Throes of Winter | Spiced Strawberry Ricotta Cake

The last few weekends have been pure Bri-bliss. Grey, cloudy, rainy, general miserable weather. Monday’s small talk around the coffee machine end in my gleeful recounting my weekend tales – ‘I didn’t leave the house once‘ – and then my colleagues looking at me like I’m mildly crazy and back away slowly.

You see, that is my heaven. In the throes of winter (as much of one as we get in our fair city), you bet your ass I’m going to build a nest on my couch, read books and drink more cups of tea than recommended.

I was struck with idea lightning on one of these weekends – all the tea I was drinking needed a side of cake to go with it. The idea came to me fully formed: I didn’t want to spend much time in the kitchen (it was a really good book I was reading), I wanted the lightness of ricotta, nothing too sweet, but maximum Wintry spice flavour. And so, this came to be.

This is one of those perfect cakes that you serve up for a friend who’s come over for coffee and a catch up. Then, once they’ve gone home, it just sits on the kitchen bench, and every time you walk past, you cut off a sliver to munch on as you go about your business. Sliver by delicious sliver, the cake won’t last the weekend!

Spiced Strawberry Ricotta Cake

Adapted from Bon Appetit

1½ cups plain flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1½ cups ricotta
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cardamom
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
57g unsalted butter, melted
1 cup strawberries (or any berries, fresh or frozen), halved of large
Icing sugar, to dust.

Preheat oven to 180°c. Grease a springform cake pan with butter or oil, and line the bottom with baking paper.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, spices and salt in a large bowl.

IMG_3160

In a medium sized bowl, beat together the eggs, ricotta, and vanilla until smooth. Gently fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. Add the butter, and again fold to combine.

Pour the batter into the cake pan, and then poke the strawberries evenly into the mixture.

IMG_3161

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool for 20 minutes in the pan, then cool completely on a wire rack. When ready to serve, dust with icing sugar.

IMG_3166

IMG_3168

Advertisements

Good Mornings | Coconut + Almond Granola

I’ve perfected just how long I can stay in bed and still be not-unreasonably late to work. As you can imagine, breakfast does not fit into that equation. That’s valuable sleeping time! Instead, I eat breakfast at my desk around 9:30, when I’m semi-awake and finally hungry.

stranger-things-coffee-and-contemplation-08262016

This granola comes to work with me in its own little Ziploc bag, with a piece of whatever fruit is going in my house. It’s tasty enough on its own but lends beautifully to whatever flavours you like. Add extra nuts, different dried fruits, change up the spices. It’s one of those recipes with ‘good bones’; it won’t fall to pieces if you’ve run out of something or want to change it up.

You know how I feel about repeating recipes. I rarely do it. But this, this is a staple in my pantry, and I’m still not sick of it. If that’s not a glowing recommendation, I don’t know what is.

 

Coconut + Almond Granola

From A Lot on Her Plate by Rosie Birkett

350g traditional oats
1 tsp chia seeds
80g pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
15g sunflower seeds
150g flaked almonds
50g desiccated coconut
1 1/2 tsps each of ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and ground nutmeg
4 tbsp coconut oil
4 tbsp maple syrup
60g sultanas

Heat your oven to 180*C. Line a baking tray (something long and shallow, rather than a roasting dish) with baking paper.

Combine the oats, seeds, almond and spices in a large mixing bowl. If the coconut oil is cold or solid, melt gently in a small saucepan with the maple syrup, then pour over the oat mix and stir until well incorporated.

img_6162

Spread the mixture in an even layer in the baking tray. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so until toasty and golden. Leave to cool completely, then add the sultanas. Keeps beautifully in an air-tight container for 4 weeks.

I like mine with cocoa nibs, Greek yoghurt, sliced fruits and a little bit of honey. Or poached pears! Or roasted strawberries. Yeeeeees, the roasted strawberries are amazing. Do that.



Dinner in a brisket

I’m going through a phase. We all go through them. Sometimes it’s a black lipstick and creeper shoes-wearing thing. Or bad boys with leather jackets and motorbikes. Scuba diving. Knitting. Dance classes, because you marathoned all of the Step Up movies in a weekend, and you can totally do that.

At the moment, I’m obsessed with Jewish cook books. The transition into winter is probably the catalyst, following on from all the Lent-inspired recipes. Jewish cooking looks so comforting. If any kind of food felt like a warm hug, it’s definitely this. A few weeks ago, I picked up a copy of Monday Morning Cooking Club: The Feast Goes on. I liked it so much, I immediately picked up their other book. We’re going to come back and talk about this another day, but the important thing to note is: brisket. These books love brisket. I was immediately inspired.

Brisket, if you’ve never come across it before, is cut from the breast or lower chest of beef or veal. It’s a tough piece of meat which benefits from some super slow cooking to render it tender and melty. I picked mine up from the magical team at Gingin Beef at the Subi Farmers Markets. Ask your local butcher for it, because you won’t find it at Coles or Woolies.

Diagram-Of-Cuts-Of-Beef

Now I know what you’re thinking. This looks like a lot of work. I mean, brisket sounds fancy and complicated. But fear not! It’s incredibly simple, I promise. Would I lie to you?

The barbecue sauce is made up from stuff that you’ve probably got in your pantry. The spice rub is super easy to throw together, but if you’ve got a pre-made rub in the back of the cupboard, feel free to use it. Mac and cheese can be thrown together is 10 minutes. The recipe can even be doubled, or tripled, and divided up and frozen for future can’t-be-assed-cooking nights – and with the impending cold weather, we all know there are plenty of those comin’.

Now. The recipe that follows serves 6-8 people, so feel free to halve it all. The piece of brisket I used was 900g, which was a touch small for 4 people, so maybe aim for 1.2kg for 4 people.

Beef Brisket and Mac and Cheese

From Daily Life

Beef Brisket

A piece of brisket, about 5kg

Barbecue Sauce
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
500ml tomato sauce
100ml Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp malt vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 tsp chopped thyme
Spice Rub
2 tbsp each chilli powder and mustard powder
1 tbsp each paprika, ground cumin, garlic powder, ground black pepper, castor sugar
1 bay leaf, crushed

To make the barbecue sauce, cook the onion and garlic in the oil, in a large fan over medium heat. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and blend with a food processor to form a smooth puree.

20140430-165451.jpg
Heat the oven to 150*c. Mix all of the spice rub ingredients together with a good pinch of salt, then rub all over the brisket.

20140430-165635.jpg

Add the sauce and two cups of water to a roasting tray, pop in the brisket, then cover tightly with baking paper and then foil. Place in the oven and roast for at least 4 hours (maybe 5 if it’s a big piece), until it’s fork-tender.

20140430-165510.jpg
Once it’s done in the oven, grill the brisket in a hot frypan for a couple of minutes each side, until lightly charred. Cut into thick slices and serve.

 

Mac and Cheese

500g macaroni
olive oil
1 small brown onion, finely diced
4 rashers streaky bacon, diced
600ml cream
150g grated aged cheddar
350g grated gruyere
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp seeded Dijon mustard
1 tsp smoked paprika
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp chopped parsley
100g  breadcrumbs

Place the pasta in a large pot boiling salted water, and cook according to packet instructions until al-dente. Drain well and set aside.

20140430-165500.jpg
Heat some oil in a saucepan over medium heat, then cool the onion and bacon until the onion is soft and the bacon is golden. Remove from the pan and leave to drain on a paper towel. Return the pan to high heat and add the cream, brining to a boil. Lower the heat and add the garlic, mustard, paprika and cheese.

20140430-165641.jpg

Simmer for 5 minutes until the cheese has melted and sauce thickens. Return the onion and bacon to the pan and season with salt and pepper.
In a large baking dish, add the pasta and sauce, stir until the pasta is coated, then top with the breadcrumbs and parsley. If you’re prepping the mac and cheese in advance, refrigerate until the brisket comes out of the oven, turn up the heat to 200* and cook until warmed through, 15 to 20 minutes.

20140430-165534.jpg

In the interest of your arteries, serve with some kind of token salad. It definitely cancels out.

Here comes the meat sweats…

At some point, I don’t remember when, I decided that having a meat party was a great idea. I mean, there’s nothing more beautiful than bring together people you love, to break bread and share experiences over food. That bond can only be made deeper by meat sweats.

The invitations went out to my usual suspects – Pantry in Suburbia, The Skinny Perth, Lipstick Honey, Beers and Sympathy and our favourite taste tester cousins and partners. It was turning into one hell of a meaty pot-luck dinner. Look, I’m not going to lie to you, having food bloggers for friends is a tiny bit handy at times like these: roast lamb in all its glory, the most out-of-this-world buffalo wings and chorizo (because who doesn’t love chorizo?!) wrapped in flaky pastry. There might have been salads, for balance. I wouldn’t know, I didn’t eat them. I came here to party.

As with most events in my life, it was structured around a recipe. As in, I’d found one and wanted to make it so badly that I organised a dinner party just so I could. Is that a really girl thing to do? Am I the only person that’s bought a new dress/shoes/jewellery for no reason at all, then created a party/night out/breakfast just to show it off?Anyone?

Oh. Never mind, forget I brought it up.

Back to meat.

I know I posted a pulled pork recipe this year already. But it was over 6 months ago, so it doesn’t count. Plus, if I’m honest, I like this one better. It’s kind of simpler, in that there’s no brining, it’s less cooking time and a little less having to be organised. It’s certainly not a 30 minute meal by any means… But it’s worth every single second. I know the sauce looks like it’s a lot of ingredients, but 90% of it is stuff in your pantry. For the chipotle sauce, I used the sauce from a tin of chipotles in adobo sauce which I picked up from Fresh Provisions in Mount Lawley. If you see them, grab a couple of tins because they go beautifully in Mexican cooking. YUM. I used a couple of tablespoons, because it turns out I imagined the chili flakes in my pantry, and when I went to use them, they weren’t there. Clever me.

IMG_7300

All jokes aside, I absolutely love having a group of friends around to eat. There’s something really special about cooking for those you love, having them enjoy something you’ve brought to the table. You sit back and ask yourself why you don’t do these kinds of things more often (the answer is the bajillion dishes that took me an hour to wash the next day), but at that moment in time… It’s the definition of happiness. Good times, good food, good people. And if that’s not the meaning of life, I don’t know what is.

 Chipotle Pulled Pork Burgers

From What Katie Ate

2kg pork shoulder, bone in
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pulled pork sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, very finely diced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 carrot, very finely diced
2 sticks celery, very finely diced
1 long red chilli, finely diced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 tablespoons treacle (I used golden syrup, honey is ok too)
2 tablespoons mustard powder
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ cup (125ml) white vinegar
1 litre chicken stock
½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 tablespoon chipotle sauce
1½ teaspoons cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water

Heat the oven to 160*c.

Place the pork in a roasting pan, and season really well with salt and pepper. My pork didn’t have skin, but if yours does, make sure the skin is facing upwards, then cover with foil and place in the oven for 5 – 6 hours. I left mine in for 6, and it weighted a little less than 2 kilos. Check the pork at the 3 hour mark, and if it’s looking a little dry add some water (I threw in 1/2 a cup, just to be on the safe side). Once it’s done, set the pork aside to cool a little bit, then shred using a couple of forks or your hands – it literally falls apart. It’s amazing.

IMG_7296

At the 4 hour mark of the pork cooking, heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onion and a good pinch of salt and cook until soft. Add the garlic, carrot, celery and chilli and cook until they soften, about 10 minutes. Chuck in everything else except for the cornflour paste and let simmer for 2 hours uncovered until it’s reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat and then pass the sauce through a sieve to remove any chunks. Return the sauce to the pan, discarding what remains in the sieve, then add the cornflour paste and stir to combine.

Add the sauce to the shredded pork and stir to combine thoroughly.

Serve on fluffy white burger buns with coleslaw (the link has a great recipe, if you need one).

I’m sorry there isn’t more/better pictures, but it honestly didn’t last long enough to take any!

IMG_7304

Lezbehonest. Joey just gets it.

Learning is fun.

Food, for me, is always an adventure.
Rather strangely, my friends ask me for advice, my opinion on things, recommendations. I get phone calls from super market aisles and in the middle of kitchen panics. This perplexes me, simply because I know nothing.
At least, I feel that I know nothing. I’m a food n00b. Though I guess I must know a thing or two by now, right?
However, the fun thing about food is, unlike say, engineering or rocket surgery; when there’s something you don’t know, it’s easily rectified.
You look it up, buy whatever you need, and try. If you follow the instructions, you’ve got a more than fair chance of success. If you fail… Well, be glad it was only food and not neuroscience.

So when the boss slides up to me late one afternoon and asks if I’m bringing morning tea the next day (Uh… I can?), I hit the internet. Madeleines. Right. I have no real idea as to what they are, but I’m about to learn.
A cafe staple, madelines are essentially teenie tiny little sponge cakes (not cookies!). They look like little shells. Winner.
Uh, they have a special pan. You need this.

 

Lemon and Cardamom Madelines

From The Colours of Indian Cooking 

Ingredients:

2 eggs at room temperature
1/3 cup caster sugar
1/4 tsp of salt
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of flour (sift it first then measure)
1 tsp of grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp cardamom
55g unsalted butter, melted
A bit of extra melted butter to grease the tin
A bit of extra flour of dust the tin
Icing sugar for decoration

1) Preheat the oven to 190*c.
Coat the tin with melted butter, then dust lightly with flour to stop the cakes from sticking.

2) In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and salt until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.
Carefully beat in the flour. Fold in half the melted butter and lemon zest. Mix well. Add the rest of the butter and cardamom, and taste. Add more cardamom if you think it needs more.

3) Drop about a tablespoon of batter into each mold. Bake for about 8 minutes, they will spring back when touched when they are ready.
Allow them to cool on a wire rack. When they are cold, dust with icing sugar.

The difference in colour is down to me leaving the first batch in the oven for the full 12 minutes (multitask fail). You should aim for the gold colour.And be warned, cardamom is a strong spice, thus the request that you taste test first. Some may like a little more, some a little less.  It’s delicious though, trust me.