September 21, 2016
Who else finds it almost impossible to choose just one dish for brunch? Or, more specifically, who else finds it impossible to choose either a sweet dish or a savoury dish? (I’m looking at you Ria Voros) What you need is a brunching partner that will allow you to have your choice of both savoury and sweet dishes and then halve them, with the skill and deliberation of a neurosurgeon, to provide you with the perfect, two course, mixed meal. Or you could stay at home and make your own. Which is exactly what I did last weekend.
As a belated birthday catch up I invited a few friends over for brunch and resolved to make the two courses I’d order if given the chance. First course – barbecued corn fritters with bacon, avocado, roasted tomatoes and creme fraiche (plus an incredible sweet + tart homemade plum sauce my friend brought with her. Love you, KatiePo). Second course – whiskey, caramel and prune brioche pudding, cooked in a cast iron skillet and served with custard and poached fruit.
Poaching fruit is a little fiddly but ultimately super-easy and almost foolproof. If I can do it you absolutely can. To get my poach on I had to work with the good lookin’ winter fruits available, which led me down a path of finding and tweaking recipes for poached pears and tamarillos. Just to reinforce the food in pairs / dichotomies theme – one turned out spiced and rich and crimson, the other sweet, fragrant and blonde. The Snow White and Rose Red of poached fruit. I regularly seem unable to settle on one flavour – check out these two chocolate recipes – poached fruit is clearly no exception.
Boozed Tamarillos with Brown Sugar and Spices
(Ingredients in bold)
September 14, 2016
I think I told you a long time ago about our old plum tree and how it suddenly and miraculously started bearing fruit (singular, because we only got one) after we’d assumed it was a dud. Well, this year I can report the most bumper crop yet: a whole twenty plums (!) and all of them delicious. That’s what you see in the above photo, but for the recipe below, I got extra help. A good friend of mine is blessed with the most fecund plum tree ever (she might see it as being cursed because she doesn’t care for Italian plums), and a few weeks ago I brought home a huge, heavy bag full–a beneficial situation for both me and her.
So, of couse I had to bake with them, and this is the recipe I make every year, no matter what, with Italian plums. It is September. It is the best part of cake + plums, which = so much yummy. I urge you to make it, either now or in six months, if you’re in the southern hemisphere, and eat it with softly whipped cream or on its own, outside, in the fading light of later summer.
Italian Plum Cake
Adapted from Menus from an Orchard Table
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 vanilla bean, sliced open and scraped of seeds
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
about 20 Italian prune plums, halved and pitted
vanilla sugar to sprinkle on top
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a nine-inch baking pan. I use one normal layer-cake pan, but springform works as well.
Cream the butter and sugar until light, then add the eggs and vanilla seeds scraped from the vanilla pod. (You can also substitute 1 tbsp vanilla extract if you don’t have a bean). In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Slowly add to the creamed mixture and combine well. Scrape the batter into the pan with a spatula and smooth it flat. Stand the halves of the plums in the batter, pushing them down so they stick out about a third above the surface. I like to start at the outer edge of the pan and make a circle, then a smaller circle inside that, and so on until I’ve reached the middle. Make sure the plum halves don’t actually touch each other, but otherwise they can be pretty close together. Sprinkle the cake with the vanilla sugar, or if you’d rather, a 50/50 sugar and cinnamon mix.
Bake the cake in the middle of the oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out of the cake (not a plum!) clean. Cool on a rack until the edge shrinks back and you can run a spatula or knife around the edge. I cut and serve mine straight from the cake pan using a non-metal knife, but if you want to have prettier presentation, bake the cake in a springform pan so you can put it out on a plate with lavender springs or mint leaves or gold leaf. Just kidding. Maybe.
September 7, 2016
This cake was a mistake. I don’t suppose that’s a good way to introduce a recipe, but let’s just call it a fortunate mistake. Like when you trip over a fifty dollar note on the sidewalk. You know how that happens.
Truth was this cake came about because my adorable babe woke me at four in the morning. After a feed, her not me, she promptly went back to sleep, her not me. What to do when wide awake at four in the morning? Sensible answers might include – a) try harder to go back to sleep or b) read a book. I decided, instead, to go for option x) or y) – make a cake with insufficient ingredients.
The lack of butter in the house (I could hardly believe it, we are so pro-butter around here) forced me to replace it in my go-to recipe with coconut oil. After a few other adaptations, I wound up with a cake that tasted of chocolate and coconut and reminded of this particular candy bar. Bounty bars are one of my favourites; there’s something luxurious about chocolate and coconut that never fails to satisfy. I also love coconut rough and macaroon biscuits. The sweetness! The texture! The suggestion of a tropical holiday! The coconut flavour in this cake is quite subtle and could be easily dialled up a notch or two with the addition of toasted coconut flakes / chips scattered on top of the frosting. Or you could do the opposite and dial it back by replacing the oil in the icing or cake mixture with butter. I’ll leave those decisions in your capable hands.
Bounty Bar Cake
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 1/2 cups of self-raising flour
3/4 cup of cold water with 1/2 tsp of baking soda dissolved within
140 grams of melted coconut oil (so it is liquid)
3 Tbsp cocoa
1 1/2 Tbsp hot water
1/4 tsp vanilla paste / extract
- Preheat the oven to 150 degrees celsius
- Mix all ingredients together and beat for two minutes
- Pour mixture into a 25cm cake tin
- Bake for 45 – 60 minutes, checking after 45 minutes and removing the cake once a skewer inserted comes out clean
- Allow to cool completely before removing from tin and frosting
Chocolate Coconut frosting
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp of cocoa
milk to loosen mixture (approx 4 Tbsp)
- Cream the coconut oil with vigorous beating
- Add half the icing sugar and beat again
- Add vanilla and cocoa and beat again
- Add last half of icing sugar and beat again
- Drizzle in milk, very slowly, until the frosting achieves the right consistency
* I topped the icing with milk chocolate I grated with a microplane / zester.
Do you have good recipes that came about due to an accident? Or insufficient ingredients? Or sheer laziness?
Does chocolate + coconut fill your soul with happiness?
P.S. If you try this recipe please send your feedback. Always looking to make both improvements and fortunate accidents.
August 31, 2016
Hannah’s post about time passing and feeling aged was, well, timely, because in a few short days, this girl will be going off to kindergarten, and I don’t know how I feel about it.
There she is at ten months, back when school was a distant future thing, like orthodontics and boyfriends and university. But babies refuse to grow as slowly as we’d like and now she’s going on five and September is on our doorstep. Hello.
I can’t say I feel anything that isn’t muddled up with everything else. I’m worried and anxious and excited and proud and curious and full of dread. It’s a considerable bag of feelings, and I’m sure most parents feel these things at some point (or at many points).
I’ve struggled with what to tell her–how much of my anxiety should I show?–and how much detail to give about how her life is about to change. I keep thinking back to my own kindergarten days, as dim as they are, and as influenced by others’ memories and stories as they are. I think I had fun. I think I felt lonely. I think I loved the messy chaos one minute and wanted to break out the next. It was a time of contradictions, as maybe all early childhood is. And I want that for her because it’s normal and important, but I’m also afraid.
It’s about letting go.
August 24, 2016
I recently had my birthday. It was really lovely, thank you for asking. But now, it’s unescapable, I am officially neck-deep in my late thirties. My mid-thirties have vanished, the late thirties are here; and they see me living a life that is quite different (and in many ways vastly richer than) to the one I might have anticipated. Case in point: this babe.
While I celebrate and ponder the late thirties, B3 has reached six months old, in that cliched flash / blink of the eye. The kid is stupendously delicious and consistently delightful. She’s all instant smiles and nuzzles into the neck, which wins me over every time, I’m sure it’d have the same effect on even the coldest of hearts.
In case her half-birthday and my birthday-birthday didn’t drive the point of my age home enough, we went to a school quiz night fundraiser the other night. It was disorienting. Not because of the costumes (Olympic theme – there were tables of people dressed as zeka mosquitoes and Russian athletes and dope testers) but because I was the parent. At a school fundraiser. I conferred with a friend to see if I was the only one feeling ancient and discombobulated and she reassured me – “It’s weird. It’s like we’re… our parents.” Exactly. Somehow I missed the passing of the torch. I assumed I was still young.