It’s time to talk about apples.
It’s already spring here in Australia but there are still some lovely apples to be had and I urge you, before it’s too late, to make this delectable condiment before it’s too hot to have the stove on for five hours.
When does one become an adult?
When can a young man or woman stand in front of their peers and older adults and declare themselves to be officially grown up?
What are the markers that show the world that you have left that middle space between complete dependence and complete independence behind? And why the heck do we have to go through it in the first place?
What happens when we get to adulthood, and how do we deal with leaving our safety net behind?
Life happens to all of us, but only some people happen to life.
Did you know that Jack Johnson likes his peanut butter crunchy? Someone’s mum once taught him how to use those peanut butter machines from the health food shop that she worked at and had no idea who he was.
Good story. Needs more dragons.
This happens. Listening to the radio on a Thursday afternoon.
An overcast and chilly Thursday afternoon, with nothing better to do. My favourite kind of day.
This is what I did today.
I browned some butter.
Zested a lime.
Listened to some Eminem… yeah, I did.
I buttered a muffin tin.
Whisked together some eggs and milk and vanilla.
Whisked together some spelt flour and baking powder and plain flour and salt. And sugar. Can’t forget the sugar.
I took photos without the flash because they look less harsh that way. Maybe a little fuzzier and retro looking. That’s ok.
See my blue fingernails? I don’t usually paint my nails because I work in hospitality but my two week (almost – had to work yesterday:) break meant I could. Hence. The green and red tea towel matches the cranberries and limes. My favourite apron, complete with pocket for my camera, and the moccies I always cook in.
I opened the curtains and was glad the heater worked.
I stirred the contents of three bowls and a saucepan together – and then I washed those dishes while these muffins baked.
I made myself a cup of coffee. Mmm… coffee…
And then I ate me some muffins.
Sometimes, I forget that I have to look after myself, forget trying to fill other people’s holes, and let God fill mine. Sometimes, I have to remember that I have something to offer as well, but I have to take time to be me and do stuff for me otherwise I’ll lose it. Sometimes, you just need to make some muffins and some coffee and sit down and eat them. Because it’s good.
Sometimes you just need to bake for you. Not for anyone else, to get anyone’s attention or friendship or love or acceptance or gratitude. Just for you, because you love to bake, the physical action, the ingredients, sights, smells, tastes. Just because.
Brown Butter Cranberry Lime Muffins
Adapted from Joy the Baker
100g butter, unsalted
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon (or capful) vanilla extract
zest of one lime
1 1/2 cups plain flour – I used 1 cup wholemeal spelt and 1/2 cup plain white. Good.
1 teaspoon salt
170g dried cranberries (or 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, if you have them)
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Butter and flour a 12 cup muffin pan (I never usually do this but I was out of paper cases. By all means, use them if you’ve got them.
If you’re using dried cranberries, pour them into a bowl and cover them with 1/2 cup water. Set aside.
Place the butter in a small, heavy bottomed saucepan. Melt for about ten minutes on medium-low heat. Keep a close eye – you want the butter to be brown, not burnt. Swirl the pan every few minutes. It’ll get frothy and emit a beautiful nutty smell. Take off the heat.
Whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla and lime zest together.
Whisk the sugar, flour(s), salt and baking powder together.
Make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour all the wet ingredients in (not the cranberries!) and stir together.
Drain the cranberries and fold them in thoroughly. Scoop into the prepared muffin tin and bake 18-20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Cool 5 minutes in the tin, then invert and cool on a rack or board. Eat at once, or when at room temperature.
I know that it’s winter here in Melbourne. Living, as I do, in the hills, it gets cold here. We have a wood fire and piles of wood ready to be burnt, and as the weather gets colder I’m increasingly appreciative of our ducted heating system. Sometimes, all you want to do is snuggle down in bed for a few more
However, when it’s sunny outside and there are local strawberries for sale and you want to play pretend, summer is not a bad season to pretend to be in. Especially when all the American food blogs are talking about strawberries, cherries, barbeques and summer dresses.
I like winter. I do. But sometimes, you just gotta go with the summertime flow.
So I bought the strawberries, knowing that there would be a few gunky ones – more than a few, I think I was able to use about half of them – and decided to bake them in cupcakes. When it’s summer and the berries are amazing, I’m guessing you’d just roast them maybe, or make jam or even just eat them straight out of the punnet – but it being winter, I thought cupcakes were in order.
Contrary to some opinion, I don’t think that a muffin is a bald cupcake. I’m not saying they’re good for you, I just think that muffins have a different texture, a different feel. However, cupcakes definitely need a little something on top. And so, I decided to make some buttercream.
Mind you, it being almost seven and time to go meet some friends for pizza and camp prep sesh (yay for camp! yay for hanging out with kids for two weeks! yay for sleep deprivation! wait. What? Oh yeah, cupcakes.) I decided it had to be quick buttercream, one quartered from that goddess of cake decoration, i am baker.
And then I took them to said meeting and they were gobbled up quickly. Yum.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
I halved this recipe because I only had a punnet of strawberries, and I used a plain and spelt flour combination because I’m quite fond of spelt at the moment. I also diced the strawberries and folded them through the batter.
3 tbsp butter
3/4 cup flour (I swapped in half a cup for wholemeal spelt. Good Idea)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
250g strawberries, diced
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and put cupcake liners into a muffin tin. I only made seven cupcakes out of this recipe.
Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, milk and vanilla and beat until silky smooth.
Whisk together dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then add gradually while beating until just incorporated. Gently fold in the diced strawberries.
Divide among your cupcake liners. You want them to be in between three quarters and fully loaded. Bake for five minutes on 180 degrees, then lower to 160 degrees and bake another fifteen or so minutes. Cool in the pan and then unpan them and ice them. (I put them in the fridge for a few minutes to cool right down.)
Quick Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from i am baker
I, as I mentioned, quartered this recipe, which originally would have been able to frost two eight inch (20 cm) cakes. I still had leftovers.
65 g butter
1-2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp rosewater (This was my addition – a pink flavour to compliment the pink strawberry cupcakes)
Put the butter, milk, vanilla and half a cup of the icing sugar into your mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth. Gradually add the rest of the sugar while beating, until you have a smooth, spreadable consistency. You may not need all the sugar.
I had a pretty good day on Friday. Sleep in, picnic, walk in the park, cupcakes and pizza. I thought I might share some pictures because I like taking pictures and I took a lot. I’m getting in the groove because I figured before I ask for a super fancy camera for my birthday, I’d better know whether I was going to use it. Right?
And, yes, that means that right now I use a point and click. Hey, a girl’s gotta have some sort of pictures on her food blog, right?
Right again. So.
This is my bed. I like to make my bed in the mornings… yeah, the picture’s a little wonky. Sorry. I had to get up early to drive my brother to work experience. I then slept another three hours. I love sleeping in.
I saw a beautiful sunrise this morning. I didn’t take photos because I was driving.
After I got up, at approximately noon, I messed around on the internet and wrote you some words. Then I took in the washing and took some photos of some flowers.
I went to the library to borrow some books… and to scan in a design for a camp I lead on in September. It’s called… September Camp. Surprise!
I can’t show you the design because it’s a secret still. I think.
Then I went on a picnic in the park.
I got coffee and a toastie from this place called Yarra Coffee. Good coffee – you can buy beans there too! – and great food. I got the #5 toastie, with avocado, tomato, fetta, pesto, baby spinach and possibly one more ingredient I can’t remember. I had a choice between olive and rosemary sourdough or plain. I chose olive and rosemary. Yum!
I went on a walk around the lake and listened to the Joy the Baker podcast with Joy and Tracy from Shutterbean (available from Homefries). I love going for walks! Me and my roommate went on walks around the lake pretty much every day for a while there last year.
Beautiful day for a walk. I really loved the look of these rushes. Oh! Unfortunately, I wanted to feed some scraps and duds to the ducks but I wasn’t allowed. Sad face.
I was going to make muffins but decided to make cupcakes instead when I saw local strawberries for sale.
And then I went to hang out with friends and eat pizza. And talk about camp. Excited!
How was your Friday?
Did I mention that it’s total soup weather over here? Because it really, really is.
I told you guys earlier how much I love soup. I still haven’t gotten around to cooking 44 clove garlic soup but it will be happening soon. Maybe by my birthday? It’s coming up. Maybe that’s why I love winter so much, it’s my birth season. I was born smack bang in the middle of winter.
Although I know people who were born in summer who hate the heat and people who were winter babies who spend the season in a grumpy daze. But hey, why worry about the whys and wherefores, when it’s winter outside, the fire is blazing, the blood is pumping, the mist is rising… It is such beautiful weather in Melbourne! I love it when the sun rises through the mist. Because we live in the hills, you can see so much more and it is just amazing.
I’m excited because I’m planning to go ice skating soon.
I’ve never been ice skating before. I’m scared I might fall on my butt. Tailbone accidents are never fun. We used to have a bunk bed… well, we still have one at the family home, and me and my sister used it. I was heading down the ladder from the top bunk and the door and the bed were positioned in such a way that the door opened towards the ladder. I sat on the doorknob by accident, quite hard, and whacked my tail bone. That was no fun at all.
Worse, though, my sister did the same thing but worse. I don’t think she could sit down without a cushion for at least a week. Ouch.
Still, ice skating should be fun. I was going to go a couple of years ago but never got around to it. I only learnt how to ski two years ago and I haven’t been back to the snow since then. I’d love to have a white Christmas at least once in my life.
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…
Until then, though, I’ll sit on my couch in front of my fire, eating this amazing corn chowder. It’s really, really good. I’ve made corn chowder before, but this one uses cumin. It’s supposed to have fresh corn but I used canned and it was still really nice.
It’s supposed to serve eight and we did get eight servings from it, only five of those were eaten by three people on one night. It’s really nice and it’s perfect for a cold winter’s night when you’re really hungry.
This would be really good for a shared meal. It’s infinitely adaptable – more corn, less potato, more cream, pepper, hot sauce, sour cream… and so easy to make more than the eight servings.
So what are you waiting for?
Adapted from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook
2 large onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 litre vegetable soup
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 can creamed corn
1 can corn kernels (or canned corn)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I didn’t add this bit. It was too cold and dark to wander out to our back porch. But do. It’s a good idea. )
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper
three tablespoons (or more) sour cream (or regular cream)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, to garnish (also a good idea that I did not implement. Do not make my mistakes! [make your own, they're much more fun and sticky to get out of])
Melt the butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cumin and cook about a minute; put in stock, bring to the boil, add potatoes, and simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes. Add corn (both types) and parsley, and simmer another ten minutes.
Stir in cheese, cream and salt and pepper to taste, and turn off heat. Stir until cheese is melted. Garnish with chives.
Share with friends.
I love winter. I love the rain, I love snuggling up in my pyjamas and a doona, watching movies and drinking hot chocolate. Or coffee. Or tea. I love watching the rain fall. I love skirts and tights, leggings, boots, socks and legwarmers. I love hoodies and scarves and coats and jumping in puddles.
And I love soup.
Potato and Leek, possibly my favourite type of soup, despite its simplicity.
And I’ve been hanging out to try a whole list of soups, and waiting for winter, and proper soup weather, to arrive for me to do so. On my list, no longer onion soup but 44 clove garlic soup, baked potato soup, homemade tomato soup (maybe with the homegrown heritage tomatoes we have here at the family home) and some sort of dumpling soup. A vegetarian kind of dumpling soup, which by all accounts will be hard to come by. We’ll get there.
There isn’t much to say about this soup, except that it is weepingly delicious, started out life in Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, and was the perfect antidote to my flu-like symptoms. They haven’t disappeared, but they are definitely on the back burner of my mind right now. All due to this soup.
Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking via Smitten Kitchen
780g thinly sliced brown onions
1 tbsp/slosh of vegetable oil (I have no doubt that the original olive oil requested would elevate this soup even further than it is, however, there was none in the house. We make do.)
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp sugar
3tbsp plain flour
approx 2 litres brown stock (we used mushroom; you can use beef if you’re not vegetarian; but please, for the love of all that is good in this world, make your own. We had 50g of dehydrated shiitake mushrooms and boiled them for about an hour or two. THAT’S ALL IT TAKES PEOPLE. Just remember to keep topping up the water if it reduces too much.)
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp brandy or cognac (optional but recommended. You can definitely add more to taste; the original recipe called for three tablespoons but we didn’t actually have that much.)
For the gratinée (also optional but recommended.):
About 350-400g sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Crusty bread to cover six bowls, toasted until hard
Melt butter and olive oil in the bottom of your soup pot or Dutch oven (about 4 litres) and add the onion; stir to coat and turn the heat down low for about 15 minutes, until the onion is translucent ish. You don’t need to baby them; just cover them and let them go.
After the 15 minutes or so, sprinkle the salt and sugar over the onions and stir to coat; turn the heat up to medium and caramelize for 30-40 minutes (or longer if the spirit so moves you) stirring often. Don’t skimp on the caramelization. It’s worth it.
Sprinkle the flour over the caramelized onions and cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes. Add all the wine and a little bit of stock at a time, stirring well in between additions. Lower heat to a simmer and cover, partially, to simmer for about 30 minutes or so; skim off the scum if you need to (we needed to).
Correct seasonings and stir in the cognac or brandy. Set aside until needed, or serve immediately, if not gratinéeing the tops.
For the gratinée:
Preheat oven to 170ºC. Line a tray with foil and place six soup bowls on it (we had to use two trays); Fill them with soup. Sprinkle a little cheese into each bowl. Butter the crusty croutons and float them, butter side down, on the soup, covering as much surface area as you can. Cover the croutons with cheese and place in the oven for about 20 minutes; grill them for a few minutes at the end to brown the cheese. Serve immediately and carefully – the bowls will be hot. Cures all manner of ailments.