Monday, 20 February 2017
It's been way too hot. On days where the only way to survive is to seek out a cinema or shopping centre and its air-conditioning, on nights where the temperature doesn't drop below 30 degrees (86F), I can't even contemplate turning on the stove. In such times, these crispbreads have been my salvation. Topped with whatever you like - blue cheese and pear paste, goats' cheese and salmon, butter and Vegemite - they offer up something substantial and stunning for times when you don't even have the energy to eat. And they conjure up cold with their Scandi sensibility when you're in the middle of a stinking Sydney summer.
Wednesday, 18 January 2017
Curiously, I've become a convert to carrot cake. Not so curious perhaps, when I report that this recipe comes from a café I consider possibly the most perfect in all the world - that of the Rosendals Trägåd, a beautiful biodynamic orchard on an island in Stockholm. If you find yourself in that city, you really must go, though June rather than January would be advised. In Swedish summer, it recalls a scene from a Carl Larsson painting - nut-brown blondes of all ages grazing on cardamom-scented cakes in the dappled light of apple and pear trees.
Made moist with oil and carrots, infused with Scandi staples cinnamon and cardamom, and lashed with creamy lemon icing, this is cake to convert anyone who believes (as was my firm opinion for most of my life) that vegetables have no place at all in baked goods. I have relaxed this stance once before, for the beloved Bourke St Bakery, whose carrot cake I've blogged already on this site. That recipe - though sublime - is somewhat fiddly. This one has the advantage of being made in one bowl, and once cooked, needs only to be cooled and icing slathered on top. Australian summers are a little harsher than Nordic ones, so keep it indoors unless you choose a mild day for a picnic. The icing is the issue and believe me, you don't want to skip that. One solution could be to keep it separately in an esky and pile it on just before serving. If it oozes a little, all the better.
Monday, 9 January 2017
December was destined to be a downer due to a deadline. So to counter the crankiness of working while everyone else was on holidays, I made a pact with myself that I would see or swim in the sea every day of that month. I'm lucky enough to live within walking distance of three stunning Sydney beaches, and multiple ocean pools. Last year I didn't go once to any of them all summer. My mum had just died and I found it hard to be around beauty like that at a time when things felt so dark. A year on, it felt like the policy needed to change. I'm not sure I felt any more festive but it definitely felt good to be floating, if only for five minutes a day.
Mum used to make guava paste, which I loved, but I didn't have guavas, so with a bit of inspiration from Maggie Beer's peerless products, whipped up a spiced pear paste, which was wonderful. Here's to horizons.
See more: pears
Thursday, 8 December 2016
At times of high stress, sometimes the only solution is chocolate. The fastest way for a fix - other than buying a bar or a block - is the brownie. One bowl, no need for softening of butter or room temperature anything, just melt, stir, pour, bake, slice and serve. This Smitten Kitchen recipe doesn't even require you to have dark chocolate in the house - it uses cocoa instead - and so can be whipped up from pantry staples. My friend Joanna had recently made these with orange zest - to great acclaim - and I further freewheeled by substituting walnuts for cranberries. I used dried, but fresh or frozen would work just as well for that pop of sour among all the sweet. Serve warm, at room temperature, refrigerated or straight from the freezer. It all works.
Thursday, 24 November 2016
In July, I went to Norway for the first time. I was only there a matter of hours, on my way through to Stockholm, and all I remember eating was a burrito. Food was the last thing on my mind really as the priority was getting to Vigeland Sculpture Park. Showcasing the life work of artist Gustav Vigeland, the park sits just outside downtown Oslo and features over 200 sculptures of human figures in bronze, granite and cast-iron. It's a celebration of human life at every stage - from infancy to old age and everything in between.
It's a nice thing to remember as I eat this pie, which is really, much more of a cake. November has been tumultuous for me for many reasons and notably, is not over yet. Over the other side of the world, Americans are gathering for Thanksgiving. Today, an ordinary old Thursday in my Australian apartment so far from Scandinavia, I'm giving thanks for memories, for the crazy complexity of the human experience, and for this pie, which is simple and sweet and made for sharing.
Tuesday, 15 November 2016
Calabrian walnut cake (torta di noci)
Adapted from a recipe on Food52 from Ada Boni's Regional Italian Cooking (1960)
This is the sort of cake that gets better with age, so is improved by being made ahead of time.
3/4 pound (340 grams or about 3 cups) shelled walnuts
4 eggs, separated
1 cup (225 grams) caster (superfine) sugar
zest of one lemon
icing (confectioners') sugar for dusting (optional)
Pulverize the walnuts in a food processor until you have a coarse meal, the texture of sand.
Grease and line a round 9-inch cake pan.
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and creamy. Add the lemon zest and walnut meal and stir to combine.
Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until they form stiff peaks. Fold the whites bit by bit into the walnut mixture until well combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake at 375º F (190º C) for about 50 minutes, or until the top is firm and browned nicely. Let cool completely in the pan before removing and dust with icing sugar to serve.
Thursday, 27 October 2016
I got gifted some lemons last weekend. Big, beautiful backyard fruit, befitting a cake. So I made one. Though this is an English recipe, poppyseeds in baking are by and large associated with Eastern Europe. Strewn liberally through strudels and sponges and all manner of doughs and batters, these little black speckles are striking here against the pale pastel of citrus, and lend a lovely texture to a traditional tea time treat.
Made mostly with almond meal, the cooked cake is drenched in syrup and drizzled with icing so keeps well should you have leftovers or want to bake in advance. If you're lucky enough to have a lemon tree or be friends with anyone who does, then this is definitely one for your repertoire. It's not a show-off of a cake, it's more subtle and sophisticated, even a little subversive. The beat poet of baked goods. Brilliant.