So Patient

lamb burger

I’ve been patient, so patient. You see, it was right at the tail end of last year’s fig season that I discovered I liked them. I had an amazing caramel fig gelato that made me completely forget why I avoided them for so long in the first place. Waiting for fruit to grow has got to be even more boring than watching paint dry! And then to rub salt in the wounds, there were events like Sugar High Friday that occurred when there were no figs in sight for months around here! (though I must say, all of those submissions looked amazing, and I was particularly upset that I wasn’t able to participate)

I’ve spoken a little about my Nanna before, but I didn’t mention her garden. My grandparents originally came from Malta, which is a tiny island in the Mediterranean, just south of Sicily. When they migrated to Australian in the 1970s with their six children, they brought with them their knowledge and love of Mediterranean food.

My grandfather planted fruit trees in his garden – oranges, blood oranges, lemons, pomegranates, bananas, prickly pears and figs. He planted parsley and mint, and all manner of lovely flowers. I think he even grew tomatoes and grapes at one point! I have fond memories of climbing ladders to pick oranges and lemons to make fresh juice for lunchtime. He has now passed on, but his garden is still flourishing, and my nanna often has more fruit than she knows what to do with! When she offered me some figs, I greedily accepted.

I ate many of them raw, sometimes with ice cream and honey. I looked at many recipes and saw that figs were often paired with walnuts, which inspired these lamb burgers. I was so impressed with how these turned out, the flavours played nicely against each other. I especially liked the slight crunch that the walnuts gave. My dad and sister who aren’t too keen on figs loved them, but I thought they were even better a day later after a sleep in the fridge, which makes me imagine that they’d be good ‘make in advance’ picnic food. The good thing about these burgers is that they can be served with green beans and creamy garlic mashed potato for dinner, or on Turkish bread with salad for lunch. I would have loved to add slices of fig to my burger but I’d eaten them all by then!

Lamb Burgers with Walnuts and Figs
Makes about 10-12 patties

• 600g lamb mince
• 1 tablespoon minced garlic
• 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
• 4-5 figs, stalks removed, finely diced
• ¼ cup walnuts, finely chopped
• Sea salt and cracked black pepper
• 3 eggs
• Olive oil

1. Combine all ingredients except the olive oil in a large bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon (or your hands, if you’re keen) until well combined. The mixture should hold together pretty well and not be sloppy.
2. Shape mixture into patties, approximately 10cm in diameter and quite thin because they shrink while cooking
3. Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Cook 2-3 patties at a time until well browned and cooked through. Allow to drain on paper towels. Serve as desired.

Cooking Outside

BBQ potatoes

Sometimes I wonder if there is anything my dad Alan can’t do. He can fix cars and computers, he can do woodwork and metalwork, he knows just about everything there is to know about nuts and bolts, he has a keen eye for antique furniture, he’s currently doing just about all the work on our new house extension – from planning to plumbing. Oh, and did I mention that he can also cook? He’s even owned a restaurant!

I’ve learnt a lot from my dad. I remember afternoons spent in the garage while he worked on one project or other. I’d keep busy by hammering nails into a piece of wood and then prying them out. Dad has been there to rescue several dinners I have cooked that didn’t quite turn out as planned. He’s taught me the value of preparation and time management when cooking.

One memory that sticks in my mind now is cooking a barbeque with him last year. Each equipped with a pair of tongs and a beer, we chatted while we cooked, and he taught me how to cook a good steak. I love the good old Australian tradition of barbequing. It is perfect for summer because cooking outside keeps the heat out of the house. With the last days of summer stretched out before us, I thought I would share my dad’s way of making amazing barbequed potatoes. He’s been preparing them this way since before I can remember, though I’m sure they would also be nice in thick slices instead of quartered wedges.

What follows is not a recipe as much as a procedure with suggestions. These are the ingredients we use, but I have never measured quantities, it’s all to taste. I would recommend allowing one and a half large potatoes for each person, roughly 6 pieces. The microwave step is important to pre-cook the potatoes before browning them up on the barbeque, but don’t overcook them because they’ll fall apart during cooking. Any leftovers are also great cold.

Dad’s BBQ Potatoes
Serves 4

• 6 large potatoes, skin on and washed, cut into quarters.
• Salt and pepper
• Cinnamon, Paprika or Cumin
• Fresh chives or parsley, chopped
• Olive oil

1. Place potatoes in a freezer bag or covered container. Microwave on high for about 6-8 minutes, until just tender.
2. Put potatoes into a large bowl with salt, pepper, cinnamon, fresh herbs and olive oil. Swish the bowl around so potatoes are evenly coated.
3. Heat the barbeque plate. When hot, add a little olive oil and spread to evenly coat the plate. Add the potatoes. Cook, turning over occasionally. Remember that barbeques have hotspots, so you might find they cook quicker in certain areas.
4. When they are well browned, move them over to the slatted grill part of the barbeque to finish them off. You can put them in a low oven to keep warm while you cook the rest of your barbeque.

Other Directions

spaghetti with pork meatballs

I have a small confession to make. I am virtually incapable of following a recipe. Whether I make small changes or big changes, what I produce is never quite what the author intended, for better or for worse (oh I’ve learned my lesson quite a few times). I’m not quite sure why this is, I don’t mean to do it and I’m not what you’d call rebellious by nature. Perhaps the years of graphic design training have taught me to look outside the box, to try and make things different and interesting, and to try to inject my personality and style into everything I do.

Yes, that sounds good, lets stick with that.

When I saw the recipe for pappardelle with a ragu of tiny meatballs in Jamie Oliver’s book Cook With Jamie I was enthralled. I kept the cookbook by my side for days, randomly flicking open to page 92 to admire the photograph yet again. But inevitably, my mind started ticking and I considered other directions in which to take this seemingly wondrous recipe. In the end, my interpretation was hardly recognizable as the original, no offence to Jamie. But he seems like a cool guy, so I doubt he’d mind.

I used pork mince rather than beef for the meatballs. I was a little unsure of how this would work out in the end but I was more than happy with the result. They would also do well on their own with a dipping sauce at a cocktail party. The tomato sauce was rich and garlicky with a hint of red wine, just the way I like it. I only wish I had found some nice basil, because that would have been perfect. My poor little plant died after I ripped all the leaves off for pesto a few months ago!

Unfortunately, Jamie’s photo was much better than mine. It was kind of awkward to be taking photos of my dinner when we had guests. But don’t let that put you off, because everyone agreed that it was delicious.

Spaghetti and Pork Meatballs
Inspired by Jamie Oliver
Serves 6

Meatballs (Makes about 75)
• 750g pork mince
• 2 eggs
• 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
• 2 – 3 teaspoons Parmesan cheese, finely grated
• 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• Salt and pepper

Sauce
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
• 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
• 3 x 400g cans diced tomatoes
• ½ cup red wine
• 3 tablespoons tomato paste
• 50g butter
• Chilli powder, to taste
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• Parmesan cheese, to serve

1. Combine the meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon, or your hands until thoroughly combined. Form meatballs using a teaspoon or small ice cream scoop. Try to keep them uniform in size and shape.
2. Deep fry or shallow fry in batches of 15 – 20 until golden brown and slightly crispy. Drain on paper towels. Set aside. The meatballs can be made a day in advance and stored in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before adding them to the sauce.
3. To make the sauce, heat the oil in a saucepan or large frying pan. Add the garlic and sauté. Turn the heat right down, and add the parsley, tomatoes, red wine, tomato paste and butter. Stir slowly to combine ingredients. Add chilli, salt and pepper to taste.
4. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add meatballs. Continue to simmer for a further 30 – 40 minutes.
5. Serve over spaghetti or other long pasta, with Parmesan cheese and crusty bread.

Coconut Bread

coconut bread

It’s been over a week now, and I’ve managed to eat breakfast every day. I’ve even enjoyed it! Whether it’s a bowl of cereal with yoghurt (I have a strange aversion to milk on cereal, is that weird?), my favourite crusty Italian bread toasted, or even just a delicious juicy peach from the fruit bowl, its nice to establish a routine in the morning, and breakfast is a good one for all the right reasons.

The weather has been pretty dismal, last week especially. It hardly feels like February at all. When it’s pouring rain outside, there’s nothing I like better than baking. I made this coconut bread one evening when the oven was still warm from dinner. It comes together quickly with minimal washing up (no need to bring out the mixer), and cooks in about an hour while you watch TV. It was perfect, because the next morning was drizzly and dark and I stayed in bed quite a lot longer than I should have.

Which brings me to my point – sometimes, breakfast needs to be portable. Whether eaten on the run or saved until you have a second to sit down, this coconut bread will be the highlight of your morning. I’m inclined to take Bill Granger’s advice and “keep slices in the freezer for workdays when you’d rather be in the Caribbean.”

I made this coconut bread once before, but thought a few minor modifications could make it better. This time I used shredded coconut, with a little less cinnamon. I swapped ½ cup of plain flour for wholemeal, but feel free to use the whole 2 ½ cups of plain flour if you’d like. The addition of coconut essence was also used to enhance the flavour. Next time I might use coconut milk in place of milk. A mashed ripe banana, some lime zest, chopped dried cherries or grated chocolate would also go very nicely in there, and I’m looking forward to trying other variations on this great breakfast recipe soon.

Coconut Bread
Adapted from Sydney Food by Bill Granger
Makes 8-10 thick slices

• 2 eggs
• 300mL milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon coconut essence
• 2 cups plain flour
• ½ cup plain wholemeal flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 cup caster sugar
• 2/3 cup shredded coconut
• 75g unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 180°C (375°F) and line a 21x10cm loaf pan with baking paper.
2. Lightly whisk eggs, milk, vanilla extract and coconut essence together in a small bowl.
3. Sift flours, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl. Add sugar and coconut and stir to combine
4. Make a well in the center and gradually stir in the egg mixture until just combined. Add melted butter and stir until the mixture is just smooth, being careful not to overmix.
5. Pour into prepared load pan and bake for 1 hour, or until bread is cooked when tested with a skewer
6. Leave in the pan to cool for 5 minutes, and remove to cool further on a wire rack. Serve in thick slices, lightly toasted

Chocolate Whisky Cake

chocolate whisky cake

Since I started this blog last July I have been looking more keenly at cookbooks. No big surprise there I suppose, but these days I’m not just looking for mouth-watering recipes and photographs, I’m interested in the stories behind them. I’ve learned from others and experienced firsthand how food can invigorate all of your senses, bring people together and stir long-forgotten memories. Some of the most thoughtful things people have ever done for me have included food, and I’m always first to put my hand up to make birthday cakes for friends or family. It makes me kind of happy that food in all its forms plays such a big part in my life these days.

Given the choice between two recipes for the same thing, one with a memorable bittersweet story, and one with only a pretty picture, which would you choose? Give me the story every time. This cake you’re thinking about making has touched, and even changed someone’s life. This someone is Dorie Greenspan, and it’s the cake that got her fired. “Creative Insubordination” was the reason her employer gave for her dismissal, when she switched Armagnac-infused prunes for the much-loved whisky-soaked raisins in this restaurant’s famous chocolate cake.

The thought of a chocolate whisky cake has intrigued me since I saw it in an issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine. It seemed like fate that I found Dorie’s book Baking: From My Home To Yours only a few days before my Nanna’s birthday, when I was looking for an intensely chocolatey cake spiked with whisky – the plump juicy raisins were a heavenly bonus. Let me tell you – and I don’t say this lightly – this is my new favourite cake without a doubt, and it garnered similar reviews from all of the samplers. In some cases, two slices were needed for confirmation. After all, it’s a big thing to commit to a favourite, especially where cake is concerned.

Chocolate Whisky Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours
Serves 8-10

• ¼ cup raisins or sultanas
• ¼ cup whisky, I used Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch
• 2/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped
• ¼ cup plain flour
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 200g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
• 125g unsalted butter, chopped
• 3 large eggs, separated
• 2/3 cup sugar

Chocolate Glaze
• 85g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
• 3 tablespoons icing sugar
• 75g unsalted butter, slightly softened

1. The night before you intend to start this cake, place the raisins and whisky in a jar. Seal and shake a few times. Leave to soak for at least 3 hours, or up to 1 day. I left mine for about 15 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F) and line a 20cm round cake pan with non-stick baking paper.
3. Whisk together the walnuts, flour and salt in a small bowl
4. Combine the chocolate and butter with 3 tablespoons of water in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate and butter are melted.
5. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until thick and pale, then stir in the chocolate mixture, the walnut mixture and the raisins plus any liquid left in the jar.
6. With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until firm and glossy. Gently fold into the chocolate mixture using a large metal spoon.
7. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan, bake for about 30 minutes. When it’s ready, a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake should come out streaky – not wet but not dry.
8. Transfer cake to a rack and let it cool for about 10 minutes, before removing from the pan and letting cool completely.
9. To make the glaze, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove from the heat, then add the icing sugar, and the butter, a bit at a time, stirring until you have a smooth glaze. Now you can either pour the glaze over the cake straight away for a smooth finish and refrigerate for 20 minutes, or allow the glaze cool to room temperature for a more spreadable, swirl-able frosting.
10. This cake tastes fantastic at room temperature, but is also good straight from the fridge. It can be served with whipped cream or ice cream.

Crumpets

home made crumpets

A typical morning for me involves sleepwalking to the kitchen to make coffee, agonizing over what to wear and then having to practically run to the train station. I don’t have much of an appetite in the morning, so often I’ll leave without eating breakfast. I know what they say about breakfast, and I always feel somewhat guilty when I run out for coffee and a muffin on my morning break. With college about to resume for my third and final year of Graphic Design, I thought I’d try and implement some better habits. For the month of February, I’m going to eat breakfast every single day.

I think its safe to say that Bill Granger is the King of breakfast in Sydney – the man built his empire on scrambled eggs! His three restaurants are world-famous, beloved by locals and tourists alike. I haven’t eaten there yet, but the next time I stay overnight in the city, bills will be my first stop for breakfast. His first cookbook Sydney Food tries to capture Sydney’s eclectic attitude to food, and has a great list of produce suppliers. It also has a great chapter all about breakfast.

After the adventures we had this morning in the kitchen, I’m not sure why I was drawn to the crumpets featured in the book. Maybe it was Bill’s claim that home made crumpets had to be tried at least once to compare to their store-bought counterparts, but hours later I’m not so sure. I don’t mind putting in a lot of time and effort for worthy results, but this morning I was disappointed.

I think their success has a lot to do with cooking technique – very, very slowly. In my impatience (and hunger) I was flipping them over too early. My sister Beth was more patient, giving them time to bubble up and dome gorgeously, but when they were flipped over, they too went flat. It was a learning experience for us both, and if we were to ever try this again, we’ve got some tricks up our sleeve.

The winner of the morning however was the maple and walnut butter that I made to serve them with. It had a nutty sweetness that worked well with the crumpets, but would possibly be even better on waffles or pancakes. Of course additions such as chopped dark chocolate, or other kinds of chopped nuts would be wonderful too.

Crumpets
Adapted from Sydney Food by Bill Granger
Makes about 14

• 1 ½ cups milk, slightly warmed
• 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
• 7g sachet dried yeast
• 1 ½ cups plain flour
• pinch of salt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
• 200 mL water
• Butter, for greasing pan and metal rings

Maple Walnut Butter
• 50g butter, softened
• 2 tablespoons maple syrup
• 1 – 2 tablespoons walnuts, very finely chopped

1. In a bowl, combine the warm milk, sugar and yeast. Set aside for 10 minutes, until the milk starts to bubble, indicating that the yeast is active
2. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the milk to the flour and beat with electric beaters until completely smooth. Start on the lowest speed because the mixture is likely to splatter.
3. Cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until doubled in volume and full of air bubbles.
4. Mix the bicarbonate of soda with 200mL water, and use electric beaters to combine with the batter.
5. Heat a flat-bottomed non-stick frypan over low heat. Use your finger to grease the inside of a metal ring with butter. Melt a little butter in the bottom of the pan.
6. Spoon mixture into the metal ring, leaving 3-5mm gap from the top. Cook until large bubbles form and burst all over and a skin has formed around the top. It should start to shrink away from the metal ring.
7. Remove the metal ring carefully. Keep a bowl of cold water handy to rinse the hot metal rings.
8. Don’t be in a rush to flip it over, the bottom should be well browned and crispy, and the top should have no liquidy batter remaining.
9. Flip carefully and cook until brown. Serve immediately with maple walnut butter, because they deflate quickly.
10. To make the maple walnut butter, combine butter and maple syrup in a bowl. Use electric beaters to mix until smooth and creamy, then fold in chopped walnuts.

Hope Helps


Photo credit: stock.xchng

Today I would like to talk about the hard work of Melanie Jeffree, founder of the cancer fundraising group Hope Helps. Two years ago, Melanie’s husband was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma and is still fighting hard against the disease. His positive thinking and amazing spirit were Melanie’s inspiration to do everything she can to help the fight against cancer.

Hope Helps runs a variety of different events and projects including trivia nights, market nights, Daffodil Day, Biggest Morning Tea, and a Girls Night In. All of the profits are distributed between two charities, The Cancer Council and OnTrac@PeterMac.

The Cancer Council’s core business is cancer control. They conduct and support research, as well as delivering support and prevention programs and advocacy to reduce the physical and emotional burden of cancer. The leaders are of international standing and we are significantly and positively influencing the cancer agenda. They are a non-profit organization and rely on the generous support of donors and volunteers.

OnTrac@PeterMac is a state wide, multidisciplinary clinical and research team of healthcare professionals working towards improving the survival rates, quality of treatment and care of Adolescents and Young Adults (AYA) through the:
• Establishment of a dedicated state-wide AYA cancer team
• Development of a research and development program
• Development of a health promotion, training and education program for healthcare professionals working with young people
• Effective leadership in advocacy and policy development in AYA cancer care

OnTrac@PeterMac is currently supporting over 400 young people aged between 15-25 years living with cancer and is now an internationally recognized leader in identifying and addressing the medical, psychological and social issues impacting on young people living with this disease.

The goal at Hope Helps is to give these hard working cancer prevention groups better opportunities to make a difference in the lives of so many people. The money raised will be used to continue research into finding a cure for cancer and helping make a difference in the comfort of patients under going treatment for their Cancer.

Guess what, food bloggers? One of the projects that Hope Helps is co-ordinating this year is a collaborative cookbook. It is still in the planning stage so far, and Melanie is looking for recipe submissions. We are looking for original recipes to be published in the Hope Helps Cookbook. They can be absolutely anything, from a simple snack to an elaborate dessert. The success of this project depends on how many recipes are submitted, so if you can help either contact me at fruitcakey (at) gmail (dot) com or Melanie at melanie.jeffree (at) gmail (dot) com

Alternately, if you live in Melbourne and are interested in any of the Hope Helps events, contact Melanie for information.

***

In other news, a big congratulations to Jessie from Sui Mai, she won the logo design package offered in Menu For Hope. I’ve been working on the design and I can’t wait to show you what I’ve come up with! Thanks also to every one who nominated my prize for their Menu For Hope donation, and thanks to Pim and Helen for their efforts in organization. $91,188 was the total amount raised, an incredible achivement. Lets hope we can beat that number next time!

Lord Lamington

lamingtons

Being Australia Day today, I thought I’d bake appropriately. The British landed with the First Fleet on Australian shores and declared it a colony 220 years ago, so Happy Birthday Australia, why don’t you have some cake?

The lamington is undeniably an Aussie icon, much like the meat pie. It was most likely named after a 19th century Queensland Governer, though ironically Lord Lamington apparently hated the dessert named in his honor.

There are many stories about how the cake came into being, but even if the origin of the lamington is a little fuzzy it is nonetheless an enduring favourite. It’s a staple at the local bakery, and one of the best sellers at cake stall fund-raisers.

lamingtons

It can be dressed up with jam and cream but I prefer it plain – butter cake, chocolate icing and coconut. Today I was tempted to add some grated orange zest to the cake mixture but I refrained in the name of keeping it traditional. Don’t let that stop you though, there are so many possible alternatives and additions that could be used. Adding berries or dried fruit to the cake itself would be an interesting substitute for jam.

Lamingtons
Recipe adapted from Women’s Weekly Sweet
Makes about 40 bite-size lamingtons

• 90g butter, softened
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ½ cup caster sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup self-raising flour
• 2 tablespoons milk
• Shredded or desiccated coconut

Chocolate Icing
• 2 cups icing sugar
• ¼ cup cocoa powder
• 10g butter
• ½ cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a rectangular slice pan with baking paper
2. Beat butter, vanilla, sugar, eggs, flour and milk with an electric mixer on low speed until ingredients are combined. Increase the speed to medium, until mixture is pale in colour.
3. Spread mixture evenly into the slice pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow cake to stand for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool.
4. Trim the top and sides from the cake, and cut into 2-3cm cubes. Freeze the cake cubes for about 30 minutes before dipping into the icing.
5. To make the chocolate icing, sift icing sugar and cocoa into a heatproof bowl. Stir in the butter and milk. Stand the bowl over simmering water and stir until icing is of a good consistency.
6. Place coconut in a small bowl. Hold each cake cube on a bamboo skewer or toothpick. Dip into the chocolate icing then toss in coconut, one at a time, to cover. Stand lamingtons on a wire rack until set.

Aptly Named

perth

When showing friends and family the photos from my recent Perth trip, many of them asked why are there so many photos of food? I didn’t find it strange at all, actually its been a habit of mine for years. Looking through old holiday photos it’s not unusual to find pictures of various lunches scattered amongst those of beaches and palm trees.

I’ll leave the detailed restaurant reviews to those who do them best, but I wanted to quickly mention two places at which we dined. An afternoon in Fremantle culminated with the best frites I’ve ever tasted at Little Creatures, a restaurant/brewery with a great buzzy atmosphere. The rest of the menu was awfully appetizing but my poor stomach couldn’t handle it. Much deliberation also took place at Little Caesars Pizzeria, Mundaring in the Perth Hills. We finally decided on the Mexican-inspired Chicken Siesta and the dessert pizza Caramello Sam, which was much acclaimed by past visitors, and rightly so. Pastry cream, bananas, macadamias and caramel sauce – this pizza was lick-your-fingers good.

But we cooked at home for the most part, which I really enjoyed. Holiday cooking need not be complicated, though it was tempting to make it so when you have all day to plan for it. I made my delicious roast chicken, tried pizza dough from scratch for the first time, and was treated to my host’s own specialty – plum chilli chicken nachos. One night we lit candles and ate outside just after sunset. But closest to my own heart was something that had been in the works for well over a year – the aptly named sea disaster cake.

sea disaster cake

I don’t even remember how the idea came about, but somehow a shipwreck and the subsequent bloodshed at the tentacles of a monster on the high seas seemed a good concept for cake decorating. We started with a white chocolate mudcake base, one of my favourites and used a buttercream icing for its versatility and texture. The sinking ship is a piece of chocolate and almond biscotti. The sea monster is a green meringue, although next time I would bake a smaller cupcake in addition to the large cake and use green icing. The sea disaster victims are unfortunate jelly babies. We had so much fun putting this cake together, and we’re already planning the next catastrophe to be rendered in cake form.

White Chocolate Mudcake
Recipe Adapted from Australian Women’s Weekly Cupcakes
Serves 10-12

• 250g butter, chopped coarsely
• 160g white chocolate, chopped coarsely
• 2 cups caster sugar
• 1 cup milk
• 1 cup plain flour
• 1 cup self-raising flour
• 1 teaspoon coconut essence
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 eggs

Butter Cream Icing
• 250g butter, softened
• 1 cup icing sugar, sifted
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• Food Colouring

1. Preheat oven to 170°C, and line a 22cm round cake tin with baking paper
2. Place butter, chocolate, caster sugar and milk in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until smooth. Transfer mixture to a small bowl and cool for about 15 minutes.
3. Whisk in sifted flours, essences and eggs.
4. Transfer to cake tin and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tin.
5. To make the butter cream icing, beat butter with an electric mixer until light and creamy. Add icing sugar and vanilla and beat until well combined. Add food colouring as desired.
6. Spread over cooled cake and refrigerate until set.

sea disaster cake

Hoping and Dreaming

blueberry muffins

I had the most wonderful thought the other day. It made me smile and dream and hope as only ambition can. I love simplicity and most of all, genuine thoughtfulness, and often find more happiness in the little things in life than the so-called milestones. Plus who wants to wait until society obligates you to let people know you care about them. This is why I have mixed feelings toward Christmas and the holiday season. I enjoy the gift giving but not the gift buying.

A sneak peek into the more corporate world of graphic design showed me that it isn’t where I want to be – deadlines for clients you’ve never even met in person! But in this business, it’s all about learning and experience. I may very well end up there for a few years before I can go out on my own and start my own design studio (in a little terrace house with gorgeous wooden floorboards and a fireplace). That’s my dream, and I’ll tell you now, things will be done differently.

In this daydream I was about to start a presentation to a client. It was a project I was excited about, to be working on packaging with an artisan chocolate maker. It was a casual meeting, explaining initial ideas and really getting to know them and their product. In the middle of the table was a plate of freshly baked muffins that I’d made that morning.

It might never happen – who knows what the future will bring – but it got me thinking, it got me hoping and dreaming. And to complete the reverie, I baked some gorgeous blueberry muffins. It was kind of nice to get back to one-bowl basics, since muffins were one of the first recipes I ever cooked. I used Donna Hay’s recipe, but next time I’ll tweak it slightly to be a little more moist, perhaps with some applesauce or yoghurt.

Also, if you haven’t already, go and check out the prizes available for this year’s Menu For Hope. This year I’m offering a fully personalised logo design and development package that I am very excited about! There are only a few days left, so please help us beat last year’s amazing total.

Blueberry Muffins
Recipe adapted from Donna Hay
Makes 12

• 2 cups plain flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• ¾ cups caster sugar
• 1 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
• 2 eggs
• 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
• 1/3 cup vegetable oil
• 1 punnet fresh blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add the sugar.
3. Place the crème fraiche or sour cream, eggs, lemon zest and oil in a bowl and whisk well until smooth. Stir this mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Be careful not to overwork the mixture or it will not rise as successfully.
4. Add the blueberries and stir gently.
5. Spoon the mixture into a greased muffin tin. Bake for 12-20 minutes depending on the size of muffins.