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. 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Strawberry and yoghurt cake

I had my doubts. It was a cake with no eggs, one of the major ingredients was 200ml of warm water, and the tin we had was slightly smaller than the one specified. I shouldn't have worried. The recipe was by Neil Perry, who probably knows a thing or two about cooking. I had a Year 6 sous-chef who exuded calm and confidence, and produced a muffin tin to handily accomodate the excess batter. And the resultant mini-cakes provided an opportunity for decorating fun, with edible wonders foraged from my friends' beautiful Hobart garden. 

Though this cake might seem on paper, a bit strange - the aforementioned lack of eggs, the weirdly large quantity of warm water, and the two hour (!) cooking time, the results more than speak for themselves. Chewy with polenta, tangy with yoghurt and studded with pale pink fruit, this is a real spring time surprise, and versatile too - the sort of thing you could serve at a dinner party (topped with yoghurt and piled high with strawberries), a high tea (prettily pastel), or pack in a lunchbox (sturdy and filling)... or in my case, in my carry on baggage to take back to Sydney as a memory of a lovely weekend in Tasmania.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Kasundi tomato relish

I was going to make something else for the blog this week but the Danish pastry I pulled from the oven Saturday morning was an unmitigated disaster. Happily, this recipe jumped out at me from the arts section of the Herald I was reading to console myself afterwards. Happily, I had most of the ingredients already. Happily, I was passing by the Chinatown fruit and vegetable markets on my way to a dinner at my friends' place Saturday night and was able to stock up on tomatoes and chillis. Happily, the cook at that dinner had some black mustard seeds to spare when I realised I didn't have any (and was too lazy to walk up to the shops to get some the next day). And so it all worked out in the end. I'll give the Danish another go sometime, but til then, slathering this incredible relish on a bacon and egg roll (or a curry, a jaffle, on a cracker with some cheese) makes me very happy indeed.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Labneh with sumac, parsley, lemon and pistachios

You know how all commercially made dips have a vaguely metallic aftertaste? You know how rock hard avocados are when you have a hankering for guacamole? You know how sometimes you can't be bothered roasting eggplants and picking off their blackened skin to make baba ghanouj? Well, the solution to all of your dip dilemmas is probably sitting in your fridge right now and you don't even know it. At least if your fridge is like mine and always contains a tub of Greek yoghurt. 

Labneh is a Middle-eastern marvel - the result of pouring some thick yoghurt (with a little salt stirred in) into a cheesecloth or muslin-lined sieve set over a large bowl and left to drain in the fridge for a day or two. It's a soft, spreadable, infinitely adaptable cheese, which works wonderfully on sandwiches (it's delicious with roast vegetables, lamb or smoked salmon), as well as in salads (especially ones made with grains). Topped with lemon zest, sumac, parsley and pistachios, it becomes the most beautiful dip. Bright, tangy and bursting with flavour.