Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Baked nectarines with almond crumble

I wasn't going to post anything this week. Somehow rambling on about food didn't seem appropriate in light of the sad events in Sydney of late. It's been a sombre start to summer here, first with the death of cricketer Phillip Hughes during play at the SCG, and this week, the siege at the Lindt cafe in the city. I found myself in tears at each of these tragic events, but the show of humanity in the aftermath of both had the same effect - from cricket bats left outside houses, to the #illridewithyou campaign to show solidarity with Muslims. That's life really - awful and beautiful all at once - and regardless of which end of the spectrum you're at, you've got to eat. And if you've got to eat, it may as well be something good. So here I am, rambling on about food. Summer fruit is, in my opinion, the best thing about summer. Mangoes, peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, nectarines... They don't need a thing done to them really - they're magnificent all on their own - which is lucky because usually it's so hot that the last thing you feel like doing in summer is cooking. This recipe allows the fruit to shine, and keeps you from getting shiny under a film of sweat in the kitchen. Just a few ingredients combined for a dessert to celebrate all the good (and goods) of summer. 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Polenta loaf with rosemary, parmesan and olive oil

A quick bread is just that - something you can pull together in no time to put out for drinks with some relish or chutney, or to serve with lunch or dinner to sop up sauces and stews. Toasted and buttered it makes a good base for baked beans at breakfast, and goes beautifully with bacon and/or eggs, particularly the sort with a nice runny yolk. It's grainy, lightly sweet, fragrant with rosemary, and excellent for using up the odd bit of sour cream in your fridge. There's no yeast to fret over, no dough to knead, or rising time to wait, and it's a shade of yellow so cheerful it will put you in a good mood without even tasting it. A little lift for midweek.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Apple, rye and ginger teacake

There's something very comforting about teacakes. I suppose it's the name, containing as it does two very cosy concepts - tea and cake. As the name also suggests, it's not fancy, just a little something to have while you pause. There's generally not enough pausing in our lives. So let this be an incentive - warm ginger, sweet apples, nutty rye. Quick to assemble, even quicker to eat. But don't rush. Take your time. That's the point.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Salted butter apple galette

In the United States, Thursday is Thanksgiving. I wish I could be there. Wearing a coat. Eating lots. Being thankful. But alas, here I am, a few million miles away, battling scorching temperatures and a sinus infection. But I have pie. Well, galette to be exact. So I'll be there in spirit - and in dessert - with my American friends and family. For those of you who find the prospect of making pie intimidating, a galette is the solution: all the taste of a pie, with none of the fuss. Here, a quickly-made dough is rolled out, topped with a couple of thinly sliced apples arranged helter skelter and brushed with salted brown butter infused with vanilla. Serve it with whipped cream with a little maple syrup folded through. Air-conditioning and antibiotics optional. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Lemon, semolina and olive oil cake

On Saturday I made a cake. On Sunday I went on a picnic. I wrapped a chunk of cake in foil, and packed it and a pocket knife. With friends, I caught the ferry across the harbour and walked along a shady, gumtree-lined path hugging the water til we reached a perfect picnic spot, with shade and views of white sailboats skating across the blue. The cake was approved by picnickers and ants alike. And tasted just as good the next day at home. 

This cake is similar to some in my citrus repertoire but different in subtle ways. Unlike lemon yoghurt cake, it's made with olive oil, not butter. It kind of ressembles the lemon polenta cakes, but swaps a coarse yellow grain for a fine white one. It's got the nutty flavour of Middle-eastern orange cake, but the tang of yoghurt and fragrance of honey. So it's a bit of everything. And tastes better for it. Inside, outside, anywhere.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Sichuan celery with beef

I don't cook a lot of Asian food. It's not because I don't like it. The problem - such that it is - is that I live somewhere it's possible to get a good pad Thai for less than $10. And whenever I have made Asian dishes, I not only end up with something that's often inferior to what I can get cheaply within walking distance, but a million bottles and jars that forever after just clink around mostly full in the door of my fridge. But this! This is a relatively recent discovery that requires the purchase of only one jar you're not likely to have already, and is so good and so simple you'll be making it with such frequency that your problem will likely be that you run out, not it's never used. This dish started out as a way to use up leftover celery and quickly became the reason I bought the bunch. It's crunchy and spicy, satisfyingly meaty yet light (it really is celery with beef, not beef with celery). It's got a short list of ingredients, needs barely any prep and takes about five minutes to cook. With the addition of a fried egg on top, it's comfort food that sustains instead of sending you to sleep... or to the local Chinese takeaway.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Pumpkin cranberry scones

In the United States, pumpkins mean autumn, and Halloween, and Thanksgiving. In Australia, we don't really have any of those things (though I did spy a few little skeletons on my street Friday night) but pumpkins, we have aplenty. Of all vegetables, it's the one I most often have in my fridge. I roast it in thin slices with olive oil, salt and pepper and eat it on sandwiches with goat's cheese, I sauté and blend it for soup, toss it in fat chunks into Thai red curries and on Saturday morning, for the first time I tried my hand at something sweet. We don't have canned pumpkin so readily available in Sydney supermarkets but boiling and mashing a little fresh (particularly in so small a quantity) takes no time at all. I swapped half the plain flour for wholemeal as I thought that grainy nuttiness would go nicely - a cosy complement to the warmth of the pumpkin and spices. If you can't make it over to see the pretty trees before they lose their leaves, this is a good consolation - the flavours and fragrance of American Fall in one delicious baked good.