recipes

Market

market flowers

Should you ever need inspiration to cook, connect with community or remind yourself of the basis of life, find your local market. I make it my business to take regular trips, because I leave mine not only with a bounty of produce, but also with a prosperous soul.

To be amongst our food in its purest form, watch buyers make their selections with reverence and sellers deal in a rhythm that indicates years of involvement, creates an awareness of the essence of life unlike most other experiences. Regardless of age or background, we are people and we need good food. And to all present at the marketplace this is the shared value.

I know what I want, but I love to observe the selections of others. Sometimes I ask how they will prepare their unfamiliar purchases, and have found that people speak passionately about their methods. Observation is as rewarding as interaction at the market.

amongst the produce

As we leave the market, trolley loaded, culinary inspired and economically satisfied, we know we are part of the population and (very thankfully) our place on the globe.

market trolley

Inevitably though, with aspirations larger than realistic consumption, it is usual to be left with the ordeal of excess. Once family and neighbours have been exhausted with handouts, there is no other recourse than to cook. And as it so happened on our latest excursion, the contents of the tightly packed commercial banana box ripened quickly. An over-supply. So I turned to my good friend Delia who of course had the answer: a lovely Banana and Walnut loaf. The beauty of it lay not only in the demerara crunch topping, but the fact that the recipe calls for four bananas. In three loaves time, I was cheerfully a dozen bananas down.

This loaf is an absolute breeze to bake – and consume. Rather than me taking the credit, you can pay Delia a visit yourself here and she will pass her recipe on personally.

Banana and Walnut Loaf

And so, the box is ready to be broken down now, only to make way I guess for the next windfall to be proudly marched home and stored in its place.

banana box

Postscript: and just knowing the market, that hive of energy and abundance is always there, provides a sense of security that as humans in 2014, we often overlook.

recipes

Citron

Lemon and Walnut Loaf

It’s a quick stride from the kitchen door and an easy scramble over the aging side fence into our neighbour’s backyard to collect an apron or shirt-full of fresh lemons. An errand that appeals and is never met with a long sigh from the nominated individual that a requested visit to the washing line or rubbish bins would generally elicit. This welcome task usually includes a friendly greeting from the resident terrier and a chance to observe first-hand, territory normally restricted to retrieving over zealously kicked balls or delivery of messages. The object of the assignment, a rangy old lemon tree (similar vintage to its owners), provides an abundance of lemons, far more than the senior couple who planted it or their fortunate neighbours could ever consume in a season.

With no end to the uses of lemons in our kitchen, visits to this tree are regular. The lemons that arrive home are not the waxy, uniformly shaped specimens that are available year round in our local supermarket, but rather ones that are pitted, marked and are regularly accompanied by a partial branch (depending on the harvester’s age) and some bird ‘matter’. However, following a quick scrub, they zest and grate like billy-o, and juice like the Watsons (whoever they may be).

Crisp, sunny Melbourne winter days, are well paired with tangy lemon loaves and hot coffee. Should you spy a laden citrus in your district, use this as an opportunity to pay a visit and make your introductions. In my experience, lemon tree owners are generous folk who are always looking for homes for their crops. Make it your business to bake two of these Lemon and Walnut loaves and return one to the citrus producer. A sure guarantee of friendship – and lemons for life.

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
125g butter, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
grated rind of a lemon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and grease and line a loaf tin.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a bow.
  3. Rub in the butter.
  4. Combine the eggs and milk and stir them into the flour mixture.
  5. Fold in the lemon rind and walnuts.
  6. Spoon into the tin and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean.
  7. Ice with and icing sugar and lemon juice mix.

This really is a loaf rather than a fine cake, so is best served and eaten on the day.

Backyard lemons

Postscript: and if you have never smelt a citrus blossom or broken a leaf and inhaled, I suggest you do so at your next opportunity.

recipes

Coffee

coffee and walnut cake

When was the last time you savoured a lovely slice of coffee cake? 1972? Yes, that’s very likely the same decade that I last had mine too. With its pseudo-European overtones and bordering-on-illicit focal ingredient, one could not help feeling just a little bit grown up being offered a slice.

With movement in time, so came improvement in coffee cake. Today’s are far superior to those gran-used-to-make, and I say this not because I’m gerontophobic, but because we now have access to authentic rich coffee – the essential ingredient that alluded our grandmothers. When I think of the talcum-style coffee products these early cooks had to rely on, it is a wonder that the coffee cake recipe was not forced to extinction. Instead of large screw top jars of dust-like powder, we now have the benefit of slick espresso machines to deliver a damn good shot on demand. (Just one more thing to be grateful for)

And with one shot in the batter and the other in the icing, this coffee and walnut cake is a wonderful way to cherish culinary evolution.

185g softened butter
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream
2 tbsp good coffee
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts and some extras to dot on the icing

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius and grease a large round cake tin.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add eggs individually, beating well after each addition.
  4. Sift all of the dry ingredients together and fold them through the creamed mixture alternately with the sour cream.
  5. Add the coffee and gently mix through until well combined.
  6. Fold through the chopped walnuts.
  7. Spoon mixture into cake tin and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  8. After cake has cooled, ice with 1 1/2 cups of sifted icing sugar, with 1 to 2 tablespoons of good coffee mixed in until it is a firm spreading consistency.
  9. Scatter walnut halves across the top.

coffee and walnut cake sliced

Postscript: Now I’m sure our European friends are smirking quietly here, as never were they without the magic stuff.