recipes

Patty

patty cakes

In a distant age the pterodactyl flew, the Brachiosaurus trod and (according to my children) I was a child. And it was back in those dawning days that we consumed little cakes. No party table was complete without a stand of these delicate little paper-cased delights, smoothed over with silky icing and decorated in a very understated fashion with silver balls or sprinkles. And to us all, they were affectionately known as patty cakes.

We did know of cupcakes. That was the equivalent term our US cousins used, and we heard it bandied about often enough as we consumed our generous diet of American TV and story-books. Despite this, we continued to refer to ours as patty cakes and not much more was said about the matter until recent days.

In a juggernautish manner, cupcakes have stormed our cake world. In a speed that would have impressed Darwin, this evolutionary process saw the little patty cake forced to extinction as the lavish buttercream topped, supersized baked phenomenon, was naturally selected by our gluttonous appetites and now solely inhabits our bakery counters and benchtops. With all of that colour, whip and magnificence, how could it have been otherwise?

I do think there is something to be said about a nice little cake with a cup of tea. Similarly, in a sea of sugar-laden party treats, a small cake leaves room to be tempted by other celebration table goodies. So I bake patty cakes.

If you’re of similar eon or simply enjoy smaller treats, a batch is not difficult to prepare. For your basic cake mixture, use the one from this blog post. If you like shiny, firm icing purchase pure icing sugar rather than soft icing mixture. Measure out 150 grams and sift it. Add water, one teaspoonful at a time, until a nice spreading consistency it reached – avoid runny. Spread the icing across the cooled cake tops, and give them a token decoration. With the recent cupcake frenzy, there are now masses of decorative items now at your disposal.

patty cake

Postscript: There is  a small clue remaining, that the cupcake was once known to us as a patty – supermarket shelves across our land stock paper cases all clearly labelled – patty pans.

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recipes

Honest

autumn leaves

And so it is once again we make our seasonal transition, and as is customary, our greeting from Autumn is one of welcome and warmth. Rich jewel-hued foliage and mellow sunshine provide a glorious backdrop for days spent digging over soil for winter, industrious pegging at washing lines or simply enjoying the treat of coffee-dipped biscuits on a terrace.

The latter is my preference, soaking up sunshine as eagerly as the scotch fingers fill with steaming coffee – I’m grateful to absorb them both! I encourage you to make this practice yours as well, as there are no finer moments in your garden than those spent basking in the warmth of sunshine, coffee and golden thoughts of promising plans. The velvety swish around your legs of a feline who discovers your presence only adds to the affability of the occasion.

There is nothing complex or intricate of Autumn. A season of robust honesty – rich color, decent rain, enduring sunshine and crisp nights. It’s reduced temperatures call for hearty, earthy food. Plain and simple. Plain cake. Gather your faithful core ingredients: butter, sugar, eggs, flour and set about this reliable, dense Madeira cake – nothing fluffy or fly-away about this one. Your kitchen will fill with the scent of baked goodness, and should ‘the sun be over the yard arm’ bring out your finest fortified (madeira if you have it), adjourn to the terrace and dip away.

madeira cake

175g softened butter
175g caster sugar
250g plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
finely grated lemon zest of 1/2 a lemon
4 eggs

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees celcius and grease and line a loaf tin.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and pale.
  3. Sift together the flour and baking powder, then stir through the lemon zest.
  4. Beat the eggs into the butter and sugar mixture, one at a time,beating thoroughly between each one.
  5. Using a metal spoon, swiftly but thoroughly, fold through the flour mix.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, smooth the top and bake for 55-60 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  7. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then turn out.

 

McWilliam's sherry

I couldn’t help noticing the driver of the bullock cart laden with grapes, decorating the sherry bottle. Maybe he was returning to his rustic verandah. After such a productive day, perhaps to kick off his boots, dunk a big chunk of cake into his sherry and survey the beauty of the harvest vineyard before him- who knows?

madeira display

Postscript: I must give credit to the Liquidambar for supplying such a stunning array of delicious colour to set off the madeira. This tree personifies Autumn in our garden.

recipes

Solla Sollew

pavlova

There are spells of time frequently described these days as ‘the zone’. Living in a delightful, even exhilarating parallel universe, is often cited as ‘being in the zone’. Runners coin it and psychologists advise of its pursuit during times of anxiety. Many shake their heads despondently, thinking it unachievable. Not so, every one of us has been there, long before it held its modern-psycho title and simply didn’t recognise it for what it was.

As you sat as a child before a reader, who filled your auditory canals with text, and your visuals with correlating  illustration, your very being travelled to another realm. Objects in the room around you dissolved like Max’s bedroom, where vines grew in it’s place. The reader no longer visible, only fascinating words and intriguing pictures feeding a hungry imagination. And once the story reached its conclusion, only then did you become aware of your delicious absence – some glorious time away like the Pevensie children’s journey to Narnia via the wardrobe’s rear. You were lost (happily) in a book.

Even now, as grown beings, we still disappear into narrative, and how wonderful it is not only to make the excursion, but to reflect on it afterward and will others to do the same, pressing your copy urgently into their hands.

I recall with great clarity, the post-lunch summer afternoon I sat cross-legged as a six-year-old, on a timber classroom floor and made the tumultuous journey to ‘the City of Solla Sollew, on the banks of the beautiful River Wah-Hoo, where they never have troubles! At least, very few’.

Solla Sollew

So absorbed was I by the magic of this tale, that when the teacher closed the covers, I could swear I had just scampered across that exquisite pink bridge and onward to that place of wonder. Even now, when I recall that tale, my memory of Solla Sollew is one of delight. Living in a land of sunshine and colour, smiles and sweetness. And of course snoozing on those billowy pillows …

billowy pillows

Quite marshmallowey don’t you think? Yes, this utopian land I am convinced, is inhabited by Solla Sollewians who dine exclusively on pavlova. What more fitting a dish for this decadent town could there be? Brittle shards of crispy meringue offset with the spongy sweet centre. Topped with rich fresh cream, fragrant banana,  strawberries and a passionfruit tang following through. Make yours on a day when time needs no measure – there is plenty of beating and mixing to be done and of course with the mix-master whirring and the sugar sprinkling definitely an opportunity to get into the zone.

4-5 egg whites at room temperature (or enough to reach 150ml)
1 cup caster sugar
1 tspn white vinegar
small container of thickened cream
1 small banana
2 passionfruit
approx 6 strawberries

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius.
  2. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  3. Beat the sugar in, 1 tablespoonful at a time and beat well between each addition to ensure it dissolves into the egg whites.
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for 6 minutes.
  5. Add the vinegar and beat for a further 2 minutes.
  6. Draw an 18 cm circle on baking paper and lay on a flat tray.
  7. Pile the meringue mixture inside the circle – heap it up.
  8. Place in the oven and reduce temperature to 120 degrees celsius.
  9. Bake for 1 1/2 hours.
  10. Leave in the oven to cool with the door open.
  11. When cold top the meringue shell with cream, thinly sliced banana and strawberries, then drizzle passionfruit across it all.

fruit topped pavlova

Postscript: Pavlovas and Solla Sollewians aside, I owe a great deal to Dr Seuss for the enchanting itineraries he devised for me through his pen.

recipes

Sundae

chocolate fudge sundae

Washing flapping in the breeze, windows thrown open, lush green grass, blue skies and sunshine – time to move the heavy pudding basins to the rear and bring forward the delicate glassware. Lavishly topped ice-cream – a visual as well as a culinary feast. How could anyone spy an ice-cream sundae and not be transported to jubilant times? Springtime, term break and ice-cream – the holy trinity in our household.

The simplicity of a sundae – when these were made I couldn’t help but wonder why we don’t make them more often. Within ten minutes, everyone is digging furiously into lava topped vanilla mountains, enjoying shards of toasted nuts and sticky cherries in the process. Not only this, but with the lure of a sundae, all manner of promised household chores are miraculously completed.

For the maker, the ultimate comfort comes from the security of owning a shiny jar full of fudgy sauce, that at a moment’s notice can be warmed and poured.

chocolate fudge sauce

If you seek similar reassurance, this glossy rich chocolate sauce is easily blended and not only makes winning ice-cream sundaes but is perfect to dig a spoon into after everyone has gone to bed.

1 cup cream
3/4 cup condensed milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa, sifted
180g dark chocolate, chopped
50g butter
vanilla ice-cream
crushed nuts (toasted if you have the time and inclination)
maraschino cherries (or tinned, bottled or fresh)

  1. Combine cream, condensed milk, sugar and cocoa in a medium saucepan and stir over low heat until sugar dissolves and mixture is smooth.
  2. Increase heat to medium so that mixture is simmering and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring.
  3. Remove from heat and add chocolate and butter, stirring until melted and smooth.
  4. Scoop ice-cream into individual dishes, pour over sauce and top with crushed nuts and cherries.

This lovely rich fudgy sauce goes a long way, so store in a glass jar in the refrigerator, and warm gently in the microwave when required.

fudge sundaes

Postscript: sundae dishes, relics of simpler times, are a dime a dozen in thrift shops. Pick up a matching set, or make up a mis-matched crazy collection. Should you tire of sundaes (unlikely) these dishes make great tapas, taco or antipasto accoutrement.

recipes

Preserve

Of Course I Can!

Putting up, canning, preserving, bottling – four ways to describe a process from which a sense of deep inner satisfaction is a by-product. Beginning with a pile of beautiful produce and ending with a shelf groaning under the weight of gleaming jars is a very meaningful way to spend an afternoon. Although we are not subject to food shortages, we are prone to seasonal fluctuation, and to be able to capture a crop at its finest with the ability to enjoy it year round, is a wonderful thing.

Occasionally ‘windfalls’ of produce can land in your lap. A neighbour with a productive fig tree, a market bargain or a roadside opportunity, are likely examples. To be able to bottle these fortuities to savour at a later date makes sense, economically and nutritionally. Windfalls aside, if you would like to dip your toe into the process, start with a generous selection of good eating apples. Applesauce is delicious and versatile (immediately apple pie, roast pork, danishes and custardy desserts spring to mind).

spiced applesauce ingredients

After you have peeled and chopped approximately 2 1/2 kilos, put them into a large pan over a medium heat with 1/2 cup of apple juice (or cider), three whole star anise and three cloves. Put a lid on the pot and cook the apples for about 20 minutes, or until well broken down. Stir the pot regularly to make sure the apples are not sticking. Remove the cloves and stars. Now, with a hand masher, stick blender or blender, process until smooth. At this point, add sugar (up to 1 cup). I use about 1/2 cup, but some like their sauce sweeter. Stir well. You will notice the dark colour of my applesauce and this is because I also add a teaspoon of nutmeg and a tablespoon of cinnamon with the sugar. You can do this, or for traditional applesauce, leave these out. Your applesauce is now ready to preserve.

IMG_3168

I use a Ball Preserver but all you need is a large stockpot with a lid and a selection of sturdy jars with metal lids. Pop your jars in the stockpot and fill with water until jars are covered. (To keep the jars from coming in contact with the base of the pot, place an upturned dish on the bottom for them to rest on). Bring pot to the boil. This will sterilise the jars for you. Boil the jar lids in a small saucepan separately. Using tongs remove the jars and fill with the applesauce. Seal jars with lids, not overly tightly. Place jars back in stockpot and cover. Boil for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and leave jars to stand in water for about 5 minutes before removing. Stand on a chopping board covered with a teatowel. As the jars cool, you will hear the lids pop, meaning a seal has formed.

Admire your efforts.

apple, peach and custard dessert

Postscript: this quantity of apples will make approximately four 500ml jars of sauce and of course there will be a little over. This is the bit you pop in a bowl with some peaches and pouring custard to enjoy while the jars are sealing themselves.

recipes

Tim Tam

Tim Tam Brownie

It is better to give than to receive. I know this because I had the opportunity to watch a friend blissfully devour umpteen pieces of brownie I baked her for her birthday. A work colleague actually,  from a neighbouring shore who has developed a passion for Tim Tams – what better birthday gift than to present her with a packet, hidden in a brownie?

There aren’t too many than can pass up a Tim Tam or a chunk of brownie either. Such a perfect match the two have made. Soft chewy brownie with crisp chunks of chocolate biscuit – a devilish treat. Combine this with the recipient’s pleasure and you’ve created yourself one happy day.

tray of Tim Tam brownie

Do you feel like indulging? Thought so. Here is how they are done. Start with the basic brownie recipe I use, and leave out the honeycomb. Once the batter is made, dab about four heaped spoonfuls onto the base of the lined tin and smooth over to form a bed for your Tim Tams. Lay out an entire packet of the biscuits over the base. Now top with the remaining batter and smooth over so the Tim Tams are hidden inside. Bake for 30-35 minutes, and when the brownie has cooled, slice into blocks. Dust with cocoa powder.

brownie mix

Postscript: and then it occurred to me that there are a host of other chocolate biscuits on the shelves ……

recipes

Pound

Cream cheese pound cake

Pound cake. Just how did this traditional bake come to be named so? Here are my four theories:

  1. From the increment of weight gained per slice consumed.
  2. Where your dog winds up when you are too busy scoffing a slice to remember to close the front gate.
  3. The sum your British mates will offer you for a piece.
  4. The manner in which the neighbourhood children will strike your front door when the freshly baked aroma escapes the kitchen window.

Surprisingly, none of my suggestions come even close. The name originates from the fact that early American pound cakes contained one pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Simple to remember, straightforward to prepare and superb to eat. I guess what typifies a pound cake is its density. With no rising agents such as bicarbonate of soda or baking powder added, the resulting crumb is butter rich and firm – so satisfying when you just want to eat a decent whack of cake, nothing ‘fly-away’ about it.

Here in the sunburnt country, our version is known as madeira cake. Not quite as hefty, but certainly as well-loved. I grew-up knowing it to be ‘plain cake’. A slice wrapped in waxed paper tucked in my lunch-box was such a treat, while across in Germany, the school children were unwrapping Eischwerkuchen, and the French, quatre-quarts. So you see, we were all eating an interpretation of the same recipe – just happy kids eating cake.

Today, a serious pound cake was on the agenda, so it was the American region that I turned to – Cream Cheese Pound Cake. So generous in quantity, this recipe allows you to make two. Wrap your second in clingwrap, and that’s the baking done for next week as well. Strawberries are ripening beautifully in our northern states right now, so a punnet was economically converted into sauce to spoon across each slice.

To sum up, a pound cake represents stability. A pound cake made with cream cheese represents moisture-rich stability. A cream cheese pound cake bathed in strawberry sauce represents gluttony.

Pound cake with strawberry sauce

250g butter, softened
250g cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups plain flour
2 tsp salt

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease and line two loaf tins.
  2. Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar, beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla.
  4. Add flour and salt in two batches, beating until just combined.
  5. Pour batter evenly into both tins. Tap tins on bench to release air bubbles. Bake for approximately 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  6. Cool in tins for 5-10 minutes before turning out onto wire rack.
  7. Slice and serve with strawberry sauce or just as it is!

For the strawberry sauce, hull and slice a punnet of strawberries and place in a small saucepan with two tablespoons of sugar on a low heat. Let them simmer away slowly, keeping a close eye, and shortly you will have softened fruit in a thick juice. Add a splash of water if you need to and maybe whizz with a stick blender if you like your coulis smooth. Serve warm over thick slices of poundy.

a slice of pound cake

Postscript: So robust is this cake, It could easily be dubbed ‘Slab Cake’ and marketed to our tradies…..

recipes

Trash

Good Housekeeping Magazine

There has been the odd day where I’ve felt the need to herald from a high vantage point, ”OK, stick a fork in me, I’m done!” Well done. Done washing, done grocery shopping, done bed making, done basin scrubbing, done path sweeping. On these occasions, the only way to self-tenderise, is to make like the meat does after a big roasting – and rest. And what better way to get some juice flowing back into the soul, than a bit of quiet trashy mag time.

As much as I love some thought-provoking non-fiction or a masterful piece of literary excellence, at certain times of the week, the developments of a Kardashian relationship or a royal outing are about all I have the head space to absorb. In fact, I consider time spent with a glossy and a coffee, to be time well spent. Apart from the celebrity trials and trysts, I really enjoy the convenience of leafing through the snapshots of up-and-coming fashion peeks, the latest beauty product and ways to scatter my cushions, without having to leave the kitchen. By the time I have read the entire mag (usually 30 minutes), I have been recharged with a posse of new ideas and feel abreast of emerging trends.

Personal development aside, I love the humour these magazines elicit. Articles on weight-loss programs followed by pages of pudding recipes, never fail to make me smile. The outrageous claims made by ”close sources” of the famous are also worth a chuckle. And of course there are also the latest research snippets: people who eat less and exercise more are inclined to live longer….

Of course the food coverage always takes my eye – and the growing pile of tear sheets next to my recipe books bears evidence of this. There would be very few weekly publications that I would reach the end of without at least one recipe snaring my attention. This week was no different. When I flipped the page to this Chicken, artichoke and lemon dish and saw that I had most of the ingredients on hand and they could all cook together in one dish, an instant ripping of paper broke the sunny afternoon silence.

Chicken Artichoke and Lemon

1/4 cup olive oil
8 chicken drumsticks
500g potatoes, cut into wedges (skin left on)
1 onion, cut into wedges
1 lemon, sliced into rings
4 thyme sprigs
1/2 cup white wine
170g jar artichokes, drained
1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  2. In an ovenproof pan, heat half of the oil and brown off the drumsticks until golden.
  3. Add potatoes and onion with the rest of the oil and mix around. Top with lemon slices and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place pan in the oven and bake for 35 minutes.
  5. Pour over wine, and stir in artichokes and tomatoes.
  6. Bake for a further 10-15 minutes, ensuring chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender.
    (Even though this dish contains potatoes, I served it over steamed rice because the sauce is delicious when absorbed into the rice.)

Postscript: and after reading of the births, remarriages and body makeovers it’s heartening to realise your own life is not that exhausting after all.

recipes

Fortified

Brandy Orange Marmalade

Madeira, port and sherry – all delightfully robust examples of wine fortified by matured, beautifully structured brandy. Small pours are all that is required to enjoy such aperitifs or digestifs, who resoundingly boast bold and explosive flavours – all the while supported silently by the strength and complexity of their custodian – brandy.

We each have our own internal fortitude (hopefully yours is not reliant on brandy). Unlike the liqueurs, often the things that give us our internal strength are entirely external to us – family, friends or the patterns of nature. To wake and see the sun lifting the chill from the garden, a sleepy rosy-cheeked child rising from his bed or even a genial wave from a neighbour, has a core-settling effect – the day is motion. And when all is as such, there is every reason to place your foot forward, roll up your sleeves and grasp hold of another new day unlike any other that was.

I’m not sure that marmalade has the good fortune we share. So to be sure that this batch was able to embrace it’s personal journey, I slipped some brandy into the pan at the final stage.

1.5kg oranges (blood or Seville if you can get them, otherwise any)
1.5 kg sugar
4 tbsp brandy
1 pkt Jamsetta (optional)

  1. Put the oranges and 2.25 litres of water in a large preserving pan, cover and simmer for 50-60 minutes until the fruit is very soft.
  2. Remove from heat, lift out the fruit, and cool.
  3. Measure the liquid and if required add extra water until you have 1.7 litres. Stir in the sugar.
  4. Halve the oranges, scoop out the flesh and pips. Tie these in some muslin cloth or similar.
  5. Chop the peel coarsely. Add to the pan with the muslin bag.
  6. Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and cook at a full rolling boil for 10 minutes or until the marmalade has reached setting point. (If you are having any issues with setting, now is the time to stir through the Jamsetta).
  7. Cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the brandy.
  8. Pour into sterilised jars and seal.

marmalade toast

Postscript: The brandy worked wonders on the marmalade’s character and on toast in the morning, it has certainly strengthened mine.

book reviews · recipes

Fika

Fika Ikea Baking Book

As formalities continue to be shed in an effort to live in a more simplified fashion, so too our food has begun to follow suit. More frequently we are encouraged to eat our meals in a ‘deconstructed’ form. Jamie now scatters his communal dinners across a chopping board, cheesecakes are commonly served up in drinking vessels and salads regularly layered in kilner jars (maybe this is my cue to toss a scoop of Vegemite, a few cheese shavings and some bread in the lunch box for some deconstructed school sandwiches). But I digress. The Scandinavians, or more specifically, Ikea, have had the jump on this mode for years. Their latest contribution to our pared-down existence is their new baking book, Fika, illustrating each recipe as a collection of deconstructed ingredients. Intrigued? So was I.

Fika is the Swedish term for a coffee break, generally shared with others. This book offers a host of recipes perfect for such events. Based on your level of experience and time affordable, you can dip in and out of this baking collection and come up with some delicious treats. The Rustic Biscuits caught my eye, basically because in my ‘deconstructed pantry’ all the elements were present and equally because the bakes could be made in two stages (dough needs to be chilled a while) allowing me to fit swimming lessons in between. And what lovely, crispy little gems they turned out to be:

Rustic Biscuits

Even on a day when baking is not within your reach, this book is a lovely browse, as rarely have I seen a collection of recipes photographed in such a simplistic form. For novice cooks to be able to see baked items broken down this way, leaves very little hiding space for uncertainty or self-doubt to settle. Dismantling kitchen fear and apprehension my friends, can only be a good thing.

100g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
1 tbsp. golden syrup
35g blanched almonds, chopped
225g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
1 tbsp milk (optional)

  1. Cream butter, sugar and syrup.
  2. Combine almonds, flour and bicarb of soda and then add this mix to the creamed mix.
  3. Work into a dough (at this point, you may or may not need to add the milk, depending on how dry your dough is).
  4. Roll the dough into a long sausage, about 3 cm thick and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate for up to an hour or freeze.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Remove cling film and cut slices of dough about 1 cm thick. Lay these out on trays lined with baking paper.
  6. Bake for 6-8 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

You will need to be forgiving with some of the text in Fika, as we are crossing a fairly challenging language barrier here. The odd ingredient may be foreign, and occasionally ml is used in place of gram, but remember, we are working on our flexibility.

Rustic biscuits and coffee

Postscript: By the way, Fika is a marvellous word to have in your vocabulary when you burn your hand on the oven tray whilst young family members are present.