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. 

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. 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Sydney cheesecake

I asked a friend of mine what sort of cake he wanted for his birthday. He said cheesecake. This threw me for a loop as I like cheesecake just fine but it's not something I ever make. And so the research began. I started out wanting to make an Italian-style ricotta one but was put off by the time involved and taste imagined of the rather elaborate pastry that encased it. I then perused my favourite American cooking blogs to see what I could find but was mildly horrified by the massive quantities of cream cheese and sugar cited by nearly every recipe I came across. And so, I did what any cook of my generation in Australia would do. What I should have done in the first place. I asked Stephanie. Or more accurately, googled Stephanie Alexander cheesecake and bingo. Though still containing bricks plural of cream cheese (and sour cream to boot) this was a lighter, significantly sweeter version of the renowned New York cheesecake, that mainstay of deli cabinets not just in Manhattan but the world over. With a base made from shredded wheatmeal biscuits, the subtle tang of lemon, and a creamy, dreamy consistency, this more than fulfilled the birthday brief.

And, as it turns out, it was the perfect cake for the occasion as the celebration was - at the last minute - postponed for a fortnight. After panicking thinking how on earth was I going to get through an entire cheesecake by myself, I remembered Sara Lee. And so the birthday cake lived happily in the freezer til it was finally laid out to eat last Saturday night. With a backdrop of city lights and a balmy almost-summer breeze, looking sunny and simple and a little bit showy it felt somehow very Sydney. And so, Sydney cheesecake.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Sticky dates

Somehow I have three jars of marmalade in my fridge. I can explain. My mum makes cumquat marmalade, so there's one of hers that made its way south sometime in my carry on baggage. Inspired by a burst of bright orange in the midst of grey winter I recently tried my hand myself with tangelos. And, a few weeks ago, I was gifted a jar of mandarin marmalade (laced with brandy!) by my friend Amy's mum (a wonderful cook), made with fruit from her backyard tree. There's only so much toast you can eat. Or cakes you can make. So it seemed a good time to give this recipe a go. Especially in a week in Sydney when temperatures climbed to mid-summer levels in early spring. When you don't feel like cooking, when the only things you want to eat are cold, when you don't necessarily want to eat that much at all... Dates are delicious all on their own. Caramelly and dense and sighingly sweet. But when you combine them with some sharp citrus and pretty pale green pistachios, they are elevated into an effortless, elegant dessert. Three ingredients, two bites, one spectacular sweet for spring, summer, any season really. 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Graham crackers

In January this year, I did a road trip with a friend down Highway One, on the west coast of the US. The starting point for our trip was San Francisco and before leaving, we stocked up on snacks at the Ferry Plaza Farmers market down at the waterfront. In addition to the many stands outside selling the most amazing fresh produce (and Blue Bottle coffee), there were permanent stores inside just as incredible - cheeses, meats, and bakeries galore... which is how I found myself at Miette, a San Francisco institution, surrounded by delicate pastries, decadent cakes and countless other dazzling sugary treats. My fellow road-tripper Christina, a New Yorker, but frequent visitor to San Fran and Miette, pointed at a downright homely looking cookie - brown, flat, and round. That, she pronounced emphatically. That is what you want. I looked around at the other more obviously enticing choices - pretty pastel macarons, chocolate sablés glittering with salt crystals, elaborate multi-layer cakes - then at Christina's face, which said trust me and I ordered the graham crackers. I'm so glad I did.  

I'd read about graham crackers for years. They were always in American recipes as the biscuit base of a cheesecake, or in children's books as an after school snack. What were they, I wondered? Like a milk arrowroot? A gingernut? A shredded wheatmeal? Or maybe they were savoury, as the name cracker seemed to imply, like a Vita-Wheat or a Salada. (It occurs to me as I write this how oddly-named every country's traditional biscuits/cookies are) It turns out there is no Australian equivalent. 

Graham crackers are basically buttery, honey-flavoured cookies made with wholemeal flour. As noted, they're nothing to look at, but their homeliness is their greatest strength. There's something incredibly comforting about this unassuming cookie. They're warm (honey! brown sugar!) and delicious and easy to make, the sort of everyday cookie you can rely on. You know what else is everyday? The sunset. I saw plenty of those that trip, as I ate my way through that box of graham crackers. And both were spectacular.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Freekah pilaf

I'm afraid I haven't got into quinoa. For a number of reasons. One, it seems tricky to cook, two, it's expensive, and then there are those allegations about its appropriation by middle-class white folk depleting the supplies of a staple food in its less white, less middle-class country of origin. So my experiments with alternatives to rice and couscous and pasta have led me in a different direction. First to barley, which I love in this risotto, and now to the fantastically-named freekah. Who else to turn to for a recipe to showcase the wonder of this relatively little-known ancient grain but Yotam Ottolenghi? He's got a new cookbook just out - Plenty More - but this is from the original Plenty. All the usual Ottolenghi suspects are there - fresh herbs, onions, yoghurt, spices, garlic...  coming together in a creation that's cool and sweet, warm and nutty and just wonderful. It's a great side dish to serve with meat (roast lamb would be great), or as part of a vegetarian spread, or just to eat in a bowl on its own, like a risotto or fried rice... but a little left-of-centre. With a name like freekah, how could it be anything but?

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Cocoa hazelnut brownies

Some good friends of mine moved house on Monday. I, by contrast, have not moved very far from my computer in the last month with a seemingly neverending string of deadlines. So to make something for their move, that required me to move only as far as my kitchen, where all the ingredients were waiting for me, I turned to these brownies. The ones I usually make require a bit of forethought, as they contain prunes that need to be soaked for three days, but these cocoa hazelnut numbers take about as long to make as the decision to make them, which you'll see, after your eyes graze over these images (or these, from the original source) is not very long at all.

Most brownies are made by melting butter and dark chocolate, but here, the chocolate is swapped for cocoa. I'd been looking for a recipe to showcase the contents of the catering size bag of Italian Pernigotti cocoa I'd lugged back from Seattle (of all places) last year and this proved perfect. Dense, dark, delicious. Worth moving for. Whatever the distance.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Egg salad with pickled celery

There was a time when the thought of egg salad made me screw my face up with disgust. It was soggy, it was smelly, it was the food of retirement homes. Maybe it's because I'm getting older but I prefer to think that my recent change of heart is due to discovering a version that features CRUNCH. 

Celery's the sort of thing that you buy for use in a recipe and end up with more left over than you used in the first place. At the risk of sounding like an episode of Portlandia, here is the solution - pickle it! Or at least some of it. If only for an excuse to try something you'd previously disdained. The briny zing of the pickle in combination with the sharpness of mustard and the sweetness of shallot obliterates all memory of that bland pastel mush. With some fresh herbs, on a roll, it really is the prettiest and most delicious sandwich. Egg salad! I'm a convert (with caveats). After all, you have to change your mind to prove you have one.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014


I first became aware of dulche de leche a few years ago. It kept popping up on American food blogs - a sweet South American staple which had been appropriated further north as a frosting on cakes, and a flavour of ice-cream. It was paired with bananas in pancakes and muffins, dolloped in thumbprint cookies, oozed out of doughnut holes and molten chocolate desserts, and was purportedly so good, it was eaten straight out of the jar.

The next time I was in the States, I made it my mission to track some down, but I was in Seattle, a town known for many things but not its huge Latino population (or Latino grocery stores).  To cut a long story short, after a great deal of research, I got my hands on two jars (one for me and one for my friend Elizabeth), lugged them all the way back to Australia, only to discover that I could make it myself with nothing more than a tin of condensed milk (readily available in any old supermarket). Well, technically speaking, dulche de leche is made with a few more ingredients, and Smitten Kitchen has a recipe I have no doubt is great if you want to go that route. But just know that the same rich, thick, copper-coloured caramel can be yours with one ingredient, an oven and a bit of time. And once you've got a jar of this stuff, the dessert world is your oyster. It's a quick and easy way to turn something quite standard - like the humble shortbread cookie - into something special.

Alfajores are Argentinian cookies - thick, dark dulche de leche sandwiched between two pale discs of melt-in-your-mouth shortbread. The good news is that the cookies are as easy to make as the caramel. They're lighter than traditional shortbread, a good thing given how rich the filling. I like them with a cup of black coffee to balance the sweetness, but milky coffee drinkers, and drinkers of plain old milk will no doubt revel in the creaminess of that combo. So next time you're in the supermarket, pick up a can of condensed milk. One will yield enough dulche de leche to make these cookies, and leave some leftover for you to experiment with... or just eat straight from the jar. Por qué no?

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Cherry pie

My friend Amy and I have known each other since we were babies. We grew up with mothers who were excellent cooks, and sandwiches in our lunchboxes made with wholemeal - and often homemade - bread, so naturally our form of rebellion was not so much cigarettes or binge drinking as Sara Lee frozen desserts. Which is why it's so hilarious that I found myself making pie at her place last weekend. And not once but twice - as the first time I mistook the sugar for salt and vice versa, resulting in a dough that would - if my error had not been spotted - have derailed forever our homemade efforts. To be honest, I've always been a little afraid of pie dough. Somehow it always seemed like science, and that's never been a strong suit of mine. To minimise risk, I'd always made it in the food processor and the first batch I made - more play doh than pie dough - I did that way. But when it became clear that a second batch was needed, the food processor was under suds in the sink and the clock was ticking (Amy's four year old, who'd enthusiastically assisted in the mixing of the fruit filling, was expecting THE WORLD'S BEST PIE - no pressure there - before bed) so I hastily threw flour and chilled butter into a bowl, along with some sugar and salt (in the correct proportions) and ice-cold water and did what all the books and blogs tell you to do. Don't handle it too much. Leave big streaks of butter. Don't worry if it seems dry. And you know what? It worked. Pastry that was flaky, beautifully browned and buttery. Though I love cherries, it's not a flavour of pie I'm usually drawn to as they've a tendency to be gloopy. Not this one. We demolished it as soon as it was out of the oven, and not just because there was a four year old up way past her bedtime.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Strawberry sorbet

Winter in Australia is different to winter in other parts of the world. It means strawberries. It means the occasional day that is not merely mild, but downright warm. With this being my 100th post, it seemed as good a time as any for ice-cream... well, strawberry sorbet to be exact. It's hard to believe that just three ingredients and very little effort (all the heavy-lifting is done by the machinery involved) produces something as spectacular as this. The whole lemon gives a lovely zing to a fruit that in refrigerated (much less frozen) form can often be quite blandly sweet. Instead, with its inclusion, the flavour matches the colour in intensity - scarlet, sticky, sweet.

Have it in a cone, or a bowl, or straight out of its freezer container with a spoon. Have it simple and unadorned or marry it with mascarpone, meringue, rose petals and pomegranate seeds - like Yotam Ottolenghi in this month's Bon Appétit - for a Middle-eastern mess. Have it with kids, with a vegan (no eggs or dairy!), or even a person who doesn't like strawberries (I swear, it may convert them). However you have it, ice-cream is always a celebration. Happy 100th. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Tomato chilli jam

My mother and I are very different cooks. I'm a recipe-follower, she's more of a free-wheeler, adding and subtracting ingredients, changing cooking times, processes, and equipment, following her instincts. I clean as I go when I cook (a by-product of living in an apartment with a small kitchen) and she, well, to put it bluntly, does not. These fundamentally different approaches mean that when the two of us are in the kitchen together we drive each other crazy. After every visit home I vow never to put myself in that situation again. But her tomato chilli jam is so good it was worth making an exception.

My mum, a keen gardener, jokingly refers to this savoury jam as dynamic lifter. And indeed, it does elevate anything it's spread on to a whole new level of flavour. Mum uses it most often on a sandwich or with crackers and cheese, but it would be great dolloped on eggs, corn fritters, served alongside a sausage roll or swirled into sour cream as a dipping sauce. The heat of the chilli is offset by the sweetness of the tomatoes (and the sugar they're cooked with!) so if you're worried about serving it to anyone averse to spicy things, don't be. Conversely, if you like things hot (and you're more of a recipe-meddler, like my mother), you may want to up the chilli content. Whatever your approach, you can't go wrong.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Spiced tangelo marmalade

I love winter. But after a while it can get a bit monochromatic. Which is perhaps why I found myself drawn, as if by magnetic force, to a tray of tangelos in my local supermarket. I'd never made marmalade before (or indeed anything with tangelos), but as luck would have it, my mother - a master marmalade maker - was down staying with me, so I took advantage of an in house consultation. And in reward she received a still warm jar to take back with her on the plane to Brisbane. My reward was a breakfast the next morning that was bright and sunny, sugary and sharp, a blaze of orange to obliterate the grey. This recipe uses spices for extra warmth. They're subtle, but still, a nice calm counterpoint to the juicy sour/sweet of the citrus. Smeared on toast, with a cup of black coffee, it's the tastiest cure for seasonal affective disorder, not to mention oh so pretty in that sleepy winter morning light.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014


It's great when you discover something you really, really love, and find out later that it just so happens to be gluten-free, even vegan. This is not because I have any food intolerances (in fact, one could accuse me of being intolerant of intolerances), but I do have a growing number of friends who do. Socca is not any new-fangled food made with faux flour or dairy substitutes. It's something that's been around for generations in the south of France and further afield in the Mediterranean. I must have had it when I was a 16 year old exchange student going to high school in Cannes, but my food memories of that time are mainly of pain au chocolat and cheese, which I'm sure is all I subsisted on at that time. My more recent memory of socca is of eating it at bloodwood, a restaurant that opened in my old neighbourhood just before I moved away. It's the sort of place that you wish was walking distance from your house and now that it's not, I'm forced to recreate their dishes all the way over the other side of town. Luckily, it's not that hard. All you need is chickpea flour, water, oil and a cast-iron skillet.

Socca, or farinata, or torta de ceci, is basically a savoury chickpea pancake - a crispy at the edges, nutty in the centre, burnished golden base on which to pile all manner of good things. My favourite toppings are labneh or goat's cheese with mushrooms (sautéd with garlic, thyme and rosemary) but really, you could do anything you like. Roast pumpkin would be lovely, blue cheese too, but if you're vegan, by all means skip the dairy.

There's a bit of advance thought required for this, in that you have to make the batter two hours ahead of time but really, when it's just a matter of putting ingredients in the one bowl and whisking them together (do it at breakfast time for lunch or dinner that day), it couldn't get any easier. It's the real definition of fast food, on the table in less time than it would take to pick up takeaway or wait for it to be delivered.

Adapted from a recipe by David Leibowitz, from his book The Sweet Life in Paris

You can use the quantity below to make one thick pancake or two or three thinner ones. I tend to favour the one big one, so that you can pile on your toppings, then slice it up at the table, family-style. You can find chickpea flour at health food shops, good delis or Indian grocery stores.

1 cup (130g) chickpea flour (besan)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (280ml) water 
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin 
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
freshly-ground black pepper, plus additional sea salt and olive oil for serving

Mix together the flour, water, salt, cumin, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Let batter rest at least 2 hours, covered, at room temperature.

To cook, heat the grill in your oven. Oil a 9- or 10-inch (23cm) cast-iron skillet with the remaining olive oil and heat the pan in the oven.

Once the pan and the oven are blazing-hot, pour batter into the pan, swirl it around, then pop it back in the oven.

Bake until the socca is firm and beginning to blister and burn. The exact time will depend on your grill (but it should be somewhere around the 5 minute mark).

Slide the socca out of the pan and onto a cutting board, then shower it with coarse salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Wholemeal chocolate chip cookies

You'd think it would be impossible for someone like me, such a devoted devourer of baked goods, to discover anything new about the chocolate chip cookie. But you'd be wrong. For I've recently stumbled across not one but two game-changers. The first is evident in the title of this post: wholemeal flour. Now, I've got nothing against the plain white stuff, as the recipe index of this blog will attest. But wholemeal flour with butter, brown sugar and bittersweet dark chocolate chips is a total revelation, adding a layer of nutty, chewy complexity to a classic cookie combination. So the second revelation: you can freeze cookie dough. Not as one big lump - that would defeat the purpose - but as individually rolled balls, to be taken straight from the freezer, popped on a tray, sprinkled with sea salt and baked to order. 

This means you can have freshly made cookies any time you like. In just sixteen minutes. For unexpected guests. For totally expected cravings. For no reason at all other than to amaze your friends and distract them from the crossword puzzle they insist on enlisting your help in solving even though you are (despite being a writer) totally hopeless at them. A picture tells a thousand words. Say no more.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Open-face feta and leek omelette

Morning, noon or night, there's something intensely satisfying about eggs. My appreciation for them started early with boiled eggs, which was a regular breakfast growing up. My dad used to draw elaborate faces on them for us, which we'd take ghoulish delight in decapitating. They were a common childhood dinner too, as the oozy yellow centres of cheese-filled jaffles. These days I most often eat my eggs scrambled - especially if I've got a bit of cream or an extra white or yolk to use up - or lately, fried in a hole cut in a single slice of bread, as per this genius blog post, which cooks both toast and egg simultaneously in a cast-iron skillet. But for a crowd, the best way to cook eggs (other than shakshuka, of course, which is equally effortless and delicious) is an omelette.

I'm not talking about delicate, light, made-to-order numbers that will have you chained to the stovetop in a flipping frenzy most of the morning but one big, vegetable-packed, feta-fied, finished-under-the-grill number to cut in thick wedges and serve with toast. 

Packed with green vegetables and herbs, the salty punch of feta and soft sweetness of tomatoes, this is the sort of egg dish that works at any time of day. Have it with toast for breakfast, as a sandwich filling for lunch or with a glass of wine for dinner. If you have an egg, you are fed. If you have six, so are your friends.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Swedish cinnamon buns

Cinnamon smells like morning. I've been seeing quite a bit more morning lately, courtesy of my hectic football-watching schedule. And when you're getting out of bed while it's cold and dark outside, you need a little extra incentive. 

Cinnamon buns were something I'd always asssociated with America. Maybe because inevitably the first thing you encounter after getting through customs at the airport is a Cinnabon franchise selling enormous, puffed-up, heavily-frosted buns. I like a bit of excess from time to time but that much sugar too early in the morning threatens to put you back to sleep rather than wake you up. When I was in Copenhagen recently - a place with no shortage of delicious pastries - I was pointed in the direction of Café Rosa by the brilliant English-language blog A Guide to Copenhagen, which introduced me to so many of my favourite places when I was there. Linn, who writes the blog (as well as her own super-cute cooking one which you can check out here) is a Swede living in Denmark and claimed that the buns sold here were as good as any she'd had at home. I'd only had the American version to compare to, but really, after the first bite, there was no comparison. Speckled with cardamom, lightly sweet, with a ribbon of buttery cinnamon threaded through the interior, the Swedish cinnamon bun is pretty well perfect. Especially with a cup of strong black coffee as you watch the sun rise in Sydney, and set on screen in Rio.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Old-fashioned chocolate cake

If you're a kid and it's your birthday, then there's only one cake you want. And because all of us have been kids (or perhaps have never really grown up), chocolate cake brings out our inner seven year old, and we too hoe into it with gusto. Anyone who likes to bake has a go-to recipe for chocolate cake and this is mine. I'm not a parent but the average person (baker or not) with a lot on their plate can appreciate a recipe where all you have to do is pile the ingredients into a food processor and press ON. Especially when the results would indicate it was a lot more work - the most delicate crumb, a perfect balance of tangy and sweet, and a sturdy structure which allows it to be comfortably held by fingers big and small.

It's so good in fact, it befits two choruses of happy birthday - one with candles, one with sparklers. The secret is sour cream, which enriches both icing and cake and cuts the sweetness of the sugar in each. It also makes it beautifully moist, which means the slice you get to take home will be just as delicious the next day.