flemington farmer’s market

A really lovely thing to do on a sunny summer Sunday is go for a walk at a farmer’s market. You could go with a friend who is really excited about the abundance of food and the experience of acquiring it from the people who grow it. You can talk to those people and really hear about their passion for food and plants and people and community. You can pet a really cute puppy and drink an ice-cold fresh orange juice slushy. You can taste heirloom apples and local cheeses and give them a party in your mouth.

I hope your weekend was as amazing as mine.

beetroot

beetrootcarrots

applesherbs

pear

 

aforementioned cute puppy

 

greek basil

 

alpine strawberry seedling

 

mini heirloom pumpkin

 

green tomatoes

 

apples

 

mini jonathons

lemon cake

I’m sorry it took me until now to post about this lemon cake! I even posted a teaser photo like a week ago. Two weeks ago. Wow, that was a while ago. And I made it before that, too. NaNo kinda stole my life last month. I’m very excited for the next month. There will be a lot of reading done. Maybe even some book reviews here, if you guys are interested?

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pizza night

Having people over for dinner is one of the best experiences ever. Especially when you’re making pizza together, watching the sunset, talking about, well, stuff. Like how we can make the world a better place. Pretty much an ordinary night with my awesome friends.

Pizza, garlic bread, sunsets, Christianity. But Christianity where we try to analyze our behaviours and make them better. Especially seeing as Christmas is coming up!

Mary-Ann Bryant is one of the Christians I wish didn’t actually exist in real life, but I have a feeling they do. (Can you tell I’m watching Easy A at the moment? I think it’s hilarious. I’m a little distracted. Sorry.)

I always think, when Rhi is going on about no George being sexy, that she’s missing out on a whole lot. George Clooney, anyone? That girl needs to watch some ER. Ocean’s Eleven, maybe. Geez.

I love smart people. Or at least, I love watching smart people movies. Like Easy A. And also having smart conversations. Having good conversations with good people, eating good food, sharing life together. It doesn’t get much better.

So invite some people over, make some pizza, some garlic bread. Have someone say grace over the phone for you. Eat cake, drink tea, make smart conversation – or just rent some awesome movies and watch them and stay excellent.

P.S I’ve been doing some baking recently, as you can probably tell. Recipes coming soon, I promise.

caramel cake

“Cake! Everybody likes cake. Cake has layers. “

“Ogres are not like cakes. “

I like cakes.

Lots of cakes.

Big cakes

Little cakes.

Red cakes.

Blue cakes.

Green cakes!

Cakes to share.

Not any cake that isn’t to share, really. Where’s the fun in eating a cake on your own?

No, really.

This particular cake is a yellow cake and is best eaten at the end of a spontaneous dinner party with seven other people. Coffee is optional but not recommended if you’re about to go to bed. Which we were, pretty much. So coffee was out. But caramel cake is amazing on its own. Even a day later after being in the fridge, uncovered.

It is also really easy to make and it’s likely you’ll have all the ingredients on hand.

So get on it!

[PS: I know it’s been a while. A long while. I was away, and then I was away again, and then I was sick, and it’s been difficult to get myself back in the groove. But here I am! And ready for a spring/summer of amazing food that I can’t wait to share with you.]

[PPS: You’ll notice a lot of the photos here (the fantasticly shot and styled ones that look amazing) are not of my own doing – I like to share some link love every now and then. Check these people out! They’re amazing.)

Caramel Layer Cake

Adapted (not much!) from Smitten Kitchen

2 cups and 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

125g unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs at room temperature

1 cup buttermilk, well-shaken (or 1 cup milk mixed with 1 tbsp white vinegar, set out for ten minutes and well-shaken)

For the Caramel:

1 cup heavy cream (I used 300ml)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 tbsp light corn syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

Butter a 20cm cake pan (I used a square one), line with baking paper and set aside. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

Sift (again) the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Cream the butter and the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla. Fold in the dry ingredients in three batches until they are just incorporated. Fold in the buttermilk.

Pour into prepared pan, smooth out top and rap on counter to release air bubbles. Bake 20-30 minutes. Let rest in pan five minutes, then cool on rack until completely cool.

For the caramel:

First, a note. I did not use a candy thermometer – I didn’t feel the need to, plus I don’t have one (which makes it kinda difficult). I will, however, put the necessary temperatures so that those of you who do have candy thermometers can use them.

Onward!

Bring cream, brown sugar, corn syrup and a pinch of salt to a boil in a medium heavy based saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil until it reaches 98-100 degrees celsius. Stir in vanilla.

Place completely cooled cake on a cooling rack, over a baking tray. Pour the hot caramel glaze over the cake and let cool before you gobble it up with those seven other people I mentioned, after a spontaneous dinner party and movie night.

DFTBA.

 

brownies without eggs

You know what I love about cooking? The sounds. The clink of the spoon against the bowl, the bubble of boiling water, the hiss of escaping steam (beware escaping steam!) the whirr of the oven, the crackling of the plastic packaging, the crunch of the salt grinder.

I love music. I love a lot of different music, you may have even noticed a few songs I picked out to share with you on this blog, and I love cooking to music. Music’s a big part of my life. It helps us to connect to others, it takes us to another place.

It’s important to hear the music in everyday life. The sounds of baking delicious, egg-free brownies, the calling of one friend to another, click clack front and back, train choo choo, all of that. It’s important to listen to the cadence of another’s voice.

The science of noise is fascinating and completely confusing (although click here for a really cool, funny, not-too-confusing intro) but what interests me is how we all connect to it. We are all searching for something, but the weird, sometimes comforting, other times frustrating thing is that someone else has probably felt it before you, and even if you feel like you are all alone in the world, chances are that someone out there cares. It may be someone who’s been down your particular black hole before and so therefore can empathise with you, or it may be someone who’s seen someone not come back.

Perhaps it’s just that you don’t look hard enough in your own life to find the person close to you who cares that much about you and can have an actual conversation without being awkward about it. Perhaps you have online friends, who although they’re a million miles away or close enough, are closer to you than those you see everyday.

Hopefully you have some people you see, so you can share brownies and sad stories (or even hopeful ones) but have some virtual brownies on me anyway, and know that I care, and that maybe I even love you.

[what is this, esther day?]

Egg-free brownies

So originally these were vegan but I don’t keep soy milk or margarine around the house (sorry lactose intolerant and vegan people. It’s not that I don’t love you. I just don’t like the taste of those things) so I just made them egg free, which was what I was looking for anyway because I ran out of eggs. I also accidentally cooked them at 200 degrees for fifteen minutes and then realised my mistake and dropped the temperature to 150. So just try to keep it at one eighty, yeah?

**UPDATED** These do actually taste of coffee. A lot of the time the espresso is just put in to enhance the coffee flavour, but these do taste like coffee. Just a warning!

adapted from Milk’N Cookiezzz

4 ounces dark chocolate

3 ounces butter (substitute margarine for vegan version)

1/3 cup milk (substitute soy milk for vegan version)

2/3 cup sugar

1 tbsp cornflour

1 tbsp instant coffee powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp cocoa

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line an 8″x8″ baking tray with foil and spray it with baking spray.

Melt chocolate and butter together. In a seperate bowl, whisk together milk, sugar, cornflour, coffee powder and vanilla.

Combine chocolate mixture and milk mixture. Sift in flour, baking powder and cocoa. Pour into prepared pan and bake about 20 minutes.

white bean tomato stew

It’s funny how cooking can cheer me up. I was not in a good mood when I got home today. I got super stressed out about the essays I’ve got due next week (I’m not procrastinating – I’m cooking dinner. HUGE difference) and I didn’t have a good train trip and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball with a large block of chocolate. Thankfully, I had chores to get me out of this funk.

I took in my washing, cleaned up the kitchen and started up on dinner, then my housemate made me coffee – so good! The little upticks of life just make the day that much better. It’s not about grand sweeping gestures but more about the small pieces of happy sprinkled around.

By the way:

So, about that stew. It’s tomatoey, beany, and all around delicious; this stew ticks all the boxes. Sometimes I’m jealous of all you meat-eaters out there. It’s true, sometimes I just crave the warmth that a big pot of beef bourginon emulates but seriously, try this and you won’t go back. Served with that bread I told you about yesterday, some shaved parmesan and a beautifully poached egg, I could not have asked for more tonight.

It’s almost spring but those August winds are picking up, so make this stew and share it with your friends and family. I promise you, they will be begging for more. I’m lucky to have leftovers. Hello, lunch tomorrow!

White Bean and Tomato Stew

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

I made quite a few adaptations to this recipe. I was cooking for seven so I upped some of the ingredients. I don’t like celery so I left that out, I accidentally used diced “Italian” (read: with extra herbs and capsicum, not a bad idea but not one I particularly wanted to invest in this time) instead of pureed tomatoes, I used silverbeet and spinach instead of kale, although I would have liked more greens and less tomato. I will most likely be making this again. I feel it will become a staple.

Serves 8

About 400g (or more) spinach (can swap out for silverbeet or kale or any other greens) stems removed, washed thoroughly (especially if you picked them from your own garden like I did!

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

approx 1 cup chopped carrots

2 medium-large onions, diced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

350ml dry white wine

3x400g cans white beans, drained and rinsed (I used cannelini beans)

2 cans pureed tomatoes

1 litre (more or less depending on desired consistency) vegetable stock

salt and pepper to taste

three or four thyme sprigs

bay leaf

fresh crusty bread, poached eggs and parmesan to serve (optional)

Half fill a medium pot with water, well salted. Bring to the boil and cook the greens 1 minute (no need to cook anything like baby spinach, but silverbeet or anything heavier) drain and squeeze excess water. Chop roughly and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions, garlic and carrot and simmer for about15 minutes. Pour in the wine and reduce by about half.

Add the beans, tomatoes, vegetable stock, salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaf and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.

Take out the thyme and bay leaf, add the spinach and cook a further five minutes. (This is the point you would poach your eggs and toast your bread, if you wanted to serve it that way). Serve with crusty bread, poached eggs and parmesan, to friends and family.

choc malt ice cream

My room is a mess. I desperately need to do some washing (I’m wearing dirty jeans, people. Not just worn, I know some people don’t wash their jeans, but these have work stains on them). I’m busy from pretty much today until the end of semester. I’m turning twenty tomorrow. Today. I don’t even know what day it is!

But I made ice cream. From scratch, for the first time, pretty much, without an ice cream machine. I. Made. Ice. Cream.

And it’s delicious.

Sometimes, you just have to do what you do. Don’t worry about the lack of sleep or the fact that you have to get up early to do it, the fact that it may be a little less than perfect due to the fact that our freezer isn’t as cold as it should be and I could’t baby it because I had to run out to go see the last (sob!) Harry Potter film. Sometimes you just have to go with a whim. Which happened last night, as I was trawling through the blogosphere and came upon this beauty.

Isn’t she gorgeous?  My friend was over and we both decided we wanted it. And so we decided to make it this morning.

I had to run to the shops to get some of the ingredients, and living as I do in the hills, I couldn’t get plain malt powder – so I got chocolate malt powder instead. I don’t think this compromised on the taste AT ALL. In fact, although I’m planning on making it again with plain malt powder (it’s that good people. THAT. GOOD) I don’t think it needs it.

And, yes, I know it’s the depths of winter. I know it’s 12° outside. I understand that ice cream is usually considered a summer food. But guys, I read all these blogs from the US and even though I’m definitely a winter person, sometimes I get season envy. Because you over there, you get to pick fresh berries and make ice cream (even combine the two and make ice cream with fresh berries…) and wear shorts and go to the beach.

I’ll just sit here, rugged up next to the heater and eat my choc malt ice cream with mixed in maltesers. Yum.

Choc malt ice cream

Adapted from the brown eyed baker

1 cup half and half – in Australia, I think you could use Jersey milk or extra light cream (labelled “cooking cream”) – I used a mix of 100ml thickened cream and 150ml Jersey milk. Jersey milk is higher in protein and fat than regular milk, and contains A2 beta proteins, which are better for you.

3/4 cup sugar

pinch salt

2 cups heavy cream – I used thickened and think it could probably have been heavier, so use real heavy cream.

2/3 cup malted milk powder – I used Ovaltine

teaspoon vanilla extract

6 egg yolks

 

Heat the half and half/light cream/Jersey milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and it’s all steamy up in there.

Meanwhile, whisk the cream, malt powder and vanilla together in a large bowl and set a mesh strainer over it. Set aside.

When the milk mix is ready, whisk the egg yolks in a smallish bowl. Add a small amount of the hot milk and sugar, and continue whisking as you add in small amounts of the milk mixture. Pour it back into the saucepan and stir continually over low heat for forever (not really!) until the custard is quite thick, coating the back of the wooden spoon. Pour it into the big bowl with the cream and malted milk powder, and whisk them together.

Put a whole lotta ice cubes in an even bigger bowl than the one you already have and fill it with water. Put your soon-(ish)-to-be ice cream bowl in there and stir/whisk until it’s cold. Refridgerate until really really cold. This will take a while. If you are impatient, it will seem like forever.

If you have an ice cream machine, at this point, haul it out and set it to good use.  If not, you can follow these directions. Our freezer isn’t quite up to the task, as I mentioned, so it took quite a bit longer than the two to three hours David reckons it’ll take but trust me, this is worth the wait.

 

peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

Isn’t it amazing when you make something and it just turns out to be someone’s very favourite thing? That happened to me this week.

Not hard to do, I suppose, when you’re making peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. These are amazing. No, really. Peanut butter combined with chocolate chips combined with cookie dough. I know. Who would have guessed?

The line up is fairly impressive. I keep thinking, when I take photos of all my ingredients together, that it’s kinda like a class photo. Back from when there still were class photos and not just rows of head shots in the yearbook. You had to make sure you lined up in order of height, stood tall, straight backed, no pushing. Hands together neatly in the front row. Ties tied neatly, top buttons done up.

White sugar wasn’t here for the photo (wagging school again, whatever will we do with you?) and dark chocolate chips weren’t either – he’s an exchange student from Ethiopia or Sudan, I can’t remember, but I just get lost in the beautiful colour of his skin. Oh, love. Absolutely gorgeous.

Lurpak Butter, the Danish transfer, in the front because he’s the teacher’s pet. It doesn’t matter, though, because he’s beautiful and charms all the girls with his accent and high milk fat content. Mmmm, butter.

The eggs are a little pushy, but they can’t help it. It’s just the way they were raised – free range, used to having their own way.

I’ve always thought, once you know what you’re doing when you’re baking, if you have just a list of ingredients and their quantities, you pretty much know what to do with them. Cream the butter and sugar, add the egg and vanilla, sift the dry ingredients together and fold them in. Fold through chocolate chips, form into balls, bake until brown and delicious. Try not to burn your hands when you eat them straight off the baking tray. Yum.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Joy the Baker. Yes, I’ve made a fair few of Joy’s recipes recently. Wanna know why? Just head on over to her blog and read it. I dare you to resist.

2 1/2 cups plain flour (I’m pretty sure I subbed in 1/2 cup of wholemeal spelt. Just putting it out there.)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

pinch nutmeg

pinch cinnamon

225g butter

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips or chunks (I used 1 1/2 packets of chocolate chips, two different types. It’s how I roll.)

 

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Sift the dry ingredients together (flour, bi carb soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon). Set aside.

Cream the butter and peanut butter; add the sugars and beat well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla essence.

Using a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients until just incorporated, then the chocolate chips. (At this point I refridgerated the dough overnight.)

Form tablespoonfuls of the mixture into balls, then space on the prepared baking trays about an inch or so apart. Press the tines of a fork into each mound, then press them in perpendicular to the first time, so you get a pretty criss cross pattern. Bake about 12 minutes, rotating at the halfway point.

blondies

 

Blondies are amazing. Blondies are like brownies without the chocolate mixed in. Blondies can be any flavour or combination you like. Blondies are very popular.

They are so great to share, because blondies are a one bowl recipe, so easy it’s not even funny, and when you put mnms in there like I did, they’re colourful and a bit crazy while still being a neighbourhood staple type treat. Like camp – colourful and a bit crazy but familiar and comforting at the same time.

See? One bowl, only a few dishes.

Not even that many ingredients – but you can add as many extras as you like.

Like MnMs.

Make them. Do. At camp this week I’m on meal crew which means I make lunches for all the leaders every day. I love it. I love working with food, it’s my thing. A clean kitchen makes me happy (props to the girls who did all the cleaning up today!) and baking helps me destress. Truth.

I cook for a lot of different reasons, and part of those is because, let’s be honest, people love it. And I love people. Put the two together and people like me because I bake for them. Sometimes I bake so people will like me. (ps – this works). Sometimes this is a bad thing. Sometimes I should just trust that I am beautiful enough in my own way not to manipulate people into liking me, because they will anyway, just for me.

For anyone out there who’s reading this and understands the concept of the enneagram and you’re a two, you may understand. If not, I just want to say that I find personality types useful in discerning how to be a better person and become closer to God.  It’s also helpful for understanding other people.

These are easy to make and share. Wrap them up and put them in a container, take them to work or uni or school or whatever. Hand them out to random people. Just Do It.

Blondies

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

So as you can see from the photos, I made two types. Both were from the same recipe, however I did a couple of things different the second time.

So the first time I used a packet of mnms – that’s 200g of mnms there – and mixed it in at the end, and that was all.

The second time, I felt that I needed more mixture, so I added an extra 65g of melted butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/2 cup of cocoa, because you can never have enough chocolate. Then I put in half a cup of dark chocolate chips and a packet of mnms, 200g again. Yum!

125g butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch salt

1  cup flour

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line an 8″x8″x2″ baking tin with baking paper.

Melt the butter and mix it with the brown sugar, well. Beat in the egg and the vanilla. Sift in the flour and salt. Stir in any additional mix ins.

Pour mixture into the prepared pan and bake about 20 minutes. Slice into squares and serve to your friends.

corn chowder

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?

Corn Chowder

Adapted from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook

100g butter

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.