

How do you cook your porridge? I have become quite habitual with my method, which I learnt from that King of Sydney breakfasts, Bill Granger. It goes a little like this:

Oats soaked in an equal quantity of boiling water for ten minutes then cooked with an equal quantity of milk, stirring over medium heat until thick and delicious.

1 part oats + 1 part boiling water + 1 part milk = 3 parts chilly Saturday morning deliciousness

What's your winter weekend breakfast ritual?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Autumn salads and other seasonal delights

Autumn is such a lovely time of the year in Tamworth and surrounds. The days are often sunny, the nights snuggly, which means it's still warm enough for salads but you don't need to think twice about turning on the oven.

Last week I was fortunate to speak with Kelly Fuller and Anna Moulder from ABC New England North West about autumn eating and just a few of the lovely things in season right now.

You can catch the conversation on SoundCloud.

Or read on for a few of our ideas.

Rocket, pear & Parmesan salad

Photo: Courtesy of www.cheesematters.com.au

This is a classic and well known combination for using pears, but there's one rule of thumb to ensure you get it right: use the best extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan that you can afford (and find).

Ensure your rocket leaves are washed and dry, then toss in just enough EVOO to make then glisten. Thinly slice a just-ripe pear - you want it to be firm enough to hold its shape - add to the rocket and top with shavings of Parmesan. I find a vegetable peeler is the best way to shave from the block.

If you're a texture freak, you can also sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.

A word on extra virgin olive oil

Don't save that expensive bottle or gift for a special occasion. EVOO is not like wine. Its flavour intensity will decrease with age, so fresh is best. Look for oil that tells you on the bottle what year the olives were harvested. Depending on the region, harvest is usually completed from April to June.

Nutty salads

Not many of us are familiar with using chestnuts, myself included, but they are in season. Not just for roasting over the fire in an idyllic nod to the northern hemisphere, they can also be chargrilled and added to a salad of leaves, pancetta and croutons.

Walnuts are also in season and when it comes to salad that can mean one thing for many people: Waldorf Salad. No longer a slimy mix of walnuts, celery, grapes and apple glooped in mayonnaise, add radicchio, witloaf and celery leaves for an updated classic.

Check out Gourmet Traveller for these and other autumn salad ideas.


Wild mushrooms are also in season right now. If you can find someone who knows what they're looking for you might be able to convince them to accompany you on a foraging exercise. Otherwise, keep your eye out at markets for pine mushrooms, which are large, with a bright orange underside. Super fleshy, simple slice and sauté in butter. Don't be alarmed, they will "bleed" orange as you slice.

Also look for porcini powder, available all year round, maybe even in supermarkets now. Sprinkle into mushroom risotto or pasta for extra richness, or coat lamb fillets before grilling.

We also covered pomegranates, Jerusalem artichoke (also known as fartichokes) and chickpea salads. Here's the super simple chickpea salad I mentioned (hint: I used olive oil instead of ghee, I also skipped the spring onions as I had none).

Monday, February 9, 2015

Mourning breakfast

There's a lot of things I miss about my pre-twin life. And my mum friends assure me that it's ok to miss stuff and no, it's not a cause for mummy guilt.

I miss the usuals, like going out for a coffee on a whim, but it's the little things that have surprised me the most. Like breakfast. I didn't think my daily breakfast routine was extravagant. Weetbix with fruit, a piece of Vegemite toast on bakers delight sliced wholemeal (jam if I was feeling extravagant), a good cup of tea and a digital newspaper at the breakfast bar with my husband.

Seasoned mothers will laugh at my naivety, but this is rarely possible now. Instead I scoff down cereal on the loungeroom floor during "playtime" and only manage a cup of tea if someone turns up later in the day and makes it*. I didn't think this was a part of my life that would be impacted on. Just another one of the little sacrifices we're thrilled, genuinely thrilled, to make.

*to be fair, Sam does offer. It's just that the drinking is as time consuming as the making.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Chocolate cake

Following on from last week's post about my burning desire to cook now I have NO time, I am convinced the internet is deliberately playing on this and my insatiable appetite for the sweet and calorific.

I've just started reading blogs for the first time since the demise of Google reader. On day one of setting up Feedly this chocoholic delight popped into my feed. Sour cream chocolate cake via The Kitchn. My ambitions peaked when I remembered there was sour cream in my fridge, but the miniature humans were too busy feeding for such folly.

And then, the very next day I saw this on Instagram, courtesy of Vee who posts the most amazing photos of her Welsh Terrier, Bear, at veeandbear. Surely the similarities in appearance are no coincidence. The universe wants me to bake ridiculously decadent chocolate cake. Or, at the very least, eat it.

Leela Cyd, creator of the sour cream chocolate cake puts forward a very good cause for baking your own birthday cake, and relishing the experience. It's a lovely read.

When it comes to celebrations, Stephanie Alexander's whiskey and raisin chocolate cake has been a favourite of m
ine in the past, winning me over with its richness and its ability to feed a crowd.

Do you have a go-to chocolate cake recipe for celebrations?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Not just a humble muffin

What would you cook if you had all the time in the world?

For so many people, life gets busy and we stop making time for the hobbies we enjoy, squeezing them out with work, home and social commitments. It's not until life takes a dramatic turn that you realise how much time we used to have. Sam and I frequently reflect on this, asking "why did we take all our spare time for granted at uni", or "remember how little we HAD to do on the weekends before we bought a house".

So here I am, 6 weeks after the birth of our beautiful twins with a feeling of déjà vu. I am itching to cook elaborate dishes now that I have no time, and wishing that I'd tried all those new recipes before the munchkins came along.

Instead, I settled for baking some very basic banana muffins. Pouncing on an overripe banana and a rare quiet twenty minutes. They might not be elaborate but there's certainly something soothing about cooking basic wholesome food using ingredients you have at home.

They're not bad with a cup of tea, either.