A quick and simple snack for your little and your big people. The apple provides ample sweetness, no need for sugar at all. I usually give them to my daughter plain but a little bit of butter wouldn't go astray. After the recipe, I have some suggestions for variations and tips on storage.
Pat of butter, for greasing (about 10 g)*
1 medium free-range egg
1/4 cup (60 g) Greek yoghurt
1 T milk
1 medium apple, preferably unwaxed, coarsely grated
1/2 cup (65 g) self raising wholemeal flour (substitute whole spelt or another all-purpose flour plus 1 t baking powder for lift)
1/2 t cinnamon (optional)
Warm a fry-pan over medium heat, add the butter and allow to melt. Meanwhile, crack egg into a batter jug or small mixing bowl, add yoghurt, milk, and apple and mix with a fork until just combined.
Add flour, baking powder, if using, and cinnamon, and mix again until you have a well-mixed but still lumpy batter. Pour in the melted butter from the pan and mix gently. Wipe out the pan with some kitchen towel so you are left with just a thin film of butter. This creates a non-stick surface for the pikelets.
Return the pan to the heat and drop in dessertspoofuls of batter, spreading them slightly with the spoon if needed. Don't overcrowd the pan as you need to be able to flip the pikelets with ease.
Wait for some bubbles to appear on the surface and then carefully flip the pikelets with a spatula. They should be nice and golden on the underside. They are cooked when the surface springs back. Remove to a kitchen towel-lined plate and continue to cook pikelets until the batter is used up.
NOTE: I find I have to adjust the heat as I go as the pan tends to get too hot after a while, meaning that the pikelets overcook on the outside while remaining undercooked in the middle. If this starts to happen, turn the heat to medium-low. You may find you have to alternate between medium-low and medium heat in order to maintain an even cooking temperature. You can always return any undercooked pikelets to the pan at the end and finish them on a low heat.
*If you have one, use a non-stick pan and you can omit the butter and the greasing step.
These pikelets, or variations thereof, have been a staple snack of Ingrid’s ever since she started on solids (she's just turned two). I make them by eye, as I know the batter consistency I'm after, but I finally made myself measure the ingredients so I could share them at last! Sometimes I use all yoghurt, sometimes all milk, or like this recipe, a combination of the two (which produces the best result, I think). Apple is my preferred fruit, but I have also made these with berries (though these can cause the pikelets to catch in the pan, so be careful), and even make savoury versions with zucchini, carrot and so forth. It's a very versatile, basic recipe that can be adapted pretty much endlessly, so feel free to make it your own. I haven't done so, but I'm sure it would work well with a gluten-free all purpose flour and of course you can substitute a vegetable oil for the butter, and a non-dairy yoghurt and milk if you are dairy free. These pikelets freeze really well, too. I interleave them with small pieces of non-stick baking paper and seal in a zip-lock bag. Then I can easily take out one or two at a time and defrost as needed. They are ideal for packing in lunch boxes. If you make these often enough, soon you'll be making them by eye as well. There's nothing fancy here, just a simple, useful family recipe. I hope you find it so, and do let me know if you have any questions or feedback, it's always a great help for this novice blogger!
I developed this recipe in response to the flour and egg shortages we were experiencing due to the small numbers of people panic-buying at the height of the anxiety about COVID-19. However, it is a really good recipe, and obviously great for those who avoid gluten or eggs for allergy-related reasons also! I hope you enjoy them.
Makes 22-24 cookies
125g softened unsalted butter
175g (1 cup) brown sugar, lightly packed
1 t vanilla extract (optional)
200g (2 cups) rolled oats, 1 cup ground into a semi-coarse flour
1 t baking powder
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1 t fresh grated ginger
180 g (1 cup) raisins
Preheat oven to 170C. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla, if using, until pale and creamy.
Add oat flour, remaining rolled oats, ground spices and baking powder. Stir to combine. Stir in grated ginger and raisins.
Roll mixture into ping-pong sized balls and place onto baking tray. I prefer to cook one tray at a time to control the results.
Bake for 10min or until just coloured around the edges. Leave on the trays for 10 min to allow the cookies to set, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to a week.
Warming and sustaining, these spiced carrot muffins are definitely one to have in your baking repertoire. The fact they are sugar-free (if you forego the icing), is just a bonus. They can also be baked as a cake, just use a lined 20cm tin and increase the cooking time by 15-20 min or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Before I get into the recipe, I wanted to share with you my patented (not) method for making your own muffin cases. Yes, you can just buy them, but I a) never think of doing this when I'm shopping and b) I dislike superfluous spending, as well as excess packaging from multiple products. I always, however, have non-stick baking paper on hand, so I can always make these, and they are a breeze. Take a roughly 30 x 40 cm piece of baking paper, and fold lengthways in half, then half again, so you have four even parallel sections. Turn the paper and fold into thirds. You should now have 12 square-ish sections. Cut along these lines and then, stacking 4 together at a time, make a 2.5 cm cut on opposite sides on each piece (see picture). These cuts help the cases mould to the muffin holes. Smear a little butter into the base of each muffin hole, or spray with cooking spray and place each muffin 'case' into each muffin well, overlapping the cut sides and allowing the remaining paper to crease as it likes. You end up with a family rough and ready effect, but I rather like that and the benefit of having muffins that are easy to remove far outweighs anything else! Scroll down to the recipe below.
iMakes 12 muffins
2 cups whole spelt or wholemeal flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
2 t cinnamon
1 t mixed spice
130 g medjool dates
100 ml water
2/3 cup oil
2 eggs, lightly whisked
zest and juice of 1 large orange
2 cups grated carrot
2/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup sultanas
Coconut Lemon Icing (Optional)
150 g coconut oil
2/3 cup icing sugar mixture
Zest of 1 lemon
1 - 2 T lemon juice
1 t vanilla extract
Shredded coconut, to serve
Preheat oven to 170°C. Line a 12 cup capacity muffin tin, as above.
Place dates and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Cook until dates are soft. Set aside to cool slightly.
Sift flour, baking powder and spices into a large bowl. Mash dates with a fork until you have a mostly smooth paste. Stir in oil, eggs, and orange zest and juice, mixing quickly to combine.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the date mixture and stir well. Stir in carrot, walnut pieces and sultanas.
Spoon into prepared muffin holes and bake for 25-30 min or until the muffins are golden and cooked through. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
Coconut Lemon Icing
Add coconut oil, vanilla and lemon zest to a bowl. Whisk with electric beaters or a stand mixer until soft and creamy. Add icing sugar in three batches, beating in each addition thoroughly. As the mixture thickens, add lemon juice a tablespoonful at a time until you have a smooth, spreadable consistency. Add more lemon juice, or water, a teaspoonful at a time, if icing is still too thick.
When cupcakes are completely cold, dollop heaped tablespoons of icing onto each muffin and spread to the edges. Sprinkle with shredded coconut. Store muffins in a sealed container in a cool, dry place for up to four days. The icing will go very hard if stored in the fridge, but you may store the cupcakes in the fridge if keeping for longer than four days or if the weather is very hot, just allow to come to room temperature before serving.
I have long been a 'pantry cook,' and in these difficult times, I would love to share with you how I cook everyday from a well-stocked, yet basic, pantry. With the addition of a few fresh ingredients - never forgetting the all-important staples like onions, garlic, and lemons, to name a few - I can cook delicious and nutritious meals everyday. They may often be basic, but to me that's the best sort of homecooking, simple and adaptable meals that you can make at a moment's notice, even (or especially) when supplies are limited.
As I write, one third of the world is in government-enforced lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Countries around the world are scrambling to get on top of the spread, and each face a vast array of different challenges, whether that be ageing populations, lack of intensive care beds and essential supplies, communication issues, or socio-economic issues. I’m mindful that certain populations have had to deal with severe epidemics before – the SARS crisis of 2003 is just one example - but this time it’s hitting communities hard the whole world over.
I don’t think it’s an understatement to say COVID-19 has thrown the world into crisis, and we are all doing our best to cope. Forced to spend more time at home, many are looking for ways to shop sensibly and safely while still feeding their families nutritious flavourful meals. It has been really heartening to see so many chefs, food bloggers and others freely sharing their tips and tricks to make the most of what you have. A problem we’re all facing, however, is the depletion of essentials like flour, rice and pasta due to some people resorting to panic-buying and hoarding (there are also those who are stockpiling in order to profiteer from the crisis by selling items at inflated prices online – do not support these criminals!). Supermarkets as well as smaller stores are having difficulty restocking supplies and the fallout is affecting everyone. There is no need to stockpile but there is merit in knowing how to shop wisely so that you can stretch your dollar further, cook delicious and healthy meals at home, and make fewer trips to the shops. To that end, I’ve compiled a list of pantry staples based on the cooking I do most regularly, however, everyone’s preferences and cooking needs are different, so please just use it as a guide. When I say ‘pantry staples,’ I’m referring to basically everything you can keep in cupboards (apart from things like potatoes, onions, and the like) that’s not fresh. It’s still vitally important that we eat fresh food as much as possible.
Cooking economically but deliciously and nutritiously is right up my alley! I have spent more time than I care to admit being a student while supporting myself and so learning to cook smart was actually a matter of survival to me. I don’t agree with the common wisdom that eating healthily is more expensive than using alternatives like take-away or pre-prepared foods. Sure, if you compare individual items, say, a whole free-range chicken with a pre-prepared chicken meal that serves four, you might find that latter is cheaper. However we need to take the whole picture into account. One of the easiest ways to minimise costs is to eat less meat. Not only is this better for your wallet, it is also better for the planet and your health. Eat chicken once a week instead of three or four times and suddenly that free range chicken - which gives more than one meal in the form of bones for stock, pan juices, and so on – suddenly seems a lot more economical, and you can take comfort from the fact that the bird was raised ethically and not imported from some factory in god-knows-where.
I agree fresh fruit and vegetables can be expensive but I’m going to let you off the hook here: You don’t need to eat top-shelf organic produce to be healthy. In an ideal world, we all would, but let’s face it, I certainly can’t fork out $18/kilo for beetroot, so I work with what I can do, buying the best I can and not giving myself a hard time. So let go of unrealistic expectations! Buy what’s in season (its more plentiful and therefore cheaper and tastier), and don’t forget your freezer – frozen peas have got me out of many a fresh-vegetable shortage situation. Keep in mind that cheaper fruit and veg though is not always to be found in your supermarket. I’ve often been very pleasantly surprised at the prices of fresh produce at my local markets, so it’s worth shopping around, though in these times, that will pretty tough, I know. And finally, while we need our daily fresh fruit and veg intake, if you can learn how to base your cooking around a few essential pantry items, you can always find something to make, even if you only have a slightly shrivelled carrot, a sad stick of celery, an onion and some frozen peas. In such a dire situation, a well-stocked pantry will be your saviour.
So, let’s get started! This is a cut-down list of what currently resides in my pantry. For example, I have more spices than I’ve listed here but I’ve included what I think are good foundation to build upon. With this list, I can cook broadly across different cuisines. As I said, consider it a guide and adapt to your personal needs. I’ve also included a recipe (a template, really), to what I should just call my ‘Staple Soup,’ though this sounds incredibly uninspiring, so I’m just going to leave it as ‘Minestrone’ for now, which is essentially what it is, and work on that title another time! For this kind of soup, I just as often use beans or lentils instead of pasta, and change the flavourings depending on my mood. Ok, now to the point.
Stocking Your Pantry
I admit this seems like a long list, but you’ll find you already have a lot of this in store anyway. Most of these items don’t need to be bought regularly, just replenished from time to time. It’s also not in any way exhaustive, so consider this a good starting point, from which you can curate your pantry in any way you wish!
A note about stocks, sauces and preserved foods (remember to decant any remains from tin cans into another vessel before storing in the fridge). Certain products, while listed as pantry items, will obviously migrate to the fridge once opened. With regards to stock, I do occasionally make my own - usually vegetable or chicken - and freeze in portions in a large ice-cube tray, but I don’t always have some on hand, so I do back up with a good quality, low-salt alternative. Whether you are in the store-bought or homemade camp, or a little bit of both, is entirely your business, but that is why I list them here.
Minestrone, aka 'Staple Soup'
I could so easily continue with what I consider my ‘essential’ store-cupboard, fridge, and freezer staples, but I think I should stop here! Suffice to say that if you consistently stock your fridge/freezer with fresh produce, and have a well-stocked pantry, you’re good to go any day of the week! Now to a recipe! A no-fuss, hearty soup based around pantry staples that makes great leftovers (it’s also freezable) and is anything but boring. When I eat a soup like this, I am liberal with salt, pepper, olive oil, herbs, yoghurt, parmesan, or whatever it needs to lift it into delectable territory. And always with a side of toast. If I’m feeling under the weather, I’ll chuck in some ginger and turmeric for an immunity boost. Swap out the vegetables for what you have or prefer, substitute the pasta for beans, and so on. Robust greens like kale or cavalo nero are really lovely in this type of soup, especially when combined with butter beans* and perhaps some bacon or pancetta. If using the latter, sauté with the onion, carrot and celery before proceeding.
*If using dried beans or chickpeas, soak overnight and drain before adding to the soup. Depending on the variety, they will take anywhere from 20-40min to cook. Or, you can cook them first and add to the soup at the last minute.
Serves 6 - 8
2 T olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, diced
I carrot, diced or sliced
2 sticks of celery, diced or sliced and leaves reserved and roughly chopped (substitute another leaf like silverbeet or kale)
2 t cumin seeds
2 t coriander seeds
1 t paprika
Chilli flakes, to taste
2 x 200g cans of whole or diced tomatoes
1 L vegetable or chicken stock
I zucchini, sliced or diced
1 cup of dried small pasta (for example, orzo or macaroni)
Ground black pepper
Sea salt flakes
Handful of flat parsley, roughly chopped
Grated parmesan (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
In a large saucepan or crockpot, sauté onion, carrot, and celery until the onion begins to turn translucent (you can add a pinch of salt here if you want to prevent the onions browning too much). Add the garlic and spices and cook for a further minute or two until fragrant.
Tip in the canned tomatoes, crushing them with the back of a spoon (you can also insert some scissors into the open can and chop them up this way before adding to the pot). Add the stock and bring the soup to the boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to a moderate simmer.
Add the zucchini and pasta and cook until both are al dente. Turn off the heat and add the reserved chopped celery leaves, or other greens, allowing them to just wilt. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, ladle into bowls and top with parmesan (if using), parsley, and generous swirl of extra virgin olive oil. Eat with warm toast, preferably snuggled up near a window observing the cold outside world.
A child - and adult - friendly slice perfect for lunchboxes, or, as we have done twice now, packed in the car for long road trips. In my recipe notebook I've given this slice the riveting name of 'Date, Sultana and Coconut Slice,' but somewhere along the way it got dubbed 'Yummy Slice' (food propaganda machine in full swing here) and I think it's a much more fitting name. It is, honestly, really yummy!
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup / 75 g wholemeal or whole spelt flour (or flour of your choice)
2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t bi-carb soda
1/3 cup / 65 g mixed seeds
1 cup / 90 g almond meal
1/2 cup / 90 g sultanas or raisins
1 cup / 75 g shredded coconut
200 g Medjool dates, pitted
80 g unsalted butter
1/4 cup / 80 g raw honey
1/4 cup / 65 ml water
vanilla extract (optional)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 170°C (340°F) and line a lamington tin (approximately 20 cm x 30 cm / 8" x 12") with non-stick baking paper.
In a small saucepan, bring dates, butter, honey, and water to a gentle simmer over moderate heat and allow it to bubble for a couple of minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, combine dry ingredients, sultanas or raisins, and coconut in a large mixing bowl.
Mash the date mixture with a fork or vegetable masher into a rough paste. Quickly stir in egg and vanilla, if using.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the date mixture. Stir thoroughly to combine. Dollop the mixture into the prepared tin, patting down the the surface (without compressing it), and bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Once cool, store in an airtight container as is or pre-sliced into bars for up to a week. If storing for longer or if the weather is warm, store slice in the fridge.
It is a gift being able to share cooking with my daughter, the child I dreamt about for so long, and for a time, thought I may never have. To have her standing on a box at the kitchen bench, little hands eager to grasp, to help, to learn, I just feel so grateful that I (yes, me!) get to have these special moments. They are a blessing and, I hope (I trust), that these shared times will help to lay the foundations of a loving life-long relationship between us, as well as between Ingrid and food. I hope to instil in her an appreciation of the value of home-cooking, of self-sustenance, and of finding solace in simple comforts. In time, I hope she can, too, enjoy the process of feeding those she loves with nourishing, wholesome food.
We had a blast making this together, and now I get her up to the kitchen bench as much as possible when I'm cooking. She really enjoys it ("want to stand on box," she'll say), and it helps me too. I can cook and entertain her at the same time. Anyone with a toddler knows that trying to do anything while they're about can be a pretty fraught business, as their energetic little brains and bodies need a lot of tending to at times. So far, we've made date scones, pastry, this slice and pizza together, and if we ever have herbs as part of our meal, her special job is to wash them. Of course, she's too little to do much that's actually 'helpful,' but even just standing there with a scrap of dough that she can roll and pat herself is enough for her, while I can get on with the task and talk to her at the same time. I do think that finding ways to share daily experiences is not only a great learning opportunity for your child, they provide great bonding opportunities as well. While they're so little and want to be around you so much, it makes sense to just embrace it - as much as is possible! It's never an ideal world, and challenges always arise, especially when you're under time pressure or extra tired, but I try to find ways to accommodate both our needs as much as possible, and most of the time it works.
Just some musings on cooking with toddlers, I'd love to know your experiences too if such a thing is part of your world and you feel like sharing! And if you make the slice, please let me know here on on Instagram, it means so much to know my recipes may have a little life of their own out in the world. Wishing you health and good eating, M x
Rich, moist, and with a dark bitter edge, this is a chocolate cake that feels decadent while also being a solid candidate for morning tea on an average work day. And if you avoid dairy, grain, or refined-sugar free for dietary reasons, or simply want to have your cake and eat it too, without the sugar crash, then this is the cake for you. There's no reason not to make it, really.
225 g whole almond meal (I make my own from unblanched almonds, substitute store bought)
50 g / 1/2 cup Dutch cocoa, sifted
4 eggs, separated
150 ml / 2/3 cup light olive oil
200 ml / 3/4 cup raw unfiltered honey
pinch sea salt
vanilla extract to taste
Preheat oven to 170°C (340°F). Line a 20 cm cake tin with baking paper.
In a clean, dry bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks. Set aside.
In another large bowl, beat egg yolks, olive oil, honey, and vanilla until well combined.
Combine almond meal, cocoa powder and salt. Add to the egg and oil mixture in three batches, beating after each addition to incorporate.
Take a third of the egg whites and fold quickly into the batter with a metal spoon to lighten the mixture. Gently fold in the remainder until there are no streaks of egg white left.
Pour the batter gently into the prepared tin, tap it gently on the bench to settle any large air bubbles, and bake for 35-40 min or until a skewer comes out just damp.
Serve warm or at room temperature plain, with cream, and/or some fresh berries.
I've long wanted to develop a chocolate olive oil cake recipe. It just sounded so…right somehow. I wanted this cake to be super fudgey, very chocolatey and, if possible, a little lower on the glycemic index scale than your average chocolate cake, and so I started thinking about substituting the typically high-glycemic index ingredients - white flour and refined cane sugar - with alternatives (stay with me here). And here it is, a rich chocolate cake suitable for those who avoid dairy, grains or refined sugar for whatever reason, but also for those, like me, who just like to mix things up, and occasionally feel like having a cake that ticks ALL the boxes, from those chocolate cravings to your body's fuel needs. I'm not saying this is the healthiest snack you could have, but it's certainly not the worst! And that's where the whole almond meal and raw honey come in. By all means use a store-bought almond meal, but by making it yourself (you only need a small blender/mixer for this), you can use the whole almond, skin and all, and leave the texture a bit more nubbly than you would find in a packet, thus making the final product higher in fibre (and with a pleasing nutty texture). Make sure you blend just until you have a mealy texture. Go too far and you'll have almond butter. Good, but not useful here. I do think it's important to use raw honey where possible. Yes, honey is another form of sugar (all carbohydrates are), but by using a raw and unfiltered honey you get all the health benefits of the antioxidants and nutrients that would be lost in the heat-treating process.
Anyway, enough earbashing! Apart from everything else, this cake is delicious. I do like my chocolate with a bitter edge, so just be warned this is not for diehard sweet-tooths. The almonds and oil obviously provide a lot of richness and moisture, while the honey adds a more complex sweetness than sugar would. It's pretty hard to stuff up too, as the amount of almond meal makes the mixture quite stable. It rises and then falls a little as it cools, leaving the top fairly flat, making it also a good candidate for layering and smothering with icing should the occasion call for it. I think this would make a great birthday cake, and one that (hopefully) everyone can eat! So it's a win all round really. I hope you enjoy it!
Simple concepts and effortless execution belie the bright boldness of these two salads. Served alongside some roasted or barbecued meat and bread or potatoes - what more do you need? Well, something crisp to drink too, of course!
Bloody Mary Salad
Cut tomatoes into 5mm thick slices either with a sharp knife or on a mandolin. Arrange on a serving plate. Squeeze the remaining stem ends of the tomatoes over the slices to extract as much extra juice as you can. Drizzle over the extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Combine the vodka, lemon juice, Worcesteshire sauce and Tabasco and pour over tomatoes. Scatter over the capers, preserved lemon and celery leaves and serve immediately.
Orange, Fennel and Black Olive Salad
Serves 4 - 6 as a side
1 bulb of fennel, trimmed and
16 - 18 pitted Spanish black olives
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T sherry vinegar
Sea salt flakes
Prepare the oranges by slicing off each end and then slicing down and around the curve of the orange, taking care to remove as much of the bitter white pith as possible (see image below). Cut into 5mm slices using a sharp knife or mandolin and arrange on a platter.
Remove any bruised or damaged outer parts of the fennel. Shave very finely (about 2mm thick) using, again, a very sharp knife or mandolin. Arrange over orange pieces (if not serving the salad immediately, place fennel slices into some acidulated water to prevent discolouration). Scatter over olives.
Combine the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and drizzle over salad. Scatter over the reserved fennel fronds and serve immediately.
I'm all about the platter salad at the moment! It's such a simple yet attractive way to present food. I love how you can see all the ingredients and the dressing is able to soak into everything, rather than pooling in the bottom of a bowl. All you need to do is arrange some sliced stuff on a platter, prettily scatter over some flavour-packed morsels and douse with a complementary dressing, usually hot and/or sharp for me. You could use this template for any number of combinations: sliced peaches, prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella? The classic watermelon and feta with some mint or fresh oregano? They shout summer eating to me - simple, fresh food that lifts the spirits both to behold and to eat.
I was excited to make these as I got to use my new favourite kitchen toy: a mandolin I got for my birthday last year. While I'm not very into gadgets, there are a few kitchen tools that make life much easier, and a simple mandolin is one of them. Made slicing those tomatoes, oranges and fennel an absolute breeze. Thanks husband! I can't claim the Orange, Fennel and Black Olive Salad as my own, however, as versions of this are found across the Mediterranean (and the Internet!). The Bloody Mary Salad came to me some time ago, but I have since found - unsurprisingly - that many other cooks have had the same idea. If there's a cocktail that lends itself to being transmogrified into salad, it has to be the Bloody Mary! Though this is obviously an adults-only salad, you could omit the vodka (and maybe tone down the spice) if serving it to children. We ate these alongside some roasted butterflied chicken (recipe, such as it is, in the works), some roasted potatoes that had been pre-boiled and thrown in alongside the chicken for the last half hour, and a simple leaf salad, but I can imagine them really coming into their own at a barbecue, where their acidity and freshness would cut the richness of marinated meat cooked over coals. And to complete the picture, a glass of cool rosé. Well, a girl can dream.
It's that time of year again… I've been in a baking frenzy this week, as I make special, once-a-year treats just to have, and prep things for the big day itself. I always give food gifts at Christmas, we don't give presents between the adults anymore, which I am completely on board with, but I do like to share something from my kitchen. Though this year, I've gone the savoury and preserve route (I can't share now in case any of my family read this), and I'm actually ahead of myself this year, having made them well in advance. However, the recipes I'm sharing here, four in all, are some of my favourites at this time of year, and they were all hits at my pop-up Christmas stall last year. A Christmas cake and mince tarts are non-negotiable for me, and gingerbread and panforte I'm happy to make if I have time. It's too hard to pick favourites really, I adore gingerbread, and I do love the panforte - a dense, spicy Christmas confection from Sienna - it works so well as an afternoon pick-me-up, but also as a make-ahead dessert served with port, Vin Santo or coffee. All of these keep really well too, and so are perfect for making in advance ready for when guests drop in, you need a gift for someone, or simply to have with a cup of tea or coffee while you go about your wrapping and other preparations. I hope you enjoy making and eating them as much as I did! Merry Christmas and peace to all.
Rich Christmas Cake
Adapted from Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Fruit Cake recipe
Makes 1 x 20 cm cake
250 g prunes, pitted
250 g raisins
250 g sultanas
125 g currants
100 g dessert figs, chopped in half
Zest and juice of 1 large orange
140 ml brandy
175 g dark brown sugar
160 ml honey
175 g butter
2 T marmalade
1 t mixed spice
1 t ground cinnamon
¼ t ground cloves
¼ t ground nutmeg
2 T cocoa
3 eggs, beaten
165 g plain flour
75 g almond meal
½ t baking powder
½ t bi-carb soda
1 T brandy, extra
Place fruit, orange zest and juice, brandy, sugar, honey, butter, marmalade, spices and cocoa in a large saucepan.
Stir over a moderate heat until everything has combined. Let it bubble gently for 10min then remove from heat and allow to cool for 30min. In this time, you can prepare your tin and remaining ingredients.
After the fruit mixture has been cooling for about 20min, preheat the oven to 150ºC (300ºF). Prepare a 20cm loose bottomed cake tin by cutting a circle of non-stick baking parchment just slightly smaller than the diameter of the tine (so that it fits easily. Then, cut two longish strips of baking paper, fold up the bottom 2 cm and then cut into this fold at 1.5 cm intervals so that you end up with a fringe. Insert these two strips into the tin with the fringe forming a circle in the base of the tin, overlapping the two strips. Place the circle of parchment over the fringe. The base and sides of the tin should now all be covered with parchment. As the cake has a long cooking time, it needs insulation from the heat of the oven or the top will burn. To do this, fold sheets of newspaper or brown paper until they are about 8-10cm higher than the tin. Wrap a thickish layer around the outside of the tin, securing with kitchen string.
Once the fruit mixture has cooled for 30min, stir in the beaten eggs and sifted dry ingredients. Do this fairy quickly as the mixture will still be warm and you don't want congealed pieces of egg and flour in the batter. Having said that, mix only until combined and do not overheat the batter.
Pour cake batter into prepare tin and bake for 1 3/4 - 2 hours or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out damp but with no raw batter clinging to it. If you find the cake is getting too dark on top, cover loosely with a piece of foil. This will prevent further browning.
Brush the top with the extra brandy, then let the cake cool the cake in tin for at least 2 hours before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely. Once cool, wrap well in two layers of foil and store in an airtight container for up to a month.
Combine 320g sifted icing sugar and 1 – 1 ½ T boiling water until you have a thick, spreadable icing. Smooth over cake and allow some to drip down the sides.
NB. This icing will only look good for a day or two as the moisture from the cake will eventually start to seep through.
Purchase some quality whole glacé (confit) fruits and pile in the centre of the cake.
Use a paper doily or cut out shapes (stars, a tree, etc.) from a piece of baking paper slightly larger than the cake. Place doily or paper over cake and sift over icing sugar to create a stencilled design. Tie a length of ribbon around cake if desired.
Adapted from a recipe by Matthew Evans
Makes 24 patty pan-sized tarts
2 apples, coarsely grated
200 g currants
200 g sultanas
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
220 g brown sugar
120 ml Calvados
2 t mixed spice
240 g plain flour
160 g unsalted butter
¼ cup water
Milk and raw sugar (optional)
Start with the pastry. Put the flour and salt in a bowl. Roughly chop the butter into smallish pieces and add it to the flour. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resemble a coarse crumble. You don't need to go too fine as the larger pieces of unmixed butter will help create more crispness in the pastry as they steam during cooking.
Using a butter knife, mix in the egg and water. Bring the mixture together with your hands, it should mostly clump into one mass. If it is too dry, add a little more water, if it is too sticky and soft, add a little more flour. Tip the pastry onto a lightly floured work surface and bring to together quickly with your hands, bringing the edge that is furthest away from you over into the middle of the pastry, then smearing it away again from you in a rhythmic folding action. Don't overwork the pastry or it will become tough. Only knead until it comes together in a smooth ball. Pat into a thick round, wrap in clingfilm (or alternative) and refrigerate to rest and chill for at least 30min.
To make the fruit mince, combine all ingredients in a saucepan and stir over moderate heat for 10-15min. Allow to cool.
When ready to make the tarts, preheat oven to 180ºC (360ºF) and remove pastry from the fridge. Dust a work surface lightly with flour and roll out the pastry to approximately 3mm thick. Using a 6cm scone or cookie cutter, cut rounds of pastry and place in the patty pan holes. Press each disc a little so that it takes the shape of the hole. With remaining pastry, cut out stars, hearts, or other shapes to top each tart.
Place a heated teaspoonful of fruit mince in each pastry case, top with a pastry shape and brush each with a little milk and sprinkle over a little raw sugar, if desired. Bake for 20min or until golden and cooked to your liking. Allow the tarts to cool in the tin for 5min before removing to a wire rack to cool completely (if you leave them in the tin too long, any fruit syrup that has bubbled over will harden, making it difficult to remove the tarts). Once cool, store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to a week.
Note: You can make the fruit mince up to a few months ahead. Just make sure you store it in sterilised jars and keep in the fridge to be on the safe side.
Makes approximately 30 biscuits, depending on size
170 g unsalted butter
180 g dark brown sugar
150 g golden syrup
2 egg yolks
470 g plain flour
½ t salt
1 t bi-carb soda
2 t ground ginger
1 ½ t ground cinnamon
½ t ground cloves
½ t white pepper
½ t ground allspice
6 egg whites
480 g pure icing sugar
½ t lemon juice
Cream butter, sugar and golden syrup on medium speed in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix in the egg yolks. Sift all dry ingredients together and incorporate into mixture on low speed. Spoon dough onto a piece of plastic film and press to form a 16 cm long rectangle. Wrap and chill at least one hour (overnight is also fine).
If your dough has been in the fridge more than an hour, allow it to sit for 30-60min until it is pliable. Place a sheet of non-stick baking parchment on the work surface, place dough in top. Lightly flour a rolling pin and roll out dough to a thickness of 3mm.
Using various cutters, cut out shapes and place on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking parchment. Place the tray in the fridge for 15min to chill before baking, this will help the biscuits to keep their shape. Gather together the scraps of dough and re-roll on the sheet of baking parchment. Transfer to the fridge to firm up again before cutting more biscuits.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 170ºC (340ºF). Bake gingerbread for 10-12min or until firm to the touch and a rich golden brown. Keep re-rolling, chilling, and cutting the dough until it is all used up. It is best to bake on tray at a time as this ensures even cooking. So while one tray is baking, you can prepare the next, making a production line!
To make the royal icing, combine egg whites, icing sugar and lemon juice in an electric mixer on low speed. Increase speed and beat until glossy and holding stiff peaks. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until icing is required (it will form a crust when exposed to air).
You can ice the biscuits any way you wish, using a piping bag with a small nozzle, or simply drizzling it over with a teaspoon. Feel free to add sprinkles, silver cachous or other decorations as you desire.
NB. You can freeze the leftover egg whites for several months. Use to make a pavlova or meringues.
Makes one 20cm cake
Equipment: candy thermometer
100 g hazelnuts
100 g macadamias
90 g dessert figs
55 g crystallised ginger
100 g plain flour
3 T cocoa
1 t cinnamon
½ t mixed spice
¼ t black pepper
75 g dark chocolate
125 ml honey
55 g caster sugar
icing sugar, extra
Preheat the oven to 160ºC.
Spray a 15cm springform pan with nonstick spray. Dust the inside with cocoa powder, making sure to get it up the sides. Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix together the nuts, figs, ginger, flour, cocoa and spices. Use your fingers to separate any fruit that is clumping together.
Melt the chocolate in a small bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside.
In a pan fitted with a candy thermometer, heat the sugar and honey until the temperature reads 115ºC (240ºF). This is the soft ball stage. Alternatively, after the mixture has cooked for about 5min, test it by dropping a small amount of the honey syrup into a glass of cold water. If it sets into a soft, pliable ball, it is ready.
Pour the hot honey syrup over the nut mixture, add the melted chocolate, and stir well, working quickly as it starts to firm up as it cools. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out with a spatula. Using damp fingers, press the surface to make it mostly smooth, but don't worry about a few lumps.
Bake for 20 minutes or until your finger comes away clean from the surface when you lightly press it. The panforte will firm up more as it cools. Leave it in the tin for 15min, then gently ease it out, using a knife if necessary and leaving the panforte on the bottom of the tin, and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Once cool, remove the bottom of the springform pan and peel away the parchment paper. Dust the panforte with icing sugar and rub it in with your hands.
To store, wrap the panforte in two layers of foil and store in an airtight container for up to six months.
Breakfast. Sorted. This is the perfect make-ahead breakfast for busy (or extra lazy) mornings, when even thinking of what to eat, let alone the effort of making something, is beyond you. Having a jar of this on standby makes life so much easier, and tastier!
Makes: a lot!
3 cups rolled oats (see note)
1/2 cup buckwheat
1/2 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1 1/4 cup mixed seeds (I used pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds)
2 t ground cinnamon
2 t ground ginger
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1/2 tahini (hulled or unhulled)
1/2 cup raw honey
1/2 cup olive oil
I apple, grated (optional)
Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F) and line two baking sheets with non-stick baking paper.
Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine.
Combine the tahini, honey and olive oil in a microwave safe jug or small saucepan and gently heat either in the microwave or on the stovetop, stirring occasionally, until the tahini and honey have softened and the mixture has combined.
Add the tahini mixture and the grated apple to the dry ingredients and stir well, or use your hands to combine thoroughly. Spread the mixture over the two baking trays, trying to achieve an even layer with few gaps.
Bake for 20-30 min until toasted and golden. If desired, halfway through the cooking time, push the outer edges of the granola into the middle of the trays, and the inner parts to the edges. This will ensure a more even toasting, but is not absolutely necessary.
Allow to cool completely on the trays (this helps the granola to clump together), before breaking up and storing in airtight glass jars. The granola will keep well for several weeks, but it probably won't last that long!
Serving suggestion: This granola is delicious simply served with natural yoghurt and fresh fruit, but it is also a fabulous ingredient in cookies and muffins, or just as a snack on its own.
Note: I haven't provided gram weights as this recipe really depends on ratios. It doesn't matter what measuring vessel you use, as long as you follow the ratios above.
I've been making granola (or toasted muesli for the people at the back) for ages now. I've made it so often that I just wing it when it comes to how much of this or that I put in. However, I finally got around to paying attention to what I was doing and have hit upon out the ideal ratio of wet to dry ingredients. Hurrah! This recipe yields a super crunchy yet chewy, not-too-sweet, biscuity granola that is SO satisfying to eat, and obviously, is very good for you. As long as you have half the quantity of wet ingredients to oats, and then chuck in various nuts and seeds as desired, you can't go wrong. I'm forever varying the nuts and seeds depending on what I have to hand. I love linseeds and poppy seeds in this too, but if I stick to the ratios above, it always works out.
There are a couple of things that make a difference to the final product, however. I do recommend chopping your almonds a bit, so that some are left whole, but you also have some smaller shards and dust. This helps the granola clump together later. The apple also helps with this, as well as adding a bit of sweetness, but the granola is also very successful without it. The most important thing to achieving those toasty clusters is allowing the granola to completely cool before handling it. The only problem is, it's pretty hard to resist having a sample or three as you break it up for storage. It's not only good for breakfast, either. I've been known to take a small bowl of this to my desk to snack on as I would nuts. The recipe can of course be upsized or downsized as necessary, but as it keep so well, I find it more useful to make a big batch less often. Let me know if you try it, I'd love to hear your feedback!
Recipe adapted from The Cook's Table
Impossibly airy but still moist sponge, heaven-scented rose and raspberry jam, and billowing clouds of softly whipped cream, this is a sponge cake recipe you will return to again and again.
for the jam (makes approx. 1 litre)*
4 T dried culinary rose petals
1/2 cup (125 ml) water
1/2 t rosewater (optional)
1 kg raspberries, washed and drained well
750 g caster sugar
juice of one lemon, husks reserved
sterilised glass jars (see note)
sterilised jam funnel (optional)
for the sponge cake
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
7 free-range eggs, separated
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (75 g) plain flour
1/2 cup (75 g) potato flour (or cornflour)
pinch fine sea salt
raspberry and rose jam (recipe below)
300 ml cream, whipped until soft peaks
pure icing sugar (optional), for dusting
dried culinary rose petals (optional), for decorating
* This recipe makes more than you need for the cake, but it keeps very well if stored properly. However, halve the quantities, by all means. You will need to make the jam at least 6 hours ahead of making the cake so that it has time to cool completely (the day before is ideal). Once cool, store in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months. After opening, store in the fridge and use within a month.
raspberry and rose jam
Preparation time: 25-35 minutes
Make your jam. First, place a small saucer in the freezer (for testing the jam later).
Bring the rose petals and water to boil in a small saucepan. Boil for a few minutes until the liquid is reduced by half. Set aside to steep.
Combine raspberries, sugar, lemon juice and husks (seeds removed or husks tied in muslin for easier removal later) in a large, non-reactive saucepan over a moderate-high heat. Bring to a boil and let it bubble for 15 min before testing.
To test if the jam is set, remove the jam from the heat and place a small amount onto the chilled saucer, Return the saucer to the freezer for a few minutes, then test by dragging your finger through the centre of the jam. If it stays in two distinct halves, the jam is set. If it runs together, return the jam to the heat and boil for another 5 min and test again. Repeat until the setting stage is reached. It shouldn't take longer than 25 min.
Once the jam has reached setting stage, remove it from the heat and stir in the rose 'tea,' (including the petals). Spoon or pour into hot, sterilised jars, seal and invert immediately to create a vacuum seal. Leave until cool and then store in a cool dry place.
Note: To sterilise your jars and jam funnel (if using), first wash in hot, soapy water. Place the jars on a baking tray and place in an oven preheated to 130°C (270°F). Leave for 15 min and remove from the oven. To sterilise the lids and jam funnel, bring a pan of water to the boil and boil for 5 minutes. Remove to the baking tray or a clean tea towel and leave to dry. Once you have sterilised your equipment, it's very important that you don't touch the inside of the jars, lids, or funnel. Use metal tongs and/or oven mits to manipulate them and be careful to only touch the outsides.
Preparation time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F). Butter, flour and line the base of a 26 cm springform cake tin.
Using an electric mixer or hand-held electric beaters, beat the sugar, egg yolks and vanilla at high speed until the mixture is pale and has tripled in bulk. Sift the flours and salt and fold in gently. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.
Wash, cool and thoroughly dry the mixer bowl and the whisk. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Vigorously whisk one-third of the egg white into the stiff natter to loosen it, then lightly fold in the rest.
Turn the batter into the cake tin. Bake for 50 minutes or until the cake is light golden and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Turn off the heat and leave the cake to rest in the oven with the door propped open for 10 minutes. Remove and leave to cool in the tin, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Split the cake in half horizontally by carefully working around it with a large serrated knife. The easiest way is to hold the knife still and turn the cake, slowly working towards the centre of the cake as you turn until you have cut all the way through. Spread with the raspberry and rose jam (enough to thickly cover the cake) and then dollop over the softly whipped cream. Place the top half of the cake carefully over and refrigerate one hour before serving to set a little. Remove the cake from the fridge half an hour before serving, dust with icing sugar and scatter with dried rose petals, if desired.
When spreading your jam and cream, don't go all the way to the edges, as the weight of the top cake will mean they spread a little more.
This is a cake fit for a celebration. There are a number of things to celebrate in life at the moment: the relaunch of this blog (still a work in progress), under a different name, the completion of my PhD in September of this year, (pending some revisions, but close enough!), and, as ever, the daily miracle that is my darling daughter, who gives us reason to celebrate every day and for whom this very blog exists. I had plans for another cake for this first post, but I haven't yet got the recipe quite right, and after feeling like I should chuck it all in, remembered this gorgeous cake, which I have already made several times since buying The Cook's Table a couple of years ago. It has served me very well for a few celebratory occasions. It's very fitting actually, as I consider Stephanie Alexander to be one of Australia's many culinary 'mothers,' which is to say, a pioneer, trail-blazer, and role model. Anyone who cooks in this country, whether they know it or not, owes something to food legends like Stephanie Alexander. We are all her progeny in some way! So, as one of the many (culinary) 'daughters' of Stephanie, I pass on this beautiful sponge cake, hoping that you, too, may share it with your family, whether for a celebration or a just comforting afternoon tea.
As Stephanie describes it in The Cook's Table, this recipe produces a sponge "with a rather substantial texture compared with the usual feather-light style sponge cake." Since making this cake, I have to say I really prefer this to other sponge cakes, which can be a little dry for my taste. As Stephanie also notes, it keeps really well in the fridge for several days, so you can justify making this if it's only two or three of you eating! Sponges have always scared me, there's so much mystique around them! Reading some of the traditional recipes can be enough to turn you off making them entirely. This cake, in contrast is really easy to make if you have some experience with baking. Even if you don't, give it a go, the main things to remember are to really beat your egg yolk and sugar mix till it really has tripled in bulk, and then to be very gentle with your whisked egg whites. Handling the eggs properly are what will ensure a sponge with the perfect texture. Stephanie's recipe calls for the addition of rose-geranium leaves, which you place on top of the cake before it bakes. Rose geranium, as its name suggests, has a distinct rose scent and flavour. Unfortunately I couldn't acquire the leaves when I first made the cake and have yet to try it, though am dying to! The rose geranium, however, inspired the rose and raspberry jam. So while I have departed from the original recipe, I hope my version at least respects it's essence. I believe recipes should have room for interpretation, cooking is a living art, so it goes without saying that if roses and raspberries are not your thing, or are not in season at the time, go ahead and make it your own! For a birthday once I filled the sponge with lemon curd and cream, which was also divine. Without doubt, this is my go-to sponge recipe from now on, a template that can be moulded to personal tastes, ingredients, and occasions.
Thank you for reading, and do let me know of you make this cake. If you love it, seek out more of Stephanie's books and recipes, you won't be disappointed. Her years of experience cheffing and cooking, as well as her genuine love of food and the art of hospitality make her both a reliable source of recipes, and a warm, comforting presence in the kitchen as you cook along with her, her witty and perceptive anecdotes adding to the richness of the experience. As we cook, we connect with the traditions and the people who have passed on their knowledge, whether we know them personally or not. This sense of continuity, of passing down rituals and recipes, tales and traditions, is the driving motivation behind The Daughter's Table. I hope you enjoy this cake as much as I and my loved ones did.
About The Daughter's Table
The Daughter's Table is a living archive of recipes and stories. It is inspired by my daughter, and the desire to create a food legacy that connects us to what we eat and why.