October 24, 2013

Traditions: Christmas cakes

I know, I know. It's only October. No one in their right mind should be talking about Christmas yet! But if, like me, you're a Christmas baker then truth be told you were preparing your fruit soak way back in September and are presently getting your cake on so that they're sufficiently sozzled by the time the big day rolls around.

As is tradition I'm sticking (generally speaking) with the Bourke Street Bakery recipe. It uses a lovely mix of fruit, and a good balance filling to flour so that there's just enough batter to hold everything together. The addition of ground almonds makes these cakes luscious and sufficiently dense to feel as though they could do some serious damage if used as a projectile, which is for me the true measure of a good fruit cake.

Wrapped up snug as a bug they'll be spending the next nine weeks enjoying the occasional nip of brandy before taking part in everyone's festive celebrations. It's a hard life, being a Christmas fruit cake...

October 19, 2013

Sweet Indulgence: The Buckeye State Ice Cream

Last weekend saw the annual running of the Melbourne marathon festival and with short course PB's well and truly broken there was justification to celebrate with a frosty and indulgent and sweet treat.

A constant source of temptation, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams At Home offers some truly fabulous combinations; from the classic dark chocolate or vanilla bean, to the more curious beetroot and poppy seed or celery with ginger and raisins. Interestingly, she doesn't use a custard base, opting instead to use cream cheese and heavy cream in providing richness, and some cornstarch to keep those pesky ice crystals at bay.

Bold on flavours her recipes are set to challenge even the most dedicated of sweet tooth's, as was the case for The Buckeye State; a salty and rich peanut butter ice cream kissed with honey and the crunch of dark chocolate freckles.

The tasting section noted that it pairs particularly well with her extra-bitter hot fudge sauce recipe, and, well, who was I to argue?

She was right, you know...

October 12, 2013

Midweek madness: Legumes & mushy bananas

I realised last week that, while eating well in spite of the 'often home late' routine I've been eating boring, so this week's "Midweek Madness" mission was all about finding some quick, meat-free recipes that would add a bit of interest to what's been hitting the dining table of late. First came these baked lentil "meatballs", which had a nice crunchy exterior and lovely, falafel-like flavours thanks to a good dose of crushed fennel seed and garlic within.

I opted to serve them with a watercress pesto and, as anticipated, the creaminess of the lentils paired wonderfully with that characteristic nasturtium bitterness and sharp, peppery tang.

Next, some simple quinoa cauliflower patties that were made to feel beautiful and light by the brightness of lemon zest and sharp salty bite of the chunks of sheep's milk feta that were scattered throughout.

And as for this week's baking fix, a quick and delicious banana bread with cinnamon crumble topping to help liven up some fruit that had, for once, lasted long enough to suffer from a bit of neglect.

Beside a good strong pot of tea it's the ideal late afternoon pick-me-up, should ever you need...

October 5, 2013

Seasonal regional: Avocados

For eight months of the year I have the pleasure of seeing boxes of Barham Avocados delivered direct to my door. Katrina, Tim and the team grow a number of exciting varieties, and it's a real treat to imbibe in such a broad array of flavours as the availability of each changes throughout the fruiting season. At present I'm enjoying the ever-popular Hass, and after last spring's infatuation with a certain kale market salad, I thought I should broaden my horizons by trying a few less-conventional, avo-centric recipes.

To start, an avocado and lime bread (in my opinion a cake, not bread, but I'll save that grievance for somewhere like Crank), which was an interesting variation on the typical banana variety. Much like its predecessor the avocado serves to produce a generously moist crumb in a loaf that is both luscious and comfortingly dense. I'd added pecans for texture but there was also a nice grainy flavour from the whole wheat, and despite paring back on the sugar there was still more than enough to give an overall feeling of chewy caramel. The heavy use of lime zest produced a really intriguing flavour and a feeling of spice despite there being none added, and all in all it was surprisingly good.

For mains, this ideal lunch salad was exactly that, being a glorious combination of creamy avocado and crunchy seeds, and the freshness of crisp celery with the occasional salty olive burst. I tend to eat a lot of green and so for me this salad was already pushing all the right buttons, but the real stand out was the white miso dressing, which brought the whole thing to life with its unique, funky tang.

And to tie it all up with a little something sweet, this green cheesecake (again, note to Crank...) with it sumptuous vanilla-flecked avocado atop a lovely almond, coconut and date crust. Quick to prepare (and also raw vegan, should that be of any consequence to you) the textures were great, and it was a nice variation that was neither too sweet nor too rich.

Most enjoyable with reasonably thick crust the vividness of the colours was truly impressive, and while this time I used cocoa butter for a slight variation in flavour I expect it will be superb paired with some fresh summer fruits. Bring on the sunshine!